Baseball In January-A Vision For The Grace Tabernacle
January 11, 2009 Preacher: Randy Smith Series: Vision
Scripture: Matthew 28:16–20
Baseball In January-A Vision For The Grace Tabernacle [Grace Bible Church]Matthew 28:16-20
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Pastor Randy Smith
This morning I'd like to present to you our vision for all those who attend the Grace Tabernacle. There are a lot of expectations in the Christian life. This vision is intended as a structure to include those expectations and help direct you on the path toward mature discipleship.
Many churches have a lot of people who attend that can be categorized as "hitchhikers." These are people who come along for the ride without making any personal investment themselves. Other churches are filled with "jellyfish." People who may appear alive but float along without any direction - carried up and down by the waves of emotion and blown back and forth by the latest fad. As far as our vision goes, at the Grace Tabernacle we are looking for "baseball players."
So if you are a Christian and you consider this your home church, we encourage you to step up to the plate, and by God's grace and for His glory round the base path in biblical and deliberate Christian living. This structure is only a guide consisting of four bases that we pray God will use to make us into the mature disciples He desires.
First Base is composed of two parts. And the first part of First Base is baptism.
According to the Bible, baptism is the introductory rite into the Christian faith. What we see throughout Scripture is people believing the gospel, repenting from their sins and then subsequently entering the waters of baptism. Baptism is an ordinance and a command from our Lord. It should be one of the initial acts of obedience for every new believer.
We are not saved by baptism. We are saved by grace. Baptism comes after salvation to serve as a picture of what God has already done in our hearts. As we like to say, it is an outward demonstration of an inward reality. When we enter the waters of baptism, we are providing a visual picture of how we are in union with our Lord in His death, burial and resurrection (Rom. 6:3-4). We are showing how our sins have been washed away (Ac. 22:16). We are illustrating our separation from the world (Mt. 28:18-20). And we are depicting how we have been baptized into the church of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13).
Here at the Grace Tabernacle, we usually conduct two to three baptism services each year. One to two here in the baptistry behind me, and one in the early fall in the ocean. If you are a believer in Christ and you have never been immersed after trusting Jesus, you need to get baptized.
In addition to baptism, the second aspect of First Base is church membership. We have placed both of these together because we believe both baptism and church membership should happen almost simultaneously. When the new converts were baptized in the early church, Acts 2:47 says, "The Lord was adding to their number [the local church] day by day those who were being saved." How can we say one may be a member of Christ's universal church but not a member of this local church?
Unfortunately, teaching on church membership has fallen on it hardest times most recently. Our society fears commitment. They dread accountability. They prefer to keep their individualistic options open. But as we read through the New Testament we are unable to find "lone-rangers" or "maverick believers" not identified with a particular local assembly. As we read the Bible there is no evidence of spiritual drifting. Each believer was identified with a local church.
A few brief reasons why membership in the local church is essential:
First, without membership we are unable to fulfill many of the commands in Scripture. How can we commit ourselves to corporate worship? How can we use our gifts and serve one-another? How can we fulfill the commands to church leaders if we don't have any? How can we have other people hold us accountable? You cannot do these things if church is watching a television service on Sunday morning.
Second, church membership shows everybody whose side we are on. It tells the church that we desire to be a part of their spiritual family. And it shows the world that we are not ashamed to identify ourselves with Jesus Christ and His followers. We give the world a visual illustration that we belong to the body of Christ.
Third, church membership makes the responsibilities for the pastors much clearer. Biblically, we are called to shepherd the flock. Who is the flock? Who deserves the priority of our time and the resources of the church? Who should be permitted to vote (opinion votes too!) or receive personal information of the church affairs? Who should be permitted to teach and serve?
Fourth, when we are saved, we become a part of Christ's spiritual body. As I will mention when we get to Third Base, like a human body we are interdependently related to one-another. As a liver loses its function outside the body, Christians lose their function when they are separated from their spiritual body as well.
Fifth, if we love Jesus, we should love the church. Jesus Christ gave His life, shed His blood to purchase the church (Ac. 20:28; Eph. 5:25). He is committed to building the church (Mt. 16:18). Should we be any less committed to it than He was?
