The Sunrise Story Part 1
Why Are We Here?
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
September 7, 2003

 

Main Passage: Matthew 28:16-20 (NLT)

 

A couple weeks ago when my brother and his wife were visiting, we went out golfing for the afternoon. Now, I’m not much of a golfer, as several of you have experienced first-hand. But I do try, and I’m gradually catching on to different rules and techniques. Plus, I don’t lose as many balls as I used to.

Anyway, we were out golfing that afternoon at VistaBay. That’s the same place we went for our church Golf Day last month. We got around to the fifth hole, and a couple of things happened there. First, I found a pink peppermint on the ground. That told me that Kathy and Maureen were someplace ahead of us on the course. (And we were able to confirm that later.) And second, my brother made a couple of great shots to get his ball to the green. Unfortunately, it was the wrong green.

If you’re familiar with the golf course, you’ll know that if you’re standing at hole five and looking down the fairway from the tee, you see the green for hole 7. That’s what he aimed at. He didn’t realize that there was a dogleg right to the green for hole 5. So he wasn’t particularly happy when I told him he was aiming at the wrong hole.

There’s a saying I heard years ago that says, “If you aim at nothing you will surely hit it.” Well, in my brother’s case he was aiming at something. It just happened to be the wrong something. That’s just about as bad.

It’s been proven that people and organizations who have identified their purpose accomplish a lot more than people who wander around in the dark. And it’s true for churches, too. Churches that have a clear sense of purpose and know what they want to accomplish and know how they’re going to do it are much more vibrant and healthy and effective than churches that don’t.

Here at Sunrise we’re coming up on our first birthday in just a little over a month from now. And it’s been a great year. But you should know that Sunrise was in the works long before that. In fact, I can trace it back to March of 1999. That’s the time when I first became aware of God’s call on my life to start a new church which would be Sunrise. In truth, God has all this in the works since before the world began. But that’s just a little too mind boggling for me, so let’s just say that Sunrise began to take shape in March of 1999.

Over the next couple of years I spent a lot of time praying about it and dreaming and putting things down on paper. And one of the first things I needed to do… in fact I think it was the first thing I did… was figure out what God wanted us to do as a church. And what I ended up with was this:

 

Sunrise Wesleyan Church exists to introduce individuals to Christ and to help them grow through meaningful relationships, authentic worship, and solid biblical truth.

 

That’s our purpose as a church. And it’s rooted deep in the verse Shera read for us earlier. Let’s take another look. In this passage Jesus is talking with His disciples. He has spent the past three years walking and talking and joking and living with these people, they have watched Him die and then come back to life, and now He is about to leave them. And he says to them:

Matthew 28:18-20 (NLT)
“I have been given complete 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. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

This is what we commonly know as the Great Commission. It’s our prime directive. It’s the mandate of every church to make disciples and teach people how to live for Jesus.

 

Why Are We Here?

 

I’ve already given it to you, but let’s break it down.

 

1. To introduce individuals to Christ.

To Bringing People to Jesus:

  • We need to find them.

    When we started holding public services, we started advertising. We sent out a mass mailing to about a third of the homes in the area, we ran some ads in the newspaper, we distributed some materials door to door, we put a sign out front of this building, and we did everything we could to let people know they would be welcomed at Sunrise. And we had some success… most of you have come to Sunrise because of some form of advertising we’ve done.

    But you know what? That needs to change. We’ll continue to do some advertising that way, but it’s not the responsibility of The Guardian to make sure people come to Sunrise. And it’s not the responsibility of the Post Office to get people through these doors. It’s my responsibility and yours to talk with our friends and family and coworkers and let them know what God means to us. And we can let them know about how we are part of this great church where we love each other and care for each other and where every person is important. And you and I need to invite them to join us.

    Luke 14:16-23 (NLT)
    Jesus replied with this illustration: “A man prepared a great feast and sent out many invitations. When all was ready, he sent his servant around to notify the guests that it was time for them to come. But they all began making excuses. One said he had just bought a field and wanted to inspect it, so he asked to be excused. Another said he had just bought five pair of oxen and wanted to try them out. Another had just been married, so he said he couldn't come.
    “The servant returned and told his master what they had said. His master was angry and said, ‘Go quickly into the streets and alleys of the city and invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.’ After the servant had done this, he reported, ‘There is still room for more.’ So his master said, ‘Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full.’”


    I am constantly aware of the relationships I have with people and the opportunities I have not just to invite them to a service to increase our numbers but to invite them to a place where they can love and be loved, know and be known, serve and be served, and celebrate and be celebrated. And I’ve had some measure of response. But the health and growth of Sunrise should not and can not depend solely on me and the relationships I have. I am the pastor of Sunrise, but we are all the ministers. That’s the way God designed the church. It’s not a spectator sport… we all participate together.

    The single most influential reason anyone will ever visit a church is because somebody invited them. So let me ask you, can you identify just one person that you can begin praying for now and look for opportunities to share with them about God and invite them to join you at Sunrise?

    Who is one person I can pray for, share my faith with, and invite to Sunrise?


    Okay, so we need to find them. We also need to love them.
     

  • We need to love them.

    “Don’t tell them Jesus loves them until you’re ready to love them, too.”
    ~ Steve Camp

    We’re not talking about numbers. We’re talking about individual people. Each and every person matters to Jesus. And if they matter to Jesus they matter to me and they matter to you. So we need to show people that we love them, that they matter to us, that they’re important to us. How can we do that?

    What are some practical ways we can express love to the people around us?

    PARTICIPATION
    (help them move, offer to baby-sit, invite to supper…) Basically, invest yourself in them.
     

  • We need to pray for them.

