Less than 2% (Gideon’s Guide to Church Building) By Steve Light
Today we are going to take a look at an Old Testament story that has powerful and important lessons for us as church. We are going to examine the story of Gideon in the book of Judges and dive into how the Lord was able to use very few people, very few resources and very little faith to accomplish an amazing feat.
And why study this story? Because we live in a world where Christians define success by worldly measures – the size of church membership, the size of church programs, the size of the building and the size of the budget. In doing so, churches are at a high risk to not leave room for God’s blessings and provisions, His direction and most importantly room for the Holy Spirit.
This story also gives us a roadmap as a church on how to be faithful to the Lord and keep everything we do at the center of His will and His guidance.
It requires us to be full of faith, active in prayer, driven to obedience and embracing humility.
And if we listen and we learn from Gideon’s story, there is no doubt God will bless Gracetown. With less than 2% of what we think is needed to grow, I believe God will show us he can give us 500x more than we can imagine.
Let us pray….
Father, as we read your word, let us remember Proverbs 2:10-11…”For wisdom will enter your mind, and knowledge will delight your heart. Discretion will watch over you, and understanding will guard you”. I ask that the Holy Spirit be present, to fill our hearts and mind that we would hear, learn and act as Your perfect will would guide us. Amen.
Midian Oppresses Israel (Judges 6:1-10)
Judges 6:1-2 (HSCB)“The Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. So the Lord handed them over to Midian seven years, and they oppressed Israel. Because of Midian, the Israelites made hiding places for themselves in mountains and caves”.
Why is the number seven showing up frequently through this story?
And we see this is in Judges 6:6 – “So Israel became poverty-stricken because of Midian and the Israelites cried out to the Lord”.
Lesson #1 – They repented. They turned away from the world and focused on God.
The Lord Calls Gideon (Judges 6:11-24)
As we read the passages between Judges 6:11-24 we are going to learn a lot about Gideon and his faith in God.
I call this Gideon seeing his relationship with God in 3-D.
We will see that when God shows in his everyday, ordinary life Gideon does two things. First he questions why the world is so upside down. He does not seek to learn from God the lesson of the situation, but instead merely wants relief. Second, and most importantly, he blames God for the tumultuous situation of Israel.
Here I am reminded of Leo Tolstoy’s spot on quote that “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no thinks of changing himself”.
Gideon is called by the Angel of the Lord to lead the people against Midian and his first reaction is doubt in his ability to be successful. He goes on to argue with God, to be disobedient despite the command. He makes a veiled attempt at humility claiming he is from the weakest clan and he is the least of this clan. Finally, instead of taking a leap of faith towards God, he seeks to distance himself from God out of fear and doubt.
Scripture teaches us in these moments how to be faithful, courageous and strong to God’s call…
Proverbs 3:5-6 (HSCB)“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths”.
Ephesian 3:20 (HSCB)“Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us”. The power is the Holy Spirit.
Gideon then runs to pull together a “gift” for the Angel of the Lord – which is a test. Is this real? Will he be there when I return? Gideon goes and gets a young goat, unleavened bread and broth. He brings it back to make a meal. But the Angel of the Lord gives him a sign. He takes the simple and ordinary – meager provisions from Gideon and supernaturally completes the meal – pulling fire from a rock.
The lesson here…Gideon brings basic effort and resources and God elevates it and glorifies it. This shows Gideon that God is truly in his presence and He worships God.
Let’s read Judges 6:11-23 and look for blame, the doubt, the disobedience and the distance away from God’s will and His blessing.
So Gideon is full of the Spirit of God and is ready to take on the Midianites now, right? No. It’s the first steps of the journey. He has to do hard things, say hard things. Things that will put him at odds with his family, with his community and with the world. Things that runs counter to culture. And where do we find him. Timid, afraid…but…at least taking the first steps in faith and obedience.
Gideon Tears Down the Baal Alter (Judges 6:25-32)
Later that night, Gideon hears from God with crystal clear instructions…
Judges 6:25-26“Take your father’s young bull and a second bull seven years old. Then tear down the alter of Baal that belongs to your father and cut down the Asherah pole beside it. Build a well constructed alter to the Lord your God on the top of this rock. Take the second bull and offer it as a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah pole you cut down”.
Baal and Asherah – male and female fertility gods of Canaanites
Gideon follows God’s command, but let’s see how he does this…
Judges 6:27“But because he was too afraid of his father’s household and the men of the city to do it in the daytime, he did it all at night”.
Gideon lacked courage. He lacked integrity. He was more concerned with the opinions of the other people than God. He had a chance to be bold and he whimpered.
Galatians 1:10 teaches…“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ”.
