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What Makes a Church a Church: Ministry

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Part One: Ministry

This morning is the conclusion of our weekend assessment with our Executive Minister, Dr. Charles Revis.  Charles will be presenting a final report on Sunday morning; July 10th so I hope you’ll all be here that Sunday.  We’ll have a fellowship luncheon following the final report. Along with all the great food we’ll get a sense of where we can go from here.

In the mean time I want us to be thinking about what makes a church a church.   Thanks to Wilma Skinner we have a picture to help us focus our minds on that question for the next few weeks.  What makes a church a church?

·        In the last month we’ve begun to test-drive a more streamlined set of by-laws with Guiding Principles.  Does an organizational structure make us a church

·        Right now we are gearing up for an intensive ministry to children again this summer.  Does a program make us a church?

·        Over the summer we’re going to be looking at improving the steps out front.  Does a building make us a church?

What’s the difference between a cult and a church?

What about other organizations such as Rotary or Kiwanis.  Why not classify them as a church?

·        They’re non-profit

·        They always have a speaker

·        They’re committed to improving society

·        They are usually trying to raise money, … and …

·        They are always having food when they get together

·        When you think about it … it sounds a lot like church doesn’t it.

But the church is so much more than an organizational structure, a program, or a building.  The church is significantly different than a cult.  And other non-profit organizations and institutions, frankly, just don’t measure up.  Over the next few weeks I’ll try to show you what makes a church a church.  To begin with I want to lay a foundation to build everything else on.  So first let’s look at the passage at the top of your outline. 

When the apostle Paul tried to tell the Christians at Ephesus what the church was, he said it this way:

God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.

-------Ephesians 2:19-22  The Message, by Eugene Peterson

Two Foundational Principles:

1)    The church is God’s home

a.     God intends to reside in the church

b.     But, the church is not a building (“Here’s the church, Here’s the steeple…”)

c.      God’s game plan is to live in each of us

2)    We are the stones

a.     It doesn’t matter what our background is

b.     God wants to build His church with us!

c.      As different as we are from each other … He is fitting us in!

3)    Jesus is the foundation

a.     It isn’t church if Jesus isn’t the boss

b.     It isn’t church if Jesus isn’t our “freedom fighter”

4)    When we let Jesus be the boss, accept Jesus as the one who fought for & won our freedom from sin, & invite God into our life … & then find our place along side of others that have done the same thing … we become a church.

5)    Second Foundational Principle: The church isn’t made up of bricks and mortar … but of Christians!  Christians who are …

a.     Doing Ministry together

b.     Worshipping together

c.      Fellowshipping together

d.     Learning together

This morning I want to talk about doing ministry together.  We live in a broken world with broken people.  I am convinced that our church is the kind of place where anyone can come with any problem and be welcomed!  I thank God for that.

There are different ways that Christians can respond to a broken world:

1)    Sit in judgment on a broken world.

a.     Critical & condemning

b.     John 3:17 [NIV]

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

c.      We need to understand that the world is not the enemy the world is a victim of the enemy.

2)    Deny the world is broken.

a.     Positive thinking (Presbyterian: pre-ordained; Baptist: assurance of salvation; Robert Schuller type/positive attitude: “It’s not hot & I’m not here!”

b.     We cannot deny the facts.

c.      William Bennett – Violent crime has increased 500% since 1960, the number of unmarried teenagers becoming pregnant has doubled in the last 20 years (1 in 10 get pregnant), 1 in 4 pregnancies end in abortion (We’ve aborted the equivalent of 10% of the population of the United States), Child Abuse has increased 400% since 1976, teen suicide has tripled since 1960.

d.     Matthew 9:36 [NIV]


“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”


e.      It is not unspiritual to acknowledge that this world is in trouble!

3)    Despair over a broken world.

a.     Give up

b.     Hole up

c.      We need to do all we can to be in the world making a difference as long as God leaves us here.

4)    Serve a broken world.

a.     Luke 4:18f

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

b.     As you think about the life of Jesus, isn’t this what He did?

c.      John 17:18 [NIV]

“As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.”

d.     Jesus never asked us to do what He was unwilling to do!

e.      Philip Yancy (CT article)

“Our real challenge, the focus of our energy, should not be to Christianize the United States (always a losing battle) but rather to strive to be Christ’s church in an increasingly hostile world.”

f.       Jeff McMullen

                                                             i.            Played character of Ronald McDonald

                                                           ii.            On “Ronald Day” would visit community hospitals & visit kids

“Toward the end of my fourth year of ‘Ronald Days’ as I was heading down a hallway after a long day in grease paint and on my way home, I heard a little voice. ‘Ronald, Ronald.’ I stopped.  The soft little voice was coming through a half-opened door.  I pushed the door open and saw a young boy, about five years old, lying in his dad’s arms, hooked up to more medical equipment than I had ever seen.  Mom was on the other side and Grandma was attending to the equipment.  I knew the situation was grave.

                                                        iii.            Did a few magic tricks

                                                        iv.            Asked is there anything else I can do for you?

                                                           v.            ‘Ronald would you hold me?’

                                                        vi.            Such a simple request but I knew I could lose my job.

                                                      vii.            Suggested they color a picture and they did

                                                   viii.            ‘Ronald, would you hold me?’

                                                        ix.            My mind screamed ‘You are going to lose your job.’

