Being Intentional After The Storm | Dr. Chip Bennett
Being Intentional After the Storm
Baggage Check – Week 7
It is good to be in the house of the Lord today. Amen? Amen? So, I asked the worship team if they would do two songs rather than the normal three or four because I wanted to take time and pray. I know many are may be not used to praying a little bit longer than normal, but that’s okay. Let’s bow our heads and bow our hearts. There’s a lot to pray for. I want to take a moment and pray. I want to connect with God and have something that I feel like will be a benefit to everybody, in just a minute, as we go to God’s Word. Let’s bow our heads and bow our hearts.
Father, in moments like these, in times like these, we don’t always have the right words, we don’t always have the right things to say, and eloquent prayers don’t really matter. What matters in this moment is that Your peace and Your comfort settles in on us, and then, Lord, Your Spirit leads us to be the people that You have called us to be.
So, Lord, we want to take a moment, here, and we want to pray. Lord, I want to pray for the areas down south where so much devastation has happened, Lord. Countless amounts of things lost. Deaths. All kinds of problems and calamities. Lord, I just pray for — we don’t know every single soul, we don’t know every single person down there, but You do. Lord, I’m asking, somehow, someway, that through the clutter, through all of the chaos, through all of the destruction, through all of the despair, somehow, someway, Your spirit would blow through the towns south of us, Lord. Port Charlotte, Lord. Fort Myers. Naples. Punta Gorda. Lord, all those places. Arcadia. All these places that have suffered loss, here in Florida, Lord, I pray, in Jesus’ name, somehow, someway, out of the chaos, out of the formlessness and void, Lord, You would bring good, You would bring miraculous.
I pray that there would be testimonies of people that You did incredible things for, that You worked through, Lord. That somehow, someway, God, You’re going to do miracles. Lord, where that’s going to start is with us, the people of God, getting outside of our comfort zone, getting outside of just thinking about ourselves. Lord, to truly understand that for such a time as this, the Church exists. When there is death, when there is destruction, when there is chaos, Lord, that’s when the people of God go in. That’s when the people of God chase in and make a difference. Lord, I’m asking, in Jesus’ name, that You would raise up our church, raise up churches in this town, raise up churches in other towns that will decide that they want to let their light shine, right now, for You.
Lord, I pray for those who are afflicted during this time, for those who are suffering during this time, that You would bring calm. But Lord, I pray that You would also bring people. Lord, people to come around them, to listen, to pray, to be Your hands and feet during this time. Lord, I pray, also, during this time, that You would strike through all the division that’s been in our country. Lord, I pray, in Jesus’ name, there would be a unity that hits this place that is far beyond partisanship, garbage, and petty things. Lord, we would see these people are human, and humans have dignity and value. Lord, we need to be there for every single person because, Lord, You died for them.
Lord, I pray, in Jesus’ name, that You would help the other churches around this town. I pray that You would help the local municipalities in this town and the other towns that are doing their best, right now, to be the hands and feet of You. Even the ones that don’t know You, even the secular municipalities, Lord, I pray that You would use them in ways they didn’t even know they could be used by You, God, to do the things that need to be done.
Lord, I pray for our leadership, especially here in our state. We pray for our governor and all the people who are in the positions of power, that they would stop all the bickering, and what they would do is realize we’ve got work to do, and that we would come together. I pray that there would be such a movement, Lord, in our state, right now, that people would write about it, years and years from now, how You brought things together. And Lord, what I pray, most importantly, is that somehow, someway, in the midst of suffering, in the midst of calamity, there would be many people that come to know You as Lord and Savior, that there would be a revival that hits this area. Lord, we know that this is a challenging time.
We know that so many people wonder where You’re at, so many people wonder why You allow these things to happen. Lord, I pray, in Jesus’ name, that You would allow us to be Your hands and feet. So, when people ask, “Where is God in the midst of suffering?” it would be clear that He is in His people, doing good works, helping others, and pouring into others, Lord, for Your glory, and for Your glory alone. Lord, we pray for this time. We pray that You would bring wisdom and guidance. We pray that You would give direction. We pray, Lord, that You would give clarity. Lord, we lean on You during these times because, Lord, we simply don’t know what to do. But we’re asking, Lord, that You would lead us, by Your Spirit, to do the things that are pleasing to You.
