Get Connected Part 2: Growth
On Sunday 23rd October at our morning services, we continued our series 'Get Connected'. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.
To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.
To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here.
During the talk we watched a Youtube clip of the Brownlee Brothers. You can watch that by clicking here.
I wonder how you would answer the question, What is your favourite verse or verses in the bible? Well, I guess that like me, you have quite a few. However, if I were pushed to name just one, (or a few) it would have to be Jesus’ reply to the question put to him in Matthew 22:36. Jesus answered, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” To paraphrase what Jesus was saying, “Get Connected!” Get connected to God and get connected to other people.
Essentially, the essence of the Christian message is love, and if we are going to grow and mature as Christians, then this is where our focus should be, both as individuals and as a church. A really good guide for love in action is found in a letter written by one of Jesus’ early followers, a man called Paul. There are 8 verses in particular in chapter 12 that are very instructive. You can read this by clicking here.
Starting at verse 9:
9 “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.”
Paul is saying that our love should be genuine, with no hypocrisy or falseness. More people have been brought into the church by the kindness of real Christian love than by all the theological arguments in the world, and more people have been driven from the church by the hardness and ugliness of so-called Christianity than by all the doubts in the world.
Visitors to a church may not be able to explain it or define it, but they know when love is there and when it is not. A person will get up, get dressed, and drive many miles, passing 4 or 5 other churches, if they know that a warm experience awaits them with love and a true community, and where they can authentically connect. For many, the love they receive in church is the only love they will experience all week long. Let’s never forget that one of the greatest expressions of love is simply to notice people and to pay attention to them.
10 “Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves.”
Putting others first is an essential part of the Christian life. Love often involves sacrifice, and Christian maturity begins to grow when you can sense your concern for others outweighing your concern for yourself.
11 “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord.”
Paul is encouraging us to serve with passion, enthusiasm and eagerness. Get rid of any lethargy and have a “get-up-and-go” attitude.
Are we living proof that the Christian life is a joyful, happy life? Do you look happy that you are a Christian? Does your life radiate joy and enthusiasm? Understand that the simplest man, fired with enthusiasm, is more persuasive than the most eloquent man without it.
I read this recently, and I think that it’s true “The greatest threat to the church in the UK is not Muslims or any other faith, nor is it atheists, but lukewarm, nominal Christians.” Let us never be accused of lacking zeal!
12 “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”
Prayer is so important if we are serious about growing and maturing as Christians.
It’s been said that God’s greatest agency for winning people to himself is the prayers of other people. Yet, very few ever practice the positive, practical power of prayer. It is the mightiest force in the universe, and many in the Christian world seem to be blind to this fact.
In another letter written by Paul, he encourages us to “pray without ceasing”. (I Thessalonians 5:17)
13 “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”
Be intentional and pursue the practice of hospitality……
I read recently about a man who wrote this to his local newspaper: "I am presently completing the second year of a three-year survey on the hospitality or lack of it in churches. To date, of the 195 churches I have visited, I was spoken to in only one by someone other than an official greeter and that was to ask me to move my feet." Does that shock you? It should! Let’s make sure that it never happens in any church that we attend.
14 “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.”
This is so counter-cultural, and goes against our natural instincts. However, if churches are in serious trouble today, it’s probably because there is virtually no difference between the average church member and the person who is not a Christian. God meant for the Christian to be different, to live a different kind of life, and to be on a different moral level from those who are not Christians. And yet, there is often practically no difference in lifestyle.
Abraham Lincoln was once being criticized for his attitude towards his opponents. "Why do you try to make friends with them?" a colleague asked. "You should try to destroy them." Am I not destroying my enemies," the President asked gently, "when I make them my friends?" Bless, and do not curse.
15 “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
Be there and share!
Most of the time, people fail for a lack of encouragement than for almost any other reason. The truth is that discouraged people don’t need critics. They hurt enough already. They don’t need more guilt or piled-on distress. They need encouragement. They need a refuge; a willing, caring, available someone. You?
16 “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not think you are superior.”
Be a team player. All for one and one for all! One mind, one heart, one Lord: Real unity.
Some missionaries in the Philippines set up a croquet game in their front yard. Several of their Agta Negrito neighbors became interested and wanted to join the fun. The missionaries explained the game and started them out, each with a mallet and ball.
As the game progressed, opportunity came for one of the players to take advantage of another by knocking that person’s ball out of the court. A missionary explained the procedure, but his advice only puzzled the Negrito friend. "Why would I want to knock his ball out of the court?" he asked. "So you will be the one to win!" a missionary said. The short-statured man, clad only in a loincloth, shook his head in bewilderment. Competition is generally ruled out in a hunting and gathering society, where people survive not by competing but by sharing equally in every activity.
The game continued, but no one followed the missionaries’ advice. When a player successfully got through all the hoops, the game was not over for him. He went back and gave aid and advice to his fellows.
As the final player moved toward the last hoop, the affair was still very much a team effort. And finally, when the last hoop was played, the "team" shouted happily, "We won! We won!"
Surely, that’s how the Church, the body of Christ, should be. We’re a team. We all win together when we are truly connected.
If we, who call ourselves Christians, hearing these truths of connectedness and love in action, merely give mental ascent to their value and fail to change personally by making these truths part and parcel of our lives, we will bring dishonour to Jesus. We will at best trudge on through a life of lukewarm mediocrity, and the world will not want what we have, we won’t connect with our community and we certainly won’t grow.
However, If we apply and practice these truths individually and together, connected as a church, God will be honoured, the church will grow - numerically and spiritually, the lost will be saved, and the church will make an impact in our communities. If we are going to be what God wants us to be, if we are going to grow individually and as a church, then we must commit to living out these truths. This is love in action. Let’s get connected!
Questions and Reflections (for you to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)
1. Do you have some bible verses that are special for you? Why are they special?
2. Do you have any experience of a church that was loving and welcoming? What can you do to ensure that people are made to feel welcome, wanted and loved?
3. What do you think that Paul means by “honour others above yourself?
4. Do you agree that “The greatest threat to the church in the UK is not Muslims or any other faith, nor is it atheists, but lukewarm, nominal Christians.”
5. Most Christians will agree that prayer is important, but many don’t pray regularly or as often as they say they would like to. What do you think are the reasons for that?
6. How could you as an individual, and we as a church, be more hospitable?
7. Do you agree, “There is virtually no difference between the average church member and the person who is not a Christian”? Does that include you?
8. Would you describe yourself as an encourager or a critic? What are you going to do to change/improve?
9. Do you feel connected to the church, a particular group, or some individuals? What makes that so?
10. What can you as an individual and we as a church do to ensure that we apply and practice the truths in the verses Romans 12: 9-16?