Then, I sent Mom, Dad, Grandma, & Grandpa out of the room and my two McDonald’s escorts out to the van.  The nurse stayed.  Then I picked up this little wonder of a human being.  He was so frail and so scared.  We laughed and cried for 45 minutes and talked about the things that worried him.  Billy was afraid that his little brother might get lost coming home from kindergarten next year.  He worried that his dog wouldn’t get another bone because Billy had hidden the bones in the house before going back to the hospital, and now he couldn’t remember where he put them.

48 hours later I received a phone call from Billy’s mom.  She informed me that Billy had passed away.  She said that shortly after I left the room Billy had said, ‘Momma, I don’t care anymore if I see Santa this year because I was held by Ronald McDonald.’

g.     Two thoughts about this tender story

                                                             i.            First, someone needed to tell Billy that soon he would be in the arms of Jesus!

                                                           ii.            Second, if someone dressing up like Ronald McDonald can make this kind of difference … just think what Christ living in you can do?

h.     1 Thessalonians 1:3-5

“We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

“For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction…”

i.       God has chosen you to do His good work

j.       My job is to prepare you to serve

k.     After Bud Wilkinson, former Oklahoma University football coach retired from his position he was asked by a reporter in Dallas,

“What contribution has football made to physical fitness in America?”

                                                             i.            His answer stunned everybody

“None,” he shot back “Do you know what football is?  It’s eleven men on the field who desperately need rest, playing before 75,000 spectators who desperately need exercise.”

                                                           ii.            The world is too broken for us to just sit in the bleachers & watch … but where do we start … how can we do it all?

                                                        iii.            Rick Warren, writing in The Purpose Driven Church, explains that your SHAPE will determine who, when and where to serve.


a.     1 Peter 4:10

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”

b.     I’m not going to take a lot of time to talk about Spiritual Gifts because we just finished a series on them

c.      You will function with more effectiveness in your area of giftedness

d.     The Spiritual Gifts inventory that some of you took a few weeks ago was intended to point you in the right direction but that’s not the final answer for you.  Feel free to start experimenting with different ministries to help you fine tune your giftedness.

·        HEART

a.     1 Samuel 12:20b [NIV]

“…yet do not turn away from the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart.”

b.     Psalm 37:4 [NIV]

“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

c.      What do you have a heart for?

d.     Each of us has unique passions; something that makes our heart beat faster.  This passion motivates you to pursue certain activities, subjects, and environments.

e.      People rarely excel at tasks they don’t enjoy doing.

·        ABILITIES

a.     Exodus 31:2f (The building of the Tabernacle)

“See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts.”

b.     We are born with natural abilities

c.      Some of you are good at working with youth, or children, or music

o       Somebody called me a “Prison Singer” the other day: Always behind a few bars & you can’t find the right key

d.     Abilities are the natural talents that you were born with.  Some people have a natural ability with words, athletics, math, etc.

e.      Excuse: “I don’t have any abilities!” --- National studies have proven that the average person possesses from five hundred to seven hundred skills

f.       Abilities include: recruiting, motivating, researching, writing, landscaping, interviewing, promoting, decorating, planning, entertaining, repairing, drawing, cooking.

g.     What are your abilities?


a.     We all have a personality

o       Generally reluctant (test the water) vs those who just jump right in

o       Take risks vs Don’t take risks

o       Organized vs Chaotic

o       Introvert vs Extrovert

b.     God loves variety (introverts/extroverts, leaders/followers)

c.      Rick Warren

“The world would be a very boring place if we were all plain vanilla.  Fortunately, people come in more than thirty-one flavors.  (Some of you look pretty nutty.)” 


a.     James Dobson tells a story about a mother who was sick in bed w/ the flu. 

Her little daughter wanted so much to be a good nurse.  She fluffed the pillows and brought a magazine for her mother to read.  And then she even showed up with a surprise cup of tea.

“Why, you’re such a sweetheart,” the mother said as she drank the tea.  “I didn’t know you even knew how to make tea.” 


“Oh, yes,” the little girl replied.  “I learned by watching you.  I put the tea leaves in the pan and then I put in the water, and I boiled it, and then I strained it into a cup.  But I couldn’t find a strainer, so I used the fly-swatter instead.”

“You what?!” the mother screamed. 

The little girl said, “Oh, don’t worry, Mom I didn’t use the new flyswatter.  I used the old one.”

b.     We learn by experience!

c.      God never wastes experience.

d.     The fact is that broken people serve a broken world best.

e.      Types of experiences include

o       Educational

o       Vocational

o       Spiritual

o       Ministry

o       Personally painful experiences

1)    The Primary Way We Should Serve a Broken World Is Determined by Our God-Given SHAPE but We Should Also Be Available When God Gives Us An Extra Assignment.

2)    Avoid Being An Extremist

a.     Those who are constantly distracted by every need, … or

b.     Those who are never willing to help outside of what they are gifted for

3)    Psalm 100:2a

Serve the Lord with gladness;…

4)    Ultimately we are serving the Lord in every act of service.

5)    John 13:12-17

12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

6)    A hospital visitor saw a nurse tending to the sores of a leprosy patient and said, “I’d never do that for a million dollars!”  The nurse answered, “Neither would I.  But I do it for Jesus for nothing.”

7)    The question isn’t what will you do for others.  The question is ultimately … what will you do for Jesus?

8)    David Livingston (quoted in Making Sense of the Ministry by Wiersbe & Wiersbe)

“He is the greatest master I have ever known.  If there is anyone greater, I do not know him.  Jesus Christ is the only master supremely worth serving.  He is the only ideal that never loses its inspiration.  He is the only friend whose friendship meets every demand.  He is the only Savior who can save the uttermost.  We go forth in His name, in His power, and in His Spirit to serve Him.”

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