Lord, I pray that as we turn to Your Word, You would give us a fresh word, inspire us, and encourage us, Lord, and mobilize us to be Your hands and feet. Lord, we are going to make sure that You, and You alone, receive all the praise and all the glory. In Jesus’ name, and all of God’s people said, “Amen.”
Can you give the Lord a big hand clap and tell Him that you love Him? Go ahead and have a seat. I want to say, real quickly, up front, so that everybody’s aware, we have two massive needs right now. One is we need people after service. We’re going to have a little bit of a light lunch here. If you want to go do the physical work, there’s a lot of stuff to be done. We’re mobilizing teams to go do that. If you are averse or you can’t do the physical stuff, down at Bee Ridge, it is unbelievable the amount of stuff that’s going on. We got with Sarasota County, last night, and we moved a lot of stuff out of the Phillippi Shores Elementary and Tatum Ridge. We cleared everything out of the Bee Ridge auditorium. It is a warehouse, right now, of stuff. It will soon become a distribution center to all the people who are in need. Sarasota County was blown away. They just don’t have facilities that are large. There are churches that are helping, and thank God they are, but we just said, “Do you know what? We’re going to open that building up.”
I think we’re loading, now, even into the children’s area. You want to be a part of a church that’s doing something? We fed first responders this week. We’ve given thousands of dollars to hurricane relief. We helped the downtown ministries that work with the homeless. They lost a lot during a power outage. We restored them with the money that they needed. We’re opening up Bee Ridge as a thing. We’ve done so much work in houses, trimming, and all kinds of stuff. This is the moment that we were created for, to be the Church, to do the things that we need to do. I want to tell you that I am so proud of this church because there are so many great things going on. I want to ask you to be a part of that.
I haven’t gotten much sleep over the last few days, so if I seem snarky, or if I come across whatever, just pray for me. I’m not trying to be that way. I’m just tired. But I do want to say that if you go down to Bee Ridge, we need sorters, we need helpers. We’ve got to sort all this stuff so that we can distribute it. I want you to know — and I hope this doesn’t come across in a bad way. I’m just trying to be honest. I don’t know any other way to be. Because we’re using the Bee Ridge campus as a distribution center, and the county needs it — and I’m telling you, right now, people will say, “Well, where’s the church in the middle of all this stuff?”
I can tell you one thing: Grace Community Church is shutting down a whole campus to go help people in need because it’s the right thing to do.
So, what I want to say is I know that it may be a 13-minute drive for some people because that campus isn’t open right now, but can I please — and I mean this without any snarkiness. A 13-minute drive is nothing compared to what some of the people are going through. The inconvenience can be okay for us, right now. Okay? I’m just going to leave it at that.
So, we’ve got plenty of stuff. At twelve o’clock, if you want to go straight to Bee Ridge, you can help there. They’ll have food down there, too, but I’m telling you cars are just lining up. You have no idea the amount of stuff that’s down there. We’re going to bless a lot of people. Here, we’ll be meeting to go do physical stuff.
Anyway, that’s my announcement. I want to get to my message. It won’t long, but I was going to speak on this message before the hurricane. I was like, “Wow. Do you know what? For the first time in 12 years, I actually heard from God, and it wasn’t a bad burrito.”
It was like, “Yes. I think this was maybe meant to be.”
So, just recently, in the last couple of weeks, I was scrolling through the internet, and I came across these people who are buying military bunkers. They’re buying them and converting them to these underground cities. Some people are just building these underground cities. Of course, you can’t afford one unless you’re worth all kinds of money. They’re opulent. I was like, “Wow, this is…” — but then I read this line. The person said, “It’s not like I want to be up on top if the world is getting really bad, because I don’t want to see a woman with a child in need and have to deal with that moral dilemma.”
I was like, “Wow. Man, that’s just where we’re at.” So many people have this bunker mentality. “We’re going to take care of ourselves. We don’t really want to care about anybody else.”
