Sermon April 28, 2007: Building big lives not big churches
- Presenter: Brandt Gillespie
- Date: April 28, 2007
- Location: Congregation Lion of Judah, Boston MA
At a primary text that we’re going to draw on from Colossians chapter 3. You know, the reality is it does not matter much if I speak. That’s not to minimize the articulation of the word of God, it really is simply to give it mission to the fact that we salt each other’s lives with just the sense of presence, with the interaction that happens with one another, just by rubbing shoulders, by hints and glances and subtle signals.
It is a privilege to be able to give voice to the word of God, but we have the opportunity and the reality is that we have the privilege of doing that every day, and whether a person and I’m probably going to cut against some grains in some of the things that I’m saying, I ask that you prepare your spirit, prepare your heart so that it’s not something that might rub coarsely the wrong way, because I don’t want that. That’s not what’s in my soul or in my heart.
But what’s really important is to recognize that God is at work in every one of us through the process wherever we are, day in and day out, whether we identify it, recognize it and open to it or not. It’s really not about standing upfront. It’s not. What it is, is being available every one of us as often and as much as we can.
I’m going to begin just by reading through the chapter and Colossians 3 begins by saying:
“Since then you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God, set your minds on things above, not on earthly things for you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears then you also will appear with him and glory. But till death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature, sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed which is idolatry, because of these the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life that you once lived, but now you must rid yourselves of all such things as anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self which is being renewed….”
I’d like you if you do such things as underlined, I’d like you to mark that word where it says, being renewed, because there’s something in that, that word, the sense of activism, the sense of happening, the sense of an ongoing process that I feel like it is a very vital piece of what we need to see here tonight.
“…. And have put on the new self which is being renewed in knowledge, in the image of the Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarians, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all and is in all. Therefore as God’s chosen people, holy, and dearly loved, clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you and over all these virtues put on love which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts since as members of one body you are called to peace and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom and as you sing songs, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude of hearts to God. Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God, the Father, through him.”
Now, I am not going to try to do any kind of expository preaching on this text. I’ve done expository preaching a lot in the past times, it took me three and a half years to get through the book of James, by going verse by verse and I’ll tell you Colossians is loaded. It’s is absolutely jammed packed, if you start to unpack the things that are written in this one chapter alone, our lives would be very, very full by the unveiling of the truth that are written in this scripture, and we would be pushed and pulled and wrestling with the text and working our way through to really comprehend and understand just a little hint of the depth that it really is captured in these words.
I want to just share with you, rather than expositorily, just some thoughts and ideas, but using that as a text, as a background, as something that’s got depth to reflect off of. Right, number one, for us to recognize that we are all called in various settings of service, that God is in all, he is through all. If we read this and we see this that we are being raised with Christ and set our hearts on things that are above and put off the things that are the earthly, the sensual, the devilish, the human dynamics. Put those things off, just put them off and recognize that we are all called and we’re called to different places and different settings of service. We’re called to be salt and we’re called to be light in the culture and this means living out authentic Christian values, wherever we live, wherever we work, wherever we learn and wherever we play.
So, I’m going to just ask God as we begin to go into this that he would do something that really only he can do. Father, I’m going to ask that you would work the miracle of transformation in the inner man of our beings. Father, we can’t do this and we admit and we recognize our fallibility, our humanity, but we ask, Lord, that you would begin to take us and to shape us. Father I’ve just been drawn to that sense of vision, Lord, that you’ve been placing in my heart that we are like dough that is being needed. Lord, that really is your hand that is truly at work. It’s not the wisdom of man, it’s not the artistry of musical words, it is, Lord, your spirit is working deep into our hearts and deep into our soul, something that mixes the dough. Father, in that process, Lord, I pray that you would invite us to experience something that will really break up our presuppositions, the notions that we have about what it is that we are called to become. And, Lord, that we would be able to really have that sense of anchor that is not destabilizing about knowing that you are calling us to be like you, and that you’re calling us into your image. But, Father, that much more than on the individualistic level, Lord, you are trying and you’re giving us occasion and opportunity to allow you to work into us. Something of the uniqueness of a group. We don’t know what that looks like, and Lord, we do not want to rigidly stand in any kind of posture of some kind of arrogant attitude, Lord, you are bringing people from afar and you are intending to create something new.
