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

Envision DR: Hospitality, 15 July 2018

Romans 12:9-13

Big Idea: All believers are called to practice hospitality—welcoming the stranger—as our brothers and sisters in the Dominican Republic demonstrated so beautifully.

One of this month’s Mission 119 devotional readings included this passage from Romans chapter twelve:

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. (Romans 12:9-13)

Does anyone have a problem with that text? I doubt it. These words from Paul to the early Christians in Rome are filled with encouragement. Look at these words:


What a vision! Surely this encouragement can be applied thousands of years later to us here at First Alliance Church. I know of nothing in the context which would suggest these instructions were only for that place and time.

After dozens of conversations with our team, one of the most consistent things I heard involved our sister church in the DR which we served. It used to be USAmericans would arrive in a foreign country with Bibles and money and unknowingly do more harm than good, arrogantly creating us versus them scenarios resulting in unintended yet damaging consequences.

The beauty of the Alliance family and Envision Teams in particular is how we work together as equals. Envision contacted an Alliance church in Reparadero, DR and asked how our team might serve them. I asked our team to go with a servant’s towel on their arms. By the way, many people love the idea of being servants until they’re treated like one!

When we arrived at the church, we were literally greeted with open arms, warmly embraced, and deeply loved. Although some things were lost in translation, one thing was obvious:
they practice hospitality—welcoming the stranger!

We attended their weekly Sunday worship gathering on our first day in the DR. On Monday, we did prayer walks in small groups, visiting people who live near the church, inviting them to church events, and offering to pray for them. We prayed with some for physical healing. We prayed with some for relatives. Arguably the greatest joy was praying with a husband and wife as they accepted Jesus as their Savior and LORD. On Tuesday and Wednesday, we returned to the church to do VBS-type work with the youth, including music, skits, Bible lessons, and My Story segments.

Thursday was our day or recreation at the beach before Friday’s finale in the evening. One of the most striking comments came from a team member who told me, “I wish we would’ve skipped the beach day and spent another day at the church!”

Perhaps the two most distinct things about the Reparadero church were their passion for Jesus and their hospitality.

When they sang, they sang…and smiled…and raised their hands…and danced. It wasn’t because they were wealthy or powerful, but rather they love Jesus and are fully dependent upon him for their daily bread. Their worship was inspiring, and I pray it is contagious!

Their hospitality was also inspiring, and I hope it is contagious, too. FAC family, we are called—even commanded—to practice hospitality, to welcome the stranger. Romans does not say tolerate the stranger or let them in the door, but rather welcome them. Make them feel at home. Let them know they belong. If you’re new around here, I hope you’ve felt welcome. We’ve all had experiences at a business where we felt like an interruption to someone’s day…and then there’s Chick-fil-A! The church in the DR made us feel like Chick-fil-A…and that’s my desire for First Alliance Church. I long for guests to feel like family…and become family. That’s hospitality. That’s biblical!

So What?

Here are a few simple things I want to challenge you with, family. If you are able, please consider:

  1. a. Parking away from the church building, leaving the best spaces for guests
  2. b. Opening the door for others, which is actually just common courtesy
  3. c. Looking for people in the lobby who look lost or lonely and simply saying hello
  4. d. Sitting closer to the front of the sanctuary, leaving the back rows for guests
  5. e. Inviting a newcomer out to lunch at your home or a restaurant
  6. f. Avoiding the temptation to converse only with friends following the worship gathering
  7. g. Inviting a guest to your small group or Sunday School class
  8. h. Take someone out for drinks at Claro Coffee Bar, our hospitality outpost on Adams Street

These are not suggestions for our ushers and greeters. They are for all of us. We are all called to practice hospitality, to welcome the stranger. You’ve experienced it at Chick-fil-A. We experienced it in the DR. It is a beautiful expression of God’s love. When we welcome, love, and serve strangers, we are doing it to Jesus.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Church: Hospital or Museum? 11 June 2017

    Church: Hospital or Museum?
    Mark’s Gospel: The Real Jesus
    Mark 2:13-17

    Series Big Idea: The shortest gospel is filled with good news about Jesus!

    Big Idea: We are to welcome sinners, recognizing we are sinners ourselves.

    Good morning saints! Good morning sinners!

    My name is Kirk and we’re studying Mark’s biography of The Real Jesus. In chapter 2, he has been baptized, begun his preaching ministry, and done some healings. Word is spreading and while he is attracting crowds, he’s also drawing the envy and wrath of religious leaders. This will be a common theme, so significant the religious leaders will eventually kill him.

    Jesus has at least four followers—four fishermen. Now he continues his recruiting trip.

    Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him. (Mark 2:13-14)

    Levi is also likely called Matthew, though it is possible he was not one of the Twelve, making this invitation even more compelling. He works at a toll booth, but it’s not automated like the ones on the Turnpike. These collectors were known for extortion and dishonesty.

    Levi likely worked for Herod Antipas. His father’s kingdom was divided among his three sons. Tolls suddenly had to be paid to cross from one part of the old kingdom to another. Levi did not have a popular job!

    Jesus comes by, and instead of complaining or swearing at Levi, he says, “Follow me.” What an invitation! Instead of working for a man who thought of himself as king of the Jews, he is invited to follow the true King of the Jews, the Messiah.

    Can you imagine someone walks into your office, says, “Follow me,” and you walk out on your job? Levi takes a huge risk in following Jesus. The fishermen can always return to fishing, but a government job? They’re not always available, especially after suddenly leaving without giving your two weeks notice!

