THE BEST OF FELLOWSHIP CHURCH
December 2, 2001
You know, we have a wide range of groups represented here at Fellowship Church over a given weekend. Our research reveals that about 14% of you are visitors. You are first time guests that make up about 1,200 to 1,400 people. Isn’t that something? Let me say again, “Welcome to Fellowship Church.” We are glad that you are here. Relax. Take your shoes off and listen and see what God is going to do.
I just had a weird craving for a Quarter-Pounder with cheese. You might think I am crazy, but I do. Just sit back for a second. I’ll be right back.
[Video of Ed going to McDonald’s]
Sorry about that. How are you doing? There’s nothing like McDonald’s for real jolt of fat and cholesterol. It’s really outstanding. I have not had one of these in probably, well, since I last did this message.
You know we have a lot of people here who are visitors. I talked about that a second ago. We also have some in another group. I call them the “drive-through people.” They are the folks who pull up to Fellowship Church, and they see Fellowship as McChurch. They say, “Yes, I would like a McSermon and some McMusic and some McChildcare and some McYouth Ministry.” Then once they get their little food and once they take a little bite of it, they are gone. No commitment. No real involvement. No real life-change, just drive through people.
How many of you have had your flu shot already? Lift your hands. I have not had mine. I have asked a good friend of mine, Dr. Randall Perkins, to come up here and give me my flu shot. So, if you are a little squeamish, turn your head. This is the real deal, isn’t it Randall? This is no fake stuff. How are you doing, Randall? Great to see you. Now you are going to give me four flu shots this weekend.
Randall: Just one fourth, times four.
Ed: Yes, one fourth, times four.
Randall: You’re not going to be overdosed.
Ed: Okay, good. Right arm? Yeah, right here. About this shot, you know, I’m not that fond of needles. But I’m doing this to make the point that, I think you have told me before, the flu shot is just a small little bit of the flu so I will not get the full-blown flu. Is that correct?
Randall: That’s correct.
I think, Randall, a lot of people in the church—I call them “flu-shot folk”—have just enough of Christianity so they won’t get the full-blown disease, if you hear me screaming. Hopefully, this will make an impact on all of our lives as you see Randall stick me with this needle.
Randall: You doing okay, Ed?
Ed: I’m doing great. I have never fainted at all, Randall.
Randall: There you go.
Ed: Thank you, Dr. Randall Perkins. Now I feel better. Thank you very much.
Some of us are flu-shot folk. We have just enough of Christianity so we won’t catch the full-blown disease. What am I talking about? I’m talking about the church. I’m talking about how you treat the church. For example, if we have tickets to a sporting event, an opportunity to do this or be involved in this fun fix, we will always take the church and put it on the back burner.
Now we have another group here. Yes, we have got visitors. We have got guests. Yes, we have drive-through people. Yes, we have flu-shot folk. We also have another group, “the committed.” I am talking about the core of Fellowship. You are the folks who make Fellowship fly. You are the ones. You are into it. You serve. You attend regularly. You’ve made decisions to orbit your lives around the most important thing in the universe, the local church.
We have got to remember something. The local church is where the most profound issues of the heart are championed. God has given us two institutions where the most profound issues of the heart are championed. The first is marriage. Marriage is packed with symbolism. In a marriage, intimacy happens. It should happen. Communication should happen. Physical touch should happen. Expression of love should happen. That is why the writer of the book of 1 Corinthians said this, talking to husbands and wives, “Do not deprive each other.” He is talking specifically here about sexual relations.
Let’s say you are married. We have a lot of people who are married here. What if you just connected with your spouse about once a month, just talked to your spouse or just got intimate with your spouse about once a month? That wouldn’t be much of a marriage, would it? The Bible says that the church is called the bride of Christ. It’s where some intimacy should take place, some communication should take place, where connectivity should take place.
