TRUE FELLOWSHIP STORIES SERMON SERIES
March 25, 2001
I am always amazed by the kaleidoscopic range of occupations represented here over a given weekend. To show you what I am talking about, I am going to ask you to participate in this little drill with me. I am going to list some categories of jobs, and if your line of work falls beneath one of the category, simply lift your hand. This will be fun. How many homemakers do we have in the house? Raise your hand. If you are a homemaker, in my opinion, that is the most difficult occupation out there, I will tell you that. How many people are in the airline industry, flight attendants, air traffic controllers, pilots? Anyone in the medical community, nurses, doctors and so forth? Anyone in the legal profession? It’s okay, lawyers, we love you too. Lift your hand. Don’t be shy about it. “I’m a lawyer.” “I’m a paralegal.” Any stockbrokers in the house? You can tell, because they have that shell-shocked look about them. Any former coaches of the Dallas Cowboys? Anyone in the ministry, pastors or ministers here? Okay.
What if I told you, I’m talking about those who lifted hands, what if I said most of us are pretty much clueless concerning your job? I mean, what if I just said that? I tell you what, I will go ahead and just say it. Most of us don’t really know what we are doing. Now, before you get offended, I put myself in that category.
Before you go on tilt, before you go, “I can’t believe he said that,” take a relax pill and listen up, listen carefully. The Bible says in the first book, in the first couple of chapters, something revolutionary, something unique. It says, “We are all made in the image of God.” In other words, we reflect some of his characteristics. Our God is a God of labor, a God of work; thus, we have this intrinsic desire within us to produce, to labor, to choose an occupation and to go for it. Labor is a good thing. Oftentimes, you will run into someone who will say, “Labor is a curse. It’s man and woman doing time in the chain gang of life because of our sin and rebellion. Work is bad. It’s no good. It’s the result of our committing collective cosmic treason before a holy God.” Generally speaking, that is false because work entered the human equation before sin did.
In Genesis 2:15, Adam and Eve were living large and in charge. They had been made in the image of God. They were reflecting his character, his glory and God comes along and gives them their first job description. He says this; “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and to take care of it.” God said, “Manage my garden.” This text should erase once and for all the argument concerning what is the oldest known profession: yard work. It’s right there in the Bible, Genesis 2:15. We are designed for work. We are tailor-made for it. God smiles when we understand this process.
I hate to confess it, but last week I turned forty years of age. I am forty now, a milestone. When you have other birthdays, people just give you the typical cards, you know, and maybe a pat on the back, “Happy Birthday,” take you out to lunch. When you are forty, though, people load up. They get creative. They give some wild stuff. I got some pretty good gifts. A generous friend of mine did something I want to share with you. Last week, he sent a couple of people to my office, a well-dressed man and a woman. I greeted them and they said, “Ed, we are members of Fellowship.”
I said, “Really, that’s great.”
They were telling me how much they love Fellowship and they were involved in one of the singles programs and another in small groups. They said, “We are going to share your gift with you. Your friend, Ed, has given you some custom made clothes.”
I thought, “Whoa, I don’t wear custom made clothes but that is pretty cool.” Then I thought, you know, I don’t wear suits. I dress very casually. I have a couple of them. When I do a funeral now and then, or a rare wedding, but I just don’t do the suit and tie thing.
I told them that and they said, “Hey, don’t worry, we can do anything. We can make shirts for you, pants for you, we even have shoes.”
I said, “That is a sweet deal.”
They said, “Here is your ceiling. You can’t go over the ceiling, but, you know, you can spend some money on custom made clothes.”
They showed me the swatches, the material, “This looks nice.” They were so professional; it was just too smooth.
Then they said, “Now we need to fit you for a shirt, pants or whatever.” They measured me and things you have to do. We were talking about thirty minutes, and I was kind of getting comfortable and sitting down talking like I knew what I was doing, like, “Yeah, I am pretty particular about my clothes,” trying to be Mr. Fashion Guy. I didn’t know what I was talking about.
