October 27, 2003
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never really liked math that much. Whenever I think about math, I think about images of those overhead projectors. Do you remember those things? I think about pop quizzes and red marks all over my paper. I really struggle with math. I just did not gel with it. I majored in fine arts for a while—drawing and painting. I really got some of my best artwork done during math class. It was incredible. I think my mother has some of the renderings framed, in fact. She’ll show them off and say, “Ed did this in Algebra I.”
I use to sit in class and think to myself, “What is up with this math stuff. I will never use it. Why am I here?” I use to think about that, and say that and tell people that. But as I have gotten older, I’ve come to the realization that math matters. Life is all about numbers. We are bombarded by numbers 24/7, aren’t we? Stats, figures, percentages, surveys—everything is numbers these days. We drive around the freeways and see speed limit signs. We have all the numbers on our dials on our cars. We know people’s cell phone numbers. When we watch football, baseball, basketball, or soccer everybody has a number on their back. And people say, “When you die, your number’s up.” People are always thinking about numbers. We’re always thinking about numbers, numbers, numbers, and counting stuff.
I’ve been a student of the Bible for a long, long time and I’ve found that math matters not only to us, but math even matters to God. And when I say that, some people think, “Really? Math matters to God?” The answer is “Yes.” And we’re going to see over the next several weeks how much math matters to God. One of the reasons I want you to be here is because I’ve discovered that once we understand God’s math and where we fit in his equation, then we can achieve just some unique stuff—especially within the confines of the local church.
Over the next several weeks, I am going to talk about math. Today, I’ll talk about addition. Next weekend, subtraction. Then I’m talking about multiplication and division. I was going to add algebra, geometry and trig, but I never understood that so I’ll stop with division, okay?
You know, I said earlier that math matters to God and the Bible has a lot of math in it. I was thinking the other day about all the math in the Bible. God uses numbers throughout the pages of Scripture. Jesus said that we have to, “Count the cost.” He told the story about a shepherd that had 99 sheep in his corral. Well, the reason he knew there was 99 sheep in there and not 100 or 98 was because the shepherd counted. An entire book of the Bible is named Numbers – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers. You’ll find Moses counting the children of Israel before they left Egypt and moved into the Promised Land. You have David counting the five smooth stones before he took out the big behemoth, Goliath. Then you see Simon Peter counting 3,000 people who were added to the early church. And we have Jesus, himself, counting the twelve disciples and then the seventy that he sent out into the world. Remember Gideon? He counted the 300 faithful. The Bible is all about numbers and counting.
So, let’s go ahead and start with addition. Let’s think about addition because anytime God does math, he starts with addition. He always has a constant factor in his addition, in his formulas. That constant factor is the local church. So, I want to talk to you about the local church and where we fit into God’s equation. God is the quintessential mathematician. He’s always adding something. It’s amazing to sit back aHave you always been here in Grapevine? Have you always had this facility? How did it start and what all did you deal with in the early days?” So, I want to go back in time a little bit and use this as kind of a learning experience to bring all of us up to speed and on the same page.
The first thing that God added to Fellowship Church that I love to talk about is vision. He added vision. When I think about vision, my mind rushes to the book of Proverbs. Proverbs 29:18—this is a pretty cool verse. It says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” It’s pretty straight forward. If there’s no vision, people perish. So, if there is vision, people thrive. God is always working with vision
Think back to some of the characters in the Bible. God gave Abraham a vision to leave Ur of the Chaldeans. He gave big Moses a vision to lead the children of Israel. He gave Solomon a vision to build the temple. He’s always giving people visions to show us what’s out there. The vision of Fellowship Church unfolded in a very unique way. Here’s how it kind of played out in my life.
I grew up a P.K., a preacher’s kid, and when I graduated, I went to school at Florida State University. I thought I knew a lot about the world until I was thrust into a very, very crazy environment at Florida State. I think it was rated the number one or number two party schools in the nation all the time I was at Florida State. I didn’t participate in all those parties, but it was rated that. I was involved in the sports program at FSU and I was around people who were not Christians. Our dorm was a massive structure. I think it had around 1500 people in the dorm. We even had a full bar in the bottom of our dorm. It was a privately owned dorm at Florida State, Cash Hall. Isn’t that amazing? I would come home from class and they would be announcing, “It’s margarita night in the Florida State Room. Just take the elevator to the basement.” This was college. Can you believe my parents dropped me off there and just said, “Okay, Ed, have a good time”? I could tell you stories all day and night about Florida State. But anyway, let me tell you this. Three people out of the 1500 in the whole dorm went to church. I was one of three. Not four… three.
