Reawakening to the Mission of Christ, 30 January 2022

Reawakening to the Mission of Christ
Series—40 Days of Prayer with The Alliance
Luke 14:12-23

Series Big Idea: The aim of this 40-day focus is to fix our gaze on Jesus, remember who He is, what He has done, what He has given us to do, and what He will do in the future.

Big Idea: We’ve been invited to join Jesus on his mission to seek and save the lost.

My all-time favorite movie is The Blues Brothers (the TV version!). I love music, comedy, and Chicago and it blends them together seamlessly. Perhaps the most famous line in the movie is the mantra of John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd: “We’re on a mission from God.”

What is your mission? Why on earth are you here? What is your calling?

Today we’re continuing our
40 Days of Prayer series with The Alliance. The theme is awakening and we’ve talked about awakening to the glory of Christ, the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, the Spirit of Christ, and the Church of Christ. Today we’re going to reawaken to the mission of Christ…and you might reawaken to your mission in the process.

Many of you know the story of Zacchaeus, the wee little man who was the chief tax collector in the region, a rich, greedy, despised man who climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see Jesus over the crowd. How surprised he must’ve been when Jesus not only sees him but invites himself to Zacchaeus’ house.

Have you ever invited yourself to someone’s house?!
Has anyone ever invited themselves to yours?!

Zacchaeus has a truly life-changing encounter with Jesus, declares his intention to pay back everyone he has cheated four times and give half of his wealth to the poor. Is that a transformation or what?!

Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.” (Luke 19:9-10, NLT)

Did you catch it?

The mission of Christ is to seek and save the lost.

I realize
lost can be a negative term, but it’s the most common English translation of the Greek word apollumi used by Jesus, a word also indicating destroy, die, lose, mar, perish. They are the ones Jesus came to seek and save. They were his mission. They are his mission today. If you can sing the words of Amazing Grace—“I once was lost/but now am found”—it’s your mission, too.

The mission of Christ is to seek and save the lost.
The mission of Christ’s followers is to seek and save the lost.

Obviously, you and I can’t save the lost on our own, but we can introduce them to the one who lived, died, and rose from the dead, offering them an opportunity to be with God for eternity and inviting them to the greatest party in history!

Why don’t we have the reputation of being the greatest partiers on the planet? It seems like Christians are known as the most boring, judgmental, self-righteous people! How did that happen?

For thousands of years, the Jews have thrown some of the best parties, measured not in hours, but days! In the eighth chapter of 1 Kings, there’s an account of a week-long party to celebrate the temple’s dedication. Then it was extended another week! Have you ever been to a fourteen-day party?

I’ve run a DJ business for more than eighteen years as a side hustle and I can tell you my favorite events are Jewish weddings…by far!

The mission of Christ is to seek and save the lost.

The heart of his message is literally an invitation to a party, a feast, something the book of Revelation calls “the marriage supper of the Lamb.” Some have said his first miracle—turning water into wine at a wedding in John chapter two—was an example of the marriage feast. Jesus himself tells a similar story in Luke chapter 14 while he is at a fancy dinner.

Then he turned to his host. “When you put on a luncheon or a banquet,” he said, “don’t invite your friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. For they will invite you back, and that will be your only reward. (Luke 14:12, NLT)

Back in the day—and often still today—hosts invited guests either to pay them back for a past invitation or to put them under their debt in order to receive an invitation in the future. The motivation was not selfless hospitality, but rather social status.

Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.
(Luke 14:13, NLT)

What? Who does that? Kingdom people! People on the mission of Christ. In the first century, it was not proper to invite the handicapped and poor to a public banquet…or women, by the way! Jesus’ teaching is radical! What kind of repayment can these outcasts offer to the host?

Then at the resurrection of the righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you.” (Luke 14:14, NLT)

Someone once said, “You can’t get your reward twice!” We either earn the applause of people or God.

Not long ago I was asked to do a favor. It wasn’t a huge deal, but it was inconvenient and involved some expense of time. I wrestled with whether to say yes or not and then I thought of that word I mentioned a few weeks ago…die. Someone told me they’ve now made that their word for the year! Death is the first step in following Jesus, but we don’t remain dead. When we give, serve, love, sacrifice for others, God sees. There may be no financial benefit or social reward now, but God sees everything we do…even those done in secret. This is what separates worldly people from Jesus people. They are motivated by present returns rather than eternal treasures.

Hearing this, a man sitting at the table with Jesus exclaimed, “What a blessing it will be to attend a banquet in the Kingdom of God!” (Luke 14:15, NLT)   

Amen! Family, this is a sneak preview of what’s ahead for us. Remember three weeks ago I said although are present is not certain, our future is! Many think heaven will be angels playing harps on clouds! Jesus’ Jewish peers saw the future kingdom as a great banquet featuring Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the prophets at the table.

Jesus replied with this story:
“A man prepared a great feast and sent out many invitations. When the banquet was ready, he sent his servant to tell the guests, ‘Come, the banquet is ready.’ (Luke 14:16-17, NLT)   

In Jesus’ day, invitations stated the day, but not the hour of the meal. The host needed people to RSVP so he knew how many animals and food to prepare. The guests in this parable had already said they were coming.

What was the servant’s job? Was it to get people to come to the banquet? No! It was to let people know the banquet was ready. The master did the heavy lifting, buying the food and preparing the great feast. He represents God in the story. We are the servants told to let people know it’s time to party! Who wouldn’t respond to that, right?

But they all began making excuses. One said, ‘I have just bought a field and must inspect it. Please excuse me.’
Another said, ‘I have just bought five pairs of oxen, and I want to try them out. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’ (Luke 14:18-20, NLT)

You’ve got to be kidding! These people are choosing to miss this great feast? What an insult to the host! It’s not like they got a flat tire on the way! They were given plenty of notice. The invitations were sent out days ago, probably weeks ago. Maybe longer. But they made excuses. Lame excuses! Billy Sunday once said an excuse is the skin of a reason stuffed with a lie!
“The servant returned and told his master what they had said. His master was furious and said, ‘Go quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and invite the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ (Luke 14:21, NLT)

Did you catch the emotion of the host—of God? He’s furious! God gets angry. He never sins, but those who reject His invitation will suffer the consequences.

This food will not be wasted! The show must go on, with or without the invited guests. If they’re too busy, it’s their loss! I’m fascinated that it doesn’t say go and invite anyone. It specifically says the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame. Maybe even Gentiles!

That’s the Kingdom of God!

The reason Jesus cautioned the rich is because they can become busy with their wealth and toys. They can turn money into an idol, a tool for power, an object of pride. The people in the parable making excuses were consumed by their field, their oxen, their marriage. Like so many today, there’s no room in their lives for God.

The poor can certainly make money and other things idols, too, yet they often recognize their needs more readily than those insulated by comfortable living. Is it any surprise the early church grew largely through down-and-outers being shown love and compassion? Steve Taylor once sang, “Jesus is for losers,” and he’s right, though winners are welcome to follow him, too.

So What?

Jim Sappia, an Alliance International Worker, notes three things about this passage. First,
we are invited to the party (Luke 14:16-17), and what a party it will be! He wants you there. He wants everyone there (1 Timothy 2:4). God so loved the world, not just Americans or people from a particular class. You are invited to the table, the place where we can connect with Almighty God. Jesus said,

“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. (Revelation 3:20)

Have you opened the door? Have you responded to the invitation? Do you have a relationship with God? If not, you can begin by simply saying, “Jesus, I give you my life.” Doing so won’t make your life instantly easy, but it will launch the greatest adventure imaginable. Life with Jesus is…the greatest!

Many make excuses. Believe me, no job, spouse, child, hobby, addiction, tv show, social media app, or treasure can compare to the Jesus journey. As I said a few weeks ago, let go and let God. Joining God’s family, coming to His party is the greatest blessing. Remember what the man said?

Hearing this, a man sitting at the table with Jesus exclaimed, “What a blessing it will be to attend a banquet in the Kingdom of God!” (Luke 14:15, NLT)   

we are sent to be a blessing (Luke 14:21).

There’s no need for a scarcity mentality. We don’t need to hoard it like toilet paper or N95 masks! There is no end to the abundance, the banquet, the party! It’s a never-ending, all-you-can-eat buffet! The greatest gift you can give another human is an invitation to the party. The greatest blessing to others—and us—is introducing people to Jesus. I love that God shows no favoritism. You don’t have to be special to receive an invitation…and yet so many have never received theirs. Many have no clue a party is being prepared at this very moment. Billions have never even heard the name of Jesus! That’s why…

we are called to go and compel (Luke 14:23). The servant invited the poor, crippled, blind, and lame.

After the servant had done this, he reported, ‘There is still room for more.’ So his master said, ‘Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full. (Luke 14:22-23, NLT)

We are to go! Jesus said in Matthew 28 to “go” and make disciples…of all nations. That’s what we do in the Alliance. You might need to go around the world, fly across the country, …or simply walk across the street. There’s a place for mail, e-mail, and texting, but the master said to go…and urge them to come. The NIV translation says compel them to come. We can’t force them, but we can implore them. Paul wrote to the church in Corinth:

So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” (2 Corinthians 5:20, NLT)

He wants everyone at the feast. You. The poor. The rich. The lame. The doctors. The orphans. The single parents. The widows. The refugees and immigrants. Even the Republicans and Democrats!

God wants us to go and take the invitation to everyone…both here and around the world.

We’ve been invited to join Jesus on his mission to seek and save the lost.

Will you respond?

One more thing…

Tony Campolo story read by Mark Clark: https://youtu.be/JMWa24DdY2Y

We’re on a mission from God. Maybe you need to go…throw some parties. Warren Wiersbe wrote, “The Christian life is a feast, not a funeral, and all are invited to come.” We all need to go invite people to the ultimate party.

Invite people to dinner. Invite them to your table, whether that’s at the Mac Café, in your home, the school cafeteria, or your favorite restaurant. Meals are one of the greatest places to share stories, to listen well, to love well, and to share God’s story. Sharing meals makes disciples.

Our friends at Bowling Green Alliance are planning to share 1000 meals this year, mostly just inviting friends and neighbors over for dinner. We could do the same.

In addition, you can invite people to our Dinner Church table on the second Sunday of the month. We have an exciting opportunity to welcome Afghan refugees to our tables in partnership with Water for Ishmael (contact the office for details).

I confess I don’t know a lot of people to invite, so this month I took on a new, very part-time job for the purpose of rubbing shoulders with non-Christians and inviting them to meals and parties.

For God so loved the world. I’m so glad that includes you and me…and our neighbors.

