Our Big Deal

Part 2: Making Disciples: from found to follower

 

Opening and greeting:

We are talking about Our Big Deal—what we’re all about as a church.

It’s making disciples—helping people find and follow Jesus. Last week, I

shared our four guiding purposes:

• Love—Love God with all you’ve got and love people.

• Win—Win those we love to Christ.

• Grow—Grow to become whole-hearted followers of Christ.

• Send—Send out every Christian and send out new churches.

Last Sunday we focused on Win. How do win those we love to Christ?

• Find someone you love.

• Tell them what you know.

• Bring them to church.

So today, we talk about Grow: how do we grow to become whole-hearted

followers of Jesus. Here’s the question I want you to talk about:

What are Life Center’s 5 steps for spiritual growth? Greeting time.

 

The answer: Meet, Seek, Serve, Give, Share.

 

Meet together in church and a Life Group.

Seek God in daily prayer, Bible reading, journaling.

Serve others in our church and community.

Give to God and to the poor.

Share your faith with someone you love.

 

We’re talking about Our Big Deal, what we’re all about as a church. We

have four purposes that guide everything we do:

• Love—Love God with all you’ve got and love people.

• Win—Win those we love to Christ.

• Grow—Grow to become whole-hearted followers of Christ.

• Send—Send out every Christian and send out new churches.

Those purposes are summarized in our mission, which is the Big Idea at the

top of your outline.

The Big Idea: Our mission is to honor God by helping people become

whole-hearted followers of Jesus.

Last Sunday we read the Great Commission: “Make disciples of all

nations. Wherever you go, make disciples, baptizing and teaching them.” And

I did some high-class artwork on the whiteboard. (Redo it.) Our mission is to

help others find and follow Jesus. Last Sunday, we talked about the front end

of this, the “win” piece, helping our friends find Jesus. Helping a friend find

Jesus is only the beginning. Now we want to help them follow Jesus whole-

heartedly, and grow to become all God wants them to be. That’s this second

half: grow. It takes both halves to make a disciple: win and grow. So we’re

going to talk about the importance of spiritual growth and how we grow.

Is it important for a Christian to grow spiritually?

Jesus used an interesting phrase to describe the beginning of the

Christian life. He said we must be born again. It’s in John 3. When you

become a Christian, you are born again; you come alive spiritually and start a

brand new life. Spiritually, you are a baby—a new-born!

ILL: Let’s see the hands of all the parents. You’ve had a baby. What do

we expect our babies to do? Grow! If a baby doesn’t grow physically or

mentally as it should, there is a problem. We’re concerned; we go to the

doctor; tests are done; something is wrong if the baby is not growing,

not developing.

Growth is normal and expected. A baby grows to a toddler, to a pre-schooler,

to a grade-schooler, to a junior high-schooler, to a high-schooler, and in

the case of females, to a young adult. We males often get stuck somewhere

around junior high! (This is why when I was playing golf with two adult men

in our church and I ripped a loud one when I hit a drive, they cracked up.

Boys.) Growth is normal. We grow and develop.

The same is true spiritually. You begin your Christian life as a spiritual

infant, but if you stay there, something is wrong. Growth is normal; if you’re

not growing, something is wrong. You can see this in the Bible; here’s one

example:

 

1 Corinthians 3:1-3 Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but

as worldly—mere infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for

you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3 You are

still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are

you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?

Paul is scolding the Corinthian Christians for their immaturity, their failure

to grow. They were “mere infants in Christ”; they still needed milk, not

solid food. Why is Paul scolding them? Because growth is normal, and they

weren’t growing; they were stuck in spiritual infancy, somewhere back here

(drawing).

I wonder what Paul would write to our church? To you? In reality,

too many of us are stuck and not growing. We want to change that and help

you become growing Christians: growing in your relationship with God, your

character, your relationships with others, and your service to others.

Two weeks ago, we received the results from the Reveal survey we

asked you to take. 787 of you took the survey—thank you! We now have over

200 pages of data we are sorting through. As we get it figured out, we will

make reports available to you. If you are a data junkie and want to look at the

whole 200+ pages, we’re happy to share it, but I think most of you will want to

wait for the summary. But I’ll give you a little taste right now.

The Reveal Survey identifies four groups. Here are those four groups

and how Life Center survey takers self-identified.