TRUTH AND RELEVANCE
I went to a church and this church was a good church. It was a traditional church and the pastor was a nice guy. They had music that was a little bit older. Now, I had a heart for the Lord and I became a Christian at a pretty young age so I invited some of my teammates to the church. I was a freshman or sophomore at Florida State playing basketball, and I would have some of my basketball buddies with me at church. We would sit on the pew and just check it out. And for the first time, I began to see church, not through my eyes, but through their eyes. And I thought to myself, “Wow, what they are doing here and saying here is true at this church. But it’s irrelevant.” It was true but it was irrelevant. God started working on me when I was a freshman or sophomore in my life saying, “Ed, wouldn’t it be cool if you could be a part of a church that even your teammates could show up to and they could hear truth that is relevant?”
A couple of years ago, I had a pretty cool experience happen to me, that backs up what I said about truth sometimes being irrelevant. Some of the Management Team guys went down the Snake River and went white water rafting. We hit a pretty dangerous stretch. In fact, our rafting guide told us that a couple of people had drowned in this stretch of river, so it was kind of tenuous. We were a little bit scared.
Mike Johnson, our Children’s Pastor, was on the left side of the boat and I was on the right side of the boat. We were paddling and our river guide would say, “Paddle left,” and we’d paddle left. “Paddle right”, and we’d paddle right. He told us, “Now, if you’re flung overboard, you know, in a minute you could die of hypothermia.” He told us what to do, how to stay away from the rocks, how to cruise down the river with your feet up and all this stuff that would help us. Well, Mike Johnson was kind of getting on me because I wasn’t paddling hard enough. Mike was saying, “Hey, man, you’re not paddling hard enough, Ed.” Well, five seconds after he said that, we hit this massive white water and over this thunderous white water, I heard Preston’s (Fellowship’s executive pastor) west Texas accent shouting, “Mike’s out! Mike’s out!” I looked back and there is Mike Johnson, I mean, the guy is like going under the white water with this life vest on. And he’s swirling around and spitting out water.
Now, here’s what we did not do. At that point, we did not hold up a paddle and say, “Hey, Mike, the Latin term for paddle is…,” or, “Mike, did you realize that the history of white water rafting dates back to the 1820’s?” “Did you know that, Mike? Hey, Mike, look this way.” That stuff was true, but it was irrelevant. What did Mike need? Mike needed rescuing. So, we extended our paddles to him, he grabbed the paddle, we brought him up and our big burly guide just grabbed his life preserver and threw him in the raft.
That’s the problem with most churches. People are drowning—drowning in their marriages, drowning in their careers, drowning in hurtful habits; yet, the church for two long has said, “Hey, the Latin for the word “paddle” is…,” or, “The historisticity of white water rafting started in the 1800’s.” These people don’t need to learn about the Latin word for paddle or the history of white water rafting. What do they need? They need someone to extend paddles. They need someone to rescue them and bring them on the raft. They need someone to show them what it means to become a full-court follower of Christ.
So, at a very young age, I understood that truth and relevancy matter. And my sophomore year in college, I moved to Houston and began to finish up my undergraduate degree. Then I enrolled in Seminary. I began to work in a church, and God began to develop this vision. I didn’t know really what it looked like or what kind of style it was; I didn’t really understand the implications, the size, or the depth of it. I just knew God was doing something.
At the same time, God, because remember God is always adding vision, was working in several visionaries’ lives in Irving, Texas of all places. I remember Owen Goff telling me, “You know, a long time ago, I said to myself, ‘I will do anything it takes to reach people.” He said, “I told God that.” I remember Preston Mitchell telling me, “You know, I knew there had to be something better.” I remember Doris Scoggins telling me, “I knew there were so many people out there that needed to be reached, but I just didn’t know what was going to happen. I knew something was out there, something was happening.” [Owen, Preston, and Doris are all original staff members of Fellowship Church]
I told my friends when I was in Seminary, “You know, there is one place I will never go to start a church.” I said, “I will never go to Dallas/Ft. Worth.” I love Dallas/Ft. Worth, but I said, “I’m not going to the belt buckle of the Bible belt.” I told them, “You know, I’ve hung around a lot of people who are ungodly, a lot of people who didn’t know Christ. I want to go somewhere like California, Canada, Arizona, Florida, or somewhere where they don’t have a church on every single street corner. Dallas, Texas—the land of televangelists, the land of Seminaries, and the bastion of Baptists? I’m not going there.”
