What’s Your Purpose
October 18, 1998
You know, it’s amazing when you consider the diversity of groups in an audience this size. One group would be considered our guests. We have between 500 and 800 visitors every single weekend. And if you are in that category, let me say one more time, we’re glad that you have chosen to worship here at the Fellowship Church. Sit back and relax and enjoy the remainder of the service we have planned just for you.
You know, I just had a wild craving. I know it’s early but I just have the desire for a Quarter-Pounder with cheese. Sit tight for a second, I will be right back.
[Video of Ed running out of the church into the parking lot, unlocking his truck, driving to McDonalds, and ordering a Quarter-Pounder. Video cuts to Ed eating the burger in a playground, taking off his shoes and using the slide, driving back, and entering the front of the church. Ed reappears as he comes down the aisle from the back of the church.]
Whoa! Hey! Ahhh, what a meal, what a meal. There is nothing like a Quarter-Pounder with cheese early in the morning. That is why I am running; running to get the calories off. So, we do have a group of guests here, but also we have a group called the drive-thru people. You look at this place like McChurch. You drive up, pull your car through the line, and we sort of say, “Welcome to the Fellowship Church. May I take your order, please?” You say, “I would like a good service, meaningful music, a relevant message, and incredible child care.” “Uh, would you like cheese with that?” A lot of you who are in this group have been driving thru this place for a year or so. No commitment, no connection, no life change. The best of both worlds, you say.
We have got guests and we have got drive-thru people. We also have a third group represented here, and this group can best be described by the following question: How many of you have had your flu shot this season? Lift your hands. Hey, great. Well, just relax for a second. If you are squeamish, close your eyes. I am going to get my flu shot because I have not had one yet. I want to welcome Terry Dawes, a nurse and a part of the Fellowship Church. She is going to give me an honest-to-goodness flu shot. Terry, I have heard that, now and then, especially men will kind of faint when they get shots. So if I fall out, you go ahead and continue the message.
Terry, you were telling me that when you give me this vaccine that you are giving me a part of the virus so that, hopefully, I will not catch the full infection. OK, go to it. Woo! Okay, Terry, thank you very much.
“Do you want a little Band-Aid on that, Ed?”
“Do you have little Tellytubbies?”
“Afraid not, just a little grown-up dot.”
“OK, thank you.”
“And because you were so brave, here you go, your very own lollipop.”
You know Terry was present when Lisa and I had our twins four years ago, in Irving hospital. By the way, she gives a great shot.
There are a group of you who are flu shot people. Flu shot people are those who just have a part of Christianity so that it keeps them from catching the full virus. Church is important to you but not that important. Tickets to an athletic contest or some meistic activity almost always bump church out of the picture. You show up here a couple of times a month, shake a couple of hands, throw a couple of bucks in the offering plate, and you are gone. You used to be involved, but for some reason you have a mild case of Christianity that keeps you from getting the full blow deal.
There is a fourth group here. Some of you in this house are the committed. You are the core. You are engaged and involved in ministry. You make the Fellowship Church go. You recognize that the church is not some stale, old and cold place, void of any life. You know the church is purpose-centered, a place that has a zeal and a focus to reach and to teach others for the Lord Jesus Christ. You understand that we are in the business of seeking those missing persons and finding them and introducing them to Jesus Christ and then growing them up to become fully devoted followers of the Lord. If that is you, then you are something else.
This weekend I am launching into a brand new series called “On Purpose.” To live an on purpose life, our purposes have to coalesce with the purposes of the church. What is the take home? How does this apply to our lives? Well, if you are a guest, you will know during this series what our church stands for. You will know why we strategically carry out different functions of God’s directive plan for the life of this church. If you are a drive-thru person, if you see us as McChurch, I am going to challenge you over the next couple of weeks to park, get out of your automobile, and bag fries and flip burgers for the glory of God right here in this church. If you are a flu shot person, I hope that this series exposes you to the virus and you catch the full blown deal. I hope you understand what it means to truly be a Christ follower. If you are a part of the core, the committed, if you are carrying the ball-scoring touchdown after touchdown in ministry, I would give you a high five. But the high five is kind of out these days. Now when people score touchdowns they are given a salute. So I salute you. We have some 1,483 people who make the Fellowship Church work every single month.
