The Hope of the World
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
October 14, 2007

 

Main Passage: 

Well, we’re a couple weeks into the new NHL season and our favourite teams are back on the ice. Baseball is in it’s postseason, and there are still four teams competing to win the World Series. The CFL and the NFL are both well underway into their seasons. And the NBA is currently in its pre-season, still a couple weeks away from the opening tip-off.

Let me ask you, across all sports throughout the past century, what do you think has been the best team?

PARTICIPATION

Okay, I don’t think we’re going to agree here this morning on what the best sports team has been. We may have to go out back later to settle that. But I do know what my favourite team is. It’s the Church… the Body of Christ.

Specifically, Team Sunrise. This a team I’m proud to be part of. This is a team where I feel I belong. This is the team where I invest my time, my talent, my treasure. I love being part of this team… Team Sunrise. I don’t believe there’s any other church anywhere around our church like our church. This is where I belong, and I hope you feel the same way.

What we’re going to do this morning is talk about us as The Church. We’re going to talk about what it means to be the Church. Because the Church is not a building, it’s not an organization, it’s a people. It’s the people who have committed their lives to Jesus Christ and have joined His family… His team… around the world. That’s what the Church is. And we, here at Sunrise, are one localized expression of that Church.

We’re part of something greater than ourselves. We’re part of a worldwide movement that’s been going on for two thousand years.

Describing the Church, the apostle Paul wrote…

Ephesians 4:4-6 (NLT)
For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all.

We’re a local church that’s part of a global Church, all serving the same Lord.



I want to give you two definitive truths about the Church, and then we’re going to look at five threats to us being the Church as Jesus intended… five potential problem areas that can develop.


Two Definitive Truths about the Church:

1.    The local church is the hope of the world.

That’s you and that’s me. We are the hope of the world. God has no other plan for rescuing a cold, cruel world other than His Church. There are young men around the world whose souls are darkened by violence. God has no other plan for cleansing their souls other than through His Church.

There are young women everyday who have resorted to selling their bodies for profit, and they live a hopeless existence. God has no other plan for rescuing them and bringing them hope other than through His Church. There are people who struggle with addictions and destructive habits. God has no plan other than His Church for bringing them freedom and live. There are people plagued with guilt… God has no other plan for bringing them forgiveness and redemption and restoration other than His Church. There are millions, even billions of people—some that you know—that are heading for a Godless eternity in Hell. God has no plan for reaching them and saving them other than His Church. We are the hope of the world.

That’s the essence of what Chris read for us earlier from 2 Corinthians 5. Let me show you…

2 Corinthians 5:18b-20 (NLT)
And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us.

Elected officials aren’t going to be able to change lives. Social programs aren’t going to be able to rescue souls. Medical science won’t be able to cure the disease of sin that separates us from our Creator and which ends in death. Only the power and the love of God expressed through His people is able to accomplish these things. The local church is the hope of the world.

You’ll remember Bill Hybels from our “Just Walk Across the Room” series back in January. He’s one of my favourite speakers, and I’ve had the opportunity to hear him speak several times now.

I remember him telling how during the eight years that Bill Clinton was in office, Bill Hybels served as his spiritual advisor. Apparently Clinton didn’t always listen, but once a month for eight years Hybels met with the most powerful man on the planet. Sometimes it would be at the White House, sometimes it would be at a different location. But Hybels talked about the first time he noticed the man with the briefcase. There really is a man carrying a briefcase containing nuclear launch codes, and he is required to say within a certain distance from the president at all times.

He also talked about being at the Pentagon, and the first time he saw the Situation Room where war is played out. And he could see how the Generals there were able to keep track of ships and jets and troops and how they could authorize an assault on the enemy from that location.

But then Hybels noted this: the power that the president holds with the nuclear launch codes and the power that the Generals hold in their forces is the power to destroy. But we are the hope of the world. We have the power to build up and restore. We have the power to transform, to reunify, to free from addictions. The local church is the hope of the world.

