Our House Week 2: Mean for the Vision

Sermon Transcript

[Video]

When building a house, you start off with a strong foundation. This foundation, this framework, ultimately defines the way the house grows. What about this house? What defines us? Who are we in the body of Christ and to the community? Let’s start off this new year building a framework because this is what God has called us to. This is who we are. This is our house.

[End Video]

Well, good morning to everybody, and good morning, also, to those who watch via the internet and the mobile app. I want to just start off real quickly here and say this is sort of a little bit different message than I normally do. I really, passionately believe this is something that could be hugely important to your life. So, if you would, act like you drank some coffee about an hour ago and really lean in here.

Recently, I was reading an article. I’m not a big race car driver, or anything like that. I know some people are really passionate about it. That’s cool. I just hang out with Kentucky Basketball. Anyway, I was reading this article and they were talking about race car drivers and how they have to master something early on. What they have to master is when the car goes out of control and starts spinning out of control — which is going to happen. If you race cars, somebody’s going to clip you or you’re going to clip somebody or you’re going to go into the bank in the wrong way. You’re eventually going to start spinning out of control. What they have to learn is they have to unlearn something. When the car starts to spin out of their control, the natural human reflex and intuition is to look at the wall or to look at the cars that are around you because what you don’t want to do is run into the wall and you don’t want to run into other cars. That’s just the natural inclination that we have.

So, what they found is that when that adrenaline gets going, and when that car goes out of control, wherever you’re looking, whatever you’re looking at, is where you take that car. I think you, probably, can sort of understand that if you’ve ever been out on University at about one o’clock in the afternoon. After Cheesecake Factory. Some people have had a couple of glasses of wine at Cheesecake Factory, they’re driving down the road. They’re up from up north and everything’s changed. They’re like, “Oh, look over there.” And then, of course, they come right into your lane or whatever.

But what happens is where we look, we tend to steer that car. So, they have to unlearn. They can’t look at the wall. They can’t look at the car. They have to have vision straightforward that is taking them into an area where there are no cars and are no walls. That’s something they have to learn because where you’re looking is sort of where you’re going. And that is absolutely true. Vision in our lives is absolutely imperative.

So, here’s the truth that I want to share with you that I think you’re going to go, “Wow. That’s absolutely true. I wasn’t thinking about that this morning, but this is true.” It is absolutely true. Every person in every organization ends up somewhere. Period. End of story. The question is will it be intentional? That’s a really, really, really big question to ask. I mean, we’re all going to end up somewhere. I don’t know how you all were, but in college, when I was at Lee College in Cleveland, Tennessee, at times I didn’t have a whole lot of vision. I wasn’t really sure where I was going. At about 11:30, 12:00 or 12:30 at night, I would end up at the Awful House — I mean Waffle House. Back then, I don’t know if you remember, they could still smoke. While they were doing your eggs, they’d be dropping ashes into your eggs. It looked like pepper, but it wasn’t.

I would end up there and I’m like, “Why am I here? How did this happen?”

Well, it’s because you’re going to end up somewhere, but question is is it intentional? In your marriage, do you know where your marriage is going? Do you have vision for your marriage? Do you know where you’re going? Have you sat down and ever talked about that? Your finances. Do you know where you want to go with your finances? A lot of people go, “Man, I don’t know where all that money went.”

Money talks, right? It says, “Goodbye.” Anyway, everybody thinks about those things. Your children. What do you want? Do you have a vision? Do you have a plan? Most people don’t most churches don’t have a vision. Most churches just sort of get together, worship God, and there’s sort of a vision by attrition. It just sort of happens. They hang out, they do stuff and everybody likes each other, but when somebody walks in the door, they don’t feel welcome because they just don’t know. Vision is something that a lot of people don’t have in their personal lives. It costs us by not knowing where we’re going. It also is important in a church.

