THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT
OCTOBER 5, 1996
Keep your sunglasses on for a few minutes. I think you realize after you have seen the video, why we have given everyone in this place shades. It is because the future is so bright that we need to wear sunglasses. Now if you are a guest today, I am sure that you are wondering to yourself, what in the world is this church doing in sunglasses? Well, let me put you at ease. We don’t normally give out sunglasses. You have picked out a unique weekend to attend Fellowship, but you have picked one of the best. You will learn what our vision is all about. So now you can take off your glasses since if you kept them on, you could sleep and I would never know.
As you learned from the video, God has given us a big vision. We believe in a big God. In fact, our vision is from the heart of God. It is intertwined into the very fabric and framework of who God is. It is something that is near and dear to His heart. Our vision is simply the vision for the church set forth throughout the pages of scripture. That is our vision. And we have taken God’s vision for the church and we have put it in one single sentence that pretty much summarizes the mission of our fellowship. We exist to reach up, that is worship, which is expressing love to God. We also exist to reach out, that is evangelism, which is communicating Christ with others. We also exist to reach in, that is discipleship, which is making individuals into fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.
You see, God’s purposes for the church are not negotiable or debatable. They are set forth in His word to us. We should take God’s vision and funnel it through our creativity and become the kind of church that God desires us to be. Our future is bright. Our future is so bright because God has given us such a great vision. Wouldn’t you agree?
I think back to six years ago. We were having one weekend worship service with about 150 people in attendance. And now, six years later we have four weekend services with about 3,400 people walking through the doors of this complex and the Arts Center. The only explanation for the growth is that it is God. It is God. As many of you know, three years ago we purchased 160 acres where five major freeways come together. We scraped up enough funds to put down a $625,000 payment. The balance was about 1.875 million dollars. Five months ago without a sign on the property, a group bought 22 of the 160 acres for 1.875 million dollars. Again I say, it’s God. And now our tract of land is appraised at about 10 million dollars. Yes, God is in the real estate business.
God has given us a great vision. That is one of the reasons that our future is bright. Another reason our future is bright is because God has equipped us with the means to carry this vision out. He has equipped us with the means to carry out His mandate. You see, God puts together a combination of talents and gifts in every local church to fulfill His vision. And that is exciting stuff. So I want to stop and talk in a pastoral way to three groups of people here. I think we can all put ourselves in one of these three categories.
The first group I want to talk to are those of you who committed two years ago in our Build The Vision program to give financially to make this effort happen. I want to take my hat off to you and tell you that your giving inspires me, challenges me and humbles me to be a part of such a great move of God. We wouldn’t be here today if it were not for your generosity. And I thank you for what you have done for the Body of Christ and also in my life. But that brings up a question. What do the following persons have in common; a pitcher in baseball, a quarterback in football and a point guard in basketball? Well, I will answer it. For the persons playing these three positions to perform correctly they have to follow through. The baseball pitcher has to follow through after the pitch. A quarterback has got to follow through when he delivers the ball. A point guard has got to follow through with the jump shot. Now I ask you, what if a baseball pitcher, a quarterback or a point guard didn’t follow through? They wouldn’t play well at all, would they? And what if a Christian, if someone who has been a part of the Build The Vision campaign, didn’t follow through in their financial commitment. What if they stopped at two years?
I have got two words of challenge for those of you in group one; follow through. We are building a building that will reach thousands and thousands of people for Jesus Christ. I believe it will reach people when we are long gone off this earth. And we are building and constructing this facility based on your commitment. You have given in a marvelous way. Continue to stretch, continue to give, continue to sacrifice and God will bless your life.
The goal before you is that by the end of the year, December 31, we want you to be at least 70% along the way with your Build The Vision commitment. We have a little over a year left. Follow through if you are in group one.