We cannot allow our fears of the world’s reaction to our call to diminish our sharing of the Gospel and engaging the world. We have to be bold. How did the men of the village react to the torn down altar? Now remember these are Israelites that are violating God’s law in being idolatrous. They are breaking the very first law – there shall be no other gods than Jehovah. These guys are outraged and want blood. They want death for Gideon. They are completely blinded by his call to repentance. His father steps in and wisely calls to let Baal defend himself. He tells everyone to wait for Baal to punish Gideon, essentially questioning if he is real and has any real power.
Joash – his father, also gives Gideon a new name – Jerubbal, which means “contender against Baal”.
The Sign of the Fleece (Judges 6:33-39)
Now we see that the Sprit of the Lord has descended upon Gideon. He starts to rally his clan and other tribes in the region. Yet we find he still doubts. He continues to move forward but has not yet full released his trust completely to God. But there is a critical lesson here…Gideon goes to God for confirmation and clarity. This principle is asking God to reveal with clarity His will. It is seeking out signs for confirmation that the direction is right. This often comes through discussions with others, circumstances around us – doors opening and doors closing. We have to be mindful and spirit filled to see and discern these things.
How does Gideon do this? He asks God to do some supernatural signs using some simple tools. And he doesn’t just ask once, but TWICE!. God is truly patient. Let’s read Judges 6:36-39 and look for how Gideon sought to get confirmation and clarity from the Lord.
God Selects Gideon’s Army
Notice here that the message is NOT Gideon selected his army, but the Lord did. Gideon, now full of faith and spirit, goes on the move. He has 135,000 Midianites camped in a valley north of him. He rallies 32,000 people. Not good odds. He has 1 Israelite for every 4 Midianites. VERY tough to complete the task with such limited resources. He needs volunteers but there are not enough.
What does God say to this? Does he bring more people, more money, and more resources? No. He tells Gideon that he has too much for the task at hand. He simplifies it. He demands faith and obedience and in that the Lord brings the necessary provisions.
Let’s look at Judges 7:2…“The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many people for Me to hand the Midianites over to you, or else Israel might brag: “I did this myself”.
God instructs Gideon with a test of wisdom. He tells Gideon to have each man drink from the water. Anyone who kneels to drink put in one group. Anyone who laps water with his tongue like a dog put into another group. Why this test? The men that lapped water like a dog where wise for battle – they got nourishment while being able to keep their eyes up and alert. But those that kneeled put their eyes down and were at risk of being blindsided.
What were the results? Judges 6:6 tells us “the number of those who lapped with their hands to their mouth was 300 men. In verse 7 “The Lord said to Gideon, “I will deliver you with the 300 men who lapped and turn the Midianites over to you”.
300 men? To wage war against 135,000 Midianites that had been terrorizing the nation of Israel for 7 long, difficult, horrible years. Was God crazy? He was sending Gideon to battle with only 1.4% (see the tie in now to the less than 2%?) of the men he started with. 300 Israelites against 135,000 Midianites. How could he succeed?
Here’s the greatest truth of this story – Gideon could not on his own. Not by his human strength or intelligence. Not without making room for God. Not without trusting God. Not without having faith completely, without reservation, that God would provide EVERYTHING they needed with 300 men. And not without the Holy Spirit.
Gideon Spies on the Midianites Camp (Judges 7:9-14)
Gideon, as you can imagine, is unsettled. He has built up his faith in the Lord only to return to fear now that he has 300 men assigned by God. God rouses Gideon from sleep and tells him to go the Midianites camp and “listen to what they say; and then you will be strengthened to go to the camp”.
God knew Gideon’s heart. He was full of doubt and fear. So God tells him in verse 10 – “if you are afraid to go to the camp, go with Purah your servant”.
God reminded Gideon to surround himself with someone he trusted. Someone that would be encouraging and knew him well. Someone that could lift him up.
Our growth as Christians and as a church requires God to take us to uncomfortable places so God has the room to show us our true selves and to help us grow into a life that is joyful, peaceful and blessed.
Gideon and Purah go to the camp at night and heard a man speak of a dream that a “loaf of barley bread came tumbling into Midinite camp, struck a tent, and it fell.” His friend replied, ”This is nothing less the sword of Gideon…God has handed the entire Midianite camp over to him”. (Judges 7:13-14).
It would be preposterous to think that a simple loaf of bread could roll over a tent. Yet with God nothing is impossible. If we listen for the small voice of God in the world around us, we get the confirmation and clarity of His guidance for us.
Isaiah 30:21 teaches…“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying “This is the way; walk in it”.
Direction from God should be clear and should give us peace.
Gideon finally, with the faith in the Lord, and the fellowship of Purah had his peace. It was time to do God’s work with less than 2% of what Gideon originally thought he needed.
