August 26, 2007
Wow, it’s great to be here in the house. Thank you guys so much for being here. I want to welcome again all of our various campuses; Plano, Downtown, Miami, Fort Worth. Wow, this is cool.
As a kid I learned this little hand gesture and maybe you learned it as well, I don’t know. [Ed does hand gesture] Here’s the church, you remember that? There’s the steeple; you can do it with me. Open the doors and see all the people. I love that. I have never forgotten that and I was thinking about that several weeks ago because those little hand motions have some serious meaning behind them.
If you look at history, just five decades ago it was that easy in America. You put up a building, a church, steeple, open the doors and people came, I mean, they came in droves. There was a steeple in every corner.
Well, as the years have melted off the clock, as we have become commitment phobic, as we have asked questions like, “What is the church anyway? I mean, why does it exist? Surely the church is there like some religious club, it’s kind of like a holy health club maybe, or it’s just a place where I show up on holidays, you know, Easter and Christmas Eve. It’s a place where, you know, weddings happen and funerals occur. You know, I ‑‑ you know, I will go there unless something better comes along.” That’s kind of our mantra.
But here’s what I want to ask you: “What if there’s nothing better than the local church? What if there’s nothing better than a biblically functioning community? What if there is nothing better than here’s the church, there’s the steeple, open the doors and see all the people.”
Because in our world today, in so many circumstances it is, [Ed does hand gestures] “Here’s the church, there’s the steeple, open the doors and where are the people?”
Yet here at Fellowship Church, it has been mind boggling what has occurred. The growth and the development, adding more and more campuses and building the camp for kids and our missionary endeavors and training leaders, here and also around the world. It has been something to behold. Fellowship Church is a church that is all about love. I have discovered that loving churches grow and growing churches love. People say, “Well how is Fellowship Church wired up? How has Fellowship Church developed into the church it is today?”
I always say, “It is a God thing.” And because it is a God thing, we have a bunch of people who understand what it means to be irrationally loved by the God of the universe. And because of that, Fellowship Church has grown.
There’s a direct correlation between church health and church growth. The reason we have grown as we’ve grown is because we are a healthy church, not a perfect church. Fellowship Church, though, is the perfect church for imperfect people. And I’m glad about that. Our church is a place that accepts everybody that no one else does. But we don’t want to confuse acceptance with approval. We accept you, whatever you’re involved in, no matter who you are, no matter how far away from God you are. We accept you.
Now, we don’t want to confuse acceptance with approval. We don’t approve of everything people are doing who are far away from God; yet, we warmly welcome you to the house. So God wants it to be like “Here’s the church, there’s the steeple, open the doors and see all the people.”
The church is made up of people. The church is a body. It’s called the Body of Christ. Jesus wants to occur in the spiritual church, in his body, the local church, what occurred in his physical body when he lived on planet Earth for thirty-three years.
So what happened, what emerged from Christ’s life while he was here on planet Earth is the same thing he wants to happen right here at Fellowship Church. So as a believer, we can become a part of the Body of Christ, because in the New Testament belief was always, always synced up with belonging. If you believed, you belonged.
There is no such thing as a [Ed sings in an opera voice] Pavarotti believer. There is no such thing. Let’s say you take my body right now and remove my kidney and put my kidney over here. You take my right lung out and put my right lung over there. What is going to happen? The kidney is going to shrivel up and die and my lung will shrivel up and die because it is removed from the body.
The Body of Christ is living, it’s breathing, it’s active, it’s growing. Every part of the body matters. If you’re a kidney, a kidney matters. If you’re a lung, a lung matters. Together we have this unity in diversity. The Body of Christ.
There was no such thing in the New Testament as someone who was a believer without belonging somewhere. That’s like me saying, “I play in the NFL.” You’d be like, “okay what team?” I go, “No, you don’t understand. I don’t play for a team; I’m just in the NFL.” If you’re in the NFL you’re going to be a player. I mean, you’re going to have a team. You’re going to be on a roster. That’s why scripture says, the church is a flock. The church is a building. The church is an army. And, the church is a house.
In the Old Testament they said God resided in the house. In the New Testament Jesus said, “I am the House.” And then he flipped it and said, “If you open up your life to me, if you allow me to power wash your mind and soul and heart and body, you can make your heart my home and you can become a part of the House.”
