Let’s read first of all from 1 Peter 2: 9+10:
9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.
Moving from what Peter has said, I want to begin with several quotes. The first is our mission statement as a church:
A community that is growing together in the knowledge and love of Christ as we seek to follow him and make him known
And the second quote comes from Mr. Rogers. This morning, as I was getting ready I happened to look at it and thought that’s pretty appropriate for this morning. I’m paraphrasing:
It’s easy for us to think “what we do” is more important than “what we are”. But it’s the opposite that’s true! “What we are” ultimately determines “what we do”!
I thought about that. That’s fitting because essentially, that is what we’re dealing with when we talk about the mission statement of our church.
We don’t want to talk about “what we do”. It is vital that we understand “who we are”, our identity. Because as we understand our identity in Christ, we are more able to effectively live out the life of Christ. In our statement we’re talking about our identity and our calling who we are, and what we do with that.
Now before we unpack this mission statement as it were, I want to reiterate what our heart and what the goal behind the mission statement is.
The mission statement does not replace anything
In the first place certainly our intention is not to replace scripture, but rather to provide a statement that we feel accurately represents the teaching of scripture, or a summary of what the bible says the church is and that the church is to do. And such things are okay, such things are actually very helpful.
As I was thinking about this, I was thinking about when paul says this is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance. And he says Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Actually, that was a summary that had been circulating in the church. People were saying that it was somewhat of a mantra.
And Paul not only affirms, that it’s helpful but through the instrumentality of the holy spirit it becomes scripture. I do not believe that our mission statement is going to become scripture but I think that there is validation for having pithy sayings about who we are:
- We are not replacing scripture
- We are not replacing Christ
And I said this last week, Jesus didn’t say with the mission statement you can do everything, but he did say “apart from me you can do nothing”. And so we continue to abide in Jesus Christ that is the source of our strength in our life.
This does not replace the need for the empowering and the leading of the holy spirit but rather we continue to rely on the spirit’s work as he applies the life of Jesus to us.
And then lastly this is not a silver bullet. We don’t think that this is going to make everything perfect right away.
It is how we articulate our identity
This is just simply how we articulate our identity in Christ. Who we are, our calling, what we are to do, and the commission that Jesus has given the church. And so having gone to scripture and prayed, we have come to this because we feel it is an adequate summary of the christian church. From Matthew 28 and other passages we can say we believe that this is what every church should seek to embody.
Why have a mission statement?
Why do we actually need a mission statement? What’s the point of having one?
Well on the one hand it facilitates clarity about who we are and what we’re doing. And through that it facilitates unity, so that we could all be on the same page and know what we are about.
And then it facilitates efficiency. The more clear and united we are, the more efficient we will be in the work of the gospel. Because the heart is that we all essentially are going to go and be pursuing the same thing, the same target. Therefore, it’s important that we know that target and that we keep that target clearly in front of us constantly, so that we could each help each other in the calling that God has put on us. Again: so there’s clarity in our identity and there’s clarity in our calling.
What we want to do is organize ourselves, the life, the ministries, the decisions, and the vision of this church around this. So what it does is it helps us move forward with clarity and focus as we all are pursuing the same thing.
It helps people understand what we are all about
It helps other people understand something about us, that don’t really know much about us. Perhaps you found yourself in a conversation like I found one myself in one recently where the question was: What is your church? What kind of church are you? What do you do? What are you about?
And so that the idea is that you too you could share this with people and say well you know this is our mission statement as a church we’re focusing on these things and then we come now to again remember that this is addressing these three things:
- Our identity
- Our calling and
- Our commission
It’s vital that we, as the people of God, understand who we are in Christ. This is essential! In Christ we are – as Peter says – a chosen generation; a royal priesthood; we are a community. We’re not just simply a group of people, to rub shoulders together four times a month or once a week on Sundays. But that rather we are a community.
It speaks to our calling. We are called to be disciples. And you see discipleship. It isn’t just the activity, is it? We are human beings, not human doings. In other words it is essentially about being. It’s about who we are, that then informs and facilitates the doing and the doing comes from the being.
Rather viewing discipleship as a process or something we view it as who we are and therefore we go about the business of being disciples.