Hebrews 10:25 says, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing.” We should be here. We should not ignore the ultimate bride, Jesus Christ. We should make church a part of our lives. I am talking about living “on purpose” lives. If we are going to live on purpose lives, we have got to coalesce our purposes with God’s. God’s purposes for your life and mine revolve around the greatest thing in the universe, that entity that should always be going and growing—the local church.
So, here is what I am going to do during this talk. I want to talk to you—and I am talking to visitors now—about what our church is all about. This is a great time for you to attend this weekend as we go back several years. You will know once you hit the doors what Fellowship Church is all about.
If you are a drive-through person, and many of you have your Quarter-Pounders right now, and you are saying, “This is really cool. Costs me a couple of dollars, when the offering plate is passed later. No problem. Then, I’m gone.” If you are a drive-through person, if you see church as McChurch, here is what God wants to do in your life. God wants you to park, to get out, to sit down, and to feed on his truth. He wants you to become a full-court follower of Christ. That’s what God wants for you. And that can be the result of today’s talk.
Others here are flu-shot people. Randall gives a great shot, really. It didn’t even hurt. It really didn’t. I was just acting. A lot of you have been infected with just a small bit of Christianity so you won’t catch the full disease. It’s been my prayer, like our staff has been praying this entire week, that all of us would catch the full-blown disease.
Now, how about the committed? How about the core group? How about the people who make Fellowship go and grow? I think after today’s talk you will hopefully be inspired to take your commitment to the next level.
Having said all that, let’s go back to what I talked about a second ago. I talked about living on purpose lives. If we are going to live on purpose lives, we have got to coalesce our purposes with God’s purposes. Let’s say you make a decision, “Okay, Ed, I am ready to go for it. I’m ready to live an on purpose life. I am ready to do what the Bible tells me I should do regarding the bride, the church. I want to go for it.”
Let’s say you want to become a full-court follower of Christ. Before you make that decision and really think it through, let me share some things with you that maybe you don’t know. There are a lot of misconceptions floating around about spiritual growth. There are a lot of misconceptions floating around about what it means to be a full-court follower of Christ, about what it means to live an on purpose life as you grow and mature as a Christian.
The first one goes like this. Some people think that Christian and spiritual maturity is a natural thing, something that has a natural occurrence. I’ll compare all of these misconceptions with physical fitness. Why physical fitness? If you read the New Testament, one of the most used metaphors concerning Christian growth has to do with fitness. So let me talk about that.
Not any of us here would think that we could just become physical fitness buffs naturally. No one here would say, “Well, I just walk into a weight room and look around and—boom—I’m Mr. Universe!” That’s not going to happen. No one here would say naturally, “I can just eat at McDonald’s and eat all the Hostess products I want and have a lean body weight, be aerobically okay, and have a good heart and lungs.” No one is that dumb. The same is true spiritually. Some people think it’s just natural, once you bow the knee to Christ and once you accept him, you just grow and become this huge and mature Christ-follower. That’s not true. It’s intentional. It takes discipline. It’s a decision.
The Bible says in Philippians 2:12, “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” It doesn’t say to work for it. If you think you have to work for your salvation, you have got it all wrong. Christianity is spelled d-o-n-e. The work has been done. We don’t work for it. The work has been done for us. Once we receive Christ, Jesus says, “Work out what I by my grace have worked in.”
So, we must work it out. We must make some strategic choices to say, “I’m going to do this. I am not going to do that. I’m going to build in some discipline so I can become an FCF, a full-court follower of Christ. So, it is not natural. It is intentional.
Some say this about spiritual growth, and this is another misconception, “Spiritual growth is just limited. I mean, it’s not for everyone. It’s for those people who are phenomenal people of faith, just like for the Joshuas and the Calebs. It’s for the Pauls and the Timothys. It’s for the Billy Grahams and the Mother Theresas. It’s not for plain little, old, poor me.”
