MAY 4, 1997
Recently I purchased a brand-new pair of glasses. Amazingly, it didn’t take me very long to pick the glasses out. That is amazing. But it did take the salesperson an eternity to explain to me, in meticulous detail, the care that these lenses would require. She showed me how to hold the glasses. She then told me to have this special cleaning solution to spray: ch-ch on this side and ch-ch on that side. Then she brought out this supersonic, high-tech cloth. She told me to clean the lenses with the cloth, because this cloth would never scratch the lenses. Finally, I made my way out of the store with these brand-new glasses.
Why was she going through all this? What was going on? She was explaining to me the care of glasses, because for optimal vision, you’ve got to regularly clean your lenses. Glasses have a way of picking up dirt and grime, and these little particles can obscure your vision. Any glasses wearer will tell you, “Clean your glasses. Make sure you have pristine lenses.”
Today we’re talking about optimal vision – our vision as a church. Over the next few moments, we’re going to sort of take off our glasses and clean off the grime and the dirt, those particles that impair the vision of our church, so we can have optimal vision, so we can see what God wants us to do, as we continue to build His church.
If you’re a guest today, you’ve picked a great weekend to attend. We’re going to tell you why we do what we do. We’re going to show you where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going. Just think: at the end of this message, you’ll know what the Fellowship is all about.
Speaking of what we’re all about, a couple of years ago I watched a documentary entitled, “Six Days ‘Till Sunday.” It was put out by NFL Films and it chronicled, in detail, in a behind-the-scenes fashion, what the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings did in a typical work week as they prepared for Sunday’s game. After viewing this film, I had this idea. I thought, “You know, wouldn’t it be great if we, as a church, could do a documentary on what happens behind-the-scenes in our lives, in our ministry.” I pitched the idea to our staff and to our leadership, and they checked off on it. So behind me, on the video screen, you’re going to be able to watch the first ever documentary on the Fellowship of Las Colinas, entitled, “Six Days ‘Till Sunday.”
We’ve seen our vision, now let’s talk about our vision. There are four aspects to it. First, let’s talk about our mission. You heard me mention this on the video. We exist – I’m talking about the Fellowship of Las Colinas – to reach up. That’s worship, expressing love to God. We exist to reach out – that’s evangelism, communicating Christ with others. And we exist to reach in. That’s discipleship, which is developing our relationship with the Lord. Often, you’ll hear me re-tweak, rewrite, re-communicate, and re-calibrate our vision. We can’t hear it or see it or understand it enough.
One of God’s great men in the Bible is a man named Nehemiah. A couple of months ago we did a series on Nehemiah. If you’ll study Nehemiah, you’ll see that Nehemiah restated the vision for the children of Israel every 26 days. Nehemiah would literally take off their glasses and clean off the lenses and say, “Okay, here’s our optimal vision. Here’s what we need to do.” In that circumstance, Nehemiah was rebuilding the city walls. We need to hear about our vision.
Our vision – reaching up, out, and in – is based on two texts from God’s word. First, it’s based on the Great Commandment. It’s mentioned there on your outline. Matthew 22:37. You see, the Pharisees were trying to trap Jesus. The Pharisees were all religious and legalistic. They had 613 external commands of the law they would obey, 248 were positive, and 365 were negative. They were so detailed and so stuck on religion and legalism that they even had a certain length that the fringe would have to be on their robes. They were that weird.
One day they asked Jesus, “What’s the net effect of what you’re talking about? Yes, you’re healing. Yes, you’re teaching. Yes, you’re performing miracles. What is it all about? What’s the main thing?” Jesus answered with the Great Commandment. He said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” Notice it indicates the totality of our being. That’s worship: expressing love to God. We’re to love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind. That’s reaching up.
Reaching out is based on the Great Commission. That’s our second text. The Great Commission is found in Matthew 28:19. Here, Jesus was talking to his followers about some important issues. Jesus said this – this has to do with reaching out – He said, “Therefore go.” He didn’t say yo, he said go. Circle the word go. Go, here, in the literal language, is a present participle. It conveys, not a command, but an assumption. It assumes – Jesus is assuming – that because we know Him personally, we’re going to talk about Him in the marketplace, around our schools and campuses, and even in our neighborhoods.