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

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

Beyond 2020: Vision Sunday, 20, September 2020

Beyond 2020: Vision Sunday

Big Idea: God is leading us to multiply and do life together.

On September 15, 2019, I presented a message entitled, Back to our Roots: 2020 Vision. Like many pastors across the country, I shared my excited about the year ahead, our new mission statement, and our commitment to The Word of God and the Testimony of Jesus Christ. With our experimental Dinner Church taking off, new people were joining our church family, lives were being transformed, ministries were growing, unity was rising, …and then COVID.

Like many of you, I was concerned about the physical impact of the pandemic. To date, about 200,000 USAmericans have died because of this invisible virus and millions more sick. The lockdown created a devastating financial impact to many, though some actually benefitted through $1200 checks and extra unemployment payments. Our entertainment options were virtually eliminated unless it involved a screen.

My prayer during the initial days of COVID-19 was, “LORD, may this pandemic bring revival in our nation and world. May people fall to their knees, crying out for help, and seeking life in Jesus-centered churches. We are ready to share faith, hope, and love and this is the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be salt and light, to live out your mission to seek and save the lost.”

Instead of seizing the opportunity to BE the church, “politics and social unrest have divided congregations and social media has intensified the hostilities,” to quote Lifeway Research. Here are three responses to their survey of pastors:

“People’s attitudes have split very much on partisan lines. Half the church is opposed to any reopening. Half the church is frustrated that we haven’t long since reopened.”

“I am aware that people are growing weary of the entire pandemic. Some are scared to death, while others are convinced it is a hoax. Trying to minister to both ends of the spectrum is exhausting.”

“Many of our congregants are still scared and unwilling to come out of their houses. No matter what we choose to do for safety, or choose not do, we are told by some group that it is too much/not enough.”

I’d like to think First Alliance Church would be the exception, but we’ve had our fair share of division, mumbling and complaining, rebellion, and some even leaving the church. It’s as if the very opportunity to love well and fulfil our mission has been a season of negativity, abandonment, controversy, and division.

We can’t let the enemy win! There are lives at stake! There are eternities at stake! Our city and state and nation are at stake! I’m not talking about the election. I’m talking about you and me, fixing our eyes on Jesus, lifting our arms in surrender, listening to the still, small voice of the LORD, using our hands to heal, our wallets to bless, our hearts to care, and our lives to love.

Through all of this, I’ve never been more excited about the future of First Alliance. The opportunities have been growing. God has been moving. And I can’t wait to share what’s ahead!

I love First Alliance Church. God has been moving in and through this congregation for generations. We have a rich heritage, a storied history, and an exciting future. When I was interviewed for the lead pastor position in the summer of 2015, I was told, “We want change,” which I knew was not entirely true! Change can be difficult, yet it’s often necessary.

I remember being asked repeatedly during my first days here, “What’s your vision for First Alliance, pastor?” At the time, I had no vision. I didn’t even know where I was! It took a solid year just to realize I wasn’t in Ann Arbor anymore! Throughout these nearly five years, I’ve rejoiced as we’ve welcomed new members and new believers. I’ve celebrated countless wins with our staff, elders, and all of you. I’ve been deeply saddened when people have left…some due to death, others to relocation, and still others due to a different vision.

Throughout this half-decade, we’ve sought direction, protection, passion, and unity as we look to Jesus, our Senior Pastor, to guide us. This is His Church! We’re all going to leave it someday, but he will be here for future generations, LORD-willing. He promised to build his Church and said the gates of hell would not overcome it (Matthew 16:18).

During my time in Toledo, it has been my desire to develop a mission, vision, and strategy for First Alliance that would bring clarity, focus, and alignment for us. Setting aside personal preferences,
where is Jesus leading us?

By definition, Jesus doesn’t lead us to stay the same. Personal growth is hard. It is incremental, over time, with people, and for people. There are growing pains. We find ourselves challenged, pushed beyond what we believe to be our limits, and even feel alone, at times.

The same is true for First Alliance.
Jesus is leading us to new places with an unchanging message. Change can be hard, especially when it disrupts our comfort. He is raising up an army of love, not a tribe of beach bums (I love the beach, but the only thing that grows at the beach is your waistline!)! I know many of us long for the good old days—which, by the way, were never as good as we remember them. But God is doing a new thing. He is expanding our vision. He is clarifying our mission. He is building His Church…and you’re invited!

One of the most exciting moments this year came on February 13 when Dr. Bruce Terpstra, director of Church Advance for the Great Lakes District of the Christian & Missionary Alliance, a member of Rev. Thomas George’s team, offered to be my mentor and coach. He suggested a book called
Church Unique as a tool in discerning our unique calling as a church. Toledo is filled with great churches. It has several Alliance churches. But where is God leading First Alliance Church?

Coincidentally—or not—I started using the book a few years ago and even introduced many of our leaders to its questions in a quest to better understand our community—our “Jerusalem”—(Acts 1:8) as well as our church history and present resources and opportunities. Many of you contributed to the process and I’m grateful for all of your input.

One of the first milestones of the process was developing a mission statement which was introduced last year:

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

The bottom line is God’s glory. Period. End of story. It’s not about being a big church or a famous church or having the coolest website in the world, it’s about Christ. It’s not about my preferences or your convenience, but it’s all about Jesus. The unique phrase of our mission is taken from Ephesians 2:10…

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (Ephesians 2:10, NLT)

You are a masterpiece. You were made by God, for God, and for God’s glory. Like me, the brilliance that reflects God’s image is covered with sin…which we cover with masks. When we get vulnerable and allow God to chisel away the false self, the masterpiece inside is exposed, the diamond in the rough is able to shine.

That’s what we’re about as a church—helping people take off the masks, repent of their sins, and live into the unique masterpiece God created them to become. That includes me. That includes you. It’s a long, slow, messy process called sanctification, but the end result is stunning.

Everything we do must be with this in mind. Our budget, our facilities, our staff, and our calendar are designed with this in mind.

Although the pandemic has been tragic in many ways—including my arms which are aching from not being able to squeeze my granddaughter as she prepares to be a big sister next month—it has also been a gift for our future. During the lockdown, our physical campus closed and as we moved everything online, it provided a perfect opportunity to assess everything we put on the calendar and its connection to our mission. It has been a time to start new things, restart other things, and leave some things behind, not because they’re bad, but because they don’t optimally serve our mission.

Life Together

About twenty-five years ago, I was at a conference where the speaker asked, “If your church couldn’t gather together for six months, how would you survive?” He had no idea COVID-19 would make that hypothetical question real!

Scholars believe the early church did life together in groups of 30-40 people with no buildings, no professional Christians, persecution…and they exploded in numbers! Much like the Church in China and other parts of the world today, there was no organized religion. It was just life together, 24/7/365. Discipleship wasn’t a class or a program, but a life-on-life experience.

Many churches will close permanently because of the pandemic. The ones that have been most effective were structured no around buildings and large gatherings, but small groups doing life together. That has included doing church online together.

I love our beautiful campus. I’m grateful for this fantastic building and our other two facilities. I am thankful for the freedom we have to assemble here for weekly family reunions…but the building is not the church. This event is not the church. We are the church…wherever and whenever we gather.

I’ve been so encouraged by people who have said they feel more connected to First Alliance now than before COVID-19. As we’ve gathered online, sent letters of encouragement, prayed for one another, served one another, eaten in homes with one another, and called one another, we’ve discovered the joy of life together.

I wish the pandemic was over and we could be guarantee safe gatherings for everyone, but that’s not going to happen anytime soon. It’s possible things will get worse before they get better. But the church has never been a building. The building is nothing more than a tool used to accomplish God’s mission for His church.

Out of respect for our senior saints who have been together for decades at 9 AM, we have restarted their Sunday School class at 9 AM in the Youth Center. But I want to suggest a slightly different next-step for the rest of you…
Life Groups.

I really want to call them Life Together Groups, but that’s awkward! Rather than a class where you take notes for an hour, a Life Group is a 168 hour/week family. Many of you have been a part of small groups in the past, and this isn’t necessarily different, but the focus is not just a weekly meeting, but life together. They can meet on Sundays at 9 AM on our campus, in homes in the evening, at coffee shops or schools or wherever and whenever the group wants to study the Bible together, pray for one another, and serve together. If the focus of First Alliance is on an hour a week, we will be spiritually malnourished. If we can conceive of doing life together, discipleship will become a way of life.

We’ve often talked about the triangle: connecting with God (up), one another (in), and our world (out). Life Groups do all three. They are committed to worship, prayer, and scripture. They engage in life-on-life discipleship. They also serve together, whether it’s once a month at Cherry Street Mission as Jerry Olah’s group has done or helping a neighbor in need, hosting a Dinner Church gathering when we resume them, or any number of selfless activities to bless others.

There’s one other component of Life Groups which is vital and that leads to our other word for the day…


The first command of the Bible is “be fruitful and multiply.” Healthy things grow and reproduce. In recent history, much church activity has centered around addition…getting people to come to classes, services, concerts, conferences, and events. That’s great, but what’s even more powerful than addition is multiplication.

The Great Commission is one of our guiding scriptures.

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

Jesus said to go and make disciples. Discipleship is making disciples. It is a follower. Disciples of Jesus—by definition—make disciples. It’s easy to see how he did it. He called a dozen men to live with him for three years. Most of us don’t have that luxury—though parents, you have about eighteen years to disciple your children.

My favorite verse on discipleship is in 2 Timothy 2:2 where Paul says to his apprentice, Timothy…

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

There are four generations in this one verse! Paul to Timothy to reliable people to others. We are all called to make disciples who make disciples. This isn’t a pastor or clergy thing. It’s all of our calling, and it’s what restoring God’s masterpieces is all about…reproducing the life of Jesus in others.

Each Life Group has a leader and an apprentice leader for the purpose of multiplying the group. We want Life Groups to welcome new members, grow, and reproduce. An apprentice leader will receive training, experience, and be equipped to either start a new Life Group or take over the group as the leader launches a new Life Group. We will provide training for Life Group leaders and apprentices.

Groups often fear multiplication because they like to be together. However, without reproducing new groups, we can never grow. We need to develop new leaders who can launch new groups to disciple more people. The best way to develop new leaders is to have them serve as apprentice leaders with the intention of someday leading their own group. When Life Groups multiply, there’s no rule that says they can’t get together to serve…or just have a party!

We want to start—and restart—Life Groups this fall. To do so, we need Life Group leaders and apprentices. No experience necessary! A love for Jesus and a love for people is required. We’ll provide the resources. Being a leader or apprentice does not necessarily obligate you to be a host, either. We’d love to see some of you open your homes or offices to host Life Groups. You can have them here on our church campus, too.

