Building Grace Beyond Ourselves Week 2: Passion

Sermon Transcript

[Video]

[Larry]: I’m Larry Dyer, and...

[Gail]: Gail Dyer.

[Larry]: This is my wife, Gail. About 2013, I think, is when we started attending. Gail and I grew up in the Chicagoland area. At the time, I was working as a commercial realtor in my own business, and developer. We were raising a family and we were going to a small church that was growing much like Grace is today. Gail and I started thinking and praying about what our participation in that would be. I said, “I don’t know where you think we need to be, but I’d like you to write down on a sheet of paper how much money you think we’d like to give over the next two years for this building campaign.”

I said, “Okay. You give me your sheet of paper. I’ll give you mine.” We exchanged the pieces of paper, and they were the same amount.

[Gail]: And we couldn’t afford it. We could not afford that amount.

[Larry]: And the crazy thing is it was a number that, for our budget, she’s absolutely right — it was out of sight. It was more than what I made in a year. There was a piece of property that we could not sell, that we had not — we’d had no luck in finding a buyer for it. A company came along that needed that space in that geographic area and paid us probably more money than it was worth at the time, which allowed us, then, to complete the final piece of our commitment to our church. And when we look back two years later, I mean, it was like it grew our faith exponentially. You look at that and you say, “Gosh, I can trust Him because He’s proved faithful.”

So, we’re in. We are in on this campaign. I look at what this building — the opportunity this building provides Grace is to take the next step in Lakewood Ranch and Bradenton and Sarasota, and I look forward to what the church can do in the next five years, ten years, thirty years, and the lives that will be impacted. And I go, “My gosh, I want to be a part of that. I want to stake a legacy that we had a part of that,” and in a hundred years from now, or into eternity, we can be pleased that we had the courage to move forward and do something great with God here in Lakewood Ranch.

[End Video]

Good morning to everybody and good morning, also, to those who watch via the internet and our mobile app. You know, Larry’s story is so great. If you were able to be in some of the meetings that we have where we talked about what we’re doing with our building campaign, it was great because Larry would get up and say that he had “wrastled” with God, and we made sure that we told him that it was “wrestling” with God, not “wrastling” with God. And he told me this: “I went back...” — he said, “Chip, as you know, I’m a theologian. I went back and looked at Jacob in the original Hebrew, and he ‘wrastled’ with God.”

It was great. We didn’t put this story up here because we believe that everybody, when they decide what they’re going to do for the building is going to have pixie dust fall out of heaven in same numbers. This is just a great testimony, the fact that all we’re saying is we just want everybody to say, “God, what do You want me to be a part of?” because the only number that matters for us is 100% involvement from the church. We want everybody to be in because we believe if everybody’s in, God will speak very clearly to us as to what He wants us to do.

So, that being said, I’ve been starting this series last week called “Building Grace Beyond Ourselves” because I know that, at the end of the month, we were going to sort of land this plane in our campaign after all the meetings and all the talking and all the praying and all the years involved as we’ve gone from one to two to three to four services and all of the great things going on. The reason I wanted to do this series is I wanted to make sure that, especially if you were new or you had just come in as a first-time visitor, that you understood this, and also the church understood this, that our heart here at Grace, my heart here at Grace is not to get a piece of land and get a building. My heart here at Grace is to have more tools and more space to reach more people. That’s the goal here. It’s not a building and it’s not a piece of land. That’s not eternal. What’s eternal are the things that happen within these physical spaces. And we just want to reach more people.

So, that being said, last week I talked about legacy and how important it is for a church. Because, during this campaign, the one thing I am committed to — I mean, wholeheartedly committed to as the pastor of this church — is to make sure that if we do move to a new building and we get a new piece of land and a new building, that we do not lose the heart and DNA of our church under any circumstance.

And so, that’s why I’m taking the time to do the messages that I’m doing in this particular series. They’re a little different than I normally do. If you’re new here, I normally really do teach a lot of the Bible. These are little bit more topical messages where I’m just sort of making sure that the vision of the church stays where we’re going. So, last week I talked about a legacy and what it means to have an eternal legacy and what it means to take something forward, not just a legacy in the here and now.

This weekend, I want to talk to the church about passion. The reason I want to talk about Passion is because I believe that almost everything that you can find in life, the greatest movements, the greatest talents, the greatest artists, the greatest whatever it is, it was because they had passion. And everybody has passion. There’s nobody in here that doesn’t have passion. Even if you have passion about not being passionate, or if you have passion about being apathetic, you have passion about something.