Don’t get me wrong. I get it. When storms are coming, you want to take care of your family and all that. That’s natural. But I’m talking about, as a general rule, folks, I’m here to tell you something. For 12 years, this church has been open. For a majority of that time, I’ve been dying to assail this mentality with what we’ve called, around here, being intentional neighbors. What that means is — I want you to hear me and lean in here — as Christians, this life is not all that there is. We believe in the resurrection. We believe there’s something better coming. Which is why, historically, when cataclysmic events happen, do you know where the Church is? It’s right in the middle of the stuff because this world is not all that there is. There is more coming to you and I.
So, it’s time. I believe with all of my heart, when I look back, now, and go, “Why did God allow us to grow the way that we’ve grown? Why did He allow us all the things that He’s afforded us?” I’m going to tell you, right now, I believe it was for this moment, to mobilize the amount of people that we have, with the resources that we have, to make a difference in people’s lives. It’s time for us to be the intentional neighbors that God has called us to be.
So, I’m going to talk about that briefly, but we are in a series called “Baggage Check.” If you’re new or you
haven’t been here for a little bit, I always have a big idea that I’m sort of working under. What I wanted to do in this series is have us think of our bags here. A lot of times, these are bags that are heavy, and they need to be removed. I didn’t want us to look at it that way. I wanted us to look at it that this is sort of a subset of our life. In our bags are our computers, our shoes, our clothes, and whatever else. There’s stuff that we do, stuff that we do well, and stuff that we maybe didn’t do well, or shoes that took us places that we shouldn’t have gone, or shoes that got us jobs that we wanted.
So, I’ve been working on this big idea that instead of looking at baggage as a problem that needs to be removed, I want us to look at baggage as an opportunity to move. So, we’re going to allow God to move in our life, today. To do that, what we’re going to do is we’re going to go back many, many, many years ago, to the earliest primitive, purist, idealistic expression of Christianity, which was the early Church on the Day of Pentecost where thousands became Christians. What did that look like?
Now, when Luke tells us this — this is important — Luke is not telling us something that is, what we would call, prescriptive. He’s not saying, “Now, you go do all these things.” He’s describing what happened in that moment where God poured out His Spirit, where the Church was born, and what it looked like. What He’s doing is He’s giving us that to look at, to be asking the question, as readers, “What would this mean to me? How would this look to me?”
As we read it, to see what that early Church looked like, and what it smelt like, and what it did, and how it acted, and to interact with the text in a way to go, “What would that look like for me? How would this look? What would it look like if God genuinely poured out His Spirit on a group of people? It might not look exactly like it did in the book of Acts, but it would probably have similarities to it.”
He doesn’t exhaust everything. He doesn’t tell us everything that was going on, but He gives us enough to really inspire us, challenge us, and get us thinking a little bit.
“What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus? What does it mean to be people that truly call upon the name of the Lord?” He tells us, “They devoted themselves. They didn’t have one foot in and one foot out. They were devoted to certain things.” And this is not exhaustive, this is not the only things that they did, but he gives us a sort of highlight, a snippet, of what it looked like to describe that early movement of God and His people. He says, “They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching.”
They wanted to learn about their faith. They had a hunger to know what God had done in Christ. They had a hunger for the fellowship. There was something uniquely happening in people’s lives that were from different backgrounds, cultures, economic status, and all of these things. Somehow, someway, there was something that was going on that was bringing people together who would not normally be together.
Last night, at Bee Ridge, when we were unloading trucks from Phillippi Shores, and then they went to Tatum Ridge and brought those back, I was looking around, and I thought to myself, “There’s no way this group of people would ever assemble in the world if it weren’t for something like this.”
It was just amazing to look at the representation of people, backgrounds, cultures, and different statuses in life.
It was amazing. But in the early Church, there was this idea that we’re just coming together on this thing. Then there was the breaking of bread, which includes, probably, eating common meals together, and also communion. And not only that, but then there were the prayers. They followed the Jewish prayer times, but they believed in prayer. We see, from this devotion that they had, from this single-mindedness — “We want God in our lives” — that awe came upon all those people. There was an awe. Even the people that weren’t a part of the Church sensed something. There was something going on. Many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. We’re told, “All who believed were together and had all things in common.”
Luke’s not telling you that’s what you have to do. He’s not saying that people who follow God have to form a commune and sell everything. He’s just saying, “Hey, this is what happened when God was at work in the early Church. It was powerful. People were like, “Do you know what? There’s something more.”