• Exploring Christ: I believe in God, but I’m not sure about Christ. My

faith is not a significant part of my life. (7%)

• Growing in Christ: I believe in Jesus, and am working on what it means

to get to know him. (36%)

• Close to Christ: I feel really close to Christ and depend on Him daily for

guidance. (25%)

• Christ-centered: My relationship with Jesus is the most important

relationship in my life. It guides everything I do. (32%)

One of the fundamental findings of the Reveal survey worldwide is that

different things move people forward at these different levels. For example,

church services are more important for those who are exploring or growing;

serving becomes more important for those who are close or centered. The

one universal: personal Bible study/reflection (PBJ) is the most powerful

catalyst of spiritual growth across the spiritual continuum.

That leads me to:

The Other Big Idea: I am responsible for my own spiritual growth.

 

If you are stalled spiritually, if you are not growing, whose responsibility is it?

Yours. Please, don’t wait for someone else to make you a stronger Christian;

that’s up to you. I can’t make you grow; I can provide encouragement and

tools, but you have to do the work. You all know the proverb: “You can lead a

horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” The church can provide lots of

opportunities and options for spiritual growth, but you have to take them. We

can lead you to the water, but you have to drink. It’s up to you.

I hear a lot of people talking about accountability. “I need someone to

hold me accountable for change, for my behavior.” But that is just another

way to slough the responsibility off on someone else. When someone asks

me, “Will you hold me accountable?” I say, “No. But if you want to be

accountable to me, you can.” Do you see the difference? The first makes me

responsible for their spiritual growth; the second makes them responsible.

Real accountability is you offering it; it is you seeking the other person out

and saying, “Here’s what I’ve done.”

ILL: Many years ago, I learned that a young teaching pastor on our

staff had never read the New Testament all the way through—we’re

not talking the whole Bible, just the New Testament. He was teaching

the Bible and hadn’t even read all of it! He wanted to fix that, and to

encourage him, I said, “I’ll do it with you. There are 270 chapters in the

New Testament. If we read 10 chapters a day (about 45 minutes), we

will finish the NT in 27 days, less than a month!” He agreed.

A week later, I asked how it was going. He hadn’t done one day’s

reading—he was still in the first chapters of Matthew and I was in John.

He asked me to hold him accountable. I told him that he had to take

responsibility; he could be accountable to me. So he agreed to call me

every night before he went to bed and tell me what he had read. I didn’t

want him calling me after I went to bed, so I told him that if I hadn’t

heard from him by the time I was going to bed, I would call him—but I

also told him if that happened very often, I would fire him. It had to be

on him, not me. I wanted him to know that I took this very seriously—

how can you teach the Bible if you haven’t even read it all?

Here’s something I learned: if I am working harder to help you grow than you

are working, you won’t grow. You’ve got to want it. You’ve got to believe this

is important. It’s on you.

There are incredible opportunities for spiritual growth here at Life

Center. If you’re not growing, it is on you. Step up!

So what are those opportunities? How do we grow spiritually? We

have identified five steps. These aren’t unique to Life Center; Christians

 

everywhere do these. I want to walk through these five, and as I do, ask

yourself what your next step is. What are you not doing that you need to

start? What are you doing that you need to step up?

We call these five things, “meet, seek, serve, give, share.” An easy way

to remember them is the word “messages”—the consonants MSSGS are an

acrostic. By the way, people ask us how to become a member here at Life

Center, and we say, “Do these five things: meet, seek, serve, give, share. This is

what we do together to grow in Christ. This is what owners do at Life Center.”

 

Meet together in church and a Life Group.

We put this first for a reason. What’s the first thing a new baby needs?

Milk? Diapers? A family. You can roll a fridge full of formula into the nursery

and the baby will starve to death. The baby needs a family to feed it, change it,

and care for it.

A new Christian’s first need is a family. You need some people who will

show you how to follow Jesus and help you do it.

ILL: I accepted Jesus after a Saturday night youth rally, walking home by

myself. I knew nothing about being a Christian—except for one thing. I

knew that I should go to church the next morning. So I did, and it was

the best thing I could have done. Had I stayed home and just read my

Bible alone, I wouldn’t have lasted more than a couple weeks. I went to

church—and it was an imperfect church, just like every other one, and

this wonderful, imperfect group of Christians at Sweet Home Church of

Christ took me in and loved me and taught me how to follow Jesus.

This is first. We need each other to grow. Christianity is a team sport; we do it

together, not alone.

We meet here at church for worship and teaching. And we meet in Life

Groups for friendship, service and spiritual growth. We grow by discussing

and applying what we’re learning. To grow we need all those things: worship,

teaching, friendship, discussion and application. That’s why we need both big

church and little church, what happens here and what happens in homes,

coffee shops, work places and schools all over town. There are lots of you

who are still not in a Life Group, and you’re missing out on a big opportunity

to grow.