Well, don’t ever say that to God, I’ve discovered. Because God spoke to Lisa and me in a real way and we hooked up with a small group of people who were starting a work in Irving, Texas. God synced us up together and we owned this vision and kind of began to understand the vision. But we still didn’t know what was in store for us.
Now, 13 years ago, if you would have walked up to myself, Doris, Owen, or Preston and said, “Hey, Fellowship Church will look like it does today and you will dress casual, and blah blah blah,” I would have said, “Man, what have you been smoking and drinking?” I had no clue, none of us had any clue, that Fellowship would unfold like it has. It was all about vision, though. It’s vision. Where there is no vision, the people perish.
I began to think about the vision of Fellowship Church during the early days. We had maybe 150, 200 people showing up. I thought, you know, I need to write the vision for this church down. I began to meditate on two scripture verses and I want to share these verses with you. They’re found in Matthew 22 and in Matthew 28. I’m talking about the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. Here’s the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37-39), “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Now, in Matthew 28:19 Jesus gave us the Great Commission, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” Look at verse 20, “…and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Those are huge, towering verses—the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. I thought to myself, “That’s what the church is all about. But how can we record something, how can we write something down that everyone can understand and that everyone can get their hands around?” At the time, I was in a little rented office. We had one used typewriter. I was the only staff member at the Fellowship of Las Colinas (that’s what we called it at the time). It was like God said, “Boom! Ed, reach up, reach out, reach in.” I said, “That’s it! Reach up, reach out, reach in. That’s the three-fold purpose of the Fellowship of Las Colinas.” Think about it.
Reach up—what is that? Worship. What is worship? It’s expressing love to God. Love the Lord your God with all your heart—that’s a pretty good definition of worship—with all your soul, wow, with all your mind. Love your neighbor as yourself. That’s worship. Worship is not just what we do on Saturday or Sunday or on First Wednesday. Worship should transcend everything we do, say, touch and feel. Everything we do should worship. As I always say, we should not come to Fellowship Church to worship. We should come to Fellowship Church worshipping. Reach up—expressing our love to God. That’s worship.
Reach out. Matthew 28:19—the Great Commission. “Therefore go,” Jesus said, “and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Reach out. Communicate Christ creatively with the culture. Reach out to those people who are on the peripheral. Reach out to those people who normally don’t go to church. Reach out to those people who are disillusioned with organized religion. Reach out to the people involved in all of this stuff. Reach out to them. Reach out to them. That’s a huge thing. Reach up and reach out.
Reach in. What’s reaching in? That’s becoming a full-court follower of Christ. Look at Matthew 28:20, “and teaching them,” Jesus said, “to obey everything I’ve commanded you.” That’s having Christ fully formed in your life.
So, I wrote this down. Well, that week we got together in someone’s home and I was sharing with some of our leaders about this vision and they said, “Ed, you’ve got to go public with this! You got to tell people about it.”
I thought, “Well, I’ve never done anything like that. I’ve preached sermons, and preached the Bible, but I’ve never talked about vision.” And they said, “Do it. We need to do this!” So I did.
And I have to say, through their encouragement, July 4th weekend, 1990, was a turning point in Fellowship Church’s history. From that day forward we said, “Here are the values, here is the vision, here is the mission statement of what we’re about. Everything we do is going to fall under one of these three principles. If it doesn’t, we’re not going to do it.”
Next weekend I’m talking about subtraction. Subtraction is a great part of God’s math. Every time God adds, he subtracts. Don’t tell me what you’re adding to your life. Also, tell me what you’re subtracting from your life. Great difference makers are great eliminators. But that’s next weekend, so I’ll stop for now.
VISION + LEADERS
So, God added the vision. Then he added something else. He can’t just stop at vision. Its fine to talk about vision, but he also added something else. He added leaders. Vision plus leaders, difference makers. When the church brought me here, it was just starting. I was the only staff member. We had a rented typewriter and were meeting in rented facilities.
