Family, 8 August 2021

Series—Getting to the Core (values)
1 Corinthians 12:4-31; Romans 12:10; Revelation 7:9

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

Big Idea: We are a mosaic of people loving God and doing life together.

Alliance Core Value: Completing the Great Commission will require the mobilization of every fully-devoted disciple. Matthew 28:19

What is the first thing you think of when I say…family? Some of you may picture a husband and wife, their 1.96 children, and a dog! Others may imagine a large family reunion with dozens of people gathered together. Still others think of a broken family tree, perhaps an abusive childhood and great pain. Regardless of your family, I believe most of us can at least imagine a healthy family filled with love, acceptance, and respect…a family that does life together…a family that works through conflict and is there for one another…a family that is safe and promotes flourishing.

We are all a part of a family. Actually, we’re all a part of several different families…a biological family, a community at work or school or play, and a spiritual family.

We’re in the middle of series called
Getting to the Core 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.

All followers of Jesus are part of the global family of God, sons and daughters of the Most High God. We’re related by blood…the blood of Jesus.

Our denomination, the Christian & Missionary Alliance, calls itself a Christ-centered, Acts 1:8 family. Acts 1:8 is a reference to Jesus’ words before leaving our planet.

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)

The Alliance is a family. First Alliance Church Toledo is also a family. Being family is one of our core values:

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

One definition of
family calls it a group of one or more parents and their children living together as a unit. If you look at the end of our statement, it says doing life together. First Alliance Church is a group of people doing life together. If we are truly living out this value, last year’s lockdown wouldn’t be a big deal. After all, the Church is the people of God, wherever they are. Pandemic or not, the people of First Alliance not only worship together on Sunday mornings, they pray for one another, pray with one another, eat with one another, serve with one another, study the Bible with one another, encourage one another, take trips with one another, and most of all love one another.

That last one is critical. We love one another. Or we
should! The thing about family is when it’s good, it’s really good…and when it’s bad, it’s really bad. Although I’ve been a part of some not-so-great church families, I must say as we head toward our fall kickoff at the end of the month, I’m really encouraged by what I see in First Alliance. There is a growing sense of unity and love for one another. God has even used COVID-19 to draw us together through things like Zoom Prayer. I recently called one family to see how they were doing in the midst of a difficult trial and was told, “Pastor, we’re doing fine. The people of First Alliance have been praying, delivering meals, and calling. We’re so blessed.”

Heather and I are blessed to call this church family. I believe we are the only Schneemanns in the state of Ohio and it’s a special thing to do life together with you. Sundays are great, but the real action takes place outside of this room…in coffee shops, dining rooms, businesses, and car rides. I love hearing stories of family members visiting shut-ins together. Our worship team serves together. Our elected officers meet together. We do life together.

Perhaps as I say that, you feel left out. Lonely. Disconnected. On the margin. I have three invitations for you:

  1. 1. Join a Life Group.
  2. 2. Join a serving team.
  3. 3. Attend FAC 101 on October 3 at noon

To truly be a part of a family, you have to participate. You must engage. For decades I’ve heard people say, “Nobody cares about me” only to discover they’ve never made an effort to care about or even get to know others. Friendship is a two-way street. You can’t hide and complain that nobody sees you!

I urge you to join a Life Group. Join a serving team. Attend FAC 101 on October 3.

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

We are a family doing life together but also a family loving God. That’s what brings us together. We are united at the foot of the cross, children of God. We love God. Together. That’s the primary reason we gather on Sunday mornings online and on campus. We like to say our focus is “up.” Our strategy is quite simple:


We gather to worship, to pray, to study the Bible, to connect with God. Up.

We also gather to get to know one another, to do life together. This is done in Life Groups, but ideally a Life Group is more than just a weekly meeting. A healthy Life Group does all of the “one anothers” I mentioned…they serve one another, visit one another, deliver meals to one another, call or text one another, love God together, love one another. We call this “In.”

The final piece of our strategy is “Out.” We reach out and serve, whether it’s through Sports & Art Camp, Dinner Church, Celebrate Recovery, or student ministry, working with one of our Home Missions partners, or some other community engagement.

