Equipping the Next Generation, 25 July 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you ready?

Let’s go!

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

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

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

We mobilize the next generation to fulfill the Great Commission.

Let’s work our way backward.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- the next
spiritual generation
- the next
biological generation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Could it be our faith is not attractive?

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

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

May it never be! I declare and decree

We mobilize the next generation to fulfill the Great Commission.

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

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

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

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

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

In addition, we continue to equip the next generation through

- After School Klub
- Act 2 Productions

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

Efforts at evangelizing adults are not futile, but challenging.

So What?

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

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

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

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

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

Sue Trumbull's prayer requests:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Launch, 30 September 2018

Series: FAC-DNA
Romans 12:4-8

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:
What can our church do to open the door to service more widely, launching leaders, groups, and churches?

My name is Kirk and today we conclude our series FAC DNA. We’ve been looking at why we exist, why our Christian & Missionary Alliance family exists. Our president, Dr. John Stumbo, has called us a Christ-centered, Acts 1:8 family. We are all about Jesus Christ. He is our Savior, Sanctifier, Healer, Coming King, LORD, and Senior Pastor. We are a family, a mosaic of different people from different backgrounds united at the foot of the cross as God’s children. We are commanded to love God and love others as we love ourselves. And we’ve been commissioned to make disciples of all nations, beginning with Jerusalem—or Toledo—and also Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth.

The “how” of being a Christ-centered, Acts 1:8 family has been expressed in four verbs:

We love.
We proclaim.
We reach.
We launch!

Stumbo video transcript:

Four verbs. We’re called to love, we’re called to proclaim, to reach, and the fourth is to launch. For us to do that loving, proclaiming, reaching kind of work, we need to continue to launch, and I don’t know how many things I’m saying when I say that word.
I am pleased to report that I love seeing evidences of when older leaders such as myself start to make room for
younger leaders who are rising among us and give them a voice, an opportunity, a chance to speak in or to in some way engage more fully in a position, or on a platform with a microphone, or in some way to have a greater voice.
I’ve been pleased to see when men are using their influence to allow an open door for
women to have a ministry access—completely within our polity to do so. But often women have been shut out from ministry opportunities, and so it’s fun to see men help women be launched in ministry.
And it’s also exciting to see when those like myself, of a Caucasian background, that have some measure of privilege for why we get to do what we do, to use that influence to open doors for those who come from
other cultures, who may not have as much natural access to ministry opportunities as we do.
And so, I’m not claiming by any means that we have totally arrived at launching various sectors of the Alliance family, but I am saying that I do see evidence of that from place to place, and I rejoice in that and want to just be an advocate for those of us who would use our current positions of influence to give others access to ministry opportunities that we may have just taken for granted, but they can’t take for granted because they haven’t been given them. So, launching . . .Christ-centered, Act 1:8 family—called to love, proclaim, reach, and launch. It takes me back to a need for the Holy Spirit to be fully at work in my life and yours as well.
May we commit ourselves to these kinds of things, for these are the kinds of things that the Church must be doing as we prepare for, and rejoice in, the return of Christ.

One of the Alliance Core Values states:

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

We’re all about making disciples—reproducing Jesus. The word “Christian” means “little Christ” even though many Christians act nothing like Jesus…but that’s the goal. As we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we will become like Jesus and have been commissioned to reproduce that Christ-likeness in others.

I was raised in a small church in Michigan and was led to believe the pastor’s job was to do all of the ministry and the people in the congregation just sang songs, tried to stay awake during his sermons, and paid his salary. Essentially, he was the hired hand, the professional to do the ministry. Boy was I wrong!

Church is a team sport. I’ve heard some people say they love Jesus but they hate church. I understand what’s behind that, but how offensive would it be for me to say to someone, “I love you but I hate your spouse!” We were not created to be independent, autonomous individuals. We were created for community, for interdependence. In fact God exists in community—one God in three Persons, something we call the Trinity. It’s a mind-blowing reality, but suffice it to say we need one another—and everyone matters.