I want to talk to group two. Over the past twelve months our church has experienced a season of unprecedented growth. We have taken in 1,029 new members. Isn’t that terrific? It is unbelievable. We have baptized over 300 people, most of whom have been adults. If you are in group two and became a part of the Fellowship Church after the Build The Vision campaign, a lot of you are enjoying the sacrifices that others have made before you in a good way. But you have got to stop and think. Someone paid for the rent, to turn the lights on, for the staff and the programming and that is great, wonderful. The individuals here should be applauded for doing that. Now, though, it is time for you to play your part.
Awhile back I talked to a friend of mine who had just taken a trip on the Concord. The Concord, as you probably know, is the fastest passenger jet in the world. This guy described the journey like this. He climbed aboard, the plane taxied down the runway and once they got to the end of the runway it was as if the plane went straight up. He said that they made altitudes and cruising speed that he never thought possible. Then he told me how expensive his ticket was and I said, “Wow.”
We are on the spiritual Concord here, with Jesus, Himself, as pilot. The two words for group two are simply this; climb aboard. Group one, follow through. Group two, climb aboard. Climb aboard the spiritual Concord, called the Fellowship of Las Colinas, buckle up and the Lord will take us to high altitudes to see sights and experience adventure in the Body of Christ like we have never known possible. Here is your challenge. Your challenge is to make a financial commitment to Build The Vision beginning November 17 for one year. I am not talking about our general operating fund; I am talking about Build The Vision. And over the next couple of days I am going to send you a card, a commitment card that lists out what you can give. Pray about it. Think about it. And let me say right up front. We don’t force anyone to give. If you have hung around here very long, if you are a visitor or a member, that is your option. That is between you and the Lord. But the challenge before you, biblically, is to climb aboard. That is group two. I think you know if you are in group two.
Now let’s talk about group three. It will get rather quiet now. You see, I am going to be judged one day on how I taught the word of God to the church. The Bible says that I will be held to a higher accountability. And one of the things that God will ask me is if I taught the church about money. He will want to know if I taught the church about giving. Frankly speaking, for the first couple of years here I was shy to talk about money. I didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes or turn anyone off. Yet, as I open God’s word, giving is the focus of Christianity. The Bible is a book of love. Love is mentioned 714 times. The word give is mentioned 2,162 times. One out of every six verses in the gospels talks about giving. Half the parables Jesus used talk about giving. So I have got to teach you. I cannot neglect telling you about this blessing and opportunity.
Group three, though, is made up of people who kind of throw pocket change at God. You tip God now and then. And some don’t even give at all. Nothing. Zero. I have got two words of challenge, offered in a loving way; test God. Test God if you are in group three. Listen very carefully as I read a section of scripture from the book of Malachi. Malachi 3:8. Group three. “Will a man rob God, yet you rob me. But you ask, how do we rob you. In tithes and offerings.” The word tithe means ten. We are to give at least ten percent of everything we make to the local church. In the New Testament the word tithe is understood. It is a given. Most committed Christians gave between 30 and 40 and sometimes gave 50 percent of their income to the church. Malachi 3:10 says, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse. Test me in this says the Lord and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.”
We have two options as Christians. We can either be a reservoir or a river. It is your choice. It is my choice. A reservoir is someone who is blessed by God. They collect all this stuff. Let me stop right here. Everything you have, whether you know it or not, is from God. Everything. Every car, every stitch of clothing, every piece of jewelry, everything we have is of God. A lot of us have a reservoir mentality. We collect all this stuff. We build a giant dam around our lives and say, “This is mine. I am a self-made man. I am a self-made woman. God, I will give you a little trickle, a couple of drops. But this is mine, You see.” Any reservoir people here? God says to become a river. If you are a reservoir, break down the wall and become a river. God is a giver. Giving is the essence of Christianity. God has given to us so He says to keep it going, keep it flowing. When it is going and flowing we will have no algae, no lily pads, no fish kill because we are giving and doing what God wants us to do. A reservoir or a river?
