LISTEN TO THE MUSIC VOL. II SERMON SERIES
OCTOBER 24, 1999
Everybody in this place falls into one of two categories. However, it is tough to distinguish who falls into what group from just surface observation. You can’t tell if a person is in one group or another by their age, occupation, ethnicity or net worth. Singles, students and marrieds are in both groups. The first group I want to identify this morning is made up of those here who stay alive. Figuratively speaking, you are wearing the gold chains, polyester, and John Travolta hair. You are just existing, just droning through your life. No vitality, no excitement, just experiencing a sort of humdrum existence. That is right. One slice of the divine demographic pie would be made up of those here who stay alive.
The other slice of the demographic pie, or the other group, would be made up of those who thrive, those who have ditched the disco wear, those who no longer have the Charlie’s Angels look, those who no longer wear leisure suits. I am referring to the people here who are truly alive, who are riding on the crest of adventure and excitement. I am talking about those men and women who are using their skill sets to do great and wonderful things.
Two groups, one made up of people who just stay alive, and the other made up of people who thrive. What is the difference? How can you really separate the two groups? Generally speaking, it is a God thing. Getting more specific, it is a church thing. To laser beam the deal, it is a ministry thing. God, our loving and purpose-driven God, has given us a context, the local church, which affords us opportunity after opportunity after opportunity to use our specific gifts in ministry. To thrive. And this morning I want to talk to you about simply that. How do you thrive?
If this is your first time attending the Fellowship Church, let me again warmly welcome you to our place. You picked a wonderful weekend to attend because you are going to see why we are so passionate about the purposes of our church. So sit back, relax and allow God to speak through me as I open up His word and we see what it means to truly thrive.
For openers, let’s answer the why question. Why does God want you and why does God want me to thrive? And why did He choose the local church? Number one and this will surprise you, God wants a buff body. God wants you and me to thrive within the context of the local church because He wants to have a buff body. I am referring to the body of Christ, the local assembly of believers. Every part of our bodies works together to form who we are. Every part of the body of Christ works together to form what it is. You have strengths, you have talents, you have skill sets to help strengthen the body of Christ. And that is a cool deal. That is a great thing.
Many here need to join Fellowship Church. You have been kicking tires. You have been testing the waters. You have been checking everything out. And today is the day you need to step over the line, join, and become a full-fledged member of our church. Right after this service, at high noon, I will teach yet another Newcomers Class in Room 132. We will have free pizza for you. We will take care of your children. You don’t have to worry about a thing. You can sit there and hear where we have been, where we are and where we are going. I believe that once you join the Fellowship, it will change your life. I believe that decision is one of the top five decisions that you will ever make.
When I talk about membership, I think that a lot of you buy into what our culture says about it. This past week, I learned through my studies that membership has a Christian origin. But our culture has decaffeinated the term, defanged the term. For many here, membership means paying dues, having your name on a locker or in some directory or having a secret handshake. Well, the Apostle Paul blew that whole deal out of the water. He wrote in Romans 12:4-5, “Just as each of us has one body with many members and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body and each member belongs to all the others.” Ladies and gentlemen, friends, membership is a verb. It is an active thing. It is a process that is powerful. Yet, only in America, as boxing promoter Don King says, only in America do we have what I refer to as butterfly believers. They float from church to church with no identity, no accountability, no commitment.
Go to other cultures. Travel to Israel like we are going to do in several weeks. Go to the Orient. If you are a believer, you are connected into a local church. And if you are not a full-fledged member of a local church, you are disobeying many commands found in the New Testament, right up front. There is no such thing as a Long Ranger believer. If you are on the team, I am talking about the Fellowship team, you are a player. And every player has a position. Are you making God’s body buff?
Maybe today is the first time you have discovered that we have many members here but they all work together to do wonderful things. Have you stepped over the line? Have you joined the church? Obviously, I am partial to the Fellowship Church. I think we have the greatest church around. I believe we have more opportunity for ministry, for spiritual depth, for worship, for being involved than anywhere else. But our church is not for everybody. And if you are looking for the ultimate and perfect church, don’t you join it because you will mess it up. This is not a perfect church. I am not a perfect pastor and you are not a perfect member or attender. You are not. But the church, according to the Bible, is where the manifold wisdom of Christ will be made known. The gates of hell, scripture says, will not prevail against the church. It is the most important entity in the universe. And that is why we are so passionate about the purposes of Fellowship. We want to help in this buff body process.