You might be saying, “Ed, on purpose? I though you were talking about my life. And you are talking about the church?” One more time I say, you cannot live a truly on purpose life until your purposes coalesce with the purposes of the church. What I am after in this series is whole-hearted commitment. So many things encroach upon the emerging church. So many things vie for our attention. To really be engaged, you might have to do without some trips, without some television, without some movies, without some activities that seem really alluring because there is a bigger priority, a bigger on-purpose venue and vehicle called the local church. And you realize that you cannot live an on purpose life until your purposes connect with the purposes of the church.
Let’s say you want this energy and excitement and vitality and adventure to really play out in your life. If you do, I have got some great news for you. I am going to show you over the next couple of weeks how to develop and how to live an on purpose life and how to grow and mature in your faith and in your focus.
Now, to understand this we have to recognize, up front, that there are a lot of misconceptions floating around about spiritual development, about on purpose living. The first misconception is that it is a natural occurrence. Let’s say, for example, that you bow the knee to Christ, you invite Him to infiltrate your life. You say to yourself that it is just natural that you grow, that your purposes coalesce with those of the church. No, it is not.
Take physical fitness, for example. If you say that you want to get in great shape and you just stand there, you are not going to get in great shape. It is not just a natural thing. You don’t just drive by a health club and all of a sudden your triceps, biceps, traps, quads all pump up. It doesn’t happen that way. And spiritual development is not a natural thing. Here is what the Bible says in Philippians 2:12, “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” It doesn’t say to work on your salvation, it says work it out. In other words, we have to work out what Christ has worked in. And we have to make a decision to do so. Are you living an on purpose life or are you buying the lie that it is just a natural thing?
Another misconception is that spiritual maturity is extremely limited. Some say that spiritual growth and on purpose living is out there, it is out of reach. “It is reserved for the Abrahams and the Isaacs, the Joshuas and the Davids, the Pauls, the Timothys, the Billy Grahams, the Martin Luthers, the John Calvins but not for me. Not for little, plain, old Metroplex me. Surely I can’t grow and mature and have my purposes coalesce with the purposes of the church.”
Again, think about the world of physical fitness. A lot of us think that physical fitness is limited to just a few people, the buff and the beautiful. That is not true. Anyone can get in reasonable physical condition. We can get in good shape. Spiritual maturity and spiritual development is for everyone. 1 Timothy 4:7, “Spend your time and energy in training yourself for spiritual fitness.” Spiritual development is practical. It is understandable. It is simple. I didn’t say shallow or superficial. I said simple.
Another misconception is that spiritual development is experientially driven. We say that we are just one video, one conference, one blessing, one connection, one key away from spiritual nirvana. Again, we go to the area of fitness. Men and women spend hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars trying to find that quick fix to instant physical fitness. “Hey, I will buy that exercise equipment on the infomercial. If I work out four minutes a day, I can look like that. If I take Metrex, whoa, that will do it. Troy drinks it and look at him. If I join that club just for a couple of months….” It doesn’t happen that way.
Ephesians 4:13 says, “We arrive at real maturity.” See the word “arrive”? That implies a trip. And maturity means that it is a destination. It is not just a one-time blessing, or a one-time experience, or a one-time conference, or a one-time thing, it is a process. The Christian life is a decision followed by a process, not followed by a recess.
There is another misconception out there. Some think that spiritual maturity is information-based. Whoa! This is especially true in the land of the Bible Study, the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. “If I know the Bible and can debate doctrine and really own theology and recognize Biblical characters and memorize scripture, that means that I am spiritually mature. I am on the information highway.”
