Equipping the Next Generation, 25 July 2021

Series—Getting to the Core (values)
Matthew 28:18-20, Ephesians 4:12; 2 Timothy 2:2

Series Big Idea:
Our core values guide us in our mission of family restoring God’s masterpieces for His glory.

Big Idea: We mobilize the next generation to fulfill the Great Commission.

What is First Alliance Church? It’s more than a building. It’s about people…on mission. God’s mission. It’s about knowing God and making Him known. It’s about loving God, one another, and others. It’s about making disciples.

But that should be said of every church…and there’s a lot of churches in Toledo!

So what’s special about First Alliance? What did A.B. Simpson envision when he started a Bible study in Toledo in 1887? What is God’s unique plan for
this church? What is our vision? How will we get there?

After years of research, conversations, and prayer, our staff and elders have gotten clarity around what we believe is God’s direction for First Alliance, including our core values:

Equipping…the next generation to fulfill the Great Commission
Faithfulness…to prayer, the Word of God, and following Jesus
Family…a mosaic of people loving God and doing life together
Generosity…trusting God with open hands and open hearts
Missional…taking faith-filled risks in launching new ministries to love our neighbors
Synergy…collaborating for the sake of the Kingdom of God

It’s who we’ve been.
It’s who we are.
It’s where we’re going.

We are a Jesus-centered family restoring God’s masterpieces in Toledo and beyond for His glory.

Are you ready?

Let’s go!

The first words I spoke on this stage nearly six years ago were, “Why are you here?” Why? Simon Sinek’s bestselling book is titled, “Start with Why.”

It’s important to understand the “why” of things. Children love to ask the question. Sometimes we’re embarrassed by the answer. Why are you here? Why are we here?

Today we’re going to look at the first of six core values. Our value this week is

We mobilize the next generation to fulfill the Great Commission.

Let’s work our way backward.

The Great Commission is a famous mandate given by Jesus Christ. You might say it was the assignment he gave his followers as he was preparing to ascend into heaven.

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)

This is one of the most important scriptures in the Bible. Entire sermons have been written on it. Entire books have been written on it! At its core, it says we are to go and make disciples. A disciple is a follower, much like a student or protege. Jesus is saying reproduce him in others. Go—that’s an action word!—and make disciples, students. Follow Jesus and—by definition—get others to follow Jesus, too.

How do we know we’ve made a disciple? They are baptized: they make a public confession of faith. They are taught to obey God’s Word. They look like Jesus!

Who discipled you?
Who is discipling you?
Who are you discipling?

Discipleship is not a program. It’s not a book. It’s the life-long process of becoming like Jesus.

It’s important to recognize Jesus was given all authority…and promised to always be with us. Discipleship is about surrender, not striving. It’s about letting God lead and control our lives…and inviting others to let go and let God. It is impossible to overemphasize the importance of the Great Commission. It’s our assignment. It’s our mission. We are to go and make disciples. It’s what we’re all called to do…and throughout this series there will be some next-steps for you to take in making disciples.

This is not a church staff thing. Paul said to a church in modern-day Turkey,

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-13)

Equipping is a vital function of a healthy church. The leaders are to equip the people to do ministry. They’re not professional Christians paid to do the ministry, but rather equippers who equip others who equip others.

There may be no more clearer verse about discipleship than Paul’s words to Timothy.

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)

How many generations are in this scripture? Four! Paul tells Timothy to entrust to people who will teach others. 2 Timothy 2:2 covers four generations. This is a picture of discipleship. It’s a portrait of equipping. It’s a vision for ministry, for obedience to the Great Commission.

Our first core value is equipping: we mobilize the next generation to fulfill the Great Commission.

The Church is one generation away from extinction. This isn’t news. It has always been true. I’m amazed that God has sustained this church for more than thirteen decades. The baton of faith has been passed from one generation to another many times…praise God! We need to be intentional about passing it on to the next.

When we say “next generation,” we mean two things:

- the next
spiritual generation
- the next
biological generation

I’ve observed many things in thirty-one years of vocation ministry and one is how easy it is to focus on one’s own needs without looking out for others. You can call it selfishness or consumerism or whatever, but it’s easy to forget it’s not all about us! Paul didn’t tell Timothy to be a good person. He said find reliable people who will teach others…who will teach others…who will teach others.