But there is another reason that God wants us to thrive, why He wants us to use our gifts and skill sets within the context of a biblically functioning community. He wants us to do life deeply with Him. God wants us to do life deeply with Him. Listen very carefully. Spiritual maturity is more action driven than information or feelings driven. I have gone to a Bible College. I have been to Seminary. I have taken doctoral classes in theology. I have been in services like last weekend when I cried, where I felt the quiver in my liver, a spring in my step. And all those things are important regarding spiritual maturity and spiritual growth, but nothing, nothing will accelerate your growth as fast as getting involved in ministry, using your skill set in a spirit-led way within a biblically functioning community. Nothing has matured me as fast as that.
When I share my faith, when I write a generous check, when I help the poor, when I lead a small group, those things are action driven. Here is what Jesus said. He gave us His mission statement in Mark 10:45. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Jesus had an others- driven mentality. We are to mimic His ministry and the beautiful thing is that God has provided us a venue for it and the venue is the local church. It is the local body.
So, whenever I get outside of myself and serve and help and use my talent base within a biblically functioning community, whoa, things happen. So many people are depressed and down and moan and groan and are self-absorbed and gaze at their navels hour after hour after hour. They say poor, pitiful me. They criticize and rebuke and cut down. Most of the people who have that mentality are people who don’t serve, who don’t get involved and who just sit and soak and spoil. Sit and soak and spoil. They come to church week in and week out and like the proverbial little bird say, feed me, feed me, feed me. They take in so many spiritual calories that they are obese. And they never work out the stuff, never put any octane behind it.
I Corinthians 12: 24-26. The Apostle Paul states, “God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the part that lacked it so that there should be no division in the body but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it. If one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” Isn’t that incredible?
Secular surveys tell us that the average human being has between 500 to 700 specific skills. I have skills that you don’t have. You have skills that I don’t have. And if we use these skills together and function as a living body, there is no telling what God can do and what God wants to do. But I want to give you several things about something called ministry. How do you spell the last three letters of the word? Let’s spell that together. T R Y. It spells try. I don’t think that is an accident. Minis try. Ministry is using your skill set in a spirit-led way within the context of a biblically functioning community.
A lot of us still have some misconceptions about ministry. A lot of us think that ministry is optional, that it is a multiple-choice deal, kind of like taking the SAT or the LSAT. I just don’t think that I will choose ministry for me. No, we are commanded to minister. If we are on the team, we are a player. If we are a player, we have a position. We can’t say, “Well, God, I just don’t feel like using my gifts. God, I don’t feel like surrendering to You. I don’t feel like using my abilities.”
The bottom line is, you are either obedient or disobedient. And that ruffles a lot of people’s feathers, especially in our autonomous, self-centered, Texas pioneer-type mentality. Dallas/Ft. Worth is the home of the Texas macho man. And the macho man hears something like that and he says, “Whoa, no one is going to tell me what to do.” You know the macho man, don’t you? We see him all around us, that Wrangler wearing, truck comparing, Coors sipping, Copenhagen dipping guy. Macho man. Hey, don’t blame me, I am the messenger. This is God’s deal, it is His way for you to thrive. But I have got to say to you, a lot of you are just humming, staying alive.
Rob Johnson and the Praise Team sang, “Somebody help me, I’m going nowhere.” Well, we are going to find direction today. We are going to find the answers today. We are going to find the destination today. But ministry is not a multiple-choice deal.
Here is another misconception. And to illustrate this let me show you my big toe. I call this the principle of the big toe. See my left great toe right there. I know it looks kind of gross but let me tell you why. Five years ago I was lifting weights and a 40-pound dumbbell fell off a rack, dropped three feet and crushed my great toe in over twenty places. The bone was sticking out of the nail bed in four places. I cannot describe to you the pain. A plastic surgeon friend of mine who is a member of this church rebuilt the entire toe including the nail bed. Hey, is that a good looking toe, or what? Remember the principle of the big toe. Yes, ministry is not multiple choice, but remember the principle of the big toe.
You are saying, “Ed, what does that have to do with ministry?” Once again, I read to you the Apostle Paul’s words in I Corinthians 12: 24-26. “God has combined the members of the body and given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it. If one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” You may be an elbow. You may be a mouth. You may be an ear. You may be a knee. You may be a big toe in the body of Christ. Every part matters. Every part matters. Don’t ever tell me that the big toe is not important. Even now when I tap it, it still hurts, but I do have a beautiful nail bed. Now let me put my shoe back on and we will continue.
See God does not grade on the curve. God does not look at those who teach, lead a small group, preach, sing on the praise team, play in the band as people who are up high and those who park and greet and work with children as people down there. God doesn’t do that. The beautiful thing about the body of Christ is that all members work together to form it and to make it buff. What part does God want you to play?
