April 24, 2016
You know that I typically preach verse-by-verse through a book. So for example, we are currently studying the Gospel of Mark together. But this week and next, we’re taking a break from Mark to focus on volunteering – on serving. Identifying our passions and gifts and skills and experiences, rolling them all into one to determine where God would have us serve together in this local church – this body of believers called Alliance Bible Fellowship.
All that to say, this week I reminded Tana that I wouldn’t be in Mark this Sunday. I mean, the next passage in Mark is a naked, demon-possessed guy – hardly a passage for volunteering unless we’re talking about the nursery. So this is out of my wheelhouse – you know, having a topic and trying to find a text to support what I want to say. I asked Tana, what angle do you think I should take to encourage people to visit our volunteer fair, and sign up to serve. She quickly responded, tongue-in-cheek – well, guilt and shame always seems to work.
Isn’t that what we normally do? We talk about ministry opportunities in the church and try to shame people into signing up. We say things like, the children need you. We’re desperate. You’ve been gifted to serve, so for the glory of God, serve! And some of those things are true. Service is an act of obedience. We do need you. After all, Paul likens the church family to a body – that is, hands and feet, eyes and ears. And we each have our functions – our spiritual gifting – and the body suffers if you don’t serve. And all of that is true. But today, I’d like to take a different approach. I’m going to suggest two, maybe three things this morning:
First, serving the body is best for the body.
And second, serving the body is best for you.
Consider the number of passages that talk about how serving one another is good, indeed best for the body of Christ in a local church. Certainly there’s the passage in I Corinthians 12 where Paul talks about spiritual gifts. And he reminds us that each of us have been gifted to serve. Which leads to one of the problems with spiritual gifts today – far too many view spiritual gifts quite selfishly – that is, what’s in it for me? But Paul reminds us, as he jumps into the topic, that spiritual gifts are given for others. He says it this way in I Corinthians 12:7, “For to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”
The manifestation of the Spirit is to be found in spiritual gifts. That is, the Holy Spirit fills the believer and gives him or her abilities to be able to serve – who? Himself? Herself? No – it’s for the common good – for the good of the local body – the local church.
He goes on to list some of the spiritual gifts: wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment of spirits, tongues and interpretation of tongues. Even tongues – that is, speaking in a language unknown to the speaker – is given for the common good. Too often in churches today, spiritual gifts are seen to edify the user. They may edify the user – but that’s not their primary purpose. They are given for the common good.
Later in the chapter, Paul expands on the list: he speaks of apostles, prophets, teachers, healing again, helps, administration, and tongues again. There’s another list in Romans 12, another in Ephesians 4, another, perhaps in I Peter 4, although I think that one summarizes all the gifts under speaking and serving gifts. My point is, you’ve been gifted for the common good – for the good of the church. It is best for the church that you use your gifts to serve.
In fact, in that passage in Ephesians 4, Paul says it this way. He speaks of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, and says they have been given to the church (notice) for the equipping of the saints – believers – for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ. We see again, using our spiritual gifts is for building up the body of Christ – which is the church – in this context, the local church where we gather to serve and worship.
Why do we do this? He tells us in the next verse, we build up each other “until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” Lofty words. Lofty goal – entirely attainable, if we as leaders equip the saints for works of service and the saints serve within their giftedness. Unity of faith in the knowledge of Christ, maturity of faith in the fullness of Christ. Isn’t that where we’re headed. Isn’t that our ultimate goal in life? We can’t do it alone – we need each other in the pursuit of Christ. And so clearly, serving each other is for our best.
Not only that, I’m suggesting that serving is also for your best. Far from using guilt or shame to motivate you, I want to encourage you with the truth that serving within your giftedness and passions, you will find great joy. You see, in serving, you will be doing that for which God has equipped and called you. What greater joy can you find than doing that for which God made you. I’ve told you this before, but Pastor Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church is always talking about serving in the local church. Every once in a while, someone will ask him, don’t you ever feel guilty about pressing people into service in the church? It seems rather self-serving. To which Hybels replies, “I get to invite these people to be used by God in ways they never imagined. We have the opportunity to empower them to develop gifts they didn’t know they had. We can cheer them on as they courageously assume new levels of Kingdom responsibility that fill their hearts to overflowing. And we get to see the looks on their faces when they realize God has used them to touch another human being. No, I never really feel guilty inviting people to become volunteers in our church. Never.”
Nor will I. Because I believe you will find greatest joy in serving our great God in the way He designed you to serve. One final thought before I talk about the opportunities you have today. I cannot address this topic of serving without highlighting the glory of God. Peter says it this way in I Peter 4:10-11, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength that God supplies;…” Now stop right there. He tells us to use our gifts – whether they are speaking or serving gifts – under one of those two categories – use your gifts realizing it is God who is working through you. That’s why they’re called spiritual gifts. They are given to you by the Holy Spirit – such that Peter actually says when you speak, you are speaking God’s words, when you serve, you are serving in His power.
Peter goes on – we do this, “so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever.” Yes, all we do for each other is ultimately for the glory of our great God through Christ – who deserves all the glory. Who needs guilt and shame? I can’t think of better motivations than these – serving is for the good of the body, it’s for you and your joy, and it is for Christ’s great glory.