Paul, one of the greatest leaders of the early church, said it so beautifully in his writings to the Christians in Rome:

For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. (Romans 12:4-8)

If you are a follower of Jesus, you’ve been given a gift by God—maybe more than one. It’s not for you, but for us—the church—in order to build God’s Kingdom and let the world know about the King and His return.
I said church is a team sport. You can’t play football by yourself. The greatest football player of all (Jim Brown?) could never win against even a little league team. It’s not like golf or tennis where one person can play alone. Every football team has different people playing different positions and if they coordinate and work together they move the ball down the field and will eventually score. Let me state again
• Completing the Great Commission will require the mobilization of every fully-devoted disciple. Matthew 28:19

Making disciples of all nations means we all need to get in the game. We all need to discover our roles and play them with passion for God’s glory. I need you. You need me. We’re on the team together. We’re family.
Perhaps you’re wondering what it looks like to be on the team. The Bible is filled with many examples. Here are just a few:
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. (1 Corinthians 12:4-6)

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines. (1 Corinthians 12:7-11)

That’s not a comprehensive list, but it’s a good one. Wisdom, words of knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, discernment, tongues, interpretation of tongues. Other scriptures talk about leadership, teaching, helps, mercy, apostleship, administration, evangelism, shepherding or pastoring, giving, serving, and exhortation. Do any of those sound like you? These aren’t the same as talents or skills, though they may overlap. These are ways in which the Holy Spirit can supernaturally work through you to bring glory to God.

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. (1 Corinthians 12:12-14)

I want to go back to Dr. Stumbo’s video because I’m sure we’d all agree it’s good for people to use their God-given gifts to serve God, but that’s not always reality.

First, there are those people who simply don’t want to use their gifts, for whatever reason. Spiritual gifts are not for you! They’re for God! If your gift is teaching, teach. If it’s giving, give. If it’s leadership, lead!

But unfortunately, some people have been told they should not use their gifts. Tragically, racism has kept some people from exercising their gifts. Older people have looked down upon people because of their youth (1 Timothy 4:12). And women have been treated as second or even third-class citizens in many churches simply because of their gender. Perhaps most alarming, the Bible has been manipulated and misused to defend slavery, ageism, and chauvinism. May it never be!

I know what some of you are thinking: I’m not a racist and I love to see our young serve Jesus, but the Bible says women can’t…

The role of women in ministry is a controversy for a number of reasons we simply don’t have time to unpack this morning. There are scriptures that restrict women, but questions remain whether those were universal or for a specific situation. We know God used great women throughout history including Deborah, Phoebe, Junia, Priscilla, Esther, Ruth, Miriam, and perhaps most of all Jesus’ mother Mary.

There are problematic passages in the Bible for egalitarian positions that say anything a man can do, a woman can do. There are problematic passages in the Bible for complementarian positions that say women should have limited roles in the church and/or the home. Why the confusion? Why is the Bible unclear? I wish I knew! I believe the grey areas of the Bible are meant to cause us to seek God together, guided by the Holy Spirit and the Bible.

I have studied the role of women in ministry extensively and the best way I can succinctly summarize my conclusions is I fully endorse the Alliance position. Here’s what is stated on the Alliance website:

Today, women serve with distinction in The Alliance on local church ministry staffs; as international workers, chaplains, and professors in our educational institutions; and on leadership teams in local churches, district executive committees, and the Board of Directors.
In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit came upon believers in a new way — both men and women. Peter explained the Pentecost experience in this way: “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams” (Acts 2:17). The Holy Spirit has been poured out on women and men in the same way and for the same purpose: so that we will all be empowered to live in a manner that demonstrates the character of Christ and fulfill our roles in the mission Jesus has assigned to His Church. The gifts the Spirit gives that equip believers for ministry in and through the local church are distributed to both women and men. The completion of Jesus’ Great Commission calls on all believers, male and female, to be released and mobilized to put those gifts into action. While desiring both genders to be mobilized to exercise their gifts in a variety of ministries and leadership roles, The Alliance continues to affirm its understanding of Scripture that elders are male members of the local church. This includes the elected elders of the local church and the senior/lead pastor.
An Alliance statement on women in ministry states the following: “Women may fulfill any function in the local church which the senior pastor and elders may choose to delegate to them consistent with the Uniform Policy for Accredited Churches and may properly engage in any kind of ministry except that which involves elder authority.”
Launch What?

