Missional, 22 August 2021

Series—Getting to the Core (values)
Isaiah 43:19; Luke 5:36-39, Luke 15

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

Big Idea: We take faith-filled risks in launching new ministries to love our neighbors.

Why are you here? Why are
we here? That’s really the question we’ve been asking for the past several weeks in our series Getting to the Core. As we reboot and prepare for a post-pandemic reality (which is taking longer than any of us expected!), what is God’s unique call for First Alliance Church?

In week one we said one of our core values is

Equipping…the next generation to fulfill the Great Commission

Pastor Donald challenged us to

Faithfulness…to prayer, the Word of God, and following Jesus

We talked about how we are a

Family…a mosaic of people loving God and doing life together

Last Sunday Pastor Donald talked about the value of

Generosity…trusting God with open hands and open hearts

We have two left. Before I introduce today’s word, I want to share a story with you.

I’m a member of Truth at Work, a group of local Christian leaders who meet once a month for roundtable discussions of personal, professional, and spiritual matters. Because First Alliance Church has been a pillar in the city for more than a century, I shared with my group what was five proposed core values when more than one person said, “You’re missing one!” I was so surprised, but I quickly discovered they were correct. Today’s core value is

Missional…taking faith-filled risks in launching new ministries to love our neighbors

Jesus summarized the entire Bible with two simple commands:

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” (Mark 12:28)

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)

Love God. Love your neighbor as yourself.

One of the ways we love God is by loving our neighbors, so we can actually kill two birds with one stone (but let’s not kill birds!).

Missional…taking faith-filled risks in launching new ministries to love our neighbors

There are many ways we can love our neighbors, but perhaps the greatest thing we can do is introduce them to Jesus. The Great Commission, which we’ve looked at repeatedly, contains the mission.

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)

We are missional. We are on a mission. God’s mission has a church. The mission is to make disciples. It’s to join God in seeking and saving the lost (Luke 15; 19:10). As we focus on that, new ministries and churches will be the result. Faith is required. Faith-filled risks are required.

Missional…taking faith-filled risks in launching new ministries to love our neighbors

Throughout our history, we have had an entrepreneurial spirit that has produced church plants, sent international workers, trained pastors, and launched organizations such as Proclaim FM, Toledo Christian Schools, WLMB-TV, and Cherry Street Mission, just to name a few.

I hate to say it, but many churches are exclusively inward focused, seeking to make the members comfortable with little regard for what is going on outside of the four walls. Their focus may be on survival, maintaining the status quo, idolizing tradition. The future of such cultures is always the same…decline and death. There’s actually a place in our city where we preserve things from the past…a museum!

We are not called to be a museum of the past. We are called to be a hospital restoring masterpieces today and tomorrow.

That can be intimidating. It can be scary. We like what we can control. But let’s never seek to control God! He said in the book of Isaiah,

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:19)

God is always doing a new thing. Our world is changing. Our world is growing
. We must always be changing our methods, but never change our message.

There are two ways to reach a changing world. One is to adapt.

My wife recently discovered she was allergic to dairy. This made me troubled as an
ice cream lover. Who wants to eat alone? Fortunately, Dairy Queen and other ice cream vendors have realized others are allergic to dairy, too, and have created dairy-free ice cream (often using coconut cream). They adapted.

We must always be adapting. Today we have a parking lot, air conditioning, video projection, livestreaming, a podcast, a website, an e-newsletter, and many other things that were not present a hundred years ago. In fact, I’ve been told our use of radio was cutting-edge…in 1966!

The other way to reach a changing world is to
launch something new. Sometimes it’s more effective to start from scratch than it is to remodel or adapt.

Our global family, the Christian & Missionary Alliance, has had its US headquarters in Colorado Springs since the late 1980s. Recently, they decided to relocate to Reynoldsburg, Ohio near Columbus to be more effective in their mission. They finalized a deal on property containing a closed Kmart store and have determined it would be better to demolish and build new than to retrofit the building for the new headquarters.