    Jesus’ identity as King was not yet revealed, though. Instead, he was known as a preaching doctor who loved to throw parties…for sinners, outcasts, the marginalized.

    While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. (Mark 2:15)

    Jesus continues to attract crowds, even at dinnertime. But he did not just attract the educated and elite, the righteous and religious. Jesus was a friend of sinners.

    The best scholarship seems to suggest Jesus was the host, throwing a party at Levi’s house. Jesus doesn’t just preach to sinners; he befriends them. He loves them. He offends the religious establishment who have rejected these “sinners.”

    When we are invited to dinner, the polite thing to do is say…yes. Who doesn’t like a free meal, right? But in the first century, table fellowship implied friendship—even approval. If you and I share a meal together, it tells the world we are close friends. Does Jesus approve of these greedy, dishonest tax collectors and sinners? Doesn’t he care about holiness? It makes sense for Levi to gather with fellow sinners, but why is Jesus present?

    When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (Mark 2:16)

    They’re afraid to ask Jesus! They go to his disciples and criticize him.

    Now the Pharisees get a bad rap. It’s deserved, but they were devout. They wanted to honor God by carefully following the Jewish law. They made two mistakes, however. First, they were prideful, also satan’s downfall. Second, they focused on every minute detail of the law without understanding the purpose and spirit of the law. They could no longer see the forest for the trees. They were so concerned about staying clean and pure that they missed opportunities to love their neighbor, to extend forgiveness, and to see reconciliation and repentance. They wanted to exercise control rather than compassion.

    But make no mistake, Jesus did not endorse sin.

    In John chapter 8, a woman is caught in the act of adultery. A group of Pharisees condemns her. Jesus famously says, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” One by one, the Pharisees walk away, leaving only Jesus and the woman. He says he does not condemn her. He offers grace and compassion. But the story doesn’t end there. He tells her, “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

    Jesus welcomed sinners. Jesus loved sinners. But because Jesus loved them, he urged them to repent, to turn, to change…not because he doesn’t want them to have fun, but instead because he knows there’s a better way to live.

    Sin always leads to death. It might not be instant physical death, but it will kill relationships—with others, with God. Sin will destroy our ability to experience the abundant life Jesus taught and modeled. Greed. Pride. Adultery. Envy. Gossip. The list goes on.

    Can people live in sin and survive. Sure! But I’ve discovered following Jesus and his Word are the path to true satisfaction, true peace, and true joy. We need to welcome sinners

    We need to welcome sinners, but we also need to encourage them to experience Jesus, grow in their faith, and love God and their neighbor.
    David Garland notes,

    “to follow Jesus in the full sense of the word requires repentance and obedience. His goal in reaching out to the sick is to bring about healing and transformation in their lives, not to gather them together for a fun time. Instead of sorting people into classifications, holy and unholy, clean and unclean, righteous and sinner, Jesus gathers them under the wings of God’s grace and love.”

    It breaks my heart to see people make poor choices. But what shall I do? It depends upon the relationship. If it’s someone I know and love, tolerance might be the most hateful thing I can do, standing by watching them self-destruct. On the other hand, getting in their face about their behavior may cause our relationship to be destroyed. Obviously, this calls for wisdom…and it matters greatly if the person claims to follow Jesus or not.

    If you are my brother or sister in Christ, I owe it to you to encourage you to pursue Jesus. This doesn’t mean I point out all of your sins, but it does mean I might love you enough to confront.

    This week I received a short e-mail which simply said, “If I'm openly gay, would I be accepted at your church?”

    Would they, church?

    If they are seeking to know God, I hope and pray we would welcome them with open arms. I replied:

    All are welcome at First Alliance Church. We exist to help people know and experience Jesus, our example of what it means to be truly human. I hope to meet you soon.

    When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (Mark 2:16)

    Why was Jesus a friend to tax collectors and sinners?

    On hearing this, Jesus said to them,
    “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17)

    We are not a museum for saints. There’s a museum next door if you want a museum!

    We are a hospital for sinners. And we’re all sinners! It might get messy. It might get uncomfortable. But the reason we’re still on this planet is because of the
    mission Dei, the mission of God, to seek and save the lost, to call sinners, to heal the sick, to make disciples, to serve the least of these, to love the unlovable. If all you care about is your own comfort, it’s not Jesus you’re following. Jesus lived to die and that’s what he calls his followers to do—die to ourselves and love and serve others.

    You would think after 2000 years we would understand this, but religion persists. Self-righteous people insist on pointing fingers.

    Love the sinner, hate the sin? How about love the sinner, hate your own sin?

    Brothers and sisters, I can summarize this message in three words. Many Christians have had the attitude the if you behave and believe, you can belong.

    Behave – Believe – Belong

    We must reverse it. Jesus did! He said you belong. As you are loved and accepted, belief often follows naturally. And don’t miss this: when you believe in Jesus and make him King and LORD, you are also given the Holy Spirit who gives you power to behave. You can’t just change your behavior because someone tells you to do so. You need power. You can’t just walk up to a guy with a brown bag on the streets and say, “Stop drinking” and expect him to never take another drink. He needs power to quit his addiction.

    And we’re all addicted to sin of one sort or another.

    Belong – Believe - Behave

    You belong here. All of you. Everyone. Young or old. Gay or straight. Black or white. Christian or atheist. Citizen or immigrant. Republican or Democrat. You belong here. You were created in the image of God with dignity, value and worth. Jesus died for you. Come as you are.