I was talking on and on. Suddenly, I felt this draft. I looked down and my zipper was unzipped. That’s a man’s worst nightmare. Here I am talking to two people in the clothing business about fashion and my fly is wide open. That’s what happens when you turn forty, you start forgetting the main things. I put one of my favorite pair of jeans on and forgot to zip up and it was so embarrassing.
I said, “I know you have probably seen it already. My fly is down. I want to tell you I’m sorry,” and they are just busting out laughing. I am turning four or five shades of red. I am paranoid about that. Every time I speak, before I walk up here, I always check and make sure, you know, okay, I’m ready now. I never do that. I couldn’t believe I did that.
We are tailor made for worship. God has measured us for it. He has measured us for work. He has measured us for human labor. He has measured us for a personal relationship with him and it should transcend everything we do, say, touch and feel. Yet, most of us have forgotten this. We have forgotten the main thing. We are trying to do life and do human labor with our fly down. Okay, I’m ready. And God is going, “No, you’re not. You haven’t taken care of the main thing.”
Think about that. We are tailor made for work. That is great. So, whatever you do–I don’t care if you take care of toddlers, I don’t care if you coach volleyball, I don’t care if you teach, I don’t care if you are in commercial real estate, I don’t care if you are an accountant–whatever you do, it’s a good thing. Human labor is a gift from God.
Why, though? You know, I am a question asker. Why in the world would God allow us to spend most of our lives in human labor? Have you ever wondered that? I mean, why? Okay, it’s a gift from God, but why do I burn up most of my time working? Why do you do the same thing? Before I give you the answer, I want you to meet some friends of mine. Three years ago, Lisa and I met a husband and wife team who are employed at the health club we are members of. Listen to their story:
Ed: Tell me a little bit about your spiritual pilgrimage.
Henry: Well, Ed, we met at the airlines. We both came off divorces at the time. One weekend, we just decided to get married, went to Vegas, got married and it was just the weirdest deal.
Ed: Really? Did Elvis marry you?
Henry: For twenty extra dollars, I could have had Elvis. Had no more money. Ran out of money. For the first year, it was total chaos. We would have been another statistic.
Ed: Tell me what happened then? After your first several years together, you had your first child. So tell me about what is going on then? I mean, were you guys involved in a church?
Kim: We were involved in a church but it wasn’t holding our interest. It was just kind of dry. We went to church because it was the right thing to do, but it wasn’t…
Henry: We weren’t getting much out of it.
Kim: We weren’t really changing. We had kind of hit a dead end in the road. I think we knew it was important to go to church, but we weren’t really being fed like we are at Fellowship. It has been phenomenal for our family. Henry started going to Fellowship. He went for a few weeks, and I told him the first time I went to Fellowship, I remember saying, “Gosh, Henry, I don’t know.” I think it was just me with that old fear of thinking I don’t know enough, or I am not good enough. I think the second time that I went back, and the girls had enjoyed it so much, that we have just been going ever since. I think it is important now to read the Word, where before I didn’t make the time. Henry is a clean, cleanliness fanatic, neat freak. He had a car that he really loved. I don’t think he worshipped it but he loved it.
Kim: He loved it.
Henry: I still love it.
Kim: He struggled with that car. He would talk to me and he would go, “You know, Kimberly, I don’t know why I have to clean that car. I mean, I hate that about me. I hate it. I just have this issue with being obsessed with this cleaning of my car and having a perfect car.” He was, in a sense, worshipping his car. So, finally, the day came and Henry sold the car. His flesh loved that car. He wanted to prove to himself that that was not the most important thing in his life. You always know that whatever you give up, the Lord will replace it with something far greater than what you can imagine. I see such a change in Henry, how he cares about people. He is constantly inviting people to go to church because he knows what it does for him. He just wants to be able to share that.
Henry: I am a personal trainer at a local gym, somebody who encourages and directs somebody to work out. It is by far the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.
Kim: The most rewarding.
