Isaiah 9:6- For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Romans 12:33 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. 4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function,
5 so in Christ we who are many form ONE BODY, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. 9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 BE DEVOTED TO ONE ANOTHER IN BROTHERLY LOVE. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
I began this year with preaching on the family and want to close the year by preaching about the Family of God. What is our function as God’s family? What are we supposed to look like?
I did not choose to be born to Dale and Janet Senseman. I did not choose to be the middle child of three with an older brother and a younger sister. I was born into the family I was born into. I didn’t choose to be a Senseman. I was just a Senseman. That was my family. It was a hard name to spell in Kindergarten, but I digress.
The Family of God, the family Scripture tells us to be devoted to in brotherly love, is comprised of all of the believers in Christ everywhere. However, it is specific for you and me to this congregation of people at Teays Valley Church of God. We have chosen to be part of this fellowship. This is one family you get to choose to belong to. We have chosen to be together, to be part of the way God is moving in our area as a collected group of individuals. What does that mean? Romans 12:10 tells us to be devoted to one another in brotherly love. How do we do that?
Church is where we exercise everything we learn FIRST. Church is where we make a commitment to being in Christ-like relationships FIRST. We “test drive” what we learn here FIRST. Why? This is a safe place. There is a level of trust and commitment here, and there is also great grace. If you get it wrong, it is going to be ok. We are going to be the ones who will love you anyway. That is part of our devotion to one another. As we learn to “get relationships right” on the inside of these walls, we can then carry it outside of these walls. I’m not sure that living perfectly is more important than recovering well when you fail. This is a safe place in which to fail; at least it is supposed to be. Think of our church family as an incubator, a place to experiment with Scripture, to figure out what God is saying to us, to practice what we are learning with one another.
Love is supreme. Be devoted to one another in love. The text doesn’t say, “Be devoted to one another in prayer.” That wouldn’t be a bad thing at all, but it doesn’t say that. It’s love that we are to express and experience because it is love that “covers a multitude of sins” (I Peter 4:8). You are going to get it wrong. I am going to get it wrong. We won’t always understand each other. We won’t always see eye-to-eye on everything, but we can always choose to be devoted to one another in love. Love gives the benefit of the doubt. Love doesn’t keep score of who was right and who was wrong. Love doesn’t have to have the final word. Love gives people freedom to fail and to start again. And we get to practice that first with each other. If we can get it right “in the family” we can get it right in the world.
It had never dawned on me before, but this whole Scripture passage in Romans 12 about how we are to relate with one another is in the context of verses 1 and 2 where we are told to present ourselves as living sacrifices to the Lord. We are told not to take our cues from the world, but from the Word and the Spirit of God. In other words, getting church life right, is going to cost us something. It will require we present ourselves as living sacrifices not only to the Lord, but to one another! We cannot be “devoted” to one another in love as Romans 12:10 tells us to do if we haven’t first gotten over ourselves and become servants who seek to please the Lord and do His will as we follow His lead. Love calls for sacrifice. The whole living sacrifice passage is first and foremost about how we relate to one another in the church. As we learn to “get it right” in here, we can more effectively take it to the world.
As I thought about ways we can show we are devoted to one another in love, four ideas came to my mind.
- Show Up-Hebrews 10:25 and Acts 2:42
Hebrews 10:25 talks about making it a regular habit to meet together, to make church attendance a priority. Acts 2:42 talks about how the early church was devoted (there’s that word again). They were devoted to meeting together for teaching, fellowship, the breaking of bread, and prayer. In fact, it was far more than once a week. It was a daily occurrence. It was the desire of their heart, because of their love for one another, and because of their allegiance to Christ as a body of believers, that they would meet and meet and meet some more. Their love for being together was an indicator of their love for one another.
When you make being here a priority, you are not only showing a desire to worship and grow in your walk with Christ, but you are communicating value and love for one another. You can’t truly become part of something by just visiting or engaging once in a while. The more you engage, the more you will be involved, invested, and the more you will know and love one another. When you come to church, you are inadvertently saying, “It is important that I not only worship God, but that I meet with you as well.” When you show up, you express you understand that we are better together than we are out on our own.