It’s not important. The bunker mentality wasn’t there at all. It was just, “Do you know what? Whatever we can do, however we can serve, whatever we can do to help people, that’s what we’re going to do.” And we see what happened when people really got ahold of God, and God really got ahold of people. We see that they were selling their possessions. It didn’t say they sold all of them, and it didn’t say that they had to. Nowhere in Scripture does it say that. It doesn’t say that that’s what you have to do. It doesn’t say you can’t have private property. It doesn’t say that. But what it’s telling you here is describing the early Church, which is why when people say, “This is what you’ve got to do. You’ve got the apostle’s teaching, this and that.”
And then it comes to this, and they’re like, “I don’t want to do that part. I like the other part.”
No. This is a description. It’s written so that we have to engage. What would it look like to really be the followers of Jesus? They were selling their possessions and belongings, and they were distributing the proceeds. They didn’t have to do it. They were doing it because they were so moved by God that it moved them towards others. They were distributing the proceeds to all. It didn’t make a difference if you were a believer or not a believer. There was only one diagnostic question. As any had need.
I want you to see what happened from this devotion and this radical putting others and taking care of others. What happened?
It says, “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food…” — listen — “…with glad and generous hearts, praising God…”
In other words, their devotion to God and their love towards others actually did something emotionally inside of them. They were glad. They had generous hearts. There was something. All these things that we’re looking for — you can flip on TV, and they’ll tell you how to do this, or you read this book on self-help, or you read all these things about if you do this and whatever. You can read all the psychology and all the things that you do. I’m here to tell you that if you want to have a joyful life, if you want to have an abundant life, get your eyes on Jesus and start pouring into other people. You will find out that He does stuff in your life that you had no idea He could ever do.
Here’s the beauty. This is what happened as a result. Favor with all the people. I remember, years ago, in a hotel room when I said to God, “I have no idea what I’m doing, as a pastor. I have no idea what I’m doing at Grace Community Church. I have no idea what we’re supposed to be doing.”
That’s when I got a broken pencil and a sheet of paper in this hotel that I was staying in. I wrote down “unchurched, intentional neighbors, reflect Christ.” I remember writing that down. I remember opening up Acts 2, going, “I’m going to start here in Acts.”
I remember reading this, and I went, “Wow. Hold on. The Church had favor with the people?” See, I grew up in a holiness tradition. I grew up in a tradition that if you were doing Jesus right, everybody hated you. Seriously. If they weren’t hating you, you needed to do more to get them to hate you because that’s just what it was. You needed to tell them, “Turn or burn,” until they got mad. “Get right or get left.” You know? “Eat the bread of life or you’re toast.” You know? Whatever it may be. I remember reading this, going, “Oh my goodness. The early Church had favor with the people? The people weren’t hostile towards the Church? Wow. What were they doing? Well, they were loving God and serving others.”
Then I read this: “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
I went, “Wow. A church that really got involved in the community, that didn’t just give a cup of cold water but gave a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name, could make a difference, and you could have favor in the community, and God would add to the church daily people that were being saved.”
I remember reading that, and it reading me, and it just forever branded me with this idea that we’re going to reach the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. And that word “intentional neighbor” just kept coming back to me. That’s what’s going on here. The word is not used in the Bible, but it’s definitely what they were doing. There are a couple of things that I want to mention here. First of all, being an intentional neighbor doesn’t just happen. Where we’re at today, as a church, and what we’re doing — I mean, I was just stunned after the nine o’clock service by the amount of people that came up and said, “We’re going home, changing, and we’ll be back here at 12. We’re going home, we’re going to Bee Ridge.”
I said to myself, “Man, this is why we’ve been doing what we’re doing.” We have an opportunity to make a difference. We have an opportunity to show. I don’t really care about me. I care about the staff being seen. But we’ve got every news channel down there at Bee Ridge, taking pictures, going, “Look at this church shutting down a campus.” I’m going, “Yeah! It’s about time somebody sees the Church doing what the Church should be doing.” All the naysayers, all the people that say we only care about ourselves, and all we care about is politics, no, we don’t. Here at Grace, we care about reaching the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ, and we’re going to be the hands and feet of Jesus during this time. It doesn’t just happen. It’s something that’s got to be modeled, taught, and caught. We see here that they devoted themselves to these things, and many more. But when we talk about the apostles’ teaching, do you know what the apostles taught? Go through the book of Acts and see what they taught. They weren’t arguing about all this stuff we argue about. They didn’t even know. They wouldn’t have known what a donkey or an elephant looked like. They didn’t know about Calvinism and Arminianism. They didn’t know about raptured or not raptured. They didn’t know any of that stuff. What they knew was what they were being taught.