We all have passion. And I knew that this was the right message for the church because as I had planned these out and knew what I was going to do for building Grace Beyond Ourselves campaign, my little girl, Esther, I don’t know why, but she gets sort of focused on one movie at a time. So, she likes to watch whatever that movie is. And it doesn’t make a difference. You could start it in the middle of the movie, start it at the end — you know, not right at the end, but you can start it anywhere. She doesn’t care. Just as long as she gets it. And, right now, she likes this movie called “Leap.”

Leap is this ballerina movie. I’ve never seen the movie, but she watches it enough to where I feel like I’ve seen in a million times. You know what I’m talking about? And so, she likes to put the movie on and she goes and puts on her ballerina dress and does this stuff and all this crazy stuff. We won’t get into the problems that my family has. But, anyway, she likes this movie.

I was in front of the TV. She likes to get into Mindy’s part of the bed and watch the movie, which is awesome because normally she’s got mud on her feet from running around in the yard, and so that’s awesome that it’s on that side of the bed because I touch not the unclean things. So, anyway, I’m sort of focused on the TV and there’s this scene where the lady that’s the coach, she’s like a maid, and I guess she was a great dancer at some point. She looks at this girl, who there’s no way this girl’s going to beat this girl that she’s dancing against, and she says, “But you have something she doesn’t have. You have passion.”

And I was like, “Yes. Even this pagan movie is confirming the fact that this is what I’m supposed to speak about.”

So, I want to talk about passion. Whether you know it or not, in church, there’s so much passion. And let me explain how I know that. All you’ve got to do is start talking to people about music and they’ve got their passion about what should be sung, what shouldn’t be sung and all this stuff. Whether you should have organs, not organs, keyboards, all this stuff. Missions. There’s people that are passionate about missions. People that are passionate about discipleship and feeding the poor. And we can continue on with like children’s ministry. Community. People are like, “We’ve got to have good deeds.” Or doctrine. “Hey, we want to make sure that we’ve got our doctrine right.”

What this does is because people are passionate about it — and there’s plenty more that I could put up here. But, because people are passionate about these things, that’s why there’s 40,000 denominations in the United States, because people are passionate about certain things. And, I mean, then there’s subsections of all this stuff here. I mean, there’s churches that play heavy metal worship music. I mean, you may not go there, but there’s people that go there. There’s people that play country music for worship. There’s people that play what we play. And there’s all these subsets, and people are passionate. You know, doctrinal things. I mean, they’ve got all kinds of subsets of things that people are passionate about.

What I’d like to tell you about passion in a church is this, and it’s self-explanatory, but it’s true. You can look at it in church, you can look at it over history, you can see it all throughout the Church history is this: The passion of a church — whatever the church that meets, whatever that passion is — will determine what it does and what it ultimately becomes. It’s just a fact. Whatever the passion is.

I’ve walked in churches that are passionate about missions, and they’ve got like 140 people that they sponsor. It’s incredible. Missionaries come out of those churches. I mean, they’re passionate about that. And what it does is it changes that church and it’s ultimately what it becomes. And so, every church has sort of a passion. And it may be a ton of different things, but everybody has a passion.

What I would like to kindly submit to everybody at Grace Community Church is that although none of the things that I mentioned are wrong — I think they’re all right. I think there’s all room in a church for all of those things. And a good, healthy church should be addressing all of those things and more. I would like to say that I do believe in my reading of Scripture, when I look at what Jesus did, and I look at who Jesus was, and especially look at the things that He said to the Church after He had risen from the dead, I think He absolutely gave the Church the primary passion that a church should be focused on.

And I think the reason we see so much descension in the church and so much disunity is because we oftentimes don’t keep focused on that particular passion. Jesus specifically said He came to seek and save the lost. When He rose from the dead in Matthew 28, He took the disciples up on a mountain. He says, “Guys, huddle around here. All power in heaven and earth has been given to me, so here’s what I want you to do. I want you to go into the world and I want you to make disciples. I want you to baptize them.”

I will say this, just theologically, for those of you all to understand this. Jesus did not use the word disciple the way we use it. We use it as someone who sits in a room and studies and studies and studies and studies. Jesus used the word disciple as a convert. See, a disciple was someone who then needed to get baptized. He says, “Make disciples and baptize them.”