We have a vision here at our church. I want to talk about that. But, before I do, I want to make sure that everybody gets something for you, personally, about vision. Then I’m going to talk a little bit about the church and our vision. But before I get into the message today, I always like to try to do a summary. I always like to try to bring everybody back up to speed. We’re in a series called “Our House” that we started last weekend. Our House is about our house here at the church, Grace Community Church. At the beginning of every year, what I do — and it’s very intentional. I start off every year and I tell you who we are, what we’re doing, where we’re going and everything. There’s a reason why I do that. For those who call Grace their home, what it does is it puts us on the same sheet of music. We know what we’re doing. We know where we’re going. We can sort of tackle 2019, 2020 or whatever year we’re in knowing where God is leading us.

But it also does something really important, at least for me. And for those that are maybe new, because this is really important to me. I don’t want you to come here for a long time and not know what we’re doing. So, at the beginning of every year, for people that join, maybe during the middle of the year, or people that decided as a New Year’s resolution they were going to go back to church or whatever, it helps you to understand, “Hey, is this the church that I really want to engage in or is this not the church?”

We want to make sure that you know what we’re doing and where we’re at so that you know what Grace is all about.

So, that’s what we’re doing in this series called “Our House.” Today, I want to talk about being mean for the vision. That doesn’t mean being mean like being nasty towards people, that just means being really focused and determined for vision in your life. So, let me show you why vision is so important. I don’t know if you all are notetakers, but God does love notetakers. Can I get an “amen?” So, take some notes or you can take your phone or whatever. These are just some things that I would really want to make sure that I got. If you’re watching via the internet or mobile app, these are some really important things to just know. They’re very quick. We’re going to go through them quickly. They’re just about vision. They’re about the important thing for vision in our life, and then we’ll segue into the vision for the church.

First of all, having vision gives us direction for decision-making. If we don’t know where we’re going, we’re going to make decisions. Even not making a decision is a decision. But if we know where we’re going, then what we start doing is we start going, “No. I’ve got to make this decision. I can’t do this. I can’t do that because I need to go this way. This is where I’m going.”

A lot of people say to me, “Chip, that’s great. That makes sense that if I don’t have vision, if I don’t know where I’m going, then I’m going to end up somewhere probably where I don’t even need to go. But here’s the problem: I don’t know what my vision is. I don’t have a vision in my life. I don’t really know what I’m supposed to do and where I’m at.”

So, here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to give you some really good advice right now on how to make sure that you have vision for your life. You may not like what I have to say to you. You may say, “I don’t want to do that. I just don’t want to do it.”

That’s fine, but I can tell you if you don’t do some of these things that I’m telling you here, it’s probably going to be difficult for you to get vision if you find yourself visionless right now. So, here’s the principle, and then I’m going to explain it. Get busy now, right now, with the time or with what you have and what you have left. So, if you’ve got a limited amount of time in your life or you’re not quite sure what your vision is, I’m going to explain what it means to get busy with that. If you go, “You know what? I’m sort of in life and I’ve lost this stuff. This has gone on my life. I find myself sort of here in depression and funk. What do I do?”

Here’s what you do: You get busy now with what you’ve got. Let me explain what I mean by that. God, as a general rule, when you go through Scripture, when you look at Scripture, is not in the miracle business of what you lost, and He’s not in the miracle business of what you want in the future. Not that He doesn’t work on those things, but what He does is He uses miracle stuff for what you have right now. Like the loaves and the fish. He used the loaves and the fish, what they had right there, to do what He needed to do. Remember the prophet that went to the widow? He said, “What have you got? What have you got?”

“I’ve got a little bit of oil and a little bit of flour.”

“Perfect. We’ll use that.”

See, the point is that God uses what we have in our hands. He uses what we’ve got right now. You see it with Elisha. Remember Elisha? We find him out plowing in the field. His mom and dad probably told him he was going to be a farmer. A lot of people will tell you what your vision should be, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s what it should be. He’s out plowing. He’s out getting busy now with what he has. He’s plowing in the field, doing his stuff. He’s not sitting at Starbucks going, “You know, God, if You could just show me, it would be great.”