Ideally, everyone in the family is connecting up, in, and out…worshipping together on Sunday mornings, doing life together during the week, and serving together. Nobody worships alone. Nobody serves alone. We are family. We are people loving God and doing life together. But there’s one more vital element to our core value of family.

We are a mosaic. We are a diverse family. This is significant. Many churches are homogeneous, meaning they are filled with people all alike, whether it be ethnicity, age, or socio-economic. We all understand the global family of God is diverse, but First Alliance Church Toledo is diverse…and growing in its diversity.

Diversity is not without its challenges, but our different help us grow…while uniting around what brings us together…our mission, our core values, the Word of God and the Testimony of Jesus Christ. I truly love that our family looks different. We have whites, blacks, and browns in our family. We have people with black hair, brown hair, gray hair, …and some with no hair! Our First Alliance family is filled with Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. We have Buckeyes and Wolverines, suburbanites and city-dwellers, and even theologically we have Arminians and Calvinists (if you don’t know what that means, look it up…or ask me later!). Again, our differences can get messy, but at a time in our culture where everyone seems to be cancelling one another and dividing over the silliest things, the Church is formed around a person…Jesus Christ. We have different incomes, educational backgrounds, musical preferences, hobbies, and zip codes, but one LORD, one faith, one baptism.

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

What brings us together is Jesus and His mission. But we’re all different. We’re a mosaic…and beautiful collection of broken pieces assembled together so light can shine through. Isn’t that a perfect description of what the Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ, the Church is supposed to be? We are all broken, yet God assembles us together and the light of Jesus shines through us creating a beautiful masterpiece.

Paul wrote this to the church in Corinth in modern-day Greece:

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 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)

God has created each of us unique and special. He has given all of us different kinds of gifts.

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. (1 Corinthians 12:7-10)

This is not the only list of spiritual gifts, but it’s a good one! We believe in all of the gifts even though not everyone necessarily knows or uses their gifts. We’ll get to that in a moment.

All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines. (1 Corinthians 12:11)

If you don’t like your gift, blame God! He has created each of us different. Some have a supernatural gift of wisdom, others knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, tongues, and interpretation. Other gifts include helps, preaching, leadership, teaching, and the creative arts. God has gifted some with the gift of evangelism, others mercy. The key is to discover, develop, and deploy your gift(s) for God’s glory.

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 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. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. (1 Corinthians 12:12-14)

One body, many parts. All different. Each part is critical. If you’ve ever stubbed your toe, you know the importance of every part of your body!

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 12:15-20)

Do you get the picture? If not, Paul will make sure you understand!

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. (1 Corinthians 12:21-26)

That’s family. You need me. I need you. My gifts aren’t better than yours. Every gift is necessary. And there should be no division. We should have equal concern for one another. When one of us suffers, we all suffer. When one of us is honored, we all rejoice. That’s the Body. That’s the Church. That’s family.

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.

And yet I will show you the most excellent way. (1 Corinthians 12:27-31)

What follows is the love chapter of the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13. Love is the hallmark of family. Romans 12:10 says,

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. (Romans 12:10)

That’s the kind of family God is building at First Alliance. Do you want to see what it will look like in the future?

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)

That’s the global family. Jesus didn’t come to earth to start a white religion or even an American movement. The Body of Christ is a mosaic from every nation, tribe, people, and language and we’ll spend eternity together. We might as well celebrate our differences and unite around Jesus now! I love Toledo because it allows us to do life together with different people, even people from other nations!

You’re invited

Maybe you’re not a part of the family. I don’t mean the First Alliance family. I mean the family of God. I want to invite you to join the family. The table is a beautiful symbol of family. It’s the gathering place. It’s home. No matter who you are or what you’ve done, you are welcome to join the family. Come to the table.

One more thing…

One of the core values of the Christian & Missionary Alliance states,

Completing the Great Commission will require the mobilization of every fully-devoted disciple. Matthew 28:19

We looked at that scripture two weeks ago where we saw the Great Commission is essentially the mission of the Church…to go and make disciples of all nations, reproducing the life of Jesus. It requires all of us, every fully-devoted disciple. I hope that includes you! I can’t stress this enough…get connected.