A simple next step is to
click here to say you’re interested in hosting, leading, apprenticing, or participating in a Life Group. You can also notify the church office. If you’re already in a Life Group, please let us know that, too. We’d love to see everyone in our First Alliance family connected not only on Sunday morning but throughout the week, too.

This idea of multiply is critical for our future. If we fail to multiply Life Groups…and leaders, ministries, and even churches, we will eventually cease to exist.

I’ve been praying for a future filled with the launch of new groups, churches, ministries, and international workers. To accomplish this, we need interns, residents, and apprentice leaders who can not only assist, but prepare to lead.

The Road Ahead

John Maxwell says everything rises and falls on leadership. I want to devote the rest of my life to developing leaders. I may not be the most skilled, but after thirty years of vocational ministry—and plenty of gray hair—I at least have some experience. I want to equip the next generation of pastors, church planters, and missionaries, both local and global. We’ve had interns in the past who have gone on to do great things, and we want more.

I’m really grateful for our staff. Karen Thompson is more than a secretary. She’s our office manager. Sue Trumbull’s dedication to children and families and Hayden Bewley’s work with our youth and artists is inspiring. Josh Hens continues to take care of our physical campus along with our Trustees, and our newest team member, Abby Kolinski, has been our digital storyteller online and on video. Most of their work has been done behind-the-scenes, yet they are all committed to serving you, equipping you and your family, and restoring God’s masterpieces.

I’m excited to announce the Great Lakes District has connected us to someone the elders interviewed last week to be a church planter in residence. He has a compelling vision for fresh expressions of faith and plans to move here this fall from the east coast to join our team part-time, with funds provided by church planting, the District, a possible grant, and a generous donor. His passion is to multiply disciples of Jesus Christ, restoring God’s masterpieces.

Last week you heard about Abby Segura, the new director of the After School Klub. I’m thrilled about her hiring by Toledo Urban Impact to invest in the next generation.

As we read many of your responses to the
Church Unique questions, it was obvious that ministering to students in this neighborhood is near and dear to your hearts. Rosa Parks, the After School Klub, and Sports & Arts Camp were frequently mentioned as significant ministries…and we’ve been invited into an opportunity which may involve them all!

We’ve been invited to host Toledo Public School students, assisting them with their school work, serving them lunch, and providing a loving atmosphere for learning. The schools are coming to church! Details are being finalized, but we need volunteers to invest in the next generation…through the After School Club, these new Community Learning Centers, and Kids Worship which we want to launch during the Sunday sermon.

So What?

Please prayerfully consider joining, leading, hosting, or apprenticing a Life Group.

Please prayerfully consider volunteering with our students, whether it’s Sunday mornings during the sermon, with the After School Klub next month, supporting Rosa Parks Elementary, or through the upcoming Community Learning Center.

Next Sunday at 10 AM, we will have a brief membership meeting to elect two members to the Nominating Committee. If you are an official church member, we urge you to notify the office of any names you would like submitted for the election to the Nominating Committee. The elders have already appointed Rich Bradish and Greg Papp to join me in preparing the ballot for 2021 officers.

Family, these are crazy times, but they’re not unprecedented. We just haven’t seen them in our lifetime. As the world around is gets more chaotic, I pray they will seek truth…the Way, the Truth, and the Life…Jesus Christ! We are a family centered on Jesus, all about His glory, doing life together, reproducing disciples and groups to let the world know Jesus is LORD.

Please pray for First Alliance Church. Pray that we faithfully follow Jesus. Pray for passion, unity, direction, and protection. Pray for our staff and elders as we navigate through these foggy, messy days and remain focused on our mission to restore God’s masterpieces. They’re all around us. They are increasingly fearful, desperate, and needy. They live without faith, hope, and love. They are the reason we are here. He is the reason we are here!

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

Restoring Masterpieces, 3 February 2019

Restoring Masterpieces
Series—Back to Basics
Ephesians 2:1-10

Big Idea: We are on a mission from God to love Him, others, and make disciples…restoring God's masterpieces.

Welcome to Super Bowl Sunday!

My favorite football story comes from the legendary coach Vince Lombardi for whom the Super Bowl winner’s trophy is named. He would begin each season by gathering his team together and saying, “Gentlemen, this is a football.”

Whether it’s football, cooking, parenting, driving, or ministry, it’s impossible to overemphasize the fundamentals, the basics.

Today we’re beginning a new series entitled,
Back to Basics. It’s essential for our church family to be on the same page, clear about our purpose, grounded in the Word of God, and filled with the Holy Spirit.

When I was first approached by District Superintendent Thomas George about submitting my resume to the FAC Pastoral Search Committee, I went to the church website to find the mission statement. I saw several words and phrases such as “connecting with God, others and the world” which were good slogans, but I didn’t find a single, concise statement that was unique to First Alliance Church.

I found three important things in our FAC 101 class for new members, all found in Matthew:

The Great Commandment, Matthew 22:37-40

Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

The Great Commission, Matthew 28:18-20

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

The Great Compassion, Matthew 25:34-41

“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. (Matthew 25:41)

We are to be about loving God, loving others, making disciples, and caring for the hungry, thirsty, stranger, sick, and imprisoned. This is basic, right? I found this:

A great commitment to the Great Commandments and the Great Commission done with Great Compassion will grow a Great Church!

I really like that statement. But I wanted something more. I wanted a clear description of what First Alliance Church is to be about, unique from our sister churches in the Christian & Missionary Alliance. All Alliance churches can embrace

a Christ-centered, Acts 1:8 family

All churches are to love God and others and make disciples. But what sets this local church apart from others? If there’s nothing distinct, perhaps we should just merge with another church.

I have spent more than three years working with our leaders to craft a statement to bring clarity and focus to our FAC family. We used a tool called Church Unique which helped us to assess where we are, who we are, and where God is leading us. We reached out to people within our church family as well is in the surrounding neighborhood. We met, prayed, and discussed language for literally years until we finally settled on sixteen words which I believe will propel us forward on God’s mission.

See, we are on a mission from God, to borrow a phrase from The Blues Brothers. It’s not that our church has a mission, but rather that God’s mission has a church. For more than 131 years, we have had a unique and special calling in this city and region, and our work is far from complete. In fact, I think we’re just getting started! To be clear, mission is not something we do, but who we are. Missions is not a program of the church, it is the reason the church exists. We are all called to be on God’s mission.

A mission statement is not the end of our work. It’s just the beginning. Sixteen words don’t accomplish anything in and of themselves. Rather, they simply help us get on the same page and form the foundation for vision and strategy. They help us define a “win.” They say if you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.

Would you like to hear the mission statement?

The first words out of my mouth as your pastor three and a half years ago were simple:

Why are you here?

If we’re honest, there are probably many reasons why we are together in this room at this moment, good and bad. Why are you here?

Best-selling author Simon Sinek’s book title says it all:
Start with Why.

Why do you exist?

Our District Superintendent, Rev. Thomas George, says, “We were made God, we were made for God, and we were made for God’s glory.” Why does First Alliance Church—its individuals and collective whole—exist? For God’s glory. It’s not about us. It’s about God.

Why does First Alliance Church exist?

for God’s glory

The bottom line of First Alliance Church is not my pleasure, your comfort, or even the people in our city. This isn’t my church or your church. It’s God’s church. The bottom line is God’s glory.

are we to function, live, and act? It’s all about Jesus. It’s not about religion or tradition. It’s about Jesus.

We are Jesus-centered…for God’s glory

are we? We’re a family. Everyone yearns for the love and intimacy of a healthy family, even if they’ve never experienced one. We’re not a perfect family, but we are more than a group of individuals. We were created to be interdependent. We were designed to do life together in community. We are a spiritual family helping biological families.

We are a Jesus-centered family…for God’s glory

are we? Toledo is our epicenter, our home, our primary mission field. Missionaries are sent overseas, but they’re also desperately needed here in our post-Christian culture. There are 500,000 souls here, many of whom are facing an eternity without Jesus. Acts 1:8 says we are to not only serve our “Jerusalem” but also Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. As part of the global Alliance family, our neighbor is both someone down the street and someone on the other side of the planet.

We are a Jesus-centered family…in Toledo and beyond for God’s glory

do we do? There are many churches in our community, but what makes us unique? How are we distinct from Westgate Chapel or Bedford Alliance besides our geography? What makes us different than The Tabernacle or The Vineyard or Cornerstone, neighbors in our city? Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus:

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:1-5)

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:6-10)

We are God’s handiwork. Paul originally wrote in Greek, so all English versions are translations. The ESV and King James translations says we are his workmanship. My favorite version of this verse is found in the New Living Translation.

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” - Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)

You are a masterpiece! You are a work of art! You were created in the image of God with dignity, value and worth. There is no one like you. Your size, shape, color, personality, and story make you a one-of-a-kind in a world of more than 7 billion people.

The same can be said of everyone in our neighborhood. Regardless of their age, gender, race, religion, height, weight, education, or income, they are a masterpiece.

Obviously this word “masterpiece” is not an image most churches would adopt, but part of what makes First Alliance Church unique is its location on Monroe Street, the Avenue of the Arts. Our defining landmark is being located next to the fantastic Toledo Museum of Art. Throughout our history, we have had rich musical performances, taught children at our sports and arts camp, promote family-friendly theater, and even worship in a building which I consider to be a work of art.

God is an artist, and His greatest work came not in speaking or singing into existence the sun or stars or animals, but humans.

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)

I love the Toledo Zoo. I’m a member, in fact! I like the elephants and monkeys and giraffe. My favorite part of the zoo is the aquarium. I’m fascinated by fish and one of my all-time favorite things to do is snorkel. The diverse colors, shapes, and sizes of sea life are absolutely brilliant. But humans are unique among all of God’s creation. Only humans were created in God’s image. He saved the best for last during creation! You are a masterpiece. Really!

A few months ago, I believe the LORD woke me up at 4:30 in the morning and dropped two words into my head. I wasn’t brainstorming or working on a mission statement. I was sleeping! But two simple words came to mind as I awoke. One was masterpiece.

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

We are God’s masterpieces. But there’s one not-so-little problem.