“What going on in the local church is the most important thing happening on planet earth.”
~ Bill Hybels

The local church is the hope of the world. The second definitive truth is this:


2.    There’s nothing like the local church when the local church is working right.

When we are loving each other, when we are servicing each other, when we are comforting each other, when we are encouraging each other, when we mourn with each other, when we rejoice with each other… when the local church is working right there’s nothing like it in the world. That’s the church of Acts 2. If you’re not familiar with what the early Church was like, then pull out your Bibles and read Acts chapter two this afternoon.

There’s nothing like the local church when the local church is working right. Of course, that implies that it’s possible that the local church isn’t always working right. In Acts 2 things looked great for the early Church. But just four chapters later, you discover the first serious problem the early church had to deal with.

Acts 6:1-7 (NLT)
But as the believers rapidly multiplied, there were rumblings of discontent. The Greek-speaking believers complained about the Hebrew-speaking believers, saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food.
So the Twelve called a meeting of all the believers. They said, “We apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program. And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility. Then we apostles can spend our time in prayer and teaching the word.”
Everyone liked this idea, and they chose the following: Stephen (a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit), Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas of Antioch (an earlier convert to the Jewish faith). These seven were presented to the apostles, who prayed for them as they laid their hands on them.
So God’s message continued to spread. The number of believers greatly increased in Jerusalem, and many of the Jewish priests were converted, too.


Okay? So God's message was preached in ever-widening circles. The number of believers greatly increased in Jerusalem. But yet the Church faced a crisis. In this case it was a problem of food distribution, plus there were some racial issues. And it was a problem that, depending on how it was handled, could stall their progress and eventually could tear apart this young, fragile church.

Plus, the apostles were called to pray and preach and teach the Word of God. And when they were distracted by other things, the Church was not working as it should. So they commissioned some other people to care for those other important needs so they could focus on what they were called to do. Then the Church could work right again. There’s nothing like the local church when the local church is working right.

But every church does face problems from time to time. Hopefully here at Sunrise, we’ll be able to avoid some of those problems, recognize other ones early so we can deal with them, and spread them out far enough apart that we don’t encounter them all that often. But we will have our problems. We will have things that distract us and that stunt our growth and that threaten to tear us apart. And in all likelihood, the problems that we do have will occur within one of five potential problem areas.


Potential Problem Areas within the Church:

 A.    Evangelism

Okay, I’m going to need three volunteers. [Get volunteers]

When there’s a problem in the area of evangelism, it looks like this.

(Illustrate a pre-Christian staring absently into space, looking bored/indifferent, disillusioned with life and with God. And illustrate a believer clutching Bible to chest with back turned to the pre-Christian.)

This is the posture of a church who has turned it’s back on the people who need what they have to offer. They’ve forgotten the example of Jesus. Because Jesus had a reputation. And it wasn’t necessarily a flattering one. Many people accused Jesus of being a drunk and a glutton because of the people he spent time with. They even gave Him the nickname, “friend of sinners.” They meant it as an insult, but Jesus wore it like a badge of honour. But for some reason in the church we tend to forget that. And we can even start disliking and hating people because they don’t hold to the same morals and values we do. And we can even start to think that we are holy and righteous and spiritually mature because we don’t associate ourselves with “their kind”. But this is the posture we should take…

(Believer turns with open Bible and hand on shoulder of pre-Christian. Pre-Christian turns to look and listen.)

We have what they need, and we need to be offering it with love and compassion.


B.    Discipleship

(Posture #1 – fists in air in defiance; #2 – hands on hips, #3 – hands behind back)

Discipleship is growing the way Jesus intends for us to grow. It means we need to submit ourselves to Him and put our own pride and arrogance aside. These problem postures tell God that we don’t need Him. We can do it our own way. We know better. We don’t trust Him. But the posture of true discipleship is one of openness and obedience. It demonstrates submission.

(#1 – arms raised in praise, #2 – arms open in submission, #3 – hands in “prayer” formation pointing to God)


C.    Community

These are the problem postures for community.

