Because we have so many new people that come to our church it is important that we reiterate the mission and who we are on a regular basis. Last year we spent six Sundays on the subject.
We are a church with a history both old and new. Our story is one that should be remembered. Given a lack of leadership churches will invariably settle for the comfortable and quickly become inwardly focused. We turn 94 as a church this year! That is a long time to be in existence. Through the years many things were tried to bring people to Christ and some of them were very successful. Before the transition a little over ten years ago, this church had settled into comfortableness not unusual for a church this old.
It took a revolution of pretty epic proportions to get the freedom to do church in the way many of us take for granted today. It just seems normal now but some heavy prices were paid in broken relationships, loss of attendance and loss of finances. All of this was done so that we might have the freedom to lead the church to effectiveness once again.
By what standard should a church's effectiveness be judged? One of the three core values of the Church of the Nazarene is that we are a missional church.
The denomination that we belong to defines it this way: We are a sent people, responding to the call of Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit to go into all the world, witnessing to the Lordship of Christ and participating with God in the building of the Church and the extension of His kingdom (Matthew 28:19-20; 2 Corinthians 6:1).
Let me define it as the leadership of this church defines it:
We view our church as being in the middle of one of the biggest mission fields in the entire world. America is no longer a nation of Judea-Christian beliefs. It is no longer a nation where a majority of people have a familiarity with the Bible or respect it as the word of God. You can complain and whine about this but the fact remains that we are not in any way a Christian nation. When you come to understand that as a Christfollower you will begin to see the incredible mission that Christ has given us to do.
The missional church is one where people lay aside their own preferences in light of the culture around them. It means we are to take the gospel message into the culture and context of our church's community. A missional church will set aside its programs if they are not working for people outside the church. The hardest job I have is to reprogram church people when they come to our church. We are not a country club; we don't exist to make you happy or even comfortable. We exist as a church to touch the world outside our buildings with the love, grace and message of Jesus Christ. I have a really hard time opening this building for events that only benefit the people that come here week after week.
I went back to June of 2006 and looked at a sermon where I was trying to explain who we were called to be. Let me quote from a section of that message because it may even answer a question that newer people here might have. It has to do with why we are continuing in a location that can only handle so much growth.
The question revolves around why are we staying in this location and do I personally have something against large or mega churches. We are staying in this neighborhood to establish a credible church that connects to a neighborhood full of people with needs. In some ways the easiest thing in the world would be to move to a new and visible location and draw a congregation of solid middle to upper class families. We would be considered a strong church by our size and the appearance of our building. Here me very carefully, God has never been impressed by numbers. Just this week a man spoke to me about attending one of the largest churches in this country. His first words were, They dedicated seventy six babies. We are so quick to judge and embrace things that are big as being best. (We dedicated twenty nine babies one Sunday and the staff walked away saying never again. We want that experience to be personal not corporate.)
Why here? I want us to take the time needed to actually engage our neighbors in conversation and connection until we have provided them an opportunity to experience Christ. We are leading in that direction. A lot of what we do is being directed toward this neighborhood. Not all but a lot. Do I have something against mega churches? No, if that is the vision God has for a particular church then they better do it. It is not a model that I believe to be the most effective in the culture of today and especially for future generations. Having said that, you need to know that I am not against growth. There are ways to grow that I believe grow people and not just numbers or buildings. It takes a little longer and it is a more steady growth but we will do it with a commitment to our mission. (June 2006)
We judge effectiveness by how well we are carrying out the work that Christ gave the church to do.
Our Mission: Leading people into a growing relationship with Christ.
Do you care about the mission?
This may seem like a strange question but I want you to really think about it for a moment or two. You come here to church. You attend Sunday celebration services at either Williams Street, Real Life or the Firehouse. The question is not if you attend church but do you care about the mission of this church?
Are you a part of the mission?
Years ago Rick Warren divided the church into five categories: Community, Crowd, Congregation, Committed and Core. I am going to put that on the screen so that you
Put picture on screen
can identify where you are when it comes to the mission of the church. The idea is that you should be moving in your walk with Christ and as you grow spiritually you become deeper involved in the ministry of the church. Why? Because the church is the expression of Christs body on this earth and it takes all kinds of people with all kinds of gifts and strengths to make it functional. It may be that your lack of involvement in the mission of the church handicaps the body from being all that it could be.
