Church – It’s Not About You (sermon)

I recently delivered the following sermon called “Church – It’s Not About You”. The message was largely based on the outline written and published by Pastor Brian La Croix on SermonCentral.com. The premise is to take the focus off ourselves and onto God and the unreached.


Today’s message will have two part–reviewing our conversation from last week about what the Church is, based on Scripture; and then, we’ll look at how we can have a positive reputation in our community and how to be good examples to those around us.

We’re going to look at what the Bible says about the church and then explore the question about how the church should operate in the modern world.

There are four key questions that need to be considered when looking at the church, as it looks to relate the timeless truths and principles of Scripture to contemporary society.

We’re going to sift through the unimportant stuff regarding how we should “do” church to find the important stuff about being the church.

What the Bible Says About the Church – Five Questions

The first key question we need to look at in examining what the Bible says about the church is…

Question 1 – Who does the church belong to?

The answer, of course, the church belongs to Jesus!

Matthew 16:18 (NLT) “…upon this rock I will build MY church…”

Now before we get too far… Why do we need to talk about something so obvious?

Because it might be obvious to some, but maybe not to all. And it might be obvious in our minds, but not necessarily in our hearts and attitudes.

You see, the church doesn’t belong to you or to me. The church doesn’t belong to any governing body attached to it: not to any denomination, not to the pastor, not to the elders, and not even to those attending.

The church belongs to Jesus. Even this local church.

The church in general is described in a couple ways by the Bible.

First, It’s described as His Body…

Ephesians 1:22-23 (NLT) “God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.”

You hear the term, “Body of Christ” a lot when people describe the church, because that’s what it is. This gathering is supposed to be a model of that greater body, with Christ as the head.

The second way the church is described in the Bible is…

…and His household.

1 Timothy 3:15 (NLT) “…you will know how people must conduct themselves in the household of God. This is the church of the living God, which is the pillar and foundation of the truth.”

This church building is not God’s house. The Bible says that God dwells in us, not in buildings. A household is a family, not a building.

What if something were to happen to this building that we’re sitting in? Would the church still exist? Absolutely! Because we exist, the church exists — we are the church.

Remember, Jesus didn’t say He would build His church building! He will build the church, and it belongs to Him.

Let’s move on to the second question, which is…

Question 2 –  Who belongs to the church?

Answer: All who call upon Jesus as the Savior.

1 Corinthians 1:2 (NLT)I am writing to God’s church in Corinth, to you who have been called by God to be his own holy people. He made you holy by means of Christ Jesus, just as he did for all people everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.”

This ties in with what I said a few moments ago. The church does not belong to us. This means that we cannot make the “rules” about who belongs to the family of God.

We can’t use superficial judging criteria to determine who’s “in” and who’s “out.” We can’t look at the way a person dresses or wears their hair.

Here’s my point – it’s not what’s on the outside, it’s what’s on the inside. And you and I are not qualified nor called to judge a person’s spiritual condition based solely on outward appearance.

The question we must answer in eternity is not how did we dress in church, or how long or short or non-existent was your hair, but what did you do with Jesus.

If you have called on Jesus as your Savior, then you are part of the church of Jesus Christ, with all the rights and responsibilities that entails.

The third question to be asked regarding the church is…

Question 3 – What is the job of the church?

To get the most basic answer to that question, I’d like to read this following passage. This one should be familiar as we just talked about it during last week’s message.

Matthew 28:18-20 (NLT) Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

The job of the church is to enlarge God’s Kingdom by making disciples of all nations. By the way, disciples are not merely people who call themselves Christians. Disciples are those who live out God’s agenda in everyday life.

Disciples are not just fans of Jesus, they’re committed followers.

Jesus said we are to take the good news of forgiveness and eternal life to the ends of the earth.

Would you agree with me that there’s people here in Owatonna, in Steele County who still need to hear the Good News? If that’s the case, which it is, then we have work to do. We can’t rely on so-called professional evangelists. The job of sharing Jesus with others falls upon each and every one of us.

So, first, the church belongs to Jesus, not to us. Second, if you belong to Jesus, you belong to the church, regardless of outward appearances. Third, the job of the church is to add people to the body of Christ by making disciples or committed followers of Jesus.

The fourth and last question I want us to look at is…

Question 4 – How should the church act?