Here’s what our Lord said in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 16, verse 18. He said these words to Simon Peter. Here’s what Jesus said, he said, “I will build my hospital.” No, he didn’t say that. “I will build my school.” No, he didn’t say that. “I will build my nonprofit organization.” No, he didn’t say that. He said, I will build my, what? What? Church. Jesus said “I will build my church.” It’s the only institution that Jesus ever built. It’s the only institution He gave His life for. It’s the heartbeat of God. I’m talking about the house.
I had an opportunity to travel. And over the last several months I have traveled to a lot of cities here in America and also some around the world. And I have noticed a problem, and you have probably seen it, too. It’s right here in Dallas. Homelessness. Have you ever seen all the homeless people? Have you ever talked to a homeless man or woman? I have just recently and it’s interesting to see the helplessness and the hopelessness of the homeless.
They literally don’t have a home. And it’s a problem that our church is addressing, and it’s a problem that we need to step up and do something about as believers. No doubt about it, homelessness is a serious issue around the world; yet, there is a homeless problem that most people don’t think about. And I would argue this type of homelessness is even far greater than the homelessness I just described, and I’m talking about spiritual homelessness.
You see, I rub shoulders with a lot of people, and so do you, who are helpless and hopeless because their spiritually homeless. In fact, I know several people who have homes all over the world worth millions of dollars, yet they’re homeless and they jump from marriage to marriage, from bed to bed, from relationship to relationship, from deal to deal thinking that it will bring them home. But they’re homeless.
The House, I’m talking about the Body of Christ is the only entity that will give us what we need. Life is too short, friends, to live it in a homeless state.
We need to believe. And remember in the New Testament belief always was about belonging. We need to become a part of the living, breathing Body of Christ. The church is a body, not a business.
Ephesians chapter 5, verse 29 and following; “After all, no one has ever hated his own body but he feeds and cares for it just as Christ does the church for we are members of His body.” Whether we’re a kidney or a lung, whether we’re a big toe, a nose, or a mouth, or an eye, we’re a part of the Body of Christ and that gives us an opportunity to hit on all cylinders. That gives us an opportunity to discover the purposes that God has for our life because when it comes to the House, we don’t create the purposes for the House. We don’t create the purposes for the church.
Membership is not having your name on some role. Membership is playing the role in God’s redemptive story that’s taking place in the context of the local church. You might be going, “Well, okay, I don’t create the purposes for the church and for my life. How do I discover them?”
Well, that’s a good word, discover, because they’re written for us in scripture. For example, Acts chapter 2. Read that chapter when you get home. It talks about some purposes of the church. It talks about that we’re to communicate and care, we’re to celebrate and share. Say it with me, “We’re to communicate and care, celebrate and share.”
The book of Acts says the church, the House, is to be a place of communication. We’re to communicate. Something supernatural takes place when people open God’s word in a corporate setting and they teach from it. I can’t explain it. I don’t understand it all. The church is to be a place that communicates, that tells the good news of Jesus Christ, the fact that He has done the work to power wash our souls and lives and we can come into His House. The church is a place of communication.
For some reason I have been to some churches and I have gotten bored. I know I have slight ADD, but you’ve probably been bored, too, in church. Don’t ever blame God; God’s not boring. Don’t ever blame the scripture; the scripture’s not boring. It’s the communicator, because the Bible and God is the most exciting stuff out there in the world. So we exist to communicate.
We also exist to care. What is caring? That is ministry. Communication is teaching; caring is ministry. I get outside of myself and minister. What does it mean to minister? It means to meet their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. And, take a panoramic view of Fellowship Church, at all the programs and things that we are involved in right now, that is what we are doing.
That is an Acts, chapter 2, Biblically functioning church. Membership means ministering and every member is a minister. And if you’re not involved in ministering, you are missing out on what your calling is all about. So we exist to communicate and care.
Celebrate, that’s the third purpose, celebrate. What’s celebrate? That’s worship. We express our love to God. We’re told to worship and to express our love to God. As believers we don’t come to church to worship, we come worshipping. Well, we’re commanded to come to church to worship. Hebrews, chapter 10, verse 25, it is commanded that believers get together. And as you read the book of Acts you will see that they met in big, giant temple courts and then they met from house to house. We are to celebrate. We are to worship.
Everybody worships, whether you’re far away from God or not. Don’t waste your worship. Focus your worship on the One who is worthy of our worship.