  1. 1. Join a Life Group.
  2. 2. Join a serving team.
  3. 3. Attend FAC 101 on October 3 at noon

You’re not going to feel part of the family until you participate with the family, until you engage. I know some of you are introverts and that’s great. Join us on Facebook and Instagram. Send me an e-mail with your questions or comments. Take a risk and ask someone out for a cup of coffee…or let our office know you’re interested in connecting with a new friend.

I want to end with one final challenge: get in SHAPE. No, I don’t mean go to the gym. Go to
FreeShapeTest.com. Don’t worry, this is one test you can’t fail! It’s a free assessment that will help you better understand how God’s wired you up, your spiritual gifts, your passion and heart. If you send the results to our office (office@factoledo.org), we can help you get connected to a serving team where you can worship God, bless others, and experience the joy of doing life together. We’ll talk more about SHAPE this fall, but if you’d like to get a head-start, check it out.

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

The G.O.A.T., 27 September 2020

GOAT: Greatest of All Time
Series—Mark: The Real Jesus
Mark 9:33-37

Series Big Idea: Mark’s gospel is the most concise biography of Jesus.

Big Idea: Jesus is the Greatest of All Time, though the path to greatness is a paradox.

There’s a lot of discussion lately about the GOAT: the greatest of all time. In basketball, the debate is LeBron James versus Michael Jordan. In football, Brady or Manning. Hockey fans can’t agree on Gretsky or Hull. Debates rage in soccer over Renaldo or Messi. Golfers argue over Woods or Nicholas.

Muhammad Ali was never shy about being called “the Greatest.” He was not only a great boxer, he is considered by many to be the most important athlete of the 20th century. He was named the Sports Personality of the Century by the BBC and became a legend in and outside of the boxing ring.

Just before takeoff on an airplane flight, the stewardess reminded Ali to fasten his seat belt. “Superman don’t need no seat belt,” replied Ali. Legend has it that the stewardess retorted, ”Superman don’t need no airplane.”

H.G. Wells said, “I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.”

I doubt I would have trouble convincing most of you that Jesus Christ is the greatest human of all time. But who’s next? Who’s the second-greatest human in history? What about in the Bible?

Today we’re returning to the book of Mark, the shortest gospel or “good news” of Jesus Christ. It’s a fascinating biography of the Messiah, and our text today speaks volumes about true greatness.

In the eighth chapter of Mark, it is said of Jesus…

He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. (Mark 8:31)

Jesus predicts his death. It is so clear that Peter rebukes Jesus which results in a teaching moment for Jesus! A few verses later…

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. (Mark 8:34)

These are not easy words…and I’m not convinced anything has changed. To follow the world, we can pursue happiness, money, sex, power, and pleasure…but following Jesus means the death of our sinful, false self. It means surrender and sacrifice. Paul connects Jesus’ example to our calling.

And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. (2 Corinthians 5:15)

Jesus continues…

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.
(Mark 8:35)

This is known as a paradox—“a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true,” Whoever wants to save their life will lose it. Whoever loses their life for Jesus will save it. Missionary and martyr Jim Elliot famously said,
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it. (Mark 9:30-32)

This is the second time Jesus predicts his death in the book of Mark. The disciples were clueless, but Jesus is teaching them about greatness. He’s the greatest, and yet his mission is not to be served, but to serve.

Don’t you wish our politicians could try this?!

Our passage for today, Mark 9:33-37, begins…

They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. (Mark 9:33-34)

Jesus hears them arguing, which is never a good sign! When he confronts them, they probably tried to change the subject! They know they’ve been caught in the act!

Numbers 32:23 says, “be sure that your sin will find you out.” It’s one thing that they’re arguing. It’s another that they’re arguing about who’s the greatest.

It should be noted that God isn’t always fair. It’s not fair that some are born into great wealth and comfort while others have refugee parents. It’s not fair that some are born with natural beauty while others have less-attractive features. It’s not fair that some are born in this great country with freedoms and liberties while others are monitored 24/7 like lab rats by their government.

