February 2015

Make Disciples, Family Rules, 22 February 2015

Big Idea: A healthy church family reproduces by making disciples.


I’m not a big fan of hospitals. For years it was because I would routinely pass out in them, even if it was in the gift shop! It’s some psychological thing inherited from my mom! The worst experience occurred on our first Christmas Eve as husband and wife. Heather made hot cider for our family party in our home, poured it into a crystal bowl until it shattered, leaving her screaming with second and third degree burns on her legs. In the ER as I faithfully stood beside my new bride, offering my steady support and encouragement one of the workers yelled, “Get another gurney…for the husband!”

Unfortunately I’ve had a lot of experience in hospitals during our marriage…too much! I feel as if I know every square inch of U-M, St Joe’s, and Cleveland Clinic. Despite my issues with hospitals there’s one place that’s wonderful—the maternity ward!

There are few celebrations like that of a new baby. It’s such a big deal, in fact, that we celebrate the anniversary of their birth each year they are alive—and sometimes even longer! This past week, in fact, I celebrated my birth-day (though the hospital where I was born no longer exists!)!

Imagine a world without maternity wards; a world without babies. It would be quieter, but it would only be a matter of time until the world would experience true and total silence. The survival of our species requires new births…and the maturation of those babies into reproducing adults who co-create more babies.

Believe it or not, this is an alarming issue for some cultures today. We’re all familiar with endangered species in the animal kingdom, often the result of uncontrolled hunting.

In Japan, for instance, there are only 8.07 births per 1000 persons*, a number that is not sustainable, according to the experts. If there are more deaths than births, eventually a culture will cease to exist.

*Note: as a basis of comparision,

Monaco, 6.72 (lowest)
Niger, 46.12 (highest)
USA, 13.42

Couples in the world’s five biggest developed economies — the United States, Japan, Germany, France and Britain — had 350,000 fewer babies in 2012 than in 2008, a drop of nearly 5 percent. The United Nations forecasts that women in those countries will have an average of 1.7 children in their lifetimes. Demographers say the fertility rate needs to reach 2.1 just to keep populations constant.

In Japan, sales of adult diapers will exceed sales of baby diapers this year, according to Euromonitor International, a marketing research firm. In South Korea, where births have fallen 11 percent in a decade, 121 primary schools had no new students last year.
And in China, where the working-age population is set to shrink next year, the government is relaxing a policy that had limited many families to one child. It might not help much. Chinese are choosing to stick to one on their own.

It has been said that the church is one generation away from extinction. What is Scio’s future? What is the future of the Church of Jesus Christ on our planet?

We’re nearing the end of our series
Family Rules, a double entendre. We’ve said

  • know thyself
  • be real
  • welcome strangers
  • resolve conflict
  • serve together
  • celebrate diversity

Today’s rule is make disciples.

Before we look to the future, I want to ask a common question about the present: why are you here?

Why are you here? These were my first words spoken here as your pastor. We need to return to this question from time to time to remember why we do the things we do. What is our mission? What is our purpose?

Does your family have a mission statement? Here’s an example:

Our mission is to be a contagious family of faith, hope, and love.

I recently found a list of “honest” church mission statements. They’re not written anywhere, but they describe why some churches exist.

Our mission is to grow worship service attendance by attracting the “have-it-together”  people in our community who will then invite other “have-it-together” people in our community.

Our mission is to be ready for 1950 in case that decade rolls around again.

Our mission is never-ending, double-digit, transfer growth in our relevant worship services by franchising our church across our region.

Our mission is to be the only genuine church in our city because we don’t need church buildings and refuse to let our children be influenced by the public
school system.

Our mission is to feel good that we are Spirit-filled and to help others feel good through our Spirit-filled worship services where God’s presence feels good.

Our mission is to keep the elders happy, bills paid and staff employed.

Our mission is to have a gospel-centered mission statement that will help a gospel-centered people do anything we want as long as it is gospel-centered.

At Scio, our mission looks a bit different. Quite a bit different!