No. He’s busy right now. I hope I can get an “amen” on this. We need to recapture some of the busy and good work ethic that some of our forefathers had. Can I get an “amen” on that one? We sit around and say, “God, pour it in my lap.” It’s not going to work that way. You’ve got to get busy now. So, Elisha is out plowing whatever. Well, Elijah walks by and, all of a sudden, he goes, “Whoa. That’s where I...”

But see, he was busy here. Then, when the next thing came, he saw it and he went and burned all of his stuff, got rid of everything and said, “Now I know my vision. I’m going to be a prophet. That’s where God wants to take me.”

Well, what happens in our lives when we’re visionless, if we’ll just go, “Okay. This is what I’ve got in front of me. I don’t have anything else in front of me. I’m going to do everything I can with everything that I’ve got. I’m going to show up earlier than everybody else. I’m going to stay later than everybody else. I’m going to work this not for my boss, not for this. I’m going to work this as to the Lord, saying, ‘God, I’m going to do what I’ve got right here with what I’ve got right now. I’m going to trust You to then show me what it is that You want.”

And that thing you’re doing right now may not be the thing that you need to be doing, but God will lead you to the thing that you need to get to. So, if you don’t have a vision, that’s the way to get after it. Don’t sit around hoping that it will come. Get busy with what you’ve got now. Get busy with the time that you have now and God will work on those things.

Having vision also — and this is a spiritual principle here — gives us seed. I’ll explain what I mean by that. Everybody wants to be fruitful. Everybody does. There’s not anybody that doesn’t want to be fruitful. But to be fruitful, you need seed. I grew up in Kentucky on a farm. Tobacco, corn and those things, they didn’t just happen. When you plant something, when you throw seed at something, that’s where fruit comes. So, if you don’t know what your vision is, you don’t have any seed. You don’t know what you’re throwing seed towards. So, you’ve got to have vision.

Some people say, “I want to work on my marriage. I want my marriage to be more adventurous.” Well, then take adventure seeds and start throwing adventure seeds. If you just sit around at your house and do nothing, it’s not going to become more adventurous. You have to throw those seeds of what you really want and where God is leading you in your life. You’ve got to throw those seeds.

So, vision gives us seed. Not only that, but vision also helps us to determine what we don’t need. Anybody ever been on a cruise? If you’ve ever been on a cruise, you know that there’s that one family that shows up with 50 suitcases. It’s like, “This is a three-day cruise, man. I mean, this is Bahamas and back. This is not Antarctica and around the world.”

I mean, they show up and they’ve got stuff. They’ve got nine porters, and you’re like, “Whoa.” But it’s probably because that’s their first gig; their first rodeo. They don’t know what is going to happen. They don’t know what’s going on. They’re packed to the fullness to make sure that they’ve got everything that they need. Well, people that go on cruises regularly, they show up with a knapsack. They’re like, “I’ve got two bathing suits and a pair of flip flops, baby.”

And then there’s those people — don’t be these people — that don’t show up with anything. They’re like, “But I got the drink package.” Don’t be those people.

But what happens is we start to realize that, “Hey, if I want to get this going in my life, this is going to be something I’m going to do in my finances, or this is something I’m going to do in my marriage, or this is something I’m going to do with my kids,” then there are things that you don’t need. This isn’t legalistic and this isn’t me trying to be snarky. I’m just going to tell you that some of you all don’t need some of the people that you have in your life. They’re keeping you from accomplishing the things that God has for your life. Some of you don’t need to go some of the places that you go. It’s not because I’m trying to be legalistic and trying to put guilt on you. It’s just that if you know what your vision is, you know what you don’t need in your life. That is huge.

So, this is why vision is so important. It works, here, the same way in a church. We’ve got to have a vision. And thank God and Scripture. I love it. Scripture’s just awesome. It always has something in here that will help us to understand whatever it is that we’re going through in life. One of the beautiful things is that Luke records, in the book of Acts, the early Church. He shows us the power of their vision and how they didn’t get distracted, and how they stayed focused on their vision. As we go through this passage, I think you’re going to see it. It’s a really cool passage. And then we’ll look at some things that we can glean from it, and then we’ll talk a little bit about our vision here at the church.