And it speaks to our commission; the fact that Christ is doing something in the world, and we are to be joining him.
These are three big ideas that our mission statement gets at. And I think every single church needs to understand these about itself.
And so there’s three words that I want to share. The first one is community. Christ wants us to be in community. And so we begin by saying “we are a community”. That is who we are.
When you think about the church, it’s important to understand that the church is a single entity. There’s one head Jesus Christ, and there’s one body, the church. And yes, there’s different types of churches, but they’re all the church. Assuming, they believe and teach and preach the orthodox beliefs of the faith.
There’s also the local expressions of the church, which we happen to be. We are a local expression of the universal mystical eternal church of God. And so we are inherently connected through our bond with Jesus Christ, or as we say “we are a community”.
Saints in the plural
It’s interesting to note, that if you read Paul’s letters, he uses the Greek word for Saint always in the plural. It’s not hagias it’s hagyoi. That’s who he is writing to, because we are all connected. Think about all the images that you find of the church in the bible. On the one hand we are a bride; we are a body; we are a family; we are the household of God; we are a temple; we are a nation and we are a kingdom. You see the point is this that as a christian we are all connected to each other.
We are connected…
We are connected deeply, spiritually and eternally. And of course we are connected Christ-centrically. Christ is at the center of our connection. And so we emphasize the fact that we belong to God.
Because we belong to God we therefore belong to each other. And this is a truth, that we can’t, nor do, we ever want to neglect or forget. Of course the implication is this: that we need each other. God is the one who has designed the church to be like this. And therefore we are to be here for each other. And we are in this together. You remember Paul when he writes to the church in Corinth and he says there in chapter 12: If the hand were to say well I’m the hand and I don’t need the foot. Paul writes that’s not a profitable thing, it is actually ridiculous. We need each other!
We all are connected to Christ, who is the head. He is the one that has assigned us our specific place in the body. There’s no such thing as the lone ranger christian who can do it all by themselves. Even found Christ himself: What did he do when he came? He surrounded himself with a group of guys, didn’t he?
He built a kingdom, be built a people. So we’re reminding ourselves when we say that “we are a community that is growing together”. We’re saying we are called to be with each other; God has called us together. On the one hand that’s why we read that the author of hebrews says: Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together. Why? Because that is not what Jesus wants for his church.
God has us called to be with each other. That’s why we gather on a Ssunday isn’t it? That’s why we gather in fellowship groups. That’s why we gather for lunch after church and so on.
we are called to be with each other, to love each other, serve each other, to care for each other, to support each other, to forgive each other, to celebrate each other’s victories and to suffer with each other’s pains. And of course we are called to grow together.
Imagine what it would be like to not be a Christian. It’s such a good thing to be a Christian and one of the reasons is the support and the care of a loving worshiping biblical community. Therefore we want to drill this into our understanding of who we are. We’re not just people that come to the same place on a Sunday. We’re not just that aren’t we? We’re not just simply a collection of people. We are connected deeply eternally and spiritually in Christ.
And we can never forget that and we have to strengthen that and we have to flourish in that, don’t we? That’s the call that Jesus has for us. Now when you think about this sense of unity, let’s be honest: It could be hard to achieve right the sense of community. It could be hard to maintain, but the fact is, it’s already established by Jesus. Technically, community is unavoidable for the christian community. The actuality of the life of the christian you can’t avoid it.
You might avoid it or maybe not do it good, but that doesn’t change the essential nature of a christian. a christian is in a community. So whether you like it or not you belong to the other people in this room in some sense. So I say you might not like it but guess what? Deal with it! Because you don’t know the person who might look at you and go: I don’t like it – but they deal with it. The fact is we belong to each other.
I want to say something about a deep sense of community in a church, that when you sense it and you feel it and you experience it, it’s a wonderful thing when a church is united and a church has a deep loving sense of community. Of course it has its obstacles and it has its challenges and of course it has its enemies doesn’t it?
Because we’re all humans and if there’s anything humans are good at it’s being mean, being sinful, being divisive, being unloyal and unfaithful.
