Well, good morning Grace, and also welcome to those who are watching our live stream. We're live streaming today. How about that? That's pretty cool, huh? So, welcome to all of you all and also who will watch via the internet and the mobile app.
We're in a series called Church & Comedy and we're sort of ending that series this weekend; landing the place. And, for those of you all who've been here, you sort of know what we're doing. But, for those of y'all who may be new or may be tuning in, we're talking, really, about this idea that we're a church and, as Grace, we're a church that wants to reach the unchurched by being those intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. And oftentimes, when we try to go out and do something for God or we try to, you know, be used by God, many of us have that feeling of an inadequacy.
"I just don't know that God could use me. I just don't know that He could actually take someone like me and use me for His glory."
And, that's why I put the "comedy" part on here because comedy, as you well know now, is the opposite of tragedy. Where tragedy starts high and ends low, comedy is a literary genre that begins low and ends high. And, we've been looking at how God can take us and who we are and lift us up and use us for His glory. And, I think we've discussed some of those things and I think we've sort of discussed that He can use us even when we blunder. We've looked at, you know, the mount of transfiguration. We've talked about some big ideas.
But, what I want to do this morning is I want to just be honest and share something out of my heart that I wish I would've heard when I was 17. I wish somebody, when I became a Christian, would have told me what I'm going to tell you all today. It would have made a huge difference in my life. It's going to be a little bit different sermon than I normally do, but I think you will enjoy it nonetheless. Before I do that, I found this online and I thought this was hilarious.
They sent – you know how like in businesses they'll send secret shoppers in to see if there's something good or bad? Well, the sent a bunch of people in to a bunch of different denominational churches and they all wrote down the things that had gone wrong when they went into church and they're quite funny. So, I want to read these to you. These are some of the top list of things. They sent all these people in different denominations and here are some of the things that happened.
This is something that was said to one of these mystery shoppers of the churches:
"Excuse me, but you are sitting in my seat."
How about that, huh? That's rough, isn't it?
"Hey, could you move please?"
You know? This is a funny one. Now, I want to say something. I'm not saying that I agree theologically or even with what some of these things say, I'm just telling you they're funny, okay? Here's another one:
"Y'all not from around here, are ya?" –an older man said to me after I asked directions to the restroom. I didn't respond but I was thinking, "What gave it away, having all my teeth?"
So, again, come on now. Don't get mad at me. This is just funny, okay?
"The greeter gave me a children's bulletin and said I could color in it, but I'm 20 years old."
So, there you go.
This is pretty funny. A middle-aged man at a Nazarene Church – they had visited a Nazarene church – when they went in, they asked him the difference between a Nazarene and a Baptist. And his response was, "Well, Nazarenes are a lot like Baptists, we're just holier."
That's great, isn't it? So, somebody goes to a Lutheran church to ask information about the church. They've gone in, you know, they go to the information booth and here is what they got:
"We Lutherans are a homely bunch."
And her note was, "She was right."
So, somebody walks into another church and this is how they're greeted:
"I don't know anything. I can't really help you. This is my first day at the information table and the person who was going to train me didn't show up."
That's a rough morning for you, isn't it? This is a tough one. For us who live in Sarasota, probably even more so in Ft. Myers and in Naples, but this is pretty funny. Somebody walked in and I guess the lady said to this lady, she said, "I've got dresses that are older than you."
It's like, "Oh, not good."
And her not was, "I don't really remember how I got into this one but does it even matter?"
Then this is one. The music minister was up singing a song and he said, "It must be a special day because I see a lot of strangers around here."
That's not a good one. And then, this is the best one here I think. This was like their number one of deals. And again, they went to all kinds of different churches. This is what happened. This is the quote:
"Hey, mister. Come back here. You're not Catholic are you? Give me that wafer back."
So, there you go. I thought those were pretty funny. I'm a full service offender up here, aren't I? Anyways – and I'm not trying to be that way. We all make blunders. But, here's the deal. People go to church and people have bad experiences. People get hurt in church. And, I wish that somebody would've told me what I'm about to tell you this morning. And even you all who watch via the internet, mobile app and live stream as well. I really wish somebody would've told me this because it would have saved me a lot of damage in my life. I want you to know that at 17 years old, I went into ministry – 18 years old when I graduated from college. And, I went in with all of these ideas and all of this stuff about the way church should be.
