Sunday, November 8, 2015
Pastor Joe Wittwer
I Once Was Lost
#4—Bring: we all want to belong!

 

This is the fourth and final message in this series, I Once Was Lost. We’re taking a fresh look at our mission:

We help people find and follow Jesus.

In Matthew 28, Jesus’ last words to His followers were to give them their mission: in all of your goings, make disciples of all nations, baptizing and teaching them. Make disciples: help people find and follow Jesus. If you are a follower of Jesus, this is your mission too. We do it together. Sometimes we picture it this way:

0 ———————————————–=——————————————-100

Lost Found      Follower

We help people move from lost to found to follower. In this series, we’ve focused our attention on helping people find Jesus—moving from lost to found. And I told you the story of how we stumbled into a simple, biblical way of doing this that we call, “Find, Tell, Bring,” which we found in the gospel of John.   The first thing Andrew did when he met Jesus was to find his brother, Peter, tell him what had just happened to him, and bring him to Jesus. Find, tell, bring.

Find someone you love.

Tell them what you know.

Bring them to church.

It all starts with a relationship, a friendship. Love people, and see what God will do. Be a good friend, a good neighbor, and see what God will do. Jesus calls us to love our neighbors. What would happen if all of us simply got to know our neighbors and just loved them? When we love people, God works, because God is love. So love people and see what God will do.

When you came in, you were given this card: My Neighbor Love List. I’m going to you two minutes to fill this out. For each of the five homes nearest yours, write these three things:

  • Names
  • Personal information
  • In-depth information

Let’s see how you do.

How many wrote down more information than last time? Good! How many were able to write names in all five boxes? Personal information? In-depth information? We don’t know our neighbors. So let’s change that; let’s get to know them, and start praying for them.

ILL: I told you a couple weeks ago that I know all my neighbors but one—and they live next door. I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve lived there 16 years and never met this neighbor. I’ve been traveling a lot the past couple weeks, but I started praying for this neighbor. On Tuesday, I took my dog for a walk, and as I passed this neighbor’s mailbox, I heard a car slow down behind me. It was my neighbor turning in to her driveway. I turned around and walked back and we met each other—it’s the first time in 16 years that I’ve laid eyes on her—she’s a very nice elderly lady! I told her that Laina and I would like to have her down for coffee. It wasn’t much, but it’s a start. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I saw her for the first time after I started praying for her.

Meet your neighbors and start praying for them. And just be friends. Love your neighbors! When we love people, God works. So love people and see what God will do.   That’s find.

As you do that, there will be opportunities to tell what you know. How do we talk about our faith? Naturally. All of us naturally talk about what is important to us, what matters to us. Share your story—it’s your story! We talked about this last week.

And that brings us to…bring. Bring them to church. Why would we do that? I’m going to answer that question in just a moment. First, here’s:

The Big Idea: Someone you love may be one invitation away from a changed life!

So back to that question:

 

  1. Why bring them to church?

In John 1, the first thing Andrew did when he met Jesus was find his brother Peter, tell him what had happened, and bring him to meet Jesus. Philip did the same thing with his friend Nathaniel, and the woman at the well did the same thing with her neighbors. They all found someone they loved, told them what had happened to them, and brought them to meet Jesus in the flesh.

So here’s our problem: Jesus has left the planet! I can’t bring a friend to meet Him face to face. He’s not here in the flesh anymore. Or is He?

The apostle Paul loved to call the church “the body of Christ”. We are His physical body, indwelled by His Spirit, and Jesus is the head. I’ve listed some of the references on your outline, and I’ll read just one:

Ephesians 1:22–23 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him (Jesus) to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

The church is Jesus’ body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way. The church is Jesus’ body. If you want to meet Jesus, come to church.

Remember, the church is not a building or a place; it’s people. The church is people who are following Jesus together. The word “church” translates the Greek word, ekklesia, which was the word for a meeting, an assembly of people. Jesus said that whenever two or more of us meet together because of Him, He is there. The church is Jesus’ followers meeting together with Him.   So bringing a friend to church could mean bringing them here on Sunday, or it could mean bringing them to your Life Group, or to a Bible study at a coffee shop or at school. It’s bringing them to a gathering of Christians wherever that may be, because the church isn’t a place, but a people.

We are the body of Christ. This has profound implications. We are His body; we are His hands, His feet, His voice. When Jesus wants to do something in our world, He does it through us. That’s amazing! Jesus wants to save and change the world—through us! We are His body!

This is a very different view of church.

  • It’s not a place—it’s people on mission.
  • It’s not a rest home for the saints—it’s a rescue mission for sinners.
  • It doesn’t exist just to meet the needs of its members—it exists to help others find and follow Jesus, to change the world, to bring the Kingdom of God to earth.