The only command here from the Great Commission is “make disciples.” We’re commanded to go, but to really make disciples. It’s assumed that we’re sharing Christ, but we have to make disciples. A disciple is someone who’s been converted. It’s someone who’s made a faith decision, and someone who is growing in their faith. They in turn are also sharing their faith and teaching others about Christ. “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.” That’s reaching out; that’s evangelism.
Reaching in is also from the Great Commission, Matthew 28:20. It says, Jesus talking, “and teaching them everything I have commanded you.” Is that what He says? No. “Teaching them to obey, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” If the Christian life was a philosophy, the main focus would be to study. To study and study and study. The Christian life is not a philosophy. The Christian life is a life, and the main focus is application. It’s taking God’s word and living it out. It’s putting shoe-leather under it. Our mission is this: we exist to reach up, out, and in.
That sounds great and fine and cool. Some people are going, “Man, that’s cool. We have a mission! All right!” But what good is a mission if you don’t have a measure? I want to talk to you about our measure. How do we know if we’re putting the ball through the net? How do we know if we’re making disciples? How do we know, as we’re living our life, we’re really reaching others for Christ? How do we know if we’re expressing love to God? How do we know?
We’ve put together a commitment index that I want to go over to show you the stages of spiritual development. We’re intentional about spiritual development, because the Bible is a very intentional and organized book. Here’s our measure. First, we have spectators. We’ve built this whole commitment index around athletics, because athletics is one of the most used metaphors to describe the Christian life in the New Testament.
We have spectators. We’ll call all these people Stan and Susan Spectator. Spectators are folks who come to our church now and then. We refer to them as the poinsettia and lily crowd. They come Christmas Eve and they show up Easter. Spectators are interesting. And spectators are great. We have pinpointed about 10,000 spectators who come to our church at least 3 to 5 times a year. That’s a lot of people. But they’re only spectators. They just check it out, on the peripheral, back in the shadows, looking around. They’ll come in, and then they’re gone for a while. They’ll come back, and then they’re gone for a while.
What do we do about the spectators? We, as a church, are mission-driven. We remove barriers that keep people from attending church, and we communicate the Bible in a compelling and creative way. The Bible is the most compelling and creative book known to man. If you ever hear a boring message, do not blame the message. Blame the messenger. I think it’s impossible – well, I shouldn’t say impossible, because I’ve been bored – it’s hard to make the Bible boring.
So we turn Stan and Susan Spectator into the second level of commitment. You see them right there, jumping up and down. This guy has a horrible hairstyle, too. Fred and Freda Fan. After they attend church for a while, after the spectators get hooked in here, then we move them from that level to the next level of commitment: Fred and Freda Fan.
How many Ranger fans do we have here? You show up at the Ballpark and watch the Rangers. “All right, Pudge Rodriguez! Man, look at Bobby! What great pitchers, an unbelievable year. High-five on that one.” Fans, you know? If you’re a fan, let’s just get real for a second. If you’re a fan, especially if you’re a male, you’re saying this to yourself. “What would it be like to actually be a part of the team?” Most of the guys are saying, “You know, I’d be down there on the field, honey, if I hadn’t blown me knee out a while back.” Come on, guys. You’re dreaming. Anyway, Fred and Freda Fan. They’re committed to attendance here. We have about 4,100 people who show up at our church every weekend. They’re fans, they’re for us. “Yeah, all right!” They’re committed.
What do we do about the fans? We, again, being intentional, push and talk about and challenge the fans with our Newcomers Class. At least once a month, I teach a Newcomers Class. I go through what our church is all about, how our church is organized, where we’re going, where we’ve been, what we’re doing, in about an hour and a half over a free meal. We’ve had over 3,000 fans attend our Newcomers Luncheon, and they have joined our church.
You join our church through our Newcomers Class. We talk about what it means to become a Christian. We’ve found out that churches who don’t have Newcomers Class have all these people who are members, but they have no clue about what it means to have a personal relationship with Christ! We talk about baptism. Baptism is talked about throughout the New Testament. It should occur after we’ve received Christ. It should occur after we know what we’re doing when we receive Him. We talk about communion. We talk about how our church is set up, and the leadership, and the ministry teams, and all these things.
We take these fans, old Fred and Freda, and we move them to the next level of commitment after taking the Newcomers Class. That is – you guessed it – Tom and Tina Team Member. The fans are saying, “What would it be like to wear the Ranger red, white, and blue?” Well, now they’re team members. They’ve taken a Newcomers Class. They’re a part of the church. Someone who designed these has a cruel sense of humor, because I wore number 12 at Florida State University, and I did that my whole career – I rode the bench. Today – I didn’t want to humiliate myself too much, but I almost brought my Florida State uniform up here, because it still looks brand-new. In fact, it’s never been washed before.