Dr. Howard Hendricks says there are two kinds of people in the church. There are the pillars of the church and they uphold the church with their prayers, work and tithing. They build the church by the sweat of their brows. The caterpillars crawl in on Sunday morning, sing a few songs, listen to a sermon, and crawl out again, not to be seen for a week.
What does it take to be part of the mission?
To be part of our mission you have to be willing to be to be a part of the Great Commission. In other words are mission . . .
Our Mission comes from the Great Commission:
Jesus came and told his disciples, I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 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. Matthew 28:18-20 NLT
Jesus in praying in John 17 gives us a hint about the fact that His followers are to do more than go to church.
20 I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. 21 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. John 17:20-21 NLT
We are all called to serve God with our talents and strengths. We are called to serve Him in ministry both inside and outside the church. We have identified what a Christfollower looks like with what we call the 4Cs.
Our Mission is lived out by embracing and living out the 4Cs:
So what are they?
Celebration: Why are we enthusiastic about 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.
Professional football players have said that their performance on Sunday is a reflection of how they've practiced all week. Let me suggest to you that with worship its precisely the opposite. We live during the week as a reflection of how we are worshipping on Sunday or any other day.
Worship is actually something like the State of the Union address for your life. It says how you feel about God at this moment in time, and it paves the way for how you will go on to live as a result. We approach God in a way that reflects the state of our present life. (Jeremiah, My Hearts Desire, pg.56-57)
Charles Stanley once said that he believed that most Christians in most churches have never worshiped God.
There are some questions must be asked today:
Do you worship God?
Do you know how to worship God?
Do you experience God when you come in to this room on Sunday morning or do you just enjoy the music and the sermon and go home feeling a little better than when you came in?
I am afraid that we often go to church, but we don't worship.
We sing songs, but we don't worship.
We listen to sermons, but we don't worship. All of these things are elements of worship but they are not worship in and of themselves which means that you can do all of them and yet have failed to truly worship God.
True worship is not interested in the created but the Creator. Questions like Did I like the sermon/service/music? are the wrong kind of questions. The right question is Did God like it?
Christians also make the mistake of limiting their worship to one hour each week. And when they come to that service they often come to observe and be entertained.
I have been at services that were opened with the following statement: We want you to sit back, relax, and enjoy the program we have prepared for you. If the people feel that they were entertained they say they had a good worship service. We have gotten the whole concept of worship backwards. We think that the pastor and worship leaders are the entertainers and we are the audience. But in true worship we are the performers, the pastors and worship leaders are the directors, and God is the audience. Because our concept of worship is backwards we want to know whats in it for us. If we are going to truly worship, we must come to the realization that worship is not for us, but for God. Because God desires our worship, we must learn how to worship him.
Worship isn't a spectator sport, but a contact sport. Every one of us is to come in contact with the Spirit of God.
It is very important that every authentic follower of Jesus Christ
Community: Why do we encourage you to be in Community?
We are a church that cherishes authentic community providing community groups to foster genuine and transparent relationships. Life 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.
We believe that we all need to be in functional life groups that will allow us to have the kind of support we need when we face the experiences of our lives. The larger a church is the smaller it must become. That just simply means that community is critical if you are going to be connected. I remember well when we realized that there were certain aspects of pastoral and even church care that just werent going to happen unless you were in a life group. (Baby dedications/wedding showers)
Call: Why do we expect you to answer a Call?
We are a church that sees the potential in people and facilitates them in discovering Gods design for their life and contribution to His kingdom. We believe that Gods design is 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.
Simply stated, If you are a follower of Jesus Christ you will seek and find a way to use your gifts and strengths in Gods Kingdom and in the world around you. It may be serving in the church and it may be serving in the community but there is no way to get around the fact that God calls us all to serve.
What is your calling?
Christ-centered: Why do we embrace a Christ-centered life?