Yes, that is part of the package, but just a part of the package. Spiritual maturity is multi-faceted and multi-dimensional. It is not just an information thing. If Christianity was a philosophy, Jesus would have said, “I have come so that you might have life and that you may have it as you really study.” He didn’t say that. Christianity is not a philosophy. Christianity is a personal relationship. Jesus said that He has come so that we might have life in all of its fullness. Yet we think that information will do it.
Here is what the Bible says about spiritual maturity. James 1:22, “Be doers of the word and not hearers only.” In other words, spiritual maturity is not just a left brain, cognitive, focused deal, it takes a lot of experiences. Most Christians don’t need another Bible Study. You know what they need? They need a place to get involved, a place to use their spiritual gifts, a place to build relationships and grow. The word “study” is only used a couple of times in the New Testament. You know what the key words were in the New Testament concerning spiritual maturity? Love, serve, give, believe. Study is not in there very much. And most of us, if we just applied what we already know, would be way ahead of the game. Don’t think for a second that I am saying that knowledge is not important. I am not saying that. We have to have knowledge, yet information is not the only deal.
I grew up in a Christian home, went to a Christian college. I went to a seminary where I studied the original Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic. I have done doctrinal work. All those things helped me and I learned a lot of information. But if you asked me where I have grown the most, where have I allowed my purposes to coalesce, I would answer this way: It is when I love, when I serve, when I give, and when I believe. No doubt about it.
These are misconceptions about spiritual maturity and on-purpose living. People ask me often about the Fellowship Church. Maybe they have read about it or heard about it and seen what God is doing in this place. And this place is definitely a God thing. They ask me about the purposes of this church. I always say that we have the most positive, affirming, and energetic fellowship I have ever seen in my life. The comments, the letters, the words of encouragement and affirmation that we receive are staggering. But we run into some people that have some comments and valid concerns about the Fellowship Church.
I want to ask you another question. How many of you have watched Jerry Springer? Go ahead, don’t lie to me now. Jerry Springer. Geraldo, during his heyday? Oprah? Sally Jesse? Well, you know how they place people behind a screen and alter their voices and have them share intimate things? Do you know what I am talking about? Well, we have that going on today in this service. We have some people, their identities will remain anonymous, who will appear on the side screens. They will express some comments and concerns that we may need to address here at the Fellowship Church. Here is the first comment.
THIS CHURCH IS SO BIG. THERE ARE SO MANY PEOPLE.
Have you ever heard that before about this church? I have. This church is so big and there are so many people. This is a big church. Look around. I want to ask the ladies a question. Ladies have you ever said, “I will never shop in the Galleria again because it is just too big.” Men, have you ever said, “No, I will pass on those tickets to the Stars game because—dag gummit—Reunion Arena is just too big. I will not go to Texas Motor Speedway because it is just too big.” Big. Huge. Massive. Gargantuan. Behemoth-like. Big. If a church is around a big population base, it should be big. This church should be big and all the churches in Grapevine should be big. All the churches in Coppell, in Plano, in Colleyville, in Southlake, in Duncanville, in Mesquite should be big. Why? Because we live in one of the biggest population bases in North America. Jesus said, “I will build My church.” He also said, “Go out into the country so My church will be made full.”
If the church is in a small population base, it should be small. But in a big population base, it should be big. And if it is not big, if it is not growing, a church is in rebellion to what God wants it to do. You see—and don’t miss what I am going to say right now— quality produces quantity. When you have quality going on…I am talking about life change, people coming to know Christ, marriages being brought back together, fragmented families being connected, people getting direction and real significance. When you have quality going on, quality produces quantity. And that is the reason the Fellowship Church has grown, has gotten so big, so gargantuan, so huge, so massive. It is because what God has done in a quality way and that quality produces quantity.
But also the reverse is true. Quantity also produces quality. For example, singles, would you rather be a part of a singles ministry with ten people or a thousand? Parents, when we have our Fall Festival, would you rather go to one that has two booths and a couple of aged ponies? Or would you rather come to one that has Ferris wheels, 70 ponies and 90 booths? Would you rather hear me sing by myself, or would your rather hear Rob sing, Tony sing, Vanessa sing, or Dana sing? The bigger the church, the more quality God brings to the table. Think about the relational opportunities in a church this size. We have everything represented here. We have bankers, brokers, professional athletes, construction workers, pastors, teachers, attorneys. The list goes on and on, it is limitless. Think about the relational opportunities in a big church.
