What is our responsibility in the church? In this message on 1 Corinthians 12:12–27, Pastor David Platt reminds Christians of our responsibility to belong to a church and make disciples. Disciple-making is a call for each Christian that helps to fuel our affections for the Lord.
- Biblically, followers of Christ are not church avoiders or attenders, hoppers and shoppers; biblically, followers of Christ are church members.
- The church is not an audience of spectators; we are a fellowship of disciple makers.
If you have Bible and I hope you do, open with me to 1 Corinthians 12:12—27.
It is good to be back together as we start a new year in our faith family. I praise God for Matt Mason and his leadership among us in the Word last Sunday. I was in St. Louis, where I was preaching at a missions conference called Urbana with 16,000 college students, which was absolutely amazing. This is a conference that has taken place every three years for the last sixty plus years, and scores of missionaries are serving around the world today as a result of God’s work in this conference. And it was an honor to be a part of it.
I just looked out at this sea of 16,000 students that were sitting in a dome for five days, all focused on how their lives could be used for the glory of God in all nations, and I thought, “What potential for multiplication in this room.” All these students, all their education, all these gifts and passions, all focused on penetrating North America and the nations with the gospel.
As I prayed and prepared for this conference, I was just overwhelmed with the possibilities. As I preached, I felt like I was dropping a rock into a body of water that would make waves and ripples for generations among people groups around the world. And at the end of the conference, over 4,000 students committed their lives to living overseas, doing long-term missions.
But here’s what was so encouraging. As I prepared for that conference, and as I prayed for those students and the opportunity God had given me to preach to them, I was freshly reminded of you and of the privilege and the honor God has given me to pastor this faith family. And I was reminded of the potential in this room every week. The men and women, the children, the students, the single adults, the senior adults, the families here in this body, and the massive potential there is for the multiplication of the gospel in Birmingham and in North America and the nations based on just the people in this room.
So many gifts, skills, talents, resources, you. This is not a conference; this is a church. A church of men and women who are all filled with the Holy Spirit of God not just so that we can sit back in a worship service once a week, but filled with the Holy Spirit of God so that we can spread the gospel of God to a world where billions and billions of people are lost, billions of people on a road that leads to an eternal hell.
And I’m coming back from St. Louis with a fresh passion to lead and to shepherd and to serve and to mobilize this faith family with the Word of God for the glory of God in the world. Let this Word be like a rock among us, every week dropping and shooting us out all over this city and all over the world for the sake of God’s fame. That’s what it means to be a church.
What I want to do today is set the trajectory for what this means. Really, I want to spend this whole month of January setting the trajectory for our faith family—this church—in 2013, starting with our lives.
So today, we’re going to look specifically at each of our lives, and then the rest of this month, we’re going to think biblically together about what happens when we lock arms, shoulder to shoulder together as brothers and sisters, to glorify God by making disciples of all nations.
There are two main truths that I want us to hit on this morning (truths that we’ve hit on before, but I believe are huge, needed, continual reminders for us), and then one main question I want to ask every single one of you. 1 Corinthians 12 is going to lead us to these truths, so let’s read there, starting in verse 12.
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. (1 Corinthians 12:12—27).
Biblically, followers of Christ are not church avoiders or attenders, hoppers and shoppers; biblically, followers of Christ are church members.
Truth number one. Biblically, followers of Christ are not church avoiders or attenders, hoppers and shoppers; biblically, followers of Christ are church members. This is where I want to remind us, based on 1 Corinthians 12 and really the entire New Testament, what it means to be a church member. Obviously, many of you are members of The Church at Brook Hills, and this will be a simple reminder of what that means biblically. At the same time, I know some of you sitting here this morning are not church members, you’re not members of this church and you’re not members of any church. And if that’s you, then very kindly, compassionately, and biblically, I want to say to you that you are living outside of God’s design for your life.
Biblically, followers of Christ are not church avoiders, trying to live the Christian life as lone rangers. That’s not biblical. Followers of Christ are not merely church attenders, going to a worship gathering somewhere once a week. There is more to Christians being a part of the body of Christ than that. Biblically, followers of Christ are not church hoppers, going one from church to the next based on the preference of the week or the month or the year or whatever it may be. And biblically, followers of Christ are not church shoppers, going from one church to the next looking for the best product at the best price, picking and choosing what they like about this church or that church in an effort to find the perfect one.