ILL: I was talking with a friend—he’s a pastor—and he told me that

the small groups in his church don’t have any traction. I asked why

and he said that he hates small groups. Well, that’ll do it! Then he

went on to tell me with genuine excitement about his journaling group:

four buddies that he meets with each week and they share from their

 

journals what God is saying to them as they read the Bible and what

they’re doing about it. “Fantastic,” he told me.

I asked him, “What do you like about your journaling group?”

“They’re my friends. I love hanging out with them.”

“That’s exactly what makes a good Life Group.” I explained to him

that the best groups are those who are friends. You either start a group

with your friends, or you become friends over time. But if you’re not

friends, you won’t stick with it. You’ll start thinking, “Why am I hanging

out with these people? I’d rather hang out with my friends.”

How many of you like hanging out with your friends? That’s what a good

Life Group is…with a twist. We hang out with our friends for the purpose of

spiritual growth—to help each other grow. If you’re not in a Life Group, you

can stop by the Info Center and get a sign up sheet, or you can go online and

sign up. And if you don’t find a group that works for you, let us know and we’ll

help you start a new group. We are always starting new groups, and we hope

everyone gets in one. The Reveal survey indicates that 46% of us are in a

small group.

Beyond church and Life Groups, we also offer many other opportunities

to meet for the purpose of spiritual growth. We have lots of terrific classes—

everything from missions to managing your money, from new believers to

advanced theology. There is a list of these at the Info Center and online. We

offer lots of age-graded groups: junior high, senior high, college age, young

marrieds, young adults, couples with kids, empty nesters. We offer affinity

groups: men, women, couples, families and singles. There are recovery

groups for substance or sexual addictions.

And one of most powerful things we offer for spiritual growth is our

men’s and women’s mentoring groups. You commit to one year of intense

spiritual discipline in a group of 6-8 men or women, with a mentor. You

read a book a month and discuss it with your group in a monthly meeting.

You memorize Scripture; have assignments for spiritual growth, character

development and for your marriage. You meet one-on-one with the others in

your group. It’s intense—but you grow like crazy. For more information, go

to our website. New groups will launch in February, so check it out and sign

up.

Meet—Christianity is a team sport—we do it together.

 

Seek God in daily prayer, Bible reading, journaling.

There is the corporate element to spiritual growth, and then there is the

personal element. You’ve got to invest some personal time in spiritual

 

disciplines. Spiritual disciplines are practices designed to connect you with

God and help you grow.

ILL: If you decided you wanted to run a marathon, what would you do?

You don’t just go out and run 26.2 miles. You train.

If you decide to learn how to play the piano, what do you do? You

take lessons and practice.

Success in any endeavor is determined by what you put into it. You have to

practice; you have to train. The same is true spiritually.

1 Timothy 4:7-8 …train yourself to be godly. 8 For physical training is

of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for

both the present life and the life to come.

Train yourself to be godly.

We have a basic level of training that we call PBJ: prayer, Bible reading

and journaling. This is what we do in a daily time with God. Each day, I read

my Bible. I use our Bible reading plan; you can pick those up at the Info

Center, or they’re on our website. I read the Bible reading for the day, and I

ask God to speak to me, to give me one thing for that day. Just one! Usually

there are lots of interesting things, but I want one that I can remember and do.

So I ask God for one thing, and then I write that in my journal and pray it back

to God. And if it’s something I can do, I try to do it that day. You can learn

more about this in a series I did in 2008 called, “Only One Thing.”

Here’s the deal: you are meeting with God! This isn’t just something you

do to cross off your list. You’re meeting with God! The point is to connect

with God. Just recently the Lord spoke to me and said, “Prayer is a

relationship, not a task.” PBJ is about meeting with God, building a

relationship, listening. The point is to connect with God—it is about a

relationship, not a task.

We have journals available with the reading plan and with instructions

on how to do PBJ. Also, some of my journal entries are posted on our website.

Many of the biggest changes in my life have come from these daily times

with God. They are indispensible. I don’t know a growing Christian who isn’t

training. One of the most important findings of the Reveal survey: personal

Bible study/reflection (PBJ) is the most powerful catalyst of spiritual growth

across the spiritual continuum.

The Reveal survey also indicated that 28% of us are reading our Bible

daily, and 44% of us pray daily.

