Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Preacher's Miracle

An amazing thing happened at the youth group Monday night. 2 of the 3 students present said that the topic of my sermon Sunday morning had come up during the course of a conversation! In a good way at that! Do you realize how rare a thing that is? Most sermons are gone from mind & memory within 10 minutes of leaving church (if that), so this was a very encouraging moment. Since I'm always looking for material to post, I thought I could begin with myself and begin posting my sermons from the previous Sunday. So here is the one that contributed to life beyond Sunday morning.

Title: Are We the “Have to” Church or the “Get to” Church?

I recently read an account of a church up in Seattle, Washington that sent out letters to all of its members informing them that the next Sunday would be “No Excuse to Stay Home Sunday”. According to the letter:
Ø Cots would be available for those who say Sunday is their only day to sleep.
Ø Eye drops would be supplied for those who have red eyes from watching light Saturday night TV shows.
Ø There would be steel helmets for those who say the roof would cave in if they ever went to church
Ø Blankets for persons who think the church is too cold
Ø Personal Fans for those who say it is too hot
Ø Scorecards for those wishing to list all of the hypocrites present
Ø TV dinners for those who can’t go to church and also cook dinner.
Ø Finally, the sanctuary would be decorated with Christmas poinsettias and Easter lilies for those who have never seen the church without them.

We can have many excuses for not being here, but our motive FOR being here is what’s more important. Motive—is the inner drive that moves you to action. Why do you do what you do? What are you doing it for? What are you hoping to get out of the behavior? How does your decision satisfy some need?

Motive is a very important issue. Murder investigations often turn on whether a motive for the crime is found. Many times we mistrust an offer for help if we question the motive of the one offering it.
We often assign great motives to the Good Samaritan because of his sacrificial giving to the man robbed on the road, but how would your perspective of the Good Samaritan change if he had said the only reason he helped was so he could get points for his merit badge, or it was an assignment or so he could get off probation? My opinion would change significantly.

God often addresses motive when people come to worship Him. Isaiah 1:13-17—“Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, sabbaths and convocations-- I cannot bear your evil assemblies. Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood; wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right!”

God sees right through the outward show and into our hearts. He knows that public worship can easily be a hiding place for sinful hearts. No one will suspect as long as we put on a good show. God sees through all of that.

People in Malachi’s day thought they could fool God with insincere offerings. Malachi 1:13-14 —"When you bring injured, crippled or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?" says the LORD. 14 "Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king," says the LORD Almighty, "and my name is to be feared among the nations.”

God knew their worship was half-hearted and empty, they didn’t mean it—they didn’t really love God, didn’t really want to please Him or draw close to Him; otherwise they would have offered their best.

We have not changed all that much today. While we do not bring animals to sacrifice to worship God—we are supposed to be offering our bodies as living sacrifices. Romans 12:1—“ Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship.

Your motive for being here will change the life of University Baptist Church and will Unlock a Passionate Faith within you.

I’m going to highlight 2 kinds of churches this morning—2 different attitudes that you and I can approach a Sunday morning or any church activity. We need to figure out whether we are a “Have to” church or a “Get to” church.

Can you imagine the contrast in a Sunday morning conversation—which one inspires a greater sense of Passion & Expectation—

The Have to Attitude sounds like this—“Hey! Get up! We have to go to church today.—Oh man, why do we have to go again?—Because I don’t want all those calls from people wondering where we were or what was wrong. You’ve got 10 minutes!” Ever had one of those conversations?

The Get to Attitude says—“Get Up! We get to go to church this morning—why do we have to go again?—because we get to go to church and be a part of what the Creator of the Universe is doing, we get to hear from Him, to Praise Him, to serve Him. Sleep later!

1. “Have to” Churches
a. Are about duty, are about obligation, guilt and appearances. There is no heart in what they are doing because it is more like a chore than an opportunity. They lack joy, excitement, passion and zeal. The heart for ministry, serving others, and reaching the community has dried up.

b. I remember speaking to a woman in Missouri about her son. He was very helpful in the restaurant a few years ago when it was fun and he wanted to be helpful, but now that he’s a little older and the newness has worn off, she can’t get him to do anything. He has to be there now, he doesn’t want to be there.

c. What does a Have To church look like?—honestly, it’s very hard to tell the difference from the outside, especially when it’s empty. Both Have To and Get To churches have the same types of buildings, often use similar musical instruments, same 16th century seating. Have To churches can be young or old So long as the church is empty, it has the potential to be either one. What makes it a Have To or Get To is what the people bring with them—the state of their hearts—God told Samuel that “Man looks at the outward appearance but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Sam. 16:7)

d. No Smiling--Genuine Smiles are not very welcome in the Have To church. They’ll have smiles on, but they’ll be fake, it’ll be a show—about as genuine as a cubic zirconium or plastic pearls. Either you’re a fake smiler or you’re to be Stoic, straight faces are preferred.

e. A have to church often looks grumpy b/c they’d rather be somewhere else. They wake up on Sunday mornings (and probably every morning for that matter) looking at life like it was a burden to be endured. It’s hard to see the happiness.

f. There are no friendly welcomes. Since the have to’s don’t really want to be there themselves, they certainly won’t be glad to see you!