You see in this text, Malachi 3, the children of Israel were trying to be sly with God. That is why God said they were robbing Him. They were bringing sacrifices and offerings to God that were weak and lame and hurt like a lamb that was on its deathbed. “Here, God. Here is my best.” God knew that there was an unblemished lamb that should be given to Him, but that is not what they were doing. So He asked, were they going to rob Him? In heaven could there be a picture in the celestial post office with your mug shot on it or my mug shot on it? Could we be robbing God?
How many of you like to go out to eat? I do. I am into going out to eat. Dallas/Ft. Worth has some great restaurants, from MacDonalds to the Mansion. I have never been to the Mansion but I hear that it is pretty good. Now when you go out to a restaurant, and especially a restaurant where the check is delivered to your table, I have noticed three kinds of people. You have the slow pay artist. Do you know any of those people? The waiter or waitress will walk to the table and put the check in the middle of the table and the slow pay artist just acts like it is not there. They won’t even think about making eye contact with the check. And when the person who is generous grabs the check, they move in NFL-highlight-film-like slow motion to their wallets and purses.
Then you have got the mathematician. The check is brought to the table. The mathematician pulls out the calculator or the pencil or the pen. “OK, you own $7.34. $19.10 is your share because you had the appetizer is yours. The tip is….” Any mathematicians in the house? And then we have some people who are just generous. They don’t keep score. The check comes, they grab it. “I’ll pay for it.” Sadly, those three types of people are in the church, aren’t they? You have the slow pay artist. The plate is passed with the opportunity to give to something dynamic and eternal. “I’ll commit to Build The Vision next month.” Then we have the mathematician. “Well, let me see here. If I give, tax-wise it will do this. Should I give off the gross or the net? I got this a windfall and should that be counted?” And then we have some people here who are just generous. They realize that everything they have is from God and they are just a river. They give and they give and they give.
You see, if we say we are not going to give, and it is a personal decision, a personal choice, let me tell you what is going to happen tragically. We will retard God from ever supernaturally intervening in our financial realm. God cannot supernaturally intervene in our finances if we don’t give, if we become a reservoir. Also, we will miss out on a blessing that God has for us. So follow through, climb aboard and test God. Group three, just test Him for six months. The Bible says that He will pour open the floodgates of heaven. He will bless you in such dynamic ways that you won’t be able to take it all. And if He has not blessed you in six months, quit giving.
I want you to meet a person sitting on the front row who has really inspired me and blessed my live concerning giving. You will see that this gentleman was a member of all three groups I have just described. Let’s welcome Marlin Smith.
Marlin Smith: I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior when I was nine years old but, for whatever reason despite a great Christian upbringing, I remained unchurched for nearly twenty plus years. But in 1990 some things started happening in my life that caused me to want to find a church home. My wife, Joan, and I had been married 17 years when we had a blessing from God, a little baby boy named Troy Jack. I knew the Christian foundation I had as a child, was what I wanted for my son. It still took another five years, but in 1995 at Joan’s urging we began visiting several of the churchs in the area looking for a church home. We decided to join the Fellowship of Las Colinas.
At that time my game plan was to sit on the back row, put Troy Jack in Sunday School and kind of fit in. Well, I began to give regularly to the church but I was not a tither. But when someone hadn’t been in church for twenty years, I thought I was doing well. Then I got a call from Prentice Scoggins who is the chairman of the Parking Ministry. He told me that he had a red vest that just fit me. I was a little reluctant but finally agreed to do it and found out that I enjoyed it. At the same time we went to a member’s house and learned about Build The Vision. Now I was enjoying the Fellowship of Las Colinas but I wasn’t ready to make a three-year financial commitment. Joan and I talked about it and I decided to make a one-time offering to Build The Vision. That represented more than I had ever given to the church in my entire life.