How should the church respond to a world that is walking in darkness, even though it thinks of itself as more enlightened than ever?

How should the church as a whole and as individuals interact with those outside of the church?

Hint: it’s all about Jesus. We should act like Jesus did.

Luke 15:1-2 (NLT)Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them!”

Jesus was intentional about being around people who needed Him. And just so you know, everyone is in that boat: everyone needs Jesus. So that means everyone is an opportunity.

Whether you want to or not, whether you believe it or not, and whether you intend to or not, you will be an example of the church. And your love for Christ and those He died for will determine if you will be a good example or a poor one.

So how can you be a good example? Allow me to give you three ideas on how the church should act, both individually and corporately.

To do that, let’s first look at:

1 Corinthians 10:32-33 (NLT) Don’t give offense to Jews or Gentiles or the church of God. I, too, try to please everyone in everything I do. I don’t just do what is best for me; I do what is best for others so that many may be saved.”

In looking to be a good example, we need to act, first of all…

Idea 1 – In ways that bring honor to God.

That should be obvious, right?

Our desire should always be to become people who love and live for God. And one of the ways we do that is to interact with people in ways that please and bring honor to Him.

We don’t bring honor to God with slander or gossip, or by using the church as a political tool, no matter what your party or cause.

If you want to please God in the way you interact with the people who need Jesus in today’s world, you need to get serious about finding out what the Bible says about people and relationships.

How to be a good example, idea number two is to act…

Idea 2 – In ways that edify believers.

Sometimes the church is really good about attacking its own people. That sounds horrible, but it’s true. Sometimes it’s blatant, sometimes it’s hidden behind other agendas or disguised as honest concern for the church of God.

Hebrews 10:24-25 (NLT) Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”

The book of Ephesians tells us to only say things that will build up the listener. There’s not a single place in Scripture that allows us to say, “I told you so.” When you look to build up the body of Christ, through words and deeds, then you are acting in ways that honor God.

Let’s move on to the third idea of how to act in the world today, and that is to act…

Idea 3 – In ways that do not alienate unbelievers.

We should not adopt a separatist attitude, or a “holier-than-thou” mindset.

We need to adopt the mindset that says, “Jesus loves you; He loves you so much that He died for you, no matter who you are, no matter what you’ve done, He loves you and wants you for His own.”

As far as our service goes, that means that we try to go out of our way to make sure that no one feels unwelcome or out of place while they’re here, whether or not they have a relationship with Jesus.

We sing songs that relate to the current generations and their relationship with God.

We use a Bible that speaks beyond the 17th century, in plain contemporary English. And the messages are geared to real-life application of the Bible in the real world.

Sometimes we make changes in our way of doing things. We do that to eliminate just one small barrier that may be in the way of someone opening up to the message of Jesus Christ.

Isn’t it worth it? To be a little uncomfortable, for the sake of someone else having a chance to experience God?

We are to be constantly working to make the gospel attractive. Not by watering down the message that God calls some things sin, and that without Jesus there is no hope for forgiveness of those sins and a home in heaven. The Bible is very clear about the importance of keeping the message of Jesus undiluted.

What I mean by making the gospel attractive is that we live lives that tell people we have our eternity squared away, and because of that, our present is in good hands with God.

We make the Good News attractive by pro-actively building relationships with people who need Jesus.

We make the gospel attractive by living lives that tell people that while life may not be perfect, it’s still worth living, because we live for something beyond ourselves – we live for Christ and those He came to die for.

You will then act in ways that do not alienate those outside of Christ, but rather create a thirst for Christ. That’s what is meant when Jesus said we’re the Salt of the Earth: we should create a spiritual thirst for Jesus, we demonstrate the flavor of eternity with Him, and we preserve this fallen world until he comes again.

We should create a thirst for Christ. And that is the church acting like the church is supposed to.

The bottom line is that church is not about you, me, or a denomination. It’s about God and His purposes.

The question we must be constantly asking ourselves as a church is this: what can we do that will make us more effective for God and His kingdom?

Sometimes it means adding something, sometimes it means getting rid of something. Decisions like this should never be arbitrary, nor should they be driven by either newness or tradition. They must be done on the basis of being effective for God and His purposes.

This has to be done not only on a corporate level as a body of believers in a local church, but on an individual level in your own personal lives.

Are you willing to examine yourself to see if you are open to being more effective for Christ and His kingdom? Are you willing to allow God to reveal to you where you can add something or let something go?