A small group of people looked at me and they said, “Ed, how are you going to do this church when you are the only staff member? How?”
It was a great question. I said, “You know what? You’re going to be my staff. That’s right. You’re going to be the staff of Fellowship of Las Colinas. I mean, I can’t pay you. We don’t have the money, but you’re going to be the staff.”
They looked around and Preston said, “Me?” I said, “Yes, Preston, you.”
Doris was like, “I’m working in the corporate world.” I said, “Yeah, Doris.”
Owen told me, “I have an insurance company.” I said, “Yes, Owen.”
I said, “You’re going to be the staff. You all are the staff.”
“Okay,” they said, “that’s cool.”
I said, “You know, we’re going to make some decisions here. We need to commit not to miss a Sunday (because at that time we only had church on Sunday). We need to commit to attend every Sunday morning for the next 18 months. We’ve got to get this thing off the ground and going. We’ve got to become autonomous and self-supporting. We’ve got to do it. I’m willing to do it, are you?”
And they responded, “Yes.”
Is that unbelievable? I mean, you are talking about awesome leaders? Many, many others are here too, but I’m talking about Owen, Doris and Preston. The commitment level was huge. Leaders—they owned the vision and they still own the vision. They put flesh beneath the vision. It’s so important to understand that principle, because every time God adds a vision, he adds it to the lives of leaders.
Go back to the Bible and look at Abraham. He was a leader.
God said, “Hey, Abraham, leave Ur.” He did it. God communicated his vision to a leader.
God said, “Hey, Gideon, I want you to lead 300 faithful guys to fight…” Gideon, the leader, led.
God said, “Hey, Deborah, I want you to deliver your people.” Deborah led.
Any time you see God adding a vision, he always adds leaders to carry the vision through. The cool thing about Fellowship Church is the fact that we are led by leaders. We’re a staff led church, and a staff led church is a biblically led church. So many churches are set up to fail. Their leadership structure is not biblical. Let me give you an example.
Is anyone here a dentist? If you are a dentist, lift your hand. I will not embarrass you. You know I wouldn’t do that. If you’re a dentist…surely we have a dentist here, come on. [A gentlemen in the auditorium raises his hand] You are? Man, that’s great. You’re a young dentist, too. I love that. You’re on the cutting edge of dentistry. I won’t embarrass you. What’s your name? Nick? Nick. Alright, Nick. Nick, where’s your practice?
Nick: I’m a senior dental student.
Ed: Okay, you’re a senior dental student. So, you’ll practice probably here in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area? Okay, great man, Nick. You have a good smile too, man. You must be flossing everyday. I like that. Let’s use Nick. Okay, just for example, let’s just push the clock forward. Nick has now been in his own practice let’s say for four years, okay? And it is going! I mean, people are showing up and you’re having a great time. The smiles are looking beautiful. Let’s say though, Nick, that fifteen of your patients decide that they are going to form a committee. And, Nick, you can’t make any dental decisions without all of them voting on it. And it has to be unanimous. If the vote is not unanimous, you cannot make a decision—a decision to clean someone’s teeth, a decision to drill, a decision to give away a tube of toothpaste, a decision for x-rays. You can’t make one decision until they all sign off and vote. Do you think Nick would be a dentist very long? No! Are you kidding me? He would leave like that [snaps].
That’s the way most churches have been set up. The pastor gets a great staff and there’s this committee or board of 15 people who don’t know up from down about the church. Yet, they are going to tell the leaders how to lead? I’ve had the opportunity to talk to thousands of Christians leaders every year and what breaks my heart is that so many of them leave the ministry. They leave it because they didn’t sign up for what I just talked about. And that’s not a biblical model of church.
I’m not talking about accountability. I’m talking about the ability to lead. And one of the great reason and one of the factors in Fellowship’s awesome growth is because we understand that God’s vision is vertical and we carry it out in a horizontal fashion. And that forms the big plus sign, doesn’t it? We get the vision from God (vertically), and we then lead the church and it plays out horizontally. Here is where most churches mess up. A pastor, a staff member, or a leader has a vertical vision from God. Boom! God gives it to them. Alright. They begin to do the stuff God calls for, things begin to grow, things begin to happen and they begin to create.