See, a disciple was someone who decided that they were going to follow the teacher. That’s all that was. “Are you in?” “I’m in.” He says, “So, make those people that are in, baptize them, and then teach them what they agreed to sign up to do.”

That’s what Jesus says. He says, “So, what I want you to do is I want you to go into the world and I want you to preach the Gospel. I want people to come in that are not in the Church. I want them to come in.”

You see it in Acts 1. Here He is, Jesus, again, risen from the dead. Sort of the last time. And Jesus could’ve said anything to the guys. He says, “Here’s what’s going to happen. You guys are going to get baptized in the Holy Spirit. And when you’re baptized in the Holy Spirit, you’re going to have power to be my witnesses, and you’re going to go to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the world.”

In other words, “What I want to do is I want your heart to be my heart. I want you to go and be concerned about the unchurched. I want to make sure that people that are far from me, or people that used to be close to me and are not close to me anymore, I want to make sure they come back.”

And if that is the focus of a local church, all the other things will be there. You want to really just charge your prayer life? Go out at work and start talking to people about Jesus. You’ll get in your car, you may even get fired, be like, “God, I’ve got to have a job now. I need a job, God.”

I mean, I’m talking about you want to charge your prayer life up, go talk about Jesus. You’ll get in the car and go, “Lord, I thought I was talking about Jesus, but the more I listened to what I said and the more I got my lunch ate by that atheist because he knew more than I knew, I don’t think I was talking about Jesus. I don’t know what I was talking about. But, Lord, I need a dose of the Ghost or something because I need to be able to tell these people about who You are.”

You know? You talk about studying the Bible. You get out and start sharing Jesus and people go, “Ah, let me tell you about this and that,” and you go, “I didn’t know anything about that,” you come running back to church going, “Can somebody teach me? Can somebody show me? Can somebody help me?”

You find out in that time, when you’re praying and doing all that stuff, you start finding friends. Community starts happening. If you’re focused about the unchurched, you want to have a great children’s ministry because you realize that a children’s ministry is going to actually touch the heart of parents. I mean, when your child’s coming in the car and saying, “Man, I want to go to church.”

I mean, we have people that they email us in, they go, “You won’t believe what’s happened with my kids. Your children’s church, they get up early going, ‘When are we going to church? When are we going to church? When are we going to church?’”

That changes people’s lives. So, what I’d like to say is what happens is that sometimes we just get a little off target. The target of a church should be the unchurched first, and this is what I want to talk about, because we have an opportunity here at Grace, we’re growing, God’s blessed us. It’s amazing what He’s done here at this church. We have a real opportunity to be a generation-changing church. I believe that with all of my heart.

And so, passion for the unchurched can change our generation. It changed the first century. It changed the Roman Empire. The passion to tell people about Jesus is what really should be what’s in our heart. And all of the other things — just like, you know, you tell people all the time, “Listen, I know you need clothing. I know you need food. I know that you need those things.”

Jesus said the same thing in Matthew 6. He goes, “I get it, but here’s the way it works. If you’ll seek me first and you’ll seek my righteousness, I’ll take care of all the other things.”

And I believe, with all of my heart, if the church, heart and passion is to reach those that are far from God, I think God will take care of all the other things that you and I long for. Because none of those things are bad. We all want to have great community. We all want to have great maturity. We all want to have great prayer lives. We want all those things and we want all those things here at Grace. But I will tell you what keeps us focused and keeps us from getting misdirected is knowing what the passion should be.

So, here’s what happens: We get misdirected passion. You know, if you charter a boat or you fly a plane, they chart a course and they use a certain degree that they’re going from here to there. Well, did you know if you’re just off half a degree, or like one degree, you end up so many hundreds of miles away from where you were originally headed. And what happens in the church, oftentimes, and happens in our lives is we get misdirected from what we’re supposed to be doing. We have a mission and we’re supposed to be on task, but it’s so easy to get misdirected.

And the thing is we get misdirected on good things. They’re not bad things. They’re good things. So, let me give you some things here, and I’m going to use myself. Y’all can laugh at me and have a good time at my expense and all that great stuff. But maybe, some of this stuff, you’ll go, “You know what? That might be me at some point,” because what I want to make sure is that Grace stays focused on reaching the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ.