    But we don’t want you to stay that way. Jesus doesn’t want you to stay as you are. He tells all of us to “go and sin no more,” not because he’s a scolding, condemning God but because he knows sin will always harm us. He wants what’s best for us.

    You belong here. We would love for you to experience Jesus and believe in him, surrendering your life to him. It’s not that we are trying to manipulate you or sell you anything, but we’ve discovered the source of real life, real peace, real joy and it’s not in religion but it’s in a person, Jesus!

    If you welcome Jesus into your life, you will want to change, you will want to follow Him, and you’ll be given the Holy Spirit’s power to do so.

    "God judges, the Holy Spirit convicts, we are to love." -Billy Graham

    Credits: some ideas from NT Wright, J. Vernon McGee, and David Garland.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Toledo: Get Ready, 28 August 2016

    Toledo: Get Ready
    7 Letters: Revelation 2-3
    Revelation 1:1-8

    Series Overview

    Revelation is the Gospel according to Jesus. In chapters two and three, he speaks to seven churches, offering both correction and encouragement. Each is relevant to our church today.

    Message Overview

    Toledo is not mentioned in the Bible, but we are a part of the universal Church. How are we like the seven churches in Revelation? What is Jesus saying to us in 2016? Our baptistery has been empty. Who will be an advocate for the lost? The focus will be on hospitality and outreach: pray, serve, share.

    Big Idea

    Jesus loves Toledo and is alive and active in our city inviting us to join him.


    Welcome to First Alliance Church. The Bible often refers to the Church as the Bride of Christ. For the past several weeks we’ve been looking at Jesus’ words to the seven churches in the book of Revelation. We examined…

    • - Ephesus (First Love)
    • - Smyrna (Persecution)
    • - Pergamum (False Teaching)
    • - Thyatira (Sexual Sin)
    • - Sardis (Wake Up)
    • - Philadelphia (Faithful)
    • - Laodicea (Lukewarm)

    Each week in the series we’ve tried to apply the messages of these seven ancient churches to our own lives, church, and city…which begs the question,

    “What is God saying to us in Toledo?”

    This series has focused on the second and third chapters of Revelation. Today I want to go to the beginning, back to chapter one. It begins

    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)

    As we have often said, First Alliance Church is about Jesus. We do not exist to make a name for our church, for the Christian & Missionary Alliance (our denomination), or even Toledo. We are all about Jesus Christ. He is our Savior, Sanctifier, Healer, and Coming King.

    Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near. (Revelation 1:3)

    Do you want be blessed? Read God’s Word. Study it. Read it aloud, it says. Most of all, obey it. Put it into practice. Take to heart what is written in it. This is true not only for the book of Revelation but the entire Bible.


    To the seven churches in the province of Asia:

    Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. (Revelation 1:4-5a)

    As we said, Jesus speaks to John who writes the book of Revelation.

    To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen. (Revelation 1:5b-6)

    There’s so much here! Jesus has freed us from our sins. Hallelujah!

    Jesus has made us to be a kingdom and priests. We are all called to be ambassadors of Jesus to our city and world.

    “Look, he is coming with the clouds,” and “every eye will see him, even those who pierced him”; and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.” So shall it be! Amen. (Revelation 1:7)

    Jesus will return and all will see him. What a day that will be!

    “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:8)

    This is our God. He is Almighty. He transcends time and space. He has always been. He is. He will always be. Our God is truly awesome.

    Revelation 7:9-10

    If we skip ahead several chapters, we get a glimpse of what appears to be 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. 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 are on God’s mission to make disciples of all nations. What a privilege! What a responsibility! How are doing?

    Jesus said the two greatest commandments are to love God and love your neighbor. All of life is about relationships. I like to think of it like a triangle:

    UP: relationship to God
    IN: relationship to one another (the church)
    OUT: relationship to the world

    I’ve been at First Alliance Church for less than a year. I have made a conscious decision to spend this first year listening, learning, and making as few major decisions as possible. People have asked me what my vision is for our church and I’ve said

    1. a. It’s not about my vision, it’s about God’s vision. Jesus is our Senior Pastor
    2. b. I need to know where we are before I can imagine a destination

    Therefore, what I’m about to say is preliminary. This is my sense of what Jesus is saying to First Alliance Church. This is not “thus saith the LORD” and is not to be taken as scripture. Would you like to hear it?

    “To the angel of the church in Toledo write:

    These are the words of the Son of God, who has a throne in front of what looks like a sea of glass.

    Did you catch that, Glass City?!

    I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance. I know you love Me. You are faithful in worship, generous with your money, and eager to serve. You eat together (as evidenced at last week’s picnic) and fellowship together on Sundays and in small groups. Your UP and IN relationships are commendable.

    Nevertheless, I have this against you: Your passion for the lost is weak. Sure, some of you reach OUT, but you went two years without a baptism and there are those right outside your doors desperate for salvation, hope, and healing. Go and make disciples!

    Allow me to elaborate.
    UP: relationship to God

    I believe our church truly loves God. Many of you have been faithfully attending on Sunday mornings for years, even decades. For more than twelve decades we have been worshipping in UpTown Toledo, praying, giving financially, and committed to the Word of God.