Suddenly, though, there’s one or two negative people who rears his or her ugly head and says, “Well, the music’s too loud,” or, “I don’t like the way you said that,” or, “The service…,” or, “The parking…,” or, “I didn’t like…blah blah blah.”
And then the pastor goes, “Ohhhh.” Then someone with a lot of money says, “You know, if we continue down this road, I’m just going to leave.”
The pastor says, “Ohhhh. He can’t leave! He’s Mr. Big Time! Ohhh! We’ll change and we’ll appease you, Mr. Big Time. Listen, we’ll do what you want us to do.”
What’s happened there? The church has changed from getting their vision vertically to getting it horizontally. Now it’s up for grabs and the church turns inward.
Now that church says, “It’s just about us four and no more, the holy huddle. Let’s look at the lint in other Christian’s navels.” And they flip off their community and say, “Go to hell! Our church is for the white hats. The sinners, you’re the black hats, and you can’t show up here. It’s just about our little deal, our little click, our little country club, our little words, our little world.” They end up talking Christianese.
The Cowboys are pretty good this year, aren’t they? How about them Cowboys? When we watch the Cowboys, we want to watch them play, right? P-L-A-Y. Play. Play means action. Play means catching passes, making tackles. Play is not just staying in a huddle the whole time. If you are watching a holy huddle, all you see is a bunch of rears! And who wants to see that? That’s why those churches don’t grow. It’s a bunch of rears and they’re not playing.
What I love about Fellowship Church is that you guys and girls are players—in a good sense. You’re catching passes, you’re scoring touchdowns, and you’re leading. You’re owning and carrying forth the vision.
VISION + LEADERS + COMMITMENT
So, again, check out God’s addition. You’ve got vision plus leaders. Let’s add something else, commitment. You can talk about leaders and you can talk about vision—those things are good. Leaders carry out vision. They are intertwined like peanut butter and jelly or chips and hot sauce. That’s cool. But you’ve also got to talk about commitment, because it takes a commitment by the leaders to the vision. It’s the commitment to reach up, reach out and reach in that really puts wheels beneath what God is doing when he wants to add and do something awesome like he has done, and is doing, and will do at Fellowship Church. Commitment.
I’ll tell you something I’ve never told anybody publicly before. I might have said this, though, at our Creative Church Conference for pastors. But let me go ahead and tell you.
At Fellowship we began to reach up, and out and in and we began to really flesh out the vision. But I was really ignorant as a senior pastor. I didn’t know a couple of things that I just found these things out this past week when we had several pastors from Florida shadow us in a leadership training thing. And one of the pastors, Ron, specializes in training pastors on how to start churches and we were talking about Fellowship Church. And I was telling him what I was going to talk about this weekend and he said, “Ed, I don’t know if you know this or not, but 80% of churches that start up, fail in the first year. They have to close the doors.” Wow!
I told him, “Ron, I didn’t know that 13 years ago. Thanks for telling me.”
Eighty percent! That’s a lot. Think about how a church is started and after twelve months, boom! Eighty percent of the people say, “See ya!”
Then he told me something else that messed me up. He said, “And Ed, I’ll tell you something else. When I talk to all these pastors starting churches, if the church makes it passed twelve months, most of the people will leave the church after 18 months.”
I said, “Ron, come on.”
He said, “Yes. In many churches, the original people have gone after 18 months.”
Now,” I said, “I understand it. Now, I get it.”
Let me tell you what happened to me. Our church started and we had this vision—reach up, reach out, reach in. Great things were taking place. But after about 18 months, I noticed that most of the people who started with us were bolting, leaving. Even some of the people on the pastor’s search team that brought me here and said, “Ed, I’ll be with you, man. I’m here with the vision. I own it! It’s mine.” Even some of them said, “See ya.”
I came home one night and I said, “Lisa, I didn’t sign up for this. Man, I’m out of here. I’m gone. I didn’t plan on having to bust my rear to lead this church and preach and all the stuff I have to do just for people to leave. I’m out. I’m going to do something else. Forget this place. No wonder Dallas/Ft. Worth is the way it is with all these mean Christians.”
You know, Christians are the only ones who shoot the wounded.
We say, “Oh, you’re a Christian and you messed up! You’re out of here! We’ll show him.”
