ALL CHURCHED UP AND EVERYWHERE TO GO SERMON SERIES
DEEP AND WHY – HOW TO DEVELOP YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST
JANUARY 28, 1996
Take a trip with me down memory lane because I am going to sing a song that some of you might recognize. If you do, feel free to sing along with me and also do the appropriate hand motions. I learned this little number as a child. Are you ready?
“Deep and wide, deep and wide, there is a fountain flowing deep and wide.”
OK, that’s good. The next verse is my favorite. It is going to get a little bit complicated. “Deep and hummm, deep and hummm, there is a fountain flowing deep and hummm.” I love that song. That little song, though, has a profound meaning. It is talking about growing deeper with God. Growing deeper in our relationship with Jesus Christ. And that is exactly what I am going to talk about in this session. How do we develop our relationship with Christ and why do we need to really understand the implications of following him. I don’t call it “Deep and Wide”, I call it “Deep and Why”. I am in a series on the purpose of our church.
The Fellowship of Las Colinas exists to reach up. That is worship which is expressing love to God and we talked about that in our first session. Our church also exists to reach out. That is evangelism with others. We talked about that last week. We also exist to reach in. That is discipleship. We define discipleship as the process of developing our relationship with the Lord. That is what we will discuss over the next few moments that remain.
You know there are a lot of myths and misconceptions these days about discipleship, about developing our relationship with God. Quickly, I want to cite for you some popular disciple myths. The first one is the automatic approach. Well-meaning believers think, “Once I become a Christian, it is automatic for me to grow, it is natural, it just happens.” There are a lot of people hearing my voice who have been Christians for a long time, for many, many years. Physically you are 25, 35, 45, 55, I’ll stop there. You are up in years. But spiritually you are still babies, wearing Huggies, drinking formula, using pacifiers. God wants us to grow and He tell us that it is a process. It doesn’t happen overnight. The Bible says in Hebrews 5:12, “You have been Christians for a long time now, and you ought to be teaching others but instead you have dropped back to the place where you need someone to teach you all over again the very first principles in God’s Word. You are like babies who can drink only milk, not old enough for solid food.”
When Lisa and I had our twins nineteen months ago, we didn’t say to ourselves, “Oh boy, Laurie and Landra, fend for yourselves. It is just natural for you to grow and develop. We’ll see you later. We are going to go ahead and live our lives.” That is ludicrous. We develop a process of parenting to mature them.
Another popular myth is the monk myth. People think to themselves that spiritual maturity is just for a few. “It is for the chosen. It is for those monk-type individuals who cloister themselves away from the world and pray eight hours a day, memorize scripture, move to the jungles of Africa and are willing to die as martyrs. That is spiritual maturity. But no way can a person like me, in this ever changing society, really become a mature Christian.” That line of reasoning is false. The Bible says that spiritual maturity is basic, it is understandable and any believer can grow and develop their relationship with Jesus.
I Timothy 4:7. “…Spend your time and energy in the exercise of keeping spiritually fit.” We have got a lot of people here who are physically fit. Talk to these folks. Engage in conversation with them. It is not some complicated process. Most people who are in shape do some aerobic work, at least thirty minutes to an hour a day and they lift weights or do push-ups and sit-ups. That is about it. It is simple. Now doing the things, physically, to be in great shape takes discipline and commitment, as does spiritual maturity. The monk myth.
Another popular myth is cited for us in Ephesians 4:13. I call it the short-cut myth. “…we arrive at real maturity…” Notice, maturity is a destination. In other words, it is a process, a trip we have to take to maturity. It doesn’t happen just like the snap of one’s fingers. “… that measure of development which is meant by the ‘fullness of Christ.'” A lot of Christians think that if they find a short-cut, a path, an experience, a conference, a tape, a teacher, a preacher, just like that in a nanosecond they will become a Billy Graham. “I am just one experience away, one short-cut away.” There are no short-cuts to being physically fit. There are no short-cuts to being spiritually fit. Even though we have instant coffee and instant weight loss programs, there is no such thing as instant spiritual maturity. It takes time.
Another popular myth is the knowledge myth. James 4:17 says, “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” You see, spiritual maturity is measured more by behavior than beliefs. A lot of us think that the more we know, the more mature we will become. Knowledge is a part of spiritual maturity, but it is just a part. It is not the total package. The more you know, the more dangerous it is. The more you know, the more you should apply. If you know what to do and you don’t do it, the Bible says you have sinned before God. If most of us just applied what we know about God’s word and know about the Christian life, we would be way ahead maturity wise. The knowledge myth.
Another popular disciple myth is the Lone Ranger myth. That is saying that spiritual maturity is something someone one can do alone. The Long Ranger believes that he can have his own deal worked out with God. Yes, we do have a personal relationship with Christ, we should spend time with Him alone. But, spiritual maturity always happens in the context of relationships and community. That is why Jesus instituted the church, a living, breathing body that makes differences in people’s lives all over this planet. Are you connected to a local body of believers? Are you connected to a small group that will hold you accountable and responsible, who will love you and pray for you? Are you? If you are not, you are not growing. Jesus said that if you are walking in the light, you will have fellowship with one another. If you have fellowship with one another and are walking in the light, that is the way Jesus wants you to live. But if you are walking in the light and don’t have fellowship with another person, then something is fouled up in your spiritual pilgrimage.