The call of God has been the same since the beginning of time. We are called to surrender our lives and center them around Jesus Christ. At Newark Church of the Nazarene we strongly urge people to participate in Celebration, Community, and Call. While these three activities are biblical and commendable they all should be viewed and carried out through the perspective of Christ-centeredness. The mission of our church is to lead people into a growing relationship with Christ. We strongly encourage, teach, and promote living the Christ-centered life as part of that growing relationship.
Let me give you an example of being sold out to the mission:
One summer morning as Ray Blankenship was preparing his breakfast, he gazed out the window, and saw a small girl being swept along in the rain-flooded drainage ditch beside his Andover, Ohio, home. Blankenship knew that farther downstream, the ditch disappeared with a roar underneath a road and then emptied into the main culvert. Ray dashed out the door and raced along the ditch, trying to get ahead of the foundering child. Then he hurled himself into the deep, churning water. Blankenship surfaced and was able to grab the child's arm. They tumbled end over end. Within about three feet of the yawning culvert, Rays free hand felt something--possibly a rock-- protruding from one bank. He clung desperately, but the tremendous force of the water tried to tear him and the child away. "If I can just hang on until help comes," he thought. He did better than that. By the time fire-department rescuers arrived, Blankenship had pulled the girl to safety. Both were treated for shock. On April 12, 1989, Ray Blankenship was awarded the Coast Guards Silver Lifesaving Medal. The award is fitting, for this selfless person was at even greater risk to himself than most people knew. Ray Blankenship cant swim.
We want you to have the courage to do something significant with your life for God. We are always going to offer places to serve through the church because for some of us that is where God will use us the most, but dont limit His use of you to this church. God may have a plan that goes so far beyond our vision or our dreams.
(September 2008) The ministry of the church is a ministry of people. When a church lives, it lives because the people within are vital and active. When a church dies, it withers and dies not because the brick and mortar and carpet get old but because peoples involvement withers and dies.
I think a vivid illustration of this comes from a true story of a young minister in Oklahoma who went to this little, tough long-standing, church in hopes of really reviving the ministry of it. He had stars in his eyes and great hopes for the future. He thought he could turn it around. And he gave it his best effort and his best shot week after week, to no avail.
Finally, he had one last idea, and it seemed to work. He announced in the local newspaper on Saturday that the church had died, and on Sunday afternoon there would be a funeral service at the church itself, and all who wished could attend. For the first time in his years there, the place was packed. In fact, people were standing outside on tiptoes looking through the window to see this most unusual funeral service for a church.
To their shock, because most of them got there twenty or thirty minutes early to get a seat, there was a casket down front. And it was smothered with flowers. He told the people as soon as the eulogy was finished they could pass by and view the remains of the dearly beloved that they were putting to rest that day. They could hardly wait until he finished the eulogy. He slowly opened the casket, pushed the flowers aside, and people walked by, filed by, one by one, to look in and leave sheepishly, feeling guilty as they walked out the door, because inside the casket he had placed a large mirror. As they walked by, they saw the church that had died.
The easiest thing in the world for the church to do is to bury its head not in the sand but in a sanctuary mentality and refuse to engage the world. It is so comfortable in here when we are all gathered together but this is not what God calls us to do.
Before criticizing the escapist tendency of many Christians in America toward culture, we must confess that engaging culture is not an easy task. Engaging culture requires that we leave what is customary and comfortable, taking a journey of faith that we are not capable of making on our own. Engaging culture often means engaging with other cultures, entering into commitments and even disputes, with those who have a different way of living. The very word engage, as we are used to hearing it, has connotations that often make us apprehensive, whether it's in the context of an approaching marriage or conflict with an enemy. Engagement is an act of commitment that could end badly, were it not for the faithfulness of God.
So there you have it. This is who we are and who we are called to be as a church. This is our vision. We are one church that meets in multiple locations so that more people in different parts of our community might know Christ. We are one church that scatters around this county, state, country and world so that more people might come to know Jesus Christ and be led into a growing relationship with Him.
Lets watch a video of just a few people whose lives are in the process of being changed by the grace and presence of God through the ministry of this church.