Luke tells us, in Acts 5 — and a lot of times I’m not a huge fan of the chapter and verse divisions in our Bibles. I know it helps us to sort of locate things and the address of certain things, but a lot of times, when we are doing devotions, we’ll end at the end of a chapter, when, really, we should go into the next chapter because they sort of go together. Same thing here. That’s why I’m bringing in Acts 5:42 because the next verse is Acts 6:1. This is important because the apostles have just been beaten here. They said, “Don’t talk about Jesus. Don’t mention Jesus. Don’t say anything about Jesus.”

But they know that their lane, their vision, is to tell people about Jesus.

It says, “And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that Jesus is the Christ.”

That’s on point right there. I mean, they knew exactly what they were supposed to be doing. Every day in the temple, every day house to house, telling people about Jesus.

Luke tells us, “Now in these days...” — what days? When they were going about house to house telling people about Jesus — “...when the disciples were increasing in number...”

And they were increasing in number why? Because the apostles were on point. They knew exactly what God had called them to do. They were not distracted from that. You couldn’t even beat it out of them. They were going to stay on point. That’s what they were called to do.

“When the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews...”

So, there’s an issue. There’s an issue going on here in the early Church. There’s a problem. There’s a complaint. They’re saying, “There’s an issue here that we need to deal with.”

The Hellenists were Jewish people that had learned to speak Greek. The Hebrews were Jewish people that spoke Hebrew. There was a division in people’s lives because Greek was the language of the day. Everybody spoke Greek. Everything was Greek throughout the first century. But there were some Hebrews that stayed true to their culture, stayed true to their language and they were not going to learn Greek. It’s much like Mindy’s grandmother. Her grandfather passed away, but their grandmother and grandfather are from Cuba. They’re 100% Cubans. They fled when Castro took over. They came over to Miami. Her name is Nan. She’ll come to our house. She’s really proud of being Cuban and really proud of the Spanish language. She’ll say to Mindy, “Mindy and Sheep.” It’s like, “My name’s not Sheep. My name is Chip.”

She says Sheep. I’m like, “Alright. Whatever. That’s fine.”

Mindy and Sheep! You all need to tell your kids and teach your kids Spanish.” I’m like, “Nan, we would but we don’t know it.” I took four years in school, but I’m from Kentucky. I just learned the cuss words. You know? But she’s proud of her language. I get that. There’s nothing wrong with it. Mindy can understand it. She can speak a little bit of it, I can speak a little bit of it, but we aren’t going to be able to teach our kids that stuff.

But what happened here is this was a big deal. She’s proud of her language. They were proud of their stuff, the Hellenists. So, there’s a complaint. Here’s the complaint: Their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. So, what had happened is in the first century, and you read a lot about widows in the New Testament because the widows were sort of a marginalized group. They didn’t have any property. They didn’t have any money. Their husbands had died. Usually, the husbands owned everything. So, they were really an at-risk group of people in the first century.

So, wha would happen is the early Church had a ministry for them where, usually, the daily distribution was coins. They would give them some coins so that they could get some of the things that they needed if they needed it. It’s possible that this could’ve been food that was being distributed. It probably was coins that were being distributed. It doesn’t make a difference which one, but probably coins. So, they were giving them coins and they could go out and get the things that they needed. Well, one group was being neglected. This is really important here. You couldn’t have gotten more spiritual. These are the day of Pentecost people. These are the people that walked with Jesus. Church is growing, Church is blowing, and some people got left behind. That happens in every church. It’ll happen here. It’ll happen at every church. It happens. People go, “I can’t believe that you forgot this stuff.”

It happens. These are people that love God. Okay? But what happened was some people got left behind. It was the people who spoke Greek. So, they were being neglected in the daily distribution, and that comes to the apostles’ attention. The twelve summoned the full number of the disciples. This is probably a group of Greek-speaking Jewish people. This is the group that they gathered. I’ll explain that in a minute. They didn’t gather everybody of the thousands and thousands of disciples. They gathered a group, a full number of people, to make a decision here.

