A New Day part 4
Empowering
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
October 5, 2008



Just a few weeks ago, we unveiled a brand new mission for us here at Sunrise. We are here to connect, equip and empower. That’s what we’re about… connecting, equipping and empowering.

Two weeks ago, we talked about the first part of that: connecting. We are here to connect people first of all with God, and then with other people both within the Church and outside the Church. We are here to connect you with God and with others.

Last week, we looked at the second part, equipping. We are here to equip you for growth and for service. We want to equip you with the tools and resources and accountability that you need in order to progress in your spiritual journey. And we want to provide you with opportunities to serve God by serving others.

This past week, I met with another pastor who was lamenting how there are people in his church who gripe and complain about everything, but they’re not involved in anything. They have no ministry in which they’re serving. So we ended up talking about how serving God by serving others is such a vital component of spiritual growth. And let me tell you, when I think of Sunrise, so many of you are serving in so many ways, and that’s awesome. So you know first hand how important serving is to your spiritual growth.

So we’re here to connect you with God and with others, we’re here to equip you for growth and for service, and that brings us to the third part of our mission: We are here to empower you for mission and for ministry.

1 Corinthians 4:20 (NIV)
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.

Now, right at the top, I need to make this clear: I have no power of my own to give you. Sunrise has no power of its own to give you. The only power that we have, the only power we can offer you, the only source of true power is found in the Holy Spirit.


Our source of true power is the Holy Spirit.

I read this week about how on one New Year’s Day during the Tournament of Roses parade in Pasadena, one of the floats in the parade suddenly started sputtering and then came to a stop. The problem? It was out of gas. Which would be embarrassing for any entry in the parade, but especially this one: a float entered by the Standard Oil Company. Here you have an oil company with all its vast resources, and it runs out of gas!

Makes me think; how prone are we to be like that in the church? I mean, the Holy Spirit literally makes the power of God available to us. That’s the vast resource He has provided to us. How often do we just try to make do? How often do we rely only on our own resources and neglect or ignore the power of the Holy Spirit?

Jesus Himself made it clear that the source of power for His followers would be the Holy Spirit. After his resurrection and just before he ascended into Heaven, He told his followers…

Acts 1:8 (NLT)
“…You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.”

And then in the very next chapter…

Acts 2:1-4 (NLT)
On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit…

And a couple chapters after that, a group of believers prayed together praising God and thanking Him for the great things He had done and asking for power to spread His message…

Acts 4:31 (NLT)
After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness.

So when we talk about empowering you here at Sunrise, understand that we’re not talking about infusing you with our own power. We’re talking about relying on the power of the Holy Spirit and trusting Him to work in and through our lives. It’s not us; it’s the Holy Spirit.

So keep that clear. At Sunrise, we don’t claim to have any power of our own; it all comes from God through the Holy Spirit. That’s got to be the basis for anything and everything we do.


Alright, so we are talking about empowering you. With that disclaimer… with that understanding that all true power comes from the Holy Spirit… how do we intend to pass that on? How do we plan to empower you? Well, we’re going to empower you for mission and for ministry. Let’s look at ministry first.


At Sunrise, to be empowered for ministry means…


•    You will be unleashed to serve

Last week we talked about equipping you. And that’s important. If you’re going to serve God, you want to do so to the very best of your abilities. And you want to develop those abilities. You want to discover the Spiritual Gifts you’ve been given. You want to learn how to more effectively minister to others.

But that’s not enough. I know a lot of people who are incredibly gifted. They have a vast knowledge of Scripture and understand truth. They could make a tremendous difference for the kingdom of God. But the problem is, they don’t do anything with it. They’re equipped, but that’s it.

At Sunrise, we want you to be equipped, but we don’t want you to be just equipped. We want you to be empowered, too. We want you to seize opportunities to get involved, to experiment in different ministries and find out what you enjoy and what you’re good at, to really discover how you can make a difference for the Kingdom of God.

1 Peter 4:10 (NLT)
God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.

So it says God has given you a gift and you’re equipped with that gift. But now you’ve got to be empowered to use it.

You see, the Christian life is not a spectator sport. You’ve got to get involved. You are called to serve. And that means as a Church, we need to make those opportunities available to you.

Here’s a passage we looked at last week…

Ephesians 4:11-13 (NLT)
Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.

Okay, so it says my responsibility as a pastor and our responsibility as a church is to equip you… but the reason we equip you is so you can do His work. It’s not enough for you to be equipped to serve; you need to be empowered for ministry.