But you know what? I didn’t leave. I came very close to leaving. I’ve never told the church this before. I was that close, but I didn’t. Do you know why? Commitment. Commitment.
What does commitment mean? It means to pledge yourself to a position no matter what the cost. And when I was praying about leading this church and becoming pastor, I said, “God, I’m here. I’m committed to what you’re going to do and I don’t care what happens. God, I’m going to stay here. I’m committed to it.” And that is what held me here. I didn’t feel like it. The polls didn’t say, “Hey, you know, you should stay.” And the same is true for the other leaders. Ask Preston. Some of Preston Mitchell’s best friends bolted. Ask Owen Goff. Same thing. Ask Doris Scoggins. They hung in here.
But let me tell you what God was doing. God was replacing the people who left 10 to 1 while this was happening. Isn’t that amazing? We didn’t have any bloodshed or fights in the church. These people just left to attend other churches that suited them better. And those other churches that they attended, thankfully, they’ve gotten involved there and everything is cool and fine. But I’m going to tell you like it is, man. Commitment is where it’s at. We’re committed to the vision. Had I bailed and Preston and Owen and Doris and I gone somewhere else and started some other church, and we just said, “Hey, you know, it’s just too tough,” we would have missed one of the greatest rides that God has ever given the local church in Christian history.
I don’t know if you know that or not. Look back in Christian history. Have you ever heard about a churches growing from 150 to 19,000 in attendance in about 13 years? It’s a very short list. And the cool thing about it is, no one on our staff is a superstar. We’re not. There are a lot of people more talented than I am, and Preston and Doris and Owen and all the other staff members. But I’ll tell you what we have that the others don’t. We have this heart, this tenacity, this commitment from God and we will outwork, out sweat, out call and out pray any other team, church, or you name it. Bring it on. Our staff will take on hell with a Super Soaker®. We will. We will take it on with a squirt gun. That’s how committed we are to the vision. It’s totally a God thing. I mean totally.
I could diesel on, but I’ve got to move to something else. It is amazing what God has done through the commitment level. And that’s true with many of you, too. Your commitment level blows me away. And it blows many other Christian leaders away around the country. Thousands of these leaders converge on Fellowship every year to see what God’s doing here. VISION + LEADERS + COMMITMENT + CREATIVITY
We’re about to run out of time. Let me do one more. Okay. Vision +leaders + commitment + there’s one more—creativity. Creativity. Wow, we use to go to churches and talk to the leaders. The triplets— Doris, Preston and Owen—can tell you about going to different churches and being bored out of their minds.
People go to church and too often think, “Wow, this is wearing me out! Same old, same old, irrelevant stuff. The aqueduct system in ancient Samaria and Solomon’s forty thousand horse stables and what types of horses he had. What is up with that, man? I need help. I’m drowning in my marriage. I’m drowning in my career. I’m drowning, I need rescuing. Somebody send a paddle to me. Someone grab my life jacket and pull me into the raft.” That’s why people need creativity in the church. Church should be the most creative thing around.
The first time I went to Las Vegas, I said to myself, “This signage here is unreal!” Las Vegas has nothing to say but they know how to say it, don’t they? I mean, they do. Then I think about the local church, some of these churches around here. We have everything to say, but for far too long we just don’t know how to say it.
Listen to this very carefully. A great commitment to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission demands great creativity. Did you get that? It’s building on what I’ve talked about. I’m talking about God adding. I’ll say it again. A great commitment, pledging yourself to a position no matter what the cost, to the Great Commandment, loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and body, love your neighbor as yourself, and the Great Commission, go and make disciples, baptize—it all demands great creativity. If you ever go to a church and you are bored, don’t blame God, blame the communicators, singers and leaders. Let me say that again. If you ever go to a church and you are bored, don’t blame God. Blame the people who are leading the church.
The deal we make at Fellowship Church with you is very simple. You invite your friends who don’t know Christ personally and others who are looking for a church home and we will bust it here to present a biblically driven, creative and compelling service. We’re simply doing what Jesus did.
If you’re talking about innovation and creativity, you have to think about Jesus. He never used the same method. He always was changing, drawing in the sand, pointing to a flower, he was picking up a child, he was talking about a building that was falling down, and he was using the street vernacular of the day. He was the master teacher, the master communicator. 70% of his words were words of what? They were words of relevancy and application. Wow! That’s a pretty good model.