Now I’m not saying that there’s not a process for a Christian who moves to Birmingham where there are a plethora of churches, to explore different churches, but as soon as possible, followers of Christ commit their lives as members of local churches. And if you claim to be a follower of Christ and you’re not a member of a local church, let me encourage you to make your number one priority in 2013 committing your life (or your family) to one church. Whether it’s this one or another one, stop hopping, shopping, attending, or avoiding and start joining.
Now I know what you’re thinking. Some of you are thinking, “Is church membership really biblical? The Bible nowhere even mentions church membership for Christians.” Well, let’s think about that together in your notes.
1 Corinthians 12:12—27 remind us We are parts of a church body.
According to Scripture, as followers of Christ, we are parts of a church body. This is what 1 Corinthians 12 is all about—this imagery of the church as a body, of which we are all parts, or members. In the passage we just read, Paul refers at least 10 different times to Christians as members of a body. This is why we use this term “members”—because it, just about better than any other word, sums up the parts we play in the body of Christ.
Now some might think, “Well, of course, we’re all members of the body of Christ, i.e., the universal body of Christ, the global church, everyone who believes in Christ.” But is that what Scripture’s teaching? Think about the ways that the Bible teaches followers of Christ the importance of local church membership.
We belong to a church gathering.
It’s second there in your notes. As followers of Christ, we belong to a church gathering. The primary word for church in the New Testament is ekklesia, which literally means “gathering.” And yes, there are times when the New Testament refers to all Christians gathered together as the universal “church,” but most of the time this word “church” appears in the New Testament, it’s referring to a specific gathering of Christians in a particular place. Out of the 114 times we see ekklesia in the New Testament, at least 90 of them refer to specific local gatherings of believers.
I put some examples up here on the screen. Acts 11:22 talks about how a report “came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem” (Acts 11:22). That’s a specific reference to the gathering of believers in Jerusalem. This letter that we’re reading this morning—1 Corinthians—was written to a specific local gathering of believers. It starts by Paul saying,
“To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours” (1 Cor. 1:2). You see reference to the global, universal body of Christ, but this letter was written to the specific local gathering of Christians in Corinth.
Just before this book at the end of Romans, Paul references a church that meets in Prisca and Aquila’s house. Romans 16:5, “Greet also the church in their house” (Rom. 16:5). That’s a specific reference to a local gathering of believers in a house. At the end of 1 Corinthians, just a few chapters after this, Paul says, “The churches of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house, send you hearty greetings in the Lord” (1 Cor. 16:19). So there you have a reference to specific gatherings of believers in Asia, and then again a reference to a church meeting in a house.
The picture we have in Scripture over and over again is of local gatherings of believers in particular places called churches. When a follower of Christ reads the New Testament, you and I immediately ask the question: “Which specific gathering of believers in what particular place am I a part of, am I a member of?” If Paul were writing a letter to you in the twenty
first century, which local body of believers would you be identified with?
We are served by and submissive to church leaders.
You might think at this point, “Well, I gather together with all sorts of churches, different ones every week sometimes. What’s wrong with that?” Well, that leads to the next reality in Scripture: as followers of Christ, we are served by and submissive to church leaders.
Look at Hebrews 13 with me for this one. I want you to see on the screen this command for Christians in the New Testament. Listen to what it says. Hebrews 13:17, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you” (Heb. 13:17).
Now that’s a really tough verse to preach on as a pastor. “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority.” It sounds pretty self-serving, doesn’t it? It seems like a pastor or church leader could use a verse like this to lord it over his congregation, but listen to the second part of this verse. “They keep watch over you as men who must give an account.” Did you catch that? As a pastor, as a leader in a church, I will stand before God to give an account for the people I lead. So that begs the question: Who do I give an account for? Do I give an account for every believer in the universal body of Christ around the world? No, I am accountable to God (along with other pastors here) for every member of this local church.