I genuinely thought that when I went to church that everybody on staff sat around and prayed for like three hours and then we read the Bible for a couple hours and then we went to lunch and tried to evangelize the mall and then came back and read scripture and then prayed again and went home. I really did. That's what I thought ministry was.
And, the very first church that I was hired at was Miramar Church of God, which is not Cooper City. The Pastor's name was Dwight Alan. That happens to be the largest Church of God church in the state of Florida. And, Dwight was a good man. He's retiring, actually, in August or September of this year from ministry. I walked into his office as a brand spanking new minister. And, I don't know. I was expecting maybe we'd pray or read something. I don't what I was expecting. Because I walked into his office, this projectile comes from behind the desk and I catch it because I've got ninja skills. I catch it and it's his leg. It's a prosthetic limb.
He's like, "Ha! Got ya!"
And I'm like, "What?"
What happened was Dwight had had his leg blown off in the Korean War and so he had a prosthetic limb. He would take it off during the day and that was one of his things. He liked to pitch it to you when he was playing in his office. It was just him being funny. He was a good guy. You know, I walk in and I'm thinking this is the holy of holies. This is the pastor's office. And what do I get? A leg!
And so, from that moment forward, I realized it wasn't exactly the way I thought it was going to turn out. And, in my life, I got to the point of where I was so disenfranchised with just about everything that I left church completely and was never, ever, ever going to go back into any type of vocational ministry at all because I was burnt and disenfranchised. And I say that because I've spoken to many of you and many of you have shared with me your hurts that you've had at churches.
Many of you have shared with me that you weren't going to church until you came back to Grace. When I go out on First Friday and other things – I mean, I was out to dinner just this last week and the waiter, when we found out that he had used to go to church, we invited him to come – but, that's what I see. I see so many people that have been in church and they've left. And here's the story I never got at 17 or 18 years old.
It's taken me to right around 46 years old to get some of these things. And I'm saying this to you because I think this will help you out immensely. I even, on the back of your bulletin, I have sermon notes for you because I want you to write these down because these will become invaluable for you at some point in your life.
Here's the speech I wish I would've got: How do I survive church?
I've heard how to survive marriage. I've heard how to survive fasting and not dying. I've heard how to survive when you only pray once a week. I've heard all these messages, but I've never heard anybody speak about surviving church. And I wish somebody would have shared that with me. So, today will be a little bit different Chip message. This is just some advice, just some talk here that I'd like to share with you and I believe it will make a huge difference in your life. And, I can tell you this, the previous two services – and I normally don't talk about previous two services, but I can tell you the response that we've had to this message has been incredible. You know, I love it when people walk out going, "Man, that was a cool Bible passage. Man, you showed me something cool."
I live for those moments. But, I didn't realize how immensely practical and meaningful this has been to so many people and I hope, for you all and for those of you watching live stream in the mobile app and internet, will find this as well.
So, let's talk about this. We've got nine things. The first two I'm going to discuss are theological. The last seven are practical. But, these are things that I guarantee you will help you survive church and I wish that I had heard this at a young age. But, I didn't. So, let's get started.
I want you to embrace, remember, write it down, get a tattoo that says it – I'm joking, you don't need to get a tattoo – and settle it once and for all, these nine things. First two things are theological. Last seven are super practical. But, this is the deal. These will help you survive church.
The first one is to understand that my salvation is not based on what I do but on what Christ has done.
I cannot tell you how many people have left church because they feel like they never measure up. They feel like there's just no way I can do it. There's no way I can get God to love me because it seems like I fail on a regular basis. Let me be honest here – even those who are watching via the internet and all the other ways we watch – I want you to look in here for a minute and understand this. There's nobody in this room that gets it right all the time. None of us do. And if it's based on what we do, we're in trouble. I cannot tell you how many people I meet on the street that tell me they just gave up because there's just no way God could love them, there's no way they could do it because they just never could measure up.
This is what Paul says to the Ephesians church here in 2:8-9. Basically summarizing what I've just said in that point.
He says, "It's by grace you have been saved through faith."
Grace, in the original language, means "unmerited favor." Nothing we did to get grace has been done. Grace is something that God gives to you and me without any type of work or doing anything or prayer or anything like that. Grace you've been saved through faith.
Now faith is not a work. Faith is a condition of salvation. And there's a difference between work – that you've got to do something – and a condition. A condition is like this: If I leave you something in my will, you have to go down to the bank to get it. You didn't earn it, you didn't get it, you didn't work for it. But, the condition is you've got to go down and sign.