We exist to fulfill the Great Commission and follow the Great Commandment by 
• serving our communities
• sharing our story
• sending disciples to bless the nations

so that God is glorified.
This is our family’s mission. It’s why we exist. In many ways it parallels the Christian & Missionary Alliance commitment to be a Christ-centered, Acts 1:8 family.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

Jesus said to love God and love others, the Great Commandment, and arguably the best way to do both is to obey what we call the Great Commission:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

That’s it: love God, love others, go and make disciples, baptizing and teaching them.

Jesus said nothing about building buildings, having potlucks, style of music, wearing robes, reading from the King James Version, or creating a website. Those may be part of the process, but we must never mistaken the process for the purpose.

Love God, love others, go and make disciples. These are commands, not suggestions!

What’s a disciple? Simply, it’s a follower or student of a teacher. It’s an apprentice. A protege.

Parents, this is what you do every day, whether you realize it or not. Children model the behavior of their parents. Decades ago Harry Chapin’s song
Cat’s in the Cradle described this natural process beautifully. The final two lines reflect the father’s observation:

And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me, he'd grown up just like me.
My boy was just like me.

I believe the vision Jesus had for His followers as He stood on the Mount of Olives outside the gates of Jerusalem was they they would be just like Him…and they would reproduce their lives into others who would become just like them…and the next generation would pass the baton to the next and the next.

One of my favorite verses in the entire Bible is 2 Timothy 2:2 (it’s also a fun address!). Paul writes to His disciple, Timothy, and says

And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. (2 Timothy 2:2)

Notice there are four generations in this one verse:

  • Paul
  • Timothy
  • reliable people
  • others

I stand before you as Mr. Schneemann because of my dad, Mr. Schneemann, and his dad, Mr. Schneemann, and his dad, Mr. Schneemann who came to the USA on a boat from Europe.

I stand before you as a disciple of my dad who was a disciple of his dad who was a disciple of his dad (all men of faith) who encountered a disciple of Jesus as a bouncer in a bar.

Do you see how it works? Here’s the thing: we can be passive or intentional. We can live like everyone else and train future generations to live like everyone else or we can buck the status quo, live radical lives like Jesus—not without great cost and possibly our very lives—and watch His mission continue far beyond us.

I don’t know about you, but that’s the legacy I want to leave. I want my children and grandchildren and great grandchildren—both biologically and spiritually—to be known as men and women of faith, hope and love; men and women filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. I want people to confuse my offspring with Jesus!

“Great,” you say, “but how?”

I’m so glad you asked!

First and foremost, before we can make disciples we must become disciples ourselves. We can teach what we know but we reproduce who we are.

All of us have mentors. There are people who have influenced us. This includes family, obviously, but authors, teachers, and friends. Some may have been carefully chosen while others may have somewhat randomly entered our lives.

I remember my dad asking me, once, who was mentoring me. Who’s disciple are you?

Since they were little, I’ve told my kids, “You are your friends.” Choose wisely.

Last summer I was working with our son and he said, “Dad, I love tattoos…but I don’t know why.” I asked if any of his friends had any tattoos. He said, “All of them.” Boom!

Again, you have subconscious mentors like friends or family members. You also have the opportunity to consciously choose mentors or teachers or disciplers to follow. They may be distant mentors like A.W. Tozer or A.B. Simpson, dead men who were prolific in their writing, speaking, and influence. You might approach someone and say, “I admire you and your life. Would you be willing to invest in mine?”

Perhaps the greatest discipler among our Scio family has been Mary Aleksoff. Her life has influenced so many, particularly women. In some instances she may have approached younger women and in others perhaps younger women sought her out. Regardless, she has been reproducing her Jesus-like self in so many.

Keep in mind she is not a perfect example but a living example.

Paul said to the people of Corinth simply:

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1)

Who is discipling you? Who would you like to disciple you? Ask them! Many of you are discipled each week by your Life Group leader. Our Life Group leaders are some of the most important people at Scio as we seek to not only make disciples but then send them to bless the nations.