In Acts 20:28 and the Bible says elders/pastors are responsible for caring for the flock entrusted to them. 1 Peter 5 says that elders/pastors are shepherds of God’s flock that is under their care. The Bible makes clear that elders and pastors (including myself) have a responsibility for a particular group of God’s people.
This begs the question: If there’s no such thing biblically as identifiable church membership, then who are elders and pastors entrusted to lead? Come back to the first part of this verse. This is where every follower of Christ comes in because Christians are commanded to obey and submit to their leaders. Does this mean that as a Christian, you’re supposed to obey and submit to every leader that exists in the universal church? Or are you supposed to do this with the servant leaders of the local church to which you belong?
Now we’re seeing why so many are so uncomfortable with church membership. Obeying and submitting to leaders? Leaders standing before God to give an account for members? This is heavy stuff for members and pastors alike, and it’s uncomfortable.
We yearn for and yield to church discipline and restoration.
It leads to the next place in Scripture where I want you to see the importance of church membership. As followers of Christ, biblically we yearn for and yield to church discipline and restoration.
Matthew 18 and 1 Corinthians 5 both address how in the church, we are responsible for addressing unrepentant sin in each other’s lives. If a brother or sister is continuing in sin, unwilling to repent, then there’s a process in place for addressing that. Listen to Matthew 18:15—17. Jesus says,
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three wit5nesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (Mt. 18:15—17).
This passage is followed up in 1 Corinthians 5 with an exhortation to remove a brother from the church when he continues unrepentant in sexual immorality. We’ve talked about this before, and we’re actually going to talk about this more in-depth in a few months, but suffice to say at this point that Scripture talks about actually removing people from the church, which implies that they were members of the church in the first place.
I put in your notes that as followers of Christ, we yearn for and yield to church discipline and restoration—this process in Matthew 18. You may think, “We do? We yearn for this? And we will yield to this?” The answer biblically, practically, and personally, is, “Absolutely, we do.”
Think about it. If I am wandering off unrepentant into sin in a way that will destroy my life or my marriage or my family or the reputation of Christ, then I want to have brothers and sisters in my life who will warn me not to go that way. If brothers and sisters see me wandering off into sin, the last thing I want them to say is, “Well, that’s his business, not mine.” I long for, yearn for, the people who are closest to me to call me back whenever I take any step away from Christ, which I am prone to do in my sinfulness.
This is part of what it means to be a member of a church. It means to say, “I yearn for this and yield to this from others, and I will carry this out with others. I will pursue others in love because this is one of the most clear ways we care for one another in the body of Christ.” Just so you know, this is a process that does play out at Brook Hills. We do have a process that even now we carry out among brothers or sisters whom we love who are willfully unrepentant in sin. We work and pray and plead to see them restored because this is what the love of Christ compels us to do. We’ll talk about that more in the coming days.
We take seriously church accountability.
All of this then leads to the next reality in your notes. As followers of Christ we take seriously church accountability. We don’t have time to turn to or even look at all of these other places, but here’s a quick list in the New Testament. According to the New Testament, church members are accountable for choosing and appointing leaders (Acts 6:2—6). Church members are accountable for making sure the gospel is being preached (Gal. 1:6—9 and 2 Tim. 4). Church members are accountable for commissioning missionaries (Acts 13:1—3) (something we’re going to do in our worship gathering today).
When you put all of this together—church gatherings, church leadership, church discipline and restoration—all of these things together imply accountability as identifiable members of a local body of Christ. Don’t miss it. The New Testament is flying right in the face of American individualism— and to be honest, right in the face of much of our contemporary church culture—and is leading every follower of Christ to ask the question: Are you an identifiable, accountable member of a local church? Not even just, “Is your name somewhere?” or “Do you attend somewhere?” But where are you committed to gathering together with a group of believers, watching out for them, sharing life with them, and encouraging them in their faith? Have you identified your willingness to be shepherded and led by pastors in a particular local church who have assumed responsibility for your care before God? Have you committed your life to a local church to the point where you have invited discipline and restoration in your life if you begin to wander from Christ into unrepentant sin? Have you committed to a local body of believers to use your gifts and skills and passions to build up other members of that body of Christ for the glory of God? The New Testament is saying that if you’ve not done this, then you are living contrary to the design of God for your life as a disciple of Jesus.
