Why Church?

 

Most people have had a negative experience at a church at some point in their lives.  Maybe it was frustration, confusion, rejection, boredom or just irrelevant.  The word church can bring up some bad memories for many people.  For others the church is a mystery because they did not grow up going to church.  It can actually be intimidating and confusing.  Yet the church exists and has for thousands of years.

The purpose of the church is an extension of the purpose of Jesus Christ.  So what is the church?  In order to accurately look at the church, we need to discover what it is not.

  1. The church is not a physical building – The building is simply a place for the church to meet.  It is a place to gather, but the building does not make the church.
  2. The church is not an institution or organization – The church is not a denomination or an affiliation.  Often times people say they go to a Baptist church or a Methodist church.  That may help to describe the over arching beliefs of the people that make up the church, but it is not the church.
  3. The church is not a set of services or activities – The activities we do are simply the vehicle that takes us to a prescribed result.
  4. The church is not just a congregation – A congregation is simply a group of people who gather together.

In the New Testament the word church refers to the universal church, which is all believers on earth.  It also refers to a particular location and the actual gathering of believers in any place for worship.  The word church also refers to the body of Christ, which is an analogy for how the church should function.  So why does the church exist?

  1. Evangelism – That’s a church word that means to tell people about Jesus.  Through the church is how people hear the good news of what Jesus did.
  2. Discipleship – This is simply the process of becoming more like Christ.  It is growing or maturing in faith and spiritual matters.  It is exploring God’s ways and following him as best you can.
  3. Worship – Worship brings the church to life and life to the church.  It is exalting God’s worth and acknowledging him as Lord.  Worship is expressed through singing, music, praying, reading Scripture, baptism, preaching, having healthy relationships, and the way in which you live your life.  It is keeping God first in all you do.
  4. Fellowship – The church must be a place that embraces a culture of encouragement.  People need healthy human relationships.  This is often accomplished through environments like small groups, mentoring, mission trips, social events, and healthy friendships.
  5. Ministry – Everywhere Jesus went, he extended grace and mercy to those who needed it most.  When people serve unselfishly, they become extensions of Jesus.  Ministering to a messed up, broken and bruised world should characterize the life of every followers of Jesus Christ.

The church is made up of people that all are working together to do those 5 things.  When a church creates environments where people can experience those things it allows them to mature as a Christian.  These environments should be designed to help people connect with God and give the Holy Spirit the opportunity to transform the person.  Environments are worship services, youth events, children’s classrooms, adult classrooms and training, mission trips locally and internationally, small group or home group, accountability groups, one-on-one mentoring, and many more.

The local church is the hope of the world.

Two Boys Making A Difference – Alex & Dominick

Recently NewPointe Community Church started a campaign called 2 coats.  This idea came from one of our creative staff members in our children’s department.  We partnered with Big Brothers and Big Sisters on the goal of coming up with 300 coats.  That was the beginning of some amazing stories.  Let me share two stories that have challenged me and encouraged me.  I want to introduce you to two young boys; Alex who is 7 years old and Dominick who is 6 years old.

Alex made the decision to start saving money earlier this year to donate to the church to help buy a playland at the Canton Campus.  He diligently saved all the money that came his way and had built up a nice stash of $101.01.  While talking with his parents about the money, he thought that maybe instead of saving for the playland, he could use the money to buy coats for the 2 coats campaign  His parents thought that was a great idea, so they went to Old Navy to buy some coats.  After he purchased the coats someone else from the church found out what he did and called Old Navy to let them know about Alex and NewPointe Community Churches 2 coats campaign.  Old Navy loved the story and agreed to give a 30% discount on other coats our church would purchase the following week.  They called the discount the Alex Discount.  They also talked about making a donation to 2 Coats as well.  The same person that called Old Navy also called Fox 8 in Cleveland and they loved the story as well and are coming down this week to interview Alex and Old Navy.  Amazing how one child can make such a big difference.

Dominick also has a great story.  He is turning 7 on November 27th.  While his parents were planning his birthday party, he told them that instead of presents from his friends he wanted to make a donation to a local good cause.  They started looking for some place to make a donation and they had several options, but then the church announced the 2 coats campaign.  Dominick immediately thought it would be great if his friends would bring coats instead of presents and he would donate them all to the program at church.  They mailed out invitations announcing the coats donations and had a chance to share with several parents that Dominick had thought of this himself and about NewPointe and the vision to help people in need.