Look around for a second. Just take a panoramic view of the Fellowship Church. We have a big church, don’t we? But I always say that we are not a big church, we are a small town. People tell me that they want to live in a town with about 8,000 to 10,000 people. You have got it right here at the Fellowship Church. And if a church is around a big population base, the church should be big. And if it isn’t big, something is wrong with the church. Nothing is wrong with God, something is wrong with the fellowship. Conversely, if a church is around a small population base, it should be small. If God had a problem with big churchs, the first model of church in Acts 1:2 would not have grown from 11 to 3,011 following the first service. So don’t ever say that this church is too big or that church is too big. Size does not matter. Many of the early churches mentioned in the Bible had 60,000 or 70,000 people.
Let me tell you some good things about a big church. It gives us a huge relational opportunity. It gives us a huge relational opportunity. In a church this large you can meet anyone and everyone; professional athletes, bankers, repair people, professional hunters, teachers, flight attendants, mechanics, car dealers. They are here. Isn’t that wonderful? Think about all the opportunities that we have relationally speaking.
A survey I read this week said that the average church member knows 67 people whether the church has 67 members or 67,000. At Fellowship you have got a wide base. Another great thing about a big church is this. It is a mirror of what will happen in heaven. Heaven is not going to be a small place. We are going to worship with billions and billions of believers. And speaking of worship, in November 1 begin a brand new series on worship called GOD ON LINE.
Another reason I love a big church is because it enables us to have resources and to pinpoint different ministries in a strategic way. For example, last weekend on Saturday from 9am to 2pm, our Singles Ministry held a “Ten Commandments Of Dating” conference. After that, they had a country and western dance in another building. Yesterday, our Senior High Ministry had a Hoop Fest in our parking lot. They had hundreds of high schoolers playing basketball. Next weekend, we will have our big Fall Festival featuring rides and games put on with about 600 volunteers. That is a great thing about a big church.
Another great thing about a big church is that people can kind of check everything out without being noticed. In a small church a visitor stands out. “Let’s place the giant fluorescent nametag on their lapel.” Here you just kind of check it out. But now let me tell you the bad thing about a big church. I want to come clean thing right now. A bad, bad, bad thing about a big church is people can hide. We can hide in a big church. We can slither in, sit back, don’t say a word Jack. We don’t have to sign anything, say anything or do anything. We can drop our children off to incredible age-appropriate teaching and just soak it up, baby. And no one ever knows that we are here. We are just taking up space and hiding.
People sometimes ask me, “Ed, do you feel a lot of pressure being the senior pastor of the Fellowship Church?” I do, but not just an overwhelming amount. But I will tell you what freaks me out. I will tell you what keeps me up at night. It is just what I said. I know that every single weekend there are thousands of people here who have phenomenal skill sets and talents but they are sitting and soaking on the bench. They are not really on the team. They are not really players. They don’t have positions. And I think, Oh, Lord, what would happen at Fellowship Church if some of these folks would say they will come out of the shadows, join the church and help God to have a buff body. What would happen if they said they will do life deeply, get involved in ministry and use their skill set in a spirit-led way within the context of this biblically functioning community?
And that is my challenge. It never fails. We do some big events around here. Someone may say to me, “Ed, do you know Laura. She would be great helping with that event.” Later I might be out in the lobby, see Laura and say, “Hi, Laura, how are you doing?” Her friend would say, “I don’t know if you realize this, Ed, but Laura is one of the greatest graphic artists in the country.” Laura would tell me, “I have been coming to Fellowship Church for four years.” What. Where have you been? And then she gets involved in this big event and does something incredible. I say wow, how any Lauras are out there? How many singers are out there? How many coaches are out there? How many teachers are out there? How many small group leaders are out there? How many parkers are out there? How many greeters are out there? How many people to help the poor are out there? How many? Who knows?
You have incredible talent, my friend, incredible strength. Use it. Because one day you are going to face God. So am I. And God is going to ask us one question. What did you do with My church? What did you do with that thing that is most near and dear to My heart? What did you do?
Speaking of hiding, we like to give excuses. We like to refuse God’s promoting to get involved in ministry. Some of us give the knowledge excuse. “Well, I just don’t know enough to get involved.” Join the club. I don’t either. I feel outmanned and undergunned every time I open this book. And the more I know about this book, the more I realize I don’t know. We will teach you the stuff. It is action driven, not information or feelings driven.
Another excuse is, “They don’t need me. Surely they don’t need me.” The bigger the church, the bigger the need. We don’t go around bragging about this, but to let you in on some insider information, we have grown by a couple of thousand over the last eight weeks. That is a lot of folks. A lot. We need you more than ever. It is a cool deal. For example, you can go to the 9am service and work during the 10:45am service. Or you could go to the Saturday service and come at 9am to work. The schedule hopefully helps you. Don’t ever say that we don’t need you.