Gideon Attack the Midianites (Judges 7:15-23)
Following God’s instruction, Gideon and the 300 men took three things to battle. A sword, a shield and a helmet. Right? No. They took a bow, arrows and a spear. Right? No. They took a trumpet, an empty water pitcher and a torch. If they did it there way, they would have used weapons and attacked using their strength. And they would have lost. But letting God lead, they submitted to His wisdom. The split up into three groups and in the middle of the night surrounded the camp of Midianites. They began to blow the trumpets, smashed the pitchers and held up the torches shouting…”The sword of the Lord and of Gideon”. God’s Spirit created a confusion and madness that swept the camp. The Midianite warriors set their swords against each other. The result was the 120,000 warriors slaughtered one another. And the remaining 15,000 fled the camp. Gideon and his men pursued them with a larger force and routed the Midianites for good.
Gideon was living out Isaiah 12:2 – “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid” and Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength”.
Gideon’s Legacy (Judges 8:22-28)
There are two final critical lessons for us in this story that we need understand and apply to our lives and to our church.
The battle is over and naturally the men said to Gideon in Judges 8:22 – “rule over us, you as well as your sons and your grandsons, for YOU delivered us from the power of Midian”.
Wow. All that work by God and these guys do not give God credit. Gideon is wise. He says ”I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the Lord will rule over you” (Judges 8:23) Gideon rightly gave glory to God.
Lesson one – our faith and our mission it is not about any human leadership. It is only about Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Our hearts and minds need to focus on entirely making Him the King of our homes and our church.
Scripture tells us in Judges 8:28…”so Midian was subdued before the Israelites, and they were no longer a threat. The land was peaceful for 40 years during the days of Gideon”.
God answered their prayers. They repented and trusted in Him for guidance and provision using only 1.4% of what they thought they needed. He brought them salvation, peace and prosperity.
Judges 8:33-34…”When Gideon died, the Israelites turned and prostituted themselves with the Baals and made Baal –berith their god. The Israelites did not remember the Lord their God who had delivered them from the power of the enemies around them”.
Lesson two – when life is good, things are working well and there are no issues, we forget about God and tend to focus on ourselves, our desires and our wants.
The Israelites knew this lesson well, but ignored it. They knew that life came from God. That all resources came from God. That all blessings (and curses) came from God. His command was simple. Seek Him first, live holy, love and care for others and worship Him alone.
Let’s read from Deuteronomy 8 that was the law that the Israelites had in the Torah…
Deuteronomy 8:11-13…“Be careful that you don’t forget the Lord your God by failing to keep His command – the ordinances and statues – I am giving you today. When you eat and are full, and build beautiful houses to live in, and your hers and flocks grow large, and your silver and gold multiply, and everything else you have increases, be careful that your heart doesn’t become proud and you forget the Lord your God…”
“You may say to yourself, my power and my own ability have gained this wealth for me, but remember that the Lord your God gives you the power to gain wealth…”
So I stand here today asking all of us to answer a simple question as a church… Why type of Gideons do we want to be? Afraid, lacking faith, trying to do it ourselves? Or bold, trusting God and ready to build God’s kingdom on less than 2% of what the world tells us we need when we have the Holy Spirit guiding us, teaching us and caring for us?
Let’s pray together….Father, we give thanks to You, Lord, for You are good. Your faithful love endures forever. Remember us, Lord, when You show favor on Your people. Come to us with Your salvation so that we may enjoy the prosperity of Your chosen ones, rejoice in being Your people and boast about Your heritage. Amen.
The Power of Inclusiveness
When we draw a circle in the sand, we become the welcoming Church God called us to be. We must move from cliques to a community
Sacred text asserts that human beings were created to live in community, not as fragmented tribes, nations and separated peoples. Jesus opened the door for us to be inclusive of everyone. On some level, all are to be welcomed into our lives—saint or sinner. But what does this inclusiveness look like, what are its boundaries, and what does it result in?
Inclusive – including or encompassing the stated limit or extremes in consideration or account; enclosing; embracing:
Jesus was an includer of all kinds of people
John 8:2-11 NIV – At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”11 “No one, sir,” she said.“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
Two issues in this story
1. Sin – Right and Wrong (The Law)
Where was the man?
Bias – Demeaning towards women
Jesus said – DO NOT JUDGE
A bias is a factor in human judgement – some judge women and give a pass to the man. Judge other kids and not our own.
Luke 6:41-42 NLT – And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye[a] when you have a log in your own? 42 How can you think of saying, ‘Friend,[b] let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.
•God did not call us to be the judge, jury, or prosecuting or defense attorney, we are called to be a Witness! That simple. Let your light shine!
