Sermon 3/03/2019: More Than Just A Place To Worship God

Sermon at Kinmundy United Methodist Church on 3/03/2019.

Title: More Than Just A Place To Worship God Matthew 9:35 to 10:2

Audio link – Right click, open in new tab to play: [Kinmundy]

Right click, open in new tab to view slides as a PDF: [Slides]

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: Let’s have a conversation! Please reflect upon the questions below as you consider the material presented above. In a comment, share your thoughts and additional questions. What would you like to know?

What grabbed your attention?
What is the human need or problem?
What questions do you have about any quotes provided?
Does the Bible say anything about this?
What solutions do you see for the problem?
What specifically could we begin to do to make a change?


friends, there’s all kinds of prejudice in this world, and when you encounter someone who is prejudiced, particularly if they’re against something that you love or someone you love, it can make you just a little bit angry. You may not be aware of this, but there is prejudice within a lot of Christian denominations against small churches, and every now and then on Facebook, I will see someone who’s a pastor or a layperson in a huge church announce that all the small churches are holding the denomination back. I am pleased to tell you today that that is a stupid [inaudible] it’s not intelligent because the Bible says we’re not supposed to call people fools, but it’s not intelligent, and it’s not correct. On the other hand, prejudice is having its effect on us. This is the Cisne United Methodist Church, it’s right by US 45, you drive by it and you see the behind, you see the back of the church, and when I drive by on my way to a meeting in Fairfield, that seems to be where all our district meetings are, I will pull off to the side of the road sometimes and just sit there and pray and let me tell you why. On May 6th of last year, the members of that church voted to close their doors. Their last worship service, interestingly enough, was Memorial Day weekend Sunday, May 27th of last year. The church sign is hidden by that tree now, but here’s what it says now, “Welcome, the journey.” The church in Fairfield, Illinois bought that church, but there’s still people worshiping there. That’s important to us. But the five to eight people that were coming to worship in a village of 654 decided that they just no longer wanted to keep on it. The church started in 1861. They built this building in 1921. I’ve never been inside it. But they decided to just let go. Let me tell you some scientific research. This was very popular 10 years ago when my doctoral dissertation was being written. It’s called Natural Church Development. It’s a scientific study of over 70,000 churches worldwide trying to identify what makes the difference between churches that are growing and churches that are not growing. The number third reason why churches are not growing is the size of the church, but it’s just the opposite of what everybody thinks. The larger the church likely it is to be successful at converting people to Jesus Christ. All across the world, every culture, every type of church setting, the larger the church is the less successful. Here’s the numbers. Churches over five years under 100 would pick up 32 members in a year, 32 new members. Churches from 100 to 200, guess what 32 new members. Church’s from 200 to 300, kind of a boost there, 39. Church’s from 300 to 400, 25 new members. Why do you think that is? I’ll give you a hint. They all get distracted with doing church stuff and they forget why there is a church because I think this has to do with the busier of churches. Not only that, 70,000 churches– the average megachurch which everybody thinks has got to be the best but they’d be wrong. Average attendance of all the megachurches, 2, 856 people every Sunday. Over five years, 112 new Christians. 112, that’s all. Now that same number of people worshipped averaging 51 in attendance, which is the average of all the United Methodist churches in the United States at that time. 56 small churches averaging 51 every Sunday would have converted 1,792 people in five years. Friends, the scientific proof is in. Small churches that reach out are far more effective than large churches. If that’s true, what happened in [inaudible]?
I found this quote and it just meant so much to me. It’s by Craig Miller who is the United Methodist evangelism expert. A faith community is what works today. “A faith community is created when the worship experience is tied to a discipleship system.” Ten years later, we call this a discipleship pathway when just the people in church understand is you grow up in Christ. You go through stages of becoming more mature, more aware, and more responsible in serving Jesus Christ. Just like a baby learns to walk, learns to talk, goes to school, learns to read, there are stages of growth that Christians go through. That’s a discipleship system. And here’s that key phrase, “A worshipping group without a discipleship system is not a faith community. It is simply a place to worship God.” That’s because a faith community intentionally creates studies that link worship to discipleship and spiritual growth. We have Sunday morning. We have Wednesday night. You need both. But the trouble is so many churches are just a place to worship God. And when a church decides to be nothing more than that, a lot of times they have decided to die.