•    You will be entrusted with responsibility

In Matthew chapter 25, Jesus tells the story of a rich man who entrusts a small amount of his wealth to his servants. One of the servants buries the money he was given in the ground so that he wouldn’t lose any of it, and when the rich man comes back he reprimands that servant for not even earning interest on it. But there are another couple servants, too, and they took what they were given and they invested it and doubled what they were given. Look at what the rich man says to them…

Matthew 25:21 (NLT)
“You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities.”

For you to be empowered here, means that you will be entrusted with responsibilities. Because the truth is, we will not be complete as a church until we are all involved and entrusted with ministry. We will never reach our potential until we are all serving God by serving others in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Now, obviously someone’s not going to show up here one week and immediately be put in charge of leading a LIFE Group or our worship team or any other ministry. They’re be entrusted with a few responsibilities, and as they prove themselves trustworthy and dependable, they will be entrusted with more, just like the servant in the story Jesus told.


So being empowered for ministry means you’ll be unleashed to serve, you’ll be entrusted with responsibility, and it means a third thing…


•    You’ll be provided with resources

Now, obviously what this means will vary depending on where we’re at as a church. We’ve had a miserable summer financially, so right now the extent to which we can provide resources is pretty limited.

But it should be our desire and aim to provide the tools and resources needed for our ministries to function effectively. And as we all learn to obey God and worship Him with our tithes and with our offerings, and as we invest in what He’s doing here at Sunrise, we’ll be able to do this more and more. We’ll be able to provide resources that will empower you for ministry.

Now, this does overlap somewhat with equipping. We talked about equipping last week. And the truth is, as you’re being equipping, very often you’re being empowered. For example, when we equip those who volunteer to work with our children in Sunrise Express, when we send them to a seminar to train them, they come back excited about what they’ve experienced and ready to try new ideas and excited about what God can do through them. And they’re ready and empowered to put what they’ve learned into action.

Or another example… We talked a couple weeks ago about you connecting with those who are far from God with the hope of connecting them with God. Last week we talked about how we equip you to do that through seminars and special events here at Sunrise. Just yesterday we had a seminar called “Go Fish” to equip you to tell others what you have seen and heard about Jesus. And to make it even simpler, we equip you with little cards like this… [Invite Cards]

But at the very time we’re equipping you with these cards, we’re empowering you to use them. Suddenly you have something tangible to give to someone when you’re talking about God and when you’re talking about Sunrise. So you’re able to take this card that you’re equipped with, and you’re empowered to give it to someone.

Alright, so that the first thing. You’re empowered for ministry. And that means you’ll be unleashed to serve, you’ll be entrusted with responsibility, and you’ll be provided with the resources needed. You’ll be empowered for ministry.


The second thing is that you’ll be empowered for mission.

Now, what do I mean when I talk about mission? I’m talking about the Great Commission. I’m talking about our prime directive – to tell people about Jesus and make disciples. We looked at it last week…

Matthew 28:18-20 (NLT)
Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.

Our mission is to tell people about Jesus. Our mission is to walk across the room and extend hands of friendship. Our mission is to be fishers of men and women. Our mission is to go and make disciples of all the nations.

That obviously includes other countries around the globe, and we do a pretty good job here at Sunrise to support missionaries around the world with prayer and with finances. We regularly have missionaries visit us here on a Sunday, or we highlight a missionary with a video. We promote short-term trips that you can participate on.

That’s what we call foreign missions. But there’s also home missions. That’s helping spread the message of Jesus right here in North America primarily by starting new churches. So we pray for new churches that are starting and we’ve financially given toward new churches in Newfoundland and in Halifax and in Cape Breton. Someday I believe we’ll give birth to new churches right here in PEI. And that will be fantastic.

But it’s even more than that. It’s not just foreign missions and church planting. It’s also personal… in our families, at our workplace, the people we meet every day or every week… Our mission is to go into all the world including our personal worlds, spreading the message about Jesus and making disciples. Whether we do this through organized events at Sunrise, or you do it individually… we are all called to go into all the world and make disciples.

That’s what we’re talking about when we talk about mission. But for us to be empowered for that mission, we need these three things… (There are actually several things, but these are three of the biggies)…


To be empowered for mission we need…

•    A heart for those far from God

And do you know how that happens? That happens as a natural outflow of our spiritual growth. Last week, we talked about being equipped to grow spiritually. Well, if you’re growing spiritually, that means you’re becoming more like Christ. And if you’re becoming more like Christ, you’re becoming more what? You’re becoming more compassionate. You’re developing a heart for others, especially those who are far from God.