Henry: The most rewarding too. Well, I ultimately work for the Lord. I mean, that’s the only thing that motivates me, day in and day out, client in, client out. I do it for him. It is an act of worship. I am there, first of all, to help the person to physical goals, and I do the best that I can. I am there every opportunity. As I am driving to work, I pray that the Lord will open up the doors for me and give me the confidence and courage, wisdom, understanding, everything that I need to talk to people and to tell them what is really in my heart. The other thing is, it is phases. Obviously, you have got to get to know the people. I think the working out is just an introduction. After awhile, you have a certain trust. They trust me. I think that is where it starts with the work ethic that I have and the enthusiasm that I have for them. You know, they basically ask me what makes Henry tick? That’s basically it.
Ed: And you tell them.
Henry: And I tell them very simply: Jesus Christ makes me tick. If it wasn’t for Jesus, I would be, who knows where I would be? You don’t even want to know where I have been if it wasn’t for him. We invite people; they will hear life-changing messages. And not just the message when you are preaching, but the music. They will see or feel the love that Christ brings on us, on those people, that they cannot find anywhere else.
Kim: We have invited quite a few people to church. We have invited a couple, this individual that Henry trains. She was really wanting her husband to meet the Lord. They had not found a church where he felt comfortable. The first time they came to church with us, that was it. That’s all it took, one time. They have been going ever since. As a matter of fact, her husband has accepted the Lord.
Henry: They are a unique couple. I have known him for a little while. They are a couple that are not always with me throughout the entire year.
Kim: Yes, he is a professional athlete. So they are gone a lot.
Henry: They are gone during the season. She was actually asking me for information about the church. We met here one day.
Kim: They followed us. I think pretty much every one that we have invited…
Henry: I don’t know of anybody that we have invited that is not here today…
Kim: and they love it. You just have to know how to read people. You have to be sensitive to their needs. You have to know when to push and when not to push.
Henry: Well, first of all, you have to live it. The easiest thing to do is talk the talk. It’s walking it, though, and applying it. So first and foremost, I can’t be sitting here talking to you about all these things if I am not living my life correctly, or the best that I can with the Lord’s help. We are not here for us. I know it’s a shock. It’s a big shock to Kim, because when she first met me, it was all about me. But we were not put on this earth for us. I’m sorry, but that’s just the way it is. We’re here to tell people about Jesus Christ, be it the workplace, be it school, be it wherever. But your only goal, your first goal, should be that. I guarantee you, because it has happened in my life, everything else will take care of itself.
(End of video)
Why would God allow people that matter to him to spend the lion’s share of their lives in the workforce? Why? I’ll tell you why and the answer might shock you: for worship, in order for us to express our love and our gratitude and our thanksgiving to God. A lot of us don’t understand this, and many times I forget it. There is a critical intersection that we must travel through and understand. It is the intersection between worship and work.
See that? There is a vertical aspect, that’s worship. There is a horizontal aspect, that’s work. And it makes a cross. Is that a neat deal or what? So every time I work, I should worship. We must understand the fluidity and the liquidity of worship. Worship is not some compartmentalized thing. It’s not something that we can say, “Okay, I worship over here at the weekend services of Fellowship Church and during First Wednesday and sometimes during Home Team, but the rest of my life is over here and over here and over here.” It doesn’t work that way. Worship must transcend everything we touch and especially it must transcend our occupation.
The writer of Colossians puts it this way in Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do”—I mean, if you take care of toddlers, build homes, program computers, whatever you do—“work at it with all of your heart”—Be tenacious about it. Be passionate about it. Be focused about it—“as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
Well, as we continue, we need to come up with a working definition of worship. What is worship? We all worship. Every single person on the planet worships something. Worship is to be intensely passionate about someone or something. Henry used to worship that car. I have seen a lot of people in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area worship cars. You have seen them too. They don’t like bow down to the car. They worship it. They are intensely passionate about this thing. I have seen people worship someone they date or worship a wardrobe, or worship their portfolio, or worship a house. What does God say? God says throughout the pages of scripture, “Don’t waste your worship. Don’t waste your worship.”