Does your inward attitude reflect the words of your mouth in declaring that it’s not about you, but about God?

I hope so. And if it’s not, may it BE so after today.

So, let’s take this a step further…

How should the church operate in the world today?

We build a positive reputation while tearing down barriers to faith.

So let’s talk about these a little bit more and break them down. Let’s start by looking at what it means to build a positive reputation in the community.

Building a positive reputation in the community

Why is this important? Why should we be concerned with how people view us and our church?

Because God cares. The Bible says that God is jealous of His reputation, and we are to reflect His character and reputation as much as possible.

Romans 2 tells us that when a body of believers doesn’t have a positive reputation, when it’s reputation is marred by hypocrisy, God’s name is blasphemed.

Proverbs 22:1 (NLT) Choose a good reputation over great riches; being held in high esteem is better than silver or gold.”

The first way we can have a positive reputation in the community…

Celebrate God in Spirit and Truth through Worship

Church is so much more than the worship service.

The service is only one part of what the church is about, but how we “do” church can make a huge difference on the reputation a church can have. Like it or not, guests will judge us almost exclusively on how we worship during Sunday mornings.

Authentic, excited, and passionate worship will be a draw to those new to the experience. A dead church does not invite the enthusiasm of newcomers.

And if we want to touch those who live, breath, and work in the 21st century, then we need to worship in ways that communicate to our current time.

Our worship service needs to be done in such a way that the vast majority of people who come will be able to understand and participate in a way that is relevant to them.

Why? Because we want others to see people who truly love Jesus, who can worship in spirit and truth and live for Him the rest of the week.

Someone might say, “Well, if they don’t like the way we do it, they can go somewhere else.”

First of all, that’s hardly loving, and is not very Christ-like. Second, they generally don’t go somewhere else – they just don’t go anywhere.

The second way we build a positive reputation in the community is for the people in the church to…

Act like a family through Fellowship.

We talked about this last week. The church is a family, not just a social gathering. We are to build up the family and its members, not tear it apart for the sake of our own agendas.

Family members encourage one another, they support one another, they laugh together and they live together.

Let’s focus on building up the family.

The third way to gain that positive reputation for the church is to…

Intentionally live Christ-like lives through Discipleship

Get serious about living lives that reflect Jesus in word, thought, and deed. And this is only possible by making time for the Bible and prayer, reading and asking God to help us take what’s on the page and making it real in our lives.

We HAVE to take what we’ve learned and apply it. If we’re not acting on the Word we receive on Sundays and Wednesdays, or from Life Groups, or personal time with God, then what are doing? We’re drifting!

And God has not called us to a life of drifting, but to a life of action and purpose and life-change!

The fourth way we gain that positive reputation in the community is to…

Meet the needs of believers through Ministry

I just mentioned a few moments ago that we need to be a family, and we need to act like it.

When a member of the family is hurting, or is in some sort of need that we can meet as a church or as individual members of the church, the church shines.

People will see that this is a group that does more than just talk about loving neighbor or family member – they do it, and they do it a lot.

How dare we treat our blood family with love, and then turn around and treat those who sit in the same row here at church as weirdos, castoffs, or people that we want nothing to do with!

We’re here for eachother. We’re here to minister to one another with the giftings God has given us.

And the fifth way to build a positive reputation for the church in the community is to…

Display the love of Jesus to unbelievers through Evangelism

Remember, evangelism is simply telling someone else how they can have forgiveness of sins and a home in heaven.

Maybe your way is simply to pray for a particular person to come to Christ, or maybe your way is to bring them to church so they can hear it here. We’ve also been learning from Pastor Robert Morris on Sunday evenings how we can make an impact by simply sharing stories of God’s goodness in our lives.

Let’s talk a little about God Love.

The love of Jesus is both judicial and transformative. Judicial meaning  Jesus legally paid the penalty for sin, that his blood at the Cross covers all. We call that Salvation. We have been saved. But His love is also transformative, meaning Jesus is still working in our lives. We are becoming more Christ-like. We are saved and we are being saved. Another word for that is Sanctification.

Well, we’ve spent a good bit of time discussing the issue of the church needing to build a positive reputation in the community so we can operate effectively for the Kingdom of God in our current time.

Now listen up closely, because this is very important.

We have the opportunity to forge a reputation in our community.