These two boys are great examples to us all about being generous and showing compassion to other people in need.  I am sure there will be more to each of these stories and there are many others brewing as a result of one idea that inspired many others to be generous.  We collected money to buy more coats at Old Navy over the weekend, and will be announcing that total this coming weekend along with the update on how many coats we have been able to give to Big Brothers & Big Sisters.  The campaign runs until November 27th, so their is still time to join in.  To contact NewPointe click Here

 

Empowering Others

One of the phrases that I often pray is this “God pour into me, so that I can pour into others.”  I believe one of the things God calls us to do is to take what He has given us and give it to others.  Many times this comes through the experiences of life, the good ones and the bad ones.  God also gives gifts to His children that we can use to pour into others.  Finally he gives us skills and abilities that are unique to us, again in order to pour into others and make a difference for God in this world.  If we are open to God using us as His instruments, our influence will grow and our tribe will increase.  If we remain humble and meek, we will accelerate how God uses us to pour into others.

In 2 Corinthians 1:2-4 the Message Bible says this “All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah!  Father of all mercy!  God of all healing counsel!  He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.”

God promises to comfort us in our troubles, then asks us to share that comfort with others.  Remember, we can’t give away what we don’t possess.  We are to pass on what God gives to us.  We don’t receive only for our benefit, but for the benefit of others.  God calls us to empower others with the power that He gave us.  Here are some practical ways that we can pour into others:

  1. Help someone keep their commitments to God and other people (Accountability)
  2. Speak words of encouragement and support (Affirmation)
  3. Evaluate their progress and offer an objective perspective of their situation (Assessment)
  4. Offer words of wise counsel and direction (Advice)
  5. Share words of caution, rebuke, or correction as needed (Admonishment)
  6. Point them to resources that can help them reach their goals (Assets)
  7. Love them unconditionally, regardless of their past or current situation (Acceptance)
  8. Coach them on how to go put into practice what they have learned (Application)

God always gives us what we need to lead.  Our own baggage and insecurities often keep us from taking the step to pour into others.  It is easy to make excuses about not being ready or being too busy.  These excuses most often stem from our core fears.  Fear of failure, fear of not knowing the right answers and looking dumb, fear of rejection, fear of being misunderstood.  In 2 Timothy 1:7-8 it says “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”  These three tools help us pour into others:

  • Love – The relational ingredient that enables us to attract and connect with others.
  • Power – The courage and competence to get the job done.
  • Sound Mind – The perspective and wisdom to grasp a vision and take the right steps.

God gave us everything we need to accomplish the job.  He empowers us before He ever expects from us.  He gives before He demands.  We receive His competence before we receive His commands.  So start asking God to pour into you, so that you can pour into others.

How to Help Without Hurting

If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need and has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:17-18

My takeaway from that verse is that Christians need to be doing more not less to help those in need. There are two kinds of responses people can make to this verse.

  1. “I just don’t care about the poor, My life is all about me and I like it that way”
  2. “I can’t wait to help the poor! The love of God is in me”

I guess there could be a third response of I have thought about helping the poor, but just don’t know how.

A word of caution to the people with response number two. There can be mixed emotions and motives behind wanting to help the poor. Here are some possible motives:

  • A need for meaning and purpose in our lives
  • A desire to feel like we are the answer to someones problem
  • To be a bit like God – it makes me feel good to try to save or help poor people.

The danger is to unintentionally reduce poor people to objects that we use to fulfill our own need to accomplish something good. Really the answer for all three responses is that we need to be reminded of the Gospel every day. We are all broken and poor in some way. It may not be financially, but it might be relationally, emotionally, spiritually or physically. We need to be reminded that Jesus paid it all and covers all our sins and short comings. So we are not on this earth to fix ourselves or other people, we are here to love God and love other people.

Our approach to helping poor people should be to love them. Taking the time to build relationships, to listen to their story and really care about them. It means taking a longer term approach with people instead of a quick fix like paying a bill for them, or buying them groceries once. Often times we like to swoop in and help someone out and then never interact with them again. That usually confirms to that person that they are poor and feeds the shame they feel. It does not help that person heal emotionally or to mend broken relationships or build new healthy relationships.