Likewise, it’s not fair that Jesus picked twelve to be his special followers. It’s not fair that Peter, James, and John were in Jesus’ inner circle, privileged with unique opportunities. It’s believed that John was Jesus’ favorite among the three. Maybe this was the topic of conversation that Jesus overheard. What we know for sure is Jesus was not pleased with this argument, though it’s a debate that rages to this day. Who’s the greatest? Whose rank or status in society is at the top? It’s no secret that there are the rich, famous, and powerful on one extreme and the sick, poor, disabled, homeless, foreigner on the other. It’s human nature to pre-judge based upon what we see, whether it’s a shiny, new sports car or worn-out shoes with holes in them.

I’m guessing the argument was not about who was the greatest among the Roman leaders. They probably weren’t conversing about the greatest athletes in the upcoming Olympic Games. No, my guess is they were all trying to one-up one another, comparing stories of encounters with Jesus to see who he loved the most.

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said,
“Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:35)

Mic drop! Here’s another paradox, another radical, revolutionary, counter-cultural declaration. In our world today, alternative has become another word for cool, edgy, trendy, and different. The ultimate alternative lifestyle is following Jesus. It’s extreme, outrageous, …and oh so rewarding! It’s not the pathway to comfort and pleasure, but the peace of Christ from an obedient relationship with him is priceless. When you don’t have to pretend and wear masks to cover up your flaws, when you don’t have to worry about pleasing people because you’re pleasing God, when you don’t worry about—well, anything—that’s the road to contentment. Servanthood is the pathway to true satisfaction.

For many of this, this statement of Jesus to serve almost sounds cliché, but imagine the Creator of the universe washing your feet! Imagine the Son of God dying for you! Imagine the greatest human in history loving you with a perfect, unconditional love!

If we’re honest, we all want to be great. We’re conditioned that fame and fortune will lead to happiness, though history proves that lie! We want to be in control. We lust after power. We want it our way. We like to be served, admired, complimented, and praised. But Jesus says if you want to be great—if you want to be first—you must be last, you must serve, you must die to your self, your pride, your will…and seek first God’s Kingdom.

Greatness is not about power.
Greatness is not about possessions.
Greatness is not about position or prestige or performance or any other p-word!

Greatness is a humble servant, dying to self, obeying God, loving well.

By the way, Christians love the idea of being a servant…until they’re treated like one! Are you living as a servant or king/queen? Are you seeking a cross or a throne?

It’s interesting to note Jesus sits when he teaches, the opposite of our culture where the teacher stands and the students sit. In Jesus’ day, the teacher sat as they were worthy of respect. This small detail underscores the significance of Jesus’ words. He is deliberating teaching them something very important.

What follows is no coincidence. It is the “so what” of his brief teaching.

He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” (Mark 9:36-37)

This was scandalous! In the culture, children were not cute, idolized creatures who were spoiled with extravagant birthday parties, designer clothes, and expensive video games. Children were nothing more than a nuisance. They were to be seen and not heard. In the original language, the word “child” could also mean “servant.” This is another example of the extraordinary Kingdom of God. This child has nothing to offer. They don’t have money. They don’t have power. They don’t have connections. They can’t produce with physical labor. Yet Jesus welcomes them.

Jesus values hospitality—welcoming the stranger, the powerless, the other. He serves those who should be serving him. He died for the very ones—you and me—who deserved death. He sees every human as a masterpiece.


One of my favorite things about First Alliance Church is its growing diversity. We have people of all different shapes and sizes, colors and creeds, education and ethnicity. Everyone is welcome.

I found a sign that said,

We welcome
All races and ethnicities
All religions
All countries of origin
All gender identities
All sexual orientations
All abilities and disabilities
All spoken languages
All ages

Here’s how Paul said:

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)

That’s the message of Jesus. All are welcome. All saints. All sinners. We don’t celebrate sin, of course, but we recognize we all sin, we all fall short of God’s glory, we all need His amazing grace and forgiveness, He so loved the whole world that He sent Jesus.

I’m glad you are different than me. This world can only handle one Kirk Schneemann!

I’m thrilled we are all different. We can learn from one another. We can learn patience by being with one another! We can learn new skills, new ideas, and new perspectives through doing life together. I need you. I really do! You need me. That’s family!