If Publix says, "Hey, we're going to give out $50 gift cards. You've got to be 18 years old or older. You've got to be here between 2 and 3 o'clock and you've got to be the first 20 people."
When you go down there and get that, you didn't work for that, you didn't earn that and you didn't do anything. You just showed up and got it. So, we're saved by grace through faith and this, the salvation, is not your own doing. It is the gift of God. How do you get a gift? You have to receive it. I know people that take this thing and they make it so warped. The bottom line is that you and I have a choice. The choice is this: Do we want to receive God's gift or do we not?
I've never met anybody at Christmas, when they give their child a gift goes, "I don't want to have to work for it because you're giving me a gift." That's not a work. That's not a work. That's a condition, okay? And so, it's a gift of God and it's not a result of works. Nothing we did got God to give us that gift. He gave it to us because of grace and nobody can boast. Nobody can walk around here and go, "Hey, I've got it better than you. Ha ha! You're not as good as me. I'm doing it better."
Even though we do that, right? I mean, we do that in the church. We all do it sometimes.
You know? "Ha ha! Glad I'm not living like that."
The whole idea – this is supposed to be the sober reminder that there's nothing we can do to gain our salvation. And I'm going to tell you this. There's people in the room right now – there's people watching via the internet and all those other ways – that are saying to themselves, "I never measure up. I've always felt like God doesn't love me or whatever."
I want you to hear this because this will absolutely run you away from church if you don't understand, if I don't understand and if we don't collectively understand that there's nothing we can do to get God to save us. It's something that He's chosen to do because He loves you and me. He's made a choice to love us not based on anything that we've done. He made a choice to love us and He has offered that to you and me and, when we accept that, we're good. And we need to understand that. You can't work your way in, okay?
Now, there's an equal and opposite problem because what happens is, a lot of people get ahold of this and what they do is they go, "Well, I say the prayer. I can do whatever I want to do. I can act however I want to act. I said that prayer like 20 years ago. I know I'm not doing anything for God or acting any way like I look like God. But, that's okay because it's all grace, baby."
Well, no. The equal side to this is this: Although my works don't get me right with God, that doesn't mean that I don't do them. And this is a problem that we have. Your works are not for you to get God to love you. That's been dismissed. But our works are a response to what God has done for us. We don't do them because we need to get God to try to like us more or because we're getting saved. We do them because we're responding to this incredibly kind gesture of grace that He's given us.
And Paul says this to Timothy:
He says in Titus 3:8, "This saying is trustworthy and I want you to insist…" – look at that. This is a big word. – "…insist on these things so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works."
Now, Paul is not anybody who believes you get saved through your works at all. But, Paul also believes that we ought to insist and we ought to devote ourselves to doing good works; not because they make us right with God, but because we love God and we want to show Him that we love Him.
He says, "These things are excellent and profitable for people."
That's Titus 3:8. So, we've got two things that just drive you nuts in church. I mean, I've met both camps. You've got people that are all about works and they just heap on everybody and make them feel bad. You've got people that are all grace and they're just as judgmental on those people who try to do works. And you've got all this stuff and everybody gets mad and people walk out of the church. I've met people that are all grace that are out of the church. I've met people that are all works that are out of the church.
The bottom line is, theologically, where you need to be is this: You can not do anything to get your salvation. That's free. But, if you've really experienced salvation; if you've really experienced who God is, why would you not want to try to do what He's asked you to do? Think about that for a minute. Why would you not? That doesn't mean you're always going to do it. That doesn't mean you're always going to live up to it. But then again, you don't fall into that trap of, "I made a blunder. I really wanted to love that person, but instead I honked my horn at them and now God doesn't love me."
Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. You wanted to do that right thing. God knows that. You wanted to do the right thing because you want to show God that you love Him. But, it's not based on your salvation. It is based on the fact that you want to show Him that you love Him. Those are two theological things that I've seen destroy people and I've been on both ends at the same time and been in angst and been all messed up and frustrated. I don't want you to do that.
Now, let's get practical.
This is the thing I wish somebody would've told me early, early, early on. Understand that church is a hospital, triage, rehab center and a critical care unit for the sick all rolled into one. It's all of these things.