We are a covenant community (a faith family) committed to showing God’s love to each other as we spread God’s love in the world.
Followers of Christ are members of local churches, where we are a covenant community (a faith family) committed to showing God’s love to each other as we spread God’s love in the world.
You have on the front of your worship guide a copy of our church covenant, and it’s written behind me here on the stage. I want to read it together this morning (even if you’re not a member here or anywhere). I want you to get a feel of what it means to be in covenant with a local body of Christ that is committed to one another, so let’s read it together aloud as an expression of what we’ve seen here in Scripture. This whole covenant is grounded in Scripture. Every single sentence has loads of Scripture references attached to it in our covenant. Let’s read it together…
Having been brought by divine grace to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and to surrender our lives to Him, and having been baptized as Christians in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, we covenant together to glorify God by making disciples of all nations.
By His grace, for our good, and ultimately for God’s glory,
Together, we will draw near to God in worship. We will delight in the glory of God, depend on the presence of God, grow in the knowledge of God, and submit to the Word of God as the all-sufficient authority in our lives and in His church.
Together, we will hold fast to the hope we profess. We will regularly participate in communion as we solemnly and joyfully remember the past work of Christ on the cross, celebrate the present work of Christ at the Father’s right hand, and anticipate the future work of Christ in His return for His bride. Together, we will spur one another on to love and good deeds. We will meet with one another consistently, pray for one another regularly, and serve one another selflessly. We will share each other’s joys and bear each other’s burdens. We will edify one another with our speech and encourage one another with our example. We will humbly and gently confront one another and receive correction from one another in accordance with a New Testament understanding of church discipline and restoration. We will give cheerfully and generously to the support of the church, the relief of the poor, and the spread of the Gospel through all nations.
We will submit to the leadership of elders who have been entrusted by God to serve and care for this body by teaching the Word of Christ to us and modeling the character of Christ before us. And when we move from this local body, we will as soon as possible unite with another local church where we can carry out the spirit of this covenant and the principles of God’s Word.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all.
The church is not an audience of spectators; we are a fellowship of disciple-makers.
Biblically, followers of Christ are not church avoiders or attenders, hoppers and shoppers; biblically, followers of Christ are church members. That then leads to the second truth I want us to consider this morning, also based on this picture in 1 Corinthians 12 as members of a body. The church is not an audience of spectators; we are a fellowship of disciple makers.
First Corinthians 12 makes clear that as the body of Christ, even as a local body of Christ, we all represent different parts, or members, of the body. We have different skills, giftings, personalities. We’re unique—the eye, the foot, the hand, etc.—but we come together in one body, and together we have a mission to accomplish in this world. And this mission involves every single one of us.
Just as every single part of your body is important, every single member of this body is important. Think about it. At this moment, we are surrounded by people who we know, love, work with, eat with, and play with who do not know Christ and are on a road that leads to an eternal hell. We live in the third most populated country in the world (behind India and China), and we’re also third behind them in the most number of unreached people groups in one country. We live in a world where nearly 2 billion people still don’t even have access to the gospel—not to mention the other 2-3 other billion people who have access to the gospel but have not yet received it.
If this is the situation in the city, country, and world around us, then who among us can sit on the sidelines as a spectator in this mission? God has not saved you to sideline you. He has saved you, Christian, every single Christian, He has saved you to send you out into this city and into the nations to tell the good news that Jesus has lived the life we could not live, died the death we deserve to die, and conquered the enemy that we cannot conquer. He has risen from the grave, and everyone who turns from their sin and trusts in Him will be reconciled to God forever. Every single Christian is on the earth to proclaim Christ. Every single one; no spectators.
We grow as disciples of Jesus as we give our lives making disciples of Jesus. We grow as disciples of Jesus. We’re growing. We all have so much room to grow, I have so much room to grow. None of us has arrived. None of us is a super-Christian. All of us grow as disciples of Jesus as we give our lives making disciples of Jesus. Mark it down: You won’t grow as a disciple of Jesus if you’re not giving your life to making disciples of Jesus.