Here’s one of the first areas that it’s easy to get misdirected: When being right is more important than reflecting Christ’s love. And all God’s people said, “Amen.” Let me explain how that works because this is, right here, Chip Bennett for a lot a part of his life. See, you have to be a special type of crazy to teach systematic theology and actually go to school to be able to teach systematic theology. You’ve got to read those big books that nobody wants to read that people are like, “Why in the world would you read...?”

I don’t know. That’s just what we do, those of us who love theology. Well, one of the things you find is when you become, and you have a heart for theology, usually there’s what we call the “cage stage” where you’re raging against everybody and telling them where they’re wrong. Did anybody grow up and remember Elmer Fudd? He’d have that gun and he’d be like, “I’m going to go get the wascally wabbit?” Remember him? That was Chip Bennett for like 20 to 30 years old. I mean, I was out to shoot everybody’s theology down. You had to be right. I mean, it makes sense. I’d be like, “No. That’s fine. I mean, we can show them Christ’s love, but if we ain’t got it right, then the love we’re showing isn’t right. We’ve got to be right. We’ve got to be theologically correct. We’ve got to make sure our doctrine is correct.”

So, I would do things like this: I would go to church, and the pastor would speak — this is crazy. I can’t believe I did this. I would go up after church to the pastor, right after he’s done, and go, “Hey, that passage that you just spoke, you were out of context. This is what this means here.”

Okay. What was I even thinking? You know how much I accomplished for the Kingdom of God right there? Zero. I think it was a deficit, actually. It was a debit. I was going the other direction in the Kingdom of God. But I was passionate. I mean, I wanted to be right. I mean, doesn’t it say in Jude 3 to earnestly contend for the faith? I mean, I was like, “Man, I want to be right.”

Well, what’s interesting is — maybe you know this, maybe you don’t know this — there’s a church in the New Testament that Jesus rebukes for being right. It’s like, “Really?”

Yeah. He does. Because He says, “You’re missing the real important thing.” Because you remember when Jesus said, “People will know you’re my followers by your theology? People will now you’re my disciples by how morally right you are? How you vote?”

Right? Is that not what it says? You would think that’s what it says, right? But He says, “They’ll know you’re my disciples by the love you show to one another.”

And so, Jesus writes to a church, He speaks to a church in the book of Revelation. It’s the church at Ephesus. I mean, this is a power church here. I mean, the book of Ephesians. Six chapters of an epistle written to this church. 1 and 2 Timothy written to the pastor of the church at Ephesus. I mean, big time church. Here’s what He says to them. I think if I read the majority of this passage and just stopped and said, “Amen. Let’s be that,” everybody’d be like, “Yeah! We’re right!”

Except He says, “But, hold on. I’ve got this. If you don’t change the way you’re doing it, I’m going to come take your lampstand from your church because you no longer are an authentic witness for me.”

It’s crazy stuff. He’s like, “You’re so right you’re wrong.”

Listen to what He says:

“‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil.’”

I think you could read that in most churches in America and they’d be like, “That’s right. Preach! That’s good stuff right there. Patient endurance. That sounds like a godly thing. Can’t bear with those who are evil. Toiling and working. Man, that’s great stuff. Amen. Hallelujah.”

“And you have even tested those who call themselves apostles and are not and found them to be false. I mean, you guys are good. You can snuff out that which isn’t genuine. I mean, you guys are good. When it comes to being right, you guys are good. You’re good. Not only that, I know you’re enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary.”

I think if I said, “Church, that’s what we need to be. We need to be people that are bearing up for His name, and not growing weary, and we need to be people of truth, so we can spot those that aren’t authentic Christians,” I think I could preach that in a lot of churches and people would be like, “Amen.”

I think in some churches people would even get a hanky out. “Woo!” You know? Do the hanky wave and all that good stuff. And, honestly, it’s not like this is all wrong. I mean, but this is what Jesus says and it’s sort of alarming. Listen to what He says.

He says, “‘But I have got this against you, you have abandoned the love you had at first.’”

Then He goes on to say, “If you don’t repent, I’m going to come take your lampstand.”

See, isn’t it crazy to think that — because this is obviously their love for God and their love for others. Isn’t it crazy to think that your love for truth and your love for being right could move you away from your love for God? That’s crazy. If you’d have told me that at 20 years old, I’d have said, “I rebuke you in the name of the Lord.”