Worship, friends, is not a noun. It is a verb. There is activity involved. So, if you know Jesus Christ personally, if you have bowed the knee to him, if you have a personal connection with the Lord, you do not come to Fellowship Church for worship. I will rewind on that one because some of you missed it. If you are a Christian, you do not come to Fellowship Church for worship. Instead, if you have downloaded this properly, this worship and work intersection, instead, you come to Fellowship Church worshipping. Worship transcends every area of your life; thus, when you come, you are already worshipping. It’s just highlighting and underscoring what your lifestyle is all about. You are being obedient to Hebrews 10:25 which tells us to “Gather together regularly with other believers.” It tells us not to forget that. Don’t treat it flippantly or casually. Be here for corporate worship. But Christians should come worshipping, not for worship.
The plot about this connection and correlation between worship and works clots in 1 Corinthians, chapter 3. “Don’t you know,” Paul said, “that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s spirit lives in you.” That’s a huge verse, a major verse. Some of you have never heard the history of Fellowship Church. Let me give you a thumbnail sketch of it. We began eleven years ago in a little office complex that we rented in Irving, TX, called the MacArthur Commons Office Complex. From there, after we grew some, we moved to the Irving Fine Arts Complex and rented that facility for a long time. From there, we moved across MacArthur Blvd. to MacArthur High School. We stayed there for a while, and then one, one glorious beautiful spring day, we moved to this location in Grapevine, TX. We have been here for almost three years now.
We did not cart God from the MacArthur Commons Office Complex to the Irving Arts Center. We didn’t get God in his box and go, “Okay, God, we are moving you across the street now to MacArthur High School. And now, God, we have a bigger venue now. We are going to Grapevine. Let’s move you to Grapevine.” No. People in the Old Testament, some of them, thought that God was geographical. Some of them thought that God was in a box, in his house.
Jesus came along, and New Testament said, “Wait a minute. God is not in a house. You can’t limit him.” Jesus said, “You are the house.” Look at your neighbor and say, “You’re the house.” Just tell them, “You’re the house.” A lot of us don’t believe it. But the Bible says that you are the temple of God. So, now stay with me now, so, whenever I go to work, whenever you go to work, if we are Christ-followers, if we realize we are the temple of God, Jesus is living there, we take with us the presence of God. We can’t fake God out. We can’t do a spin move on him. No, no, no. God is omnipresent. When we bow the knee to him, he is in our lives. Wherever we go, we carry God. We are containers for the Spirit of God. Every conversation, every interaction, every attitude that we display at work should be an opportunity for worship.
Romans 12:1, “Therefore,”—as I told you before anytime you see the word “therefore” in the Bible always ask, “What’s it there for?”—“Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy to offer your bodies as living sacrifices,”—See that? Worship is a verb—“Holy and pleasing to God. This is your spiritual act of”—What?—“Worship.” It’s my spiritual act of worship. When I get this down, my workspace can become a worship place.
Now to understand this verse, we need to understand creation. The Bible says, plain and simple, that the creation is there to give glory to God. A tree gives glory to God. A rock gives glory to God. A mountain gives glory to God. An ocean gives glory to God. “How?” you ask. They just are what they are. A tree is a tree. A rock is a rock and so forth. I am put here to reflect the nature, the character and the glory of God. I should be a big reflector. If I am not reflecting the glory of God, if I am not worshipping in every aspect of my life, I have missed the meaning of life, and I am a worship waster. So many opportunities to worship, yet we don’t realize it. We think it is some compartmentalized thing.
Understand the critical connection between worship and work, but also, we must understand another connection as well. The intersection between love and labor. It forms another cross. The vertical aspect, love. Love comes from God, true love. That should transcend into our labor.
One day, they asked Jesus, “Jesus, what is the nutshell of everything you have talked about? What is the bottom line? What is the net effect of it all?” Here is what Jesus said in Matthew, chapter 22—in fact these verses are verses that our church is built upon—Christ said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.” That’s worship, expressing love to God. That’s what it is. This is the first and greatest commandment. And listen to this, “and the second one is like it,” Jesus said, “love your neighbor as yourself.”