How about the service opportunities, the opportunities for spiritual development for on purpose living. We have our home team ministry, our small groups that meet in houses and apartments and condominiums throughout the DFW Metroplex. We have our Connection Classes, our Life Development classes. We have women’s ministry going on and men’s ministry going on. We have athletic leagues and craft functions and mission work. We engage young people and children in the life of this church. Think of all the activities and the potential that God has given us here. So quality produces quantity and also quantity produces quality. If quality was inherent with smallness, the greatest church would have only one member.
Look at the side screen again.
THE PARKING LOT IS ALWAYS PACKED.
You know what I say about that? Yea, God! I hope our parking lot is always packed. I pray that we will always have crowd control problems, challenges and difficulties. Again I say, quality produces quantity, and when God is working you are going to have to lock the doors.
Something amazing happened to me in early August. I was driving down 114 East and crossed underneath the overpass by Cowboys Stadium. The Cowboys were having a pre-season game. I watched tens of thousands of people walking into Texas Stadium. They had smiles on their faces, a spring in their steps and, I imagine, a twinkle in their eyes with perspiration dripping off their noses. They were going to see the Dallas Cowboys play. Hot, humid. They knew in their minds that they were going to have to sit in a cramped, hard seat for three hours and eat a bunch of overpriced junk food with soft drinks, although many would choose the adult beverages. They knew they would be watching a bunch of second- and third-string, muscular men try to push a leather ball across a white and green carpet. Yet these same people will whine and moan and groan if they have to walk the length of a football field just to worship God. [They say,] “I can’t believe this, can you? Man, I wish I could go to a half-empty parking lot, drop my children off at a half-empty nursery, hear a half-empty message and leave happy. That’s what I want.”
See we bring a lot of hilarious presuppositions to the table here in America when we think about the church. A lot of us think of the church as an institution where a tone deaf organist hammers out hymns, followed by a monotone message to the already convinced. And now and then when we bump into relevancy, we say, “Wait a minute, the church is not supposed to be relevant. The church is not supposed to change my life between services. I shouldn’t get convicted. It shouldn’t be understandable. That is not the church.” But that is the church. That is the body of Christ.
When you boil down the teachings of our Lord, He said things that all of us can connect with. Jesus had a choice. He could have spoken in classical Greek or street language, Aramaic. Take a stab at which language Christ chose—Aramaic. He was always talking so that people could understand Him and connect with Him. He preached from boat bows, beaches, and standing on top of rocks. He drew in the sand, pointed to a sower, picked up a coin, and talked about current events. He connected with people. So when you have that going on, when you have a church that is on purpose and teaching others about on purpose living, you are going to have a big church and you are going to have a church with some parking problems.
Let’s go to the screen again.
THE WEEKEND SERVICES SEEM SO ENTERTAINING.
Have you ever heard that before? I have. Someone said that to me a couple of years ago so I looked up the word “entertainment.” Do you know what the word entertainment means? To capture and hold someone’s attention for an extended period of time. Entertainment.
The Bible says Jesus held people held people spellbound for hours. The Apostle Paul, according to the book of Acts, continued preaching past midnight. The worship services in the early church would go on and on and on and on. Let’s see. Entertainment: To capture and hold someone’s attention for an extended period of time. That’s why the theme of our church is “innertainment for the heart.” INNER-tainment for the heart. If we are not innertaining, we are not doing what God wants us to do. We have not adopted the model of communication that Christ used. Christ spoke truth. He was the master story-teller. When he talked, people were riveted. They hung on His every word. They couldn’t wait for Him to connect and to communicate. He was always using visuals because Christ knew way back then what we are just discovering now, that about 84% of us are visual learners.