You know? Two great New Testament scholars, listen to what they have to say in their commentary on Revelation:

“Heresy hunting had killed love in Ephesus, and orthodoxy had been achieved at the price of fellowship. Another one says their hatred of heresy had left no room for love of those who differed in their beliefs.”

See, Jesus says, “You’ve lost your love. You’ve lost your love for God, your love for others because what’s happened is in your focus on this, you’ve misdirected the passion that I have for you as a church.”

And it’s easy to do. It’s easy for all of us to do. That doesn’t mean there’s not certain things that are right. It doesn’t mean that there’s not certain things that we should contend for. I mean, I can tell you you should have a closed hand on Jesus being God in the flesh. You can’t just give that away. He’s God in the flesh. He died on a cross. We’re not going to give that away. He literally and physically rose from the dead on the third day. We’re not giving that away. And He’s going to come back one day.

But to sit around and argue about Genesis 6 and who the sons of God are, that’s not part of being a Christian. I mean, nobody knows who those people are. I mean, I teach this stuff. Nobody knows. I love people that go, “I know.”

You don’t know. Like, every great Christian theologian has disagreed on these things. Or how to read Genesis, or how to read Revelation or all these things that we get bogged down on and we want to be right at the expense, sometimes, of showing love. Another thing we get sort of messed up on is when our idea of being holy excludes others. Think about this for a second. If holiness is separating yourself from all the people that are bad, how do all the people that are bad actually end up hearing the Gospel?

Are you hearing me on that one? If holiness is about separating ourselves from all the bad people, how do all the bad people then hear about the Gospel? Well, that’s what the TV guys are for. No. That’s not what the TV guys are for. That’s not what they’re for. Okay? It’s not. Here’s the deal: When we talk about holiness, I think we misconstrue the word. Because we go, “Well, holiness means to separate.”

Okay. Well, that’s true. But that word comes from a larger context. The children of Israel were in Egypt. They were in what we call “the Empire.” In the Empire, all that mattered was work. Bricks and mortar for the gods. The gods required work. And everybody was charged with work. And people had no value and no dignity and no worth because all that mattered was the Empire. Well, God said, “I’m going to take you out of there. When I take you out of there, I’m going to give you a whole different way to live. First three ways to live: Love me. Last six: Love others. Number four: Rest, because if you’re in chaos, you’re not going to love me good and love other people right because you’re going to be worried about all the stuff going on. You need to be able to have some rest in your life.”

He says that’s what it means to be separate from the Empire. Because in Leviticus 19, where God says to Moses in Leviticus 19:2, “You’re going to be holy, as I am holy.”

So, you read that passage and it’s like, “Man, that’s right in there.” I mean, that’s like one of the few verses in Leviticus that makes any sense. Can I get an amen? That’s a crazy book. There are like pots and pans. It’s like, “What?”

So, He said, “Be holy, as I am holy,” and then you go, “Well, if He said that, I need to figure out what holiness is.”

Read the chapter. Go home after church. The chapter is all about how you treat others. And that’s why the Pharisees couldn’t understand Jesus because Luke writes, “The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to Him.”

They’re all coming to see Jesus. I mean, I think that sometimes we think that if Jesus were here that all the people that lived wrong and on the margins of society would not want to be around Him because He was so holy. And sometimes we think that’s what it means to be a good Christian. “Nobody that’s unholy wants to be around me because they feel the power and conviction of sin in their lives because I walk around full of faith and power, and God’s Spirit is within me and I shun evil.”

Like, dude. Come on, now. Let’s get real. I can tell you I’m a pastor of the church. I’ve got plenty of stuff in my life that I’d like to get out of right now that ain’t out, so I don’t know that I’ve got time to be trying to figure out everybody else’s life. I need to get ahold of my own life. I’m the guy that used to go rebuke pastors. Let’s talk for real here for a minute. Okay? I’m just thankful to God I didn’t reap what I sow, and now there’s a Chip Bennett in my church coming up after every sermon going, “Dude, what are you doing?”

I’m probably going to get that one day. So, anyway, tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to Him, and the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled. They said, “Man, this guy is receiving sinners?”

Because their idea of holiness was you don’t spend time with those people. Can I tell you who the weirdest people are? I don’t mean this in a negative way. The weirdest people are the people are the people who have no pagan friends. They’re Christians that are insulated in church and they don’t have anybody that’s out in the world as a friend. You just become sort of like everything’s Christianese. “Bless you, Brother. Brother John, how are you doing?”