Sometimes we adapt. Sometimes we start fresh and launch. We plant new churches. We start new ministries. Jesus once told his followers a story

He told them this parable: “No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’ ” (Luke 5:36-39)

God is always doing a new thing. We need to adapt and also launch new endeavors, new wineskins for new wine. I’m honored to be a part of church with such a rich history of launch new churches and ministries…and I’m certain that legacy must continue. The Kingdom of God is advancing at First Alliance Church…and will soon be advancing through the church plant we will help Mykel & Jeanine Pollock launch next year. I’ve had conversations with others who are interested in planting churches or ministries or even Christ-centered businesses. The marketplace calls these pioneers entrepreneurs. The Bible refers to them as apostles.

There are actually two types of apostles. The capital-A Apostles are generally thought to be only those early church leaders who spent time with Jesus, including. Obviously, they all died two thousand years ago.

A small-a apostle, however, is an emissary, literally “one who is sent off,” a messenger.

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 (Ephesians 4:11-12)

This text from Paul to the church in Ephesus is often called the five-fold ministry or APEST: apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers. Many lump them together under the title “pastor,” but they are each unique. I like to think of apostles as the spiritual entrepreneurs launching new works.

There are few apostles greater than our church and denomination’s founder,
A.B. Simpson. With such an apostle as our founder, it’s not surprising one of the core values of the alliance states

Achieving God’s purposes involves taking faithful-filled risks. This always involves change.

We borrowed liberally from this Alliance value when crafting today’s First Alliance core value:

Missional…taking faith-filled risks in launching new ministries to love our neighbors

We are missional. God has given us a mission…to love Him, our neighbors, and make disciples. There are plenty of churches in Toledo, but I believe most people in our city are not fully engaged in one. Why? Maybe they’re looking for something unique that has yet to be created. Research has repeatedly shown the average new church gains most of its new members (60-80%) from the unchurched, while churches more than 15 years old get 80-90% of their new members from other congregations. (https://www.acts29.com/why-church-planting/)

Every generation needs new churches, new wineskins for new wine. I’m not suggesting every church should be mono-generational, but I am saying we need fresh expressions of the gospel to reach the unchurched.

That’s why we started
Dinner Church! From the beginning, we said Dinner Church was for the unchurched, not you! Dinner Church was a faith-filled risk to love our neighbors who aren’t here on Sunday morning, for whatever reason. It’s one of our primary “out” movements, serving our community. Honestly, it wasn’t a huge risk for us, but it has been remarkably fruitful, praise God!

In the coming days, we will take more faith-filled risks, not for the sake of change or simply for the fun of it, but because God’s mission requires it to love our neighbors who are not yet in a faith community, following Jesus.

Imagine Toledo without Cherry Street Mission, without the Toledo Gospel Rescue Mission, without Proclaim FM or WLMB-TV or Toledo Christians or…First Alliance Church. We were a church plant once upon a time! We were a faith-filled risk…in 1887! The book of Hebrews tells us,

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

Do you love God? Do you seek to please God? Faith is required. You believe in God? Prove it! Trust Him! Take a step of faith (not necessarily a leap of faith). As a church, we’ve done that repeatedly. Some of our initiatives have lasted for generations. Others, like Claro Coffee Bar, were short-lived, yet the provided outstanding opportunities to learn, build relationships, and grow. There’s no guarantee that every Life Group, church, or ministry we launch will last for a century, but then again, they might! Everything has a life cycle, whether it’s short or long. The key is to be obedient, to be faithful, to be missional, living out God’s mission in our world.

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

Why are you here? Why are we here? We’re on a mission from God! One of the things that makes us unique is we are

Missional…taking faith-filled risks in launching new ministries to love our neighbors

e’re all unique. Some are entrepreneurial pioneers—apostles—who God has called to launch new things. Others join later in the process, helping to build and maintain. Still others are cautious and wait until there is more certainty.

As a church, we want to be on the cutting edge of what God is doing. The Kingdom requires it. Our neighbors need it. Our world is desperate for it.

Missional…taking faith-filled risks in launching new ministries to love our neighbors

What faith-filled risks do YOU need to take to love your neighbors?

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

We Are Saints, 12 January 2014

Big Idea: We are saints, God’s people set apart for His purposes, blessed with grace and peace.

Ephesians 1:1-2

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.


Good morning, saints! Good morning, sinners!