2. How we treat other people that we think are different than us
•Her Issues and sin are no different than any of ours
Romans 3:23 NCV – “Everyone has sinned and fallen short of God’s glorious standard.”
No adultery? Jesus said, if you lust after someone, you’ve done it in your heart. ??????
•Jesus pursues the imperfect
Luke 5:31-32 NLT – Jesus answered them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. 32 I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.”
Luke 15 – lost coin, lost sheep, prodigal son
This is what Jesus made the story about – he did other stories
Zacchaeus, Samaritan woman, lawmakers, law breakers, rich and poor
•Jesus was drawing a circle while others were drawing lines – Circle drawing is so much better than line drawing. Jesus put them all in the circle and then got in there with them.
Church at large loves to react to things around us in the world. We are adversarial
NewsReport – The world will never think like the church – the church will always see things different. We are Christ followers.
Talking about what we are for, makes us more effective in reaching people more than what we are against!
How to be Radically Inclusive
1. We validate people by including people
Ephesians 2:19-21 MSG – That’s plain enough, isn’t it? You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.
Paul was saying, You belong here
•You can approve of people even if you don’t approve what they do
Separate the behavior from the individual
•When it comes to God’s family who included you? who are you including?
•••Let’s go look for people who are not included and let’s include them at GraceTown!
Let’s show the world that The Family of God is not a bunch of arrogant self righteous people! They are loving, kind, and gracious
2. We should include people immediately
Jesus included her immediately. no hoops, no proving time
•She Allowed Jesus to Accept Her
Matthew 11:28-30 MSG – “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
John 10:10 NIV – “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full”
•She Allowed Jesus to Change Her
II Corinthians 5:17 NIV – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here!
Philippians 2:12-13 NIV – Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
“How to Become an Effective, Life Giving Team Leader”
2 Timothy 1:13-14 What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.
Pastors, we must be keepers of the culture. If we are weak on our culture, others will come in and define it for us. Therefore we have the God given responsibility to set the culture.
Culture – Predominating attitudes and behaviors that characterizes the function of the organization.
GOAL – Life Giving Culture
John 10:10 NIV – The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life,and have it to the full.
Some of Our Culture Attitudes at GraceTown….
Churches have barriers to growth – 100, 200, 500, 800, 1000. Although each barrier is unique, there are 3 key factors that apply to every barrier we will face as a church.
1. Inspiring and consistently excellent worship services
•Our services are WELL PLANNED, but feel FLEXIBLE and UNRUSHED. They are upbeat but relaxed.
•We only have 52 Sunday’s a year and every single one needs to count!
2. Clear pathways to Connection and involvement
3. Effective and life giving Structure and administration
Don’t be afraid to lead – rid yourself of the thinking that you are inadequate or unqualified.
Leadership is Influence – John Maxwell
Our day today is an emotionally charged, overweight burden down society that needs LIFE, from life giving leadership!
What Life Giving Leadership Is:
A. Leadership is not a project, leadership is a spirit. People don’t need a position to be a leader.
B. Leadership must give encouragement and confidence
C. Joshua’s Leadership Training –
Joshua 1:9 – “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid, do not be dismayed.”
•God was focusing on Joshua’s spirit before the task.
D. For God to get us to where he would like us to be, He needs us to realize our leadership is more about a spirit than a task. Be strong, inspired, and full of courage, life and purpose. Life Giving Leadership
•Leadership is more than information, communication, and projects. Leadership is spirit
•Remember this – “Your Leadership can be something that people have to overcome, or something that helps people overcome.” – Kevin Gerald
F. It should cause people to lighten up
G. Life Giving leadership is positive and inspiring –
Proverbs 16:15 (message) says, “Good tempered leaders invigorate lives; they’re life spring rain and sunshine.”
H. We will not resort to a negative, forceful, or whiney approach to motivate. This leads to immaturity.
I. To be an effective leader – STAY POSITIVE.
J. Leaders are like an elevator – you are either taking people up or taking them down. Make a decision to take people up!’
Life Giving Leaders are…
1. Life Giving leaders are always growing and reaching to improve their leadership. Take responsibility for your own failures as well as successes. If you keep learning, you will improve, and your leadership will get better.
2. Life Giving leaders are pushing the boundary lines to move beyond what is normal or usual. Leaders are pioneers. They venture into unexplored territory and guide to new and often unfamiliar destinations.
3. Life Giving leaders are risk-takers. They reject the maintenance mentality and take risks from strength, preparing thoroughly, understanding what is at stake, and marching forward with confidence. It is never too late to be what you might have become!
4. Life Giving leaders are resource finders and releasers. They have built a leadership pipeline that finds potential leaders, trains them, and releases them to greater levels of ministry.