“I’m doing great, Sister Ethel. It’s all fantastic. Praise God from whom all blessings flow, all creatures here below.”

And you’re like going, “Okay. That seems a little weird. No wonder the people at Chili’s don’t want to wait on you, because it just seems strange.”

You know? You get insulated in your Christianity and you just sort of become — it’s just a little, you know. And everything’s Christian speech. “Brother, we live in the last days.”

“I know we do, Brother. Hallelujah. The rapture is coming.”

You know? And they’re like, “What’s that?”

It’s like all this stuff goes on. And so, what I’m saying is you can’t really reach the unchurched if you can’t hang around them. You know? So, that can be a misdirection. The other one can be when a soapbox issue has replaced preaching the cross. Man, we’re good at this. Like, all kinds of issues that we get all bent out of shape on. I mean, all kinds. All kinds. And can I just, in a very nice way — and those watching via the internet and mobile app as well, this is a very nice way here. If you’re at work and let’s say you have a friend that is not a Christian, but you convince him over time about your political issue or your moral issue or your ethical issue, and you just wear him down, wear him down, wear him down, and they finally go, “You know what? I think you’re right.”

Can I tell you something? They’re still just as lost as they were before you started talking about that issue. That’s why Paul said, “For I decided to know nothing among you, save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”

At some level, we’ve got to figure out what is the passion of the church. And it’s about telling people about Jesus. It’s about making sure they know Jesus. And I’m telling you, if a church has that passion and that focus, you’ll see all the other things really do come into play.

So, here’s what I want to do here. If you take notes, just four things and I’ll get you out of here. I want to talk about some churches. What are the characteristics? What does it look like for churches that have generation-changing passion? I went back and looked, and I studied the revivals and times where God moved. I looked at the early Church. I found four things that I felt like were really part of every great move of God, everything where you really saw God move, and here they are.

The first one is this one: There is a Gospel urgency. In other words, the driving thing in a church that’s really changing its generation is they live and they eat, and they breathe the fact that people need to hear the good news. They need to hear it. That there is a God that loves them, that they have value and dignity and worth, that Jesus died on a cross for them so that they could come home, that there is a good news.

And Paul says it this way: I’m not ashamed of the Gospel — that’s the good news. Euangelion is the Greek word. Good news. I’m not afraid. I’m not ashamed of the good news. Listen: “For it, the Gospel...”

Not, “Oh, and by the way and by the way and by the way, let me tell you about Jesus, but also you’ve got to check off this box and that box and this box and that box. And this box. And, let me tell you about Genesis 6 and the sons of God.”

No. “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it [the Gospel, the presentation of the Gospel] is the power of God for salvation.”

And churches that change their generation realize that it’s that and only that that changes people’s lives. It’s telling people Jesus Christ came and died on a cross for you so that your sins can be forgiven, and He rose on the third day, literally. If you’d have had a Polaroid camera — does anybody Polaroid cameras? I mean, man, those things were awesome. I don’t know what happened to them. They were cool, man. It’d come out. You’d wave them. It was like, “Amen, Brother. Preach.”

I think a Christian invented them. If you’d have had a Polaroid camera, you could’ve seen Jesus come out of the grave. And He came out of the grave so that we could have resurrection one day, that we could live for eternity. That’s the good news. He’s coming back one day. Do you believe that that, just that, is the power of God, or is it the add-on?

“Oh, well, hold on now. You’ve also got to get that and this and that and that, and the way you read this and the way you do that.”

No. If that’s the Gospel — I mean, I like to think about like in the first century, they didn’t have like, I have this nice — this is a nice Bible. This is a Schuyler Bible. Like, really nice leather, and it’s got threading here. I mean, this is a nice Bible. Man, people didn’t have this until like 50 years ago, something like this. You know? I mean, first century churches didn’t even have the Bible for like 400 years.

I always like to think if you’re a first century Christian and you’re working in a little store or something, and you’re like, “Hey, Jim. Did you hear about Jesus in Jerusalem?”

“Yeah. Was that the guy that got crucified?”

“Yeah. He got crucified. Man, you know what happens to people who are crucified, right?”

“Yeah, man. They die. Yeah. He died.”