This past week Heather and I watched a documentary called The Social Dilemma. It exposes the manipulation of social media to feed us information just like those things we click. If you watch YouTube videos about fishing, they will recommend other videos about fishing. If you click on fake news about the earth being flat, suddenly other conspiracy theories will be presented to you. If you are a progressive, you’ll be encouraged to consume more news and media that support left-leaning ideology. The filmmakers of this documentary present a compelling argument that our nation is divided because we never hear from the other side, whether it’s a different cable news channel, a different set of Facebook posts, or a different type of podcast.

Tragically, this is nothing new. Decades ago in 1955, Donald McGavran promoted the homogeneous unit principle, the idea that, “Men like to become Christians without crossing racial, linguistic, or class barriers.” In other words, we need white churches for white people, black churches for black people, fancy churches for rich people, etc. It’s a good marketing strategy, but a terrible expression of faith. Revelation tells us twice that every nation, tribe, people, and language is included in God’s plan for humanity. Jesus prayed that we would be one, united family (John 17). Only satan could bring about the division, the injustice, the hatred that exists both inside and outside the church today.

Next month we’re doing a sermon series along with some other area churches called The Great Divide. In God’s Kingdom, age is not an issue, as evidenced by Jesus’ love for children. In God’s Kingdom, politics is not an issue. It’s all about King Jesus, not a donkey or elephant. In God’s Kingdom, ethnicity is not an issue. We’re all part of the human race, all created in the image of God with dignity, value, and worth, no matter your skin color, national citizenship, zip code, or language.

It sounds so basic, so simple, so obvious, yet time and time again I hear about people—often pastors—who fail to value or sometimes even recognize the “other.” Every person you meet this week is a masterpiece! That includes those noisy kids that are going stir-crazy from staring at computer screens all day. That includes the person with the cardboard sign, the annoying co-worker, the harsh boss, the nagging spouse, the lunatic driving 70 on the Trail, and yes, those politicians you despise from the other party.

For the record, I still content Michael Jordan is the GOAT, the greatest of all time in the game of basketball. If you disagree, I can respect that. But the ultimate GOAT, the greatest human of all time is undeniably Jesus the Messiah. His teaching was great. His example was great. His love was great. His death and resurrection were great. Thousands of years later, he remains the most powerful, most influential person in history.

We love him—and others— because he first loved us.
We serve others because he served us.
We are hospitable and welcome the stranger because he welcomes us into his family.
We die to ourselves so we can live as new creations.

Jesus is the greatest, and he is worthy of our praise and worship, both in word and deed, all of our heart, all of our soul, all of our mind, all of our strength.

Family, be great! Humbly serve. Extend hospitality. Love well. It’s the Jesus way to live.

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

2020 Vision, 15 September 2019

2020 Vision: Back to our Roots
Series—A Love Supreme
Colossians 2:6-19

Series Big Idea:
Christ is above all others. This is a study on the book of Colossians.

Big Idea:
We must always remain rooted in the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Why are you here?
These were the first words I ever spoke from this platform nearly four years ago. It’s a simple question with a variety of answers, some more spiritual than others, but all leading to you being present this morning. One response can be found in our lobby:

For the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.

This phrase is taken from the first two verses of the book of Revelation:

The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. (Revelation 1:1-2)

Although the kids have been in school for several weeks and the football season is well underway, today is really our fall kickoff. Technically, fall begins this Saturday. More than a message about the next few months, I want to talk about the upcoming ministry year, the upcoming calendar year, what I’d like to call 2020 Vision. It’s hard to believe a new decade begins in less than sixteen weeks.

Before we look ahead, I want to mention a word I’ve heard people using a lot around here. Some have said we are a “
conservative” church…or used to be…or should be. Unfortunately, to many, that means one thing: Republican. But we must never confuse faith with politics. Here’s what “conservative” means according to the dictionary:

holding to traditional attitudes and values and cautious about change or innovation,

Are we a conservative church? Should we be a conservative church? No…and yes.

On the one hand, we must recognize that our world is changing. 2020 will look much different than 2010, to say nothing of 1920 or AD 20.

We need to be guided by our Alliance family’s core values (seen on posters in our lobby).

One of them states:

Achieving God’s purposes means taking faith-filled risks. This always involves change. - Hebrews 1

Do you see the paradox? This value is not, by definition, conservative, yet holding to our values
is conservative!