    One part of our church’s story is the creative arts. God is an artist and we were created in His image. We have had choirs, orchestras, handbells, and bands along with drama, musicals, and even this building which I believe is a work of art. We are geographically on the Avenue of the Arts next to one of the nation’s greatest art museums just blocks for dozens of art galleries. For years we have even trained future artists at our summer arts camp. I’m excited to announce today a new addition to our team to help enhance our worship. Charlie Flack has been hired as our Creative Arts Consultant. His part-time role will include mentoring Hayden Bewley, our outstanding young worship intern, and developing other artistic ministries such as tech and video. Our elders initiated the idea earlier this month after Charlie blessed us as a guest worship leader and we are thrilled to welcome him.

    I might add we have a growing staff, though only two of us—Josh and myself—are full-time. God has blessed us with an incredible staff whose job is NOT to do the ministry, but rather to equip the saints (that’s you!) for the ministry.

    IN: relationship to one another (the church)

    Our church loves one another. Truly! One of my four prayers for us is unity and I’ve experienced a sense of oneness during my months here. Heather and I deeply love being a part of this family…and if you’re new around here, welcome! I might add these gatherings are vital, but the real connections occur in groups: Sunday School, Bible studies, and small groups. If you’re not in one, you’re missing out on possibly the richest dimension of First Alliance. There’s a list of groups at the Information Center in the lobby.

    By the way, I love our groups. I love when they relate UP to God. I love when they relate IN to one another. Today I want to challenge every group to do some kind of OUT activity. Throw a party, serve at Cherry Street Mission, set up a prayer booth,…do anything that will help you build relationships with the unchurched. Do it once a month, once a quarter…once a year!

    Which leads us to

    OUT: relationship to the world

    Making disciples ideally begins in the home, but today in our city so many are growing up with no understanding of God and His love. Our church has chosen to be in the city of Toledo, even when others fled to the suburbs. We are uniquely positioned in UpTown to reach out to not only the underprivileged but also the up-and-coming artists and young professionals who will become our neighbors over the next few years. Would you like a sneak preview of what’s ahead?


    Sue Trumbull is an exception leader leading an exceptional team of people committed to children’s ministry. Each Sunday they love kids during Sunday School and the worship hour. They produce special events. They have Wednesday night programs for students. And then there’s sports and arts camp.

    For months people told me about sports and arts camp…and then I experienced it. Wow! It was so exciting to see dozens of kids from the neighborhood exposed to faith, hope and love. It may have been the best week of the year for me.

    But then I began to think about the 51 weeks until next summer’s camp. So many of the seeds scattered will surely be snatched up or choked by the weeds and rocks of this world. What can we do to build lasting relationships with these precious children?

    I’m glad you asked! First, the After School Klub (ASK) starts up again in October serving many of these kids two days a week. That’s great! I praise God for everyone involved in Toledo Urban Impact and the After School Klub.

    Recently Charles Carter has had a burden to get these kids here on Sunday mornings. Imagine what a difference it would be to go from one week to 52 Sundays a year. We need two things to make this happen: more children’s ministry workers and van drivers to pick up the kids. Is God calling you to invest in the next generation? They need you!

    We are also in conversations with the local YMCA about ways we can expand our partnership. They assist with sports and arts camp but we could do so much more for these kids if we work together.

    Perhaps the most exciting development is Keep Watch: Praying for the Hearts of Our Children. I don’t know how this is even possible in our day of political correctness, but we’ve been invited to pray in and through Rosa Parks School on Cherry Street once a week. This pre-school through grade eight school has 250 students who test in the lowest 5% of all students in Ohio. The principal, Ms. Richburg, is asking for us to adopt her school, read to students, encourage teachers, and pray…pray in the school! This seems like an incredible opportunity for us, an opportunity that could close in the future if TPS staffing changes.

    Imagine if we had weekly—even semi-weekly—influence on the lives of children in our city? It could literally change our city. Studies show kids are far more likely to follow Jesus than unchurched adults. We have a unique invitation to build relationships with those outside our church family, extending God’s love and hospitality.


    Speaking of relationships and hospitality, we have been working hard to enhance our hospitality—welcoming the stranger, the guest, the newcomer—on Sunday mornings. However, long before I arrived at First Alliance a group of people realized no matter how dynamic our gatherings in this building, many in Toledo will never walk through our doors. We need to go to them. In fact, Jesus 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)

    He said go! He didn’t say, “Ring the bell and watch everyone come to church.” He said to go under his authority into the world and make disciples.

    After some considerable, unavoidable delays, we are weeks—maybe days—from opening CLARO Coffee Bar, our new hospitality ministry in UpTown at Adams and 18
    th. Many have asked how we intend on using this space for ministry and the answer is simple: relationships. We are intentionally creating space for spiritual conversations. This means listening, learning, and loving. Christians are, unfortunately, known for monologue rather than dialog. Whether it’s fair or not, many picture a guy with a megaphone rather than someone truly concerned for their welfare.

    CLARO will be serving amazing coffee and tea. It will be staffed by caring, friendly baristas seeking to develop friendships with guests, not just taking orders from customers. Tables will be open for you to engage with people, listening to their story, and sharing yours. I heard someone talking about putting tracts or leaflets in the bathroom and my first thought was to use them in dialog with a person, not monolog on a sink. We want people building relationships with us, not a toilet!

    Research indicates the longer someone is a follower of Jesus, the fewer unchurched friends they have, which makes sense on one hand but is unfortunate. We are to be salt and light in our dark world. We must always be prepared to give a reason for the hope we have in Jesus…but it begins with relationships.