This is why Jesus said:

Matthew 16:18 “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”

Jesus pictured His church storming the gates of Hell. Nothing can stop His church—not hell, not death, nothing can stop her. The Message translates it this way:

Matthew 16:18 (The Message) “I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out.”

The church isn’t a rest home for the saints; it’s an army storming the gates of hell, setting people free, bringing the Kingdom of God. By the way, this means when you choose a church, you shouldn’t choose it based on whether it meets your needs and makes you feel good—that’s the rest home for saints. That’s a consumer mentality. You should choose a church based on whether it’s storming the gates of hell, whether it’s making a difference in the world. Is it helping people find and follow Jesus? Is it equipping people to serve God in the world? Is it doing the work of Jesus? That’s what the church is supposed to be and do, and you want to be part of that kind of church!

The church is people—it is the body of Christ, indwelt by His powerful Spirit—we are His hands and feet, doing what He wants done in this world. So when we bring people to church, we are bringing them to Jesus to experience His love through us. That’s the theological basis. Here’s the practical basis.

When people come to Christ in the church, in community, they tend to stick and grow. When people come to Christ alone, or outside the church, they often don’t get connected to the church and consequently struggle. Remember, Christianity is a team sport. We don’t do it alone, but together.   So it’s just better for people when they find Jesus in community.

ILL: I told you last Sunday how I met Jesus. A friend brought me to a Saturday night youth rally at his church, and I was ambushed by Jesus. That night, walking home alone, I decided to follow Jesus. I woke up the next morning and thought, “What do I do now?” Well, I headed back down to that church. Because I found Jesus there, I went there to learn how to follow Him. It’s pretty natural.

Let me illustrate it this way.

ILL: What’s the first thing a new baby needs? A family! We think it’s food, but you could roll a refrigerator full of formula into a baby’s room and it would starve. The first thing a baby needs is a family, people who will care for it and feed it.

What’s the first thing a new baby Christian needs? A family. When someone is born again in the midst of the church, they have a family. When it happens entirely on their own, they are on their own.

Why bring people to church?

  • Because it’s the body of Christ—it’s the best way to bring people to Jesus.
  • Because Christianity is a team sport and it’s best from the start to include them in the church.
  • Because together we help people find and follow Jesus better than any of us do it alone.
  • And because everyone wants to belong.

I want to tell you about two incredibly powerful things.

 

  1. The power of belonging.

Everyone wants to belong. I know that some of you are introverts—you get energy from being alone. Let’s see the hands of all the introverts. All the extroverts? How many of you don’t know what type of vert you are? Back to all you introverts—you may get energy from being alone, but you want to belong too. Everyone wants to belong.

ILL: When my granddaughter Malya sees her slightly older cousins doing something, she wants to jump in and do it too. She wants to belong. If they leave her out, she cries.

I know how she feels. I like to be included too. When I hear that my friends went to a movie without me, I cry too.

This is human nature. We want to belong. We like being included, being part of the group.

ILL: What happens when people have an interest? They find other people who share that interest and form groups. There are groups, clubs and organizations for just about everything you can imagine.

  • There’s the NRA for people who love guns.
  • PETA for people who love animals.
  • Sierra Club for people who love nature.
  • AARP for people who love being old.
  • Wild Hogs for people who love motorcycles.
  • Church for people who love Jesus.

People form groups to read, to sew, to garden, to drink coffee or taste wine. There are cooking groups, dancing groups, yoga groups, music groups, skiing groups, investment groups—the list is endless. There are as many groups as there are interests and activities.

Why? Because everyone wants to belong. Everyone wants to be included. Everyone wants to be loved.

Here’s the deal. Most people need to belong before they’ll believe. Historically, the church has often operated with a believe first, then belong mentality. When people believe, then they are accepted into the church; then they belong. But most people need to belong first. They need to be included and loved and accepted by Christians first, they need to know us and trust us first, then they’ll believe our message.  

It’s incredibly powerful when you include people in your Life Group. Give them the chance to belong first, to be included and loved and accepted—that’s their best chance to believe.

It’s the power of belonging.

 

  1. The power of an invitation.

Last Sunday, I told you my story, how an 8th grade boy named Don Lang knocked on my door and invited me to a youth rally at his church. That invitation changed everything for me. I became a Christian because of one invitation. It’s the power of an invitation.

Who do you know who may be one invitation away from a changed life?

ILL: Liz Curtis Higgs was one of the best-known disc jockeys in America, and she lived a wild life without God. In fact, Howard Stern was the A.M. show, and Liz Curtis Higgs was the P.M. show. And one day Howard Stern said to Liz, “You know, you need to clean up your act.” Now, that’s something when Howard Stern is telling you to clean up your act!