Unfortunately, we’ve all been broken by sin. We’re all messed up, some more visibly than others, but even the best of us—the most healthy and mature—is a work in progress. Fortunately, God is all about redemption, reconciliation, and healing. The work of Jesus offers opportunity, freedom, and hope. As our local partner, Cherry Street Mission, calls their facility, revitalization is possible in humans just as it is in the buildings in our city which are being renovated. Our community is filled with brokenness and desperation in every conceivable sense…economic, educational, moral, safety, family…and we are called to be conduits of God’s shalom—peace and wholeness. Transformation, repair, rehabilitation…it’s all about
restoration. It’s about the restoration of masterpieces created by God, helping each person discover their potential, connecting with God, others, and the world.

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

The two words God gave me were “restoring masterpieces.” That’s why we’re here, what we are to be about. First Alliance Church is not a members-only club. We don’t exist for the primary purpose of having a nice building in which to worship God. Our mission is not maintaining the status quo or distributing religious goods and services.

We love God, we love others, and we make disciples by becoming like Jesus, by looking and acting like our Master and LORD. Each one of us is unique. We are a
mosaic of different people, different masterpieces being restored by our Creator to become like Jesus. This includes Christians and pre-Christians, rich and poor, black and white, homeowners and homeless, dropouts and graduates.

I know for some of you this is a radical vision. I’m reminded of Steve Taylor’s satirical song of long ago, “I Want To Be A Clone” in which he sings of how every Christian is supposed to look and act and dress exactly the same. But as I said last Sunday, unity does not mean uniformity. It’s ok for us to have different preferences and opinions, so long as they do not violate the Word of God. It’s good and healthy for us to listen and learn from one another. I don’t know about you, but I’ve changed my view on some things over the years, and will probably continue to do so as I learn and study the Bible and am guided by the Holy Spirit.

Every masterpiece is unique and special…or else it’s not a masterpiece!

When Jesus said he came “to seek and to save the lost” in Luke 19:10, he was expressing the heart of the Father to not only love His children, but also to pursue the lost sheep. The mission of the church goes beyond its members to include every man, woman and child created by God…and for whom Jesus died. “For God so loved the world.” The reason we remain here after surrendering our lives to Jesus is because we are on a mission from God. Every person you meet at the store, in your office, in your neighborhood, at the library, and at school is a masterpiece, whether they know it or not. Broken and flawed, yes. Covered by the dust and dirt of sin, yes. In need of restoration, absolutely! And what an honor and privilege to be commissioned by Jesus himself to make disciples, to reproduce his life in ourselves and others, to love our neighbors, and in doing so loving God.

Restoring masterpieces. You are a masterpiece, and we all have need of some restoration, be it a dusting each day as we confess our sins or a massive work of revitalization needed by a person far from God. We were created to do good works, to love God and others, to make disciples, to help restore the broken masterpieces we encounter each day.

Kintsugi is the centuries-old Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. Some consider the restored art more valuable than the original unblemished piece. Although damaged, it is whole.

What a picture of redemption! Ever since Adam and Eve sinned, God has been redeeming, repairing, rebuilding, and restoring humanity. The very best among us are nothing more than wounded healers. We are all in need of God’s grace, forgiveness, mercy, and restoration.

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

This is our mission. This is God’s mission. We are His masterpieces, and it’s all about His glory.

As we move into communion, I want you to think upon your value as a masterpiece. People are willing to spend thousands, even millions of dollars for works of art, but I’ve never heard of someone willing to die for a painting or sculpture. But God so loved the masterpieces He created that He sent Jesus to die to redeem us, to reconcile us, to restore us and our relationship with Him broken by sin. We celebrate His sacrifice and respond by not only remembering but also by seeking to restore God’s masterpieces that live in Toledo and beyond.


If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

This is one of my favorite verses, but the verse before it says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” If we think our masterpiece is not damaged by sin, it can never be restored. Everyone else knows we’re broken. Trust me! When we confess our sins and agree we need repair and forgiveness, He can go to work. He loves to shine His light through our cracks and brokenness (2 Cor. 4:7). Today I pray we can all get real with God, acknowledge our flaws and sins, and become restored masterpieces, pursuing purity and holiness and helping others encounter the great Artist, Creator, Redeemer, and Restorer.

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

Proclaim, 9 September 2018

Series: FAC-DNA
2 Timothy 4:1-5

Series Overview:
God has placed us uniquely in our city and world for such a time as this, a Christ-centered, Acts 1:8 family.

Big Idea:
 We are to proclaim good news…in word and deed.

Simon Sinek is a best-selling author. He has the third-most-watched Ted Talk video of all time. He speaks all over the world. His primary message is simple: start with why.

Often people focus on what they do or how they do things, but there’s power in unpacking the why.

Why are you here this morning?
Why are we here this morning?
Why does First Alliance Church exist?

Unlike independent churches, we are part of a larger family, the Christian & Missionary Alliance. Our president, Dr. John Stumbo, has called the Alliance

a Christ-centered, Acts 1:8 family

Last week we said we’re all about Jesus. He is the way, the truth, and the life. Jesus is our authority. He is not only our Savior, he is our LORD. He’s our leader. We are Christ-centered. He modeled what it means to be human. He incarnated love. He taught with the most powerful stories and wisdom in all of human history. He offered three significant commands:

Love God
Love others as you love yourself (the Great Commandment; Matthew 22:34-40)
Make disciples (the Great Commission; Matthew 28:18-20)

Obey and become like Jesus and help others become like Jesus, loving God and others. This is what it means to be Christ-centered.

Acts 1:8 says

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)

We exist to obey and worship and glorify Jesus Christ.

We are called to make disciples in Toledo, the region, the nation, and around the world.

We are also a family. We’re not a perfect family, but what family is?

We are a Jesus-centered family making disciples in Toledo and beyond for God’s glory.

But what does that mean? We’re examining that question this month in our series FAC-DNA.


The “why” is to glorify and obey God.

The “what” is to love God, love others as we love ourselves, and make disciples.

But how? Last week, we heard Alliance president, Dr. John Stumbo, talk about love. It’s so basic and obvious it almost seems silly to mention, yet our examination of 1 Corinthians 13 last week revealed loving others can be messy and challenging. One friend told me after last week’s sermon that sometimes loving means literally getting poop on your hands. Truly loving God and others can only be done as we receive God’s love and are filled with the Holy Spirit who gives us the power to love the unlovable, never give up on the hopeless, give when we want to take, and sacrifice when we want to be selfish.

We are to love. That’s what a Christ-centered, Acts 1:8 family looks like. We must be known for our love. We’re not, by the way. Many know us for what we’re against rather than what we’re for. I pray that each day we would becoming more loving and known for our love. Jesus was known for his love. If we are truly following Jesus…
We are to love. Here’s Dr. Stumbo introducing our next verb of this series.

Stumbo video transcript:

The second verb that arose is the verb proclaim. When I say love, I’m saying one thing. When I say proclaim, I’m saying two, really. And it depends on what generation I’m talking to.
To baby boomers and older, my generation, I have to talk about Matthew 25—that the marginalized, the hurting, the imprisoned, the poor, the immigrant—they’re part of our Bibles, too. We focused so much on verbalizing the gospel, which was fantastic, that sometimes we overlooked demonstrating the gospel.
We kind of left that to the liberal churches, to do the social gospel kind of thing, and I’m questioning that. And I’m saying that we as an evangelical church, as The Christian and Missionary Alliance, must learn to demonstrate the gospel in ways that touch our communities.
Meanwhile, if I’m speaking to the younger generation, they don’t need for me to go to Matthew 25. Cause, justice, those kind of issues, are part of their language and lifestyle. But, they’ve lost, as one young leader has confessed to me, “Our generation has lost the ability to articulate faith.”
Verbalizing, speaking the gospel, has become weak in a lot of our younger groups. And so I want to challenge us to be the kind of people who verbalize and demonstrate the gospel. So millennials and younger generation, you don’t have to like the words or methods that us older guys use in speaking the gospel. That’s fine if you don’t ever ask anybody to invite Jesus into their heart. I don’t care about that, but what I do care about deeply is that we become people who authentically speak the true gospel in ways that each culture, each generation, can hear.
We are to love. Love is a noun. Love is a verb. Loving can also be an adjective describing how we do…everything. We are to teach with love, serve with love, give with love, teach with love, discipline with love…and with love we are to proclaim good news, the gospel, our Savior, Jesus Christ. We even helped start a radio station years ago with that in mind: WPOS, proclaim our Savior.

One of my favorite things about our FAC family is its diversity. Sure, we’re not exactly a United Nations convention, but we have people from various religious, political, ethnic, educational, and economic backgrounds. They say variety is the spice of life.

On a side note, this past week I heard a podcast featuring Cherry Street Mission’s CEO Dan Rogers. In it, he said we need to surround ourselves with people different from ourselves in order to truly grow. He said this is why we don’t marry our sibling! Think about it. God’s design is that we marry someone from a different family in order to produce healthy hybrids of the two. Fascinating!

We have a reputation as being an older congregation, and it’s hard to argue that assessment. But despite a growing number of retirees from the Builder and Boomer generations, there are those of us GenXers, Millennials, and a growing number of GenZ members, too, those born in since the late 1990s. Each generation is unique and special. As Dr. Stumbo said in the video, some of us need to proclaim more clearly through our words while others need to amplify our actions.

Each Tuesday morning at 8:30 AM, a group of men gather here to pray…for our families, church, city, nation, and world. Men, you are all invited! Before we begin to pray each Tuesday, Charles Carter shares a passage of scripture and a story of one of our spiritual siblings overseas. Some involve martyrdom, others torture. Some of the accounts describe the most inhumane treatment of not only men and women but sometimes children. I believe every story has one thing in common: these atrocities were done because someone refused to proclaim Jesus Christ as LORD.

This is nothing new, of course. Jesus himself was murdered. Eleven of his best friends were martyred.
Foxe’s Book of Martyrs and VOM—Voice of the Martyrs, persecution.com—tell these unbelievable stories of passionate faith, radical love, and supernatural forgiveness. We shouldn’t be surprised. Paul wrote to Timothy…

For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:3-5)

Yet I worry about what someone might
think of me if I share my faith. I’m too busy to love others, serving the least of these. I so easily fall into materialistic, consumeristic, and selfish ways rather than following the example of Jesus to proclaim good news.

I’m not saying you should cancel your Netflix subscription, vacation plans, and time with your family. Hardly. But when is the last time you proclaimed Jesus Christ in word and/or deed?