“And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said...”

“Let us get some of the apostles on this and we’ll take care of this.”

That’s not what the Bible says. I do this every once in a while just to make sure that you read the Bible. It doesn’t say this at all. That’s why you should be reading the Scriptures for yourself. But that might be what you think it should say. See, you might think that the apostles should’ve said — I mean, don’t they care about people? Don’t they care about this problem? Don’t you think the apostles should’ve stopped what they were doing, come over here and take for this? That’s what you would think. The twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and they said this. No. They didn’t say that. Here’s what they said. It might be shocking to you.

They said, “‘It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.’”

You might think, “Whoa, man. What is that?”

No. That’s called, “I know what God’s called me to do and I’m not getting distracted from it.” That’s what that’s called. It’s called vision. It’s called knowing where you’re going and knowing what’s important. Now, they do handle the situation, but they don’t do it personally. What they do is they are mean for their vision. They are going to stay true to what God said. “We’re not going to stop going into the temple. We’re not going to stop goign house to house every day because that’s what God has called us to do. We’re not going to get pulled away over here from our vision because they know where they are going. When you read that, it’s like, “Whoa, man.”

There are even some commentators that are like, “Man, they were wrong here. They were just wrong in saying that.” But Luke’s going to show us that they were right at the end of this passage because what they did was the right thing. So, here’s what they did. They said, “Therefore — because we’re not doing this. We’re staying here. We’re staying in our lane.

“‘Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty.’”

“Okay. You’ve got a problem. We know there’s a problem. But we want you to be the solution to the problem. We’re not going to solve the problem. We’re going to let you solve the problem. So, what we want you to do is we want you to pick out from among you seven guys that have these characteristics. If you bring them to us, we’ll set them forth and let them do the things that they need to do.”

“‘But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.’”

“In case you’re lost here, we’re staying here. This is what we’re doing. We’re going to do this.”

“And what they said pleased the whole gathering,”

That’s really cool because, a lot of times, when you make a decision like that, it doesn’t please everybody because they didn’t really come to get a solution, they came to dump a problem. Can I just be honest? I’m not trying to be snarky to anybody, but can I tell you that if all you do is tell people problems and you wonder why people don’t want to hang out with you, the answer is really easy to find out. People don’t like to hear about back aches, hairs growing on your back where it shouldn’t be growing, ingrown toenails and all that stuff. I mean, I understand we’ve got them. I mean, I get that, all that stuff, but people don’t really like problems. They want solutions.

So, these people weren’t looking to bring problems. They were looking to get a solution. They were happy. They’re like, “Hey, that’s cool. All we want is this to be handled, and they’re handling it.”

“They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch.”

The reason I told you earlier that the full number of disciples were probably Greek-speaking Jews, not Hebrews, they were the Hellenists, is because every one of these names is Greek. We also even have a Gentile who is a proselyte to Judaism from Antioch. So, these are Greeks. It’s masterful here. They said, “Hey, you’ve got a problem with widows not getting the distribution, so choose from among yourself people that are going to be more likely to be sympathetic to that particular issue. Let’s get them.”

And they did. They picked them out. And it says they sat before the apostles, they prayed and they laid their hands on them. And then Luke’s going to tell us was this a good decision, a bad decision, or how did this work?

Here’s what he says: “And the word of God continued to increase. The number of disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.”

So, whatever they did, whatever decision they made, was a really good decision because it was blessed by God. God continued to move in the Church. So, these people knew where they were going, they knew what they were doing, they still solved the issue, but they stayed true to their thing.