That’s why paul says to the Church in Colossae: “bear with one another and forgive each other as Christ has forgiven you”. That’s how relationships flourish. But having and being part of community is one of the richest blessings that God has bestowed on his church. I recall our last baptism which was early summer or late spring
We had seven or so people that were baptized that day. That was a baptism like we’ve never experienced in the life of this church. We had about 70 to 80 people there to celebrate to witness and to rejoice in the decisions that were made that day.
It was such a sense of family and community it was wonderful. So you know when you’re out there in the water baptizing trying to not sink in the mud or step on something that’s going to cut you because people throw bottles in there. Not to mention that water is not very clean, it’s pretty gross and the ducks they do their business everywhere. So you’re out there. First of all everybody’s giving the testimonies. Everybody’s happy and then you’re out there with these people and you’re baptizing them. Some people say: I know you’re a very big sinner so I’m holding you under the water for a very long time, okay?
Then to see along the bank of the river people lined up like they were waiting for a movie star to pass you know like a parade or something all along the banks of the river celebrating and rejoicing each time somebody was baptized.
And that’s how we should be: Hugging, celebrating, crying and doing life together. And then the fellowship that we have after church. Going for lunch, laughing, coffee, the fellowship that we have with each other throughout the week.
We are a community – we belong to God and to each other. And so we want to emphasize that as we understand who we are and grow more and more into it. Because we need fellowship, we need the support and care of the church.
In the first place there’s the word community. Christ has called us into a community and the next word is the word discipleship. That’s what’s really there and the idea
“we’re growing together in the knowledge and love of Christ as we seek to follow him”
Again as we said last week Jesus didn’t just call people to agree with him. He creates disciples who follow him. Apprentices, people who learn from their teacher, and live out the teachings of their teacher in obedience. And again you notice that we do it as a community, “we’re growing together” right?
Jesus didn’t come and call “let’s be fun” some of the unknown disciples he didn’t just call Bartholomew did he? No he called a group of Guys. And he said all of you are to follow me and they were all in it together. And through them he creates the church.
At least he builds and expands the church and everybody is a disciple growing together. As Paul says “we grow in the knowledge and in the love of Christ” right?
And so we are disciples, we are followers of Jesus, that is essentially who we are. We don’t follow a church network, we don’t follow a system, and we don’t follow a human leader, we follow Christ Jesus our Lord. And we want to be transformed more and more in his image. Again, that’s why we gather, that’s what we’re doing, isn’t it? When we come together, we’re here to grow together, that’s why Sundays are important, that’s why smaller groups are important.
Because Jesus commanded that the disciples “go into all the world…” He teaches them to observe, and to obey “my commandments”. And so we’re not just a gathering, we’re not just here to hear some singing, and to hear some talking, but we’re here to present ourselves to God. In order that we would grow together. And to help each other out on the journey.
And so again what we’re emphasizing is this: as somebody who belongs to this church, our goal is that we grow. Personally, spiritually, as a community, all helping each other in this process. If you come here you know that. That’s what we want to do. We want to grow together we want to be changed.
Christ likeness is our goal. Therefore, we preach and we teach the bible. At the center of our growth is the essential and non-negotiable role of God’s word. The authority in the church is the bible, it’s the scriptures. In focusing on Christ we’re focusing on his word in the bible. That’s why we are a bible-based church.
We worship, we sing to God. Actually, worship is really a command. The bible says over and over “sing to the lord”. He even says clap your hands and rejoice and shout! The church is a worshiping community, that is one of the ways that we grow.
And we pray – also a command! And so we want to be steadfast in prayer. And all of these things are in order that we can grow together.
1) Christ has called us into a community
2) He has called us to discipleship and then
Called for a mission
The last word is the word mission. He has called us to mission. That’s what we saw last week in Matthew 28, when Jesus says “go into all the world and make disciples”. Make other Christians! And so we say that we are
A community that is growing together in the knowledge and love of Christ as we seek to follow him and make him known.
What are we talking about? We’re talking about the great commission. Think of the children’s song where he says “this little light of mine”. Actually, they sing that in kindergarten here. Originally a german one right isn’t it?
This is a light of mine, I’m going to let it shine
Hide it under a bushel? No! I’m going to let it shine!
