We are spending five weeks looking at Newark Church of the Nazarene’s 3C’s. For many of you I suppose you have some vague notion of the fact that they exist but there are a high number of people that may have never heard of them. In short, these 3C’s define the core of what we believe every authentic Christfollower will experience as they follow Christ. These concepts are biblically based principles and the reason for this series is to simply call us to follow Christ example and the Word of God.
If you were to look on our website you would find a short descriptive paragraph about each of the 3C’s. Here is a copy of that information:
Celebration: We believe that to have an effective community we must commit to a time of weekly celebration. At these celebrations you will experience authentic worship and challenging Biblical teaching on issues that are important to you today. We are a church that is fluid…adjusting our methods along the way to more effectively be the Church to our community.
Community: We are a church that cherishes authentic community…providing community groups to foster genuine and transparent relationships. Community groups or small groups play an essential role in the care and development of a believer. We are a church that is constantly growing…knowing that none of us have “arrived” in our spiritual journey, but are here to spur one another on in our spiritual transformation.
Call: We are a church that sees the potential in people and facilitates them in discovering God’s design for their life and contribution to His kingdom. We believe that God’s design was for every believer to participate in serving and building the church. We are a church that is compassionate…about people with needs in our community and is actively looking for ways to serve others in our community and around the world.
While assessing our church and the clarity of our vision I came to believe that we really need to talk about and teach these principles clearly. I also became convinced that we needed to add a “fourth C” and we are moving toward unveiling it over the next two Sundays. We have looked at Celebration and Community so today we are going to talk about Call. Every follower of Christ is called to serve others. The bible teaches it. Jesus taught it and for centuries the church has embraced service as the norm for authentic followers of Christ.
Again we go back to the story of the woman at the well as recorded in the Book of John chapter 4. Jesus is talking to a woman that has had a colorful life. She has been married multiple times and is living with yet another man. Through conversing with Jesus and following His teaching we come to see that her life and many lives in her community were transformed over a two day period. Embedded in this story we find teaching about the 3C’s. Jesus taught about worship directly, we see a woman that knew about community and today we find that Jesus takes time to talk candidly with his original 12 disciples about the call all of us have received. 27 Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked to find him talking to a woman, but none of them had the nerve to ask, “What do you want with her?” or “Why are you talking to her?” 28 The woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone, 29 “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he possibly be the Messiah?” 30 So the people came streaming from the village to see him. 31 Meanwhile, the disciples were urging Jesus, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32 But Jesus replied, “I have a kind of food you know nothing about.” 33 “Did someone bring him food while we were gone?” the disciples asked each other. 34 Then Jesus explained: “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work. 35 You know the saying, ‘Four months between planting and harvest.’ But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe[e] for harvest. 36 The harvesters are paid good wages, and the fruit they harvest is people brought to eternal life. What joy awaits both the planter and the harvester alike! 37 You know the saying, ‘One plants and another harvests.’ And it’s true. 38 I sent you to harvest where you didn’t plant; others had already done the work, and now you will get to gather the harvest.” John 4:31-38 NLT
Here are five observations from out of this story that define and should challenge our personal commitment to answer a call to serve others. 1. Doing God’s work is better than eating! 31 Meanwhile, the disciples were urging Jesus, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32 But Jesus replied, “I have a kind of food you know nothing about.” 33 “Did someone bring him food while we were gone?” the disciples asked each other. 34 Then Jesus explained: “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work. John 4:31-34 NLT Now depending what time of the day it is when you hear this sermon you may or may not agree with this observation. While I am saying this somewhat tongue in cheek there is a reality to it as well. The idea is simply this; when you and I are motivated by God’s love and mission and find a place to serve others or embrace serving others as a lifestyle on a daily basis the reward is better than eating your favorite meal. How long does a meal last? Have you ever looked forward to eating something so much or going to restaurant to eat your favorite meal, or better yet Thanksgiving day arrives and you sit around smelling food cooking and the anticipation is almost more than you can stand? You finally arrive at the anticipated table and within about fifteen minutes you are done. In fact you are so done you can hardly move and now you are lethargic and of course you have company or are with people so you can’t go sleep it off. The disciples were worried about eating in this story but Jesus was concerned about serving. The satisfaction of serving someone else and making a difference in their life is beyond the satisfaction of even your most favorite meal and it provokes the Lord to simply state that there is something better than eating. 31 Meanwhile, the disciples were urging Jesus, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32 But Jesus replied, “I have a kind of food you know nothing about.” 33 “Did someone bring him food while we were gone?” the disciples asked each other. 34 Then Jesus explained: “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work. John 4:31-34 NLT Doing the will of God is better than eating because it provides nourishment to our spiritual life and causes us to follow Christ’s example.