Let's back up here for a minute. If I go into a triage, what would we see in a triage? We'd see people with headaches, we'd see people with chest pains, we'd see people that have cut themselves, we might see somebody with broken arms or broken legs in a triage. You might even find people in there that are lying. You know that people go into triage, right? And they tell you that there's a symptom that's really not going on so they can get a script so that they can miss work.
Some of you all, I'm sure, never did anything like that in your life, right? I mean, we've all seen those things before. You've got people that are addicted to medication that go down and tell the doctor in a triage, "Hey, this is what's going on." So they can get a script.
All these things are going on in triage. That's part of the church. There's a rehab center. People going in church right now are people that are getting better at some of the things that used to really trip them up. There's people that are making progress in areas in their lives.
It's also a critical care unit. Can you imagine if you and me went into a critical care unit where people had a contagious disease that, if you got and I got, we probably would die? What would we do? We'd be putting on a suit and a mask and everything else. And, what happens is we somehow think – and I can tell you this in my life. I thought that church was where all the holy people went, that nobody ever really did anything wrong, and that everybody prayed all the time and everything. It was like the biggest shock for me that it wasn't like that. That's because nobody told me that the church is all of this rolled into one. Which means you're going to get hurt. You're going to find people that are sick. You're going to find people that aren't right.
We're part of this too. We're in these areas. Some of us are in rehab. Some of us had areas in our lives that we used to be the way we were and we've gotten better at it, but we're still not perfect. Some of us, every once in a while, really trip up and we need some triage. Others of us get really sick. This is who the church is and so I want you to understand this. This is important.
Celsus. This is a guy named Celsus. Not celsius like fahrenheit and celsius.
You're like, "Man, I came to church and all I heard about was the temperature gauges."
No, that's not what we're talking about. We're talking about a guy named Celsus. Celsus was a guy that was a Greek philosopher and he hated Christianity and he wrote against it. He wrote in 177 AD. We're talking like 140 years after Jesus. Not too long after Jesus. This is what he wrote about the Church. Remember, he hated the church. This is what he wrote about the church. This will help sort of fill this in. Listen to this.
This is what he wrote. He says, "But the call to membership in the cult of Christ is this: Whoever is a sinner, whoever is unwise, whoever is childish - and, point of fact, whoever is a wretch - his is the Kingdom of God."
This is what he said about the Church. You're like, "This place is crazy."
Listen, he keeps going.
Hey says, "And so they invite…" – check this out – "…they actually invite into their membership those who by their own account…" – this isn't even like third party. They even say this about themselves. They invite these people to join up who are sinners.
"The dishonest, the thieves, the burglars, the poisoners…" – that's not a misspell. Not prisoners. Poisoners. – "…blasphemers of all descriptions, and grave robbers."
This cult of Christ is crazy. They're crazy. They invite in people that are crazy into membership. He says, "I mean, what other cult actually invites robbers to become members?"
This is what he says about the Church. And see, I came into this thing thinking that, you know, everybody's going to be fantastic. And, what we've done it, since we've told the world they have to measure up to us, they expect us to look holier than we look.
See, when you've got to tell everybody how they've got to live, the first thing they're going to do is look at your life. That's why, when you lead with brokenness and you lead with weakness, that's where God shines through you and me. Not through acting like we've got it all together, because none of us do. Celsus says, "This is the Church. This is what the Church looks like."
Which means this: If you hang out here long enough, somebody's going to do something crazy. Because, you can't go into triage, you can't go into the hospital, you can't go into the critical care unit, you can't go into those areas and not see something crazy every once in a while. It's just the way it is. Which means, somebody's going to walk up to you in church – you've probably had it happen – and go, "Hey, you want to join my business?" And they've got you their little card and ask you, "Do you want an opportunity of a life?"
You're like, "Why in the world are you telling me this in church?"
You've got people that walk up and say, "The Holy Spirit told me…" – and you and I both know it was a bad burrito, but the bottom line is is they'll tell you that. They'll walk up to you and you're like, "Man, why are these people saying this to me?"
They're like, "You're going to have 35 kids."
You're like, "I'm 72 and not even married." You know? Is my name Abram?
You're going to have that. You're going to have people that walk up to you and go, "Have you heard?"
They've got whatever. They've got some gossip or they've got something or this is going on. This is going to happen. See, nobody told me this was going to happen. Nobody told me that I was going to join up into a group of people that everybody was broken. I thought I was joining up a group of people that had it together and I didn't know that. And because I didn't know that, it really crippled my understanding of the church because nobody ever sat down to me and said, "Hey, hold on for a minute. This is the way it works."