Won’t let Satan blow it out. Very certainly I’m going to let it shine
If it mainly shines in other words what we’re saying is that we are called to proclaim. The saving and reigning name of Christ and that is our business!
That’s why the church will say no, if any entity comes against the proclamation of the gospel. We’re going to proclaim the matchless, royal name of Jesus. The Lord of all the earth. The one savior who he is. We proclaim him! We follow him and make him known. That’s the business of the church.
If you get excited about something, you can’t help but talk about it, right? Whether it’s a Netflix show or some Dönerladen that you think has the best meat. When you’re excited about something, you can’t help but talk, you can’t help but share it.
A mentor friend of mine back in Santa Barbara, he’s Apple’s best salesman, but he doesn’t work for Apple. He’s an Apple evangelist. We were having coffee just a month ago and he goes: “You know I wonder how many people have bought the apple watches simply because of me. And I didn’t see a penny from it.”
The point is this: When you’re excited about something, you tell others. And we are called to make Jesus known. We are not called to sit on the Gospel and keep it in this room. Because as we step back and we’ll look at this and our values, we belong to something bigger than ourselves.
We’re part of something bigger than ourselves. We are involved in something that is bigger than ourselves. When we think about our identity as Calvary Chapel Heidelberg, we realize that we belong to the big, big global work that God is doing in the world through Christ.
We’re not just here to make this church good and biblical, but we’re to be part of what Jesus is doing and join him. As Jesus said, we are the salt of the earth, we are the light of the world. We are a city on a hill, we are ambassadors. We represent heaven on earth. And so we seek the renewal and the redemption of the world. We join Jesus. We want to make him known. We have a mission. So we’re not just here for ourselves. God intends to extend his kingdom through us and he wants to work through us.
I want to encourage you on this. God can, God will, and God wants to use you!
That is his plan. So I say when I pray with my son at night I do the aaronic blessing and I say and the wonderful thing is God made you. You belong to God and he has a plan for your life and he wants to use you.
I had two dreams this week. The first one I was preaching in a church and I was trying to preach this sermon and it was chaotic. I mean people were attacking the stage, the pulpit was falling apart, there was rebellion everywhere. It was like a big influential church that I was really excited to get to preach at. I thought it was like part of my creed here. Four times we tried to make a service work and it didn’t work.
So that was that dream. And then I had a dream last night. And that sermon went good and I found myself not even preaching this sermon. But what I began to do was to tell people: God wants to use you, and he can. And you might think: there’s no way God could use me. There’s no way that I’m worthy enough to be used by God. There is now way that I’m gifted to be used by God.
And I remember I said in the dream – and I say it now – where does such thinking come from? Because it doesn’t come from God! People should be encouraged that God loves you despite your failures. God loves you despite your mistakes. God loves you despite your sins and your habits. It was really good because people were crying and I was really excited. That is the truth God can use you. Don’t believe the accusation that he can’t or that he doesn’t want to. it’s not true!
I didn’t know we were announcing anything about the coffee bar today but I made a note he could use you with the children he could use you in the coffee bar.
We’re on a mission. It’s Jesus’ mission we’re joining. We want to be asking ourselves how can we be available and how can we be involved in Jesus’s mission? That’s the point.
Now from here let me close by saying this: Concerning our mission statement. You’re going to be hearing it a lot. We’re going to emphasize it and we’re going to repeat it.
And we’re going to be organizing ourselves as a church in life and mission and ministry around it. In order that we could have clarity and unity and efficiency following Jesus as his body. To be clear and focused and united and all go in the same direction together and help each other.
And so I encourage you on the one hand we’ll be providing literature. It’s on the website and I encourage you to memorize it. I encourage you to begin asking yourself how can you be a part and participating in this? How can you be part of making this church a living breathing exhibition of this?
Next week we’re going to start getting into our values as a church. We begin with our first one “Christ is our head”. That’s a stand-alone sermon because it’s so important. The culture that we think that scripture and the spirit is calling us to to live here. So we remember that we are
A community that is growing together in the knowledge and love of Christ as we seek to follow him and make him known.
And all of this by the grace of God and for the glory of God.
Sermon from Keith Fortenberry
19 September 2021