The fourth purpose of this church is to share. We’re to share the Gospel with others. We’re to share Jesus with others. There are two things we can’t do in heaven. Number one, we can’t sin. That’s good. Number two, we can’t share Jesus with others. Well, why doesn’t God zap us to heaven the moment we become Christ followers? We’re to share. We’re to share the love and the good news of Jesus Christ. Those are the purposes of the Body of Christ, the living, breathing Body of Christ. The church is not some religious institution. It’s not a holy health club. Our faith must have a foundation. Belief is all about belonging. We’re a part of the Body, the Body of Christ.
Notice something else about the church. The church should be a social entity. It should be the epicenter of all of our relationships. [Ed does hand gesture] Here’s the church, there’s the steeple, open the door and see all the people. We’re intertwined. It is not a building, it’s a body made up of you and me.
Scroll through your friendships, just for a second. Think about those friends, those significant relationships in your life. Now ask yourself this question: Do these people have a high view of the House? Are these people all about building the House? Are these people all about the Body of Jesus, the local church?
If they are, man, those are significant relationships. If they’re not, I would challenge you to move away from them and move toward the epicenter of all your relationships, which is, [Ed does hand gesture] here’s the church, there’s the steeple, open the doors and see all the people.
I would challenge you to orbit your friendships around the church, those members in the Body. Yeah, we relate to people outside the Body in areas that will not cause us to compromise; yet, I’m telling you, when I talk to people who are 15 or I talk to people who are 50, it’s all about relationships. How many singles do we have here? Singles lift your hands. Singles, singles, singles. Singles, who you date, because who you date will end up being, you know this, your mate, where are you finding them? Some bar? Some other place? Come on man. [Ed does hand gestures] Here’s the church, there’s the steeple, open the doors and see all the people.
Revolve your dating life around the local church. How about those of us who are married and have families? Revolve those relationships around people who have this significant love, this ‑‑ this unbelievable passion for the local church. I met my wife in the local church. We have been married for 25 years. I married a hot woman. You saw her.
So you can either play relational games or you can say, wow, [Ed does hand gestures] here’s the church, there’s the steeple, open the doors and see all the hot people. I’m going to revolve my life around the local church.
So the church is a body. The church is the epicenter for our relationships. Also, the church is a venue for our abilities and gifts. 1 Corinthians, chapter 12, verse 12. “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.” Unity, diversity. Diversity, unity. Whether you’re a kidney or a lung or a big toe or a mouth, we all have a huge role to play in the Body of Christ.
There’s one thing I don’t like about a church like Fellowship. I will ‑‑ you can quote me on this. There’s one thing I do not like about this church, and I am talking to all our campuses, too. If you’re smart you can hide at Fellowship Church. This keeps me up at night, people who hide at Fellowship Church. We can find out your name; yet, a lot of people are kind of like lobby lizards, you know. They slither in, they slither out. A nod, a handshake, that’s it. But here’s what’s messing me up. People hide and here’s what really freaks me out, the talent that you guys have.
If we could see the talent out here in the seats and in all of our campuses, we would be like, “Oh man, what? You can play like that? You can speak like that? You can sing like that? You can paint like that? You can design websites like that? You have that connection in the mission field like that? You can give like that ‑‑ like that ‑‑ like that ‑‑ like that?” That just messes me up.
Let me vent just a little bit. We want you to play a significant role, not just have your names on a role, a significant role within the context of the Body of Christ. And we’ve tried to make it very easy. We have Newcomers Class, we have volunteer tours. This is the place for you to take your gifts to an HNL, a ‘hole notha level. Thank you very much.
Do any personality studies. It says all of us can do like 6‑ to 700 things. We have gifts and the Bible says the moment that Jesus’ power washes our soul, He places the presence of the Holy Spirit there and the Holy Spirit brings with Him these amazing gifts and abilities. So I can do stuff that you can’t do and you can do stuff that I can’t do.
So don’t ever say, “I don’t have any abilities gifts. There is not much that I can do.” That is weak stuff. That is making a mockery of the creative genius of God; yet, if you don’t use your talent you can waste it away. Don’t sit, soak, and sour. Step up and step out and use your abilities. It is amazing to see how many people use their abilities right here.
The church also has a great sphere of influence here, if you think about it. There are no solo Christians. We are not doing the Pavarotti thing. We are a part of the Body of Christ. [Ed does hand gesture] Here’s the church, there’s the steeple, open the doors and see all the people. And because of all the people, we can have a bigger witness in our nation and our world. It’s not like [Ed singing] “This little light of mine.” No, no, no. I mean that’s fine to do that, but we have this big honkin’ laser beam spotlight.