5. Life Giving leaders are future-focused and dedicated to do whatever it takes to get there. Their faith capacity has increased to believe that God will provide all that is necessary as the need arises. Their people capacity is increased so that getting along with and caring for people is at the leader’s heart.
Our Commitment each Sunday
Remember Team – It’s a Privilege and opportunity to serve. It’s never asking too much of people to serve.
1. Each person I encounter today is loved by God & needs to feel special.
2. I need to make a personal impact through a smile, a word of kindness or an act of love.
3. I will remember what it feels like to be new.
4. My responsibility is not simply to carry out a task but to engage each person individually.
5. I am vitally important to impacting lives today.
6. I will be in a great mood on Sundays & will not let anyone or anything Hijack my great mood
7. I will be ready to meet any need that arises
8. I will have a sense of responsibility for everything that happens on Sunday
9. I will focus on People and processes
10. During service I will be alert, take notes & be an example in Worship
Exodus 17:8-13 NIV The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. 9 Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.”10 So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. 11 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. 12 When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. 13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.
Everybody needs Somebody. Ministry is never meant to be done alone.
All Good Things Flow From Relationship
•When God found you…he found you alone
* When He saved you…he saved you alone
* But He called you into the family of God
* 2 are better than 1
Andrew Carnegie said, “It marks a big step in your development when you come to realize that other people can help you do a better job than you can do alone.”
Helen Keller said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much”
As an organization and leader we should encourage Flexibility, Change, and Innovation
One of the things that separates winning and losing teams is how the team’s good players are placed. Take a look at what I mean:
The wrong person in the wrong place = regression
The wrong person in the right place = frustration
The right person in the wrong place = confusion
The right person in the right place = progression
The right PEOPLE in the Right Place = MULTIPLICATION
The Power of Partnership
“God is look for people through whom He can do the impossible – what a pity that we plan only the things we can do by ourselves.” AW Tozer
Partnerships at GraceTown will not be a preference but a Requirement!
1. Partnership UNIFIES for Strength
•Partnership works together to support God’s leadership and win the battle – Aaron & Hur
2. Partnership IDENTIFIES opportunities
•Partnership ignores the nay sayers and claim God’s promises – Joshua & Caleb
3. Partnership INTENSIFIES commitment to one another
•Partnership commit to journey together and be spiritually linked – Ruth & Naomi
4. Partnership PURIFIES motives
•Partners trust unconditionally and take risks unreservedly – David & Jonathan
5. Partnership SOLIDIFIES new alliances
•Partnerships take on daunting tasks and refuse to stop until the work is done – Nehemiah and the wall builders
“The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team” John Wooden
One person can be a crucial ingredient on a team, but one person cannot make a team. The team player is the one who makes things go – the one who is willing to do and sacrifice whatever it takes to make the team successful.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NIV – Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:10 If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. 11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?12 Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Romans 12:4-5 NIV – For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others
“You can do what I cannot do. I can do what you cannot do. Together, we can do great things.” Mother Teresa
Genesis 26:12-13 KJV – Then Isaac sowed in that land, and received in the same year an hundredfold: and the Lord blessed him.13 And the man waxed great, and went forward, and grew until he became very great:
One man said this…”If we always do what we’ve always done, we’ll always be what we’ve always been.”
If we desire to become great we must “Move Forward.”
Church’s Focus Must Always Be:
1. The Word of God.
•(2 Timothy 3:16-17 NLT) “All Scripture is inspired by God and is
useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is
wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches
us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people
to do every good work.”
•God’s Word is the the primary catalyst for transformation. You will never grow up as fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ on a diet of spiritual twinkies.
•(Psalm 103:2-5 NIV) “Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not
all his benefits— who forgives all your sins and heals all your
diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with
love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”
•God is central. We celebrate the sacraments by participating in communion & water baptism
•(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NLT) “Never stop praying.”
•(1 John 5:14-15 NIV) “This is the confidence we have in
approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he
hears us. And if we know that he hears us–whatever we ask–we
know that we have what we asked of him.”
•(Luke 14:23 LB) “Go out into the country…and urge anyone you find to
come in, so that My house will be full.”
•Acts 5:14 NIV – Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number
•The church is the primary place where people come to faith in Christ and begin to live as Christians. Lost people matter to God & therefore ought to matter to the church.
The apostle Paul understood the principle of Moving Forward when he said…
Phil 3:13 TLB “No, dear brothers, I am still not all I should be, but I am bringing all my energies to bear on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,”
Exodus 14:15 “And the LORD said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward:”
In this passage, God had already given Israel deliverance from the Egyptians.
And now they are headed toward the promise land after leaving Egypt.
Suddenly, they come to the Red Sea.
The enemy is behind.
They can’t go left or right.
They can’t go back.