And so, Lord, we don’t tell you what that is but we open our spirits and our hearts and we ask Lord that you will flavor us, not only with you but really and truly with each other and with what you uniquely use in the way that we have been formed to this point, but yet, Lord, again, the way that we are in the process of being renewed; your renewal work. So Lord, we trust you and we say you have permission, we do understand, Lord that it is easier to say that than to live it, but as sincerely as we are able to express with a quiet sense of confidence towards you, Lord, we say, would you take this ship of souls of whom we are? And would you bring the guidance, Lord? Would you bring the needing? Would you work creatively in a way that pleases and honors you?
We have various settings of service. I was telling Stephen about a video that I was producing down in New Jersey and working with a pastor down there. He’s a very unique model of ministry, he’s a stock broker, that’s his profession, that’s what he’s done. But he felt a vision and a burden for ministry and he had served in the church in
I hope that you get to meet
The reason I’m using that as just a simple example. There are many different variations that God can use and what I feel like, what I would love to see God do is experiment with us as a people group. Experiment with us, so that he could create something that was unique and different and that’s not in the sense of saying, look for the unusual or try to do something strange and avant-garde just because it’s either cool or novel or something like that. It’s not about that, it’s really about really trying to understand what God is going to use in this place and time, in this moment to accomplish the purposes that are in his heart. And they may be different or they may not be different than what would seem like a traditional model.
But I just really want for us to begin to get this as a foundation, if God were giving me permission to be able to something into our souls collectively, it would really be to do with understanding that every one of us are courier and carriers of the anointing of God wherever we are. We are in fact, minister of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, all the time, and it is not based upon some ecclesiastical ladder, some kinds of hierarchal pecking order, it is not to do with that. That is not what really loosens and releases ministry. What loosens and releases ministry is the understanding that how God has made you is designed perfectly for you to be able to function where you are now, and not to be upset, and not to be frustrated,
You know, there’s so many people and I’ve lived to see it, and I have experienced myself, I mean, I’m not speaking from some kind of pontification point where, you know, it doesn’t touch my light, that there is a lot of life that is absolutely wasted because we are waiting to get somewhere else, we’re looking for a door to be opened. We’re hoping that there will an occasion and opportunity for us to be able to do something that we think that we’re designed for. And you know what? It’s God at work in the process. That’s what really counts.
It counts what you’re doing today. It counts who you speak to and how you talk. It counts that you carry Jesus in the workplace. It counts, that’s what counts. To me, that is the foundation that we need to understand, recognize that we’re all called to ministry in different settings of service.
Now, number two we are called to fulfill a life that has significance, value and meaning that communicates the life of Christ to our family, first, to our co-workers and to our friendship circles. That is where we live life. We don’t live life on Sunday morning or Saturday evening. This is a window into an experience, but we live life day in and day out. And the first place that we are to live out our life of faith, really, and I mean, it seems as thought this just might be so simplistic as to not have a way of impact in us, but it is in our homes, it is to do for the way for our husband to love his wife, for a wife to honor and love her husband, for a father to care for and raise up the children in the ways of the Lord and to be able to live those things out.
You know, this is where the rubber really does meet the road. It’s where we experience the transformation of values, the most important place is in our homes. The second most important place is where we labor, where we work, where we spend our time, where we transfer our energies to gain the substance that we call wealth or money, or whatever it is that provides for us. And so, this is a place and you are, I am a missionary, whether we recognize it or not, we should begin to really live in an intentional, attuned state, highlighting, I’m going to the mission field today.
I know, it’s hard to get there sometimes, you know, it would be much easier to go to Central America. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be missionaries to Africa? You know, wouldn’t it be exciting to be able to on a mission journey to wherever? Our missionary journey is when we get out of bed and we pick up our cup of coffee and we go to wherever it is that we go to and we do whatever it is that we do.
So, the honing and the sharpening of the work of God in our lives in this arena, is absolutely imperative. And then, of course, the third thing that I said, in our friendships, in our friendship circles. One of the things that I really believe that God would be greatly honored with is that we would be intentional about developing friendships and friendship circles outside of the circles that we might ordinarily find ourselves associating with.
When people first come to Christ they have a set of friends that are usually outside of the circle of church relationships and fellowships. Within the span or 2 to 3 years, by and large, there’s a transference that takes place and what it is, is the friendships and it’s basically because of the sense of common values, and those type of things that is very normal for this to happen and is not necessarily bad or wrong for this to take place, particularly as people are coming into the things of Christ and they’re developing new friends and they need to leave some old influences, perhaps, behind because those influences are not positive in their lives and are not helpful on to a restructuring of the friendships may, in fact, be particular of the work of the grace of God in our lives for a season.