2. Doing God’s work is a call to action now! 35 You know the saying, ‘Four months between planting and harvest.’ But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest. John 4:35 NLT God will not look you over for medals, degrees, or diplomas, but for scars. — Elbert Hubbard
We have been called to action and the idea is that we are not to wait around. We are called to serve now not later.
Let me ask every one of you today hearing this sermon how do you serve others in Christ’s name?
When we talk about the call to serve it is all encompassing. It might be serving in the church. I am so thankful for the army of people that serve in all three of our locations that make a Sunday morning happen or a life group happen or an outreach happen or the Food Pantry happen etc.
The call to serve is about serving wherever you find yourself on a daily basis. It is about developing a serving work ethic so that you automatically look for opportunities to serve others and with others. You look for ways to get involved instead of looking for ways to avoid having to do anything.
Jesus is using this moment in the lives of the disciples as a teachable moment because they would someday grasp this concept and the fact is that they were going to be the people that lead and helped shape the early days of the church. Here is why Jesus took serving so seriously:
3. Doing God’s work has one goal! 36 The harvesters are paid good wages, and the fruit they harvest is people brought to eternal life. John 4:36 NLT Elmer Towns tells about a member of a motorcycle gang who was converted to Jesus Christ dramatically and the first Sunday he did the only thing he knew he should do and so he went to church. Nobody in the church knew him and he walked down to the second aisle and sat in the seat. And the people stared because he looked the part; big burly, bearded, long hair, black jacket, tattoos. It came announcement time and the minister got up and made an appeal for nursery workers. He said, “We need someone to work in the nursery.” But no one would volunteer. He asked a second time, “We really need someone to go be with our kids.” But no one would volunteer. And the cyclist prayed, “Lord, I want to do what you want me to do and if you want me to go work in nursery just have the preacher ask a third time.” And a third time the preacher said, “Please we need someone to work in the nursery.” And the cyclist raised his hand, nodded his head and started toward the nursery. And immediately 50 mothers followed volunteering to work in the nursery. The fact that people don’t serve is really an illustration of not understanding the point of serving. As a Christfollower everything we do is with one goal in mind. We are serving so that others may come to know Christ and experience eternal life with us someday. Everybody around you is dying and we are all headed to eternity where there are only two addresses. The authentic follower of Jesus Christ will carry around in them a driving thought and mission and that is to take others with them to heaven. When you see someone in the church get their nose out of joint about something that is really nonessential or someone that is always critical about the way things are done around the church you will see someone generally that is doing nothing to serve or be a part of the call. Two of my favorite quotes: “The loudest boos always come from the cheap seats” and “People that are busy rowing seldom rock the boat.” I urge you to start serving not so that the church can grow but so that others are lead into a growing relationship with Christ and prepared for heaven and eternal life! Let’s ask ourselves this question, When was the last time we emptied ourselves for someone else’s benefit?
4. Doing God’s work produces great joy! What joy awaits both the planter and the harvester alike! John 4:36 NLT Jesus is sticking with his metaphor of planting and harvesting when he says that serving brings great joy. Emory University has shown that when we help others without thought of reward or return, our brains release dopamine and endorphins that literally, physically makes us feel good. These chemicals give us pleasure and stimulate healing and other positive effects in our bodies. Erwin W. Lutzer wrote, “Better to love God and die unknown than to love the world and be a hero; better to be content with poverty than to die a slave to wealth; better to have taken some risks and lost than to have done nothing and succeeded at it; better to have lost some battles than to have retreated from the war; better to have failed when serving God than to have succeeded when serving the devil. What a tragedy to climb the ladder of success, only to discover that the ladder was leaning against the wrong wall” Serving others brings great joy.
5. Doing God’s work is a team effort! 37 You know the saying, ‘One plants and another harvests.’ And it’s true. 38 I sent you to harvest where you didn’t plant; others had already done the work, and now you will get to gather the harvest.” John 4:37-38 NLT No one should ever think that in ministry they are serving alone. No church leader should ever devalue those that enable him or her to lead the church. It is always about doing life together. We serve together, we pray together, we worship together, we do life together in community. Let me for a few moments talk about our church. This series has been deliberately designed to tell our story and vision. You need to know that a great price was paid to enjoy the freedoms that we have as a church. There was a horrendous battle to overcome the desire for nothing to change the way this church had gone about its business for nearly eighty years. We know who we are and we know where we have been called to go as a church. We are mission driven and will not be detoured from that mission. One of the greatest threats to our mission is a consumer church mentality. Avoid becoming a consumer driven church
M. Riddle a pastor in Tulsa wrote an excellent article about the need of the church to recognize the consumer mindset. “Consumerism undergirds almost every decision the modern American makes. The church is sailing in the deep waters and strong currents of a consumeristic whirlpool. She's spinning and she's lost her bearings. On board things seem fairly normal. Yes the church is beginning to notice her members lives lack depth... but they do not know why. Systemically the church has problems it does not know it has... or at the very least she significantly underestimates them. In other words most churches today consider consumerism a given for people who live in the USA and perhaps more importantly... they believe that the gospel can co-exist with this mentality. Religious activity and developing a "spiritual menu" of programs takes the place of prayer, silence, community and obedience. Superficiality takes the place of depth. - In a consumer culture we love things to happen fast. If we sit in a drive through for more than 5 minutes it seems like an eternity. If our church services go 5 minutes long we complain. Superficiality is a child of consumerism.