When we do something — we can do something significant because it’s unity in diversity. We are all using our gifts, whether we are kidneys or lungs, we play a significant role in the Body of Christ.
The other day I hurt my big toe. You don’t think about your big toe. Your big toe, man, my big toe, how’s it doing? It’s just there. Well, when you hurt it a little bit, man, you are thinking about that toe. A toe is significant. So everything that we can do is significant in the Body of Christ. Jesus said, “I’m the Body, I am it, you can be a part of My Body.”
He also talks about the Body, and also He talks about the House. The Body, the House, He used those terms and that vibe interchangeably. Have you ever noticed how much we’re into houses and homes? Flip this house, invest in this house, build this house, redecorate this house, all these shows about houses and homes and decorating. I don’t know what it is but I like to see where other people live. Are you that way? Why are we that way? We’re just curious, aren’t we?
I will confess. I know you do the same thing. Lisa and I drive through neighborhoods and look at houses at a snail’s type pace. You drive through neighborhoods like you’re in a parade. I know what you’re saying. “Must be nice. Wow, would you look at that ugly thing. I wonder what they do for a living. So there’s the pastor’s house.” I know how it is. I know how it is. We have this infatuation with where we live. I don’t know why. I don’t know why. Maybe that’s why Jesus compared Himself to a house. Maybe that’s why He said the church is a body, it’s a temple, it’s a building.
When we kicked off Fellowship Church 17 years ago, officially, Lisa and I moved up and we didn’t have a place to live. At the time Fellowship Church had about 150 people and some people got together and rented us a house. We lived in this rent house for at least a year and the church was so generous to do that because when we started Fellowship Church we started in an office complex and I remember the first typewriter we bought and it was used. I remember it. I can’t type, but I remember the typewriter over there in my office.
Well after about at year I began so see some great things happen at Fellowship Church. One day this family was driving down the street near the office complex on Sunday morning and they saw our parking crew because we just started a parking crew. Our parking crew was waiving cars in so this guy goes, “Well I’m just going to follow where the parkers are parking people.” They didn’t know what was happening.
This guy turned in with his family and parked and got out and kind of followed the crowd into the office complex and sat down. Wow. So he began to attend, he and his family, for several weeks and when he showed up some people kind of like raised their eyebrows. Wow, this guy is a high roller, notorious kind of guy, kind of rough around the edges and you could hear the grumblings a little bit, like, what’s this guy doing at church?
Well, weeks turned into months and I watched and our church watched this man and his family commit their lives to Christ. It was just this great, great story. Then I watched him get very involved in Fellowship Church. I watched this man who hadn’t been to church in decades begin to serve and do all of this. I got to know him a little bit and he had an in‑your‑face personality.
One day after about a year, year and a half, he walked up to me and pointed his long finger in my face. He had the big Texas time map, the big giant Rolex thing, with the giant — with all the diamonds. He had that deal on. He said, “Ed.” “Yes, sir”, I said. “I’m going to build you and Lisa a house.” I said, “Wow, thanks.” And you know, this guy didn’t talk smack. Okay. So he built us a house.
We moved from our rent house to this brand new phenomenal house. And right before we moved in, right before he gave us to keys, here’s what he said. I will never forget it. He goes, “Ed I will be straight with you. You have some serious equity already in this house.” Well, I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t even know what equity was. I had to ask Lisa after he left, “What is equity?” Now I know. I was in my twenties; give me a break, okay? So we had equity. And that home was amazing.
Whenever I think about that situation, I think about the house, the local church because we have an opportunity to build equity in the house as we serve, as we invest, as we use our time and abilities and talent, we’re building equity here and also we’re building equity forever because the house will last forever.
And I have to ask you, what kind of equity do you have in the house? What kind of equity do you have in the local church? Remember, Jesus said, “I will build My church.” The blessings, the favor, the equity, there’s nothing like it. Talking about equity, talking about homes.
I think we have to talk about hospitality, too. What do you say? Because when you have a home, like Lisa said, you like to have your friends over. I’m sure you do. You like to entertain people. Come on over. Hospitality. You know hospitality is commanded in the Bible? That is a whole other subject—but hospitality—I like that word, hospitality. The word hospital is in it. Hospitality, hospitality.