For far too long in the church, we have assumed that growing in Christ simply meant attending Bible studies and going to worship and living nice clean lives. I’m not saying that any of those things are bad; they’re all good. We need to study the Bible and we need to worship and we need to be pure. But if all of these things (which they often are) are disconnected from making disciples of Jesus, leading other people to become disciples of Jesus, then we are missing the point of what it means to be a disciple in the first place.
Think about it in Scripture. From the very beginning, Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 4:19, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Mt. 4:19). Every follower would be a fisher—not fishing for men all over the lake, but spreading the gospel all over the world. Then you get to the end of Matthew, and Jesus says to His disciples, “Go and make disciples” (Mt. 28:19).
He tells them in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). You have power from the Holy Spirit in you not just so that you can go to Bible studies and worship and be a kind person. You have the power of the Holy Spirit in you so that you will be a witness, so that you will testify about Christ to the ends of the earth. God has not saved you to dwell in a Christian bubble; God has saved you to spread the Christian gospel in the city where you live and to the ends of the earth.
So how will I make disciples as a church member in 2013?
Put all this together—every child, student, man, woman who is a member of this church. Followers of Christ, we are members of a church, and the church is not an audience of spectators, but a fellowship of disciple-makers, so I want to ask every single member of this church this morning: How will you make disciples as a church member in 2013? This is a question that every single member of The Church at Brook Hills must ask ourselves in 2013.
We must not ask because I’m saying we need to but because this is who we are. This is what we were created for. This is what we’ve been commissioned to do as a church. This is what we are compelled to do as Christians—to all be disciples who make disciples so that the grace and love of God are spread all over the world through us! Do you see the potential that I’m talking about? What if every member of this church was making disciples? Some people might think that question is too idealistic, but if it is, then what are we doing here?
This is who we are!
Saved by His grace, we live for His glory. We want people to know the gospel of God! Don’t we? This is what it means to be a church, The Church at Brook Hills. This is what it means to be a member of the church. It means to make disciples. I know you may be tempted to think, “I don’t know if I can really make disciples.” If that’s you, then I want to encourage you. You can’t. But that’s the whole point. God, Almighty God has put His Holy Spirit in you. He has saved you from your sins forever, and He has equipped you, empowered you to do that which you could never do on your own. That’s the whole point of Christianity. He has not saved you to sit on the sidelines and to do what you’re capable of doing in 2013. He has saved you to live on the front lines and experience what He alone is capable of doing in 2013.
Here’s what I want to challenge every member of this church to do over the next month. I want to challenge you to take the questions that I’m about to go through and spend time answering them over the next month. Write out answers to these questions. We’ve posted on our website these questions in a downloadable form that you can fill in for yourself, and there’s a guide that kind of helps you think through each question. I want to challenge every member of this church during this month to write out what is basically a personal plan for growing as a disciple and giving your life to making disciples in 2013. I want to encourage you, if at all possible, once you’ve written it out to share it with somebody else, maybe your family, your small group, or some other people in this faith family who will pray for you and walk alongside you during this year. Don’t do this alone. Remember, that would miss the point of what it means to be the church.
This is something all of our elders do every year. This is something that all of our new members do. I’m wondering what would happen if every one of us as members of this church did this. The potential for the gospel to spread in and through us, here and around the world cannot be measured. So I challenge you, sometime during this “Faith Family” series this month, ask yourself these questions.
How will I fill my mind with truth?
One, how will I fill my mind with truth? The life of the disciple is the life of a learner; we want to learn from Christ this year. We want His Word to fill our minds, so ask the question: How will I read God’s Word this year? Maybe you’ll use the Bible Reading Plan that’s in your worship guide every week. Maybe you’ll use another Bible Reading Plan. On the downloadable form online, have a link to a number of different Bible reading plans. How are you going to be intentional about reading God’s Word this year?
How will I memorize God’s Word? Maybe commit to memorizing a verse a week. Every week, we put one verse on the front cover of this worship guide. Maybe you can start by memorizing that one. And maybe that will lead to more. How will you memorize God’s Word? Then how will I learn God’s Word from others? How are you going to expose yourself to teaching from God’s Word this year, through regular worship gatherings, through small group, through other potential means (books and such)? What is your plan for consistently learning God’s Word from others?