    Pray that God will prepare their hearts to receive Him, pray for the needs they have in their lives, pray for opportunities to share your faith with them, pray that they would become part of a local church (and of course, Sunrise would be my choice).
     

  • We need to represent Jesus to them.
    (Ephesians 5:1-2; 6:20)

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. We are the representatives of Jesus to the people around us. We are His ambassadors. He has entrusted us with the privilege of sharing His message with others and introducing them into a relationship with Him. I’m not talking about being so pushy you turn people off, I’m talking about loving people the way Jesus loves them and helping them find their way to Him.

    It’s a little early, but I think I’ll do a bit of a commercial right now. In the New Year, probably around February, we’re going to have a weekend seminar called “Becoming a Contagious Christian.” We’re going to take some time to discover how we can share our faith with people in a way that is consistent with how God has put us together. So watch for that. It’ll be a great time and I think will be one of the most important events of the next year.

 

2. To help them grow

We’ve had a couple of babies born at Sunrise over the past year. (Actually, they weren’t born at Sunrise, they were born at the hospital. But you know what I mean.) Can you imagine what would happen with either Grace or Cameron if, after they were born, we left them to fend for themselves? I mean, what would happen if no one ever fed them, ever picked them up and carried them, ever held them close, ever gave them a bath, ever changed their diaper, ever put a diaper on, ever taught to speak… What would happen to a child who was left that way? They wouldn’t survive.

When someone begins a relationship with Jesus, one of the expressions that used is that they’ve been born again. They’re like newborn babies… they can’t be left to fend for themselves. They need to be encouraged, they need to be loved, they need to be discipled, they need to be part of the Body of Christ, they need to learn what it means to be a Christian, they need the prayers and support of others in the Church, they need to be taught how to read the Bible, they need to be taught how to pray… They need help to grow.

In 1 Corinthians Paul addresses a church filled with people who have never grown in their faith.

1 Corinthians 3:1-2 (NLT)
Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn't talk to you as I would to mature Christians. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in the Christian life. I had to feed you with milk and not with solid food, because you couldn't handle anything stronger. And you still aren't ready…

Hebrews 5:12-14 (NLT)
You have been Christians a long time now, and you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things a beginner must learn about the Scriptures. You are like babies who drink only milk and cannot eat solid food. And a person who is living on milk isn't very far along in the Christian life and doesn't know much about doing what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who have trained themselves to recognize the difference between right and wrong and then do what is right.

Let those verse never describe us here at Sunrise. Let’s be committed to growing and helping each other grow.

 

Important Ingredients of Growth:
 

  • Relationships with other Believers

    Why are relationships important?

    PARTICIPATION
    (encouragement, mentoring, accountability, modeling…)

    Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NLT)
    Two people can accomplish more than twice as much as one; they get a better return for their labour. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But people who are alone when they fall are in real trouble. And on a cold night, two under the same blanket can gain warmth from each other. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.
     

  • Bible Study and Prayer

    You learn about God and get to know Him better. And you apply what you learn.
     

  • Participation in Worship Celebrations

    This is our Sunday service. Keyword: Participation. Remember, church is not a spectator sport. We worship God together. We look into His Word together. We apply it together. We grow together. We give together. We participate together.

    No man is an island. We can’t grow as Christians in isolation. It’s vital to be part of a local church like Sunrise for spiritual growth. However, if you only fed a newborn baby once a week, that baby would be seriously malnourished and probably wouldn’t survive. And if coming here on Sundays is all you depend on, you’re going to be seriously malnourished as a Christian.

    Hebrews 10:25 (NLT)
    And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near.
     

  • Be part of a LIFE Group

    “Big change happens in small groups.”

    Check out these verse in Acts 2…

    Acts 2:44-47 (NLT)
    And all the believers met together constantly and shared everything they had. They sold their possessions and shared the proceeds with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord's Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their group those who were being saved.

    We’re calling this series “The Sunrise Story”. And if you really want to know the Sunrise Story, then you need to know these verses. Because the church of Acts 2… the first church… is the church we model ourselves after. This is a picture of a Biblically functioning community of believers in the first century, and that’s what we want to develop here in the 21st century.

    This is a passage I go back to time and time again. And in fact, I haven’t done this yet but I’m going to… I’m going to memorize these verses. Perhaps you’d like to do that, too. I’d encourage you to give it a try.

    But when you look at these verses, what do you see? What was the early church doing?

    PARTICIPATION
    (meeting together, worshipping together, having each other over for supper...)

    And what was the result?

    PARTICIPATION
    (The Lord added to their number daily)
     

  • Be Involved in Ministry

    God has specifically gifted you to make a difference in a way no one else can. He designed it so that we would serve each other out of love for each other, and that by working together we can all grow to maturity in our faith. Paul wrote about this in Ephesians 4 when he was describing the church and wrote…

    Ephesians 4:16 (NLT)
    Under his direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

 

So that’s why we’re here. We’re here to introduce individuals to Jesus, and we’re here to help them grow. Our mission statement goes on to describe a bit about how we do this through meaningful relationships, authentic worship and solid biblical truth, but we’ll talk more about that another week.

We started out today looking at a passage from Matthew 28. Just as we finish up, I want to revisit that passage.

Matthew 28:18-20 (NLT)
“I have been given complete 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. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Jesus gave us a couple things in these verses. First, he gave us a purpose… to go and make disciples of all the nations and to teach them to live for God (To introduce to Jesus and to help them grow). He gave us a purpose, but He also gave us something else… He gave us a promise. He gave us the promise of His presence. He said, “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

The things we can do as a church, the difference we can make in lives, is only possible because of that promise. It’s the presence of Jesus, and his power and love and compassion working through us, that makes all the difference. We couldn’t do what we’re called to do without Him, but thankfully we don’t have to worry about that. Because with God, all things are possible.


 

 

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