By the way, teach didn’t mean Zoom calls. It didn’t mean a classroom or chalk board or even a school. The method of training in Jesus’ day was life on life. It was personal discipleship. Jesus did it with a group. He did life with them. Show
and tell was his method.

Family, we need to look out for the next generation. We need to value the next generation of Christians. One of the core values of The Alliance describes it this way:

Alliance: Lost people matter to God. He wants them found.

Jesus tells three stories in Luke chapter 15. One is about a lost sheep. Another is about a lost coin. The third is about a lost son, known as the Prodigal Son. The message is the same: God loves the lost. He goes after the lost. His love is extravagant and even appears reckless for the lost. Jesus said of himself,

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)

We value lost people—the next generation—because Jesus values lost people.

I pray we fill our baptism this year…with new converts!

We’re committed to reaching the next generation of Christ-followers, including

- Celebrate Recovery, Wednesdays at 7 PM
- Dinner Church, 2
nd Sundays
- Jeep Fest outreach, August 7
- Soulmates for Life this fall/winter
- Alpha Course?

There’s another way to describe the next generation and it’s

Equipping: we mobilize the next generation to fulfill the Great Commission.

We are committed to equipping our children and youth so they can make disciples. Remember, the church is always one generation away from extinction…and right now the numbers don’t look good in our nation.

There has been a consistent generation gap of faith between the Builders to the Boomers, Gen X, and Millennials. In 2018, only 49% of those born between 1981 and 1996 identified as Christians (versus 84% for those born before 1946). Perhaps the most alarming headline I’ve read this year said, “43 percent of Millennials Don’t Know If, Care or Believe God Exists.” (Arizona Christian University). That number is 28% for Boomers.

I don’t think I’m “crying wolf” to say we’re losing the next generation. We’re losing the next generations. We’re losing our own kids and grandchildren. Why?

Could it be our faith is not attractive?

Last week I was talking with a friend from First Alliance and they said their adult child who grew up here wouldn’t even visit with them here because of the past legalistic culture. This is a person who loves Jesus but was so damaged by religion here they wouldn’t even attend…years later! I hope a lot has changed.

I don’t say that to critique our past, but to simply say our faith has not always been attractive. The next generation will not blindly follow the faith of previous generations. They want to know if our faith is real. Does it work? Does it have answers for the big questions of life? Or are we really just a bunch of hate-filled, close-minded, science-denying, racist, bigoted, homophobic, self-righteous hypocrites?

May it never be! I declare and decree

We mobilize the next generation to fulfill the Great Commission.

We must…or we have no future. We have no present! Our youth and children are not the church of tomorrow. They are the church of today!

This is why we have made tremendous investments in our children’s ministry.

Sue Trumbull has been faithfully serving the next generation for nearly sixteen years, equipping not only students but also adult leaders and parents. Under her leadership, we are equipping through

- Kids Church
- Kids Club United
- Vacation Bible School
- Sports & Art Camp
- Right Now Media

We took a faith-filled risk last month to hire a full-time, ordained Associate Pastor,
Mike Pierce, to lead our Junior High, Senior High, and college students. Our investment in Pastor Mike is proof that we’re serious about the next generation. In addition to youth group on Wednesday nights, the students are already preparing for next year’s LIFE Conference in Orlando. We are praying for God to raise up future entrepreneurs, international workers, government leaders, and pastors.

In addition, we continue to equip the next generation through

- After School Klub
- Act 2 Productions

According to extensive research, by the time someone turns eighteen, the chances of them following Jesus are slim
. Most people become Christians as a minor.

Efforts at evangelizing adults are not futile, but challenging.

So What?

Give! When you support First Alliance, you support our investment in the next generation.

Grace. Grandparents, what would you do for your grandchildren to know Jesus? Would you give up some money? Would you donate some time? Would you give up your musical preference on Sundays? Don’t worry, we’re not adding a disco ball to the sanctuary, but valuing the next generation may mean helping First Alliance become their church and not just yours. I hope in the coming days your children and grandchildren would beg you to bring them here…and not just here, but also to any gathering of the church.

Serve. We are always looking for volunteers to equip the next generation. Tomorrow begins the fourth and final week of Sports & Art Camp.