Who are you discipling? “I can’t disciple!” you might say. Yes you can…and you do. People are watching you, whether you realize it or not. College students, there are high schools who look up to you. High schoolers, there are middle school students who model your behavior, faith, and attitudes.

You don’t have to be a perfect example, just a living example.

In fact, mentoring is about what you offer someone through your wisdom and experience. Discipleship is about what Jesus can offer someone through His wisdom and presence. We are not called to produce living water so much as be conduits through which the power of God can flow to others. We are not the baton, but rather we carry the baton of faith, so to speak, and pass it on to others.

For the past several years I have invited young men into a discipleship relationship. Like Jesus, I chose them after seeing potential for them to become reproducing disciples. I have given them access to my life, we meet together as a group for a Huddle, and seek ways we can live out the mission of Scio…the mission of Jesus. They are all challenged to prepare to launch their own Huddle soon. Mike Breen and 3D Movements have created some of the best discipleship tools I’ve ever seen. Mike’s book
Building A Discipling Culture is recommended reading for anyone seeking to become and make disciples.

This is not something I do as a pastor or professional Christian. It’s something we are all called to do as disciples—reproduce! Many of the most influential disciplers in my life were not pastors. They simply lived lives worth following. Again, some were formal and some I’ve never met because they’re distant or dead.

Discipleship is not easy. It requires an investment of our very lives.

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? (Luke 9:23-25)

As disciples of Jesus, our lives do not belong to us. They belong to Him!

Two More Things

The command of Jesus is to make disciples of all nations. This follows last week’s theme of celebrate diversity. It beautifully fits our county where there are people living in our community from more than 100 nations. It also reinforces one of the purposes of The Santiago Experience. We are going to the Dominican Republic to make disciples of not only USAmericans but also Dominicans. Whether it’s befriending someone in your neighborhood, school or workplace or connecting with someone from another country online or getting your passport stamped we are called to make disciples of all nations.

Ultimately we are not merely disciples of Paul or Tozer or Simpson or Mary Aleksoff…we are to be disciples of Jesus. It simply helps to see “Jesus with skin on” and see what it really looks like to follow Christ in our day. We must spend time with disciplers, but also with Jesus. If we are to love and follow King Jesus we must spend time with Him, we must study His teachings, we must follow His example, we must listen and learn through prayer and solitude.


I have a dream. Yes, I have many, but I have a dream that Scio would be a family known for making disciples. That’s a huge part of why we exist.

Our Scio nursery has been empty for quite some time. We’ve been praying that it would be filled and later this year there will be at least one or two babies, which is exciting! Babies are exciting! They can be loud and messy but very exciting! Of course the excitement of babies is not merely the present but the future potential they embody.

In the same way I’m praying for the spiritual nursery of Scio to filled. I am praying that our baptistry is filled throughout this year as we join with the angels in rejoicing when souls are saved. Of course that’s not the end of the journey but merely an important step in the process of discipleship. If you’ve been baptized, you have a God-given responsibility and privilege to help others experience Jesus, surrender to Him, and make their faith public…and then grow and help others to do the same.

Who is discipling you?
Who are you discipling?

It’s the circle of life! It’s why we exist. It’s God’s mission for every man, woman and child…and it’s a joy to play a small role in His mission.

To God be the glory for the great things He has done!!!

LORD, may Your Kingdom come and Your will be done in Scio, in Ann Arbor, in southeastern Michigan, on earth as it is in heaven. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Celebrate Diversity, Family Rules, 15 February 2015

Big Idea: A healthy church family celebrates its diversity and respects each member.

I Want To Be A Clone by Steve Taylor

The world was introduced to Steve Taylor with this song in 1983.

Imagine if we were all clones. We all looked the same. We all believed the same. We all acted the same. We all ate the same food, wore the same clothes, and cheered for the same sports teams.


I have a confession to make: I’m a variety junkie. My favorite restaurant is the one I’ve never visited. I hate to order the same thing twice off any menu. I love different cultures. My music library is as eclectic as any I know. Strange and unusual people fascinate me (takes one to know one!). I’m eager to learn about other worldviews and traditions.

