Our Church: Week 2 - Reimagine
[David]: My name is David Kovacs. I’m 27 years old. I’ve been at Grace Community Church since July of 2016. I grew up in a non-religious family. I didn’t have a bad childhood, but there were definitely things from my past that left emotional scars and really made me struggle to believe in God. October 29th, 2012, I get a phone call from my mother. She tells me that my father is in the ICU at our local hospital. He had a massive heart attack and he has been on life support for the last 3 days. He passed away early the next morning, and that eventually led to her and my step father moving here. And I followed not long after with a lot of baggage and grief, and I remember just thinking, “I really need a new start.”
Somebody I knew invited me to Grace one Sunday morning. It was during a series called “Transcendency.” Pastor Chip gave a message about embracing the process. It made me realize that all of those difficult situations, all that discomfort, all of the hurt and the pain, God can use that all for His purpose and it’s really helped me to be able to reach out to others who have been through similar things.
I feel like God’s really blessed me with a new family here at Grace. I love the young adults group. I love serving in children’s ministry, I love being involved with the youth group, and I really enjoy serving at First Friday and seeing our mission statement being acted out on the streets. I think the church has done really good with that, and I like to be one of those people who help pay it forward.
[Narrator]: It’s not just my church. It’s our church.
Well, good morning to everybody and good morning, also, to those who watch via the internet and the mobile app. We’re in a series called “Our Church.” It’s sort of a mini-series, because it’s not going to be as long as a normal series is. But, for those of you all who were here last week, you’ll readily know what I’m talking about. For those of you all who are new or maybe missed last week, I just felt like I needed to do a State of the Union, so to speak, on where we’re at as a church, partly because of some things that have happened, but most importantly because at three of our services — and, actually, it would be four of our services this weekend because the 9:00 was pretty full when we did the baby dedications — where running out of space in some of our services.
The rule of thumb is this: When you get past about 70-75% occupancy — and it’s actually a little less in Sarasota or in areas like Lakewood Ranch, but somewhere in that vicinity — it really starts to stunt growth because it doesn’t feel readily fun when you set next to people. We know how that works. You don’t like people really close to you and in your face when they’re talking. There’s just a distance that all of us know.
So, we’re growing. One of the things that we need to figure out is what’s next and how do we create more space without necessarily creating more services, because that is an option, but it’s probably not the best option. So, we talked about that and we talked about the fact that we don’t really know what the next step is. We’re just asking everybody to pray.
So, we sort of implemented that and we’ve got a number of things going on in small groups. There’s even prayer small groups and you can find that information out. There’s things going on around here. And then, of course, we’ve been running about in the 1,000 number. I think our record had been 1,060 or 1,064. I don’t know what it was. And then, last weekend, we had 1,152 people that came to church here. It’s like, “Alright.”
It just is what it is. And we’re not even hitting season yet. So, it really is going to be interesting, when that happens, what we’re going to have to do. But, I do know that God is here for us and He knows that we exist, and I do believe God’s going to answer our prayers. So, please keep that in prayer.
So, what I wanted to do this week is I wanted to talk to you all about something that I think you’ll find interesting. Most of you all I would not assume are church historians or people that study Church history, and I wouldn’t expect that. But, I think you’ll find this interesting. About every 500 years in the history of the Church, the Church goes through what we would call a “reimagining” or a “redefining” of itself. We see that in the Church in the 400-500 A.D. environment. The Church moves from being this underground, subversive movement to now taking on the fact that it is the religion of the empire. And now they have all of these buildings and they have all of this favor. And they’re having to figure out, “What does it look like to be the Church now that we have favor?”
Obviously, that was a tough moment. Do we go more with the political establishment? Do we stay with this? That was a tough thing. And the Church sort of had to redefine itself in that particular moment as to what it was going to look like to be the Church. Well, about 500 years later in 1054, the church underwent another massive reimagining and redefinition. Because, in 1054 there was what we call the “Great Schism.” That is when the Eastern and the Western Churches split. We don’t know much about the Eastern Church. If I said the Greek Orthodox Church, you’d probably go, “Yeah, I know something about it.”