Research shows one of the most important features of young adults who love Jesus is an adult mentor who’s not a parent. It takes a village. Discipleship is primarily done in the home, but others vital to the spiritual development of the next generation.

Pray! We need to pray for our students and the students in our city. I pray God would raise up a radical generation of young people who would put us to shame spiritually! I pray for revival among our students. I pray for God to give us wisdom in how to equip and disciple them.

Sue Trumbull's prayer requests:

VBS workers for August, Fall Kids' Club United volunteers  - Bible lesson teachers and Shop workers (Pinewood Derbys, and wood working projects, etc.) Elementary Helpers or Bible teachers for Sunday Worship Hour.

Pastor Mike's prayer requests, hopes and dream for students (EVERYWHERE). 
+ That they say yes to Jesus even if that leads them to places they’ve never been
+ That they know who they are matters more than what they do
+ That they know how important they are to the church and how important the church is to them (in other words, that they need others and others need them)
+ That the view and live life with/ from an eternal perspective
+ That they hate sin

Pastor Mike's prayer requests, hopes and dreams for our specific students at FAC.
+ Of course all of the above!
+ Build relationships and understanding with other local youth groups/ community
+ Every student is involved in long term discipleship/ mentoring with an adult
+ That they are active in serving and using their gifts to build God’s Kingdom

Pastor Mike's prayer requests, hopes and dreams for our leaders at FAC.
+ That our leaders love Jesus
+ That our team would be like minded in what God is calling the youth ministry to be and do
+ That our leaders open up and share their lives with our students
+ That our leaders model to our students what it looks like to pursue Jesus
+ That our leaders use their gifts and serve the church/ community/ God’s Kingdom

Personally, I have a heart for the next generation of leaders…equipping and sending church planters, international workers, business leaders, entrepreneurs, government officials, teachers, scientists, etc.

Honestly, the research on the next generations is discouraging. No, it’s downright depressing! But God is able! It has never been about us or our programs. The only thing that can change a human heart is the power of God. If we are ready to truly love these younger masterpieces, God will do the rest.

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

Better Wise Up, 18 July 2021

Better Wise Up
Series—Faith Works: The book of James
James 1:1-12

Series Big Idea:
Jesus’ half brother James offers us timeless instructions for living a God-honoring life.

Big Idea: Wisdom is one of God’s greatest gifts, available for the asking.

If you could have anything in the world, what would you wish for? It sounds like something out of a Disney movie, but it really happened. The first book of Kings says,

At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” (1 Kings 3:5)

This is King David’s son Solomon. How would you respond?

Solomon answered, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day. (1 Kings 3:6)

OK, Solomon, answer the question!

“Now, LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. (1 Kings 3:7)

We’re still waiting!

Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. (1 Kings 3:8)

He finally answers the question!

So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” (1 Kings 3:9)

Solomon asks for a discerning heart, a heart of understanding. Some would call this—in a word—wisdom. I can think of no greater answer, especially from a leader responsible for making countless decisions that affect many lives. Oh that our leaders today would make such a request of the Lord! It’s obvious that Solomon made an excellent choice.The text says so!

The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. (1 Kings 3:10)

So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. (1 Kings 3:11-12)

Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.” (1 Kings 3:13-14)

Then Solomon awoke—and he realized it had been a dream. (1 Kings 3:15a)

And what a dream it was!

Today we’re continuing our series on the book of James: Faith Works. Our topic today is wisdom…and you better wise up!

Two weeks ago Jason Horton tackled the first four verses of the book of James. This is arguably the most practical book in the Bible, penned by Jesus’ half-brother. To review, the book begins:

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,

To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations:

Greetings. (James 1:1)

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)

If you missed Jason’s sermon, please go to our app, website, YouTube channel, or Vimeo page. It was excellent. The subject of trials forms the context of what follows.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (James 1:5)

This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. It’s a promise. It’s not directed at a particular person, but rather “any of you” among the twelve tribes scattered among the nations.

The original Greek word for wisdom is
sophia. I had a boss once named Sophia. She was…pretty wise, I suppose! It’s not just that God grants wisdom, but that he gives it generously, bountifully, liberally. That’s His nature, especially with His children. He is a good, good Father.