Here’s the irony: my favorite flavor of ice cream is vanilla (though it must be good, with vanilla bean specks!).

We’re in the middle of a series entitled
Family Rules, a double entendre. This is not merely a series about church in general, but Scio Community Church in particular. In previous weeks we’ve said

Know thyself
Be real
Resolve conflict
Serve together

Today’s rule is Celebrate diversity.

I love variety. God loves variety. Let me offer you a sneak preview of coming attractions. Listen to John’s Revelation of future worship:

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. (Revelation 7:9)

Can you imagine?

Every nation. God bless America…and Iraq…and North Korea…and every nation!
Every tribe.
God bless Wolverines…and Spartans…and yes, even Buckeyes!
Every people.
God bless whites…and blacks…and browns…and every race!
Every language.
God bless those who speak English…and Hebrew…and Arabic…

What a picture. But look around. Does Scio look like this vision? Kind of!


God loves diversity. Obviously! How many different animals, varieties of trees, snowflakes, and stars exist? Perhaps the single greatest proof of God’s love for diversity occurred when He created woman from man.

Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
for she was taken out of man.” (Genesis 2:22-23)

He surely saw she was different, but proceeded to experience those differences every day that followed. Could there be a greater difference between men and women?!

One of our greatest senses is the sense of sight. We see things, including people. As we take in information, we make assessments. This allows us to instinctively avoid touches a pot with bubbling liquid inside. It alerts us to wear extra clothing when we observe blizzard conditions out the window.

There’s an old expression that you can’t judge a book by its cover…but we do!
Click here!

Books are one thing, but we instinctively judge people based upon their appearances, too.

I have a friend who is a multi-millionaire after selling his business. He loves to walk into a car dealership with cash to buy a car and see how long it takes the salespeople to pay attention to this scruffy man who looks like he just left the farm!

We instinctively judge people based upon their appearance. In the 1980’s there was a craze to “dress for success.”

Like it or not, we are all prejudice. We pre-judge based upon the information we have, and often we have very little. People watching can be fascinating, if not terribly deceiving. This is a part of the human condition.

God told Samuel to anoint the next king of Israel.

The LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” (1 Samuel 16:1)

But Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.” (1 Samuel 16:2)

The LORD said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.” (1 Samuel 16:3)

Samuel did what the LORD said. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled when they met him. They asked, “Do you come in peace?” (1 Samuel 16:4)

Samuel replied, “Yes, in peace; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD. Consecrate yourselves and come to the sacrifice with me.” Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice. (1 Samuel 16:5)

When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD’S anointed stands here before the LORD.” (1 Samuel 16:6)

Here’s the key verse:

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

A few verses later it says…

Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The LORD has not chosen these.” (1 Samuel 16:10)

Much to everyone’s surprise, it was the young shepherd God chose…David.

People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7b)

February is
Black History month. I’m grateful for my African-American friends and the countless contributions they and their ancestors make in my life and the lives of all of us, despite horrific persecution. Unless you’ve been living under a rock you surely realize our society has made great progress with regards to civil rights…and yet we have a long way to go. Like MLK, one of my heroes,

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

For followers of Jesus, this should be old news. After all, it was God who created us different. Every man, woman and child has been created in the image of God with dignity, value and worth. Every one. The unborn. The disabled. The aged. The poor. The uneducated. The heterosexual. The homosexual. The transgender. The Muslim. The atheist. The Hindu. Even the Buckeye!

Color Blind?

Some well-meaning people have promoted the idea of color blindness. They claim they are color blind, yet this is problematic for two reasons:

  1. It is not realistic. We all see faces.

As we noted earlier, we instinctively have first impressions. First impressions are not sinful. Like temptation, what matters is how we respond. Do we lean into our first impressions or do we challenge the assumptions and consider alternatives.

2. Color blindness strips us of our uniqueness.

I’m glad we’re not all the same! I’m glad you’re different. Sure, sometimes differences can create conflict, but even the tension can be good.

Jew and Gentile

Arguably the greatest tension in our nation’s history has been between blacks and whites. In biblical times, the Jew and Gentile tension as probably even greater. Racism and reverse racism was fierce and omnipresent.