If I'm a consumer, I'm really only interested in me which leads to an inability to love others. When I'm a consumer, I'm interested in knowing you primarily for one reason...what you can give me. I become a manipulator and a user. I lose track of what's happening in the real lives of "friends" and fellow believers because I'm not really interested in their pain, fear, loneliness, or joy. I'm only interested in mine.
Depth always comes slowly and the church who allows a sinful and worldly perspective to run rampant without correction is simply selling out the gospel of God and his plans, purposes and agenda for his children. The gospel again becomes a product that enhances peoples lives and the church begins to making better citizens of America. The truth of God is exchanged for a lie.
After superficiality comes image. Image is the consumer's greatest idol. Churches should be prayerful of how they "advertise", if they should "advertise" at all...... Isn't advertising the triumph of image over reality? If we're going to advertise.... be real...Instead of "An exciting, relevant, contemporary, family church with dynamic ministries for God" that really translates into: "we're a bunch of boring people who want to be exciting, we've recently added guitar (or synthesizer) to our services... we don't really know each other very well but we have things for everyone in your family to do while your here." Advertising that would be more truthful of my church.. " a bunch of normal people who are really messed up. we desire to follow Jesus, but we find we've found we're mostly interested in serving ourselves and being busy and we want to stop..... we really love God but we often fall short of worshiping him the way we really want to... pray for us...." but frankly ... that doesn't do it either. The fact is you can't promote or advertise the body of Christ. Much of what we experience in our lives these days is not reality. The church does not need to add to the confusion of noise advertising or eye sore billboards but throwing out lies on behalf of Truth. Being the Body should be enough advertising. (Oh and please take down all messages on your marquee's other than "Church signs are stupid") This image forming is about hype. This mental pollution starts from when our alarms go off in the morning to wee hours of the late night TV. It's like Kalle Lasn in his book Culture Jam says "Corporate Advertising (or is it the commercial media?) is the largest single psychological project ever undertaken by the human race" I like what Dennis Miller says too. "Hype is the glittering rhinestone on the jumpsuit of mediocrity that catches our eye and makes us think, "Hey maybe the Spice girls don't suck" It's the triumph of substance over style, predicated on the sad truth that most of us, if the gift-wrapping on the outside of the box is fancy enough, we won't notice that inside there's nothing but a big pile of dung" A consumer church will find that people pick their church because it has great music, the pastor is entertaining. Think about how many times you've heard "mature" believers say.... "I just don't get anything out of ...church.... the bible... worship."
I implore you join stay away from that mentality no matter what you have to do to avoid it. Don’t allow yourself to become self absorbed and worried about yourself instead of others.
We are a church that exists to serve. We believe that every person in this room has a calling to fulfill. We believe that it may be within the church structure but most definitely it is a calling to serve wherever you find yourself on a daily basis. We serve in the name of Christ. We serve to honor Him. We serve to bring others to eternal life.
Paul Tripp tells a great story about a self revealing me moment in his life. He was in a music store buying guitar strings when he saw the most incredible guitar he had ever played in his entire life. (Some of us have experienced that) He was talking to his mother on the phone later that day and told her about the guitar. His mother said his, ‘You dad and I will just buy it for you!’ He was elated. He brought the guitar home and spent hours playing and caressing this instrument. This was his beloved instrument. He could scarcely believe that he owned it. Shortly after buying this guitar his wife had her fire safety talk around the dinner table with the family. He writes, “She turned to me and asked, “Paul, If a major fire broke out on the main floor of our house, what would you do.” Without a moment’s thought I responded, “I would run into the living room grab my guitar and get it out of the house.” I will never forget the look on the faces of my family or the silence that seemed to last about a year. Finally one of my children asked, “What about us dad?”
It is those unguarded moments that reveal who we really are.
I love a quote by John Piper: “There are three possibilities with the Great Commission. You can go. You can send. Or you can be disobedient. Ignoring the cause is not a Christian option.
You and I have been invited to be a major part of the Christ’s story on this earth. We do this by serving Him and serving others. Richard Foster: “Service that is duty-motivated breaths death. Service that flows out of our inward person is life, and joy and peace. The risen Christ beckons us to the ministry of the towel. Perhaps you would like to begin by experimenting with a prayer that a number of us have used. Begin the day by praying, “Lord Jesus, I would so appreciate it if You would bring me someone today whom I can serve.”