But as we develop and as we grow in Christ the Lord really does want for us to be able to intentionally begin to develop those friendships, casual relationships, the kinds of things that we can then invest in the way that we can meet people and we can share with them and we can have kind of, like common moments.
You know, I have a neighbor who has been really hard to kind of get to know, he’s been very cautious and very guarded, but you know, his wife got sick a year ago and she had fiber mialgia and through that it’s be able to create moments, to be able to communicate and moments to be able to talk and to be able to share, and is just in a building process. I’m not evangelizing him. I’m not trying to see him as a soul, I’m going to get that soul, you know, he’s a human being. He is a human being who is in the process of coming into some kind of exposure to another person with a different set of values and who is a believer and a Christian.
But, 2 weeks ago I found out that he left his job and he is now taking on a new responsibility and in this new responsibility that’s completely different, he’s way out of his comfort zone. And you know, just based on that it’s developed the opportunity for exchange and for interaction. And so, we need to look at these things and we need to be developing these things because the moment will come, if you have done the ground work, just to be a friend to somebody, the moment will come when there will be some kind of a moment of need and something will crystallize around that and it will be an opportunity to be able to share and impart something that God has given you, that is important and is significant.
So, I really want you to understand that about your life is significant. Your life has value no matter where you are and no matter what season of life you’re in.
There’s a third thing that I want for you to think about and it was an interesting comment that I was up at the seminary and I was there because
So, I mean, that’s a little bunny rabbit trail off to the side, but I hold him in high regard, I hold him in high regard and it’s probably basically because I don’t know of anybody that I since been sounder longer than
And they, I mean, I was out there for church growth conferences and different things and I’ve met with Jack and had dinner with him, and so I kind of got him to know him a little bit, but he made these statements, he said, at the seminary, he said,
It’s really, you know, there’s…. how many of you have heard of Peter Wagner? Anybody? A handful of people. Great man. A very great man. Don’t want to minimize or take away from that man or his work, or his impact,
But, the thing that I trust about
But, it’s the sense of becoming big is really a qualitative term to describe the capacities that people can grow into as opposed to being limited and stuck at certain perspectives and certain levels. We’ve all been stuck, ok? I promise you, nobody is been stuck more than I’ve been stuck at certain points in my life, at certain places. I really understand what stuck means. But a church that will be intentional about really growing people, helping one another. How do we grow people? What does it really mean?
I think growing big people from me might be best described by creating an environment where people can really be honest and receive honesty framed in kindness that helps the soul to be able to really trust.
I’m going to go into some other stuff here in this message, but I want us to think about that for a little bit, because there’s a culture, there’s an environment and if we want to grow and really, truly grow big people, people with capacity, people with strength, people with wisdom, people with bearing, at the risk, and I know it’s a risk, at the risk of being misunderstood, kind of get here on the edge a little bit, it will not happen, it does not happen with just a pulpit pew dynamic. It does not happen even….
Listen, I love the worship that’s happening here. I love that and the worship experience is great. It’s a good thing. But it doesn’t happen just with a great worshipping experience. It happens, it is mysterious, ok, because it’s a God thing, do you understand this? That when God does stuff, he does it in a mysterious way in the sense that he does it so that you can’t nail him, you think you can nail him down, you think you can figure him out and then he changes it on you. He does that. He does it because he’s God and he does it so that we can’t just create our stamp old pattern. You know, we’re going to make big Christians, pum… pum… pum… We’re going to get this formula. He won’t let that happen. He goes out of his way to keep it mysterious so that we’re always on this journey, you know, trying to find, trying to understand, trying to discover, trying to learn his ways that are higher than our ways. They are higher, they are past finding out. And then he invites us to come into the mystery. You know, it’s mind-boggling. It is really is mind-boggling, but that in fact is how he does this.
Now, what I want to just share a little bit about is why if this is God’s plan, if this is God’s way, if we look at this and I sort of break down these scriptures and we started to go and really explore into them, we would definitely find case upon case, upon case, of instruction and the word of God that causes to grow up, to be mature, to be strengthen. But what is it that sabotages this? What is it?