Here’s another bit of science. In the mid-1950s, a Latin American mission worried about the failure of churches that they were starting in South America and Latin America, they studied three diverse movements that were rapidly growing in their context, [Communists?], Jehova’s Witnesses, and Pentecostals. Just imagine what would happen if you three of those people in a room. It would be like a cage match. There is nothing they have in common and there’s nothing they agree about. What they believe was with the message and the values of each group, so totally different. Whatever it was they had in common would be what makes the difference, what makes a movement grow. When you get home, you can go to look at a bottle of aspirin. You can go to look at a bottle of Tylenol or Ibuprofen. You’ll notice they list the active ingredients. The active ingredient in a aspirin pill is salicylic acid, and there might just be a tiny little bit of it in that pill; the rest of it’s filler. It doesn’t matter. It just makes the pill go down easier. In the church, we get distracted by the filler. We work really hard to make the filler the highest quality filler that a person can have. The friends is the active ingredient that does the work. So what did they find? Here’s what they found. Each successfully mobilize the entire constituency in continuous outreach. Latin American mission put their findings together in a concise statement, the so-called striking theorem. It was named after the leader of the Latin American mission.
The successful expansion of any movement is in direct proportion to a success in mobilizing and occupying its total membership in the constant propagation of its beliefs. In other words, churches grow because of all of us, not because of one of us. The medium level high school basketball team can beat Michael Jordan if he’s not a part of the team because when people work together as a team, they are invincible. All of us are more powerful and effective to do God’s will than any one of us no matter how talented that person might be. Here’s how Jesus quoted. Matthew 9:35, Jesus quoted about all the cities and villages teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity. When he saw the crowds he had compassion for them because they were harassed and helpless.
I have compassion for Kim today. She’s feels pretty helpless. I expect Linda feels helpless. I expect Connie feels helpless, but here’s the main point. Jesus noticed, and because he noticed, he had compassion because he said, “These are people who are like sheep without a shepherd. They need a shepherd.” So what did Jesus say? Then he said to his disciples– and disciples are people who are following Jesus. They’re following him to learn. And as we said last week when Jesus came up and said to Peter and Andrew Follow me, he said, “As you follow me, I’m going to teach you how to fish for people.” Every verse in the New Testament, this is how to fish for people. But here’s what he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” There’s only two places in the New Testament where Jesus makes a prayer of request [Mary?] says pray for God to send people in the harvest. The harvest is ready, people are ready. Now, this is a discipleship pathway I recommend to you. It’s based on the great commission. Great commission has four parts. When somebody becomes a Christian, they’re baptized. And then they’re up on the right-hand side where they learn how to be a disciple, a learner. First thing they need to learn is how to love one another. Next thing they need to learn is what Jesus wanted them to do. But there finally comes a point in time, just like Jesus said to Peter and Andrew, “It’s time for you to follow me and we’re going to go.” And some of you have seen me wear this shirt, I wanna explain where it comes from. Jesus advised them to go for a walk with Him- a disciple walk. So they’re gonna go, and as they go they are going to make disciples of all nations. And when somebody becomes a Christian, well then you need to help them to learn how to love one another. You need to help them to learn the commandments of Jesus. And then you need to help them to learn how to go because that’s not just for the pastor. That’s for all of us.