“Dude. Three days later, He got up.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. Like, got up. Like, dead, not dead.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. Like, dead. Like, really dead, dead. I mean, you’ve seen crucifixions, right?”

“Yes.”

“Do people die?”

“Yes.”

“Do they get up after the crucifixion?”

“No.”

“This guy did. He got up, man. He walked around. People saw him. He ate fish. He lives. He lives. Are you in?”

“I’m in.”

That was what changed the world, not all of the other things that we think. That’s the power of God unto salvation. And churches that really have generation-changing passion have a passion for the Gospel. They want to make sure that everybody knows who Jesus is and the wonderful things that He has done for them.

Not only that. Secondly, they have a growth mindset. Because, see, it’s so easy. And let’s just be honest. Come on. Just to be honest, if you’re watching via the internet and mobile app, you’re even watching from different states and different countries, let’s all be honest: There’s a place where we get where we go, “I like my church sort of the way I like it. I don’t really want it to change that much. I like it the way it is. The last thing I want to do is come in on a Sunday and somebody’s in my seat. That’s my seat. God, from all of eternity, predestined that was my seat. Smell. It’s got my cologne on it. Can you smell that? And now you’re in my seat. I don’t know who you are. You don’t look like me. You’re not in my family. I didn’t go to your wedding. Could you just go to another seat because this is my seat?”

We do that, right? I mean, we do. Like, if we could keep it the way it is, we don’t want to see — okay, listen. Churches that really make a difference have a Gospel urgency, but they have a growth mindset. And here. I’ve said this before, I’m going to say it again until this is implanted in the souls of everyone here at Grace Community Church: As long as there is a heaven and a hell, then church growth isn’t an option. It’s not an option. It’s not an option. I mean, I say it all the time. I want to make it so difficult for everybody in Lakewood Ranch to go to hell. I want to make it difficult because I want people to go, “Wow. That church, they love people. They’re doing all this stuff.”

Listen, this growth mindset requires an outward focus — can’t be inward anymore. And it’s so easy to get inward. “I want it this way. I want to shape it that way. I want to make it...”

You know what happens when we start shaping and molding and whatever? We get an idol. We don’t want idols. God says, “I want people. If you’ve got my heart, there’s people out there. The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Because everybody wants to sit around and do it the way they want to do it. Do it the way I’ve asked you to do it and watch what I do in your life. I will change your life.”

So, there’s an outward focus to connect the disconnected. That’s a growth mindset. Look at the way the early Church did it. It says, “They were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all as they had.”

I mean, these people were in. They were like, “Dude, He got up. Like, He’s alive. Like, alive.”

They’re like, “Well, what can we do?”

“Let’s get involved in the community. Let’s sell some stuff, man. We’ll go out and distribute this stuff to everybody. As anybody has need, we’ll go knock on the door. Hey, Thelma. I know that you don’t go to church here with us. I know you don’t really know that Jesus got up, but is there anything we can do for you?”

Like, “You guys are crazy. Why are you doing this?”

“We’re doing this because Jesus got up. Really. Whatever you need.”

And then look at what they’ll do here: “And day by day, attending temple together.”

I mean, they were in. They went in fellowship. Because, see, they were focused on the people on the outside. They were focused on making sure people knew about Jesus. So, what did they do? They were celebrating, going to church every day, breaking bread in their homes. I mean, they had community, they were caring with one another, loving one another, and they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God.

These people had the right attitude. Can I just step on a few toes here? Can we please, as Christians, figure out a way to not have bad attitudes? I mean, look, I love everybody. I’m your pastor. So, no matter what you do, I’m still going to love you. But the reality is it gets old when somebody goes, “Oh, the world’s going to hell in a hand basket. It’s terrible. It’s horrible. The way they dress today. Tattoos everywhere. Earrings in places that earrings shouldn’t be. It’s an ear ring. I don’t know what this is. It’s not an earring.”

You know? It’s like, come on, man. You think people are going to want what you got? They got that already. They’ve got all that disenfranchisement and negativity. I mean, it’s about time that we had some glad and generous hearts praising God for what we have rather than what we want or what we think our neighbor has that we should have. How about just being thankful that we’re alive and that we know Jesus and eternity is settled? Why can’t we just be happy with those things and just love God? You know? And having favor with all the people. Think about that for a second.

Some people are like, “Man, if you’re doing the Christianity right, the neighborhood should be scared about coming to church. If you do it right, they’ll hate you.”

