Vision 2012-Reach

August 27, 2012 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership, Teaching

For the last 9+ months we have had an amazing, precious, beautiful baby in our home.  Our world turned upside-down but in the best possible way.  In another month and a half or so, we will have the awesome privilege of being able to adopt her and make legal what has always been true in our hearts.  She will become a part of our family.

During this time, we have had what I will call a “baby-focused” home.  The focus for the other four of us has been the baby. She has far and away gotten the most attention, the most praise and the most care.  We have all adapted our schedule and priorities to fit hers.

A couple of further insights:

1) Do we do this because we love her more? I do not believe that any of the four of the rest of us would say that we love her more or even that we feel that other family members love her more than they love us.  It is not a question of love, but of priority.  She gets the most attention, because she is the most vulnerable. Part of me wants to explain that further. Another part of me doesn’t want to insult you. She is more vulnerable because she is a baby. She can’t do for herself.

2) At no point during our time of baby-focus did Heidi or I ever forget our other daughters’ names.  They never missed a meal and they knew that they were loved and cared for. That may sound ridiculous, but it’s important to the point (Yes, a point is coming). While we were giving focus to the baby, we made sure that our older girls were loved and well taken care of.  Certainly they didn’t get as much attention as they used to get or could possibly get, but they never once were neglected, but instead were deeply loved and cared for.

3) In addition, they never complained that their parents had diverted much of their attention to the baby.  Why is that? Because we were united in our baby-focus. We believed together that this is what God had called us to. We were too busy loving on the baby to be self-focused.  We were too busy following God’s new plan for our family to really notice or complain about the changes.  Also, the trade-off was worth it, because the baby is amazing.

We at The Grove Church strive to have an outward-focus. We want to focus our attention on people who are far from God.

Why?  (See point 1 above) They are the most vulnerable. What is at stake for them is much more serious than those who are walking closely with God.

Does this mean we do not want the believers in our church to be loved and cared for and to grow? No (Point 2), we still must and will care for each other. We will just do so with much of our focus on those outside.

Hopefully, we will then be a church (Point 3) that is so united in our desire to see people locally and around the world find faith in God, it would never cross our minds to wonder if something could be “better for us.”  Too often churches get into a battle over whether or not church is “for believers” or “for lost people.”  As I seem to say a lot about issues Christians fight about, that’s a false choice.  The church is a group of believers commissioned (Matt. 28:18-20) by God to reach the lost.

Of course, God is calling us to help each other grow (see next week). There are many great reasons why we need to and why the church must make sure that happens. As with many things, it is a question of balance. Ask yourself this question, “Am I balanced in the attention I give toward meeting my own needs versus others’ needs? My needs versus people who are from God?” I would imagine that most of us would admit that we give plenty of attention to ourselves.  The same is true for churches. I believe that we have to talk even more about reaching people because our natural tendency is toward an inward focus.

Our mission is described by 4 words–worship, reach, grow and send.  All are important, but we need to be absolutely clear on the commission that God has given us to reach people who are far from him.

Vision 2012–Worship

August 20, 2012 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership, Teaching

You hear the word “worship” and you automatically think about music.  “What’s worship like in your church?” is the same question as “What is the music like in your church?”

Now, I don’t want to be “that guy.” You know the guy that lambasts you for using one definition of a word instead of his preferred definition of the word.  Example, “Only God is awesome.  Because only he is totally worthy of our awe and extreme admiration.” Well, awesome also can mean something that’s cool.  “Cool means low in temperature.”  Enough already.

Worship can mean music, but it also has other definitions.  When we get to “Grow” in our vision series, we will see the same thing.  “We want the church to grow,” has multiple meanings.  It can mean you want more people or you want the people to be more.

What do we mean by worship? Well, let’s go to the dictionary. Worship–to be devoted to and full of admiration for.  When we talk about worship, this is what we mean.  We need to be express our devotion and admiration for God.  We can and should do this through singing praise songs to God.  However, it is only worship if we mean what we say.  Otherwise it is just singing.

However, worship is much deeper than singing. Singing is but one expression of worship.  Worship is demonstrating with our lives our full devotion to God.  Paul uses worship in this way in Romans 12:1-2

1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Offering your bodies (lives) to God is your true and proper worship.  So as we evaluate how we are doing individually and as a church in worship, it is important to ask if we are properly pouring out our hearts with sincerity when we sing.  However, it is even more important for us to ask if our lives are fully devoted to him.

There are 3 particular areas in which God has laid on my heart for us to grow in our worship.

1. Finances–It is far and away the hardest area for many if not all people. It also causes us the most anxiety when we don’t surrender it to God. We start in our hearts by making a commitment that we will do with our money whatever God asks and a recognition that everything we have is His in the first place.

There are a couple of ways that we need to practice good stewardship of our finances (obviously there are more, but 2 that I believe are good starting points for us).  First is to be generous givers.  God calls us to take the first and best of what we have and give it to him. How much? Ask God.  The historical standard has been 10%, which is what tithe means.  That case can be made from Scripture.  A case can be made for more. It would be hard to make one for less.  Again, ask God and see what he says. That’s a great place to start if the point of this is to surrender this to him in worship.

Second, spend less than what you bring in.  No need to elaborate on that much, so how about an algebra equation?  If you bring in X, spend at most X-1.

2.Character–Too often we justify our sin.  We also minimize the effects that our sin has on us and on other people.  What is one area of sin where you most need to change?  You probably know immediately when asked.  If not, ask God. If not, ask a friend or spouse.  I assure you, they know.  Then begin to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to change your heart and give you victory.  What you will discover is more consistent victory and this area and freedom.

3. Direction–Finally, would you consider asking the question, “God what do you want me to do?” I don’t mean this in a “should I have chicken or steak for dinner” kind of way, but in a “is my life going in the right direction” kind of way.  Are you open to God leading you in a different direction, to get involved in a new ministry, to reach out to people around you?  What if God asked you move to the other side of the world? What if he asked you give sacrificially so someone else could? What if he told you to add to your family through adoption? What if…? What if…? Would you listen? Will you take the risk and ask and wait?

What would happen if we all made a decision this year to increase our giving, allow God to change our character and all followed God wherever he led?  It gets me excited just to think about it.  God would use us in ways that we can hardly imagine.  He would change the world through us.  People in NWA and all around the world would find life in Christ.  We would be living life the way God intends for us to live, with freedom, peace and hope.  We would be the church God is calling us to be.