What they were being taught was pretty simple. It was Jesus. They taught Jesus. Everywhere they went, they taught Jesus, and what they taught about Him was His life. They talked about His ministry, His death, and His resurrection. It was just Jesus. They taught Jesus. They wanted to know about who Jesus was. And then they taught about the significance of what Jesus had done in God’s overall plan. That’s why Peter would stand up and say, “This Jesus has done what God determined beforehand.”
That’s what they were learning. They weren’t bothered by all the stuff that we get bothered with. They were just keeping it simple. It was about Jesus and what He did so that they could articulate that to other people. Not only that, but they had a fellowship. It’s this idea that it was an incredible closeness and togetherness fostered by the shared experience of the risen Lord and the experience of the Holy Spirit. Can I tell you something? Do you want to know what God’s at work? God’s at work when tax collectors and zealots come together. God’s at work when people who would never come together come together. Do you want to know when God’s not at work? When there’s division, when there’s discord, when there’s nastiness. Don’t think that God’s involved in that. God’s involved when people start coming together who would never come together because they’re surrounded by the experience of the Spirit of God, and they’re focused on Jesus. And we see this in the early Church.
Not only that, but they had the breaking of bread. They had fellowship meals, like Wednesday night around here, or the supper clubs that we have. They had communion. They took communion when they would gather. And they believed in prayer. I didn’t have time to go through the whole book of Acts. I just went through Acts 9 just to show you how important prayer was in the early Church. In Acts 1:14 the disciples waited in prayer. In Acts 1:24-25, they prayed for the next apostle. In Acts 3:1, at the time of prayer, there was a lame man healed. In Acts 4:23-31, the church prayed during persecution. In Acts 6:4, prayer was part of church leadership. In Acts 9:11, Saul’s conversion was linked with prayer. We could just continue on and on and on. Prayer was important. It was from this single-minded focus on the Lord that the early Church was led to be what I would call intentional neighbors. They got involved in people’s lives. They were willing to sell some of their stuff to help somebody else. They were so moved by what God had done in their life.
Being an intentional neighbor means that we flow in generosity towards others. It’s just what we do. It’s the DNA of our church, and what Christianity should be. They were selling their possessions and belongings, and they distributed the proceeds to all, as any had need. That’s why, for so many years, I’ve tried to say around here that generosity flowed from their devotion to the Lord. When we are caught up in the Lord, we can’t help but be kind and generous towards others. Which is why, I think, for at least the last six years, probably in five or ten sermons every single year, I say this: You can’t be right with God and wrong with people. If you understand that your vertical relationship with God is actually shown — where you’re at on the temperature scale is shown in how you work with other people. If you treat other people bad, and you constantly have a tongue towards groups of people that you don’t like, and everything else, don’t fool yourself and act like you and God have this great relationship. Because James says, “How can you praise God with your tongue and then curse the ones who were made in His image with the same tongue?”
You can’t. You can’t do that. Our vertical relationship with God will always be shown in how we work with others. John says it this way: “How can you say you love God whom you can’t see if you can’t love the ones whom you can see?” You just can’t be right with God and wrong with people. It’s funny because we’ve learned, in America, to love God and hate everybody else. And we call it holiness. And we call it righteous indignation. No, no. Jesus said, “Love God. Love others.”
“Who’s the other?”
“Well, what do you mean by that?”
Your neighbor. Whoever’s in need. And do you know what else? Your enemy. That’s who we’re called to love. If you want to know how right you are with God, look at how you treat the people who are created in His image and likeness. You’ll have a great barometer of where your relationship is. Don’t fool ourselves. Intentional neighbors are exactly what God has called you and I to be as followers of Jesus.