Here are our other values:

Lost people matter to God. He wants them found.
Luke 19:10
Prayer is the primary work of God’s people.
Philippians 4:6-7
Everything we have belongs to God; we are His stewards.
1 Chronicles 29:14
Knowing and obeying God’s Word is fundamental to all true success.
Joshua 1:8
Completing the Great Commission will require the mobilization of every fully-devoted disciple.
Matthew 28:19
Without the Holy Spirit’s empowerment, we can accomplish nothing.
1 Corinthians 2:4-5

We must always remain rooted in the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Is Jesus conservative?

God never changes. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever…and yet He is moving. He is doing new things.

Why are you here? Quite literally, we wouldn’t be here without a man named Albert Benjamin Simpson.


Today I want to go back to our roots. I don’t mean 2007 conservative. I don’t mean 1987 conservative. Let’s go back to 1887!

A.B. Simpson came to Toledo on December 5, 1887 and planted the Toledo Gospel Tabernacle, now known as First Alliance Church. Since then, we’ve had several buildings, a number of pastors, and thousands of people who have called our family home. Getting back to our roots means we look at who we got here. Why did Simpson travel from New York City to Toledo? He wanted everyone to know Jesus: rich, poor, black, white, young, old, male, female.

Our series this month,
A Love Supreme, is a study of the book of Colossians. Paul wrote to the church in Colossae…

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)

Paul wrote to another church,

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 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 3:26-28)

It’s all about Jesus.

It’s not about the color of the carpet, the volume of the music, the hair of the preacher, or the clapping abilities of the congregants.

It’s all about Jesus.

Our text for today is found in Colossians chapter 2.

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (Colossians 2:6-7)

It’s all about Jesus.
We must always remain rooted in the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Paul continues…

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. (Colossians 2:8)

There are tens of thousands of Christian denominations in our world, which I find tragic. Many of them came about when one church split from another over human tradition. Perhaps the two most divisive issues in the history of Christianity have involved communion—where Jesus simply told us to remember him—and how much water to use in baptism! This is called religion! This is what Jesus despised! He did away with the Jew/Gentile walls and division. The focus must never be on legalism, but life. The life of Jesus. The abundant life Jesus offers.

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. (Colossians 2:9-12)

It’s all about Jesus. It’s about dying to ourselves and living for Christ.

In two weeks, we’re going to have another baptism. The symbolism is so rich, entering a water grave and being raised with Jesus, experiencing new life.

If you’re a follower of Jesus—or want to be—and have never been baptized, please let us know today, either in person or via e-mail.

Are you ready for some good news?
Are you ready for some great news?

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Colossians 2:13-15)

That is one of my favorite verses in the Bible! Jesus made a public spectacle of satan and his team of demons when he died for us. He triumphed! He died for all of our sins—past, present and future—if we repent and follow him.

Jesus is alive!
Jesus is the victor!
Jesus is LORD!

It’s all about Jesus.

It’s not about religion. It’s not about legalism. It’s about Jesus.
We must always remain rooted in the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow. (Colossians 2:16-19)

We need to be connected to Jesus. We need to focus on Jesus. And when we do, we look at culture and politics through the lens of Jesus, and not look at Jesus through the lens of culture and politics.

We must hold our traditions and preferences loosely… while holding biblical orthodoxies tightly.

Put any two people in a room and they’ll discover differences. Division is easy. Unity is another matter entirely. Jesus’ one prayer for us—it’s in John 17—is unity. He prayed that we would be one as he and the Father are one.

A.B. Simpson never sought to start a denomination. He merely planted churches which didn’t formally become a denomination until almost a century later in 1974. He didn’t want to get caught up in quarrels and controversies. He wanted to focus on the essentials and let the peripheral issues remain peripheral. As a result,

We are a diverse family.

This is true both The Alliance. 40% of Alliance churches in the USA are non-anglo, speaking 37 languages and dialects! That’s just in the USA. 90% of Alliance members live outside the USA!

Here at First Alliance Church, we are growing more diverse, which I think is a beautiful thing. I believe every church should reach its community, serve its city, reflect its population. As we’ve been welcoming new people to First Alliance Church, some people have gotten a little uncomfortable. That’s ok. It’s not about you or me anyhow.

It’s all about Jesus.