I guess we should do that, too, as we communicate. And that’s what we have done here. It’s very simple. We have a very simple mission statement and a very simple structure here at Fellowship Church. You know, simple things don’t break. I’ve noticed that about toys, haven’t you? I’ve got four kids, and as the kids get older, I want to buy these real complex toys but things break and buttons fall off and the kids will cry, “Oh, its broken!” But simple things like a block, you know, or a ball, aren’t going to break. We have a very simple structure here and we want to do things so that people understand them. The greatest compliment you can give Fellowship Church is to say this, “That was simple.” I didn’t say shallow or superficial. I said simple.
See, I can easily keep the complex complex. Oh, I can talk above your head like easily with Hebrew or Greek. It’s easy to do that. But it’s very difficult to take the complex and make it simple. The road from the complex to the simple is a difficult road. And most leaders don’t want to go down that road because it’s too tough. At Fellowship, though, we want to go down the road. Why? Because God is into addition.
You know, sadly, I cannot take all of you back 13 years ago. I wish I could just to show you the amazing things that God has done. And I was thinking the same thing about our staff, because now we have several hundred staff members. I was thinking to myself, “Man, they don’t know what we did. You know, we walked three miles through the snow to church. (I’m kidding.) But they don’t know that, you know?” So, I was thinking, “Okay, what could we do as a leadership team to kind of get that feeling back, to kind of take people back and show them where we were? I know, we’ll just rent a couple of buses and we’ll just take our entire staff back to Irving, back to MacArthur Commons Office Complex, back to the Irving Fine Arts Center.” A lot of you don’t know this, but for 8 years, we set up and tore down a church every single weekend. We would build nurseries, and tear them down. We would build children’s church and then tear it down. Classrooms— tear them down. Lights, cameras—tear it down. Screens—tear it down. Everything we had was portable. Portable, portable, portable, portable.
God, though, has been all over Fellowship Church from the get go, and I wanted to just to communicate that to our staff, so I took them on a tour to the Irving Fine Arts Theatre. When I walked through the doors of the Irving Fine Arts Theatre, I had not been there in years, and I was like overcome by emotion. I want you to watch what we talked about.
[A video is played on the side screens. In the video, Ed is walking through the doors of the Irving Fine Arts Theatre and then addressing the staff. He reminisces of what it was like to wee all of the people coming in to the theatre to attend church. Ed begins to cry tears of joy remembering the amazing work that God had done through Fellowship Church. When the video ends, Ed speaks live from the stage again.]
You know people ask us all the time, “Ed, why do you have the lights and why do you have video, visuals and this or that?” The answer is very, very simple. We do it because God is still counting. We do it because people count to us. People count to us because they count to God, and we’re simply living out a great commitment to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. And that commitment demands great creativity. And great creativity demands a commitment to excellence and it demands communication. Whenever we are communicating here, we are communicating the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.
I look back over the last twelve months at Fellowship Church and I realize that we baptized 2,262 brand new believers, and God is still counting. I think about our small group ministry. We have over 230 odd groups with 4,300 and some odd adults in small group Bible study. And the great thing is…God is still counting. I think about several weekends ago when we had 19, 561 people walk into the doors of Fellowship Church…and God is still counting. I think about the fact that on an average weekend, we’ll have nearly 5,000 children here at Fellowship Church…and God is still counting. I think about our website. It has 10 million hits a month…and God is still counting. I think about our television show that’s going around the world…and God is still counting. I think about our nationally syndicated radio show…and God is still counting. I think about the church we just started in Mostreal, Brazil where Owen and a group of people are helping in that…and God is still counting. I think about all the parkers who brave the elements each every weekend…and God is still counting. I think about our ushers and I think about our extravagant hospitality folks. I think about our children’s workers and youth workers, and those who work in athletics…and God is still counting.
VISION + LEADERS + COMMITMENT + CREATIVITY + YOU
God’s math always works. Look at it: Vision + leaders + commitment + creativity + ______________? Well, I told you I was not that good at math, especially algebra. There’s always that x factor. What is x? That’s you. Because you, that’s right, and you and you and you make Fellowship Church great. God is still counting, so I want you to come. I want you to come along and join us as we continue to follow God’s vision with awesome leadership, commitment and creativity, okay?