Not only that, but intentional neighbors foster good will with the community that leads to having the Lord’s favor. I mean, this is just what happens. They had favor with the people. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be times of persecution. That doesn’t mean there won’t be times that things come against us. But can I say this? I don’t mean to be snarky or anything at all, but I just want to make sure this settles in, and we hear this. Being persecuted for Jesus’ name is not the same thing as choosing to not be intentional neighbors.
When we choose to treat other people bad, when we point fingers and tell people how wrong they are and they’re mad at us, that’s not really being persecuted for Jesus’ name. That’s just being dumb. You know? We’re not called to be people that point fingers. We’re called to be people that point people to Jesus. We point people to Jesus.
Fourth: When the Church is an intentional neighbor, people come to know Jesus. People ask, all the time, “How is your church growing?”
I’m like, “Man, it’s growing because we just do a lot of outreach. We just do stuff that people don’t really think churches normally do. And when we do it, we do it with excellence. Normally, a church puts something on, it looks cheap, rugged, and half-together. We try to make sure that when we do something, people go, “Wow! Man, that’s pretty good. That’s incredible.”
Because we know that when we’re doing good in the community, what happens is “the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
And that’s what we are. We can’t ever forget that the Lord came to seek and save that which was lost. Like, we have to be passionate about this. So, I want to reach into the bag first, and I want to pull out something that I do every year. But I’m going to do it again because it needs to be said. If you’ve never heard it, you need to hear it. When I was in school at Lee, working on my bachelor’s degree, I was in a class called Pastoral Care and Counseling. You can see how old this book is because it doesn’t look the same. It was ‘88 or ‘89. I remember I opened up to Chapter 1 in my dorm room, and I remember reading this story. I said to myself, “God, if I am ever a pastor, please, please, please don’t ever let me forget this story. Ever.”
I’m going to read it to you again. Many of you know it, but we need to hear it again.
“On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occurred, there was once a crude little lifesaving station. The building was just a hut, and there was only one boat, but the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea and, with no thought of themselves, went out day and night tirelessly searching for the lost. Many lives were saved by this wonderful lifesaving station. It became famous.
“Some of those who were saved, and various others in the surrounding area, wanted to become associated with the station and give of their time, money and effort for the support of its work. New boats were bought and new crews were trained. The little lifesaving station grew.
“Some of the members of the lifesaving station were unhappy that the building was so crude and poorly equipped. They felt that a more comfortable place should be provided as the first refuge of those saved from the sea. They replaced the emergency cots with beds, and put better furniture in the enlarged building. Now the lifesaving station became a popular gathering place for its members, and they decorated it beautifully and furnished it exquisitely because they used it as a sort of club.
“Fewer members were now interested in going to sea on lifesaving missions, so they hired lifeboat crews to do this work. The lifesaving motif still prevailed in this club’s decoration, and there was a liturgical lifeboat in the room where club initiations were held.
“About this time a large ship was wrecked off the coast, and the hired crews brought in boatloads of cold, wet, and half-drowned people. They were dirty and sick, and they were from all different types of ethnicities and nationalities. The beautiful new club was in chaos. So, the property committee immediately had a shower house built outside the club where the victims of shipwreck could be cleaned up before they came inside.
“At the next meeting, there was a split in the club membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club’s lifesaving activities as being unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal social life of the club. Some members insisted upon lifesaving as their primary purpose and pointed out that they were still called a lifesaving station. But they were voted down and told that if they wanted to save the lives of all the various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in those waters, they could begin their own lifesaving station down the coast. They did.
“As the years went by, the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred in the old. It evolved into a club, and yet another lifesaving station was founded. History continued to repeat itself. If you visit that seacoast today, you will find a number of exclusive clubs along that shore. Shipwrecks are frequent in those waters, but most of the people drown.”
We cannot forget what we are called to do as the people of God. We are called to be a lifesaving station that will do whatever it takes, in whatever ways we’ve got to do it, to reach people. We just cannot afford to ever lose that heart. As long as I’m the pastor here, I don’t care if you just don’t like it, or you don’t want to hear it. You’re going to continue to hear it from me. People need Jesus. They need the Church to be like Jesus. They need us to rise up. No bunker mentalities at all. So, I’m going to ask you to allow the Lord to get into your bag and say, “God, how can I be an intentional neighbor?”