And because Liz had been burned by so many men, and her heart had been broken, she became a militant feminist. But she had a Christian girlfriend who kept inviting her to church. So one day after a long time, she said, “Okay, I will go to church one time and one time only.”

And the Sunday she went, the pastor just happened to be teaching on the Bible verse that says, “Wives submit yourselves to your husbands.” Not exactly a good verse to start with a militant feminist. Liz got a little uptight and angry. But she continued to listen, and she actually heard the next part: “Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave His life for her.” Who is asked to give their life up? The husband.

When Liz heard that part, she leaned over to her friend and said with a little cynicism, “I’d gladly give myself to any man if I knew he would die for me.” And her friend leaned over and said, “Liz, there is man who loved you enough to die for you. His name is Jesus. That’s how much he loves you.” And it was not long after that that Liz dropped her guard and surrendered her life to Jesus. Today she is a well-known Christian speaker and author; her books include Bad Girls of the Bible.

Liz went from shock-jock to Jesus-follower because of an invitation. “Come to church with me.” That’s the power of an invitation.

I know that not everyone’s life changes with one invitation. Sometimes it takes more than one.

ILL: My friend, Jen, first came to an Easter service at Life Center with her husband because a friend invited them. They liked it, but didn’t come back. Some time later, these same friends invited them to come again because they were dedicating their new baby. Jen and her husband came again and liked it, but didn’t come back. A couple years went by, and Jen began to feel restless spiritually. She started searching, and they decided to come to Life Center because they’d been invited before and liked it. They started coming regularly and came to Jesus. It took more than one invitation—but it eventually stuck.

By the way, studies have shown that the more times someone comes, the more likely they are to find Jesus and keep following Him. So keep inviting. It’s the power of an invitation.

ILL: Joe Aldrich tells about a guy who invited his friend and neighbor to church, and he politely declined. So sometime later, he invited him again; he declined again. He invited him again…and again…and again—42 times over several years. Finally, on the 42nd time, his friend accepted the invitation and came to church with him. And he became a Christian, and later, a pastor!

It’s the power of an invitation.

These are two powerful things. There are so many lonely people—you could change their lives by simply including them—the power of belonging. There are so many lost people who are far from God—you could change their lives by simply inviting them—the power of an invitation.

I pray that you’ll be an includer and inviter!

Bring people with you!

 

  1. Make it personal.

Tailor your invitation to your friend. If your friend isn’t ready for church, maybe you invite them to your Life Group. Or maybe it’s to your house for a barbecue. Remember, it always starts with a relationship. When you know someone and love them, you’ll know what the best invitation would be. Let me give you some ideas of what’s coming up at Life Center—here are some different invite opportunities.

  • Starting next Sunday, we’ll be talking about The God I Wish You Knew. This is a great series for someone exploring the Christian faith. Many people have questions about God; we’re going to take a look at God as Jesus revealed Him. You received an invite card when you came in—and more are available at the info center. Who do you know who might be just one invitation away from a changed life? Be an includer and inviter. “Come to church with me.”
  • The Men’s Turkey Shoot is coming up on Saturday, November 21. This annual event is a hoot! Dads and their kids enjoy a hearty breakfast and then compete in all kinds of fun contests and win prizes—including shooting guns! It’s a Find-Tell-Bring event—very low key, non-threatening, and loads of fun—great for someone who may not be ready for church, but would benefit from belonging and being included. So make the invite! Be an includer and inviter.
  • The Women’s Christmas Dessert happens on Friday, December 11. This is an annual Find, Tell, Bring event—in fact, we sell the tickets in pairs and encourage you to bring a friend. Every year dozens of ladies find Jesus at this wonderful event. Ladies, who do you know who might be one invitation away from a changed life? Be an includer and inviter.
  • This year, we’re doing our famous annual Christmas Carol Sing—twice! We’ll do two identical services on Tuesday and Wednesday, December 15-16. Don your gay apparel! Wear your wackiest Christmas sweater, your most festive Christmas outfit and come prepared for a really fun evening. We’ve got some new wrinkles we’re throwing in this year, and we’re doing two because we believe this is a great Find-Tell-Bring opportunity. “Do you like Christmas songs? Come with me!” Be an includer and inviter.
  • We’ll be offering 7 identical Christmas Eve services. You saw that last year over 10,000 people came. People are more likely to say yes to an invitation at Christmas Eve than any other time of the year. Our theme is “God is joyful” and we’re planning a really warm, fun service that will be loaded with good news! “Come to church with me.” Be an includer and inviter.

There are lots of invite opportunities. Maybe your friend isn’t ready for church, but would come to a dessert or turkey shoot or carol sing. Or maybe it’s your Life Group. Tailor your invitation to your friend. Make it personal. But make the invite.

Who do you know who might be one invitation away from a changed life?

 

Conclusion: Just in case you’ve forgotten why we do this, take a look at this.