I’m proud to serve in a church and denomination which affirms Paul’s teaching to the church in Galatia:

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26-28)

We will launch. We will launch people, sending them to love God, love others as they love themselves, and make disciples…of all nations. That means we are all called to be ministers, missionaries. Your mission field might be the senior housing centers where you visit shut-ins, the school where you teach or study, or the home where you raise children. Your mission field might be the office where you work, the park where you play, or the stores where you shop. One more time:
• Completing the Great Commission will require the mobilization of every fully-devoted disciple. Matthew 28:19

We want to launch you as individuals, but together we can launch, too. Throughout our 130 years, we have launched people into the vocational mission field where they serve across our city, nation, and world. We are praying God would raise up more people from our church to go and make disciples.

We have launched organizations, including Cherry Street Mission, Proclaim FM, Toledo Christian Schools, WLMB-TV, Toledo Urban Impact, and Claro Coffee Bar, among other things. Launch. This isn’t just something to do. It’s what we are to be.

We are to multiply.

The first command in the Bible was to be fruitful and multiply. Reproduce.

We are to reproduce and launch leaders.
We are to reproduce and launch small groups.
We are to reproduce and launch churches
We are to reproduce and launch ministries
We are to reproduce and launch businesses

Someone told me this week it’s hard to launch new churches because it means saying goodbye.

Yes, but that’s what is supposed to happen. Healthy things grow and reproduce.

As much as I love my three kids, I had to launch them into adulthood and the world. One has been launched into marriage and will launch our first grandchild in November.

Our DNA as a church must be loaded with multiplication, reproduction, launching.

Think of it this way, none of us will be here in 100 years. If we don’t multiply and launch people, leaders, groups, and churches, First Alliance Church will cease to exist. Even worse, if there are no children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, there will be no legacy.

I care about the future. I care about the future of God’s church. I want to everything possible to invest my life into others who will do the same for generations. That’s discipleship. 2 Timothy 2:2 describes four generations in one verse. That’s what it means to launch.

This past week I was invited to participate in an Alliance church planters assessment center. Heather and I were assessed as planters about twenty years ago and being on the other side of the table was fascinating. For three and a half days, I was consumed with the journeys of five couples from across the Midwest who are hoping to launch new churches.

Family, we have a great history of launching. Let’s not be the barren generation who ends it. Let’s love, proclaim, reach, and launch for the glory of God.

Family, we have a history of launching people and organizations, but I believe the best is yet to come. I’m praying God would raise up men and women from our church to serve overseas with the Alliance. I’m praying we would see new ministries launched from FAC. I’m praying we would plant more churches, multiplying God’s Kingdom in other parts of our city, nation, and world. Most of all, I’m praying all of us would be launched to do whatever God is leading us to do—as individuals and together as a family—to love God, love others as we love ourselves, and make disciples of all nations…for His glory!

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Vision Sunday, 5 March 2017

    Vision Sunday
    Matthew 28:18-20

    Big Idea: God has an exciting mission for us to (continue to) pursue.

    Those words, often called the Great Commission, are our mission. They are why we exist as a church. They are our mandate, our calling…make disciples.

    My name is Kirk and about eighteen months ago I was invited to move to Toledo and serve as your lead pastor. It was a humbling opportunity. Heather and I continue to thank God for calling us here.

    Several people have asked about our future, our vision. I dedicated my first year to listening—to you, our city, and most of all our Senior Pastor, Jesus. I came with no agenda. I came with little understanding of Toledo or First Alliance and its rich history.

    I’m excited to say things are beginning to get clear. I’m starting to get the pulse of our church and neighborhood. I don’t have a 20-year strategic plan to share with you today or announcements of ten new initiatives, but after many discussions with our staff and elders, I believe things are slowly coming into focus and I want to share with you glimpses of our future.

    Before we talk about First Alliance, I want to reflect upon our scripture text for today. To set the scene, we need to back up a bit. Matthew tells us about the resurrection of Jesus at the beginning of chapter 28. This, of course, is the great climax of Lent, arguably the greatest day in the history of the world.

    By the way, I want to encourage all of you to join me in this season of Lent, the journey toward the Cross…and resurrection. It’s not just a Catholic thing! These forty days remind us of Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness. We still have some devotionals if you didn’t get one last week, available at the Information Center in the lobby. Next week we begin a Lent series called, “A Love That Never Dies” to help us prepare for Holy Week.