Remember, the goal in all of this is not just to gain information, but to experience transformation. We want to hear the truth of God’s Word, and we want to apply, to experience the truth of God’s Word. So how will you fill your mind with truth?
How will I fuel my affections for God?
Second question, how will I fuel my affections for God? Even as I’m encouraging you to ask these questions, I realize that if we’re not careful, even Bible reading (or other spiritual disciplines) can become mechanical and monotonous, which is not the point. Our goal is not just to know God; our goal is to love God. What will you do this year to fuel affection, to stoke the fires of passion for God?
How will I worship? In all of life, how will you intentionally work to live to the glory of God? As a member of the church, will you commit to prioritize weekly worship more than weekend sports or other weekend activities that would keep you from worship? Even as a family, fathers, heads of households, families, or even singles with your friends, will you commit to gather together for family worship, or daily/mid-week worship with friends in some way? We have a guide on our website that we produce every week to help fuel family worship. How will I worship?
How will I pray? When will be your time, where will be your place when you go into your room, shut the door, and pray to your Father who is unseen? Set aside a time and a place. This one practice alone will utterly revolutionize your life.
Then how will I fast? Will you commit to setting aside a meal once a week or once every few weeks, or maybe more as time progresses, when you say, “More than I want food, I just want to feast on God in prayer and in His Word?” Once a quarter during this next year, we’re going to have a churchwide day of fasting and prayer on a Wednesday. We’re going to stop everything else on those Wednesday nights and come in here together and pray together. But how will you fast?
How will I give? Now you might think, “What does giving have to do with affection for God?” According to Jesus, giving has everything to do with affection for God. Matthew 6, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Mt. 6:21). You saw in our church covenant: “We give to the support of the church and the relief of the poor and the spread of the gospel around the world.” So how are you going to intentionally give this year? Instead of tithing being the ceiling of your giving, why not make tithing the floor of your giving in 2013 and give generously and sacrificially to His glory?
How will you fuel affection for God in these ways?
How will I share God’s love as a witness in the world?
Then how will I share God’s love as a witness in the world? Starting in February, we’re going to hone in here, but I want to challenge you to go ahead and think through these questions. First, who? Who has God put in your life, in your sphere of influence who does not know Christ? I want to encourage you to write down the names of three, five, maybe ten people whom you know who don’t know Christ that you are going to pray for this year and that you’re going to work to see come to Christ.
Then ask how? How are you going to be intentional about sharing the gospel with those people? What is going to be your plan for sharing Christ with them? Even to the point of asking this next question: when? How can you specifically and deliberately create opportunities to share the gospel with those people? Through an invitation to breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee? Is there some other activity or avenue you could explore, whether that’s something as involved as spending a day or weekend with them or something as simple as writing a letter to them?
Church, let’s pray that God would use each of us to lead one other person to Christ in 2013. Just think about it. That is a prayer you and I know God wants to answer. So let’s ask and let’s pray and plan and work toward that end. How will I share God’s love as a witness in the world?
How will I show God’s love as a member of the church?
Next, how will I show God’s love as a member of the church? We’ve obviously talked about this a good bit this morning, but I want to encourage you to ask two specific questions here.
First where? Meaning, first of all, if you don’t already have a church where you are a member, decided where that church is and join. Then, within that church, identify where this picture of biblical community that we’ve talked about is going to play out. Here at Brook Hills, this primarily happens in small groups. All month long, we’re going to have extra people out there in the lobby before and after every worship gathering to help you get connected to a small group.
So where are you going to plug into biblical community, and then what? What are the specific ways you are going to serve the brothers and/or sisters around you? What is church membership in action going to look like in your life with brothers and sisters around you?
How will I spread God’s glory among all peoples?
Number five, how will I spread God’s glory among all peoples? We have been commanded to make disciples of all nations, and that is not just a command for extraordinary missionaries; that is a command for ordinary disciples. How is your life going to play a part in the spread of God’s glory to the ends of the earth?