Because of the importance of church membership, we want to make it as easy as possible for you (as a baptized believer) to be a member of the Grace Tabernacle. Though many churches expect strict affirmation to their doctrinal statement, we at the Grace Tabernacle have refrained from making it more difficult to get into this church than it is to get into heaven. For membership we simply expect you to affirm the doctrines required for salvation. We even provide space on your Membership Application to state your difference before you sign-off. All we ask is that you promise not to teach either formally or informally against the church's position - a stipulation we'd expect from members and nonmembers alike.
Since the Bible gives us freedom in this area, the way we see it, membership at the Grace Tabernacle is simply indicating to the church that you are happy to be identified as a part of this fellowship and are committed to fulfilling all the biblical requirements pertaining to church life (attendance, prayer, serving, giving, etc) as expected by Scripture. You are simply telling the church and her leaders that this is my church and by God's grace, you can count on me!
Baptism and membership should come immediately after salvation. Then following this initial commitment to the faith and the local church, we hope that all attendees at the Grace Tabernacle will move to Second Base by getting involved in a Small Group.
The Small Group ministry is at the heart of all we do. Basically it consists of 8-12 people geographically approximate to each other who meet twice a month in the confines of a personal home. The time together in each Small Group is structured around prayer, fellowship and the informal teaching of God's Word. Facilitated by a leader, the teaching times are meant to be interactive. They are not designed to be a lecture, but rather a time to ask questions, discuss God's Word and apply what it says to daily living.
As the church grows, the Small Group ministry takes on greater necessity. It can become easy to feel lost in a church our size. It can become easy to go without any accountability. Yet being involved in a Small Group allows you to be a part of a church within the church. It gives you a sense of belonging. It enables you to develop deeper relationships. It keeps the small church feeling in a church with many people you may not know.
It has also become increasingly difficult for us as pastors to shepherd all of you. Either we can't get to know you well enough to detect your special needs, or our time is too pressed to meet every special need of every person in this flock.
Again, enter the Small Group ministry! Each Small Group had oversight of a trained leader. These men are approved by the church leaders and discipled both formally and informally by Pastor Russ. They are in place to give you the personal time and personal attention so necessary for your walk with Christ in the confines of the personal relationship that you develop within the group.
Small Groups are the only way we can ensure that people do not slip through the cracks. Small Groups ensure that everybody feels that they belong and have an opportunity to practice the "one-anothers" and receive personal attention and are given a time to learn God's Word in an intimate setting.
If I haven't convinced you, listen to the testimonies of those presently involved. If you are not involved, I hope you arrive at Second Base and sign up for a Small Group immediately! Pastor Russ would love to hear from you (I have included his e-mail and phone number on the sermon outline) and get you connected! We presently have seven active Small Groups. I pray we will soon see that number double!
First Base - Baptism and Membership. Second Base - Small Groups. Third Base - Service.
Romans 12:5, "So we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another." When each of us comes to Jesus Christ, we are joined to His spiritual body. The church is the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27). Jesus is the head directing the body parts and we are different body parts functioning in full submission to our Head, our Lord. So just like a human body, each of us has an important role to play in order for the body to function properly.
The apostle Paul makes this argument in 1 Corinthians 12. "For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, 'Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,' it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, 'Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,' it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one" (1 Cor. 12:14-20).
Bottom line: You are a part in this local body. Every body part is important. And if one body part fails to function properly, not only does that particular body part suffer, but the entire body suffers.
So you might be wondering, how do I know what body part I am? Great question! The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit sovereignly distributes spiritual gifts upon every child of God (1 Cor. 12:11). The ways I see it, oftentimes it is a special blend of spiritual gifts that makes you unique and necessary.
The Bible in 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, 1 Peter 4 and Ephesians 4 gives a sampling of some of the spiritual gifts; gifts such as serving or administration or leading or teaching or encouraging. The goal is to identify your gifts and use them in a ministry of this church. And I believe the best way to do that is understand the ministry needs and start doing what you think you will enjoy the most.
A few examples of present church ministries: library, A/V, Women of Grace, recording, archives, photography, sound board, decorating, Solutions Pregnancy Center, landscaping, meals, ushering, Sunday school, nursery, greeting, website, Prayer Meetings, office support, flowers, inside cleaning and repair, VBS, soccer clinic, fellowship committee, small group leader, music and choir, deacon assistants, elder care ministry, jail ministry, missions, local evangelism, youth group, and the upcoming building committees. And who's to say that new ministries won't be developed as the church grows and new people with additional gifts are added to the flock.