Seek God in daily prayer, Bible and journaling. Please, make time in your

life to seek God. Is that your next step to grow?

Meet, seek, serve…

 

Serve others in our church and community.

One of the most critical pieces of growth is serving others. When we roll

up our sleeves and serve God and people, we not only help them, but great

things happen in us. We grow when we serve. We get beyond ourselves. We

do what God made us to do.

God has given each one of you gifts and abilities that He wants you to

use to serve others.

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.

God has given you gifts. Why? To serve others. Those abilities you have—

those talents—God gave you those so that you could use them to serve others.

Who should serve? Each one! Each one of you.

Let me give you a couple serving ideas.

First, each one of us can serve in our church. We’re a family, and in a

family, everyone pitches in. You will never feel this is your church until you

serve. It’s different for everyone. Some people serve multiple times a week,

some once a week, some once a month, some a few times a year. But if you

don’t serve at all, you’re just a consumer, not an owner. Watch the program

and check the website for opportunities to help out…because whose church is

it? Ours! We are owners. The Reveal survey indicated that 35% of us serve in

our church.

Second, each one of us can serve in our community. Whose town is it?

Ours! For most of us, our primary place of service won’t be the church; it will

be in the community. It could be in your neighborhood, on your job, at your

kids’ school, at a food or clothing bank, coaching your kids’ teams, working

with the needy. It can happen in hundreds of ways. When you see a need,

meet it. When you see an opportunity to serve, take it! The Reveal survey

indicated that 45% of us serve others outside our church once or twice a

month.

Bottom line: you need to serve to grow. Serving is to your spirit what

exercise is to your body. It is especially important for veteran Christians who

know a lot but don’t do much with it. Serving is one of the things that moves

people from growing to close, or from close to centered. It’s time to put all

that stuff you’ve learned to work.

Serve: Is that your next step to grow?

Meet, seek, serve, give…

 

Give to God and to the poor.

 

Is giving really essential for spiritual growth? Absolutely. “For God

so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son.” Generosity is at

the very heart of the gospel. God so loved that He gave. If we are going to

become more like God, we will become sacrificially generous. Stinginess will

stunt your growth; generosity will accelerate it. Giving helps us get beyond

ourselves.

In the Old Testament, the starting point for giving was the tithe. The

Jews brought the first 10% of their income to God, and then gave offerings

beyond that. In the New Testament, we’re told to be generous, and the early

church considered the tithe the starting point; generosity was going beyond

that! So in the Bible, it was 10% plus. This is radical! But I guarantee that

when you start tithing and giving offerings, you’ll feel invested; you’ll be an

owner at Life Center—and you’ll grow.

The Reveal survey indicated that 39% of us are tithing—giving at least

10% to God through the church.

And giving to the poor is something Jesus emphasized and his followers

practiced. Paul said he was “eager to help the poor” (Galatians 2:10). It’s why

we make such a big deal about sponsoring kids, and our local and global

partnerships in Love 360. How many of you sponsor a child? There was

nothing on Reveal about this—but we estimate that we give over $100,000 a

month to the poor around the world by sponsoring kids. I think it’s just aprt

of following Jesus: believe, get baptized, sponsor a child! If you haven’t

sponsored a child, you can find opportunities on our website. It’s not the only

way to help the poor, but it’s a good start! By the way, I recently learned that

over 25% of people who sponsor kids stop within a year or two. I know that

things happen—people lose jobs, get sick. But I hope you will take this very

seriously—a child, a community is counting on you. And giving is at the heart

of the gospel.

Meet, seek, serve, give, share.

 

Share your faith with someone you love.

We talked about this last week. Our mission is to make disciples: win

and grow.

When you share your faith, your faith grows stronger. When you help

someone else find and follow Jesus, you follow Jesus better. There is nothing

more energizing or exciting than knowing that God is using you to help

another person find and follow Him.

Are you practicing find, tell, bring? Find someone you love, tell them

what you know, bring them with you to church. Are you helping others find

 

and follow Jesus? Is that your next step to grow? The Reveal survey indicated

that 23% of us have been involved in at least six meaningful spiritual

conversations with non-Christians in the past year.

 

Conclusion:

One thing the Reveal survey clearly indicates is that we have lots of

room for spiritual growth! Every spiritual practice we have described is

currently being done by less than half our church. We all have room to grow!

So here’s my question: What is your next step to grow your faith?

Which of these are you not doing, and you know you need to do it to

accelerate your growth? Or which are you doing, but you need to step it up?

Look that list over and mark your next step.