Let's continue on because these are the things I wish somebody would've told me at 17 or 18 years old. And, I'm saying this to you now because I really believe these are things we need to hear.
Fourth. The body of Christ is not based on a consumer mentality. Now, we're a family. The body of Christ is family. When you go to Golden Corral – you paid, I don't know what it costs at Golden Corral. I don't even know if there's a Golden Corral here. I'm from Kentucky so there's Golden Corrals everywhere in Kentucky, okay? But, the deal is you go to Golden Corral and, if you paid your money – I don't know what it is now. Probably 15 bucks or whatever it is to go there – and you've got this big buffet. And, if this shrimp basket isn't there and the spare ribs aren't there and the collared greens aren't there and whatever, what you do is is you go, "Hey, could you bring that out because I paid for that. I want what I want. I want to get what I want to get."
That's a consumer mentality. There's nothing wrong with that. When you're at Golden Corral, you should have a consumer mentality. When you go to a hotel and the bed's not made and the bathroom looks like nobody cleaned it up, you call and say, "Hey, my room's not clean. I'd like to get another room." Or maybe they even refund you. That's a consumer mentality. And we all do it. But, you can't bring that into the church. I did. I wanted the Church to do what I wanted it to. It needed to live up to the way I wanted it. The church isn't doing this for me or the church isn't doing that. I had a consumer mentality. Can you imagine having a consumer mentality with your mom?
Imagine growing up. Some of you, maybe your moms are passed on into glory. But, for those of you all, just imagine, many of us still have our moms alive. If you do, imagine sitting down with your mom and her making a dinner for you and you going, "This is no good. I want another mom."
It doesn't work. But, the bottom line is is we bring this in to the church.
"The church needs to do this for me. The church isn't doing this. I'm not getting fed."
Can I tell you something? An apron and a bib are made out of the same material. You get to choose whether you put on the bib – "Feed me, feed me, feed me." – or you put on the apron. I'm here to serve. You get to make that decision. But, the church is not based on a consumer mentality. That's not what it's based on. We don't come in and say, "Gimme, gimme, gimme. I need this, I need this."
And, you hear it all the time. I mean, I hear it from people. "The church isn't doing this. Didn't feed me this. Didn't do that."
Can I just be real and honest with everybody here? The church doesn't exist for you. The church exists for the world. We're to be a light on a hill that shines brightly so that those that are on the outside can see who the Lord is and want to come in and be a part of the things that He's doing in our lives. Israel was called to be a kingdom of priests. They were called to be a light to the world. They were called to be a blessing to the nations. And what did they do?
They turned inward rather than outward. And we, unfortunately, have done that here in America. And the church, we've bought into a consumer mentality. We're not consumers in the church. We're contributors. This absolutely killed me because I was always going, "I want this, I want that. I want this. How about this?"
I was a consumer. But, nobody ever told me that, "Hey, this is what Paul said to the Philippian church, Chip. Sit down and listen to this. Sit down and drink this in. Sit down and soak this in."
And, just real quickly so you can understand the book of Philippians, we're going to go through it really quick here.
The book of Philippians is really written because there's a schism in the church between two women, one named Euodias and one named Syntyche, that you will find in chapter 4. And, what Paul has done is he started off saying, "Hey, I'm in prison. Gospel's going good. Some things are going really cool. Everything is great. Chapter 2. Here's the deal. I want everybody to get together. I want everybody to look like Jesus. I want everybody to have His mind. He was really high but he became low; became a servant. And, He put on all that stuff and God exalted Him and did all this great stuff. Chapter 3. Hey, by the way, I had all these things that were important to me. Man, I was a Pharisee and I was zealous and I had all this stuff. But, I counted all that stuff as loss just so I could know Christ. And then, Chapter 4. Bam. I need you two chicks to get along."
And they're like, "Oh, man. Paul sucked us in all the way through chapters 1, 2 and 3 and then he got us."
Okay? And so, this is what he says in Philippians.
He says, "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit but, in humility, count others more significant than yourselves."
He didn't say they were. He said count them that way. See, the Church isn't based on a consumer mentality. It's based on contributors. We contribute to the Church. We don't take. We're not here to put a bib on. We're putting an apron on.
And he goes on to say, he says, "Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interest of others."