    Matthew, one of four biographers of Jesus Christ, tells us the resurrection and then says…

    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)

    These are Matthew’s final words in his gospel or “good news.” The mission—the commission—is simple:
    make disciples. Great! What’s a disciple? A simple definition would be a student or apprentice of another person. The goal of a disciple is to become like their master. When Jesus says make disciples, he is telling his followers to invest in followers who will become Christ-like.

    A disciple is not someone who just has the knowledge of the master.
    A disciple is someone who acts like the master.

    You may be a master chef and spend years showing me how to cook, but the test of my discipleship is not what’s in my head, but rather what I put on the dinner plate.

    You may be a master plumber and spend years showing me how to fix a leaky faucet, but the test of my discipleship is not what I know about plumbing, it’s whether or not I know how to keep the floor dry!

    Tragically, the focus of many churches has been attendance, getting people to go to a church service or small group. For some it is information, stuffing people with Bible knowledge. There’s nothing wrong with those things, but they don’t truly measure discipleship.

    The measure of discipleship is how much you look and act like Jesus. He said, “Follow me.”

    I have heard countless times people respect Jesus but they don’t like the church. That’s a discipleship issue, friends. If you are a Christian—or “little Christ”—your life should resemble Jesus. Obviously, none of us have arrived—we’re all imperfect sinners—but our goal, our example should be Jesus. If you need a more specific description of a disciple of Jesus, consider the fruit of the Spirit:

    But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

    How do you make disciples? First, be a disciple. Are you a disciple of Jesus? How does your life reflect the fruit of the Spirit?

    It should be noted Jesus never commanded us to start churches, go on mission trips, engage in Bible studies, attend prayer meetings, or even listen to a sermon every Sunday. Again, none of those are bad, but they are not the goal. Our mission is to make disciples, people who look like Jesus, people who love God and others. Make disciples is the Great Commission. Jesus also gave the great commandments:

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

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

    Have you heard this before? You’ll hear it again, I promise, because at the end of the day, Jesus told us the entire Bible is summed up in two commandments:

    Love God
    Love your neighbor

    And he has given us one mission

    Make Disciples

    Simple? Yes.
    Easy? No.

    The reality is, we can’t love God and our neighbor and make disciples on our own. We need the Holy Spirit. Thomas George spoke about the Holy Spirit a few weeks ago. If you weren’t here, you can download the message for free on iTunes or our smartphone app. In a sentence, he said we need to let go and let God, surrendering ourselves to allow the Holy Spirit to fill us in order for us to bear fruit.

    So make disciples. But how? Actually, the command is go and make disciples. What does it mean to love God and love others? Let’s take a look at our church’s mission statement. It says

    The mission – make disciples - fully devoted followers of Christ. We define discipleship at First Alliance as someone who is: Connecting to God (worship), others (growing in community), and the world (missions – here and around the world)

    As our logo says, we’re about connecting to God, others, and the world.

    Are you still with me?

    The elders have been working on bringing more clarity to our mission. It’s biblical, but very broad. Any church could/should help people connect to God, others, and the world. I don’t have a revised mission statement for you—though we’ve been discussing one—but I want to suggest two details I cannot avoid:

    1. Toledo

    I know, this isn’t exactly rocket science, but Toledo is our “Jerusalem,” our home mission field. I’m sure there was a day when Toledo was filled with followers of Jesus, but like most any city in the west, it is becoming increasingly secular or non-Christian. We probably have more atheists, agnostics, and people of other faiths in our city than ever before, to say nothing of lukewarm Christians.

    If God called you to be a missionary in west Africa as he did last week’s guests Doug and Karen Conkle, you would live among the people, learn the language, study the culture, develop relationships, and invite people to follow Jesus, right?

    Most of you have been called by God to be missionaries in Toledo. This is our mission field. We need to live among the people, learn the language, study the culture, develop relationships, and invite people to follow Jesus.