THERE WAS ONLY ONE DIRECTION FOR THEM TO GO…FORWARD!
Moses began to cry to the Lord.
And God said… “What are you crying to me for? Tell Israel to go forward.”
But there was no apparent way to go forward.
No boats or bridges.
They couldn’t possibly swim across
But God said “Go Forward.”
And when they did, God did something He had never done before, and Israel escaped on dry land.
The unexpected happened when they began to MOVE FORWARD!
What does it take to move forward?
#1. It takes knowing and understanding that we are heading to something better.
A. Where we are now is only temporary. This is not our final destination. Don’t get Stuck.
•Isaiah 43:19 NIV – See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland
•Yesterday’s excellence is today’s mediocrity & tomorrow’s failure.
•God is into moving forward and if you want to experience God in the present you can’t linger in the past!
B.Move out of your place of comfort. They were comfortable in Egypt, they were used to living as slaves, and they were used to settling for the left over. They said; “It would have been better for us to be slaves in Egypt than to die in the dessert.”
I Dream of a Church
Where People are truly loved, valued, and accepted
Where there is safety and security for people to try
Where lives are rescued, restored, and given hope
Where God’s presence flourishes in the simple and non religious
Where fun and laughter are mixed with tears & mourning, expressed with sensitivity
Where truth, honesty, and health are honored and lived out
Where people are deeply connected to God in body, mind, soul, and spirit
Where culture is met, embraced, and transformed
Where beauty, art, and creativity are valued, used, and understood as coming from being connected to the Creator
We value innovation and are willing to take risks in order to bring glory to God
Where performance is replaced by reality and truth
Where our stance is always love, and everything else is a conversation
Where judgement is left to God, who is fair, just, and true
And our place is to build, encourage, and comfort with an attitude of Grace
Where a lost and aimless people want to be, even if they are not sure why
Worship to God is full, vibrant, real, and pleasing to God
Where other churches are valued and supported
and where people’s visions and ideas of ministry come to life;
Where people are equipped for and do ministry in accordance with their gifts
I dream of a church where Jesus truly reigns as King
and His followers are dedicated to making Him the center of their lives, hopes, and dreams
Because He is our hope and the anchor of our souls, He is our security and the firm base of our lives to be built together…That’s my dream for GraceTown Church
Proverbs 3:27-28 Msg – “Never walk away from someone who deserves help; your hand is God’s hand for that person. Never tell your neighbors to wait until tomorrow if you can help them now.”
What Can I Do to Move MY GraceTown Forward?
(Matthew 9:37-38 NIV) “Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’”
(Ephesians 1:17-18 NIV) I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.
(Ephesians 2:10 NIV) “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
(Galatians 6:4 MSG) “Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that.”
(Luke 18:29-30 GW) “I guarantee this. Anyone who gives up anything for the kingdom of God will certainly receive many times more in this life and will receive eternal life in the next world to come.”
(Mark 8:35 LB) “If you insist on saving your life, you will lose it. Only those who throw away their lives for My sake and for the sake of the Good News will ever know what it means to really live.”
Ephesians 2:17-22 NIV He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. 19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Matthew 16:18
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Acts 2: 42-47
What does a fully devoted follower of Christ look like?
“So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.” Acts 11:26
Disciple: a student (pupil)
Christian: a follower of Christ or an imitation of Christ
Our goal is to move from being a student or pupil of Christ to a fully devoted follower of Christ. From Going to Church to Being the Church!
We seek to achieve our goal by focusing on six key priorities in our lives:
A priority is something that is given our attention before competing alternatives.
1. Worshipping God weekly
Definition of Worship: Expressing love to God
“Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.” Mat. 4:10
“…the Father seeks worshippers…and His worshippers must worship Him in spirit and in truth.”John 4:23-24
(Mark 12:30) “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your
soul, all your mind, and all your strength.”
1. Expressing my affection to God. •What do I love most?
2. Focus my attention on God •What do I think about most?
3. Use my abilities for God. •What do I do most?
2. Connecting with the church regularly
not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:25 NIV
God has given us the privilege of being born again so that we are now members of God’s own family…1 Pet 1:3 TLB
“By this shall all men know that you are my disciples – that you have love for one another. John 13:35
“As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures” Acts 17:2
3. Growing in maturity daily
“Let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity…” Heb 6:1
“Grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Pet 3:18
3 things needed for spiritual growth:
a. The Word of God (Bible study, devotion, etc.)