We tend to gloss over mentions of Jew and Gentile as if the references were Chelsea and Dexter or USA and Canada. Paul was radical and offensive to the status quo:

For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, (Romans 10:12)

For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. (1 Corinthians 12:13)

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. (Colossians 3:11)

Notice these are four different letters. His message is consistent. In Christ we are one.

More Than Meets The Eye

Of course diversity is so much more skin deep. In fact, we’re all quite similar physically. We all have two eyes, one mouth, most of us have hair…!!! But even if we all looked exactly the same on the outside, we are all so different on the inside…and those differences can enrich the life of our family.

I have friends who are liberal and conservative politically. I love to listen to their views with an open mind and seek to learn from them.

I have friends who are liberal and conservative theologically. I love to listen to and learn from them, as well.

I have friends who were raised in other cultures with childhoods distinct from mine. I find their stories fascinating and their perspectives refreshing.

I have friends who speak other languages, look different than me, fall into a different socio-economic class and who challenge my assumptions and worldview.

And I’m just referring to Scio!!!

Yes, Scio is a diverse family. We may not be the most thoroughly diverse racially, but we are very different economically, theologically, politically, and in most every conceivable way.

That’s great!!! I’m reminded of a famous statement from 17th century German Lutheran theologian Rupert's Meldenius:

In essentials, unity
In non-essentials, liberty
In all things, charity

We are all different, and we can celebrate our diversity. As Paul wrote,

If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. (1 Corinthians 12:17-20)

I need you and you need me. Together we become a
mosaic…a bunch of broken, diverse pieces of glass through which the light can shine.

So What? How can we celebrate diversity?

  1. Acknowledge it. We’re different. Don’t be in denial. It’s not to be tolerated but celebrated.

  1. Reach out to those who are different. This requires intentionality. It requires humility. Sit next to someone different on Sunday morning. Eat with someone different at our next potluck. Invite someone different to your home. Grab coffee with someone different. And ask about the differences, whatever they may be.

  • tell me about your childhood?
  • what is the greatest challenge facing our nation?
  • does racism still exist in our country? How do you know?
  • Why might someone choose to vote for _______?
  • what do ___________ need to learn/understand?

Seek to learn and grow. A posture of teachability is vital.

By the way, this will be especially true for those going to the Dominican Republic. Frequently the materially rich have sought to “fix” the materially poor. One’s possessions have no effect on their value and dignity as an image-bearer of Almighty God. Relationships level the playing field between the rich and poor, the educated and the uneducated, the Christian and the non-Christian. Jesus was not only a friend of sinners, He welcomed little children into His presence.

3. Expand your social network. This isn’t necessarily online, but think about your friendships. Do all of your friends look/vote/believe/act like you?

This is one of the challenges of our hyper-customized culture. It’s possible to surround one’s self with people just like themselves, missing the beauty of diversity.

As I have shared previously, I have learned so much from others, specifically followers of Jesus from different traditions. Two of my dearest friends are a Catholic priest, Father Ed, and a Messianic Jewish Rabbi, Allen Singer. The three of us are quite a trio! There’s gotta be a good joke in there somewhere! Yet each of us is preparing to spend eternity together with one another…and with Yeshua, Jesus.

We are all at different places in the spiritual journey, which is great! We need to help one another take the next step.

Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. (1 Peter 3:8)

We are all different, yet related by blood…the blood of Jesus.


Human cloning has not yet been achieved—fortunately! It would be tragic…with one exception: Jesus. Scio, as we reflect the diversity of God’s beautiful creation, may we all be like Jesus, the ultimate human, our LORD, and coming King. “Christian” means “little Christ” and I pray that we will all be confused with Jesus as we love God and others every day.

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast
here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Serve Together, Family Rules, 08 February 2015

Series Overview: The purpose of this series is to cast a vision for a healthy church family, noting particular strengths and weaknesses of Scio in the process.

Big Idea:
A healthy church family serves together.