Paul wrote,

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. (Romans 1:16)
The gospel, the good news, Jesus, Jesus is LORD, God loves you, that’s powerful. We must not be ashamed. Jesus hung up for you. Will you stand up for him?
Sometimes we make proclamation more complicated than necessary. Do you have a God story? Share it! Life is all about stories. Relationships are all about stories. I talk about my wife. I talk about my kids. I talk about my vacation. I talk about my God.
Preach the Gospel at all times and if necessary use words. Have you heard that? Who said it? It has been attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, but there’s no evidence he actually said it. Actions speak louder than words, yes, but our actions only give credibility to our words, not the other way around.
If your doctor is 100 pounds overweight and he tells you to lose weight…
Peter wrote,
Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (1 Peter 2:11-12)

Our good deeds validate our message, but we must have a message. How many of you became a follower of Jesus without anyone ever telling you anything about Jesus, his love for you, his death, his resurrection, and his upcoming return? We need words. We need to proclaim good news. Family, our city and world have never been more desperate for good news, for love, for peace. We are called to be hope dealers! What a privilege!
Every day there are people contemplating and even committing suicide. What’s the use in living?
Every day there are people overdosing on opioids, unable to cope with the pain in their lives? Where’s the hope?
Every day people are bored out of their skulls, filling time with cat videos on YouTube and binge watching cheesy tv shows and movies. What on earth am I here for?
Paul wrote to his disciple, Timothy, these words:
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. (2 Timothy 4:1-2)

Preach the word. Proclaim the word. He’s not just saying give Sunday sermons. He’s saying know God, know God’s word, and proclaim it…every day…everywhere. Will some reject it? Absolutely! But that’s not our concern. We are to obey. We are to proclaim.

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)

We desperately need the Holy Spirit’s power. We can’t change people. We can’t make anyone follow Jesus. But we can set an example. We can live compelling lives. We can invite people to the party. They can choose whether or not they want to attend.

By the way, this word “witnesses”…the Greek word is “martys.” What word do you know that sounds like martys? Martyr. A testifier, a witness, and possibly even someone whose proclamation will cost them their very life.

So What?

Look for opportunities to deal hope to those who are struggling through life, which is all of us at one time or another. Consider these questions:

  • - What do you do when life gets hard? Where do you turn?
  • - How do you make decisions? Who guides you through life?
  • - Where are you at in your spiritual journey?
  • - Are you a part of a faith community?
  • - What do you think is the meaning of life?
  • - How can I pray for you?

These are some simple, non-threatening questions which might open up some spiritual conversations, creating space for your story and the gospel of Jesus.

Family, loving God, loving others as we love ourselves, and make disciples necessitates proclamation. Good news needs to be shared. Will you proclaim?
  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Love, 2 September 2018

    Series: FAC-DNA
    Matthew 22:34-40

    Series Overview:
    God has placed us uniquely in our city and world for such a time as this, a Christ-centered, Acts 1:8 family.

    Big Idea: We are to love—God and others…even our enemies. Will we be dependent upon the Spirit to live His loving fruit through us?

    Why are you here? Perhaps you’re thinking, “Because I don’t have a cottage to close up this weekend!” But really, why are you here? Why did you choose to devote this time to be here this morning? I’m sure there are many reasons—if we’re honest—but perhaps a more important question is why are
    we here? If the answer is, “We’ve been gathering for 130 years on Sunday mornings so it’s just habit or ritual or tradition,” I want to say that’s not good enough! Really, why are we here?

    Unlike independent churches, we are part of a larger family, the Christian & Missionary Alliance. I was at a focus group this past week at the Art Museum and I was asked to describe the Alliance. People often ask, “Is it like Baptists or Presbyterian or Lutheran?” What is the Alliance? Many of you are new to the Alliance. I didn’t grow up in an Alliance church. Next year will be our eighth year—Heather and me—in the Alliance. So what is it?

    We are a Christ-centered, Acts 1:8 family.

    What does that mean?

    Obviously it means we’re focused on Jesus Christ. He is the way, the truth, and the life. He commissioned us to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20), reproducing Jesus in ourselves and others.

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

    This is known as the Great Commission. So the “why” the Alliance exists and why we exist is because Jesus commanded us to make disciples of all nations. Acts 1:8 defines “all nations” with a bit more detail:

    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)

    We exist to obey and worship and glorify Jesus Christ.

    We are called to make disciples in Toledo, the region, the nation, and around the world.

    We are also a family. We’re not a perfect family, but what family is?

    We are a Jesus-centered family making disciples in Toledo and beyond for God’s glory.

    But what does that mean? We’re going to examine that question this month in our series FAC-DNA.

    The “why” is to glorify and obey God.

    The “what” is to make disciples.

    But how? Here’s our Alliance president, Dr. John Stumbo:

    Stumbo video transcript:

    We said, “Lord, as a Christ-centered, Acts 1:8 family, what would you have us to do?”
    And four verbs seem to arise in prayer and in conversation, and I want to unpack each of those briefly today. They’ve become pillars for how we think and function.
    The first verb that seemed to arise was so simple that I was a little taken off guard at first. The word was simply “love.” But what seems simple at first has begun to arise in all its complexity as I realize that this must increasingly be central to who we are as an Alliance family and as the American church.
    That maybe, maybe there was a time that you could get away with a strong program, or a beautiful building, or with great communication, and that people would overlook the fact that they weren’t really being loved in the process. I don’t know if there was ever a time when that was true, but certainly that is not true now.
    The world isn’t going to care about our program. They won’t listen to our message. They won’t come to our building if there’s not the sense that love dwells among us. Love for each other, and as the family, and love for the world. That, what do we lead with? Are we leading with message? Are we leading with action and that some way is all about us?
    Are we leading with program, or building, or are we leading with what Christ said we’re actually to be known for, and that is our love? This drives me back to Jesus, because I don’t have the capacity to love like that, hour by hour, person by person.
    So, it takes me right back to the Christ-centered, Acts 1:8 family, focused on Jesus, empowered by the Spirit. I need Him in me, every moment, if I’m going to love that way. But I don’t want to back off on this, Alliance family, as if it’s something just to be assumed.
    Because I have to admit, as I travel so much, that I have left places at times, Alliance churches sometimes, and thought, “Pastor, church leader, I watched you worship with those people, preach to those people, take an offering from those people, have a picnic with those people, have meetings with those people, do all sorts of things with those people, but I’m not convinced that you love those people.”
    Other times, happily, on the other hand, I leave knowing that church leadership team loves the congregation that God has called them to serve, and it’s just evident in their demeanor, their attitude, their prayers, their behavior, their words.
    We must love. That’s what we’re called to do. It’s who we’re called to be as a Christ-centered, Acts 1:8 family.
    Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” (Matthew 22:34-36)

    Jesus replied:
    “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

    Love God.
    Love your neighbor as yourself.

    This is known as the Great Commandment.

    For thousands of years, religious people have sought checklists to follow and things to avoid. “Don’t drink, smoke, cuss or chew or hang around with those that do” was a popular slogan for many. Sometimes it’s easier to avoid sins of commission—committing sins—than sins of omission.

    Love God.
    Love your neighbor as yourself.

    Family, the world identifies us more for what we’re against than what we’re for! We should be known as the most compassionate, generous, kind, humble, gracious, and hospitable people on the planet. That’s love!

    I know the world loves love. A nearby mural says, “Toledo Loves Love.” But what is love?

    Jesus is not speaking of an emotion. He’s not referencing a sexual act. It’s a rugged commitment to another person, looking out for their best interest.

    The “love chapter” of the Bible is often recited at weddings, but it was not written about a couple. It addresses Jesus’ command to love our neighbor as ourselves.

    Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

    For some of you, those words are so familiar you’ve almost tuned me out. Here’s a slightly newer version, the New Living Translation:

    Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

    Think about this past week. Were you ever impatient with someone? The person ahead of you on I-75 or in line at Kroger? Did you miss an opportunity to be kind to a co-worker or neighbor? At any point were you jealous? Proud? Rude? Selfish? Bitter?

    Have you ever felt like giving up…on another person?

    On Tuesday I attended a fantastic gathering of Christian leaders at The Tabernacle down the street. Our governor and attorney general’s office sent presenters to discuss the opioid epidemic. I must say I learned a lot, including the way the brain is changed through the introduction of certain stimulants including not only alcohol and heroin but also pornography and some pain killers. Recovery is long, hard and messy. That’s true for the addict as well as the friends, family and caregivers.

    Love never gives up. It’s easy to give up on people. One of the presenters at the gathering on Tuesday was Darryl Strawberry, a superstar baseball player whose career was literally busted by substance abuse. He said he went through rehab five times and it never worked…until he met Jesus Christ! Now he not only speaks, he and his wife have opened a Christian recovery center for people suffering from addiction and mental illness…something experienced by 8 million Americans including many of you. Love never gives up.

    This is a great opportunity to give a plug for Celebrate Recovery. If you are dealing with grief, loss, habits, hurts, or pain—which is really all of us—Celebrate Recovery is for you…Wednesdays at 7 PM in the Fellowship Hall. I attended again this past Wednesday. What a great ministry! You will find amazing people there who love…the hurting, the broken…the unlovable? The most common response to Celebrate Recovery invitees is, “It’s not for me,” yet it is. Only one third of Celebrate Recovery participants are dealing with addictions. The other two-thirds are dealing with pain, grief, loss, and hurts. Last month was one of the most difficult for me and our entire church body as we experienced a funeral, news of several serious accidents, lengthy hospitalizations, an unexpected job loss, …As a family, we have been grieving. We must not rush the process. We must talk, pray, support, encourage, listen, and love one another. Celebrate Recovery is a great forum for such love. Enduring love. Love that never gives up.

    We are commanded to love, family. Yes, we love God by praying, studying the Bible, attending church gatherings, singing songs of worship, and giving financially to support Kingdom work. But we also love God by loving others.

    I’m not good at loving others. Sure, you probably think I’m a loving person because you see me smile and act nice on Sunday, but that’s because you’re all so lovable!

    The real test of our love is not how we treat our best friend or the person we’re hoping will help us in some way. Jesus said love your enemies. He said love the poor. He said love those in prison. He said love the stranger, the immigrant, the refugee.

    Let me get real personal—and I’m very serious—love the Muslim, the Republican, the Democrat, the communist! We are to love the drug dealer, the pimp, the child molester, the person who abused you. Obviously we are not to love all of their behaviors, but Jesus shed His blood on the cross for their sins as well as yours and mine. In fact, Jesus loved—and prayed for—the very people who crucified him!

    When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said,
    “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. (Luke 23:33-34)

    That’s love! That’s not candy heart, lollipops and rainbows love. That’s raw, messy love.

    Love is a great idea, until you have enemies to love!

    Scot McKnight says love is a rugged commitment to be with another person, to be for another person, and to grow together in Christ-likeness. It’s not just a feeling, but involves action, presence, advocacy, and transformation.