This is especially true in the midst of trials when we often lack wisdom, those moments in which we are out of control. If you’ve ever asked God, “Why?” you know what I mean. Our District Superintendent, Thomas George, has encouraged me to change, “Why?” to “What are You up to, LORD?” “Help me see what You see.” “I need Your perspective and wisdom, Father.” Trials are for God's glory and our growth.

James is saying
ask God for wisdom and it will be given to you. Period. Well, almost period! There’s a dreaded “but” which follows, though it’s not all that dreaded, actually.

But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. (James 1:6-8)

To obtain wisdom, we need faith or, actually, commitment to God. James isn’t talk about someone who is uncertain God will answer their request or a person struggling with faith. Instead, it’s the person who is double-minded, a person who is not truly committed to God. They want to be successful in this world and want God to bless them now while also hoping to go to heaven when they die. They want to have their cake and eat it, too.

A close equivalent to this double-minded person is found in Psalm 12.

Help, LORD, for no one is faithful anymore; those who are loyal have vanished from the human race. Everyone lies to their neighbor; they flatter with their lips but harbor deception in their hearts. (Psalm 12:1-2)

Hypocrisy is nothing new! Does it describe you? Again this isn’t someone who is truly seeking God and asking for faith. It’s a reference to Sunday-only Christians who use God rather than worship Him. God will grant wisdom to those truly committed to Him who ask. Don’t ask for wisdom if you’re not prepared to act on it.

Knowledge used to be valuable, but you can find just about anything on Google or YouTube. Wisdom, on the other hand, is the right application of knowledge. Who needs wisdom? I certainly do. This past year and a half has demanded more wisdom from leaders than perhaps any time in our lifetime. Should we close? Should we open? Should we encourage masks? Should we mandate masks? Should we get vaccinated? Should we require the staff to get vaccinated? Should we use the drinking fountains?

When people ask how they can pray for me, my most common response is, “Wisdom.” I need God’s wisdom. Not conventional wisdom. Not politically-correct responses. Not tickle-the-ears advise. I desperate need God’s wisdom…in my professional and personal life.

It’s really hard following Jesus in our culture. There is a constant temptation to live like everybody else, despite the fact that everybody else seems to be so confused, so fickle, so selfish, and so unreliable.

Recently Bible scholar N.T. Wright was on the Catalyst Podcast and offered an outstanding explanation of our current society, Listen…

It seems to me we are in a very confused culture with a highly moralistic culture of one sort that our world—the western world—has sort of invented new moralisms to take the place of the old ones, but the trouble with the new moralisms is that there is never any redemption. If you’re caught out saying accidentally something which somebody else says was racist or crypto-Nazi or whatever it is then that’s it, you’re out, you’re cancelled, you’re in social hell, even atheist hell if you like. There’s no way back, there’s no chance for repentance or forgiveness and so on. That’s a very cruel culture.

People used to object to Christians banging on about sin but the point of banging on about sin was to say there’s a way back to God from the darkness of sin as the old hymn says it and to say we’re all sinners was actually a positive doctrine because the answer is we’ve got a diagnosis for the problem and what’s more we have a solution, we have a remedy, God has provided the remedy, whereas in the present social and culture climate everyone is nervous about tripping up over some hidden “thou shalt not” in the culture whether it’s about gender rights of one sort or another or issues to do with race and so on and the rules keep on changing and as the rules change, when you’re my age, it’s very hard to keep up with them. It reminds me of that Roman emperor

Who made new rules and printed them out or stuck them out very small and had them stuck on high walls where nobody could read them and then would punish people for not obeying these rules and sometimes our contemporary culture feels like that and we have to argue for the importance of genuine morality, yes, but what we have at the moment is a sort of pseudo-morality of this victim culture where if somebody feels upset by something somebody else has quite innocently said then they can blame the person who’s done it and once you blame them there is no way back, they are non-persons or they’re damned or whatever, so how we respond to that as Christians is very different from the kind of stuff that most of us grew up with which was assuming that most people around us were sort of crypto-Pelagians thinking they could behave themselves and, therefore, go to heaven when they die. That’s not what people are thinking out there on the street now and we have to get used to articulating the message of Jesus in a very, very different context.

I know that’s a lot, but I believe it’s a lot of wisdom. I love how Wright is able to wisely assess our cancel culture and contrast it so poignantly with the Kingdom of God, an alternative way of life filled with love, hope, forgiveness, and redemption.