Summer came and went and I became more and more involved in the Parking Ministry. Joan began to volunteer in the Preschool Department. Troy Jack was having a ball in Children’s Church. Now, something that you all need to know about me is that I graduated from Texas A & M. Whatever it is that they give you down there, I took it real well. I love Texas A & M. I have four brothers, two nephews, one niece already graduated and another nephew and niece going there right now. September of 1995 the church held a ground breaking under a huge tent at the site of the new facility. Joan and Troy Jack and I were sitting under that tent waiting for the service to begin. Troy Jack had the picture Bible with him and he opened it to the portion about the Ten Commandments. He asked what “You shall have no others gods before Me” meant. I answered that it didn’t just mean the idols pictured there but also things that you put before God; money, toys. My son who was five years old at the time looked straight up at me and said, “But, Dad, you worship Aggies.” Now I was stunned but I started thinking about things that Ed had said in various messages. I had also heard Lamar Slay, Preston Mitchell and Mac Richard talk on Wednesday evenings about giving. One of the things I remember having been said was if you want to know whom you are worshipping, look at your checkbook. Well, I knew without looking at mine that Troy Jack was right about the Aggies and some other gods that I had gotten in front of my church. I began to talk to Joan and began to pray about this imbalance in my checkbook.
At the end of the year, I committed to a larger offering to Build The Vision. At the same time I began to pray and think about starting to tithe, to giving ten percent of my income to the church. I thought about the passage that Ed just talked about in Malachi 3:10 where it says, “…test me in this and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out such a blessing that you will not have room for it.” I began to tithe in January of 1996. Now this quadrupled every week what I had been giving. I felt great. I had my checkbook in balance. I felt like I had a new direction in my life. But God wasn’t finished. My brother and I owned a piece of floodplain property for about ten years. I did not have this property listed with a realtor. I didn’t even have a sign on it saying it was for sale by owner. In March I received my first phone call from a man offering about half of what we wanted. Then he came back with two more offers. I prayed and told God if it was His will that the property be sold, I would pay the sales commission to the church. Five months later, and many offers later, we got very nearly our asking price which was above market value for that piece of property. And I gave God’s share to Build The Vision.
Membership in this church and my involvement in it has been a tremendous blessing to me and my family. The joy I have in giving of my time and my finances bless me every day. I want to urge you to do two things as members of Fellowship. Number one, get involved in one of the ministries. There are a lot of places to serve in this church. Now I am partial to the Parking Ministry, cause that is where I am. I think I am partial to it because it is the toughest. We have three requirements for the Parking Ministry. First, you have to be able to smile. Second, you have to have a firm handshake. We have a wimp-free parking ministry. Third, you have to serve one hour every third week. Now those are tough requirements but I am telling you, God will bless you for you involvement in the ministries of this church. Number two, I urge you to pray about your regular giving and about Build The Vision. I believe that in Build The Vision we have an opportunity to give to something that is going to effect people’s lives for years and years and years to come.
I know two things about my life now beyond a shadow of a doubt. As long as I will continue to give of my time and my finances to God, God is going to bless me. I know this. I have tested it and proved it. I have been there, done that, bought the T-shirt. The front of the T-shirt says, “I gave to God”, and across the back, “God gave back more.” The second thing I know is that I am not perfect. I struggle each and every single day. I leave here every Sunday with the best of intentions but I struggle every day with the Christian life. I pray each night for God to help me have pure thoughts and Christ-like actions. But the easiest part of the Christian life is giving. Now I can balance my checkbook, and if my son, Troy Jack, looks at my checkbook I don’t want there to be any doubt in his mind whom I really believe is number one. Thank you.
Well, here is where we are. We have 137 acres paid for at an appraised value of $10,000,000. We have $4,000,000 cash in the bank for Build The Vision. A side note, every year our church is audited by the number one accounting firm in the country servicing non-profit organizations. They recently told us that we rank in the top 10%of all ministries they deal with regarding financial integrity and accountability. I want to say a word of thanks to Dennis Brewer, our financial chairman, also to Doris Scoggins who works in the finanial area.
We have secured some attractive financing for this project. But remember, about eight months ago we met with our architects and builders and decided to expand the facility due to our growth. Now the building will cost
$14,000,000 dollars. That is a huge number, a big number if you remember where we started. But it is a number that we can reach easily if we follow through, climb aboard and test God.