The sixth disciple myth is the bible study myth. “All I need is another bible study. I am going to study the book of Revelation. I am going to study Daniel. I am going to study Ephesians.” Bible study is important. We live in the mecca of bible study groups, but Jesus did not say, I have come that you might have bible study. In fact the word study is only used two times in the New Testament. Jesus said that He came so that we might have life. A lot of us love to hide behind bible study and do not really deal with the stuff Christ talked about. “Let’s talk about the escatelogical ramifications of Daniel 9, parallel with Revelation 20. Let’s debate that and talk about those things instead of dealing with my materialistic patterns, instead of dealing with my lust, instead of dealing with my dishonesty, instead of dealing with my lack of a spirit of reconciliation. See.
James 1:22 says, “Don’t only hear the message, but put it into practice; otherwise you are merely deluding yourselves.” If Christianity was a philosophy, the major focus would be to study. It is not. Christianity is a life. The key is application.
Disciple myths. They are popular. Now, let’s talk about our strategy as a local church regarding developing a person from an irreligious individual into a full court follower of Jesus Christ. If you are a business person, we take a raw product, people who are living away from the plans and purposes of Christ, and our job is to create the finished product, persons who really understand what it means to live in a relationship and grow toward perfection and knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Let’s talk about our five levels of commitment. First I want you to meet a couple, Stan and Susan Spectator. Let’s welcome the Spectators. You can see that they are spectating. This is our first level of commitment, level one on our index. At the Fellowship of Las Colinas we have about 8,000 spectators who attend our church three to four times a year. They always show up for the big two, Christmas Eve and Easter. Most of these individuals are unchurched. Let me define unchurched. Unchurched refers to people who have never been to church, but more importantly it refers to people who are in church but they don’t have a personal relationship with Christ. This is our starting point. This is our market. We target these people. Some of you are saying, target, market, those sound like secular terms, this is a church. Look at the life of Jesus. Talk about someone who was focused. Talk about someone who had a strategy and a market. One day a Canaanite woman said, “Jesus, heal my daughter, please.” Jesus healed her daughter but He said, “My main agenda, at this point, is to take care of and heal and touch the Jews.” He was focused. Have you ever wondered why God used four different guys to record one story about Jesus Christ? Matthew. Mark. Luke. John. I’ll tell you why. Each man wrote to a different audience. They talked about the same things but in different ways. For example, Matthew wrote to a Hebrew audience, Mark wrote to a Gentile audience. And one of the reasons our church has been blessed in such a mighty, mighty way is because we are serious about discipleship and assimilation.
I believe that when God has a bunch of baby Christians, He is looking for the warmest incubator that He can find. He looks for a local church that really puts as a top priority, getting people involved. It is our goal for the Spectators to become fans. How do we do that? We want them to be committed to attendance. Here is our strategy to accomplish that. We challenge our members to build relationships of integrity with the Spectators, to share with them a verbal witness concerning how Christ has changed their lives and to invite them to one of our services. One of the reasons we do message series is to get people in the habit of coming and we also want to exhaust certain topics. Next weekend I begin a brand new series entitled “Signs of the Times”. We are talking about popular slogans and what the Bible says about these slogans. “No Fear”. “Just Do It”. “Get Real”. “Life Is Short, Play Hard”.
Once the Spectators become committed to attendance, suddenly they turn into Fred and Freda Fan, representing our next level of commitment. They are committed to attendance and have become fans. Once you are a fan, you are always a fan. You are behind the Cowboys, you are behind the Steelers, you are behind the Fellowship of Las Colinas. We don’t want to just say we have a church full of fans. We have about 5,000 fans that attend the Fellowship of Las Colinas at least three times a month. Guys, when we watch the Super Bowl today, gals may not think this way, down deep we are all thinking what would it be like to actually play in the Super Bowl. Some actually think that if they had not blown that knee they would have been right there! What would it be like to be on the team, to be a part of the Cowboys, to be on the sidelines with Coach Switzer, and giving high fives to Michael and Troy and Emmitt. So for a fan to become a team member in our Church, our goal is to get them committed to membership.
Once a month we have a Newcomers Class. Our Newcomers Class is a requirement for church membership. Membership is a biblical term. The sad thing is that the world has stolen the word and turned it into something that it is not. The world says that membership is having your name on some dusty role. It is some secret handshake. It is paying dues. The Apostle Paul said, that’s not membership. Membership is being a part of the body of Christ, and the benefits are eternal. You can build relationships like you have never had before. You can discover your purpose, your focus in life. There is noting like membership. Are you a member of a local body of Christ? Our society these days is really fragmented due to the breakup of the nuclear family and the high divorce rate. We are a very mobile society which features alternative lifestyles. The list goes on and on. We are not around extended family anymore. American is a nation full of strangers. Four out of ten people deal regularly with intense feelings of loneliness. Watch all of the commercials today during the Super Bowl, specifically the beer commercials. The beer commercials aren’t selling beer, they are not. They are selling relationships. You never see someone drinking by themselves. It is always these beautiful women and men at the party, signifying that if you have a beer suddenly you will be surrounded. We are dying for community. We have no community at work, no community around the neighborhood. The church is the place.