(#1 – looking down nose in judgment, #2 – whispering gossip, #3 – looking off in own direction)

You know what I hate to see? I hate to see someone roll their eyes at someone else. How condescending is that? If you still watch Survivor, then you would have seen Sherea do that to Dave this week. The entire time Dave was speaking at tribal council, Sherea was rolling her eyes. Now, I was no fan of Dave’s, but that just showed how much contempt there was. There was certainly a lack of community within that tribe.

And what bothers me even more is when I become aware of gossip rifling through a church. You know what? Gossip does more harm to a church than adultery. Gossip does more harm to the church than sexual abuse. Gossip does more harm in the church than financial fraud. Because everyone knows these other things are wrong, but we wink at gossip. But if you’ve ever been caught in the middle of some gossip that’s going around, you know how completely devastating it can be and how it can destroy community. Gossip is one of the top reasons why pre-Christians have written off the church.

And understand this: Gossip is gossip, whether the gossip is true or not. It’s spreading information around to people who have no business knowing about it.

Refuse to spread gossip, refuse to even listen to it, refuse to condone it.

What kind of posture shows community?

(Arms raised as if around each other’s shoulders)

This is the posture that says we care for each other and that we’re all in this thing together.

Check out what Jesus prayed in John 17…

John 17:20-21 (NLT)
“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one…”

Jesus prayed that we would be united as one. He intended for us to live in community, not as a collection of independent entities heading off in separate directions.


D.    Servanthood

(Arms out in front with hands doing the “gimme” thing.)

We’ve become a very self-centered culture, and that attitude has even crept into the church. Many people in many churches are tuned into radio station WIIFM… What’s In It For Me? Over the 13 years that I’ve been a pastor, I’ve known people who have demanded their own way, and if they didn’t get it they threatened to move on and find another church. You know my response? Fine. I hope you find what you’re looking for.

Now, we do need to be open to suggestions and receptive to criticism. But we don’t need selfishness in our church. You show me one passage in the Bible that actually teaches that you should be more concerned about your own wants than the needs of others. You’re not going to find one.

Take a look at this passage in John 13…

John 13:3-5 (NLT)
Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.

Now, Jesus was God. And it says right in this passage that all authority was His. So what did Jesus do with that authority? Demand to be waited on? No, He waited on everyone else.

(Hold arm in front as if a towel was draped over it.)

This is the posture of servanthood… like you’re holding a towel. And it says, “I am here to serve, not just to be served.”


E.    Resources

(Clutch fists to chest, as if holding on to something I don’t want to release.)

When resources are the problem, it’s because people are holding tight to what they own. And they fail to realize that everything they have is a blessing from God in the first place. It all belongs to Him, and He has simply entrusted it to me and to you.

What posture should we take?

(Hands offering up to God)

This says, “God, all my time, all my treasure, all my talent, all my trust belongs to You. I will not withhold even a cent that you require. You have entrusted me with Your blessings, and I will not betray that trust.”

 

Okay. So those are the five potential problem areas. I expect we’ll have to deal with each one from time to time, because church can be messy. It’s not perfect. I know that because I’m not perfect, regardless of what else you may have heard. The Church is a group of imperfect people growing together as we strive to know and love God. It’s about being real, and sometimes it can be real hard. But we’re in it together.

You know what? My area of weakness out of these five would be evangelism. There was a time in my life when I would have been hard pressed to name any pre-Christians that I hung around with and to whom I was representing Jesus. And it’s an area where I have worked hard over the past several years, but it’s a constant struggle. I have to intentionally make the time to get to know people who are far from God, or else it just doesn’t happen. I take this stuff seriously, so I do make that time and extend the effort. And right now, I’m doing pretty well with that. But I do need to keep an eye on it.

That’s the area I need to constantly work on. What’s your area? What can you do to improve? What can you do to reduce, restrict, and eliminate that problem area?

The local Church is the hope of the world. And if we’re going to really be that hope, and if we’re going to be operating at peak performance, we need to be aware of these potential problems so we can avoid them and address them so they don’t deter us or destroy us.



[Much of this message adapted from material by Bill Hybels]

 

 

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