    How many unchurched people do you know? How many of your neighbors can you name? When is the last time you had a meal with a non-Christian?

    OUT need not be scary or painful. Buy someone a cup of coffee. Go to Rosa Parks school and pray. Throw a Labor Day party and invite your neighbors. Join a local parks and rec team. Become a conversation partner with an international student through Water for Ishmael. Serve with Cherry Street Mission or Toledo Gospel Rescue Mission.

    I’ll make this extremely simple: pray, invite, and listen. Pray for your unchurched friends—or pray FOR unchurched friends—and invite them over for a meal or out for a cup of coffee. And listen. Don’t make them your project. Don’t preach to them. Just love them like a human being. Have fun with them. Be a friend to them. Ask them about their spiritual journey.

    If and when it seems appropriate, invite them to the Alpha Course…or Sunday morning here. This fall we’re doing a six week series entitled, “What happens when you die?” It’s about heaven. We’ll talk about hell, too, but people are fascinated with heaven. Movies have been made about it. Best-selling books talk about it. We all have questions about it, but we’re going to look at what the Bible actually says (and doesn’t say) about heaven. But it all begins with conversations, with friendships, with intentionally reaching OUT.


    Months ago I sensed God saying two words to me regarding our church: Get Ready. We are equipping leaders, building our staff, and preparing for a great harvest. The cobwebs are off the baptistery and I hope we fill it often. God is blessing us with incredible opportunities to connect with children and our UpTown neighbors. Get ready, church. Get on your knees. Pray and invite…and make disciples for the glory of God.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Welcome Strangers, Family Rules, 25 January 2015

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

    Big Idea:
    A healthy church family shows hospitality by welcoming strangers.


    When I was a little boy, one of the commands of my parents was to never talk to strangers. This is certainly good advice for a young child, but it tragically carries over into adulthood.

    Since I’ve lived in the midwest my entire life, I don’t know if this is true elsewhere, but I’m always amazed at how people walk past one another on the sidewalk and look down as they approach, as if to either ignore the other human or pretend they are invisible from them. Can we not simply say, “Hi!” as we pass? I do this sometimes when I’m jogging, often startling the person who seems surprised they are recognized. Yes, I talk to strangers…or at least greet them occasionally.

    We’re in the middle of a series called “Family Rules,” a double entendre. We began with the admonishment to
    know thyself. Last week we talked about how important it is to keep it real…no perfect people allowed (except Jesus!). Today’s rule is welcome strangers.

    Think of a time when you were in an unfamiliar place. Maybe you were in another city, state, or even country. It could be a local business or even a home. How did you feel upon entering? What happened when you were noticed?

    Being a stranger can be awkward, uncomfortable, and even frightening. Extroverts are perceived to be more calm about interactions with new people, but even they can experience anxiety when they enter a new environment. Dorothy said, “There’s no place like home,” and the further removed we are from those places we know, the more likely we are to be stressed or nervous.

    Last fall we did a series entitled
    Covenant and Kingdom. The gist of the series was God invites us into a covenant relationship with Him and then challenges us to go and serve in His Kingdom. It began with God inviting Abram—later Abraham—into a covenant relationship that birthed Israel.

    At the risk of stating the obvious, our culture is radically different than that of the early church in the New Testament, to say nothing of the Old Testament. Several weeks ago we talked about the birth of Jesus and the search for a place for that event. Hospitality was largely taken for granted.

    In the Old Testament, hospitality was more than just a custom. It demonstrated faithfulness to God. In one instance—from a passage we read this week via One Story—Abraham welcomed three special strangers:

    The LORD appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.

    He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.”

    “Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.”

    So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three seahs of the finest flour and knead it and bake some bread.”

    Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree. (Genesis 18:1-8)

    Sure, it was a different culture. There were no Motel 6s, much less Ritz Carltons. Travelers would die without the hospitality of hosts on their journey. In fact, it was a serious offense to not provide for strangers.

    No Ammonite or Moabite or any of their descendants may enter the assembly of the LORD, not even in the tenth generation. For they did not come to meet you with bread and water on your way when you came out of Egypt…(Deuteronomy 23:3-4a)

    We could talk for hours about hospitality in the Old Testament.

    Here are some examples of people welcoming strangers in the Old Testament:

    Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18)
    Abraham (Genesis 18:3-8)
    Lot (Genesis 19:2, 3)
    Laban (Genesis 24:31)
    Jethro (Exodus 2:20)
    Manoah (Judges 13:15)
    Samuel (1 Samuel 9:22)
    David (2 Samuel 6:19)
    Barzillai (2 Samuel 19:32)
    Shunammite (2 Kings 4:8)
    Nehemiah (Nehemiah 5:17)
    Job (Job 31:17, 32)

    In the New Testament, hospitality remained a priority. Sometimes this involved water for a guest’s feet and oil for their head. It could include a kiss of welcome or food.

    Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. (Romans 12:9-13)

    Here are some examples of people welcoming strangers in the NewTestament:

    Zacchaeus (Luke 19:6)
    Samaritans (John 4:40)
    Lydia (Acts 16:15)
    Jason (Acts 17:7)
    Mnason (Acts 21:16)
    People of Melita (Acts 28:2)
    Publius (Acts 28:7)
    Gaius (3 John 1:5, 6)

    Jesus’ ministry required the hospitality of others as He and His followers traveled. (Mk. 1:29ff.; 2:15ff.; Lk. 7:36ff.; 10:38–41)

    Jesus told them

    If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” (Luke 9:5)

    One of the most sobering passages in the entire Bible makes reference of welcoming the stranger. Jesus said

    “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. (Matthew 25:31-33)

    “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ (Matthew 25:34-36)

    “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ (Matthew 25:37-39)

    “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:40)

    “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ (Matthew 25:41-43)

    “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ (Matthew 25:44)

    “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ (Matthew 25:45)

    “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 25:46)

    Could Jesus be any clearer? When we welcome strangers, we welcome Jesus. When we serve the poor, feed the hungry, visit the prisoner…we are serving Jesus.

    And that must be our motivation, our vision. Welcoming strangers is not done because it necessarily brings us pleasure, happiness, or comfort. At its most primal essence hospitality is an expression of love.

    The writer of Hebrews said

    Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. (Hebrews 13:1-2)

    If you met Jesus in the flesh, and you knew it was Jesus, would you treat Him differently than an immigrant with a thick accent in the airport?

    If you met an angel, and you knew it was an angel, and you weren’t freaked out by it, would you treat them differently than a pan handler on the street?

    A special emphasis is placed upon serving other believers, especially because many were persecuted, driven from their homes, and fighting to survive.

    Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (Galatians 6:10)

    We are family. Family takes care of family.

    The Shadow Side of Family

    It has been said that every strength has a corresponding weakness. A close-knit family is great…until someone wants to break in and join! Virtually every married person knows the thrill of joining a new family, meeting the in-laws, encountering that strange uncle, and trying to learn everyone’s name. That’s just the beginning! For years—decades—you are surrounded by stories that are as foreign to you as Siberia.

    The majority of our Scio family has been together for more than ten years. That’s a long time, especially in the Ann Arbor area. Some of our youth have literally grown up together. You have stories, you have inside jokes, you have close friendships…and possibly cliques, too.

    This month marks four years for me at Scio. In most churches, that would be considered quite a while, but honestly, I still feel rather new around here. Many of you have been a part of our family two, three, four, or five times as long as Heather and I have…some even longer! If I feel new, imagine how first or second-time guests feel.

    The Good News

    I believe we are getting better at welcoming the stranger. I don’t have pages of data to support my belief, but last year’s Flip of our Sunday gatherings and our transition from academic Sunday School to interactive Life Groups has clearly enhanced not only our family life but created natural environments for newcomers to get connected. Many of you are diligent about introducing yourselves on Sunday morning to guests. The development of our coffee ministry by Dea, Janet, and now led by Emily not only serves our family members but provides refreshment for our guests. Thank you!

    Did you know our monthly second-Sunday potlucks were started to welcome strangers? Food is powerful. Even more than coffee, a meal can create a tremendous setting for conversation. As you meet newcomers—especially on second Sundays—encourage them to join your Life Group…and stick around for lunch.

    So What?

    Newcomers frequently tell us in surveys we are a friendly church. That’s great! As we have discovered, however, people aren’t looking for a friendly church. They are looking for friends! May I offer a few additional possibilities for welcoming the stranger…beyond Sunday?

    1. Invite someone to meet you for coffee or a meal at a restaurant or coffee shop
    2. Invite someone to your home for a meal
    3. Invite someone to your midweek Life Group
    4. Connect on social media online (this can be especially good for introverts)

    Speaking of introverts, if Jesus showed up, how would you respond? Really now! I’m not saying any of this is easy, but whoever said following Jesus was easy? He said to pick up your cross daily and follow Him.

    1. Ask open-ended questions to allow them to talk about themselves
    2. Ask how you can pray for them
    3. Pray for them, in person and/or privately
    4. Find a common interest or hobby and plan something together

    Perhaps you’re thinking, “I’m busy!” Yes. What if you could be busy
    with someone.

    9. Invite someone to go grocery shopping with you
    10. Workout together
    11. Run errands together

    You get the idea.

    Family, we’re on a mission from God. It’s not that the church has a mission, but that the mission has a church. We—the people of God—are here, and we’re not simply here to encounter God. Were that the case, we’d be swept away to paradise with God the moment we begin to follow Him. We are still here to re-present Him to those in our world that have not yet encountered their Creator, experienced rich community, surrendered their lives to Jesus making Him not only Savior but LORD, and proclaimed in word and deed His presence and power to others.

    Our mission:

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

    so that God is glorified.
    Making disciples begins with meeting people. We are blessed to have a website, a sign on a busy road, and a visible building, all of which attract visitors to our gatherings. Those strangers that arrive on our campus knowing no one take a huge risk when they walk through the front doors, something many of you have done almost unconsciously hundreds or even thousands of times. Wouldn’t it be great if their risk paid off, they made connections with us, were equipped to make connections with our community, and all the while making connections with God?

    If you are challenged or even frightened at the thought of talking with a first-time guest on Sunday morning, of shaking their hand, of even looking them in the eye and offering them a warm smile, imagine how
    they feel? This is our home. It is not theirs…yet!

    There has been much discussion amongst church leaders in recent years concerning the difference between attractional and missional church strategies. In other words, the difference between getting people to come to us versus us going into the world where they are and being Jesus with skin on, serving our communities. We need both. God has blessed us with a fantastic building and property. I’d love to see it used more often, by us and even by the community. What if our back yard became a community garden…or a park for dogs? Scio Township is trying to build a walking trail that might end on our property, a perfect destination for residents who bike, jog, or walk. We presently host music lessons, Girl Scouts, and elections. If you have ideas on how we can use our real estate to serve our community, please speak to myself or one of the elders.