    That’s what Jesus did for us. He didn’t just send us love notes. He came to be with us. He gave his life for us. And today he is for us. He is praying for us. He is preparing a place for us. He loves us. He loves you. And he wants that love shared with others. We love because He first loved us.

    But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, - Matthew 5:44
    “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

    Family, let’s go love God. Let’s go love Toledo. Let’s go love this world.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Make Disciples, Family Rules, 22 February 2015

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

    *Note: as a basis of comparision,

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Today’s rule is make disciples.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Notice there are four generations in this one verse:

    • Paul
    • Timothy
    • reliable people
    • others

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

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

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

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

    “Great,” you say, “but how?”

    I’m so glad you asked!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Paul said to the people of Corinth simply:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Two More Things

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

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


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

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

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

    Who is discipling you?
    Who are you discipling?

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

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

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

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

    Know Thyself, Family Rules, 11 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 knows its identity.

    Who are you?
    I don’t mean you as an individual, but you as a church? Who are we? We are Scio Community Church, but who are we? What is our identity?

    When meeting a new person, it’s common to ask, “What do you do?” Individuals are often identified by their vocation. “I’m a doctor.” “I’m a teacher.” "I’m a student.” That’s what they do, but it’s not the totality of who they are as humans.

    An ancient Greek aphorism/saying/maxim says, “Know thyself.” It has been attributed to Socrates and others, was used by Plato, referenced by Benjamin Franklin, found above the Oracle’s door in the movie
    The Matrix, and serves as the motto of Hamilton College (NY).

    One year ago we looked at what it means to be followers of Jesus and our identity…
    in Christ. Our study of Ephesians had a deep impact on my life as I am beginning to understand God the Father says the same things about me as He says about Jesus: “You are my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.” He says the same to you (unless you are female, in which case He calls you His beloved daughter!”).

    As Scio Community Church, we are more than merely a group of individuals. We are greater than the sum of our parts (or persons). The Bible describes the church as a body.

    Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. (1 Corinthians 12:27)

    It is described as a temple. It is called God’s field. It is the people of God.

    Perhaps the most common word used to describe the church—and certainly Scio Community Church—is family.

    For many, the word “family” elicits positive thoughts and emotions, feelings of love, warmth, respect, affection, and loyalty. For others, pain and heartache are closely associated with family.

    What is a family?

    Dictionary.com offers these definitions:

    a basic social unit consisting of parents and their children, considered as a group, whether dwelling together or not:
    the traditional family.

    a social unit consisting of one or more adults together with the children they care for: a single-parent family.

    any group of persons closely related by blood, as parents, children, uncles, aunts, and cousins:

    to marry into a socially prominent family.

    a group of persons who form a household under one head, including parents, children, and servants.

    The definition has changed through the years. Just observing popular television families reveals the transitions our culture has experienced. Think about the differences between the following families:

    Little House on the Prairie
    The Waltons
    All In The Family
    Happy Days
    Home Improvement
    Modern Family

    A few years ago Coca Cola did
    this commercial that expresses a contemporary definition of family about as well as any…

    According to Coke, family is anyone you want it to be! Fortunately the Bible is our authority, not Hollywood or Madison Avenue!

    Family was God’s design from the beginning…and I don’t mean Adam and Eve. Family existed before them!

    Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” (Genesis 1:26)

    Did you catch it? Let
    us make mankind…in our image and likeness. Although the word trinity does not appear in the Bible, the concept of one God in three Persons is clear. We worship a triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. All God. All family. All creating and doing God stuff together! Each has their own unique roles and relationship to the other Persons. It is something of a mystery…but God models for us community—family!

    Our winter series, Family Rules, is a double entendre; rules is both a noun and verb. 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. When people talk about church, they could mean a building. They could mean a Sunday morning gathering. It is common to refer to the universal church of all followers of Jesus Christ worldwide. For much of this series family will refer to us—Scio Community Church.

    We are family!

    As I said, that word has baggage for many. We strive to be a healthy family, not a dysfunctional, broken family. No family is perfect, but I hope through this series you will gain a greater appreciation for our Scio family and be challenged to make it stronger, healthier…and possibly larger as healthy things tend to grow.

    Why Family?

    Of all of the images used to describe us, why would God choose family? Simply, God created the first biological family of Adam and Eve and co-created with them Cain, Abel, and their other children. His design included a father, a mother, and children—three people in one unit. It kind of reminds me of the Trinity!

    Likewise, God the Father functions as our Father, the Holy Spirit—called the Comforter and several other terms—plays a significant role, and Jesus is our big Brother. We are called sons and daughters of God. We are called into relationship not only with God, but with one another.

    If you recall last week when we concluded our series on Mary, we noted Jesus’ own words regarding family:

    Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:35)

    It’s not uncommon for people in our Scio family to refer to one another as sisters and brothers…and for good reason. We are related…by blood—Jesus’ blood.

    Paul wrote most of the New Testament of the Bible and frequently referred to other believers as brothers and sisters (e.g. 1 Cor. 8:13; 2 Cor. 2:13; Phil. 2:25).

    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)

    Peter referred to us as family, too:

    Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor. (1 Peter 2:17)

    Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. (1 Peter 5:9)

    Have you ever had a close friend that felt like a brother or sister—or even more so?

    One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24)

    You can choose your friends, but you don’t choose your family. You are born into or adopted into a family. In one sense, God adopted us into His family.

    Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. (Ephesians 1:3-6)

    For in Christ Jesus you are all children of God, through faith… (Galatians 3:26)

    In another sense, we choose to become a part of the Scio family. Your attendance and participation communicate your desire to make this your church family, though unlike earlier times, there are options. In fact, there are about three hundred options in Washtenaw County alone! It’s not uncommon for selfish, consumeristic impulses to prompt people to go “church shopping,” but that was never God’s design for His family. The variety of church options is both a blessing and a curse, an opportunity to customize and contextualize and also a way to divide and segregate.

    The aforementioned metaphor as the church as a body with different parts usually refers to individual people being individual parts, though I believe it could also refer to individual churches in a community, each unique and special and in need of one another, partnering together knowing the nightmare and pain of a detached body part! We do not try to compete with other area churches, but rather complement and partner with them. We need them and they need us.

    This raises the question, “Why are there so many churches in Washtenaw County?” What separates us from St. Luke Lutheran Church, St. Francis of Assisi, the Ypsilanti Free Methodist Church, or even our neighbors down the road, Covenant Community Church?

    Geography is a legitimate reason for multiple churches in our county. It is ideal to be involved in a church family close to your home, for a variety of reasons (even though few in the Scio family live near our Scio facility!). Practically, the 350,000 or so residents of our county would not fit in our sanctuary for worship—or any facility in the area, for that matter!

    Theology is another factor that makes us distinct from other churches. There are significant differences between Catholic and Protestant churches (and Orthodox). We all refer to ourselves as Christians and are genuinely brothers and sisters, but significant historical events have revealed distinctions such as the role of the Bible, the Lord’s Supper, Mary, and church traditions. There are some wonderful, godly Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox and plenty of Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox who look nothing like Jesus and merely consume religious goods and services.

    Under the umbrella of Protestants lies a host of denominations, roughly 43,000 worldwide with some predicting 55,000 by 2025! Ugh! Theological differences account for such a large number.

    We are a part of the
    Christian & Missionary Alliance, a global movement of churches. We may have differences of opinion on the Bible with some Lutherans, Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians and other Protestants, though I would argue most are minor in comparison to differences with other world religions. All followers of Jesus are on the same team! We’re all one, big, sometimes-happy family!

    Another distinction between Scio and other local churches is our
    methodology or style. Some churches worship with pipe organs, others with lasers and rock bands. We’re somewhere in the middle! Some facilities have stained glass and steeples while some churches meet in school auditoriums or night clubs. We’re somewhere in the middle! Some are formal, use the King James Version of the Bible and have ministers in robes while others are informal, use modern translations, and have ministers in shorts and flip flops. We’re somewhere in the middle!

    Perhaps the one thing that makes Scio Community Church—our family—unique from other church families is…you! Us!
    People! We even have a sister church, Saline Community Church, in the Alliance with similar beliefs and practices (albeit somewhat different geography) but they don’t have you! God has assembled a unique collection of men, women and children to call Scio their church family. You are the church! We are the church!

    We are a people—God’s people.

    But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10)

    We are a chosen people who both exist as a family and who are on mission together. There is an aspect in which we
    are, but also in which we do. We have been invited into relationship with the Father and challenged to live out our calling. We participate with God on His mission. Specifically,

    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.
    There is so much more to say about our Scio family…and we will in the coming weeks. The first rule for us as a family is to know who we are…and Who’s we are!
    You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

    Covenant & Kingdom: Paul, 12 October 2014

    Big Idea: Covenant is the ability to become ONE with the person with whom we are in Covenant. The Father has expressed that he is ONE with his Son. Jesus expresses that he is ONE with his disciples—us!

    Key Scripture: Acts 9:1-6


    We’ve come to the end of our series Covenant & Kingdom: The DNA of the Bible. As we’ve looked at the big picture of the 66-book library we call the Bible, we’ve seen how Covenant and Kingdom are woven throughout the Scriptures like a double helix is woven in DNA.

    Covenant is a sacred treaty in which two parties become one. In ancient times, this always involved the shedding of blood by an animal to imply consequences for failure to fulfill the agreement.

    Covenant is about relationship. Being. Invitation.

    Kingdom reflects the rule and reign of a king with a people. People of the covenant are to serve under King Jesus.

    Kingdom is about responsibility. Doing. Challenge.

    In a word, covenant is about come. Jesus invites His disciples to come with Him.
    In a word, kingdom is about go. He challenged His followers to go and make disciples.

    It’s great to read about the roles of covenant and kingdom in the lives of Abram, Joseph, Moses, and Jesus, but the story continued beyond Jesus. Specifically, a man named Saul who may have been public enemy number one of early disciples of Jesus experienced covenant and kingdom and we’re going to look at his life today.

    Acts 9:1-6

    Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:1-4)

    This is crazy! A light and a voice!

    “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

    “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied.

    “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” (Acts 9:5-6)

    This may be the most radical conversion in history! It’s not enough that a threat to Christians became arguably the most important figure in the early church. He receives a personal invitation from Jesus to join His team…while he is on his way to murder Christians! Perhaps not unlike Abram’s call from God, Saul receives a personal message from God that forever changed his life.

    Was Saul hurting Jesus? No. He was persecuting followers of Jesus. He is saying, “If you hurt one of My followers, you are hurting Me.” That’s covenant! Jesus’ disciples are one with Him.