Luke chapter 14. I will give you the Cliff’s Notes. Jesus was telling this story about this guy, this pretty prominent guy. And he had this big table and he was having this giant banquet and he had his servant to go out and invite his friends to this banquet. The servant, you know, invited the friends. One guy was involved in real estate and couldn’t do it, couldn’t go to the banquet. The other guy, he was at a cattle auction and he couldn’t do it. The other one, he just got married and he said, man, I can’t do it.
So this prominent guy got angry. He was like, “Man, no one is coming over. My heavy‑hitter friends, they’re not responding.” So he went back to his servant, and check out what he said. Luke 14 verse 21. He said, “Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the cripple, the blind, and the lame.”
Well, that’s what the servant did. He brought them to the banquet, they sat down and the prominent guy was like, hmmm. The servant said, “Sir, there is still room. This place is still not packed out.” Then, look at verse 23, Luke 14, “Then the master told the servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in so that my house will be full.’”
We have a banquet here every weekend. We have an open house here every weekend. We’re serving the food, the bread of life, every weekend, John, chapter 6, verse 35. What an opportunity that we have to go out into the country, to bring in everybody else that nobody else wants, to bring in the lame, to bring in the poor, to bring in the up and out and the down and out people, to bring them in, to go out and to invite them to dine at the banquet table. So the house should be a place of hospitality.
Now, if you come over to our house we’re going to think about your needs above our own. We’re going to tell the kids no burping, food fighting, or yelling at the table. We have a dog. She is kind of a feisty female. She weighs 160 pounds. That is a lot of woman. She will sometimes bite and she has a horrible drooling problem. We would put Chloe up before you came over to our house because we’re thinking about your needs. We would serve you first. We would listen to your conversation. Are we compromising? No. We’re being, hopefully, good hosts. We’re being hospitable.
That’s what we have an opportunity to do each and every weekend here at Fellowship Church at this banquet. Fellowship Church is all about love. Loving churches grow and growing churches love. We are feeding on the food that gives us the calories to get out there and do the stuff. So the house is all about building equity and hospitality.
Also, too, I was thinking about the house and the church. It’s a place of refuge; isn’t that true? You can go home and you’re accepted. I’m accepted. No matter what I do I’m accepted at my house. And our Heavenly Father is standing in this house with open arms, He’s saying, “Come into My house. Come into My house. I accept you. I want you. I long for you because the body is incomplete; the house is incomplete without you. It really, really is.” And looking back on our house that my friend Bill built for us, we used that thing and it built equity. I mean, we were able to sell it and we did great on the house.
Also, hospitality. We had so many people over in that house. During the early days of Fellowship, probably three or four nights a week we would have dinners and coffees and desserts. I think about a refuge. It was a refuge for me and so many of the leaders early on as we were beginning to just be a part of this great work. I will never forget that house.
This Wednesday I hopped off a plane and drove to the office. I talked to my assistant and the first thing she said to me was, she goes, “Ed, Bill is about to die.” And now remember, Bill, of course, is the gentleman who built me the house. So I jumped into my truck and rushed over to his house, went through the guard gate, drove up to his house and walked up the steps, the steps that I had walked up many times before. His wife and his daughter were there. I walked back to his bedroom and I looked at Bill, less than a hundred pounds, gasping for breath, he couldn’t even talk.
And I held his hand and he squeezed my hand tightly and I said, “Bill, I want to tell you how much I love you and I just want to tell you what you mean to me and to so many.” I said, “You’re getting ready, Bill, to go home to the ultimate house.” And I said, “Bill I want to thank you for building our house.” But I said, “More importantly Bill, I want to thank you for building the house because you got involved here at Fellowship Church for almost 16 years, 17 years.”
He was one of our ushers that stood at that door right there. I said, “Bill you gave of your time and your treasure and your finances.” I will just be straight with you; some of you wouldn’t even be here without Bill’s generosity in making Fellowship Church happen. You wouldn’t even be here. So I said, “Bill you have built the ultimate house and now you’re going home because Jesus said, ‘In My Father’s house are many mansions.’”
And when Bill died, hours later, he was greeted, you know, by Jesus and by so many like he greeted so many right out there for all of those years. What a story. What a life. You see, Bill understood what I pray that you’ll understand today. Here’s the church, there’s the steeple, open the doors, and see all, all of God’s people. Isn’t that awesome? What a life.
I just want to encourage you like I encourage myself to be a part of building the house, the house.
Let’s pray together.