So, today we’ve set up a volunteer fair. Danielle, our office manager, will be coming in a moment to walk you through the process. But before she does that, let me share some exciting things – some changes – that are happening at our church.
First, as you probably know, our builders have begun some significant work in our new building. The plan is to finish the foyer and the educational space by summer’s end. That educational space will house early childhood on the first floor, which we’re going to call Little Alliance. The second floor has six classrooms for adult education space. Additionally, they are doing some work in the auditorium such that when they’re finished with this phase, we will have our Certificate of Occupancy and can begin using the building, half of it, by the end of the summer.
That means, this summer, every ministry in this church will be relocating, except for our worship services. We’ll continue to meet in this room until we have the funds to finish our auditorium – which we are well on our way to completing. Little Alliance, which is birth through four years of age, will move to the new building. Incidentally, the new early childhood space will be very secure with exterior exits and a bathroom between each classroom for both ease and safety. Then, Kidzone, which is kindergarten through fifth grade, will move downstairs to where our early childhood space is now. They will be occupying rooms 11-17.
That will empty our current second floor. That’s where our offices are, which will remain there. But, rooms 23-25 and the Kidzone theater will be vacated – so that will become the new youth wing. Can you believe it – our youth will now actually have bathrooms! They will have more room than they’ve ever had.
Now, if you’ve been around, you know we’ve not had space for adult Sunday Schools, on Sundays, for a long time. So, most of our adult classes have met on Wednesday evenings. As of August 28 – which is the date for all these changes – we will be offering Adult Sunday School classes on Sundays. We’re going to call those Connection Groups – and they will largely be arranged around life stages. For example, Early Adults, Young Families, Families with Teens, Empty Nesters, and Seniors. But as we thought about those names, we didn’t want to be so restrictive, and certainly didn’t want to suggest they were only for married people or families. We love and want our singles to feel welcomed, regardless of your stage in life. So, we’ve come up with some new creative names – are you ready? Drum roll please…Stage 1, Stage 2, Stage 3, Stage 4, and Stage 5 Connection Groups.
- Stage 1 will be for early adults – those post college through perhaps early 30’s. But remember, these lines are not solid – we recognize these stages will overlap.
- Stage 2 will be for those late 20’s through late 30’s – to include those with young families, but also those not married but in that age group.
- Stage 3 will be for those late 30’s through early 50’s – to include those with teens, but again, those not married in that age group.
- Stage 4 will be for what we 50’s up to retirement. We normally think of those as empty-nesters.
- And Stage 5 will be those in their retirement years – think seniors.
Obviously, in a church our size, there will likely be more than one of each these Connection Groups. An obvious question is, how are they different from our Life Groups – our small groups?
That’s a great question. First, they are larger, giving you opportunity to connect with people in your same stage of life. Second, the teaching within those groups will be focused on the specific needs of that life stage. Third, these smaller communities will multiply opportunities for service. In each group, we’re envisioning a leader, a teaching coordinator, a outreach coordinator, and a hospitality coordinator. All of these positions are described at the Connection Groups table at the volunteer fair. But here’s what I want you to know – we want to encourage you to be involved in a connection group, and in order for them to be successful, we need leadership. Would you consider serving in one of those roles?
A couple other thoughts, then I’ll finish up. As the staff and elders thought about our Sunday worship service schedule, we thought now would be a time to consider making some changes. As you know, we have three worship services each Sunday – 8:15, 9:45 and 11:15. We’ve had those since 2005. That early service – 8:15 – does provide some relief from the second service which is quite full. But the truth is, it isn’t really at a very good time. In fact, in those 11 years we’ve had the early service – it’s fluctuated quite a bit, but settled around 120 each week. We thought it might be time to consider offering the third service at a much better time.
So, as you also know, is summer, we typically go to two worship services – 9:00 and 10:30 – which we will do on May 29. But, on August 28, when we make all these changes – when we add the third service back in, we’re considering adding it on Sunday afternoons at 5:00. There are lots of really good reasons to do this. Again, it’s a much better time and will allow for growth. We think it will allow people who are unable, for whatever reason, to attend on Sunday morning, to join us for the exact same worship service at 5:00 in the afternoon. And, it will allow some of those Connection Groups to meet early Sunday evening after that worship service. We’d like to try this and see how works. We really think this will be a good thing. But, we’d like to plan for that – so we’re going to send out a survey – today or tomorrow. It will be a simple question – given those three services times, which one will you likely attend?
Of course, moving services around like that is going to multiply service opportunities. We’ll need more children’s ministry workers. We’ll need more worship team members so we can multiply the teams. There are tables out there for you to consider serving us in this way.
So would you do that? We’ve been announcing this volunteer fair for some time now, and we trust you have been seeking the Lord as to how you might be involved – for the good of the church, for your good, and for the glory of Christ. So in just a moment, I’m going to dismiss you to wander through the fair and consider how you might serve with us. Pray with me.
We are concerned that you avoid a couple extremes – as demonstrated by our drama team. Pay careful attention, and afterward, Danielle will come to give us some instructions.