That is so weak. That line of thinking makes a mockery of God’s creative genius, because spiritual maturity is for everyone. It is for everyone. It does not take a fitness expert to figure out how to become someone who is in good shape. You know how to get into good shape. Eat properly—fruits and vegetables. Stay away from red meat for the most part. Eat some fish and chicken. Do about thirty minutes of aerobic activity 4-5 times a week. And maybe pump some iron. You’ll be in great shape. You can do it. I don’t care what you look like, how big you are, how old you are. You can do it. The same is true spiritually. Spiritual maturity is not something that is way out there in never, never land. It’s simple, yet it takes discipline.
1 Timothy 4:7b-8 (NLT), “Spend your time and energy in training yourself for spiritual fitness.” Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next.
The third misconception is that spiritual growth is an experience, that it is experientially driven. Think again about physical fitness. How many people are looking for that quick fitness fix? “I’m just one pill away from nirvana. If I can take this protein shake twenty times a day….” Or I saw one infomercial a while back and this guy said, “You can work out four minutes a day and you will look like this.” Some hulk was standing there and I was thinking, “Oh, my goodness. Are you kidding me? Are you trying to fool me?”
Some people think that Christianity is the same way. Some people think that spiritual maturity is just one blessing, one conference, one video, one tape away; and suddenly, I’ll become Billy Graham on steroids. Experience is part of it, but that is not the whole enchilada.
There is another misconception. People think it is information-based. Information is huge in the Christian life. We need to know our Bible. We need to know theology. We need to know doctrine. But a lot of people think that’s it. “That’s the end. I’ve got this memorized. I’ve been to this study or that group or—wow—I’ve even been to seminary. That must be spiritual maturity.”
Not necessarily. Spiritual maturity takes a wide range of experiences and expressions. It takes a multiplicity of things to become spiritually mature. It’s not just an information thing. The main thing we talked about in James, the X-Trials, is doing the stuff.
To give you some review, James 1:22, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” The most important thing is doing it. “Ed, I’ve got to know it before I do it.” You are right on. But it doesn’t stop with just knowledge. You have got to put knowledge into lifestyle. We talked about putting shoe rubber or leather beneath it. It’s all about application.
That’s why, when you go to Fellowship Church, you will see us always use the 70/30 principle. The 70/30 principle is the way Christ taught. It’s pretty good example, isn’t it? Thirty percent of Christ’s words were words of information. Seventy percent were words of application. Every time we do something here, we always say, “So what? So what?” We have got to answer the “so what” question.
As we heard already in this drama and with the music, people are missing. People are lost. People are coming to church week in and week out asking questions from the heart. Their marriages are drowning. Their careers are under water. Their finances are in disarray. Things are not working. We have got to answer the questions.
The church should be the most innovative and creative and inspirational and vision-driven entity around. If it’s not, don’t blame God. Blame the staff and the Pastor who lead the church. The Bible is exciting. The Bible is life-giving. We don’t make it relevant. It is relevant.
Those are a few misconceptions about spiritual growth. I hope they cleared up some confusion for you. Not only, though, are there misconceptions about spiritual growth personally, we also have some misconceptions about the local church. Was that drama great or what? So many people have misconceptions about the church, and I think we all connected with what was going on. We were laughing and thinking, “I’ve been there. I’ve been asleep, or I felt like Clint Eastwood was shooting at me.” We have all felt that way. A lot of us carry around these misconceptions about the church.
I want to address some of the misconceptions that we have. Here is how I am going to do it. A couple of days ago, I traveled to the Galleria with a camera crew and I talked to some ladies about shopping. Here is what they said.
[Galleria video—several shoppers at the Galleria were asked if they thought the mall was too big or if there were too many stores.]
If someone offered you tickets to see U2 on the front row, would you say, “No, I’m not going to do that, because the concert is just too big.” Isn’t that hilarious? Every church should be a growing church. The church should reflect it’s community. You have heard me say many times before, if a church is out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by three or four families, it should be effective on those three or four families. Conversely, if a church is around the Metroplex with millions of people, it should be large. It should reflect the populace of the Metroplex.