It’s great to be a part of the team. I enjoyed it, and we all enjoy being part of a team. The Bible says we must be a part of a local team. We’re breaking thirty commands in the New Testament – you can count them, read the New Testament – if we’re not a part of the team called the local church.
Once you’re a team member, you’re sitting there going, “Okay, I’m a team member. I’m a part of the church and I’ve taken the Newcomers Class. I understand what it means to be a functioning member. I want to play! I don’t want my uniform to stay pristine for the rest of my life. I want to have some grass stains on it, some dirt, some tobacco juice, maybe some blood from when I slid into home plate face-first. I want to do some stuff.” So we move the team members into Paul and Polly Player.
How do you do that? You take our Discovering Your Ministry course, and you find out that you have unique abilities to use and to live out in the context of our church. We have, in this group of people, about 858 folks serving God during the week. We’ve got people involved in men’s ministries, women’s ministries, our athletic ministries. We’ve got people helping others in marriage, we’ve got people teaching small groups. I could go on and on and on, but these are the players of our church. We have over 500 people who’ve volunteered who just work on the weekends to make this thing happen. Today, singles, we have this big event just for you called V-Day. We’ll have at least 80 to 100 singles working to make that happen. They’re players, people involved in the ministry. That’s when it really starts coming together.
After Paul and Polly have played for a good while, then they say, “Okay, let’s take it to the next level.” You always should remain a player, but the next level is that you become a player-coach. Now we move over to Cal and Connie Coach. See them? If you put some glasses on him he looks like Barry Switzer. Cal and Connie Coach. Coaches are people who are truly fully-devoted followers of Christ. They’ve received Christ; they have their salvation. They’re using their spiritual gifts within the body of believers. Their stewardship is online; they’re giving of their resources and finances to the local church, and they’re sharing Christ with others. They in turn are taking people down the line of the commitment index. They’re taking the spectators and mentoring them and helping them move to fans, and the fans to team members, and the team members to players, and the players to coaches. That’s the beauty, and that’s how we measure people. We have about 352 coaches.
It’s healthy for a church to have a huge amount of people here and here. Don’t ever say, “Well, you know, we want to just totally do away with these two.” If you don’t have these two, the spectators and the fans, you’re not reaching people for God. But we also want to do well on this side of the equation too. We want to have huge groups here, and huge groups here, because that means we’re moving people down the line to becoming fully devoted followers of Christ. They’re moving from the community into the core.
Our mission: reach up, reach out, reach in. Our measure: this commitment index. You see, God’s given us our mission from the Bible. He’s given us a great measure of people. This determines the next aspect of our vision, which happens to be our model, our venue. What’s our model? Where does all this take place?
Some are saying, “Well, the church is a bunch of people, Ed.” That’s true. The church is a colossal collection of moral foul-ups. That’s what the church is. We’re just packed with self-centered sinners. Yet the Bible talks a lot about a building, a place, to do ministry. Our model is our building. We’ll move into our new complex 10 months from now. If it quits raining for a while.
As you look back on the history of our church, you’ve got to say, “It’s God.” You’ve got to breathe those words. It’s God. It’s God. Our church is seven years old, and we’ve grown from 150 people to over 4,100 in attendance. We’ve had all these people come down the line in this spiritual index. About three years ago, we bought 159.2 acres, right where five major freeways come together, three miles north of DFW airport, at 121 and Bethel Road. We barely scraped up enough money to put down on this tract, and we got the tract of land. Two years after we bought the land, without a sign on the property, we sold 22 of the 159 acres for what we owed on the land. Now we own, what, about 137, 136 acres, free and clear, right across the street from the largest mall in Texas, which will open in October? It’s God. Then, as a church, we committed to build a building.