b. The Holy Spirit (intimate relationship in prayer)
c. Time (Spiritual growth is a process)
4. Serving other people unselfishly
“Now God gives us many kinds of special abilities…and there are different kinds of service to God (ministry)…All of you together form the one Body of Christ and each of you is a separate and necessary part of it.” 1 Cor 12:4-5, 27 (LB)
At GraceTown Church…
…every member is a minister
…every ministry is important
…every member is a “10” in some area
Definition of ministry: Using your gifts and talents without thought of reward
God has given each of you some special abilities; be sure to use them to help each other, passing on to others God’s many kinds of blessings. 1 Pet 4:10 TLB
5. Sharing our faith effectively
Definition of Evangelism: Sharing the Good News
“His intent was that through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known…” Eph 3:10
“Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. But who can ask them to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells him?” Rom 10:13-14 (LB)
Evangelism Can Be as Natural as Conversation
The Living Bible translates 1 Corinthians 9:22, “… whatever a person is like, I try to find common ground with him so that he will let me tell him about Christ and let Christ save him.”
• Be natural. Normal conversation is fluid and respectful, allows for humor and invites response.
• Be open and willing to admit your struggles and failures.
• Be respectful, look at people for what they are as well as what they can become.
• Be simple. Communication increases as simplicity does. Don’t let Christian jargon get in the way.
• Don’t forget what it was like to be a non-Christian.
• Look forward to hindsight. Unbelievers will understand some things only after looking back on them.
6. Giving our resources consistently
Giving tests the sincerity of my love for God.
Since you excel in so many ways–you have so much faith, such gifted speakers, such knowledge, such enthusiasm, and such love for us–now I want you to excel also in this gracious ministry of giving…This is one way to prove your love is real. 2 Cor. 8:7-8 NLT
Acts 20:35 – There is more happiness in giving than receiving
Committed believers tithe of their income to God
“A tithe of everything you produce belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord.” Lev 26:30
Ephesians 2:10 NIV For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
I. God has a call for every person. It’s indispensable for the Christian life
1. The Call to Salvation
a. I Timothy 6:12 NIV – Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
b. I Peter 2:9 NIV – But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
2. The Call to Self Denial, & sometimes Suffering
a. I Peter 2:21 – To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
b. This is not popular amongst people today. We live in a self preservation society.
1. SELFISHNESS – devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one’s own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others
2. Am I willing to put others first? (Mark 9:35) “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
a. Matthew 16:24 – Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
b. Romans 8:16-18 – The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
3. The Call to Serve
a. Isaiah 6:8 – Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
b. The Big Idea: In the world, greatness is determined by how many people SERVE YOU; but, in God’s kingdom, greatness is determined by how many people YOU SERVE.
c. We accompany God on His mission. We are not called alone.
1. John D Rockefeller said, “I believe that the rendering of useful service is the common duty of mankind, and that only in purifying fire of sacrifice is the dross of selfishness consumed and the greatness of the human soul set free.”
a. Salvation call us to “Come unto Him”, But service calls us to “Go”
b. Matthew 28:19-20 – Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
II. When We Serve we live beyond ourselves
•“In my view, people are never closer to living out the teachings of Christ than when they are adding value to someone else’s life. And people who are far from God are rarely more impacted than when they see 21st-Century Christ-followers behaving as Christ behaved.” ~Bill Hybels
•Our nation is fueled by service. The basis of capitalism. Providing of a service
1. Serving others is your ultimate calling.
(John 13:14) “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.”
(Mark 8:35 NLT) “If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will find true life.”
•God will not look you over for your medals, or your degrees, or for your diplomas, God will look you over for your scars of service.
2. Serving others brings absolute fulfillment.
(Hebrews 6:10 NLT) “He will not forget how hard you have worked for Him and how you have shown your love to Him by caring for other Christians.”
(John 13:1) “It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.”
•The Value of serving on a Sunday / It’s a BIG DEAL / changing a life
(Matthew 25:21) “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things so; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”
•Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy’s, once appeared on the cover of their annual report dressed in a knee-length work apron, holding a mop and a plastic bucket. Here’s how he described that picture: “I got my M.B.A. long before my G.E.D. At Wendy’s M.B.A. does not mean Master of Business Administration. It means Mop Bucket Attitude.”
“This is a story about 4 people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did. Somebody got angry with that because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody would not do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.” Are you content to let Somebody Else serve?
(Luke 18:29-30 GW) “I guarantee this. Anyone who gives up
anything for the kingdom of God will certainly receive many times
more in this life and will receive eternal life in the next world to
(Luke 6:38 Message) “Give your life away and youʼll find your life
given back. But not merely given back. Given back with bonus and
(Titus 3:8) “I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.
”Do all the good you can, In all the ways you can, To all the souls you can, In every place you can, At all the times you can, with all the zeal you can, As long as you can.” John Wesley
(Proverbs 3:27-28 Message) “Never walk away from someone who
deserves help; your hand is Godʼs hand for that person. Never tell your
neighbors to wait until tomorrow if you can help them now.”