God wants things to grow. Everything in the Bible is about growth. Big is not bad. It’s not negative. It’s good. I like to say that Fellowship Church is not a big church. We are a small town. But a lot of people come in here and they say, “Fellowship Church is just so big. I just don’t know. With a church this size, I don’t know if the church needs me. It’s just intimidating. It’s just huge.”
Let me tell you why I like a large church, a big church, why it is biblical. First of all, the first church was big. Read the book of Acts. The first church grew by three thousand in the first ten minutes. So if you don’t like big, you don’t like the first church in the Bible.
Secondly, heaven is going to be big. Large churches reflect heaven. Heaven is not going to be some small town with a dirt road, tumbleweed blowing across it, one stoplight, and a sign that says “Population 312.” It’s not going to be that. It’s going to be big. A big church reflects that.
Number three, a big church gives you huge opportunities to serve. This might rock you a little bit, visitors, 14% of you, but we need you at Fellowship Church. We need you as leaders. We need you to help us. We have 5,200 non-paid people who make Fellowship go and grow every single month—non-paid staff. That is an awesome thing! A great thing. As we grow, as you tell your friends about us, and as other churches grow, they need people, we need people. We need you.
Another reason I love a big church is it gives you a wide relational base. If you are in a church, you are only going to know about 39 people, no matter if the church is 139 people or 20,039 people. The good thing about a church like this is, if you don’t like one group, you can always find another. There are all sorts of people here.
So, just chill about a big church. I love a big church. Our philosophy has been what the Bible’s philosophy is. The Bible says about the church—and I am paraphrasing—it should grow larger and smaller. We are commanded in Hebrews 10:25 to come together in a large corporate gathering. However, during the week, the early church met from house to house. We’ve got the big venue going and the small venue going.
So, if you come just to Fellowship Church on the weekends, you are missing half the church. Or, if you come just to small groups, the Home Teams, you are missing half the church. You have got to get both. I don’t understand it, but something supernatural takes place when a hunk of Christians get together and worship God.
Let me add another thing about a big church. This is very important. Quality produces quantity. I hope you understood that. I’ll say it again. Quality produces quantity. If you have people whose lives are radically changed and transformed by the power of God, what is going to happen? People will beat down the doors to get to the church. Also, the reverse is true. Quantity produces quality. We have seen that tonight. Think about our music ministry, Eric Orson, Rob Johnson, Liane Lewis, Vanessa Whitwell? Who’s that red-haired girl, that new girl, Hillary? I can’t believe it. Why is that? Because quantity produces quality.
Think about what we have done recently just with World Missions and local missions just in the last several weeks. We have gone to Brazil and built a big church in a community of around 100,000 people, where there was no evangelical church. We are in the process of disbursing thousands of shoeboxes to children in war-torn countries around the world with Franklin Graham’s ministry, Samaritan’s Purse. We are doing a food drive this weekend. Next weekend, we are doing the clothing drive. But that’s just right here. Those are some of the reasons why I love a large church. So, big is good. Big is biblical. Remember? If a church is around a heavily populated community, it should reflect its population.
Sometimes people say this about Fellowship Church, “I sometimes deal with a lot of traffic at Fellowship Church.” Have you ever heard that before? “The parking lot is packed.” Come on, raise your hand. I have. Only two or three? People say there are so many cars out there. I did this message three years ago, and here is what I said about parking and traffic. Check this out.
[Message video from On Purpose series—Ed compares traffic problems at church with traffic at a Cowboy’s game, where people wait for hours in traffic to get in and out of the stadium lots.]
You can tell that was a long time ago because I was wearing a suit and the Cowboys were winning. Okay. Every time I see a church where the parking lot is packed, whether it is in the country, small town, small county seat deal, or whether it is in a big city like New York or L.A., I say, “Yeah, God!”