I think it is really interesting that the Bible never tells us to love ourselves. Isn’t that something? I mean, God knows that we love ourselves. You don’t have to tell us to love ourselves. We are just going to love ourselves. But it does say time and time again, love your neighbor as yourself. Love the person you work next to as yourself. Love your manager as yourself. Love that jerk as yourself. Love that person who uses people, as yourself. Love your competition as yourself. That’s radical there. We cannot manufacture it. We can’t make it up. We cannot muster it up. It’s got to be from God.
The moment we understand this, here is what will happen. We will have a contagious, outrageous love on another level, and people will be attracted to us. They will be attracted to the love that we show others and we will have this love for people we can’t believe we are loving. We will see past the pride, past the ego, past the big mouth, past all the junk in our office, because we know when we lock eyes with people, no matter how far away they are from God, we know that they matter to God. And we have this love in our life from Jesus Christ.
Do you have that contagious love? Are people drawn to you like a moth is drawn to a flame? To show you what kind of potential that we all have in our workplace, listen to what happened as people have watched Henry and Kim Alayon work.
Female Voice: Started working out with Henry, gosh, I guess it’s been about three years ago, and it was very evident from the very beginning what a Godly man he is. I can’t think of a single workout that we’ve had where we haven’t talked about Christ and our love of Christ and how much he means in our lives and how much he has done for us. I can’t tell you how many people he has gotten to go to Fellowship, just to try it out. He uses every opportunity he can to talk about the Lord, and he does it in such a unique way and it’s so real and so sincere. It’s very effective.
My husband has hepatitis C and he is going to have to have a liver transplant. It’s been a long journey. It’s been rough, but through just knowing Henry and his wife, Kimberly, and even his little girls and all the support I have gotten from them, he wanted to be the living donor for Richard, absolutely. That is such a tremendous gift in itself. There is no way I will ever be able to pay him for the offer, or Kim and the girls, because, obviously, it’s a family decision. But Henry was insistent for months on being the living donor for us, which is pretty incredible. A lot of people will flippantly say, “Oh, I’ll give you my liver. I’ll give him part of my liver.” But Henry meant it. He meant it with all his heart and soul.
Male Voice: Well, Henry and I were talking today, it’s probably been almost two years ago that I was in here and I was training. A couple of weeks prior we had been asked to visit Fellowship Church and we had been for the first time. We just got a lot out of it. We loved that your message was dead on, and Henry opened up to me. He said, “Do you have a church home?” I said, “Well, we have been visiting Fellowship.” He goes, “Really? I go to Fellowship.” So, it made me feel even more comfortable about going to the church, because someone else was there that we knew. We would see them occasionally and I would look for them. He is actually the one who got me involved in the parking ministry. I really enjoy it. I really do. Henry has been huge, I mean, this is my favorite part of the day. When I come up here, just being around another fellow Christian and being able to open up to Henry and talk about certain things. It’s just the highlight of my day.
Male Voice: Henry is very approachable. A lot of times when we are training, someone will just pass by Henry and Henry will make a notion, “How are you doing today?” I’ve seen him speaking with people all the time. I think that there is just something about Henry. He just touches people and people know there is something different about Henry.
Male Voice: Well, I came to the gym about two and a half years ago. Came down here working with my dad. Almost ten months ago to the day, he passed away and I got complete ownership of the gym. My brother didn’t want really anything to do with it because he lives in North Dakota. Little hard at times, but at the time God wanted me to keep involved right here. And this is where he wanted me to minister to people. In August, my aunt passed away, my dad’s sister. So that was another shock to my system, two very close family members passed away. Got really involved during the Ulti-mate Series. Henry got me to come to Fellowship for the first time, and I mean I fell in love with it. Since I have been going there, I got in with the greeting ministry, the Children’s Adventure ministry on Saturday nights, involved with The Blend, involved with two different Home Teams and it’s just done wonders for me. God has given me so many obstacles and challenges in my life in the last year, last ten months, and because of the friends I have made at Fellowship, it has just helped me get through it all.
Male Voice: I met Henry in Miami back in ’81. We were part-timers with Delta Airlines. When I went through my divorce four years ago, I got involved with the church and then he said, “I want you to try something new.” I did try it. I walked in and I sat down and the first thing I heard was drumsticks clacking together and the music just exploded, you know, and the way you do your sermons and I was sold. I love this church, and I really don’t want to go anywhere else.