I’ve got pastors calling going, “How in the world are you guys getting to do Christmas on Main? How in the world did they let you do that stuff?”

I’m like, “Because we’ve got favor.”

“Well, how have you got favor?”

“That’s because we love them. It’s because we’re reaching out to them. We’re not standing out there with picket signs. Usually you don’t have favor when picket signs show up.”

Have you ever noticed that? Picket sign? No favor. They had favor with all the people and look what happened: “And the Lord added to their number, day by day, those who were being saved.”

How about this one? Engaged worship. Let’s talk about that for just a second. If people, you go out there and tell them, “Jesus is the way. We’ve got room for you. We’ve got everything,” and they walk in and the music’s playing and you’re going, “...”

I mean, seriously?

“You got me to come in here and you’re telling me the guy got up from the dead and that’s all you’ve got?”

I mean, seriously? Look at what Paul says. He says, “Present your bodies...” — like, you know in the Old Testament where they would present animals? He says, “Present your body as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.”

The writer to the Hebrews says this: “Through Him, let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is the fruit of our lips that acknowledge His name.”

Like, engaged worship. And, lastly, churches that really see generation-changing passion is they experienced changed lives in their midst. Look at what Paul says to the Thessaloniki church. He says, “How you turn to God from idols to serve the living and true God.”

There was a change. See, the way it works is this: Churches that really change their generation have a Gospel urgency. You’ve got to tell people about Jesus. They have a growth mindset. We’re going to grow because that’s what God wants His Church to do. He wants it to grow. In fact, God likes to tell you the numbers. Because, in Acts, it says three thousand. In Acts, it says five thousand. Just a few days ago, I heard a preacher say this: “God’s got to love numbers because He has a book in the Bible called Numbers.”

So, there you go. You know? I mean, think about that for a second. There’s a growth mindset. And then there’s engaged worship, and then there’s changed lives. And when changed lives start happening, you want to get out and tell people about Jesus again and you want to keep growing because it’s awesome and you want to keep just honoring God in everything you’re doing because lives are changing. And it just continues in this cycle. And what happens is there’s generation change.

And what I feel passionately about, as your pastor, as I close here, is that this is not about a building and it’s not about a piece of land. It’s about a tool. It’s a tool to be used to continue to do the things that we’re doing. But I want to see revival hit Lakewood Ranch. I want people at the Trattoria accepting Jesus at lunch. I want people getting pinched for Jesus at Pinchers. Can I get an amen? You know what I’m talking about? Somebody said, “That was good.”

That’s right. Get a hanky. Come on, everybody. Polaroid. Get that Polaroid. You know what? Honestly, if we had enough of this going on, if we’d look at that Polaroid, do you know who we’d see? We’d see Jesus. So, what I’m saying here is this. I’m going to pray. We have an opportunity here to be something so much greater than just a building and a piece of land. We have an opportunity to make an impact in this community for eternity. And as long as we keep eternity in mind with legacy, and as long as we’re passionate about the unchurched, there’s no way we lose. It’s when we get off of that. And it’s my job as your pastor to make sure that I keep putting my foot down and saying, “This is what we’re supposed to do.”

Because I’ll be honest with you: I don’t want to pastor a church that loses the direction of the Church. We have to stay faithful to Scripture. We have to stay faithful to what the Lord’s called us to do.

Let’s pray.

Dear Heavenly Father, I thank You so much for the opportunity to get to do what I do here. I realize, Lord, these are not my people. They’re Your people. I realize, Lord, this is not my church. This is Your church. But Lord, with everything within me, with all the passion that I have, I just want to convey to Your people what I feel passionately You’ve called us to do, and that is to be focused on the unchurched. And Lord, trusting You that the other things will take place in our midst that we need.

So, Lord, I pray that as we just take a moment here, that You would just continue to burn in the soul and DNA of our church that we’re here for a reason, and that is to reach the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. So, Lord, as we walk out of here today, I pray that You would watch over us and protect us, I pray that You would lead and guide us, and I pray that You would bring us back safely to when we meet again. And I pray, Lord, that You would continue to keep us focused on the things that You’ve called us to do for Your glory and for Your honor.

So, Lord, we love You and we praise You. In Jesus’ name, and everybody said, “Amen.”

Give the Lord a big hand clap. Tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody. See you soon.

John Flowerree