Spiritual growth is not about getting a different wardrobe or learning different words or filling your calendar with “spiritual” things. Spiritual growth is becoming more like Christ. There are habits that help you grow, but those habits themselves are not an indication of spiritual growth. Spiritual growth is about becoming more like Christ, and that means you become more and more compassionate.

How did Jesus display His compassion? I think one of the most significant expressions of the compassion of Jesus is found in the New Testament Gospel of Luke…

Luke 19:41 (NLT)
But as he came closer to Jerusalem and saw the city ahead, he began to weep.

Why did He weep? He wept because He had compassion for the people. He knew that there were so many in the city who were far from God, who didn’t know the way to peace, who were lost without a Saviour. And that moved Him to the point of tears. When was the last time you were moved to tears for people who were far from God?

Another time in Matthew chapter nine, we’re told…

Matthew 9:36-38 (NLT)
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.”

He’s saying, “Pray that people will be so moved by compassion for the lost, the least, and the lonely that they just can’t help but get out there and spread the message of hope about Jesus.”

You know what? I don’t want your motivation to be guilt or obligation or duty. I don’t want it to be need. I want your motivation for spreading the message of Jesus to be compassion. A deep, sincere compassion… a heart for those who are far from God.


•    A realization of the urgency

We need to realize... not just mentally, but to the core of our being… we need to realize that when someone dies apart from God, they are lost for eternity. I don’t beat on the Heaven or Hell drum a whole lot, but I do believe that Heaven and Hell are realities. And when this life is over, each one of us is destined for one or the other.

And what determines your destination is not how good you’ve been, it’s not what family you come from, it’s not how involved you were in the Church, it’s not how much you gave to the poor. The determining factor will be, do you know Jesus or not?

That’s true for you; that’s true for every person. If you’ve already chosen to follow Jesus, then that’s fantastic. You’re all set. Your name’s written down in His Book of Life. Your reservation’s been made and confirmed.

But there are people that you know who are still lost. And they desperately need to hear about Jesus. It’s their own choice to follow Jesus or not, but we need to let them know. We need to realize the urgency of that.

In Luke 14, a man makes a comment to Jesus, just speculating on what it would be like to attend a banquet in the Kingdom of God. Have you ever wondered what that’d be like? Well, when Jesus heard the man talking about this, Jesus told this story…

He told a story about a man throwing a huge party… a big banquet with all these people invited. And they all agreed to come. But when they time came, they all start backing out. One tells him, “I can’t come. I just invested in a new property down the street and I’m going to go check it out.” Another one just got a new John Deere tractor and he wanted to try it out. (Really, he just got five teams of oxen and he wanted to try them out.) Another guy who was invited replied, “I just got married. I’m going to be a little busy tonight.”

Well, the many throwing the party was a little ticked off. He had prepared this huge banquet and had sent out the invitations with plenty of time, and now they’re all bailing on him? Well, look at what the man told his servants then…

Luke 14:21, 23 (NLT)
“Go quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and invite the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame… Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full.”

There’s a word in there I want you to circle. “Urge.” In fact, circle it, highlight it, underline it… That word literally translated means to beg them to come. Plead with them. There’s an urgency.

For Jesus, the urgency of reaching those far from God meant laying down His life. What does it mean for you?


Okay, so to be empowered for mission requires that we have a heart for those far from God, it means we realize the urgency of our task, and there’s a third thing. Going back to what we said earlier about the Holy Spirit being our source of true power, we need to have…


•    A reliance on His power

As we embark on our mission to spread His message, we need to be relying on God and His power. That means that pray for Him to work through us, it means we trust His guidance, it means we step out of our comfort zone if that’s where He leads us. It means we understand that the power of God is the power that changes lives. It’s the power that saves.

Romans 1:16 (NLT)
For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes…

There’s absolutely no reason to be embarrassed or ashamed of the message of Jesus because it’s the power that saves everyone who believes.

2 Timothy 1:7-8 (NLT)
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord.



Okay. So that’s empowering. As a Church, we are here to connect, equip and empower. To connect you with God and with others, to equip you for growth and for service, and to empower you for mission and for ministry. And the great thing is, it’s not just our mission – it’s also our strategy.

What are we here to do? Well, we’re here to connect, equip and empower. How are we going to do? Well, we’re going to connect, equip and empower.

Let’s right now, before we shift gears and head into a time of communion, pray that God will empower us through His Holy Spirit to fulfill this mission He has called us to.

 

 

Copyright © Greg Hanson, 2008 SunriseOnline.ca