    Let me briefly share a few reasons why I believe we need to focus on Toledo:

    1. We’re here!
    2. We’ve been here for 129 years
    3. We chose to stay here when the old building burned down
    4. Toledo has many needs we can address
    5. We’ve been given some wonderful opportunities to pursue
    6. We can be a part of the city’s growth and renaissance
    7. God is on the move in Toledo, not only at First Alliance but in the dozens of churches who are praying, serving, and worshiping together

    This morning I want to declare my personal commitment to this city. For as long as God has me here at First Alliance, I want to live, work, shop, and play in Toledo. Heather and I really have done better in Toledo and we’re excited about the future.

    2. The Next Generation

    No, I’m not talking about Star Trek. Actually, the next generation can be interpreted in a number of different ways—the next generation in US history (the Millennials) or the one that follows (GenZ), the next generation of members at First Alliance, the next generation of followers of Jesus…but it’s not me. It’s not many of you. Obviously we’re not going to go crazy, hang a disco ball from the ceiling, and sing Lady Gaga songs, but many of us have had our day. People served and sacrificed so we could encounter Jesus. We must make space for our children and grandchildren and great grandchildren. If you know Jesus, it’s critical to help the next generation know him. You saw some of them earlier waving ribbons. Others spoke last Sunday about their trip to the Avalanche youth retreat. They are our future…they are our present!

    We’ve always been about the next generation. We were involved in starting Toledo Christian Schools. We have an After School Klub. We run an annual sports and arts camp. We have possibly the best children’s director in the state of Ohio (Sue Trumbull) who is leading one hundred volunteer workers!

    Jesus told this great parable (story) in the 13
    th chapter of Matthew. He said seed was scattered in soil. Some was eaten by birds. Some fell on rocky ground and died. Some was choked by thorns. Some fell on good soil and produced a great crop. Jesus explained the story by saying…

    When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path.
    The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. (Matthew 13:19-22)

    But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
    (Matthew 13:23)

    After being so impressed by my first year at sports and arts camp last summer, I told Sue we did a great job scattering seed for a week, but what about the next 51 weeks? We need to cultivate the seeds, making sure they receive sun, rain, and fertilizer, keeping away the thorns, rocks, and birds.

    We are starting to do just that, through Toledo Urban Impact, the new van pickup each Sunday, new students from the neighborhood coming on Wednesday nights to girls club, boys club, and youth group, and our growing relationship with Rosa Parks Elementary School two miles away. We’re certainly not done, but we’re in the process of developing a birth to college pipeline of discipleship.

    Our involvement at Rosa Parks began largely through an invitation from Dr. Durant, the TPS superintendent, to be present in the school with the students and staff—before, during, and after school! He is a God-fearing man who is unashamed of his faith and we accepted his invitation. I wrote him this past week to say I was thrilled to read his contract was extended three years. Rosa Parks Elementary is a huge part of our mission field, people we are called to love, serve, and bless.

    Do you want to know my dream? It is to put Dan Rogers at Cherry Street Mission out of a job! Seriously! He would love that!

    He would love to see homelessness end with the next generation because people like you and me invested in their lives, helping them to experience graduation, a career, and most of all Jesus Christ.

    He would love to see poverty end with the next generation because people like you and me invested in their lives, helping them to develop a career.

    He would love to see crime and teen pregnancy end with the next generation because people like you and me invested in their lives, helping them to encounter Jesus Christ.

    We’re not giving up on adults, but something like 80% of Christians trust Christ before they turn 18. We can share the gospel with adults, but it’s a lot harder. We can rehabilitate the 55 year-old addict, but it’s a lot harder.

    And do I need to tell you the kids of Toledo need hope? They need help? They need Jesus.

    Last week Toledo’s 9
    th teen was shot dead.

    The current graduation rate for TPS is less than 65%.

    Teen moms are not just 16 and 17. Some are 12 and 13 years old in junior high.

    So What?

    Toledo needs Jesus. Not religion. Not programs. Jesus.

    The next generation needs Jesus.

    Where is Jesus on earth? We are to be his hands and feet, loving and serving and inviting people to come and see the one who loves them, who died for them, who never shames or pressures or manipulates, but simply says, “Follow me.”

    Discipleship is praying for our city and next generation.
    Discipleship is serving our city and next generation.
    Discipleship is loving our city and next generation.

    Will you join me?

  • You can listen to messages at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
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