I’m going to go out on a limb and say something so radical it may cause great shock, so I’m glad you’re sitting down! Are you ready…

Our culture is different than the various cultures of the Bible.

Whoa! So scandalous!

I state the obvious because there are many ways to treat the Bible. An atheist might say it’s a collection of fairy tales (by the way, last week Yahoo News reported newly discovered tablets that they say, “Is a remarkable confirmation of the historical reliability of the Biblical text.”). Some mainline or liberal Christians might say the Bible is a good book with some truth and wisdom. Adherents to Liberation Theology interpret Scripture through the plight of the poor.

The Christian & Missionary Alliance statement on scripture says

Old and New Testaments, inerrant as originally given, were verbally inspired by God and are a complete revelation of His will for the salvation of men. They constitute the divine and only rule of Christian faith and practice.

Simply put, the Bible is our authority. It is the only rule of faith and practice for us. But how do we read understand the Bible? In the past I have introduced three steps:

  1. Discern what the text originally meant.
  2. Discern what the text means for us today.
  3. Apply.

Too often people skip the first two steps and, instead, read a verse and try to apply it. God doesn’t change, but culture changes…and Jesus changed many things through His life, death, and resurrection.

Last week Jonathan mentioned the difference between families during biblical days and families today. Joseph Hellerman notes three central social values of the ancient Mediterranean world:

  1. In the New Testament world the group took priority over the individual.

The Bible never makes mention of a personal Savior. Community was everything. In many cultures today, it still is, but in order to understand the language of the Bible, it is essential to recognize the group came first, not the individual. In fact people did not make major life decisions on their own. Hellerman writes, “Faced with decisions that people were never meant to make in isolation, we self-destruct emotionally and relationally, we never grow up, and we turn to therapy or medication to prop us up against a world that is just too much for us to handle on our own.” He adds, “The great majority of people on this planet never needed therapy until society began to dump the responsibility for making life's major decisions squarely upon the lonely shoulders of the individual.”

  1. In the New Testament world a person’s most important group was his family.

Most of us would agree today, except with so many broken and fragmented families—as well as families that live thousands of miles apart from one another—it’s not uncommon for one’s closest relationships to come from church, work, neighborhoods, schools…or Facebook.

  1. In the New Testament world the closest family bond was the bond between siblings.

The closest family tie was not the contractual relationship between husband and wife. It was the blood relationship between siblings. Brother or sister was their most important relationship.

When we speak of family, it’s more than a cute way of talking about one another. It wasn’t a negative term describing dysfunctional relationships. It was the primary language used in the early church to speak of deep commitment to others related by blood…Jesus’ blood.

Love in Hard Places, D.A. Carson suggests that ideally the church is not comprised of natural “friends” but rather “natural enemies.”

“What binds us together is not common education, common race, common income levels, common politics, common nationality, common accents, common jobs, or anything of the sort. Christians come together, not because they form a natural collocation, but because they have been saved by Jesus Christ and owe him a common allegiance. In the light of this common allegiance, in light of the fact that they have all been loved by Jesus himself, they commit themselves to doing what he says – and he commands them to love one another. In this light, they are a band of natural enemies who love one another for Jesus’ sake.”

Family Rules

We’re past the midway point of our series Family Rules. In case you missed some of the rules…

Today we come to one of the most challenging of all for us as a Scio family: serve together.

Serve together. That’s simple, right. In fact, it’s imbedded in our mission statement:

We exist to fulfill the Great Commission and follow the Great Commandment by 
• serving our communities
• sharing our story
• sending disciples to bless the nations

so that God is glorified.

Serving our communities. I see two great challenges facing us with regard to serving our communities:

1. Serving. Being a servant is not the most popular role in our culture. In fact, it’s probably the least desired title. Servant. It goes against everything within us that yearns for power and prestige. Who wants to be a servant? Evidently Paul. This educated scholar begins the book of Romans writing these words:
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— (Romans 1:1)

Evidently Jesus. This is how Paul described Jesus…and instructs others:

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness. (Philippians 2:5-7)

The next verse is even more ludicrous!