But, that’s a strand of Christianity that we don’t know much about. And the East and the West split, and we’re a part of that Western tradition. And the Church had to redefine itself in two particular areas in a massive way. In 1517, the Church redefined itself again during the Protestant Reformation. In the Protestant Reformation, there was a separation between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Protestant people. It comes from the word “protest.” The Church had to redefine itself again.
If you just do the math — and I’m not a numerologist and I’m not trying to be hokey-pokey or anything like that — 500 years from 1517 is 2017. If you’re honest with yourself, as a person that’s in the Church, you have to be able to be aware to look around that the traditional model of church is dying. Denominations are dying. There’s not any denominations that are growing. They’re all dying. All of the traditional ways of doing church are dying. One of the things that has a lot of people up in arms is, “What is the Church going to look like next?”
Is it going to be a sell-out? Is it going to lose the nature of what the Church has been? Those are real questions, because are once again in one of those redefining and reimagining roles as the Church. But, let me tell you the good news. The Lord Jesus loves His Church more than you could ever imagine. He is jealous over His Church. His Church will continue to go, because the gates of Hell will not prevail against His Church. The next iteration of the Church will look different. It will be different. It will be all of those things. But, the next iteration of the Church will be equally effective in the way that it reaches people, it will just do it in a different way.
And the beautiful thing for us — considering now that we are a church well above 1,000 and we’re continuing to grow — is we’re going to have a say in what the Church looks like going forward and what that new reimagined and redefined Church that hopefully will look like Jesus is going to look like going into the next number of years and in generations following.
So, what I want to do today is I want to reimagine what a Church would look like that truly has the heart of its Father, and a Church that truly looks like Jesus. And to do that, I’m going to take a story that I believe — if you’ve never been to church in your entire life, I still think I could give you a microphone and say, “Tell me this story,” and you would have some of the bits of the story that you know, because it’s a story all of us know.
However, it’s a story that I’m not sure we know really the way it should be known. In other words, sometimes it’s so familiar that we miss truth. So, we’re going to try to recover some truth from familiarity today. Those are always difficult things to do. This is going to be a challenging message for many of you all. In fact, I can tell you this: I very rarely get butterflies when I speak, but last night when I was doing this for the first time, I did. I had butterflies. I was like, “Man, I’m a little nervous to do this message,” because I really feel strongly that we’re sitting in a moment here in time where the Church has an incredible opportunity to redefine what it’s going to look like and really reach the next generation by not selling out the Gospel or selling out morality, but by doing things in a godly way that reaches people.
So, to do that, we’re going to look at a story and we’re going to reimagine that story through the lens of what it would look like to be the Church with the heart of the Father. To do that, though, is a little difficult. Because, the Bible is written in what we call “high communication.” That’s not the same high communication that they talk of in Denver, Colorado, by the way. But, the high communication that the Bible employs is that the Bible was not written to you and me. It was written to people at a specific time and a specific place. And they knew about the situations more than we know.
For instance, if a husband called his wife and you were listening and he said, “Hey, honey. I’m taking Lucy to the doc,” you might say, “Okay. He must have a child.”
But, what if that were the name of their pet cat that they had and the pet cat was going to be put to sleep that day by the veterinarian? See, they would know because of their high communication what was being said. You and I would not know what was being said because we’re not part of that high communication. We would be low communication and we would have to be told more things to understand what’s going on. So, oftentimes when we go to Scripture, we’ve got to go back and try to figure out, “What is the high communication going on?”
And that takes some work. That takes some effort. On top of that, many things that are not said in the Scriptures are just as important as the things said. So, if we don’t know the things that they know when we’re reading a story, there might be things that are being said and communicated that we wouldn’t hear because we don’t understand that high communication. And on top of that, the biblical writers were far more dedicated to creating atmospheres for thought. They thought that was a greater thing than creating what we would call “academic precision.”
What they wanted to do is they wanted to tell you a story. Not so that you could read the story and go, “Here’s all the propositional truths that I can tell everybody how to live.”