We don’t have a children’s sermon here at Westley every week but at [inaudible] we have one five year old. So I took Hailey by the hand and I said, “Hailey, Jesus said to follow him and I think you and I should practice that. Are you ready?” And she said, “Okay.” So I took her by the hand and we walk in the big circle around the church. And I reminded her we are following Him because He wants us to make disciples, to fish for people. So, I want you to look out over the congregation and see if you see anyone who is harassed and helpless. Now because those are big words I said to her, “You see anybody who looks grumpy or unhappy?” And every adult in the congregation is like, “Don’t pick me [laughter].” But she picked someone. And we came up to them and we said, “Would you follow us while we follow Jesus?” And then there were three of us and we went around the circle. Next time around the circle, I said, “Hey, it’s time for all three of us to pick someone and invite them to follow Jesus.” So we looked out for grumpy and unhappy people and we each picked three. And now we were six. We went around the circle and I said, “Now it’s time for us each to pick another one.” And all of a sudden we were 12. And I said, “You know, once you have 12, you can call yourself a church.” But that’s how it is. But it all starts because we notice that someone is hurting. And it might be that you are unable to do anything. Well if you notice that someone’s hurting and you pray for them, God will begin to do beautiful and amazing things in their heart. It all comes up as the [inaudible] says, “When we notice our neighbor and pray for them, miracles begin to happen.” So the very next verses from what we talked about, Matthew 10:1, it says that Jesus called to him as 12 disciples, gave them authority over unclean spirits – in other words, the power to help people, to cast them out and to heal every disease and every infirmity, in the names of the 12 apostles, the [new word?]. The names of the 12 apostles are these and then they are listed. But the word apostle just means sent one there’s a time when you’re following Jesus as a disciple because you’re learning, and it’s not that you ever stop learning. Now, all of a sudden, you get to be someone that he sends. And when all of us are doing this, amazing things happen in a church. Now, I have been your pastor now for four and a half years. Think for just a moment about how sermons that is. Let’s assume that you remember every word of every sermon to where if I gave you a pop quiz, you would score perfectly on all those ideas. Guess what’s wrong with that? If I try to teach someone how to swim, and all they ever did was read books about swimming, they wouldn’t be very good swimmers. Jesus said, “Teach them to observe, to do everything I told you that you should do.” What that means is, sooner or later friends, we got to stop preaching about swimming, we got to stop studying about swimming, and people just need to get in the pool and do what Jesus said. Now, that’s a little scary. That’s a little scary, but it’s the whole point. It’s not so that we can know about it, but it’s so that we know how to do it. Okay. Everyone into the pool.
There’s a church that has a sign at the edge of their parking lot, “You’re now entering the mission field.” Friends, when you go out of this church– if fact, maybe we should paint this over the door. When you go out of this church, you are entering the mission field. I don’t know how holy the people in Vandalia are. I don’t know how holy the people in Springfield are; we worry about the politicians. I don’t know how spiritual people in Chicago are, but friends, your mission field is just right around you. Your micro-mission field. I would suggest it’s everybody you talk to in a typical week. Now, maybe God will call you to be the missionary that will turn around the politicians in Springfield. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? But for most of us, the place where you have the greatest influence, where God wants you to change people’s lives, is just in that little circle around where you are because Jesus lives with you in that circle, right here and right now. But everything starts when we begin to notice our neighbor. And because they’re harassed and helpless, because they’re grumpy and unhappy, because of whatever it is, they need God’s help. Because I promise you, if we begin to pray for the people that we know, God will begin to change their lives. We need to be more than just a place to worship God.
Let’s pray. Lord Jesus, you said to Peter and Andrew, to James and John, “Follow me,” and they did. Lord, help us also likewise to hear that you’re asking us to follow you. Let the words we read in the scripture, and not just from long, long ago, but in some way, maybe, adjusted for the way things are different in the modern day. We are also to follow you, and also to do, what you told me to do. Help us Lord to be able to learn how to swim, to be guided by you as we learn how to pray for people we already know who are harassed and helpless. We ask you to help us to notice them and then lead us forward in anything we might say or do to be a part of their lives


[Discussion questions.]

Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.

Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Raod, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.

VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)

Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.

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