Will we be proactive with it, or will be just kind of hope that others get the word about us?

We should do all we can to get the word out about the church and our desire to help people become healthy, authentic followers of Jesus.

There is a train of thought that says, “Well, all we need to do is be faithful, and God will bring people in without us having to change everything to attract them.”

There is some truth to that. We are to be faithful to God and His Word. No question. We are not to compromise the message of Scripture.

But part of being faithful to God is to reach out and bring people to Christ, living lives that tell others that following Christ is worth it, and communicating the love of Christ in ways they can understand.

You will find no Scriptural support for the notion that “being faithful” will cause God to bring people to church! Many churches who operate this way are having little or no impact for the kingdom of Christ.

The Gateway Church motto sums up this attitude very well: “We’re all about people.” We should be all about people, because God is all about people.

We need to build a reputation that says we care for people, and want to be involved in their everyday living.

And one of the best ways to do that is to work hard at…

Removing barriers to faith

People over time have put up barriers to believing in Christ, and few of them have anything to do with the facts about Jesus, the reliability of the Bible, or anything like that.

The barriers usually have more to do with the inauthenticity and the shallowness of so many Christians they run into.

So what do we do about it?

1 Corinthians 10:32-33 (NLT) Don’t give offense to Jews or Gentiles or the church of God. I, too, try to please everyone in everything I do. I don’t just do what is best for me; I do what is best for others so that many may be saved.”

And so, here are five ideas for removing barriers to faith. First…

Idea 1 – Remember who owns the church.

You don’t own the church, that’s why church is not all about you. It’s about Christ, who does owns the church, and the priorities He has given us to honor Him and expand His kingdom.

Idea 2 – Remember who you were.

Before we placed our trust in Christ, we were outside of God’s family. It was when we received Christ as our savior that we become part of God’s family, and outside of Christ, the nicest person in the world faces the same penalty as the vilest murderer. Outside of Christ, we don’t have access to the life-changing power of God.

Idea 3 – Remember who you are.

We have peace with God by His grace. You are redeemed. You are a child of God. That peace and status was not gained by your own efforts, but by the grace of God. And because of what God has done and is doing in your life, you can take care of this fourth suggestion in removing barriers to unbelief, and that is to…

Idea 4 – Remember to extend grace to others.

When you have a Biblical view of yourself, it’s much easier to see people from a Biblical viewpoint, and you can much more easily extend grace to others, to offer forgiveness to others, and to make sure you have realistic expectations of others.

Too often the church gives people the impression that they are not accepted until they shape up their act. Sometimes we expect people who are not followers of Jesus to act like those who are. Remember, Jesus does the cleaning, not us.

Idea 5 – Remember to relate in ways they can understand.

Act and speak like a real person. Work to get away from things that will give people the impression they don’t fit in, or that they have no business here unless they dress a certain way, talk a certain way, sing a certain way, use a particular Bible translation, and so on.

Jesus wasn’t like that. Sinners were attracted to Him even though He was sinless. Why? Because He was intentional about relating to the common person.

Look at the people who didn’t like Jesus very much. They were the religious leaders who were full of themselves and self-righteous. They were all about themselves. They weren’t interested in relating to those who needed God, they were only interested in avoiding them.

If we are not relatable, we will make little headway for the kingdom.

Conclusion

Reference: “If We Are the Body” by Casting Crowns

But if we are the body
Why aren’t His arms reaching?
Why aren’t His hands healing?
Why aren’t His words teaching?
And if we are the body
Why aren’t His feet going?
Why is His love not showing them there is a way?
There is a way, there is a way

Church is not about you. It’s not about me. It’s about God and His kingdom. It’s more than just the church service, it’s a life lived for God and His kingdom, and it’s a life lived in community for God and His kingdom.

May people see that this local body of Christ loves God and those He sent His Son to save.

Let’s pray.

Father God, thank you so much for saving us. We owe you everything. Thank you for showing us today that church is not about us, but about your purposes and reaching those who do not yet know you. Please help us to keep a proper attitude concerning what church is, who we are, and what we’re about. Please give us discernment and wisdom to break down the barriers that keep people from knowing you–even if those barriers–especially if those barriers–are within us. May we as a church be so united and emblazon with passion, so love saturated, that people can’t help but see you through us.

In the Name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Works Cited

 

 

 

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