Today we continue our new series, Who Do You Think You Are? It is a series about identity, and identity is one of the most important aspects of life. I believe theology and anthropology—understanding God and humans—are the two most important fields of study, for the more we understand God and ourselves, the more we will flourish.

Who are you? Who are we? These are the primary questions we will seek to answer throughout our study of the book of Ephesians.

As a review for those who braved the snow last week and a summary for those who didn’t, we noted that Ephesians…

  • - was written by Paul in prison in Rome
  • - to the church in the city of Ephesus, a cosmopolitan city not unlike Ann Arbor
  • - it was written not only to the church at Ephesus but to all in the region
  • - it is, therefore, one of the most universal books of the Bible, filled with timeless truths
  • - frequently speaks of what it means to be “in Christ,” our primary, true identity

I want to note a few additional things about this book.

  • - It is about “the Church which is His body,” of which Christ is the head
  • - Paul founded the church in Ephesus during his second missionary journey
  • - Paul stayed in Ephesus for three years during his third missionary journey (Acts 19:8-10; 20:31)
  • - This may be the epistle referred to in Colossians 4:16
  • - Like many New Testament books, Ephesians has an Old Testament parallel—Joshua
  • - The church in Ephesus had many great preachers including Paul, Apollos, John and Timothy; what a legacy!

Ephesians 1 begins…

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

This is a letter written by Paul from a Roman prison. Paul was once a religious zealot named Saul.

Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison. (Acts 8:2-3)

His conversion may be the most remarkable in history, an encounter with the risen Christ (Acts 9). Later he goes by the name of Paul (Acts 13:9).

Paul, an
apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

The word “apostle” is interesting. The Greek word means “messenger” or “envoy.” I like to say there are two types—Apostle and apostle. An Apostle is the highest office of the Church. They received their commission directly from Jesus. Even though Paul did not know Jesus during His earthly ministry, the glorified Jesus commissioned Paul. They also saw Jesus after His resurrection, often wrote scripture, and performed signs, wonders, and miracles (2 Cor. 12:112). They also started churches.

Today there are people that are called
apostles. I consider myself an apostle. I have been involved in starting or planting churches. I’m a spiritual entrepreneur.

Paul, an apostle
of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

As we said last week, the core message of Ephesians is that our identity is in Christ. Paul is a messenger of Jesus. He has no personal agenda. The messenger only delivers—they don’t create—the message. As he was repeatedly arrested and beaten, he must’ve thought, “Don’t shoot the messenger!”

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus
by the will of God,

It was clearly God’s will that Paul become an apostle. He was called for a very special purpose, specifically to write much of the New Testament and be the most prominent figure in it after Christ.

Note that God does the calling. He still calls people today. He calls people to start churches, to travel to foreign countries, and to become pastors. He calls people to be beacons of light amidst the darkness at factories, schools, offices, and homes across our county. Be ready for His call. Be ready to respond. Be ready to obey.

Jonah received a calling, did not obey, spent three nights in a fish, and eventually got on board with God’s will!

You may be waiting—patiently or impatiently—for His call. I had a friend who spent years asking God to show him what to do. Silence meant to continue to be faithful to his current assignment until the time was right for something new, something that eventually came. He now leads a church God called him to plant in Chicagoland.

You might not like your calling. Take it up with God!

To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:

I began with the greeting, “Good morning saints.” When you think of saints, perhaps you think of a New Orleans football team or a bunch of dead guys that have churches named after them!

A saint is a holy person.

The word “sinner” is used about 300 times in the Bible, often in conjunction with the 600 references to God’s wrath. It occurs no more than three times in reference to believers. God sees us as saints. Why don’t we? When we begin following Jesus as Lord, we become genuinely new creations, though not totally new. We are given a new nature, the nature of Jesus Christ when we identify with Him. That’s incredible!

Paul writes to the church…

To God’s holy people
in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:

…in Ephesus and to those in the region and calls them “God’s holy people” or saints.

A saint is not a perfect person. Saints (
haggais) means separated or set aside for the sole use of God, holy vessels like those in the tabernacle.

J. Vernon McGee used to say there are two types of people today: saints and ain’ts!

We have been set apart for God’s use. Isn’t that incredible?!