    Perhaps you recall Jesus teaching explicitly about this.

    “When he finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with him, the Son of Man will take his place on his glorious throne. Then all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left.

    “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:

    I was hungry and you fed me,
    I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
    I was homeless and you gave me a room,
    I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
    I was sick and you stopped to visit,
    I was in prison and you came to me.’

    “Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’

    “Then he will turn to the ‘goats,’ the ones on his left, and say, ‘Get out, worthless goats! You’re good for nothing but the fires of hell.
    And why? Because—

    I was hungry and you gave me no meal,
    I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
    I was homeless and you gave me no bed,
    I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,
    Sick and in prison, and you never visited.’

    “Then those ‘goats’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn’t help?’

    “He will answer them, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.’

    “Then those ‘goats’ will be herded to their eternal doom, but the ‘sheep’ to their eternal reward.” (Matthew 25:31-46,
    The Message)

    Listen to these words again, this time from the
    New International Version:

    ‘Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ (Mt. 25:40b)

    ‘Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ (Mt. 25:45b)

    At Jesus’ baptism, the Father clearly said He was one with Jesus, the Son. Covenant.
    At Jesus’ death and throughout His life He lived out the mission. Kingdom.

    Heaven touches earth in Jesus. He becomes the portal of the future we long for. The future touches the present in the person of Jesus. He becomes the conduit of the blessings of heaven.
    Jesus and His disciples are one. That’s covenant.
    Jesus and His disciples are sent on mission. That’s kingdom.

    Back to Saul. Saul is dramatically converted. His name is even changed, to Paul. The scales fall from his eyes, he is baptized by Ananias in Damascus on the road called Straight. He preaches in the local synagogue, rests a bit, and is in Jerusalem with Peter for a while. For the next 13 years or so he persecuted. 2 Corinthians 11 and 12 tells us Paul is whipped by 39 lashes on five different occasions, is beaten by rods three times, on the open sea for a day and shipwrecked…most of these before Barnabus finds him and brings him to Antioch. So between Paul encountering Jesus and Barnabus he is persecuted. He’s probably been excommunicated at least five times (hence the 39 lashes) and is alone. Some sources suggest Paul was hiding for his life, living in a cave, abandoned by fiends and family, beaten near death, at the end of his rope…and now God will use him to do the most amazing work in the history of the church! It’s during Paul’s trials and suffering that he grows, that he understands the church as the body of Christ. When Jesus’ disciples are persecuted, Jesus feels it. It’s like they share the same body. They are one. The Christian church is the body of Christ!

    The people in our community who are longing for a touch of heaven―if they met Jesus, they would find heaven. They would hear words of forgiveness. They would experience a touch of healing. They would know restoration and deliverance. We know that if they met Jesus, that is what they would experience.

    So how will they do that?

    Through the body.

    Through Jesus, presented to the world, through his Covenant people. And if the people of the community donʼt experience Jesus through us, then we have to look in the mirror and say:
    Why is that?

    If people donʼt experience Jesus through us, why arenʼt they? It really is about Covenant and Kingdom all the way through.
    Covenant is about Relationship. Kingdom is about representing the King.

    It is an invitation to Relationship, to the life of discipleship and ONEness with Jesus. It is the challenge to live into the responsibility of representing the King, to live into what we were created for.

    It is about BEING one with God and DOING things for him. But Covenant and Kingdom isnʼt just about you as an individual...it is about us as the body. It is about being a Covenant community doing the work of the King.

    And what is the work of the King? To save all that was lost in the beginning through the people who lost it in the first place. It is a rescue mission that God has been on since the Fall in Genesis 3.

    We are a Covenant community with the mission of extending the Kingdom of our Father.

    Itʼs Covenant and Kingdom. Itʼs BEING and DOING. Itʼs Relationship and Responsibility Itʼs Invitation and Challenge. Itʼs being a Community on Mission.

    This community exists to be on mission together.

    Itʼs right there. Itʼs why we exist. Together, as the body, covenanted together with Jesus, we represent the King and extend his rule, bringing forgiveness, healing, restoration, and deliverance wherever we go. People will experience the future that is heaven in us today.

    That is what it means to be the church. It is know Jesus and make Him known. It is to be the hands and feet of Christ, Jesus with skin on!

    We are on a mission from God. It begins with knowing our Father and continues with marching orders as the body of Christ, the kingdom of God. The kingdom is a people. It’s us! There is no Plan B.

    One More Thing

    Have you ever wondered why Jesus left? Why did He only spend 33 years or so on our planet and then pass the baton to us? He didn’t leave us alone. He sent the Holy Spirit to live inside us. When you receive and follow Jesus, you get the Holy Spirit, too. Unlike Jesus, the Holy Spirit is omni-present, able to be in many places at once, living inside of you and me. I believe this is what is behind Jesus’ promise to His disciples:

    I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12)

    Notice Jesus didn’t just say this, He began with that emphasized phrase “I tell you the truth.” We are the body. We are to be filled with the Holy Spirit. We are to re-present Jesus—the Head of the body—to the world, making disciples of all nations, teaching them and baptizing them.

    So what?

    What has God been saying to you through this message? This series? What are you going to do about it?

    For some of you, this is a season where you need to lean into relationship with God, embrace the reality that you are precious to your Creator, loved and cherished by your heavenly Daddy.

    For others, it’s time to stop talking and start moving into kingdom activity. The king is giving you marching orders to love your neighbor, to serve the poor and weak, to give generously of your resources, to advance the kingdom on your knees in prayer, or even to get a passport and expand the kingdom beyond known territory.

    But it’s not just about you. It’s about us. Together. The body. The church. The kingdom is a people and we are that people.

    Scio Community Church

    By the end of 2015 we hope to travel together to the
    Dominican Republic and make disciples. We will have numerous opportunities to serve together in Life Groups. Each week we can read God’s Word together via our Facebook Scio Journal and pray using our weekly FirstWork prayer tool. We can help one another, encourage one another, and love one another. That’s the greatest indicator of our effectiveness. Jesus said it plainly:

    This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” (John 13:35)

    Are you ready?


    Ideas for this series taken from book of the same title by Mike Breen and 3DMovements.com.

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

    Great Commission Sunday, 22 June 2014

    Big Idea: We are all called to make disciples.

    Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20)

    We are on a mission. The church doesn’t have a mission. The mission has a church! The mission includes a commission—a command, an order, an assignment.

    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.

    To learn more about Great Commission Sunday including two videos and how to give, click here.

    We are all called to make disciples. How? Time, talents and treasures.

    Time: pray, build relationships online and in person, serve our global missionaries
    Talents: go overseas short-term or long-term, study, serve in and through Scio & C&MA
    Treasures: give financially (offering later)

    Please pray for recent Global Missions Conference guests:

    - the Volstads
    - the Hanscomes
    - The Careys

    Please also pray for the Burns family, transitioning from an overseas assignment to a domestic one.

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

    Awesome God: Who We Worship, 9 September 2012

    Big Idea: We worship and seek to glorify an awesome God.

    What does glorified mean?

    It means to make glorious!
    To make glorious by bestowing honor, praise, or admiration
    To light up brilliantly
    To give glory to, as in worship

    That’s the bottom line of why Scio exists...and why you were created.

    It has been often said that we live in a consumeristic culture. Thousands of messages bombard us every day telling that it’s all about us. Have it your way. You deserve a break today. Obey your thirst. Part of human nature is to glorify or worship ourselves rather than God.

    Have you ever heard of the Ten Commandments? What are they?

    We usually think first of don’t steal, kill, or lie. Those are important, but the first ones are most important.

    “You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand [generations] of those who love me and keep my commandments. “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20:3-11)

    1. No other Gods
    2. No idols
    3. Do not misuse the name of the LORD
    4. Take a Sabbath to the LORD your God

    These are not suggestions, but commands. These are more important than no adultery or coveting. The Ten Commandments begin with God. He wants to be LORD, King, Master.

    Why? Because He is insecure? He has an ego problem? He is arrogant? No, because He is God! He deserves it! As we sang earlier, He is the Creator of all things. He Created the game, He can set the rules! Even better, He initiated this thing we call life and humanity and the universe and He loves it! He wants it to thrive! He saved His best for last when it all began.

    Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27)

    In 1647, a gathering of English and Scottish theological writers set out to summarize the Bible in order to train people in the faith. For hundreds of years it has been used in countless churches. The Westminster Shorter Catechism begins with a question:

    What is the chief end of man?

    Why am I here? What is my purpose? What meaning is there in life? The answer follows...

    Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.

    I love this statement because it provides two responses. The first is that we were created to glorify God. That is the purpose of this series. That is why Scio exists. That is why you exist! It is to glorify, honor, bless, love, serve, obey, recognize, follow God.

    There is a real danger, though, in being told, “glorify God.”

    Kids, have you ever asked your parents “why?” only to be told, “Because I said so!”?

    The fifth commandment is to obey mom and dad, but sometimes we naturally want more incentive than “just do it.”

    In two weeks, we’re going to focus on the why of worship. Today I want to show you one simple thing about meaning and purpose in life: it’s about God.

    Not long ago I mentioned John Piper’s definition of a Christian hedonist:

    God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.

    How can we be satisfied in God? It begins with meditating on who He is.

    I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever. Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts. They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty, and I will meditate on your wonderful works. They will tell of the power of your awesome works, and I will proclaim your great deeds. They will celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness. The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made. All you have made will praise you, O LORD; your saints will extol you. They will tell of the glory of your kingdom and speak of your might, so that all men may know of your mighty acts and the glorious splendor of your kingdom. (Psalm 145:1-12)

    Going back to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, we were created to glorify God...and to enjoy Him forever.

    The more we know Jesus Christ, the more we not only learn of the command to love Him, the more we want to love Him. The more we understand His love, His grace, His mercy, His forgiveness, His hope, His joy, the more we naturally want to love Him, know Him, obey Him, and enjoy Him...forever!

    Piper adds

    We all make a god out of what we take the most pleasure in. Christian Hedonists want to make God their God by seeking after the greatest pleasure—pleasure in him. By Christian Hedonism, we do not mean that our happiness is the highest good. We mean that pursuing the highest good will always result in our greatest happiness in the end. We should pursue this happiness, and pursue it with all our might. The desire to be happy is a proper motive for every good deed, and if you abandon the pursuit of your own joy you cannot love man or please God.

    We serve a truly awesome God. He spoke or possibly sang into existence the galaxies, the fish, the platypus, and humanity. The more we see how great God is, the more it puts into perspective our lives, our hopes, and our challenges.