g. No Early Arrivals or Lingering Groups—people will bolt for the door as quickly as possible

h. No Fighting for the Volunteer Sign-Up Pen but there is an Ambulance after the Business Meeting

i. The Complaint Box is Bigger and Fuller than the Offering Plates

j. What does a Have To church sound like?—unhappy, and uninspiring, more legalistic with a long list of do’s and don’ts that must be repeated often. Singing is tolerated though not everyone does it, and joyous, full-throated singing is frowned upon. There are more complaints than compliments, excuses more than offers, unspoken rules rather than grace, bitterness more than friendship.

k. Kind words are shallow and insincere. Starting in Romans 3:10—Paul talks about those who are not righteous, who don’t understand, who don’t seek God—he describes them with their mouths full of cursing and bitterness. Bringing a Have To attitude into church kills its spirit and joy.

l. What does a Have To church accomplish?—I can sum it up in 2 words--not much—there is no heart for service, no sense of expectation of what God is doing, no desire, no want. Lives don’t get changed, there’s no drive to invite people b/c the “have to’s” don’t believe there is anything to offer.

m. Have To churches look, sound and accomplish the same things that the Israelites did when they were wandering around in the desert. Look at Numbers 11:4—“The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, "If only we had meat to eat! 5 We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost--also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. 6 But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!"

n. Do you hear the complaints? Do you hear the talk about the good old days when they were slaves in Egypt? For 40 years the Israelites accomplished very little. An 11 day walk took them 40 years. They couldn’t go forward until the Have To’s—those who asked—“do we have to go in and take on those giants?”—until they died off. Only then could the people move on to Victory. Have to Churches will never experience the victory that Christ has for them. Have To churches will slowly die off.

o. What does God think of Have To churches?—
p. Hosea 6:4 says, “Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears… vs. 6 continues—“For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.”

q. God knows when Love is sincere—Have To churches go through the motions because their supposed to, not because they have a burning desire to worship Him above all else. Revelation 2:4 puts the Have To church like this—“Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love—Rev. 3:16—“So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” He can hold it against us that we have forsaken our first love, He does evaluate our passion and desire for Him.

r. Contrast that to Get To churches.
2. Get to” Churches
a. Are about Service, Opportunity, True Worship and Testifying about Him. Get to churches see God as the Pearl of Great Price—worth selling all you have to possess. Get To churches enjoy being around each other, enjoy the opportunity to change people’s eternity.

b. What do Get To churches look like?—they’re excited about the opportunity to be surrounded by people who love God. They are looking for His work, excited about the daily miracles all around. I’m sure there had to be some Israelites who woke up those 40 years in the desert, seeing the manna thinking—“there really is a miracle every morning. I really can trust God for my life.Plenty of welcoming smilesPlenty of Guests that want to figure out what all the excitement’s about.Early Arrivals & Lingering GroupsThere are No Vacancies on Service Opportunities
c. What do Get To churches sound like?—joyful noises are allowed and encouraged. You hear Passionate voices in Worship, Prayer & Greeting. There is a passion in their voices when they sing or talk about their church family. Excitement is brimming. I prefer being around upbeat and excited people. Get To people don’t mope and complain about opportunities to serve, they ask for ways to help.Get to churches hear the words—“How can I help?”

d. What do Get To churches accomplish?—Get To churches are the overachievers. They are reaching people with a passion and success. They are the ones outsiders look at and say—what are they doing that we aren’t doing? How are they growing?

e. Get to Churches account for more Decisions for Christ, more Baptisms and sent out Missionaries, or Calls into the Ministry; more Glory & Praise of God.
f. The excitement of “Get to” churches is contagious—it works better than yawning in a crowded room! They accomplish more than expected.
g. What does God think of Get To churches?— Scripture tells us that God actually seeks people to worship Him—He seeks those that will worship Him in Spirit and in Truth—with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. Those phrases we all want to hear, God speaks of Get To churches, “Well done my good and faithful servants”.
h. What church would you rather be a part of? A Have to Church or a Get to Church?

i. Which kind are we, which kind of attitude are you bringing with you to church because we have the potential to be either one? What evidence do you see that we are a “have to” church? What evidence is there that we are a “get to” church? What can you bring to UBC to make it a passionate “Get to” church that grows the Kingdom of God?

j. If you really want to unlock a passionate faith, then don’t make church a “have to”, chore kind of thing. Make it a “get to” a “want to” kind of thing. When opportunities to serve and minister come up like VBS or the Clothing drive don’t roll your eyes and start planning your excuses but ask how you can be a part of something that God is doing. You won’t get much out of your faith, it will be dry and empty, IOW, it won’t be passionate, if you’re not putting much into your faith.

1 comment:

Eric Ribbens said...

I had a conversation last Christmas with a friend from Gordon Conwell Seminary. He thinks churches come in two flavors: centered, and walled. By centered he means that the church knows its position in some sort of multidimensional space (how do we do music, what's our theology, etc.), and people who are involved with the church may be at a greater or lesser distance from that center. On the other hand, walled churches have informal or formal mechanisms to keep people out who stray too far from that center.

I don't know if this is relevant to the sermon or not, but I can see how in my opinion the ideal is I get to go to a centered church, and the worst would be I have to go to a walled church.