We are saints
and sinners. Notice what is next…

To God’s holy people in Ephesus,
the faithful in Christ Jesus:

We are not saints because of how we act but because we are “in Christ.” Last week we briefly looked at nine uses of this phrase “in Christ” in the first thirteen verses of Ephesians. We are saints or God’s holy people “in Christ.” We are the faithful “in Christ.” We are full of faith.

You might be thinking, “I’m not always faithful.” True. This is where the faithfulness of Jesus kicks in. Paul wrote to Timothy an incredible truth.

Here is a trustworthy saying:

If we died with him,
we will also live with him;
if we endure,
we will also reign with him.
If we disown him,
he will also disown us;
if we are faithless,
he remains faithful,
for he cannot disown himself.
(2 Timothy 2:11-13)

Because we are in Christ, we are faithful. It’s not about what we do, but what He has done.

Imagine that your name was chosen in a radio contest and you’ve been given a
backstage pass to a rock concert. You go backstage, someone asks your name and then asks you to leave. When you flash them your backstage pass, everything changes. You’re “with the band!” You are on their team. You didn’t sing or play an instrument or even setup the stage, but you’re with them. You have special privileges not because of who you are or what you’ve done but who you know.

Being in Christ is so much more. It’s having a backstage pass to heaven, not because of anything you’ve done, but because you’re with Jesus.

It’s actually much more.

The bird is in the air and the air is in the bird.
The fish is in the water and the water is in the fish.
The believer is in Christ and Christ is in the believer.

That’s radical!!!

Paul continues this idea when he says…

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace and peace. These are two of my favorite words.

What is grace?

It is unmerited favor.

was the Gentile form of greeting.

Grace is the means by which God saves us. You must know God’s grace in order to have peace. The world can never know true peace until it knows God’s grace.

Outside the church we see “love” and “peace” but rarely “grace.” It is that amazing!

Peace was the religious word, shalom in Hebrew.

Peace means peace with God, to have our sins forgiven. It is more than the absence of war. Shalom means “to complete, to make sound.” It was used to describe the temple when it was finished (1 Kings 7:51). It is used to describe tranquility. The word was also used as a greeting, as it is here.

Last year our daughter, Kailey, talked about how she was going to focus on a word in 2013. I decided to follow her lead and have declared “peace” as my word for 2014. I have far more self-inflicted anxiety and fear and I’m choosing to embrace peace. Jesus is the Prince of peace. Paul blessed us with peace. I’m declaring peace on my life and I want to do the same for yours.

Grace and peace are two things you can have regardless of life’s circumstances. They’re yours if you accept them, much like salvation and God’s love.

Paul is greeting his friends and blessing them with grace and peace, not from Himself, but…

Grace and peace to you
from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Holy Spirit was already present in Ephesus. Now Paul ensures that the Father and Son are recognized.

Notice how often Christ Jesus is mentioned in this short section.

Christ is the title. Jesus was His human name. That’s why they’re used interchangeably. You can call me Pastor Kirk or Kirk the pastor. You can call Him Jesus Christ or Christ Jesus. Paul goes a step further and acknowledges Jesus as LORD. All glory and honor and praise is due Him for He is God, He deserves our praise, He is worthy of our worship.


We’ve spent a great deal of time on two short verses, just the greeting. If you’re reading through Ephesians with us, perhaps you blew past this passage, anxious to get to “the good stuff.” It’s here! In Christ we are saints. In Christ we are declared faithful. In Christ we are blessed with grace and peace.

This week I had this thought of Jesus talking to me. I didn’t have a vision or hear an audible voice, but I simply had the realization that Jesus truly loves me. He knows me. He is my friend. He’s God, but I’m on His team. He has given me His identity. I am in Christ and Christ is in me. Wow!

Every day we have a choice—to be saints or aints! We can choose to be lord of our lives or surrender to the LORD Jesus Christ. We can we His badge or risk it going alone, doing it our way. I urge you to embrace Jesus and the identity that is offered to you in Christ. It is truly a joy to say “Your will, Your way!”


Some ideas from

J.I. Packer, Ephesians (sermon series audio)
Mark Driscoll,
Who Do You Think You Are (book and podcast series)
GLO Bible
J. Vernon McGee, Thru The Bible, http://thruthebible.ca

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