This past November we broke ground on 125,000-square-foot facility. Our leadership said, “Oh, this will serve us well. This is a large model, and we’ll be able to do ministry here. We’ll be able to reach up, express love to God; reach out, connect people with Christ; we’ll be able to reach in, develop fully-devoted followers.” Everyone’s part of it and excited. Yet we’ve more than doubled since we’ve committed to build this building. We’ve increased, just in attendance in two months, over 800 people by moving over to the MacArthur High School. I have some great news for you. Because people are sacrificially giving to this local church, we now not only will go in and move in, in about 10 months, into phase one, but also, we’ll move into phase two. In four weeks, we’re starting to dig the foundation for phase two. We’re building 87,000 more square feet onto our building. God’s doing great things, so you can clap for that. That’s supernatural.
I want to show you a little bit about our model. If you want to check out our model, just drive by this afternoon. 121 and Bethel Road – half the acreage is in Coppell; the other half is in Grapevine. This is our facility now. We’ll move into this ten months from now. Okay, 125,000 square feet. Our original facility was this right here. See that? This is our worship center. Our worship center will seat 4,000 people in theatre seats. You will not believe how intimate it is. We have designed this, with the architects, to be next to each other. It’s for communication. There’s nothing opulent; it’s functional. Not gold chandeliers and all this wild stuff; very functional. Right out here is the atrium area. This is a very large and spacious and light and breezy area. It’ll have monitors out there to watch the service, it’ll have special events, what’s happening; we’ll have ministry booths out there. We’re going to have, it looks like, a coffee bar and a little bookstore area. Right here is going to be the adult education area. That’s a nice-sized building for Bible Alive classes, for seminars. You know, the list is endless. We could go on right here. The addition – you walk across here – the addition: 87,000 square feet, just for preschool and children. That’s it.
Now, some of you are saying, “Why? Why?” I’ll tell you why. We exist to reach up; that’s worship, expressing love to God. I think these buildings will physically worship God, and we can worship God in there. It also exists to reach out. I think the buildings will draw people to Christ. It’s a venue, a model, we can use to bring people in. The buildings also will be used to disciple people, to reach in, in these seminar rooms and in our children and preschool wing. If we want to affect the most people, if we want to change this community for Christ, we’ve got to put a lot of money and a lot of manpower into our preschool and children’s area. I am so fired up about what God has done in our ministry.
Let’s go over to the next slide, Curtis. Here’s what the building will look like when we move in ten months from now. It looks like ten months, it really does. Here is the worship center, the little atrium area. You can drive through, in inclement weather, you know? There’s the educational area for adults, and there’s the deal for children. Also, we’re in negotiations right now with the building adjacent to this one, right next to our property, for 40,000 square feet, where we will have our offices, and about 20,000 square feet for junior high and high school ministries. God is blessing us in ways that go beyond measure. Next slide, there, Curtis. Here’s the front elevation. Next one. There’s the children’s building. And that will do it. That’ll do it. That’s our model.
You may not realize this, but it takes us 11 hours to set up MacArthur High School and 11 hours to take it down. When I watched the video, I didn’t know half that stuff was going on myself. Wow. We’ve got a mission, we’ve got our measure, we’ve got our model. If you’re keeping track, let’s now talk about the most important aspect to all this. Let’s talk about our methodology. How are we going to do it? How are we going to continue to reach people? How are we going to continue to reach up, reach out, reach in? How?
Three values, three methods we need to apply in our lives. First, we need to love extravagantly. We’ve got to be committed to love extravagantly. The Bible says that God loves us extravagantly, and we in turn should express our love extravagantly back to God. That is worship. Worship takes place on the weekends, but it also transcends every area of our lives. Romans 12:1 says these words: “Present your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable, which is your spiritual act of worship.” In other words, my work should be an act of worship to God, my words should be an act of worship to God, my lifestyle should be an act of worship to God, my relationships should be an act of worship to God. Everything I do – how I handle my money – should be an act of worship to God.
Worship, true worship, always causes us and motivates us to change. You’ve not really worshipped God until you’ve left this place and you’ve changed some areas. I don’t care if you cry, roll around on the floor, have this emotional experience – if your life has not changed, then you haven’t really worshipped. Worship: expressing love to God in an extravagant manner. We have to continue to sacrifice through giving, sacrifice through living, sacrifice through expressions of love, to this church and to others.
The second method we’ve got to apply: we’ve got to connect contagiously to others. We’ve got to connect contagiously with others. I have an opportunity, now and then, to speak to pastors. Most of the time, when I speak to pastors in a seminar fashion, I ask them this question. I say, “Name the characteristics of Jesus Christ.” Man, they’ll give me this long list. “He was a man of forgiveness, a man of love, a man of joy, a man of beauty, a great teacher.”