What can we learn here, right now, in 2019? What can we learn from what we just read? What can we get from this? Well, first of all, anything that grows is going to have problems and issues. It’s going to. It’s impossible. If the early Church couldn’t have done a church without problems, bickering and debates, I can assure you we’re not going to do it either. There’s goign to be those things. But — and this is important — they stayed mean for their vision. They didn’t deviate. They had limited resources, they had limited people and they had limited time. It would seem as if — just the natural thing for us to intuit would be that they stopped doing what they were doing, they all poured their attention into that and they all gave their time and energy to all of that stuff. But they didn’t. They said, “Hey, listen. It’s not right that we should give up preaching the Word of God to serve tables.”

And it wasn’t because they were being arrogant. It wasn’t because they were being nasty. And it wasn’t because they didn’t care. It was because they knew what their lane was. They knew what their vision was for their life. So, we can learn that from them. The second thing that we can learn is this: Even though they stayed true to the vision, they didn’t compromise excellence in other areas. This is really a big deal here. This is a huge deal. I need to walk through this because this is important not only for us to understand, but it’s important for our church here.

These people stayed absolutely true to their vision. And I’ll tell you this: Most churches don’t. Most churches don’t really have vision. Okay? And that’s a problem. You’ve got to get vision. But then, churches that get a vision, what they do is they tend to only think in terms of that. And then what they’ll do is they’ll solve other issues, but they won’t solve it with excellence. They did both here. They stayed true to their vision, but they didn’t compromise excellence. They said, “Pick out from among you...”

That was a great and excellent choice.

“Find people that are going to be sympathetic to your issue. You guys pick them out. Get seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom.”

Do you know what that means? That means that not every single person that they talked to and interviewed would be able to do the task. These were people that had to have good repute. They had to have a good reputation among the outsiders. They had to be full of the Spirit and full of wisdom, which means some people said, “Pick me, pick me, pick me!” and they didn’t get picked. This is a really important thing to understand. A church that has a commitment to excellence isn’t excluding people, but it’s honoring God.

This is so important to understand because people will say, “Pick me, pick me, pick me!” That’s great. A church wants to. But you also can’t give away the commitment to excellence because our God is an excellent God. Our God wants good things. He doesn’t want terrible things. He wants good things. So, what happened here is when they decided to pick someone to serve tables, which really is not that big of an issue — it’s not as powerful as being the preacher or whatever else — they said, “Hey, listen. We do have, sort of, a criteria here. These people need to have good reputation to outsiders, they need to be full of the Spirit and they need to be full of wisdom.”

They still had a commitment to excellence in the church. And you should. Here’s the cool thing about that: The dedication to vision, which we’ve already seen — they are flat determined to stay true to their vision — and their commitment to excellence, not just saying, “Just solve the problem. Get anybody. Fix anything.” Which is going to make a worse problem. They said, “No. We’re committed to excellence. Make sure you do this.”

What happened is it developed others. This here grew people. There’s not anybody that goes to any church in America that doesn’t want to see people mature as believers, that doesn’t want to see people become more like Jesus. That’s one of the concerns you have across this country: “Are churches developing people? Are churches growing people in their Christian faith?”

Well, they do. We know that they do because Stephen and Philip, two of the seven, we find out in the next couple of chapters that they went on to have powerful ministries. They started off serving tables, and they were chosen for their excellence. They probably did an excellent job serving tables, and then God promoted them again to do something even greater. Because I can tell you this. This is absolutely true. If you will get your serve on, if you and I will get our serve on, God will get His promotion on.

I don’t think you all got that. I’m going to say that again. These people were willing to serve tables. It’s not that great of a job, so to speak. Number one: They allowed God to develop them before they served the tables because they were people that were filled with good reputation, filled with the Spirit and filled with wisdom. They allowed themselves. So, if you would’ve been in the early Church, and you’d have been like, “Hey, I want to serve tables. I want to serve tables.” Then you’d have gone, “Well, the way you do that is because I’ve got a good reputation and full of the Spirit.”

Okay? That started developing people out here that wanted to come here. It’s developing them. And then, as they serve tables, they went on to do greater things. This shows you a commitment to vision, not getting distracted, knowing where you’re going as a church, and having a commitment to excellence, what it does is it develops people. It just does. That’s just so cool when I read this passage and I see the development that’s going on because everybody wants to be developed.