Matthew 13:34, “Jesus always used”—not sometimes, not now and then, always, always—“used stories and illustrations when speaking to the crowds.” You see the Bible is a very complex and deep book. Oftentimes the issues are mysterious. It would be easy for me to keep the complex complex. Easy. But it gets tough to make the complex simple. It is a tough and laborious process to make the complex simple. That is what Christ did. That is what the disciples did. That is what the patriarchs and matriarchs did. They made it understandable so that people could put their arms around it and grasp it. So now and then when people tell me that I am a simple preacher, I say, “You have just given me the greatest compliment.”
My desire is to be simple, not shallow or superficial, but simple. If I have not given you something that you can take home and use in your life, then I have blown it, I have messed up. That goes for me and the other pastors we use to preach. That goes for Stan Durham as he writes drama. That goes for the music people. That goes for everyone in the life of this church. If you teach knee-high children or tree-high children. We want to adopt the 70-30 model. Christ’s words were 70% application and 30% information. Information is huge, but he gave us 30% information and 70% application. Application means, “So what?” Application means that I have to apply what I learn and make it real. I have to incorporate it into my life.
This summer some of the pastors and I had the opportunity to do some white water rafting. I have never done it before. I want to show you a quick picture of this white water rafting trip. That is a good hunk of the pastors of this church. Let me point them out for you quickly. That is me, Ed Young, mouth open, drinking water, screaming, whatever. To my right is Paris Wallace, our student pastor. He looks like a student pastor, doesn’t he, with the long hair, hat turned backwards. Behind him is Troy Page, our singles pastor. Behind him is Preston Mitchell with his head down. Behind Preston is Mike Johnson, our children’s pastor. To Mike’s right is the guide, and coming forward is Stan Durham, 6’5”, 235 lbs. of lean, mean steel. In front of him is pastor Owen Goff.
Now it is important that you understand the way we were set up because of what happened minutes after this picture was taken. Something dangerous occurred. We hit a bad stretch of white water. In fact, our guide told us that several persons had been killed in the area and he wanted us to pay close attention to him. Mike Johnson began to talk trash to my side of the boat. Mike said, “Ed, you are not pulling your weight. Come on, paddle harder.” Ten seconds later I heard Preston Mitchell in his one-of-a-kind Texan accent say these words. “Mike’s out. Mike’s out. Mike’s out.” It was like Deliverance or something. We looked back and we didn’t see Burt Reynolds, we saw Mike Johnson being sucked under the rapids. He was fighting and swimming for his life. There was a danger of hypothermia, of Mike drowning.
The guide turned the boat around. A few of us started laughing. Yet, Owen Goff extended his paddle to Mike. And let me tell you what happened. We did not say when Mike was fighting for his life out there, “Hey, Mike, the Greek term for paddle is…. Hey, the historicity of white water rafting dates back to….” No, we didn’t say that. That information was true but it was totally and completely irrelevant. Mike needed rescuing. Mike needed someone to take him by the life jacket and pull him into the raft. And that is what we did.
For so long people have walked into God’s house and they have been drowning, sucked under by the currents of the culture, drowning in their marriage, in their lives, in relationships, financially, drowning without meaning and purpose. Yet the church has said, “Okay, the Greek term for drowning is….The historicity of the life raft is….” Hey, that information is true but a lot of it is irrelevant. We, at the Fellowship Church, want to extend paddles. We want to rescue people. We want to introduce you to Jesus Christ, bring you on board, and then show you and give you opportunities to progress and become a fully devoted follower of Christ. That is what we are about. We were about that when we began the church 8½ years ago. We are about that now. And we are not going to get off that purpose. That is who we are. That is what God says. We are going to go for it and continue to do what He wants us to do.
This last concern is huge. This last concern is the key, the key to the whole deal.
THERE REALLY ISN’T A PLACE FOR ME.
This looms so large for the guest, for the drive-thru person, for the flu shot person, for the committed person, that we are going to spend the entire session next week on this comment and concern. It is the key to on purpose living.