All those things are right, but they always leave out one characteristic that was talked about over and over and over in the Bible as it described Jesus. Jesus was a friend of sinners. He was a friend of the downtrodden, of the destitute, those outside the family of God. He was a friend of tax collectors and prostitutes and reprobates. He was a friend to those people.
One day Jesus called Matthew, a despised tax collector, a Jew who was working for the Roman government to rob his fellow countrymen of their money. The Jews weren’t into that. They hated Matthew. Matthew was a wealthy guy. Jesus said “follow me,” and Matthew did. What did Matthew do the moment he made this decision to follow Christ? He couldn’t preach. He couldn’t really do very much discipling at that point. What did he do? I’ll tell you what he did. He threw a giant party with a purpose. He had this giant, blow-out party and invited all of his unchurched friends and ungodly friends and people outside the family of God to this feast. He invited Jesus and Jesus’ disciples. Matthew knew they would rub shoulders with Jesus, and Matthew knew that Jesus and the disciples would share with his hell-bound friends what it meant to have faith, and what it meant to have a personal relationship with God.
If you attend our church very often, you know that I love to fish. Fishing is a messy sport, even if you practice catch-and-release, as I do. You’ve got fish scales on you, slime, all that junk. Jesus told us to be fishers of men and women. If we truly are fishers of men and women, if we truly are committed to connecting contagiously with others, it’s going to be a messy, dangerous, and smelly thing. Hell-bound people, unchurched people, have a lot of baggage. They’ve got a lot of issues to work through. We’re going to hear some dirty jokes and some off-color remarks and some bad language, and we’ll see some values that we cannot believe. Yet Jesus commands those of us to know Him, as we’re living our life, to share, to pray, to invite, to see every interchange as a divine appointment.
I ask you, members of the Fellowship, I ask you. Are you regularly praying, and building relationships, and inviting people to this church who don’t know Christ personally? Are you? If you come to this Fellowship for a month without at least bringing one friend or one couple or one family to church, I think something is a little bit out of whack in your spiritual progression. This is how we’re going to reach and teach and make disciples of all nations. Connect contagiously.
The third method we’ve got to apply: we’ve got to change regularly. We’ve got to change regularly. There are two aspects of change I want to address. We’ve got to change as we mature in Christ. We want to introduce them to Christ, we want them to be born again into the family of God, we want them to grow, as we want our children to grow, in the faith. We grow in the faith by feeding on God’s word, by talking to Him in prayer, and by getting on the playing field and becoming coaches and taking other people through the process.
Most of our growth does not take place sitting and soaking, or cheering, or just sitting in the upper deck watching the show go on. Real maturity comes when we apply, and when we do, what we know. The more we know about the Bible, the more we’ll be held accountable one day before a holy God. Change has to do with maturing spiritually.
The second aspect of change has to do with just changing as a church. I’m amazed at how much we’ve changed as a church, and I’m amazed at your spirit of openness and willingness to try stuff. We have the most positive church I’ve ever seen. You motivate me, because I don’t like to change a lot. I really don’t. Every time I change, I’m saying, “Well, how will it affect me? I’m not sure about this. Will it work?” But if you’re a student of God’s word you’ll see that God forced and challenged and prodded people to change. Change. Make changes.
We’ve changed here. We’ve moved from a little office complex to an Arts Center, from an Arts Center to a high school. It takes us 22 hours to set up and tear down. We change service times, we’ve changed different areas where we meet for Bible Alive. We’ve changed. And we’re going to continue to change, and we’ve got to be open to change. We’re going to change our name, we’re going to change our location. We’re going to change. We’ll change our worship style. Five years from now, we’re not going to be doing worship, stylistically, like we’re doing it now. Our music will change, our drama will change, if we even have drama. I’m going to change, as I continue to develop and grow as a speaker and teacher and as a leader of this fellowship. We’ve got to be open to change. Are you changing? Are you really open to it?
You see, this vision that I’ve talked to you about is a corporate vision, but also, it’s an individual vision, isn’t it? Everything that you do, everything that I do, should be an act of worship, it should be an act of evangelism, and it should be an act of discipleship. So why don’t you take off the glasses? Allow the Lord to wipe off those particles of dirt and grime that have caused you to lose your optimal vision. When you let God take care of your lenses, He’ll give you sight and vision like you’ve never experienced before.