Another excuse is the ability excuse. I just don’t have the talent. Yes, you do. Yes, you do. Then there is the schedule excuse. Now that is real. Time is our most valuable commodity. We have less leisure time today than we did twenty years ago. We want you to make the most of your time especially when you involve yourself in ministry here. And we have a saying that comes from the Bible, every member is a minister. So if you are a member of the Fellowship Church, lift your hand. Keep your hands up. Now everyone else turn around to those who have their hands raised and say, “You’re a minister.” Every member is a minister and, watch this now, every minister must have a ministry. We want you to do the stuff. We want you to walk up to bat and hit home runs. We want you to throw touchdown passes. We want you to shoot three pointers. And we will equip you and help you to do that.
But sadly, many, many have never walked up to the plate, never taken a snap, never stepped behind the three point line and fired a shot off. If you haven’t done it, we want to assist you. The paid staff will handle the maintenance stuff, you do the ministry. We don’t want you up here just wasting your time, going through a bunch of silly committees and rigmarole. Do the stuff. Take the ball and minister.
I am so excited about our church because we have pinpointed over 2,800 specific leadership positions that are filled right now here at the Fellowship Church. I am talking about non-paid staff. So leaders, you make our church go. My hat goes off to you. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. But there are another 3,000 that need to dive in.
We need to thrive, don’t we? We need to thrive. I feel like doing a cheer. Give me a T. Give me an H. Give me an R. Give me an I. Give me a V. Give me an E. What does that spell? Thrive. What does God want us to do within the context of the church? Thrive.
T stands for talent. You have talent that I don’t have. I have talent that you don’t have. Are you using your talent? H stands for heart. What makes your heart beat fast? What are you passionate about within the church? R stands for relationships. You want to meet some great people? You will have friends like you have never had friends when you involve yourself in the foxhole of faith as you do ministry and use your skill set for the glory of God. And I will give you this challenge. Please, please revolve your most strategic relationships around the people you meet at church. If you don’t, you are setting yourself up for a tailspin.
I stands for inspiration. Talk about inspiration. Last weekend we had one of the most powerful services in the history of the church. One hundred and eighty-two people walked down these aisles and committed their lives to Jesus Christ. When I locked eyes with those in our drama, in our band, the singers, ushers, people handing out Krispy Kreme donuts at the early service and parkers who brave the elements, I said God thank you. All of us had a part in those people coming to know Christ. How about the people in the preschool, in the children’s area who cared for the little ones while these hell-bound people heard the message. If they had not been there, many would not have been able to receive the message. It is all connected. It all works together. It is all a part of the body. Inspiration.
V stands for venue. Take out your worship guide. Look at the insert that says Ministry Opportunities at Fellowship Church. Turn it over and we have provided a listing of areas where you can get involved. Maybe you want to get involved in the weekend service format or First Wednesday. First Wednesday is an intense worship service we do once a month during the first week. Maybe you want to be involved in the parking crew. The Bible tells us in the New Testament to warmly welcome those who come to church. Our parking crew does a great job. When you see them give them a high five and say thank you for what you do. Maybe it is an usher or greeter or someone in the hospitality area. Now see there is a note that drama, singers and band members need to go through an audition process. For all the others there is no an audition process. If you feel like to are wired do participate in one of the three, call our Music/Media Department and set up an audition.
Preschool and children’s areas, youth, connection classes and single impact. Maybe you want to be a part of our small group ministry, the home teams. There is athletics, the newcomer’s class, the bookstore and men’s and women’s ministry. It is out there for you. Take a couple of moments, write your name and address and telephone number. Indicate what service you attend. Then check off where you want to thrive and put these cards in the plate. We will get back to you and get you involved. But I am telling you, begging you, when you sign up, show up. Don’t say, OK, I will sign up but if something better comes along….. Show up and watch and see what God does.
E on thrive stands for eternity. This is the only venue going where we can touch eternity. Things that we do here have an eternal significance. That is why we are so passionate about using our skills, using our resources, using what we have here for the glory of God.
If you are a part of one of these ministries right now, I want you to stand. Let’s give them an ovation. These folks make the Fellowship Church go and grow. And many are standing holding babies right now, many standing from the parking crew, many standing in other areas of the church where you cannot see them. But this is where it is at and where it is happening.
So what are you going to do? Will you still hang out in the John Travolta wear, the polyester, the gold chains of Charlie’s Angels or are you going to say that you don’t want to stay alive any more, but you want to thrive. Oh how I pray that that is your prayer. You know during this series called LISTEN TO THE MUSIC VOLUME II, we have started out every session with a secular song like we did this time with the BeeGees “Staying Alive”. Then I would preach a message and conclude the service with a contemporary Christian song which answers the question that the secular song was asking. Today we are going to answer this message and tie the whole thing up with a song called, “The Song Is Alive.” Listen and see what God tells you through the words of music.