    But we also need to go into all of the world and make disciples. We need to get out of our comfort zones and enter the worlds of others. We need to become the strangers, taking the risks, and enriching the lives of others with the words and deeds of good news. This summer a team of us will travel to the Dominican Republic, certainly not our home! We are going to serve, to love, to re-present Jesus…yet we will surely be blessed far greater than any blessing we could ever hope to deliver. Please give, pray, and/or go…to the Dominican Republic…and to your neighborhood.

    One More Thing

    Jesus set the ultimate example for us to follow:

    For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)

    Jesus welcomed us, messy sinners, into His family. We were strangers and aliens and now we are His brothers and sisters. We didn’t deserve it, which is why it is grace—undeserved favor. To whom much has been given, much is required. Let’s seek out the lost, the strangers, the aliens, the broken, the hurting, the poor among us and truly show them love.

    Let’s welcome strangers…until they become friends!

    By the way, kids, you still need to be careful around strangers!

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

    3 John, 17 August 2014

    Big Idea: Hospitality—welcoming the stranger— is a key characteristic of Christ-followers.

    This series is designed to encourage reading the less-read books of the Bible (according to

    Overview: John writes to a Christian named Gaius, encouraging him to continue showing hospitality to others, even though a rogue church leader condemns it.

    Author: John (author of the Gospel of John, one of Jesus’ three best friends)
    To: His friend Gaius (we know nothing more about him)
    Date: around 90 AD (85-95 AD)
    Setting: Diotrephes rejected itinerant teachers sent out by John. Gaius is encouraged to continue to extend hospitality to and support these teachers.


    He was beloved.
    He was in a local church.
    He is urged to extend hospitality to the true teachers of the Word.

    The elder,

    John is both a church elder and an old man when writing.

    To my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth. (1)

    John is writing to a dear friend who is obviously a fellow Christ-follower.

    Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

    John clearly loves Gaius.
    John prays for good health and blessing.
    What health is to the body, holiness is the the spirit/soul.
    Gaius has been faithful to the truth.
    John delights in seeing his disciples walk in the truth.

    Gaius may not have been in good health but still served Bible teachers.
    He walked in love and truth.

    Walking in the truth also means walking in love, loving others.

    “walk in the truth”
    “walking in the truth”

    Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. We ought therefore to show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth. (5-8)

    John commends the faithfulness of Gaius again.
    Hospitality is important.

    1Pet. 4:9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.

    Rom. 12:13 Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

    Rom. 16:23a Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings.
    1Tim. 5:9-10 No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.

    We are all different parts of the body. We can’t all preach, but we can all be a part of the proclamation of the Gospel.

    2 John: warning against false teachers
    3 John: receive the truth teachers

    We don’t ask unbelievers to give to the cause of Christ.

    I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church. (9-10)

    Diotrephes is a jerk! He is a selfish, gossipping heretic. He opposed John. He wouldn’t open his home to traveling evangelists (they had no Holiday Inns!).

    John had five issues with Diotrephes:

    1. must occupy the leading place
    2. refused to receive John
    3. made malicious statement against the apostles
    4. refused to entertain the missionaries (he wanted the spotlight)
    5. he ex-communicated those who supported the missionaries

    This man wanted to run the church.

    Humility is a rare trait in the church. We live in an era of Christian celebrity.

    Why do you lead? Preach? Sing solos? For our glory or God’s? We need people in the spotlight, but search your heart first.

    “If I come” may mean “when I come.”

    Gaius: delightful brother
    Diotrephes: dictator
    Demetrius: dependable

    Meekness does not mean weakness.

    Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God. Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone — and even by the truth itself. We also speak well of him, and you know that our testimony is true. (11-12)

    Imitate what is good. John is an example. Jesus is the ultimate example.
    Demetrius is a good example.

    We only have one verse about Demetrius. He is a humble saint. His name indicates he was raised a pagan. He was one of the men Diotrephes did not welcome.

    I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face.

    There’s nothing like face to face.

    Peace to you. The friends here send their greetings. Greet the friends there by name. (13-14)

    Peace and greetings.

    So What?

    In a word…hospitality.

    Church leaders are required to be hospitable.

    1Tim. 3:2 Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,

    Titus 1:8 Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.

    Heb. 13:2 Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.

    What can you do to welcome strangers on Sunday? What can you do to welcome strangers during the week?

    Credits: some ideas from J. Vernon McGee

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

    Eat with Someone, b.l.e.s.s., 20 January 2013

    Eat With Someone.

    Big Idea:
    Eat with one lost person each week.


    Two weeks ago we began our new year with our new series and annual theme, b.l.e.s.s. We said that we have been blessed to be a blessing. This is a theme throughout history, most prominently in God’s covenant with Abram.

    The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:1-3)

    We have defined success for Scio Community Church. Perhaps you’ve seen this!

    We exist to fulfill the Great Commission and follow the Great Commandment by 

    - serving our communities

    - sharing our story
    - sending disciples to bless the nations

    so that God is glorified.

    Our first week’s challenge was to bless one person.

    Last week’s challenge was spend one hour listening to God.

    These are not one-time challenge, but new rhythms, patterns for the new year, every week. Some would call them spiritual practices or disciplines.