If you aren’t here regularly, then you are regularly missing what the rest of us are experiencing. You also are missing what God is speaking to us as a corporate body. Also, if you are missing, your gifts and talents and insight and friendship is missing. We gain forward momentum as a body when we are all on the same page and moving in the same direction at the same speed.
For whatever reason, God has chosen to manifest His presence in our midst. This truly is a special place. When you aren’t here, you miss it. What you can add to those moments is missed by the greater body. You also miss hearing and seeing how God is working in the lives of others in the fellowship. This is a place where you will gain support in the storms of life and where you can offer support to others when it is their time to deal with challenge. This is a place where you will be strengthened to face tomorrow. If you sleep in or choose the lake or shopping on a regular basis, you are forfeiting some of the strength and grace you need to face life’s trials.
- Share Up-Acts 2:44, Galatians 6:10 and I John 3:16-17
Acts 2:43-44 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common.
Notice when it was that miracles were flowing. Many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles when all of the believers were together and shared what they had in common. This was another “aha” for me. The sharing of God’s people with one another, the “all for one and one for all” mentality, created an environment through which the grace of God flowed in the kind of power known as miracles. They were a movement through which God was moving. We have seen some miracles here for sure. I would love to see them in increasing measure.
Galatians 6:10 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
Obviously, we are to be kind and generous with all people, but there is an elevated responsibility we have to the family of God.
1 John 3:16-17 16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?
One thing our congregation is known for is the sharing of our resources. I cannot count, literally cannot count, the number of times we have announced or posted that someone needed kitchen items, pillows and blankets, bunkbeds, or a washer and dryer and someone had what was needed and freely offered it. Even cars have flowed through this ministry to people in need. I cannot count the number of times someone has met me at the back door and handed me $50.00 or $100.00 and told me God wanted someone in the congregation to have it and that I should give it anonymously on their behalf. Just as clothes are passed down from the oldest child to the next in a nuclear family, many clothes get handed down here in this place.
You help babysit each other’s kids. You also share your cooking skills, your electrical wiring skills, your technology skills, your medical expertise, your lawn mowers, your vehicles, your home repair skills and even your shopping skills with joy.
Did you know your shopping ability could be a gift that could bless God’s people? My husband has NEVER bought me any clothes that I liked. However, he knows I love everything Angie Nottingham wears, and he enlisted her help to shop for me for Christmas. Homerun! He did it! He gave me the best Christmas ever with the help of a personal shopper, a church member, who was willing to spend her time to spend Thom’s money!
I was so blessed a few weeks back that when we went to see Pierce Worline play basketball, Christina Carr, his Sunday School teacher walked in. I about lost it. It really touched me that she wanted to be there to cheer him on. Why? Because we are family.
Giving to the ministry, pooling our financial resources, is what is enabling us to expand our reach to this community. It isn’t about the number, the amount that you give, but it is about wanting to be part of the family effort that brings joy to your life and mine. What we are doing, we are doing together. I am not building a new building. The Trustees aren’t building a new building. The Building Committee isn’t building a new building. WE are building a new building, a bigger house for our ever-expanding family. That is early church collaboration.
When you choose a spiritual family, you choose a family with which to share life and to share resources which shows we are devoted in love to one another.
- Shoulder Up-Ephesians 2:10 and 4:1
Ephesians 2:10 10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Ephesians 4:16 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
In healthy families, each person realizes in order for the family to function well, every person has to help out. It isn’t one person’s responsibility to cook, to clean, to care for the family. As children grow, they need to learn to accept more and more responsibility. Each person has gifts and talents and strength with which to contribute to the family’s success.
In the Church of God we are now considered a large church, a large family. Sometimes, in larger churches, the perception is that people aren’t needed to help shoulder the work load because there are “so many” to help. That couldn’t be further from the truth. We need “all-hands-on-deck” in order to accomplish what God has in store for us. It was really unusual this past November that staff were the only people to show up to decorate the church for Christmas. Perhaps that perception was that so many would turn out that extra hands wouldn’t be needed. Just an example of how that perception can develop in a large church.