They wanted you to read the story and engage in that story as you read it as, “What would God have me to learn here? What would God have me to see? What would God do in my life if this were the situation?”
So, the Bible is written more relationally for you and me in communication with God rather than it is for us to just take it as a set of rules and then just chuck it on top of people. So, all of those things make it difficult, at times, for you and me to truly understand what Scripture says. You all like coming here because we try to really do the best we can to say, “What does that really mean? What’s going on here?”
I think because we all deep down inside really do want to know what’s right and what’s true, because I want to take this and apply it to my life. So, we’re going to do that with a story today that many of you all are familiar with. You’re going to hear it in a way that you probably have never heard it, and it’s going to challenge you in so many ways. But, we’re going to, at the end, ask, “What would it look like if we took that story and we were a church that looked like that story?”
So, here’s how the story starts. It says, “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him.”
Now, that should be shocking for many people that are in church that the tax collectors and the sinner all — not some. I mean, that’s a little bit of a hyperbole there. Not every single one, but enough to make it “all.” All of them were coming to see Jesus. And these are the fringe of society. I mean, think about this for a second. Tax collectors had their own name. “Sinners” wasn’t good enough for them. I mean, think about that. These are tax collectors and sinners. And listen to this. This is important.
“They were all drawing near to hear him.”
May I ask you a question? How many churches are the fringe of society coming into to listen because they want to hear what you and I have to say? Well, if we’re authentically going to be like Jesus, we’ve got to ask these questions. I think we’re going to find, at least some of us — I know, many times in my life, it’s me. Maybe you can’t identify, but I’ve been this way before — in the next group.
It says, “Now the [church folk] Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’”
The word “man” is not in the original language, and we wouldn’t understand if it put “this receives.” So, they put “man” in there because it makes sense for us in English. But, there’s a reason why there’s nothing there. Because, when you read it in Luke, if you were reading it and hearing this in the 1st Century, you would know what they were saying. They would say, “This receives sinners and eats with them. This scum. This heretic. This.”
“He receives sinners and eats with them. And doesn’t He understand the way it works? When You receive sinners like you’re doing, Jesus, and You plop down at table with them, do You know what You’re doing? You’re condoning their lifestyle. That’s what You’re doing. And we’ve got a problem with that, because that’s not the way holiness and righteousness works. The way it works is You let them people know that they’re wrong. You don’t sit down and eat with them. They might think that You think they’re okay. We have a problem with this, Jesus. This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. Haven’t You read the Old Testament? Haven’t You read that God’s a holy God and a righteous God? You’re just going to receive them and you’re just going to eat with them? No conditions at all? This receives sinners and eats with them.”
Well, Luke tells us that then Jesus tells them, “This...” — that’s singular — “...parable.”
But, if you read, He tells you three. So, they’re all to be read together. The first thing He does is Jesus looks at these guys that are like this is receiving sinners and eating with them. He says, “Let me ask you a question: If you were a shepherd...”
And, immediately, they would’ve been like, “I’m not a shepherd. Don’t insult me with being a shepherd. Shepherds are people that are ritually unclean. They don’t go to the temple. They don’t have anything to do with God. They handle animals. Don’t call me a shepherd. It’s an insult.”
He says, “If you were a shepherd and you had 100 sheep and one of them got away, wouldn’t you go get them?”
They’re thinking, “No. I wouldn’t go get them, because I wouldn’t be a shepherd. And if I had 100 sheep, somebody would be paid to do it and they could go get them, but I’m not going to get them.”
And He says, “Well, if one left, the shepherd would go get them and would return them.”
And the important thing in this parable, along with many other things that I’m not going to talk about, is that the sheep is lost on the outside. He’s outside of the sheepfold. He’s lost on the outside. Then He turns and says, “Hey, there was this woman...”
And they’re going to be like, “Why is He using women? Women are not important.”
These are insulting statements that Jesus is saying, in many ways, to these religious people. It would’ve really amped them up. It would’ve gotten under their skin.
He goes, “What about a woman that loses a coin? She goes and finds it.”
