Witness Relocation Project part 3
The Marks of Sunrise
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
March 29, 2009

Good morning, and welcome to Sunrise… the Church in the Mall!

Over the couple weeks as we were trying out new locations for us to meet as a Church. We tried out Sobers, and now we're trying out this spot in the Mall. And though this process, we've been talking about who we are as a Church. We started out by talking about why we exist… what we’re here for. And we remembered that we’re really here for three primary reasons. We’re here to Connect, to Equip, and to Empower. That’s our calling as a Church.

We’re here to connect with God and with others. We’re here to equip you with the tools and resources you need for growth and service. And we’re here to empower you to minister to people and to make a difference for the Kingdom of God.

That’s why we’re here, and that’s what we talked about two weeks ago. Last week, we talked about what will be required of each of us to fulfill that calling.

•    It’s going to require prayer, because nothing of eternal significance happens without prayer.
•    It’s going to take the giving of ourselves… a real commitment… to each other and to what we’re doing as a community of Christ-followers.
•    It’s going to take a Kingdom Mindset, which means that we’re going to get over ourselves and realize that there are a lot more important things than always getting our own way. It means we’ll be willing to set aside some of our personal preferences if it means we’ll be able to more effectively reach people who are far from God.
•    Another thing that we talked about that will be required of each of us is a heart for others. We need to be aware that every day as we go about our lives, we do so as representatives of Jesus. Especially now given the financial turmoil in this world, there are people who are looking for hope, they’re searching for answers, they want to discover meaning to life beyond the materialism that we’ve been consumed by for so long.
•    Another thing we talked about last week is having a positive attitude. Just the other day, I was talking with Virginia who tends to be a very positive person, which is fantastic, and she said something that is so true: She commented on how one negative person can just sap the energy right out of you. And isn’t that true? I think we’ve all experienced that. We don’t want to be negative people who drain the energy out of each other; we want to be positive people who encourage and empower each other.
•    Another thing that’s required of us is generosity… with our time, with our energy, with our resources. Everything costs money, especially as we change locations for our Worship Celebration.
•    And one more thing we talked about that we need if we’re going to accomplish what we’re called to do is the heart of a servant. Especially in our situation of not having a building of our own, we have to be innovative and often that means there are some thankless jobs that need to be done. But a servant sees the value of doing those jobs and is willing to do them without necessarily getting recognition.

With that said, I’m going to give some recognition right now. We had been talking with the Mall Manager for a few weeks about us using this space, but it wasn’t until this past Friday afternoon that everything came together and we got the go-ahead. So Friday afternoon, Paul and Harvey and Sandra picked up the chairs you’re sitting on this morning and they loaded them in their vehicles and they brought them here. Then they went over to Sobers, lugged all the stuff we had been storing there and brought that here. Then they did some cleaning, and they came in yesterday to help figure out where everything goes.

And then Ian got involved as well. He figured out what we needed for sound equipment here. So he got a hold of it, and then he fiddled around with it until he had it all working right. In fact, a couple weeks ago when we were at Sobers, Ian was there until 10:30 on the Saturday night trying to get everything working just right for the next morning. I have no idea how long he was here yesterday.

That’s what I mean by having the heart of a servant. Being willing to serve and meet needs and do jobs that many times would go unnoticed.

Okay, so that’s a recap of what we’ve talked about over the past couple of weeks. We’ve talked about what we’re here to do. We’ve talked about what will be required of each of us in order to do it. And today we’re going to talk about some of the marks of us as a church. And no, I’m not talking about having a bunch of people named Mark here. Although, back when we first started and were running about 17 people, we had 3 guys named Chris, we had 2 Laurels, two Jameses… apparently there aren’t enough names to go around.

But I’m not talking about that kind of Mark. I’m talking about features. I’m talking about qualities. I’m talking about the defining characteristics of Sunrise. We’re going to identify five of them this morning. This list is by no means exhaustive, but I think these are at least some of the characteristic marks that should be true of Sunrise.

1.    Authenticity

We want to be a Church where people can be honest about who they are. We want to be a church where people can come as they are and be themselves. We want people to be real. We don’t want people to put on a religious mask and try to impress people with how good they are. That’s not what it’s all about. It’s about being honest with God and each other. It’s about being authentic. Being real.

Romans 12:3 (NLT)
Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves…

Now that doesn’t mean you have to belittle yourself and develop some kind of inferiority complex. What it does mean is that we don’t have to boast and become all proud and go around pretending that we’re someone we’re not. Here at Sunrise, we want people to be free to be themselves.

We can be honest about our weaknesses, we can be honest about our failings, we can even be honest about the sin that we’re struggling with. Not condoning it or excusing it, but just being honest about it. Recognizing who you are… strengths and weaknesses… so you can move forward from there.

We want to have an authenticity in our relationships with each other. And we need to have an authenticity in our relationship with God.

You know what always gets me? When people think they can pull one over on God. I mean, how ridiculous is that? As if you could fool God.

But people do that all the time. Take a look at this video…

VIDEO – Calendar Christians

You know, there’s a word we use for people who pretend to be someone they’re not. It’s the word “hypocrite”.

Do you know where that word “hypocrite” comes from? We’ve talked about this before. It comes from ancient Greece (hey, I have some of that under my kitchen counter. Ancient Grease). In ancient Greek society, the theatre was extremely important. And they would put on these huge plays in large amphitheatres. The actors didn’t have microphones to make their voices heard, and they didn’t have cameras to magnify their images onto screens, so they invented their own system. They developed big masks that you could see from a long ways away.

The masks made them look like the characters they portrayed. And built into the masks were megaphones to amplify their voices. So the actors got on stage, got behind their masks and they became somebody else… someone different than they really were. In Greek, this play-acting was called hypocrisis, from which we get our word hypocrisy. Those actors were not what they appeared to be. They claimed to be one thing but in reality were another.