Our church family is notoriously helpful and present for our large outreaches which is awesome. It isn’t anything for us to have 100 volunteers for a large event or 250-300 people engaged in our summer CSI projects. We do have many faithful volunteers who help each week to make our Sunday and Wednesdays run smoothly. But we can still use more volunteers, especially for the day-to-day operations of the ministry.
We need more people to teach TEACHERS Sunday School and small groups. We need more people to help us visit VISITATION those who are shut-in and who are in the hospital. We could use more help with our meal MEALS ministry which provides food for people with extended recoveries from surgery and for those who are grieving or welcoming a new baby. We need more help with lawn care LAWN CARE AND LANDSCAPING and landscaping, especially as we move into the new building. We need more people to assist with our online service ONLINE SERVICE MINISTRY ministry. We are going to need some people to volunteer to take a day a month to help us with cleaning CLEANING AND MAITENANCE of our new facility as it will be a lot bigger job than our current staff can take on. We need office volunteers OFFICE VOLUNTEERS to help answer the phones and give people information so that our whole staff can be freer to develop ministry and participate in ministries outside of the office. We can use more musicians MUSICIANS to play instruments and more singers in the choir. We are going to have a big stage to fill! We are going to need people to help us set up chairs and pick up chairs SET UP AND PICK UP CHAIRS as our new building is going to be regularly used for community events. I would absolutely be thrilled to have more people join the Wednesday noon prayer PRAYER time. If you have been touched by addiction, we need your support of our ADDICTION RECOVERY ministry on Friday nights whether your situation is current or not. What you have been through will help someone else. I could go on, but you get the point.
Please don’t assume you aren’t needed. You are needed, and each person is needed in increasing ways. The larger the family, the greater the need for help. I challenge you in 2018 to be involved in volunteering in some way in the life of this ministry. If you are part of the family, we need you to do your part. We show we are devoted in love to one another when we don’t expect other family members to do all of the work.
- Shore Up-Galatians 6:2, James 1:27 and 5:16
To shore something up is to make sure it is well-supported, to make sure there aren’t holes in it, gaps in it that could cause it to become unstable and fall apart.
Galatians 6:2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.
James 1:27 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
James 5:16 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
Being here for each other in times of need is another way we show we are devoted in love to one another. Visiting people who are sick or who are shut-in at home isn’t old school. It means more than you could know to those people. It is life-giving. It is a life-lift for them emotionally and spiritually. Parents, teach your kids to think of others by visiting them as a family. I posted on FB that if anyone was interested in Christmas caroling some of our sick and shut-in members to contact me and I would give them addresses. The people who received some carols were so super blessed. It only takes a few minutes to stop by someone’s home and to pray for them, but the half hour investment lasts in that person’s heart for days.
In a healthy family, members check up on each other from time to time. When you notice someone has gone missing that is the moment God is calling you to check on them. I cannot follow up on every family who is dealing with sickness or some crisis in their family. Even with our larger staff, we can’t personally support each family member. We probably have 700 people who call this their home church. That is a lot of people. They lose family members, they get the flu and pneumonia, they lose their jobs, they need prayer, they age which sometimes makes it difficult for folks to get to church, they deal with the hurts of life that can wear a person down. They have surgery from which it takes three months to recover. They get depressed. They feel alone. They need to know their family members care. What if you made it your 2018 goal to let each person on our long-term prayer list know they are being prayed for? What if you asked for a list of those who are in nursing homes and just picked one or two people to drop in on once a month? How can you come alongside someone who is struggling? We need every family member to show love and support to others in the congregation.
Wow, Pastor Melissa. Sounds like you are asking a lot of us. God is, and it really isn’t a lot. He is really just asking us to act like His children, like His family. There is a big difference between attending church and being a part of a church family. God is calling us to be family, and He has spelled out in Romans 12 how He wants us to relate to each other. Do you attend Teays Valley Church of God or are you devoted in love to the people who have also chosen this family?
Can you show up, share up, shoulder up, and shore up the family in greater ways than you have been?