Now, the coin is interesting because it’s lost on the inside of the house. He says, “Wouldn’t she rejoice in finding the coin?”
And now He’s set up what He wants to say to them. He says, “Oh, and there’s a man that has two sons.”
And they would’ve thought, “Why didn’t He call them brothers? Is there a problem there? Why two sons? What’s going on?”
And He says, “So, a man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father,”
And they would’ve immediately, because you can think faster than I can speak — at 9:00 that doesn’t happen. But normally, at 10:15 and 11:30 that happens. But, you can think faster than I speak. Let me give you an example. Mindy and I went on a trip and Delta ruined it for us, because we were in a hotel room that had a Delta faucet that leaked and it flooded our room and ruined our luggage. See, you just went from Delta Airlines to Delta Faucets before I could get to Delta Faucets because your mind processes things faster than I can speak.
When Jesus says, “And the younger of them said to his father,” they immediately associate with the younger brother. They know that this is going to be a good dude. Why? Because, in the Old Testament, the older people were supposed to receive the blessing. But, when you read Genesis, it’s always the younger person that’s receiving the blessing, because God is always doing the exact opposite of what society does and who we honor. He’s always honoring the ones that are on the fringe and the lesser part of society, which is ultimately all of us, just we don’t see it that way sometimes.
So, the younger of them said to his father. They’re expecting something good, and then Jesus starts this thing that He does when He tells stories, which is pulling people. And oftentimes, because we’re not understanding culture and we’re not a part of that original audience, we don’t feel the massive emotional swings that are going on in these stories.
He says, “The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’”
That would’ve immediately been, “Whoa!”
So, now, the younger guy is not a good dude, because this is one of the most disrespectful things you could ever do to your father is to ask him for your inheritance before He’s dead. You’re effectively saying, “You’re dead.”
And they would’ve known exactly what would’ve happened as soon as they heard this. They know what’s coming next. The father takes his left hand, he smacks his son, he tells his son that he’s no longer a part of the family, they get together in the village and they have a ceremony where he is removed from the family and the village ostracizes him and the son is kicked out. They would’ve immediately known that, because that’s the way the 1st Century was.
However, that’s not what happens in this story.
“And he divided his property between them.”
They would’ve been like, “Whoa. The father didn’t respond with anger? The father responded with that?”
And of course, once again, this is important that we understand this, when he divides the property between them, that means the older brother gets two-thirds and the younger brother gets one-third. That’s the way it worked. It wasn’t half and half. But, on top of that, because we probably don’t think through these stories that much because, again, we don’t live in that culture, the young boy who got his third would’ve had to do something about that. You can’t take a third of a house. You can’t take a third of a cow. You can’t take a third of the pots and the pans. What you’d have to do is you’d have to sell your inheritance. But, guess what? Nobody in the village would buy it, because it would be an insult to do that. So, he’s going to have to take his inheritance and sell it to somebody out on the fringe.
And guess what that means? Pennies on the dollar. So, he gets substantially less than he should’ve gotten, but it’s still enough. And he goes off to where? Into the far country with the Gentiles. I mean, talk about insult to injury. You just told your dad you wished he was dead. Now you’re taking the money that your dad is giving to you and you’re spending it loosely with the Gentiles.
Now, when it spends loosely, that does not mean he lived an immoral life. What it means is he frivolously spent his money. We’ve read the story many, many times, through the lens of the older brother, that this guy went out and did all kinds of immoral things. He may have. He may have lived that way. But, we don’t know for sure, because that’s not exactly what the word says. It just means that he thriftily spent his money; loosely.
Well, he spends it all. He realizes that he doesn’t have any money and a famine has arisen. So, he decides he’s going to be a posse of a Gentile man. Back then, if somebody was really rich, people would hang around them and tell them how great they were and how awesome they were. And, every once in a while, they’d hand them some money, put them to walk around like we do today. You’ve got people that are celebrities. People hang around them. They’re like their posse. They hope to get on the plane with them and do the stuff with them and have some money.