3. I must seize the opportunity & Participate
(Galatians 6:10) “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good
to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of
(Colossians 4:5-6) “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders;
make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be
always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how
to answer everyone.”
(Matthew 9:35-38) “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
What can you do in your everyday life to help someone? What can you do here on a Sunday to serve ? •”become the glove into which Christ inserts his divine hand.”
•You don’t have to be a seminary graduate, or a college graduate, all you have to be is you and willing.
•I am asking you this morning, step out and make a commitment to be a part of what God wants to do in our Church.
As Lead Pastor of GraceTown Church I must enrich and protect our Church culture. I want us to have a life giving culture at GraceTown Church. A culture that builds, edifies, and gives life to people. One of the many ways to do that is to be a community of people that builds up others. The word “Build” means To construct, by assembling and joining parts, to establish, increase, and strengthen. To mold, form, create, or to base. Albert Schweitzer said, “You must give time to your fellow men, even if its a little thing, do something for other – something for which you get no pay but the privilege of doing it.”.
“BE KINDLY AFFECTIONATE TO ONE ANOTHER WITH BROTHERLY LOVE, IN HONOR GIVING PREFERENCE TO ONE ANOTHER.” (ROMANS 12:9-10)
In our fast paced world it can be easy sometimes to overlook others. In the day-to-day grind it becomes commonplace to see faces, but never know people. However, it is only in building up others that we empower others, and therefore empower ourselves. Below are 5 keys to building up others:
You must first be interested in others:
Don’t think only about your own affairs… be interested in others.
Philippians 2:4 NLT
a. It’s too easy to “think only about your own affairs.” But God says, “Be
interested in others.”
Show must genuine interest! The Bible says, “Laugh…when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down” ( Romans 12:15-16 TM). But you can only do that by taking the time to find out what’s going on in their world.
1. Appreciate others and let them know it.
a. Prov. 3:27 (NLT)– “Do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it’s in your power to help them.”
b. Every time you thank another person, you cause that person to like themselves better. Their self-esteem and self-image is improved. When a person feels appreciated, he or she also feels empowered to do more and to be more.
2. Give appreciation and it will be given back to you.
a. Luke 6:38(NLT) – “If you give, you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over. Whatever measure you use in giving-large or small- it will be used to measure what is given back to you.”
b. Every time you say “thank you” to someone else, you like yourself better as well. Showing appreciation creates a more positive, confident outlook for the person demonstrating it. When you develop an attitude of gratitude that flows forth from you in all your interactions with others, people will want to be around you and lend their help and support.
c. Give them a push! Barnabas became known as a great encourager
because he “encouraged the believers” (Acts 11:23 NLT). What happens
when you push a child on a swing? Eventually they start doing it
themselves. They just needed a little help to get going. Even a smile
can work wonders. Job said, “When they were discouraged, I smiled… My
look of approval was precious to them” (Job 29:24 NLT).
3. Approve others continually.
a. Prov. 16:24(NLT) -“Kind words are like honey- sweet to the soul and healthy for the body”
b. Studies show that when children are praised by the people that they look up to, their energy levels rise, their heart rates and respiratory rates increase, and they feel happier about themselves overall. This is true of adults as well. There is a “self-fulfilling prophecy” element in this. The more that you “prophesy,” or speak into the lives of other people, whether it be positive or negative, the more that the person you are speaking to will begin to fulfill that prophecy.
c. Be interested in the other person, rather than talking about yourself.
4. Pay attention when others talk.
a. Heb. 2:1(NLT) – “So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it.”
b. Although it seems basic, this is one of the most ignored principles of communication. The great majority of people are so busy trying to be heard that they become impatient when others are talking. This shows up in our body language and lack of eye contact. When you pay attention to others when they talk (look at them), you are showing them that you believe that what they have to say is important, and that they are important as well.
c. We have: Two Ears and One Mouth (There is a reason for that)
d. Hold your tongue! Don’t interrupt. Always say less than you think. Remember, “A fool utters all his mind…a wise man keeps it in” (Proverbs 29:11). And
since how you speak is as important as what you say, always be kind and
e. Respond verbally & nonverbally. Don’t change the subject.
5. Practice the law of sowing and reaping in building up others.
a. Gal. 6:7(NLT) – “Don’t be misled. Remember that you can’t ignore God and get away with it. You will always reap what you sow!”
b. Eph. 6:8 Principle
c. The law of sowing and reaping doesn’t just involve money. When you look for every opportunity to do and say things that make other people feel good about themselves, you may be surprised to see that others will look for ways to reciprocate your kindnesses toward them.
d. Matthew 7:12 (NKJV) – “Therefore, Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”