I recently heard a speaker make an incredible statement of diversity. She said diversity is inviting someone to the party. Inclusion is inviting them to dance! We need to invite everyone to dance! We want to be more than a friendly church. We want to be a family of friends.

If you don’t like diversity in this life, you won’t like what’s next! John gives us an amazing vision:

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. And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9-10)

We’re different because God made us this way! Each of us is unique and special.
Anyone can get along with people like them. The beauty of the gospel, the distinction of the people of God, is that they become all things to all people, like Paul. They sacrifice their preferences, welcome strangers, and they see themselves as a mosaic—a collection of different, broken pieces that come together to create a work of art through which light shines. Consequently,

We must love and respect others…always. They are masterpieces.

Jesus’ half-brother, James, said never play favorites (James 2). We’re not here just for young people or attractive people or rich people. Every person in our family is created in the image of God with dignity, value and worth, a masterpiece, God’s masterpiece. We all need some restoration and cleaning, but we all have something to offer. That’s the way family works. You might disagree with the politics or fashion or worship style of your brother or sister, but they’re family. They deserve love and respect. Always. Over and over again, the Bible demonstrates that love for God and man has its greatest expression in community.

Recently, someone told me
love is listen, overlook, value, and encourage. I like that!

Jesus died for the whole world. Everyone. All people. All nations. All generations.

We must be mission-driven…commission-driven. It’s about making disciples.

Jesus has given us a commission—not a suggestion—to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20). We’re not about programs or distributing religious goods and services. We’re not a social club for members-only. We are on a mission from God. The way we describe is…

We are a Jesus-centered family restoring God’s masterpieces in Toledo and beyond for His glory. (Ephesians 2:10)

We are a diverse family. We are called to be a loving family. We are here for both the city and the world. We’re going back…to our roots.

So What?

This fall we’ll be joining what will hopefully be hundreds of churches in our region giving everyone in our five counties a chance to hear the gospel…to see the gospel! Saturate Toledo is providing all of the Jesus film DVDs, booklets, and bags. We’ll get together and pray, stuff the bags, include our church info, and hang them on doors. It couldn’t be easier. Begin praying now for this unique outreach opportunity. It could change our community.

Dinner Church continues to exceed our expectations. We already have featured artists booked for the fall. We might need to buy more round tables since we’ve filled most every seat at the ones we have, but that’s a good problem! Unchurched people are encountering Jesus each month and I couldn’t be more excited!

Celebrate Recovery has been growing, serving not only people struggling with addictions, but also the 2 out of 3 participants who are dealing with the hurts and pain life brings to each of us.

This is our fourth year serving
Rosa Parks Elementary, both students and staff. The impact has been tremendous.

Next month our
After School Klub begins its 21st year serving the next generation. This will be Sharralynn Cook’s second year leading the ASK and if you haven’t worked with her, you have no idea what you’re missing! It’s an all-new Klub! Toledo Urban Impact is just one of our ten Home Missions partners.

That Neighborhood Church—our sister congregation in The Alliance—has offered to assist us in serving our growing population of people in need of basic life skills. Our partnerships with TNC and other area churches—including The Tabernacle and Vineyard—will unify and build God’s kingdom in Toledo and beyond.

We’ve also been getting help from Allegheny Alliance in Pittsburgh. Urban ministry is new for many of us, and we’ve been blessed with many trailblazers who have offered to equip us.

Perhaps our most important ministry—besides our prayer teams—is our
small groups. They remain the core of First Alliance Church. If you’re not in a group, you’re missing out on community, care, fellowship, and fun. An hour on Sunday is not enough to sustain a vibrant spiritual life. We were created to do life together.

Why are you here? I hope it’s for Jesus. I pray it’s because of our mission:

We are a Jesus-centered family restoring God’s masterpieces in Toledo and beyond for His glory. (Ephesians 2:10)

We need to be conservative—rooted in God’s Word, our core values, our history…but doing so involves change. It involves new wineskins for new wine. It means opening the doors wide for new people…and more importantly getting outside our four walls to love and serve the world…in deed and word. It’s about the inspiring vision of our founder, A.B. Simpson, and most of all…

It’s about Jesus. It has always been all about Jesus.

We must always remain rooted in the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.

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