Well, we know that the Gentile man didn’t want him to be part of his posse, because he says, “You can go take care of my pigs.”
Which normally, for a Jew, would mean, “I’m not doing that,” and he’d move on. But, this guy’s in a desperate situation, so he starts working with pigs. In that moment of working with the pigs, he has this moment of clarity.
Jesus says, “When he came to himself,” and we typically read this this way: This is when the guy repented. This is when the guy changed his mind and repented. I don’t know if you know this or not, but the Muslims over in the Middle East use the parable of the prodigal son to disprove Christianity to their people. They say, “This boy pulled himself by his own bootstraps, he did everything he needed to do, there was no sacrifice needed, there was no cross needed. He brought himself back to the father, so everything is A-OK.”
That’s the way they read the story. Unfortunately, that’s the way we’ve read the story. Luke uses this same phrase. He’s the only guy that uses it. He uses it again — came to himself — when he talks about Peter in Acts 12. Luke and Acts are written by the same guy. When Peter’s in prison and God delivers him from prison, he thinks he’s in a dream. And then Luke says, “But, he came to himself.”
He didn’t repent. He came to himself. He all of a sudden had a moment of clarity. It’s interesting: In the Arabic translations, which the Eastern Church speaks the Arabic language, always says, “But when he got smart.”
He realized something. He says, “‘How many of my father’s hired servants...’”
These aren’t the servants around the house. These are the people that have skills that the father will — like, for me, I can’t put anything together. So, when I need somebody to come put something together, I call somebody. They’re called a “handyman.” That’s a Greek word. They come to my house and they put stuff together, because I’m terrible at that. And I pay them to do it.
But, he says, “How many of my father’s hired servants, the one’s with skills — you know what? They’ve got enough to eat, and more. This is a good plan here. The only way I can ever get back to my dad and get back in the family and save face is I’ve got to repay my debt. How can I repay my debt? I’ve got a moment of clarity here. I’ve come to myself. If I can go back — and I know I’m probably going to get met at the outskirts of the village by the village people and they’re going to insult me and everything. There’s a chance my dad might do the deal where he kicks me out of the family, out of the village and I may not be able to do this. But if, someway, I can concoct a plan that I can get back in good graces with my dad, then what I can do is I can go to another village where one of his hired servants is, I can learn the skill and I can use that skill in other places. What’ll happen is I can put some money aside and one day I can walk back in to the household and say, ‘Here’s the money back. I’ve saved face.’”
So, he says, “I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.’”
And we say, “Ha! There you go. That’s where he repented right there. That’s the one where he repented.”
Except, if you were a 1st Century Jew, you would know your Bible very well. And you would know that exact phrase has been used before. And you would know that story, because that story was the story. Like, of all the stories you knew in the Bible, you knew this story. A guy named Pharaoh, on the ninth plague, told Moses, “I’ve sinned against heaven and before you.”
He didn’t mean it. He just was looking for the next thing to do. He was looking for a way out. So, the son says, “You know what I’m going to do? Here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to tell my father I’ve sinned. Hopefully, he’ll be okay with that. Hopefully, things will go well. He’ll let me go to be with the hired servant, and I can repay him and I can save face. That’s what I’ll do. That’s a great plan.
So, what does Luke say?
“And he arose and came to his father.”
Well, you know the story. You know exactly what’s going to happen. He gets met outside with the villagers who ridicule him and tell him how bad he is and he’s got to do this speech with his dad, hopefully, when he gets there. It’s all going to be ugly. It’s all going to be bad. Except, once again, the story doesn’t read the way you would think it would read.
“But while he was still al omg way off, his father saw him...”
That means his daddy, every daddy, was looking just in case his son did come back, because he wanted to make sure that he got to his son before the village did. He felt compassion and ran. Why did he run? It was disrespectful. Because, he wanted to get to his boy before anybody else did. And he embraced him and he kissed him. That’s not what the son was expecting.
Now the son’s found. Now he’s found. He was lost until the father found him. Just like the coin was lost and was found, just like the sheep was lost and was found. They didn’t do anything to be found. The father found this boy. And it was only when he was found where he changes his tune and says, “Father, I have sinned against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. I thought I had a plan, but the way you’ve treated me with this grace — I’m not even worthy.”