How will I pray for the nations? You and I have the opportunity to be a part of what God is doing around the world from our knees. You might use a resource like Operation World (which is available for free online at OperationWorld.org) to pray for the nations of the
world. You might simply use the resources we provide every week in your worship guide. But ask, “How will I be intentional about praying for the nations?”
Then ask how will I give to the nations? Though we may not always feel like it, we are the richest people to ever walk planet earth, so how will you sacrifice the wants in your budget this year to give to the needs of the world? How will you plan to sacrifice and spend for the sake of the nations?
And then, how will I go to the nations? Ask the question, “Is God leading me to go short term, or mid-term, or long-term?” Ask Him, and wait for Him to answer. Think through any and every way you might spend your life, lead your family, or leverage your work to go to the people groups of the world with the gospel. Blank check on the table, no strings attached.
How will I make disciple-makers among a few people?
Now bring all of this back down to a much simpler question: How will I make disciple makers among a few people? Jesus, more than anyone else who has ever lived, was most passionate about the Father’s glory among all nations, and what did He do with His life? He poured His life into a few people. So how can you do the same this year?
Think through these questions. How will I bring them in? Who are the one, two, three, or four people that God has put in your life and your sphere of influence that you can lead to make disciples this year? Who are the people you can invite to spend intentional time with you this year for the express purpose of growing in Christ together?
And then ask: How will I teach them to obey? This is what’s involved in disciple-making: teaching them to obey everything Christ has commanded us. How will you do that? Will you read through a portion of the Bible together? Maybe you’ll use the Multiply material that Francis Chan and I have worked on. (It’s available for free at multiplymovement.com) Or maybe you’ll do something totally different. How will you teach them to obey?
Next, how will I model obedience? I put this question here to remind you that disciple making isn’t just about leading a Bible study with a couple of other people; it’s about sharing your life with other people, showing them what the life of Christ looks like in action. How are you going to be intentional about inviting those people into your life to see how following Christ affects the way you work, live, play, relate to your family, share the gospel, study the Bible, pray, etc.?
How are you going to intentionally model obedience, and then finally, how will I send them out? The goal is not just to have another Bible study group here. The goal is to make disciple-makers, to spend your life multiplying the gospel in such a way that you help equip, empower, and embolden the people around you to start making disciples as well.
So there they are—six overall questions that I don’t believe are necessarily exhaustive, but I do believe are essential, that I want to challenge every single member of this church to ask and answer together during this month. No spectators, no one on the sidelines. Let’s do this together. Who but God knows what the ripple effects of 4,000 personal disciple-making plans might be in the coming year and coming years?
Who could have imagined that five years ago the Taylor family with their two-year-old son would come to this faith family and begin to make disciples? That God would raise this brother up to become one of our pastors and to shepherd college students making disciples all across this church. That God would add to their family three more sons. And that God would lead us today as a church to send this brother, this sister, and their family out to make disciples now among one of the most unreached, most difficult to reach, most dangerous to reach people groups in the world.
Who can imagine what happens when disciples of Jesus start getting serious about making disciples of Jesus here and around the world?
Biblically, followers of Christ are not church avoiders or attenders, hoppers and shoppers; biblically, followers of Christ are church members.
- We are parts of a church body.
- We belong to a church gathering.
- We are served by and submissive to church leaders.
- We yearn for and yield to church discipline
- and restoration.
- We take seriously church accountability.
- We are a covenant community (a faith family) committed to showing God’s love to each other as we spread God’s love in the world.
The church is not an audience of spectators; we are a fellowship of disciple makers.
- We grow as disciples of Jesus…
- As we give our lives making disciples of Jesus.
- So how will I make disciples as a church member in 2013?
- How will I fill my mind with truth?
- How will I read God’s Word?
- How will I memorize God’s Word?
- How will I learn God’s Word from others?
- How will I fuel my affections for God?
- How will I worship?
- How will I pray?
- How will I fast?
- How will I give?
- How will I share God’s love as a witness in the world?
- How will I show God’s love as a member of the church?
- How will I spread God’s glory among all peoples?
- How will I pray for the nations?
- How will I give to the nations?
- How will I go to the nations?
- How will I make disciple makers among a few people?
- How will I bring them in?
- How will I teach them to obey?
- How will I model obedience?
- How will I send them out?