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For the sake of the Children

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I am grateful for this opportunity to share what God has placed on my heart.  Denise and I have been apart of the fellowship for 17 years.  Our children are growing up in this church and many of you have been instrumental in their spiritual growth and development and we are appreciative of that fact.  Neighborhood Church is about to begin a new chapter and I am looking forward to seeing what God will do.  But even as we look to a new beginning we would be wise to deal with past and present hurts and disagreements.

I asked God to give a message that would have an impact on Neighborhood Church; one that would begin a healing process.  I will touch a least one sensitive area, but I am unwilling to ignore something that has hindered our effectiveness and will continue to do so until we are willing as a body to resolve it.

 I am interested in reading about contemporary church trends.   I read what leading authorities say should be the model for the church in the twenty-first century.  What I find, however, is that there is very little consensus for a model for the local church.  You will encounter terms such as ministry in a post-modern culture, seeker sensitive, the emergent church movement and countless others.   As one studies the opinions of the many “so called authorities one might be led to believe that the Church is facing situation that the world has never seen before and that the Gospel need to be reinvented in order for people in today’s world to be able to relate to and embrace. But as usual, Jesus knows how to build His Church better than anyone else.

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.  John 17:20-23

Ø     Unity is the key to the mission

Two phrases:  verse 21 that the world may believe  and verse 23 May they be brought  to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you loved me.

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

 

Ø     Unity does not require uniformity

 

There is core of essential foundational beliefs that upon which we must be in agreement, but beyond those there is a wide latitude and abundant grace for differences in experience, culture.  Look at the group that Jesus called together to be His apostles, some fisherman , a tax collector, a zealot, that is a political or religious activist and others from various backgrounds

 

Ø     Everyone does not have to be like me.

 

I’m pretty sure that I don’t want a church where everyone is like, but I’m absolutely sure that I don’t want to be in a church where everyone is like any of you.

The “Balkanization” of the Church

 

Ø     Everyone is needed.

Experience is needed, youth is needed.

But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 1 Co 12:24-28

Ø     We are being watched

2 You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. 3 You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts  2 Corinthians 3:2-3.

 

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Jn 13:34-35

In a conversation with my father several I made the statement that non-believers look at Christians to see if there is any reason for them to believe in Jesus, that is to say is it real.  But, he countered instead that they are instead looking for justification or rationalization not to believe. 

Is it possible that we would be more effective in reaching people with the Good News if we didn’t give them reasons to be skeptical because of our actions?

 

Ø     Confronting the divisive issues

 

When there seems to be a particular issue that is object of contention in the church it is possible, if not probable that there are deeper areas of contention or division.

 

Music in the Church

I want to venture into an area where I am certain that some will question my sanity for doing so, but I am convinced that beginning a dialog about music and worship is what we need if we desire to achieve unity.

It has come to my attention that generally people will identify most closely with the style of music that they where exposed to during their formative spiritual years.  We cling to those things, not just music, that we associate with our discovery of new life in Christ.  Add to this the fact that time filters the sublime from the ordinary and those songs that touch us result from the experiences of God’s faithfulness, love and mercy in the lives of the composers.  When a John Newton writes “Amazing Grace, How Sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me…” he speaks from a living relationship with God.   When Horatio Spafford pens the words, “When peace, like a river attendeth my way. When sorrows like sea billows roll.  What ever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul.” A connection is made and you sense that even in the face of overwhelming tragedy Horatio Spafford experienced God’s presence in difficult times.  Or when you hear this song that Kevin wrote, “You are so good, so good to me, so good to me. Jesus you’re all that I need.”  It touches a chord in your spirit and you recognize that the composer has had an experience with Jesus and His Goodness.  The point is as long as God is still touching hearts and transforming lives writers and composers will be inspired by God and write.

Nine times in the Bible it tells us to sing a new song unto the Lord.

Let's have revival and write our own music that future generations will look back upon and say to themselves those must have been special times.

Or, I could come over to your house and sing with you whatever touches your heart

I would like to relate to a story to illustrate my point.  After conducting a small focus group at home it was determined that our subjects would be named Greg and Amber.  You see, Greg and Amber were both Christians who after a whirlwind romance got married six weeks after they met.  Soon they were the parents of two children, a boy and a girl.  After seven years of marriage, problems were beginning to surface that threatened their domestic tranquility.  Because they never really got know each before their wedding, they never discovered just how divergent their interests were.  Amber really loved country music and the rodeo, whereas Greg enjoyed the opera and considered the rodeo as form of animal cruelty. You can imagine the strain that this caused in their relationship and they seemed ready to give up and call it quits. They sought counsel and it became apparent that there were interests greater than their own.

First, they remembered the vows they made to each other before God and the witnesses assembled for their wedding and there was the overwhelming consideration of what impact their action would have on their children. So, setting aside their own self-interests they reprioritized their lives and took the necessary steps to save their marriage.  They did it for the sake of the children.

Now it would be a stretch to say that Greg came to love country music, it just didn’t strike his fancy, but he did love Amber, and that, he realized was enough for him.

It is important to understand that the application of self-sacrifice goes beyond setting an example for your children and mine, it is how unbelievers, new believers see a living example of what it means to be united in Christ.  In other words it is crucial that we resolve our differences and live harmoniously for the sake of the children.

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:  Philippians 2:1-5

Action Plan

Live at peace with all

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone --Romans 12:18

Communicate

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. Ephesians 4:15

 

Forgive one another

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  -- Colossians 3:13

 

Love covers a multitude of sins

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. --1 Peter 4:8

 

Be receptive to new things.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
– 2 Corinthians 5:17

 

Keep your eye on the prize

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
– Philippians 2:14

 

Lessons Learned while riding my bicycle

 

n      Preparation

n      Know where you want to go

n      You help one another out

n      Watch out for potholes and other hazards (people mostly)

n      You accept the pain as part of the process


 

Oh, Lord Jesus

Bring us together

Keep us together

seeing, hearing, aware, sensitive.

We need to look at our children

And listen to our parents

And be sensitive to each other

and aware of each other.

Teach us to know that it’s Thy

will that we go together.

Teach us to know that it is not our mutualities

And congenialities that bind us—

It’s the life of Jesus Christ that binds us—

And so we belong together

And we must go together.  Amen.

Dr Reuben Welch – We Really do Need Each Other

I have one last challenge for you this morning., I want you to think about two or three individuals or families who have left our fellowship in the past year or so.  I am not referring to those who have moved away, but rather those who may have left hurt or frustrated, felt unloved or unwanted.  I am not asking you to persuade them to return, but just to let them know you were thinking about them and wanted to know how they are.  This is by no means an official program of the church, but rather an individual effort.  You see, I know that a number of people who have left have not really found a new church home and they just might appreciate hearing someone say that they were remembered. 


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