So, you’re not excluding. You’re not saying, “No, no.” What you’re doing is you’re honoring God by saying, “This is the way. If we do these things this way, the output of this is that we’re going to see people developed.”

And the fourth thing, staying mean for the vision, it brought continued growth. There’s no question about it.

It says, “And the word of God continued to increase. The number of disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.”

So, we see that. Knowing here — we’ve looked. You’re like, “Vision in my own personal life is important.” Having vision for the church is important because we just saw how important it was to the early Church. So, what I want to do is I want to take a minute here and I want to talk to you about who we are, what Grace Community Church is and what our vision is. Our vision is that we exist to reach the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. What does that mean?

First of all: Unchurched. We exist. We’re here. God allowed this church to happen because we want to reach the unchurched. Who are the unchurched? Lost people. People that used to go to church. People that maybe got burned at church and quit. Nones and dones. People that say, “I don’t affiliate with anything. I’m done with church.” People that got burned by religion. People that got hurt. We want to reach people that are unchurched. We’re not looking to be sheep stealers here. I understand there are always people that will move from church to church. We get that. We understand that. But the heart of our church is to reach people that don’t know Jesus, that are far from God, that are not currently involved in a local church. We want to reach the unchurched.

We want to do that, specifically, by being intentional neighbors. What do I mean by intentional neighbors? Well, in the book of Acts, it says that the early Church was helping people and distributing people as they had need, and God gave them favor in the community and He was adding to the Church daily those who were being saved. We believe that a church that is involved in the community in a good way, that’s been intentional neighbors in everything that we do, has favor in the community. And when we have favor in the community, it creates an atmosphere for more people to come into the Kingdom of God.

Now, I just want to take a moment here because this is really important. So many Christians have this idea that everybody outside of church should hate us. That’s just so unbiblical. It’s just so unbiblical. The early Church had a lot of favor. There were times that it didn’t, but a lot of times it did. So many passages in the New Testament say, “You should have a good reputation with those on the outside.”

We have so much favor that they allow us to shut down a street on Main Street. I have pastors that’ll call me and go, “Hey, how do you do that, man?” I go, “Because we’re nice to people.”

It’s not hard. See, Jesus did not say, “Blessed are you if people speak all kinds of false manner against you, the persecute you and they do stuff because you go out and hold picket signs and tell everybody they’re going to hell.”

He says, “You’re blessed if they say those things about you on account of my name.”

If you’re telling people about Jesus and they have a problem — we say that all the time. If they get tired of us preaching Jesus and say, “Time out. You guys can’t do the Christmas on Main thing because you’re talking about Jesus,” then that’s fine. But we’re not going to get shut down out there because we’re nasty towards people, telling people they need to clean up, get right or get left, or eat the bread of life or you’re toast, or all that good stuff that people say — turn or burn. Whatever. That’s not what we’re at. We’re at, “Hey, we believe that God has got such a great plan for your life. Let us tell you about Jesus. We’re going to show you, by being intentional neighbors, what God has done in us.”

We believe that the reason why there’s 1,600 people that show up to Grace Community Church is because we’re being intentional neighbors in the community. And, so that you understand that we’re not just trying to populate the church by being do-gooders, we want to reflect Christ in everything. We want people to know Jesus.

So, here’s the way it works right here. Look at this. When we leave here to go out there, we want to reach the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. When we come in here, we want to get equipped to reach unchurched people by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. We want to get equipped so that we have the tools in our toolbox to be able to answer questions, show people love, explain everything. That’s what we do here. When we leave here, we want to reach unchurched people by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. I have people all the time go, “Why are you so passionate about this? This seems like it just pops out of your pores. Why are you so passionate about reaching lost people and the unchurched? Why are you like that?”

People come to me and say, “Pastor Chip, we can’t wait until we get that new building, man. We can start doing concerts.”

I’m like, “We’re not going to do concerts.”