So, a little bit of exploration into that I think is worth doing. Before we go there, I just want to…. you know, God’s plan is people and when God said in Act 2, verse 14, “the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”
When God spoke that, when God said that, his way that that will happen is with people. I mean, we are. It’s the church, it’s the ecclesia, it’s the called out once, God’s way to reach the world, God’s way to manifest his glory is us, is the people. God desires to do that. I mean, yes, there are occasions that he’s demonstrated and he’s shown where he will break through and he will do the lightening bowl thing, or the Red Sea thing or he’ll make
So, what goes wrong? What happens? What sabotages God’s plan? People have become disillusioned of the church because leadership, by and large, has been willing to use people. Now, there’s a number of things, but I’m going to go here first, because leadership has been willing to use people as expendable commodities in order to achieve and further their vision, rather than truly understand the heart of God for his people and really lovingly lay down their lives as leaders for the growth and development of the people of God.
Now, if you let me, just going to re read that. People have become disillusioned with the church because leadership has been willing to use people as expendable commodities in order to achieve and further their vision, rather than truly understand the heart of God for his people and really lovingly lay down their lives as leaders for the growth and development of the people of God.
When I was a kid, we used to sing a song, and I think Charlotte remembers, there might be people who …… sitting here, I don’t know. It was to be used of God, to speak, to sing, to pray. To be used of God, to show someone the way……
There are some of us that know these old things. ….I long so much to feel the touch of his consuming fire, to be used of God is my desire. And you know, we used to sing, you know, it’s like one of those longing songs. I mean, we sing them, there are different words and that but the core of them is that yearning after God to be used of God, you know, to be useful in his hands, as tools. I mean, it’s a theme through scripture, it’s a longing of most people’s hearts.
But the reality here is that we want to be used by God. Do you know that God’s people really want to be used by God? They really want to be used by God but nobody wants to be used by people. Nobody wants to be used by people. And there’s a couple of illustrations that I want to just share with you. I was thinking about this, and I mentioned it to Charlotte and I said, you know, there’s these ants. You know, there’s these ants that grow and they grab other ants and they take them and then bring them in to their hive, or their colony and they take their larvae and their pubae and they bring them in and they subordinate them, and then they make them do all the work, and they sit back and they eat all the spoils of these other ants doing this work. And sure enough, Charlotte looked upon the web and we found out who they are these evil little ants. And they were
And I got to thinking about how many of you have ever watched Star Trek, the next generation. Anybody is Star Trek? Anybody? Anybody would divulge that they would watch such nonsense? I couldn’t help to think about the
But the reality is that even though it’s fantasy, there is a visceral response and reaction to it. and the visceral response and reaction to it and the abhorrence of it, you know, that they use the fantasy to create and gives dynamic to the story and makes you have an emotional response and reaction to it, that’s a real fear and it’s based on something that really happens. And what it is that really happens, that we’re fearful of is we don’t want to just be gobbled up and utilized for, in some impersonal sense, to become a part of some other thing that doesn’t give space or room for our individuality, our creativity, what we have been designed to bring and to offer. That’s the fear that that fantasy is touching and that our emotions are responding to.
So, I feel like what we need to do is we need to just look because these things, even though they are exaggerated illustrations, what they are really pointing to is a very functional thing. It’s ok, just turn it off. And ultimately the issue really comes down to the issue of trust particularly in the arena of leadership. Can we trust the leadership?
People want to know, I’ve often said this, we as humankind we really do want leadership, we want to be lead. I don’t think there’s any human being, except for maybe a few people that are really ill, and there are some, but you know, they’re so rebellious and just
So, for me, as we ponder these things and we look at, you know, what is it that sabotages God’s plan? Among the things that sabotage God’s plans are these defective kinds of models. And the Bible does speak to this, the Bible talks about, you can look in Jeremiah 23, verse 1 through 4, where it says:
“Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture, declares the Lord. Therefore this is what the Lord, the God of Israel says to the shepherd who tend my sheep because you’ve scattered my flock and because you’ve driven them away, and because you have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil that you’ve done, declares the Lord. I myself, will gather the remnant of my flock out of all of the countries where I have driven them and I will bring them back to their pasture where they will be fruitful and where they will increase in number, and I will place shepherds over them who will tend them and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing, declares the Lord.”
God has an opinion about this. God has an opinion about this. He cares about these things.