I confess sometimes I get caught up in the issues of our day, filled with fear and uncertainty rather than wisely seeking the Truth in God and His Word. Although our nation may be one exception in the last half of the twentieth century, most societies throughout history have not Christian foundations. The world has always acted like the world and will always act like the world. We are called—as citizens of the Kingdom of God—to live differently, to be filled with love rather than fear, to exercise grace not revenge, to seek after those who make us uncomfortable when we’d rather play video games or watch movies.

I can’t say this enough: I need wisdom. You need wisdom. Following Jesus in our day requires supernatural wisdom, and the good news is it is promised to us…if we ask and believe.

Would you commit to praying for me? I need wisdom. Our staff and elders need wisdom, especially during these next several weeks as we prepare for our fall kickoff on August 29. Next week we’ll begin what may be the most important sermon series I’ve ever preached for First Alliance Church. We’re going to present our six core values, the result of literally years of prayer, research, and discussion. God has answered our cries for wisdom. He has given us a compelling mission, an exciting vision, and a fresh strategy to reach our city and world as we more or less relaunch First Alliance this fall. As excited as I am about our future, I don’t want to take a single step forward without God’s direction, God’s protection, unity, and passion—my four prayers for FAC. As our society considers a post-COVID world in the future, we’ve been working behind-the-scenes to be optimally ready for whatever opportunities God provides for us. It is my prayer that our most fruitful days are ahead, that our baptistry would get worn out, that God would raise up men and women to serve Him here and around the world.

Perhaps my greatest fear is that I get in the way of what God wants to do, which is why I pray for and ask for your prayers for wisdom. Since it’s promised, we can pray with confidence and eager expectation. I better wise up. You better wise up!

There are four more verses I want to look at before we conclude today that relate to wisdom.

Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. (James 1:9)

Does that even make sense? It does in the upside-down Kingdom of God where the first shall be last and where saving your life means losing it for Christ’s sake. A few chapters later, James will say,

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. (James 4:10)

The world says you need a platform. Get famous on Tik Tok. Make a career out of YouTube movies. Grab as much money, sex, and power as you can. It’s all about you!

God says, “Surrender to me and I will lift you up.”

Some of you find yourselves in humble circumstances. Several in our church family are homeless, jobless, spouse-less, or even penniless. Take pride in your high position. Humble yourselves before the Lord. He sees you. He knows you. He loves you. Your story’s not over. Seek help. You are a masterpiece in need of restoration…like me and the rest of us. God’s doing beautiful work through Celebrate Recovery here on Wednesdays at 7 PM. Do life together with others in a Life Group. We have several new groups launching this fall and some meeting now.

But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business. (James 1:10-11)

There’s a weather event in the Middle East called a sirocco. It is a very devastating hot wind that blows from the southern desert into Palestine, destroying flowers and plants. What an image!

Money is not the root of all kinds of evil. The love of money is. James reminds the rich—which is most of us compared to people around the world—it will all pass away someday. You can’t take it with you.

It reminds me of the man who was granted one wish—like Solomon—and he asked to see the next day’s newspaper so he could see the sports section and bet on the horse race. It was a great plan to get rich…until he noticed his name in the obituaries!

Rich or poor, young or old, black or white, wolverine or buckeye (!), …

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12)

James speaks often of trials because he knows they make us grow, they humble us, they bring us to our knees, and they develop our character. As he said at the beginning of the book,

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)

Erwin McManus recently said,

I’ve always wondered why the Bible says the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.

Why do we want to fear God?

Whatever you fear has mastery of your life.

Whatever you are afraid of, that’s your master.

If you only fear God, then only God is your master.

Every other fear will use that fear to hold you captive.

But when you fear God, He destroys the fear because it says that perfect love casts out all fear.

When all your fear is directed at God, His perfect love casts out all the fear and now you can live a life that’s truly free.

Some of you have made a mess of your life. You haven’t made wise choices and you’re suffering the consequences. There’s no shame in that, but redemption is possible. God takes our failures and brokenness and restores us into masterpieces. If we humble ourselves, He will lift us up. If we seek His wisdom and Kingdom and will, like will not always be easy, but it will be satisfying in this life…and the next.

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library