Churches should have traffic challenges. Since that message was done three years ago, we have built four new parking lots and added two new roads. Isn’t that cool? Our traffic coordinators tell us that it takes about ten to twelve minutes when this place is packed to empty the lots. So, I tell you our officers and our parking crew and everybody else does a super job.
Let me change gears a little bit, because I also went someplace else with the camera. This is the last place I went this week. I traveled a lot. I went over to some movie theatres and talked to some people about Robert Redford and Brad Pitt. Here is what they said.
[Video survey on Spy Games—Ed asked several people if they thought the movie was too entertaining or the stars in it were too famous.]
Too entertaining? Give me a break. Now and then, I talk to my pastor friends around the country and many of them are part of growing churches. We have this conference here every year called the Creative Church Conference, and this year we will have over 1,000 pastors coming in. All pastors tell me the same thing. They say, “You know, Ed, what is so funny is that when God begins to bless our church and things happen, and we do some innovative things, people say the church is too entertaining—kind of Hollywood and showbiz.”
Have you ever looked up the word “entertainment?” Do you know what the word “entertainment” means? It means to capture and to hold someone’s attention for an extended period of time. We like to say that Fellowship has “Innertainment for the Heart,” get it? Read about Jesus and the Gospels. It’s there. He held audiences spellbound. People were hanging on every word.
Church should be fun. It should be exciting. It should be dynamic. It should constantly be changing. It should connect with all of our senses. If it doesn’t, it is not biblical. We serve a creative Creator. If we are not creative, then we are not letting God be God. So, if you want a boring church, leave this one. We need your seat.
A lot of people, when they think about church, and this pains me to say it, bring a lot of presuppositions to the table. They think that church is some old place with a tone-deaf organist hammering out hymns and a pastor giving some half-baked message. That’s not it. It should be the best. We should be spellbound. We should be entertained. Sometimes we have to hear tough news, bad news. The Bible is the most exciting book around. We teach truth and sometimes the truth hurts.
Let me ask you a question. Can you say something that is true, yet at the same time say something that is irrelevant? Yes, you better believe it. Many times I have been to church where I have heard things that are true, but I’m thinking this does not connect with where I am. It does not connect with me as I try to rear four children. It does not connect with me and my marriage. It does not connect with me and the pressures I deal with as someone who works hard. This is not connecting with me.
Several years ago, some of the staff and I went white-water rafting down the Snake River, of all places. We were in this raft, and the rapids were pretty huge that day. The guide with us told us that we were going to enter a very dangerous stretch of the river. He said, “If you fall out, you have got a couple of minutes to get back in. If you don’t, you will die of hypothermia.” He talked about people who had drowned. So, we were really paying attention. You will see the picture of us on the side screens that someone snapped right before we had a minor mishap.
If you are looking to the right, you will see Paris Wallace, our Junior High Pastor, the guy there with the biceps. Right behind him, you have Troy Page, with the biceps. Then you have Preston. I don’t know what those are. But then you have Mike Johnson on the back. Mike is our Children’s Pastor. He oversees also the Junior and Senior High ministry. Mike was kind of talking down to my side of the boat, and right when he began to talk trash, we hit the bad part of the river.
The river just knocked Mike out of the raft. We didn’t know Mike was out. Suddenly, I heard Preston over the roar of the rapids say, “Mike’s out. Mike’s out.” We looked back and Mike was like a human fishing cork. It was scary. The guide dug his paddle in and we tried to turn the raft a little bit. Water was coming into the boat.
The guide did not say at this point, “Hey, Mike, let me give you the history of white-water rafting.” The guide did not say, “Hey, Mike, let me give you the entomology of the word ‘paddle.’” He didn’t say that. That would have been true, yet irrelevant. What did the guide do? The guide told us all to extend our paddles to Mike and we brought Mike on board. We rescued him.
Can something be true and irrelevant? You better believe it. We have people all around us drowning in marriages, drowning in life, drowning in careers, drowning in problems. We want Fellowship Church to be a church that not only imparts truth but also extends paddles.
That, my friend, is on purpose living.