This is his moment of change that’s so beautiful. The father tells the servants that have run with him, “Get the robe on him. Get the ring. Get the shoes. Get it on him.”
Because, he doesn’t want the servants or anybody to think that his son and him aren’t back in good relationship. He doesn’t want anybody in the village to ridicule him. And do you know what the beautiful thing is? This boy has come from the pig pen and has walked all the way to the village. So, guess what he is? He is filthy, and the father does not say, “Clean him up before you put the robe on him.”
He says, “Put the robe on him. We’ll clean him up later.”
And then we know the story. Festivities. Life’s great. Stuff’s going on. It’s all awesome. And then we hear the real part of all the stuff this has been leading up to.
He says, “Now his older son was in the field,”
He wasn’t working. He was the owner of two-thirds of the property. He’s out under a tree telling everybody what to do.
“And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing.”
Well, you know how he’s going to respond. This is happy. This is great. Because, guess what happens in the 1st Century? When a festivity is thrown at your house and people come to your house, guess who serves everybody? The older brother. He’s going to serve everybody. It’s going to be a great day. He’s going to get to walk around and go, “Yeah. So good to see you. So glad you’re here. This is really all mine. My dad’s already given it to me. So good to see you. So nice to be generous.”
So nice to be good, because that was a great virtue back then; to share and to do all this stuff. It’s a great day. He’s hearing music and everything else. This is awesome. He’s excited. He’s probably running.
He shows up and he called on one of the servants. That’s a terrible translation. The word is “pais” in Greek. That’s a young child, not a servant.
“And he called one of the [young children] over and asked what these things meant.”
The reason we know that is because in the 1st Century, when they would be having these big hoedowns, the young children were not allowed in the house. But, the young children of the community would gather around the house and see if they could look in and they’d listen to the music and dance like my kids do. So, the older brother here, because he knows this is going to be an awesome night for him, wants to make sure that he knows what’s going on and he’s aware so that he can do the things that he needs to do.
He says, “Hey, man. Come here. What’s going on? Tell me what’s going on.”
He wants to walk in there, walk right in and be able to start right out and be cool with everything. The young boy says, “Your brother has come.”
Well, our minds are quick. You won’t believe this. Your brother’s come. Well, he already knows. The brother came. The villagers ridiculed him. His father cut him off. Guess what? The party is for him. It’s for him. It’s his party. He’s the only one now, the only heir, because the other one has been kicked out. Even though he asked for his money, it’s gone. It’s awesome. This is awesome.
“Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.”
This receives sinners and eats with them. What’s the older brother do? He’s angry. He’s mad. He’s grumbling and he refuses to go in. One of the great insults in the 1st Century is when you have a party at your house and you’re to be the servant and you refuse to serve. This man has disrespected his father, just like the younger brother.
And we know the story. The father’s going to come out and slap him and tell him how no-good he is for disrespecting him in public in front of all of the villagers. Except his father comes out, taking all the reproach and suffering, for this son like he did for the first son, and entreats him.
“Son, come on. Let’s talk about it, man. Come on.”
The son says, “Dude, I’ve served you and I’ve never disobeyed your command. You never even gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. You never did any of that for me, dad. But when this son of yours — not my brother — comes home, who has devoured your property with prostitutes...” — he doesn’t know that at all. It’s a good thing that no church people would ever accuse someone that they don’t know personally of something wrong.
“You killed the fattened calf for him! That’s my fattened calf, too. It’s all my property, and you’re just spending it on this guy.”
He says, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.”
The story ends. Will the older brother be found too or will the older brother remain lost? Because the sheep was lost on the outside, the coin was lost on the inside. The younger brother was lost on the outside, but he has been found by the father. Will the older brother that’s lost on the inside be found or will he remain in his lostness?
So, what are the take-homes? You say, “Whoa. Wow. That’s a story right there.”