Male Voice: Well, I met Henry about two years ago when I moved here from Puerto Rico with American Airlines. One of the things that most impressed me was that he was such a diligent trainer. I had an eye for good trainers and what impressed me most was his diligence, his caring for the clients he was working with. Henry was instrumental in bringing me back to the Lord. I guess the biggest testimony that anyone can give is that Henry did it just with his actions. He is such a good Christian and it shows in his work ethic and in him as a person. That had a great impression on me.
Male Voice: Well, I was looking for a church to go to and I came to Fellowship Church with my daughter. After hearing you that day, I became a member of Fellowship Church. We went to the Newcomers Class, both my daughter and I, and we were baptized the same day. My commitment to the Lord was a direct result of my experiences with Henry. I think the love of the Lord works through them and it just shows in everything that they do and the way that they treat people, the way they communicate. They have a gift for communicating and I think that is not just their personality but it’s the Lord working through them.
You might be saying, “Well, Henry and Kim, they must be saints. I mean, these people must just be phenomenal, incredible perfect.”
No, they’re not. I know Henry and Kim well. They are in my small group, my home team. They are average ordinary people like you and me, who serve an extraordinary God, who understood this connection, this intersection between worship and work, love and labor. Look what has transpired in their lives.
I have a friend of mine who has told me this several times. He goes, “Ed, you know, one day, if I make enough money, I would like to kind of retire and go into the ministry, maybe work at Fellowship Church or do whatever.” I told him this several times, I said, “Read my lips. You are in the ministry. Whatever you do, you are in the ministry. If you know Christ personally, you are a minister.” The question is, though, are you ministering? What are you doing? Are you being salt and light and leaven, are you penetrating your world? Do people see you and say, “Man, this guy, this girl, they have an outrageous, contagious, love on another level. I want to get some of that. I want to see what makes them tick.” You begin to pray for people. You begin to be sensitive to people. You begin to allow the Lord to use you.
What would happen at Fellowship over the next several weeks, segway into Easter, what would happen at Fellowship if you began to minister and share and invite all those people who need the Lord. People are just one invitation away many times from knowing Christ. Look at what one couple has done here. Look at the people they have reached and the people that others will reach and so on.
Well, I guess we have to answer a question that has been out there a whole message. So what? Yes, worship and work are inseparably linked. Yes, it’s a labor and love thing. So what? What am I suppose to do about it? Remember back to the ice? Remember we saw that block of ice kind of melting? I’m sure you were wondering, “Man, what is up with that?” I’ll tell you what is up with that. Now, it is melted pretty much into liquid. You can see it. It kind of just goes into liquid. Have you seen it?
A lot of us have that ice cube type mentality of worship. We see worship in our little cube in our little box and we think that’s what it is. That block of ice was exposed to the sun. The sun thawed it out and now it’s liquid. If we have this ice cube view of worship, we need to expose it to the Son, S-o-n, and allow Christ to thaw us out, so this worship stuff can immerse and cover everything that we are about and, especially, the workplace.
See how strategic God is? Most of humanity spends most of their lives in the workforce. We can be a love force in the workforce. We can have our job site become an ultimate worship site, and we can reach more people and mark more people and influence more people at the work site than almost any other endeavor. What are you doing? It’s a question I have to ask myself. So it’s time to thaw out, isn’t it? That’s the first thing we need to do. We need to thaw out. “God, I have had this skewed view of worship. I want my work and worship and labor and love to be linked. Thaw me out, God.”
Something else we need to do is this. We need to get contagious. Get contagious. Have you heard about this hoof and mouth disease? Pretty contagious stuff, having to kill all the animals in a fifty-mile radius of it. I mean, you can catch it just like that. If we live this life, our life in a great sense, will be that contagious, that marked by love. It’s out there for the taking. We just have to do it. It’s time that we all say together, “You know what? I’m going to make my workspace a worship place. I’m going to be a love force in the workforce.” That’s my choice. I believe it’s your, too.