Let me just be candid here with everybody. Your needs, which I want to see met as your pastor, your needs will never be met and my needs will never be met by me sitting around and talking about all my needs to everybody. It feels good for a little while but, you'll notice, the more you sit around and talk about it, the more you continue in that spiral. You might get people to come pray for you and talk about it, but the more you talk about it, the more – and then, what happens is – and come on now, this is some good preaching right here.
You know you've been around those people before that all they talk about is their needs, their needs, their needs. And, before long, they're calling up and you're going, "Oh, yeah. We're headed to a movie. Oh, yeah. We're…" Because you don't want to be around it either. That's not the way it works. The way your needs are met are the same way across the board whether it's your marriage, whether it's your finances, whether it's your personal needs, you put God first. Jesus says, "Put Me, My kingdom, My righteousness first and all these things will be added to you."
You want to get right in your marriage? You don't go, "I want my needs. My needs. I watch the Bachelor and it's all about what I want."
No. Paul says what you do is you serve your spouse and trust God to take care of your needs. Your finances? You go, "Well, I've got a problem with finances."
God says, "Here's what I want you to do. I want you to trust Me and give to Me and watch Me do what I do."
And the problem is is we go, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. I want to get what I want first and then I will do."
Come on, now. Somebody. I know you've prayed this before. God, if You'll just give me this, I'll do this for You. Come on, now. You know you've done that. That's a consumer mentality. It doesn't work in the church.
Let's continue on here.
The body confirms the call. Man, I wish I would've been told this one. This is one, man. Woo! Big moment for me. I thought that, when I was like 18 years old, I thought I knew everything. I really had memorized the Bible really well. Like, I knew the Bible passages. I was like an AK-47 of Bible passages. I was like -rapid gunfire sound.-
Now, I didn't know anything about the original languages. I didn't know anything about context. I didn't know anything about why they wrote what they wrote. I didn't know anything about literature. But man, I knew it all, man. And I was there to be God's corrector of everybody in every church at all times. In fact, Tom Jones was my youth pastor when I came to Christ and I'm sure, more than once, I told Tom, "I don't know why God's got you here because I can do it way better than you."
You think I'm joking. I was that way, okay? And, what I didn't understand was is that it wasn't me pushing my way through or me telling everybody how great I was or me looking for that spotlight, it was the body that confirmed the call. The body would make that decision. I've said some of this to some of you all. I want to say it again because it's the best example I can give of this.
I worked at Westmore Church of God when I was at Lee College. I was an assistant youth pastor for a guy named Matt Willits. This guy, Matt Willits, I thought, "Man, he's not even a Christian sometimes."
Matt was the funniest guy I have ever met. Matt was absolutely hilarious. I mean, Matt was absolutely hilarious. I'd be like, "Man, he's funny." There was no doubt he was funny.
But, I'm like, "Man, he don't read Bible to these kids."
And we had like 120 kids in the youth group. I mean, it was blowing and going. Half these kids are in ministry now doing work and here I was going, "This guy's not even spiritual. God, if You really knew what was going on, I would be doing the preaching because this guy doesn't even know the Bible at all."
And I'm laying seats out one Wednesday because we had to put seats out for youth group. And as I'm sitting there I'm doing that pity party thing with God. "I can't believe this. I can't believe that."
I know none of you all have ever had any of those moments with God. That's okay. Just pray for me. So, I'm doing the pity party. "I can't believe this. This guy's not even a Christian. He's probably going to split Hell wide open and I'm the guy right here that needs to be doing this. I've got it all together and I can quote half the Gospel of Mark. He don't even know where it's at."
I'm putting these chairs out and, all of a sudden, it was like, "Bam!" I had this moment. God's like, "You don't put those seats out you ain't never going to have your own seats."
I was like, "Whoa."
In that moment, I'm like, "God, whatever you were hearing from this person, that wasn't me. That was somebody else. That was somebody in the back of the room."
You know? And I'm like, "Ah, man. I just got nailed."
And that moment went away and I didn't think about it for a long time until we started Grace Community Church August 1st of 2010 back at the Swift and Clark deal. Okay? And, you know what? Listen to this. Two days before we opened up with like nine people and six of them were me and my family, you know? I was putting chairs out all by myself. And it was like a lightning bolt hit me. He said, "Do you remember? I told you that if you put those chairs out, I would give you chairs of your own."