Here are five principles we can use in our approach to giving:

  1. Give yourself first – First give yourself fully to the Lord and then to other people. This means viewing ourselves as servants, here to serve and love others.
  2. Give to the point of sacrifice – We should not just give our leftovers, but our best. We should give the first 10% of our income to God through the local church. We should give above that if we are able. We should give our talent, abilities and experiences to helping others through the local church or non-profits. We should give our best time, by planning out when we can serve and help those in need.
  3. Give willingly – giving should be voluntary and not out of obligation, but out of love. Giving is a privilege and a way of worshiping God.
  4. Give what you have – We cannot give what we do not have. We can give our money to healthy organizations, we can give our talent to help our churches and healthy non-profits, we can give our time to people and organizations as well.
  5. Give with a plan in mind – Desire is not enough, there should be a deliberate setting aside of time, talent and treasure. In other words, we need to plan out our giving. Find the right church or nonprofit that we can work with to make a difference.

In order to really help someone we need to understand if they need relief, rehabilitation or development. In many situations, relief is not needed, but rehabilitation or development is needed. Relief should go to the severely disabled, some elderly that cannot care for themselves, the very young, orphaned children, mentally ill homeless and victims of natural disaster. Most others may want relief, but need rehabilitation and development.

Most people are poor because of broken relationships. Development looks to help restore and to build healthy relationships. This takes time, patience and work. We should not do things for people that they can do for themselves. When we step in and do things for people they can do for themselves we send a message to them that they are incompetent, hopeless and helpless. Instead we should work with them to help them improve their lives. This is the helping in truth part from the opening Scripture.

This holiday season, I want to encourage you to think long-term if you want to help someone in need. If you are not willing to do that, then it would be better to not get involved. You can still help by giving to organizations that have this approach. Here are some organizations that my church supports. NewPointe Community Church also has this approach of mentoring and working long-term with people to help make big changes in their lives. We might help them financially along the way, but it is part of a plan for helping them grow and change.

On Mission

Proverbs 22:9 says “A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.”

Serving & helping others helps us to grow spiritually, improves our relationships and blesses us. If that is true, why don’t we serve others more often? Why aren’t we more generous with our time & resources?

Several years ago I went on a mission trip to Biloxi MS shortly after hurricane Katrina hit. I was with a team of 40 people that worked together for a week to help everyone we could. My main job was to find work for our volunteers to do. I would walk from home to home asking how we could help. I got leads from the local church we were staying at as well. We worked hard everyday until it was too dark to work. Some groups worked into the night. WE got up early ready to make a difference; we cleaned up yards, cut up trees, built fences, repaired walls, floors, roofs, doors and even put up a mailbox. We touched many lives that week, we grew in our faith, developed new relationships and strengthened existing ones. We were exhausted, but we all felt blessed more than we could express. Since then I have gone back several times and even gone to the Middle East on mission trips.

On my way back home from that trip I kept thinking; why do we need to go on a mission trip to help and serve people. What would happen if we took that mentality of helping and serving people in need home with us? Could we take the same attitude of serving we had on that trip and apply it in our homes, neighborhoods, and communities we live in?

Most of us don’t serve others as often as we would like to because we are too busy. We miss opportunities because we are so caught up in our daily schedules and habits. When we stop long enough to go on a mission trip our focus changes. We take our eyes of ourselves and our comfort and put it on other people that are hurting and in need of help. We feel amazing, useful, we feel like our life has meaning & purpose.

What if every day could be like that? What if we all would approach this next week like we were on a mission trip? A trip that would take you to your workplace, your family and friends, your neighborhood, your grocery store, your bank, your church, your small group.

How could you serve the people you come into contact with this week? Maybe it’s just a smile and taking the time to listen to someone. It could be doing a random act of kindness like paying for someone’s meal. Maybe it’s playing longer with your kids or doing the dishes every night. Maybe it’s volunteering at your church. Get creative, look for opportunities to serve people and watch your attitude change. I promise you that the more you serve and volunteer the more you will grow spiritually, the better your relationships will get and the more you will feel blessed.

Serve On!