And there’s way too much of that happening in this world, and there’s way too much of that happening in Churches. We don’t want hypocrisy to be a mark of who we are; we want to be known for authenticity. And that doesn’t mean you don’t strive to be better, but it means you’re honest about where you are right now.

John 4:23-24 (NLT)
“But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”

A second mark of who we are as a Church should be…

2.    Community

Listen, we are all different. (Some of us are more different than others.) We’re all unique. We all have something we can bring to the party. We have different gifts, different skills, different interests, different passions, different backgrounds… we’re different in so many ways. And those differences are important. But at the same time, we’re all in this together. We can love each other and care for each other and work with each other. We’re all different, but we can come together here because of One God.

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.

God is the one who can actually use our uniqueness to bind us together in community. God wants each one of us to bring our uniqueness and discover unity. When you come to Sunrise, we’re not interested in shaping you into a cookie cutter image of who we think you should be. We’re interested in helping you become the person God made you to be, with your unique abilities and passions and personality. And we want to help you discover how that uniqueness can be celebrated as you add it to the mix.

You see, unity does not mean conformity. It doesn’t mean you have to give up who you are. It means you take who you are and you add it to the mix.

Unity. It’s one of the basic themes that runs throughout the Bible. Just shortly before Jesus was arrested and subsequently killed, the Bible records a prayer He said:

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, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.

Jesus Himself prayed that we would be unified. That’s what He desires for us. And bickering and slander and gossip and arguing… those kinds of things tell people we’re not who we say we are. But if we genuinely love and care for and support each other… that speaks powerfully, not just about who we are, but about who God is.

John 13:35 (NLT)
“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

Romans 12:10 (NLT)
Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.

3.    Participation

By this I mean that we don’t just come as spectators; we come to get involved and participate in the life of the Church and in what God is doing through us.

Romans 12:6 (NLT)
In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability…

… and it goes on to say that whatever ability you’ve been given, you should use it to serve. You should use it to contribute to the greater community of believers, the Body of Christ, the Church. You should be using your abilities to serve each other and to serve those beyond these walls.

You know, we all have talents. We all have skills that we’ve learned over the years. We all have things that we do that we’re good at and that we enjoy. And the Bible teaches that every Christ-follower is given other special abilities – we call them spiritual gifts, such as mercy, and leadership, and giving, and encouraging, and showing kindness – all sorts of abilities given to Christ-followers to be used to serve others and build up His Church.

We have people here who contribute their musical ability.  We have people who are good hosts and hostesses and they have groups over to their home. We have people who are good at leading discussions and contributing to discussions in our LIFE Groups through the week. We have people who are skilled with working with children and with crafts and with a whole slew of other things. And we all contribute those abilities, participating in what God is doing here.

So many of you contribute in so many ways. You’re taking seriously what the apostle Paul told his young protégé Timothy…

1 Timothy 4:14 (NLT)
Do not neglect the spiritual gift you received…

Or as it says in…

Philippians 2:3-4 (MSG)
Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

In other words, don’t come to Sunrise only asking, “What can I get out of this church?” but also, “What can I bring?” And that can begin with something as simple as bringing your questions… adding to the conversation, helping us all to work out our faith together.

And do you know what will happen when you do that? Once you discover how God has equipped you and you start to participate and serve each other in those areas, two things are going to happen.

•    You’ll be happier.
•    The team will be more effective.

It’s a win-win, as if God designed it that way.

Something else that should definitely characterize us is…

4.    Celebration

You know, sometimes you just get together with people and have a party for the sake of having a party. And that’s fine. But the best parties are when you have a party for a reason. You have something to celebrate. So you have birthday parties, and wedding parties, and retirement parties and engagement parties and all kinds of parties because there’s a reason.

And Christ-followers have the best reason of all. I mean, this message of being rescued from our sinfulness and from our selfishness and even out of empty religion, and then being brought into intimate relationship with God is an amazing message that the world needs to hear. If that doesn’t give you a reason to celebrate then you need to reacquaint yourself with the story of Jesus.

In John 15:11 Jesus said…

John 15:11 (NLT)
I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!

I don’t know where we ever got the idea that the Christ-centered life should be dull and boring and somber and tedious. Because God is a God of joy. He wants us to celebrate all of His good gifts. He wants us to enjoy life.

Philippians 4:4 (NLT)
Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!

Yes, there are times to be serious. Yes, there are times to mourn. But there are also times to celebrate. And I think that’s something we’ve always been able to do at Sunrise. We have a lot of fun together. So let’s continue to allow Celebration to be a characteristic mark of Sunrise.

5.    Compassion

This is kind of the balance to celebration. We should be compassionate for each other. We want to be a Church that cares deeply for each other, who takes an interest in what’s happening in each other’s lives. And if someone is going through a time of difficulty, then we want to be there for each other and help out when we can.

Psalm 112:4 (NLT)
Light shines in the darkness for the godly. They are generous, compassionate, and righteous.

Philippians 2:1-2 (NLT)
Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.

That’s all part of being a Church family. We’re not just a bunch of strangers that get together once a week; we’re a community, and we’re sharing our spiritual journey. So we need to be compassionate with each other.

And we need to be compassionate toward those who aren’t here, who aren’t part of any church family, with those who are far from God… with those who—whether they know it or not—are in desperate need of entering into a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Jesus Himself modeled this kind of compassion for us.

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.”

This morning I have something I want to give to you. I have a magnet that you can take home and put on your fridge that can serve as a reminder of the compassion Jesus displayed for people who were far from God, and can inspire us to show that same kind of compassion.



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