It was like, "Whoa, man."
It was a moment for me. It was a moment for me because I would push my way through. And you see it all the time. People, they feel like they have a gift or they feel like they have a talent or they feel like they have something to offer and then it doesn't happen in the way they wanted or they way they don't want to do. Understand that it's the body that will confirm that call.
It says, "Then, after fasting and praying…" – this is Paul and Barnabas as they're being set out from the church – "…they laid hands…" – this is the whole church, the body, the Holy Spirit spoke, the prophets are there – "…they laid their hands on them and sent them all off."
This is a very Biblical pattern where it's the Church, the body, that's confirming the callings on these people's lives. And here's the deal. Sometimes, you just have to be like David. Remember David got anointed king? If you haven't read that story, just believe me on this. He got anointed king but it took him years before he became king. He was on the run. Somebody was trying to kill him. He was in caves. A lot of stuff happened before what God had called him to do actually transpired.
And, in our lives, sometimes we just need to be patient and understand that when it's God's time and God wants it to happen – can I tell you something? If God's called you to do something and it's the ministry that He's given you, you don't have to go push down doors and you don't have to go try to do something on your own. If you will sit there and be patient and trust God, if He's genuinely called you to do that, He will raise you up and He will give you what He's called you to do. I can assure you of that. And, you'll know that when the body confirms that call.
To have an authentic relationship with God, there must also be one with the Church. This is the one that threw me for the loop because I was thinking, "I don't need the church. I don't need them at all. A bunch of scoundrels throwing legs at me. I don't need that. I'm going to do my own thing."
But see, it doesn't work that way. The "yous" in the Bible – the "yous." Y-O-U. – When you read "you" like "Christ in You the hope of Glory", that's not you. That's the Church. It's not you. It's the Church. Christ is in the Church. The whole book of Ephesians is about the Church. That's all it's about. The Church is this. The Church has been called to fill all things in all. The Church is His body. The Church is doing this. Marriage is like the Church. Everything is about the Church. The Church is important. What it is is we somehow think that it's my Father which art in Heaven when it's really our Father which art in Heaven.
And what Paul tells us, he says, "We've been baptized into one body."
You can't have church somehow without God and you can't have God without the Church. He works through His Church which we're individual members of it, but it's the Church that He works through. He's chosen that institution. He didn't tell Peter, "Hey, I'm going to build everything on you, dude."
He said, "I'm going to build it on the Church, Peter. That's where I'm building this thing. And the gates of Hell will not prevail against it."
If you're not in the Church, I mean, the Biblical thing is if you're not in the Church, you're in trouble. You need to be in the Church. We've got people now, you know, going out and doing their own thing.
"I'm going to do a canoe ministry to the gators with me and God. We're going to hang out along the mangroves and, you know, I don't need the Church."
Let me just be honest with you. The Church is a mess. The Church is a triage. It's a rehab center. It's all those things. But, the Church is the ordained vehicle of God wherewith He equips saints and He shines as a light to those who are outside to bring them to the Lord. The Church is important. So, you've got to have that.
Seven. Learn the word season.
Man, this was tough for me to learn. This was really a challenge for me. What happens is you get going on in church and things are going on and you're doing something and you're feeling good. Then, all of a sudden, something comes out and takes it out from underneath you and you're going, "How did that happen? I'm mad! I'm out of here. I'm leaving."
And, the thing is is that there's seasons for all of us. You know, Solomon said, "For everything there's a season and a time for matter under heaven."
You know, I've had aces high. I've had murderer's row. I've had the glories of glories. I've had the bad of bads. My wife could sit there and tell you we've come home before and slapped five and said, "Man, this is fantastic and this is awesome."
And there's been times where we're like, "If we can't get this together, we've got to get out of this thing because it is killing us."
You're going to have those seasons. There's going to be ups and downs. And what we do is if we don't understand the consumer mentality, if we don't understand the body confirms the call, if we don't understand the Church is a rehab, triage, and all of that stuff wrapped together, what happens is, when our season goes away, the first thing we do is we're out. And, let me say something to you. God uses the Church to rub you and me wrong to develop His Son in you and me. And, when we try to bolt at the first sign of pain or hurt, we are, in many ways, keeping God from working in us those things that He wants to work in us.
Number eight. We get out what we put in.