It’s a massive story. What are the take-homes? What if we were a church that had the heart of the Father? Well, the first thing that we would have to realize is that both sons were lost. Neither understood the real issue, though. If we’re going to have the heart of the Father, we have to start asking the question, “What’s the issue? What’s the issue here with these two boys?”
The issue is that they both have broken relationship with their father. The younger one can’t earn enough money, can’t do enough things to get it back, because the only one that can restore the relationship is the father. And the older boy that thinks he’s better than the younger person and is more deserving because he doesn’t do the stuff that his younger brother does, like disrespect his father — except he does. He can’t use that as the bargaining card at all. He’s broken relationship with his father, too. And the only one that can repair it is the father. The one who suffered is the father. The one who comes to find is the father. And it’s only when the father finds you that you can have real and lasting change.
See, the issue wasn’t about the money, nor living better than your other brother. It was about relationship. And a church that’s going to reach the next generation is going to be committed to relationships, to putting people over your positions, to putting people over the way you think it should be. As you realize that every single person has value and dignity and it’s only when we understand them, it’s only when we’ve spent time with them, it’s only when we’ve heard them that we’re going to understand why they do the things that they do, because we value relationship over all the other things, because that’s what your Heavenly Father does.
The second thing I would ask you, and this is a tough one for all of us: Are we going to continue to define repentance as us changing people’s minds or are we going to define repentance as allowing them to be found? See, I’m off the opinion that we’re dead in our trespasses and sins, because Paul says so in Ephesians 2:1. And he says it’s God who makes us alive. Jesus says that no one can come to the Father unless the Spirit draws them. God takes the initiative in salvation. You and I can’t decide that we’re going to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and get us back into the relationship with God in the way we’ve read this parable. It takes the Father finding you and me first before, then, we can change the way we think and feel.
So, here’s the question: What if the church does nothing but trying to create environments and places and activities that people can be found by the Father? Think about that. The things that we do, the activities that we undertake, are there for a reason. They’re there not to tell everybody how to live. They’re there to create environments where the Father can find those people. And you know what? When we create environments like that, people want to come in and hear what we have to say, and they wanted to hear what Jesus had to say.
The third thing is: Are we really looking for our brothers and sisters to come home? Are you willing to go in and serve when they come home, or will you be like the older brother? All the religious trappings, but lost. See, this parable is tough, because this parable speaks to you and me. It doesn’t speak to the prodigal. It speaks to us. Are we in the house, lost? Because, what does it mean to be found? It means that you understand the heart of your Father in relationship. If we’re going to be that church and we’re going to reach the next generation, I think we’re going to have to reimagine and redefine what it looks like to have the heart of the Father. And I think if we do, we have an incredible potential of not only reaching so many people, but potentially seeing revival hit our town.
So, next week, I’m imploring you and I’m asking you to be here, because I’m going to lay out what I think a church looks like that has the heart of its Father. But, what I would ask us all to do today is to say, “God, am I really looking for my brothers and sisters to come home, or am I somewhere deep down inside in my smugness thinking I’m better than they are?”
Let’s not be lost inside the house. Let’s be found. And when we’re found, we’re going to want to throw parties for those that are far from God. Let’s be that church. Let’s look like Jesus. Let’s have the heart of our Father. Let’s pray.
Dear Heavenly Father, I come to You. I love You, I praise You and honor You. Together, as Your people, we come. Lord, we ask that somehow, someway, You would download in all of us Your heart for those that are far from You. And Lord, help us to be the church that reimagines and redefines what it looks like to reach people in 2017 and forward. Lord, we kneel before You. We realize that all the people that are here are Yours. We realize that this church is Yours. But, Lord, we want to be a place that’s pleasing to You.
Help us, Lord, to get truth from the familiar for Your glory. So, Lord, as we leave here today, I pray that You’d watch over us and protect us, lead and guide us, and I pray, Lord, that You would continue to burden our heart to be a church that truly wants to reach the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ, for Your glory and for Your honor. In Jesus’ name, and everybody said, “Amen.”
Give the Lord a big hand clap and tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody. See you soon.