When we would finish football practice in college, our coach pulled us together. We took one knee and his mantra was always, "Know your part on this team." It is essential for the success of any institution that each individual member is uniquely qualified in their individual calling and that each individual member fulfills his personal responsibility for the good of the whole. We may not all be quarterbacks, but if one "insignificant" offensive lineman is lax, the entire team will go nowhere.
So let me ask you, how are you using your spiritual gifts? They are given to you by God for a purpose. God wants you to be using them on a regular basis. You have a unique calling in this church. And the body of Christ is never more beautiful than when we experience among the diversity of gifts the unity of all of us working together for one common purpose.
Well, if we have taken you past three bases, what is the final base where we desire to see all those who attend the Grace Tabernacle? What is home base? What does mature Christian living look like?
As I read earlier, permit me once again to read our Lord's Great Commission from Matthew 28. "And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, 'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age'" (Mt. 28:18-20).
Jesus is seeking to make disciples and I believe one of the greatest marks of mature discipleship is the desire to make other disciples. Home base is the heart and desire to be used by God to help others grow in their walk with Christ regardless of the personal sacrifice to oneself. Home base is to be a discipler.
In a formal sense this is seen in being an elder or a teacher or a ministry leader. But even though most of us are not called to these ministries, all of us are called to be at the point where we are seeking to help others to mature. Maybe it is a prayer partnership or a Titus 2 ladies relationship. Maybe it is a ministry through word or written letter that seeks to spiritually encourage others. Maybe it is just time together, life-on-life where you can provide an example for someone with the Pauline mentality of "follow me as I follow Christ" (1 Cor. 11:1). This is the call for all parents with their children and this is the call for all Christians with each other within the confines of the local church. As I was once taught, we should always be reaching up and looking to be mentored by someone and always reaching down seeking to mentor someone else.
I also believe so much of this happen informally. I believe so much of this is a heart attitude that resembles our Lord who "did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Mk. 10:45). It is moving beyond a "what's in it for me" approach and moving toward a "how can I best build up the body" approach. It is coming to a fellowship having already prayed and prepared to hear someone's needs and minister to their heart. It is coming to church activities so your words and presence can build up the particular leaders who invested so much to make it happen. It is staying around after the service and looking to speak with someone you've never met, not just your friends. It is seeking to welcome new people to the church. It is thinking about how all your actions and decisions will either help or hinder God's work at this church. It is moving beyond pampered customers to joyous proprietors, moving beyond complaining to looking for ways to be part of the solution. It is a heart that says I want the church to succeed and I want people to be blessed and I want to be used by the Lord in that process. It is a heart that says I want to get other people around the base path through my words and actions. I trust we can all say, "I am a better person because of the Grace Tabernacle." Home Base is humbly saying, "I believe God is using me to make the Grace Tabernacle a better place."
So first base is getting baptized and becoming a member- Commitment. Second base is joining a small group-Involvement. Third base is serving in the church-Employment. And home base is becoming a discipler who seeks to disciple others - Development.
And when by God's grace we get to this point do we return to the dugout? Absolutely not! Mature disciples seek to excel still more (1 Thes. 4:1). Contrary from seeking less biblical instruction and prayer, they seek it all the more. They have that passionate desire to please the Lord by growing ever more into the image of Christ themselves.
My friends, please do not misunderstand me. This baseball framework is only an attempt to give you a visible plan as to what we believe the Lord is calling our church to become. It is not to give people gold stars every time they round a base. It is not to achieve a home run the first time we step up to bat. It is not to enter the ball game for the approval of humans. It is not to run the bases on our own strength and effort. You can touch every base and have a heart that is a million miles away from the Lord. This structure is simply an effort to be deliberate in what we do. It is an effort to have aim and focus and purpose and direction. It is an effort to be "united in spirit, intent on one purpose" (Phil. 2:2). It is an effort to pursue our truest joy. It is an effort to be used by the Lord to accomplish great things. It is an effort to be the biblical church that God wants us to be. Therefore our game of baseball must be permeated by God's grace and always exercised in love.
May God take this vision and corporately move our hearts in this direction for His glory.
More in Vision
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