They’re like, “What do you mean we’re not going to do concerts?”

Because we’re not here to entertain Christians. I’m here to reach lost people. That’s why. And it’s not because I think concerts are bad. I’m not saying that. People walk out of here, “Well, Chip doesn’t think we ought to do concerts.”

That’s not what I said. I just said this is who we are. We’re not going to get distracted with other things. We’re going to stay true to who we are. I’ll tell you why. I was 19 years old. I was at Lee College. I felt called to be a pastor. You can see how old this book is. It actually was written in ‘89, so this is the original color. It must’ve sat on the shelf at some point and got sun on it. But I was 19 yeas old in a basic pastoral counseling class. John Viney was my teacher. I went back to my dorm. I love the smell of books. I don’t know why. This one stinks because it’s old, but anyway, I sat down at my dorm room table and I read the story. It was just a page and a little bit more on this page. I put the book down. I wept. I said, “God, if I’m ever a pastor, please don’t ever let me forget this story.”

Some of you have heard this story before because I do it every year. Some of you, by year 10, are going to have it memorized. But you’re going to hear it every single year because I’m going to read it every single year. Here’s the story:

“On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occur, there was once a crude little life-saving 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 for themselves went out day and night tirelessly searching for the lost. Many lives were saved by this wonderful little station, so that 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 and money and effort to support its work. New boats were bought and new crews trained. The little life-saving station grew.

Some of the members of the life-saving station were unhappy that the building was so crude and poorly equipped, so they felt that a more comfortable place should be provided for the first refuge of those saved from the sea. So, they replaced the emergency cots with beds and put better furniture in the enlarged building.

Now the life-saving station became a popular gathering place for its members, and they decorated it beautifully, and furnished it exquisitely, because they used it as sort of a club. Fewer members were now interested in going to sea on life-saving missions, so they hired lifeboat crews to do their work. The life-saving motif still prevailed in this club’s decoration, and there was a liturgical lifeboat in the room where the 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 some had black skin and some had yellow skin. The beautiful new club was in chaos. So the property committee immediately had a shower house built outside the club where victims of shipwrecks could be cleaned up before coming inside.

At the next meeting, there was a split in the club membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club’s life-saving activities as being unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal social life of the club. Some members insisted upon life-saving as their primary purpose and pointed out that they were still called a life-saving station. But they were voted down and told that if they wanted to save lives of all the various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in those waters, they could begin their own life-saving station down the coast. So 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 life-saving station was founded. History continued to repeat itself, and 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 people drown.”

That made an impact on me when I read that at 19 years old. You may wonder why I read that every year. I read that for me. If it ministers to you, fantastic, but I read it to me. I read it to me to say, “Chip, you need to be reminded of why you do what you do. There are people out there that don’t know Jesus. We’re not going to compromise that. We’re not going to get distracted from that. We’re going to stay true to that.”

If you go, “I’m out. I want another church that does this.”

That is totally cool, but that’s who we are. Do you know what? You can fire me and I’ll go start another life-saving station down the street, but as long as I’m going to be pastoring, and as long as I’ve got breath in my lungs, we’re going to reach people for Jesus because I believe that’s the most important thing that we can do as a local church.

That’s the vision of our church. That’s the church I want you to get engaged in. Find your place. Get involved in here. Let’s reach some people because I believe God’s got so much more for us to do and so much more work to accomplish. He’ll do exceedingly, abundantly above all that we could ever ask or think. Let’s pray.

Dear Heavenly Father, I thank You for the privilege and the honor of being able to speak to Your people and be a pastor. Lord, my prayer is that we would all catch this vision, and that we would live, eat, sleep and breathe wanting to reach the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ.

So, Lord, I pray that as we walk out of here today, that You would continue to lead, guide and direct us. I pray that You would watch over us and protect us. I pray, Lord, that You would bring us back safely to when we meet again. Help us, Lord, to stay focused and diligent upon what You’ve called us to do: To reach the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ.

We love You, we thank You, we praise You and we honor 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.

Chris Pedro