Once the fans get committed to membership and take our Newcomers course, they become Tom and Tina Team Members. They have taken our Newcomers class. They are part of the team. Notice something, though. Their uniforms are pristine. There is not a speck of dirt on them. They have been to practice some but have never played in the game. They are sitting on the bench. I know a lot about sitting on the bench from when I played at Florida State. I enjoy being on the team, I kind of like sitting on the bench because I am a part of the team, but let’s get real. When you watch the Cowboys today, when they are on the sidelines, those on the bench are thinking about one thing. Yes, they are cheering but they want to play. They want to use their talents. They want to get involved. They want to make a difference. We don’t want to leave a bunch of people who are members on the bench. We have a lot of members on the bench. We have about 3,000 people who have committed to membership. We want these team members to commit to maturity. We have a class called Starting Point led by Owen Goff. Starting Point goes through the three effective habits of believers. We talk about how to establish a daily quiet time, how to study the bible, how to pray. We talk about the importance of joining a small group. We call small groups, home teams here. And home teams are the future of our church. Our goal is to grow smaller and larger at the same time. You grow smaller by connecting people into these groups. The groups are unlimited geographically. We use homes. The Bible indicated that homes were used like that. They met together in a large room or courtyard once a week for worship, then during the week they met from house to house. We also challenge our members to support our church financially, to give. Three habits of effective believers.
Once team members begin to do that, they begin to walk on the field and use their gifts and they become Paul and Polly Player. This man and this woman, they are players. They have grass stains on their uniforms, black stuff under their eyes. They are players, they are using their unique abilities to further the church. We have about 1,000 players in our ministry here, people who recognize their specific talents, they know their position and they are playing their position.
There is only one bad thing about a hugh church, the only bad thing I can think of. It gives room for people to hide. We have so much talent out there, some, however, is hidden from view. Some of you could be in our drama ministry, some could play an instrument, help with parking visitors, coach our children’s basketball, assist in the nursery, work with the singles. We want to turn team members into players. Here is how the players recognize their positions. They commit to ministry. They take our Spiritual Gifts class which teaches them how to get involved in specific areas. We also teach that once a month, in concert with all the other classes.
Players always ask themselves this question. How can I maximize my talent?. In the Christian life you are always a player, you never stop being a player. But to really maximize your abilities you become Cal and Connie Coach. Now the Coaches aren’t here. Cal and Connie are busy. We will have a coach in a couple of minutes who you might recognize, but Cal and Connie could not be here today. Once you are a coach, you commit to a life mission. You commit to our evangelism class, Becoming A Contagious Christian. You commit to our leadership class that is taught once a month. As a coach you take people through this process. You build relationships of integrity with the spectators. You invited them and you move the spectators on to being fans, then the fans to the team members, and team members on to the players. You are helping us in this process so that the church grows both smaller and larger at the same time. You are still playing but now you see the total package. We have about 500 coaches who are the core of our church. Once a quarter we have a special worship with our players and coaches where I share what is going on in the life of our church. We talk about leadership issues and where we are going. These folks make the Fellowship happen in a real and dynamic and powerful, powerful way.
You know there are two things that we can’t do in heaven that we can do on earth. We can sin on earth and we can share Christ with others. Which one do you think Jesus wants us to do? It is obvious that He wants us to share Christ. The coaches main responsibility is this development process.
I told you we have a coach in the house. You might recognize him. He is here in the community. Let’s welcome briefly Coach Barry Switzer. Coach Switzer, come on out. Barry Switzer is here today. “Coach Switzer, I really appreciate you flying in from Tempe. I know that you have a lot of pressure on you. Just briefly, what do you see your role as a coach?”
“I want to answer you, Ed Young, two things, quickness and speed. Quickness and speed. Like number 22, straight up and gut off of Big Nate’s behind. We try to get people in there. But more than that, people think coaching is complicated. Jimmy Rah Rah who gets up in his players faces. I don’t do that. I want to let people find out what their talents are, what their gifts are. I want to treat them like adults. Players make this thing happen and coaches have got to find out what they do right and put them in the position to win the game.”
“All right, Coach Switzer, we appreciate your being here. If you would just move along here. Coach, I love those glasses! I want to pick up a pair.”
He will be out in the lobby to sign autographs for the kids. Coach Barry Switzer.
Now you have seen the process. We are intentional about it. One, two, three, four, five. Take a couple of moments to find out where you are. Are you a spectator, a fan, a team member, a player, a coach and what do you need to do next to develop. What now? What now? What now?
Jesus wants you and He wants me to become mature. It is right there for us. All we have to do is go after it.