I want us to contrast these stern warnings to Paul’s love for the church. The churches that he had birthed, in First Thessalonians, chapter 2 on verse 13, we read, it says:
“And we also thank God continually because you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it, not as a word of men but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work, in you who believe, for you brothers became imitators of God’s church in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus, you suffered from your own countrymen the same things that the churches suffered from the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out, they displeased God and are hostile to all men in their efforts to keep us from speaking to the gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit and the wrath of God has come upon them at last.”
And then Paul in these statements of longing he says:
“But brothers, we were torn away from you for a short time, in person, not in thought, out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you, for we wanted to come to you, certainly I, Paul, did. Again, and again but Satan stopped us, for what is our hope, our joy, our crown in which we glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ when he comes, is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy.”
The beautiful thing about that portion of scripture to me, is that what Paul was saying about the people that grew up under his ministry, is you, you, you’re the glory, you’re the crown. It’s you, you’re the beauty, you’re the testimony, you’re the evidence. It’s you, it’s your life, it’s what happening in you, it’s what’s going on in you, what’s manifested for you. it’s you, you’re the ones. That’s what important.
It’s not the program. It’s not whether we can sing or dance or jump or roll, you know, it’s not whether we can speak in tongues, or have gifts of wisdom and interpretation or understanding. It’s not that. It’s the evidence of what is happening in the fiber of your being. You’re the testimony. Your life growing and maturing is the evidence of the glory of God resting on the planet.
If we can have the privilege of be able to rub up against each other, or provoking one another to love and good works, look, the reality is we all have rough edges, that’s the reality, but we’re in the process, we’re in the process. It is our rough edges, it’s our blindnesses, it’s our stupidity sometimes, it’s those things that become the actual grit that polishes one another lives if we can receive it and if we can let it happen.
And it’s not so much especially in a church that’s formative and at very best, I hope, I hope, reformative, I mean it sincerely, I hope that we are
I honestly, you know, I mean, I do believe that there are some churches that are called, actually called to be small, group kinds of dynamic. There are some that are actually intentionally developed that way and the Lord uses that. I personally believe that a healthy church has the commitment to the growth of the individual, but also has an understanding that there’s something about the mixing of
But I believe that if we will allow God deliberately to use us in a community to touch each other’s lives including the things I do that rub you the wrong way, including things you do that rub me the wrong way and we don’t back off, and we permit the process to happen that God will use it as a means of horning us, sharpening us, fashioning us and we’ll become something that we wouldn’t have become if anyone no matter who they are, said, this is it, we’re going this way. Ok? They’re not times and seasons for directional leadership because there are times for that that really are.
Just a couple of more thoughts. I think I’m going to close there. We don’t need any extras, that’s plenty.
Father, we’re just going to ask that you would help us, Lord, just to experience your touch and your presence and your grace. Lord, we’re looking for formation that comes from your hand, not formation that comes specifically by the design of somebody’s calculating words. We give you permission to begin to shape the core of our beings and Father, I am very aware that words are cheap in regards to these statements, and the demonstration of it is by the breaking of light together, the bread of life, by the exposing of ourselves to the process of really knowing each other and coming into community here and going through the tougher parts of that and learning how to trust you in it.
So, Holy Spirit we simply quiet ourselves, and we say, you’re the potter, we’re the clay, we are the lump of bread that you are of necessity needing. Lord, we’re in your hands and God, whether this church, entity, quote unquote English service, develops one way or another, Lord, we say to you whatever you want, we say yes, and say it’s a good thing. it’s a good thing.
Lord, we know that we’re just pilgrims and strangers and we really are passing through each other’s lives, some of our passages will be brief in and out, some will be longer, some may have the substance of many years, who knows, Lord, you know, we’re not here to tell you that, we’re just here to say to you Lord, we want for you to work with us while we’re here, in this place, during this season, and that Lord, we would grow up more and more until we can stand, in humility erect and strengthened because you have done the work Lord, you are doing the work, the most that we hope to be able to do is say repeatedly, quickly, again and again yes, yes, Lord. When you nudge us, yes Lord. When you speak to us, yes, Lord. And as you grow us and you test us and you take us to further extremities of our readiness to say yes, Lord, I just pray that you will graciously, mercifully, as the loving Father you are, work kindly, grow us up, Lord.
|Sermon delivered by Brandt Gillespie taped April 28, 2007 at Congregation Lion of Judah||Listen|||||View (100K)|||||View (400K)|
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