Let me just tell you this real quickly here. We'll get out of here. If you put in negativity and you put in gossip and you put in garbage, that's what you're going to get. You're going to get all that back out of the Church. And you see that. You see there's churches all across America where you go in and people are sort of upset and they're critical and they do all those things. And, for whatever reason, they get around people that do the same thing, because like breeds like.
Or, you can do what you're supposed to be doing which is put in and pour in and serve and truly trust God for those things. And, what you'll get out of the Church is something absolutely incredible, because I'm convinced that the Church is the greatest institution in the world. I'm convinced of that.
And lastly, – and this is important – no matter the hurt, the pain, the sin, or the bad decisions you've made, never forget this: God wants everybody home.
He loves all of us. None of us are going to be perfect. The Church isn't perfect. But, what God wants from His heart, take that home. He wants everybody home. And, when you find yourself sometimes getting a little judgmental or pushing people away or getting made at somebody, just remember that God, He wants everybody home.
Now, I want to close here with this. I don't want to offend anybody by any stretch of the imagination. I don't want to hurt anybody's feelings. I don't want somebody to go, "You shouldn't have said that in the church", or whatever. But, I want to share my heart for just one minute here.
There's a phrase that I've picked up in my Christianity along the way. I have no idea who said it. And trust me, I've spent a lot of time and if you can find out, God bless you. But, it's just a very difficult thing to find who said it.
It was originally quoted as Augustine, but I don't think he said it. I teach Augustine in seminary and I can't find it in any of his writings, so I don't think it was Augustine. But, somebody said this and, when I heard this phrase, it revolutionized my life. I don't want to offend anybody, but I just want to share this saying with you.
The Church is a whore, but she's my mother.
What that phrase means is is that you want stuff, you want gossip, you want people that are living wrong and you want to see all kinds of stuff that just makes your head spin? The Church has it. But, if it weren't for the Church, we wouldn't have scripture. We wouldn't have the fellowship of the saints. We wouldn't come together and partake of communion. We wouldn't have the place that God has ordained as His place to prevail. It's both.
And, oftentimes in my life when I have just been crushed by the Church, I've remembered those two things that the Church is both. What that does for me is it doesn't take away some hurts or pains that you get along the way. It doesn't take away from the fact that the Church can be difficult at times. What it does is it gives you a foundation to survive the Church. That when you go home and you're hurt one do or somebody's done something or something's happened, you pull out this list and you start looking down it. And you start going, "Wow, you know what? There is a season. I can't be a consumer."
All of a sudden, it gives you a different perspective and what it does is it gives you that moment for God to start speaking to you about things in your life that He wants to work on you with. And then the Church becomes the greatest place in the world because we grow and we become what God wants us to become. Holding hands together, believing things together and making this thing work together.
And so, I want to tell you. I want us to be a great church and I want us to believe God can use us. But, I also want us to survive. Because, as we grow, things are going to happen. People's feelings are going to get hurt. That's not the time you leave. That's the time you go back and look at this list and pay attention to it. And, I guarantee you it will change your life. And lest anybody thinks this, I can tell you this from the bottom of my heart. I know of nothing at Grace Community Church right now. I know of no negativity. I know of nothing.
This is a message I spoke and shared with because I wanted to share. This is not trying to Band-Aid something or whatever. None of that. I'm just sharing this because I felt like it was the appropriate time to share it. As we grow, we're going to need this. We're going to need to go back and I'm going to need to go back to this. We're all going to need to go back to this.
So, that being said, let's bow our heads and let's pray and let's get out of here.
Dear Heavenly Father,
We thank You so much for the opportunity to be a part of Grace Community Church. I than You, Lord, that through this local church, You've spoken to a lot of people's lives and changed a lot of people's lives. Marriages have been restored. People have overcome alcoholism. People have overcome sin. People have had their faith in You renewed. People have started coming back to church. Lord, there's so many great things that are going on. But Lord, I do know that, as we continue to do great things, challenges will come and there is an adversary that would love nothing more than to come in and create issues.
So Lord, I pray that all of us would drink deeply the truths of today and apply them to our lives. Let them sink in to make a difference in us. And so, Lord, as we leave, I pray that You would watch over us and protect us. I pray that You would lead and guide us. I pray that You would help us to be the lights that You have called us to be into Lakewood Ranch, Sarasota and Bradenton for Your glory. We love You and praise You. Bring us back safely to when we meet again. In Jesus' name, and everybody said "amen." God bless everybody. Have a great weekend.