Can I tell you something about being an intentional neighbor? You will never experience what God can do for you if you’re unwilling to get out of the boat. Do you know why the disciples stayed in the boat? Because they thought it was safe. Can I tell you something? The boat was actually the most unsafe place for them to be. The safest place was out on the waters with Jesus. Sometimes you’ve got to take a step. Sometimes you’ve got to step out to watch what God will do. And you say, “Well, I don’t know what to do.”
Well, let me tell you what you can do. First of all, you can plug in. Like, I’m glad that if you come here — I think a phone just rang. That was God saying, “Listen, this is the point here. Listen.”
Listen, if you come here and you just like messages, and you just come and go, I mean, I’m glad you come here, but that’s not what we’re here for. We’re not here for spectators. We’re here for people who want to get out in combat and ride on a boat that’s going through a storm, throwing life stuff to people out in the waters, trying to bring them in to safety so that they can know Jesus. Get plugged in. Get into a small group. Call the church. Find out. We’ll get you plugged in, but you’ve got to get plugged in. The next thing you can do is you can pray. Say, “Well, I didn’t think…”
Yeah. You can pray. I’ll tell you what. Find a town every morning, get up, and say, “Lord, I pray for North Port. I don’t even know who’s in North Port, but You do. God, I don’t know what’s going on there, but You do. I’m going to pray for North Port.” You’d be surprised what God will do. If you start praying for stuff, you’ll be shocked at what He starts doing inside of you when you pray. And that’s part of being an intentional neighbor. Not only that, but you can give. I’m not talking about just money. I’m talking about time, talent, whatever. Just get involved in some way. If you want to give money, that’s great. We can use it because we’re doing stuff. But that’s not my point here. My point is not to have a giving sermon. My point is to get people involved in being intentional neighbors. And you can serve. You can actually serve. Some of you all can’t wield a chainsaw. I get it, but some of you all can help sort clothes at Bee Ridge. There’s stuff to do. There’s work to do. There are people to make a difference in.
Listen, if everything we did for the next three months helped some people out in all these areas, and if one person came to know Jesus, it’s worth it. It’s just worth it. I mean, I don’t know about you, but I want to enter into heaven with people clapping, going, “Man, you led us to Jesus. Your church helped us out. We didn’t know Jesus. We were in darkness, but now we’re in light.”
This is the time. If there’s ever been a time for you and I to be the people of God, it is right now. Our church needs you, but not for that reason. We need you because there are people who God has for us to reach. And do you know how He’s going to do it? Through you and through me. So, I want to just humbly, as your pastor, ask you. Don’t get a bunker mentality, right now. Be an intentional neighbor. Find a place to serve. Find a place to give some time to. Help us out. There’s so much need. This is the time. With all of my heart, when I look back, I go, “No wonder we had the success that we’ve had. No wonder we grew the way that we did. No wonder.”
Because God needed a church that had the thousands of people that we do, and the budget that we have. The thing is, we’ve been good stewards. We’ve got money to give. I mean, we’re not tight. Even though the economy is tight, we made sure that we stewarded well. We’re blessing people, keeping ministries open, and giving people stuff because that’s what God’s people do. We are the place that every time there’s a crisis, people should go, “Go find Grace Community Church because those people will get after it.”
We want to be those people. So, at twelve o’clock, right after service, there will be some food if you want it. You can get involved. If you want to go to Bee Ridge, you can get involved. If you go home, we still love you. We’re not giving you a hard time in any way, shape or form. It’s not Guilt Community Church. It’s Grace Community Church. But at the end of the day, there’s an opportunity. I just want to say that if you’ll take that step, you’ll be shocked at what God can do because He is a waymaker. He makes a way when there is no way. He’s at work when you can’t see Him. He’s at work when you can’t feel Him. He just is. What He does on the flip side of when we pour into others is incredible. So, I want to pray, then we’re going to sing a final song, and then I’m going to ask everybody to get to work. We have a lot of work to do, a lot of people to help, and I believe, with all of my heart, God’s going to use people to do things they never thought they could do. He’s going to use you to bless people in ways you never thought. He’s going to use some of you to lead people to Jesus, which is why we exist.