    This week I was reminded of this yet again. We received one of those dreaded late-night phone calls that said that one of our children was being taken to the ER. Panic set in. Fear gripped. Our first tangible action was prayer, not simply because we wanted to fire off an SOS to God—though we did—but also to be reminded that God is good, He is faithful, He is trustworthy, He is all-powerful, He is the definition of love, He is sovereign and in control, He is all-knowing and wise, He is an ever-present help in times of trouble, He is great and mighty, ...and somehow what seems so difficult and overwhelming to us seems downright manageable to Him!

    A few days later I was meeting with a group of college students and one walked in, visibly stressed, and on the verge of despair. He said unless a miracle took place within a few hours, he would be unable to continue his education. His was a big deal! People were kindly giving advice, but it was obvious that no action on his part would solve the issue. We prayed, and a few hours later I received a phone call that a miracle had, indeed, occurred and that he would be able to stay in school.

    Sometimes God answers prayer in the manner in which we want, but not always. In the case of our child, we’re still uncertain as to the ultimate outcome. To be honest, I worry and fear, and then I am reminded that though those are natural temptations, it is in. Worry says I don’t trust that God is able. It often means I have forgotten Him or who He truly is, an awesome God who is worthy of praise and worship and glory—not because of what He does, but because of who He is. Circumstances don’t change God, nor do they change His worth.


    Our God is awesome. People use that word flippantly—that car is awesome, the Detroit Lions are awesome, that hamburger is awesome. I rarely use the word for anything but God. He awes me. He amazes me. His character and love and power and understanding and presence have no end. He is worth my time and talents and treasures. He deserves my devotion and love and obedience, just because of Who He is. The more I keep my eyes and ears and heart focused on Him, the more peace and joy and hope and purpose I inevitably experience as my attitude, priorities, and heart shift to the One who initiated it all...in the beginning. He is my pleasure. He is my treasure.

    You can listen to the podcast

    Our Mission, 11 September 2011

  • Big Idea: God has given us a mission and it is radical.

  • Legendary football coach Vince Lombardi of the Green Bay Packers had a most interesting beginning to pre-season training. All the players knew that at the first team meeting, the coach would waste no time getting straight to the point. Many of the men, half Lombardi’s age and twice his size, were openly fearful, dreading the encounter. The coach did not disappoint them, and, in fact, delivered his message in one of the great one-liners of all time. Football in hand, Lombardi walked to the front of the room, took several seconds to look over the assemblage in silence, held out the pigskin in front of him, and said, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” In only five words, Lombardi communicated his point: We’re going to start with the basics and make sure we’re executing all the fundamentals.

  • My very first words as your pastor were, “Why are you here?” It doesn’t get any more basic than that! Last week we said that we exist to glorify God, according to the Westminster Shorter Catechism.

  • We have also talked about the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.

  • The Great Commission summarizes Jesus’ final words to His followers some 2000 years ago.

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

  • The Great Commandment was Jesus’ response to the question of the greatest commandment.

  • Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

  • Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:34-40)

  • Sometime in the early 1900s our church was planted. Although we’ve been unable to uncover details of the once-new church, it was undoubtedly launched to fulfill the Great Commission and follow the Great Commandment.

  • - Make disciples.
  • - Love God.
  • - Love people.

  • Last month the elders gathered together to prayerfully consider where God was leading us. There were two exercises that were especially valuable:

  • 1. We began to develop a mission statement. Mission statements do not achieve the mission, but they define it in order to make it achievable. I had spent months trying to find our mission statement and each person I asked gave me a different answer! If we had one, it was not clear or memorable.

  • Many churches take the Great Commission from Matthew 28 and form a generic mission statement such as…

  • “We exist to know God and make Him known” or
  • “We exist to make disciples and glorify God.”

  • Those are fine, but they are so broad that every church should adopt them. In fact, if they couldn’t agree to those statements, I would question whether or not they are a biblical church!

  • 2. We did a SWOT analysis. Some of you are probably imagining a mosquito infestation while others recognize it as a review of our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. The one striking thing to me was the item viewed as our greatest weakness—geography.

  • There are two things that are striking: a) many live far from our building and b) most live far from one another.

  • We pondered the question, “What if our greatest weakness became our greatest strength?”

  • We all agreed that we did not merely want to be a distributor of religious goods and services. We also agreed that God has a unique mission for our church that can complement neighboring churches as we partner together.

  • Furthermore, we agreed that we have been on something of a treadmill for a while, engaging in good activity but not having a clear direction. It’s better to be on a treadmill than to go the wrong way!

  • So this morning I’d like to present to you our mission statement…

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

  • - serving our communities
  • - sharing our story
  • - sending disciples to bless the nations

  • so that God is glorified.

  • These words are not magic. They don’t accomplish anything on their own. They do define our purpose and set direction for our present and future. Now I’d like to take some time and unpack it for you.

  • Make disciples. That’s our primary objective. Why? Those are our marching orders given to us by our Senior Pastor, Jesus Christ. He didn’t tell us to build buildings, gather on Sundays, sing songs, preach sermons, or have potlucks, though they can be part of the process. He said to make disciples. By doing so, we will glorify God since that is what He has called us to do.

  • Love God and people. Again, this is very broad and generic, yet meaningful. It should be the benchmark for everything we do.

  • Serving our communities. The most important part of this phrase is the plurality of the word community. As much as we may want to focus our efforts on Scio Township, there are two major obstacles to doing so. First, few of us live in Scio Township. Our greatest sphere of influence will naturally be our neighbors. Second, even if we all lived in Scio Township, Scio has no clear identity. It is a hunk of land between Dexter and Ann Arbor.

  • In some ways, our building reminds me of the Detroit Lions’ football stadium Ford Field in Detroit, a destination where people from surrounding areas gather on Sundays for a few hours only to scatter and return to their communities until next Sunday.

  • We will continue to gather on Sundays, but our focus is to equip and empower you to love and serve your neighbors in your respective communities. Rather than trying to get people to come to church, we want to take the church to the people across Washtenaw County and beyond. God has placed us in a very strategic region that causes ripples around the world.

  • People often analyze the teaching of Jesus. Even atheists and agnostics glean from His wise words, viewing Him as something of a sage. It wasn’t merely His words that attracted people, however. It was the way He served people. He spent time with children. He fed the crowds. He healed the sick. He gave away His life in every conceivable way. He commands us to do likewise.

  • People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. We are committed to loving and serving our communities. How? We will present some church-wide opportunities such as serving at the Ann Arbor-Dexter Run or supporting our ministry partner Hope Clinic in Ypsilanti. The rest is ultimately up to you. Most of us can’t even begin to serve our neighbors because we don’t know our neighbors. We’re going to encourage you to throw parties, have barbecues, volunteer in your communities, and be missionaries to your neighborhoods.

  • Sharing our story. Once people earn our trust, they will be willing to listen to our story. One of the great problems with street preachers on soapboxes is the absence of relationships. We have a story. We shared some earlier this year during 2WordStory and the EACH campaign. It’s ultimately not our story but His. We are about both works and words.

  • Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. (1 Peter 3:15b)

  • Your story coupled with your service are more powerful than any sermon, revival meeting, or crusade. You have a personal story but we also have a common story. Each Christ-follower can testify that “I once was lost/but now I’m found/Was blind but now I see.”

  • Our world is dying to hear our story—literally. Every day I read the tragic stories of people who have breathed their last breath, many unaware of the God who so loved them that He gave His only Son for them.

  • Sending disciples to bless the nations. The ultimate result of our deeds and words will be disciples, fully-devoted followers of Jesus, people that know Jesus, love Jesus, and look like Jesus. The real test of our effectiveness is not merely how good the band sounds, how much fun the kids have, or how many people like the sermon. The question is are we making disciples and blessing the world.

  • Jesus said to make disciples “of all nations” and we can do this through relationships with internationals in our communities, through the Internet, and through short and long-term mission trips. One of the greatest things about our denomination—our tribe—the Christian & Missionary Alliance—is their passion for the nations. Missions is not something to be done one week each fall, but 24/7/365. Some of you may never need a passport, but many of you—especially our youth—are being prepared to GO. Jesus’ commission literally means to make disciples of all nations “as you are going” and that will often require travel. One dream of mine is to have a group next year travel to Peru to partner with Great Commission Air, our church’s global missions partner.

  • So that God is glorified. We end where we began, with God. We are His Church. We are His people. It’s all about Him.

  • That is our mission: serve our communities, share our story, and send disciples.

  • So what’s our theme for the year? It’s all about fulfilling our mission and it is simply called Radical. Over the next few weeks and throughout this ministry year we’re going to look at some of the most challenging teachings of Jesus and analyzing what it means to be a Christian in USAmerica.

  • Blessed Assurance. In 1873, blind composer Fanny Crosby wrote the words to the popular hymn, Blessed Assurance. As we sing about our story, praise our awesome God for allowing us to be a part of His story and giving us a mission to serve, share, and send.

  • A note about youth. God has blessed with a uniquely gifted leader in Karl Koenig. I have been mentoring him weekly for several months and will continue to invest heavily in his life and ministry. He is taking a long-term approach to developing a dynamic youth group that will not merely entertain students but will challenge them to live their lives for something that matters, not the American dream but fulfilling God’s dream.

  • We are serious about not only making adult disciples but also disciples of our children and youth. A lock-in and retreat this fall are just the beginning of a comprehensive commitment to develop the next generation of leaders.

  • Baptism. I’m very excited about these five young people. Each of them desires to be fully-devoted followers of Christ. They want to be disciples and unlike a child dedication or baptism, we practice believer’s baptism where today they publicly declare their faith in Jesus.

  • Just as a wedding ring doesn’t make a person married but declares their commitment to their spouse, so baptism itself doesn’t make a person a disciple of Jesus but declares their commitment to Christ.

  • As we saw in the Great Commission, Jesus commands us to baptize disciples. The symbolism of baptism by immersion is rich. It depicts a water grave where we enter the water, die of ourselves and our sins, and come out of the water resurrected through new life in Christ.

  • Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (Romans 6:3-4)

  • David Platt writes, “Baptism is the clear, public, symbolic picture of the new life we have in Christ. As illustrated in baptism, we have died with Christ—died to our sin and died to ourselves—and we have been raised to life with him. Baptism also pictures our identification with one another in the church. Baptism unites us as brothers and sisters who share the life of Christ with one another. Disciple making involves inviting people into a larger community of faith where they will see the life of Christ in action and experience the love of Christ in person.”

  • You can listen to the podcast here.
  • E13U796O04I5BEO0