    Do you like discipline? It’s not a very attractive word, is it? We often think of punishment or rules or no-pain-no-gain. In the realm of spiritual disciplines, we commonly think of prayer, fasting, silence, solitude, or Bible study. I’m not opposed to any of those and, in fact, I’ve done quite a bit of each, but they never fell into the category of “fun” for me. Like physical exercise and eating brussel sprouts, I often did them because they were good for me, not because I really wanted to do them.

    Many years ago I read a book by John Ortberg entitled The Life You’ve Always Wanted. The subtitle is “spiritual disciplines for ordinary people.” As I began the book, somewhat tentative about all of the hard work it was going to guilt me into doing, I was struck by the first discipline: celebration.

    “Celebration?” I thought. That doesn’t sound all that bad! The more I read, the more I realized I actually don’t celebrate enough. I’m wired to always be looking for the next hill to climb, the next task, the next project...and I don’t pause to celebrate enough.

    Like celebration, this morning I want to challenge you with a discipline that you might actually enjoy! It could change your life...and the life of others, too.
    Two weeks ago we said the “b” in bless is for bless everyone.

    Last week we said the “l” in bless is for listen to God.

    This week’s letter is “e” and it stands for eat with someone.

    Do you like to eat? What do you like to eat? Why?

    What is your favorite restaurant? Why?

    This week an annual report on restaurants was released and they announced the worst extreme entree: The Cheesecake Factory’s Bistro Shrimp Pasta with 3120 calories!

    We’re not talking about diet today, though what you eat —and how much—is very important. Food is powerful. We all know it is necessary for life. We all recognize it can be enjoyable to our taste buds—sometimes too enjoyable!

    There are over 700 verses that talk about eating, often in mandated celebrations (did you catch that?). The Bible contains many instructions about what, where, and how to eat.

    • - Passover
    • - communion/the LORD’s Supper
    • - Jesus made wine
    • - Jesus ate at Matthew’s house (Matthew 9:9-13)
    • - Jesus went to the house of Zacchaeus
    • - Jesus multiplied loaves and fish, at least twice
    • - Jesus referenced the food provided by God to the Israelites, manna
    • - Jesus calls Himself the bread of life (John 6)
    • - the Jews were very particular about their diet (kosher)

    We are told in Revelation chapter 19 that there will be a great supper of the Lamb, the ultimate feast that will make Mardi Gras look like a trip to Chuck E. Cheese!

    Eating was once central to life. Now we can eat alone, grab a quick bite to eat in a drive-thru, pop a tv dinner in the microwave, or even replace a meal with a shake or protein bar.

    In Jesus’ day, eating was more than sustenance, it was social. Your meal colleague was someone you loved and cared for, someone that was part of your social class. This is why Jesus took such heat for eating at Matthew’s house, with him and his socially outcast friends.

    But have you ever considered its power in conversation?

    Food is found throughout the Bible. It provides a unique setting for conversation.

    There are two short passages I want to look at together.

    Acts 2

    Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:46-47)

    This is part of a description of the early church. It describes food in the context of fellowship.

    I want to draw a distinction between fellowship and hospitality. Fellowship is when we, the Church, gather together. We enjoy a potlucks, gatherings of food brought from our various homes—or favorite restaurants—to share with one another. This is one of the most important things we do as a church, especially since we are geographically scattered. There is something powerful about our conversations at potlucks. Have you noticed? They are often more meaningful than short chats in the hallway. Food brings us together.

    If fellowship is what we do together, hospitality is when we welcome or love the stranger. Our potlucks also serve this function, as evidenced by one particular meal several months ago in which a conversation with first or second-time guests led to their family joining the Scio family. The potluck experience welcomed them.

    Hospitality is one of the most underrated practices of the Church. One of the most fascinating verses is found in Hebrews.

    Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.
    (Hebrews 13:2)

    It kind of makes me want to throw a party! Seriously.

    Hospitality is a requirement to be an elder (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8).

    Peter said,

    Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. (1 Peter 4:9)

    Paul said,

    Practice hospitality. (Romans 12:13b)

    We were all once strangers—to God and one another, yet we were welcomed (Ephesians 2:19-22)

    Jesus was a missional eater. He ate with people, intentionally. In the book
    Right Here Right Now, Alan Hirsch and Lance Ford write

    “Sharing meals together on a regular basis is one of the most sacred practices we can engage in as believers. Missional hospitality is a tremendous opportunity to extend the kingdom of God. We can literally eat our way into the kingdom of God! If every Christian household regularly invited a stranger or a poor person into their home for a meal once a week, we would literally change the world by eating!”

    Change the world by eating!

    This Week’s Challenge

    So what does eating have to do with our annual theme.
    This week’s challenge is eat with one lost person. That’s it. You can do lunch, breakfast, or even coffee. You can welcome them to your home...or your favorite restaurant. The purpose is simple: eating furthers conversations, and the more conversations we have with people, the more spiritual conversations we will have, the more relationships we will form, and the greater our impact in our communities.

    Just like week one, ask God to show you who...and maybe the person can provide the where.

    Most of you will eat at least 21 times this week. Pick one and invite a friend...or make a friend. Eating together is a great way to bless them. And if you’re too uncomfortable one-on-one, grab a friend and have three or four at the table!

    This one simple discipline may change your life...and our church. Imagine what would happen if each person spent 52 meals this year with unchurched people?

    some materials borrowed from Charles Kiser (

    You can listen to the podcast