And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:8)

We could spend hours reading verses about serving in the Bible. Most of us know serving is what we’re “supposed” to do, whether we like it or not! We have some fantastic servants in our Scio family. But there’s another issue we face as a family.

2. Serving together. It’s no secret that few of us leave near one another. Geography makes being a family on mission together difficult. Vulnerability require proximity. If we don’t even see each other, it’s hard to imagine serving together, right?

A few years ago I saw a video about a church in Tacoma, Washington. It seized my imagination for a church doing life together as a family on mission.


It’s not always fun and comfortable, but they are living out their faith every day…together. They are serving together. They are eating and loving and growing together. They look to me like the early church, a close-knit, extended family.

They also live near one another. We don’t. For four years I’ve been challenged by this. I’ve prayed and read and conversed and done everything I know to do in order to address this issue of serving together. I’ve come up with a few thoughts.

  1. Serve with your Life Group.

When we made The Flip a year ago we wanted to do more than just change the name of Sunday School to Life Groups. We wanted to create small groups that would not only gather for an hour on Sunday but also be given the mandate to serve together monthly. Some Life Groups have been more effective than others, but the mandate remains. Serve together on Sunday. Serve together midweek. Just serve together!

On February 21, our young adult Life Group is going to serve at the Scio Township recycling day from 8 AM to noon. You’re all welcome to join us (just wear warm clothes!). So far it is the only need I’ve been able to extract from the Scio Township office.

Our two midweek Life Groups are uniquely setup to serve together as their gathering are not restricted to an hour on Sunday.

2. Serve with your neighbors.

Gather those that do live nearby, whether they attend Scio or not, and bless the community.

3. Serve with your biological family.

Some of you have a small group living under your roof! Serve together.

4. Serve on Sundays.

One of my desires for Scio is that nobody serves alone. Whether that’s setting up coffee, playing on the music team, ushering, or leading a Life Group, serve with others.

I’m delighted to say even I don’t serve alone. That’s not to say I’m surrounded by people 24/7, but I am not the sole leader, the sole decision-maker, the benevolent dictator of Scio! I am one of eight elders who guide the spiritual direction of Scio under our Senior Pastor, King Jesus. I also serve alongside our five deacons who do so many things behind-the-scenes with everything from facility maintenance and communion preparation to benevolence and potlucks.

In a healthy natural family, the parents usually set the course, prioritizing the health of the family and the needs (and even sometimes wants) of everyone else above their own. That’s what the elders and deacons seek to do, looking out for the best interests of the family.

One of the great things about being a family is we all have different strengths and weaknesses that can complement one another. Paul wrote:

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. (1 Corinthians 12:4-6)

He then uses one of my favorite metaphors in the entire Bible, the human body.

Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. (1 Corinthians 1:12-20)

When we serve together, we not only experience the joy of friendships, we also learn and grow from one another and experience synergy, more together than the sum of the parts. Or to borrow a famous acronym, TEAM: Together Everyone Achieves More!

I recently heard someone say
it’s not what you do, it’s who you do it with.

My sister proved this to me when we were children. Our least favorite job every summer was…pulling weeds! We whined and ached and complained about working under the hot sun seemingly every day! One day Tami returned from her friend’s house, clearly delighted about her visit. I asked, “What did you do that was so fun?” She said, “We pulled weeds together!”

As a family, we are to be the hands and feet of Jesus. We are to serve one another and serve our communities. Of course, serving together means relationships which means the potential for conflict and compromise. That gives us opportunities to become more like Jesus as we listen, humbly submit to one another, and love each other.

So What?

Serve together. I’ve come up with a few thoughts, but I need your help. We need your help! If you’ve got an idea, share it with me. Share it with one of the other elders. Share it on our white board in the hallway. Send me an e-mail and I’ll post it in the
Scio Soul. It’s not enough for us to be a safe, comfy family. We are to be a family on mission, God’s mission to seek and save the lost, to make disciples, and to serve together.

For Further Study

When the Church Was a Family: Recapturing Jesus' Vision for Authentic Christian Community by Joseph H. Hellerman

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.