September 17, 2023, Praying For Jesus Is Lord and People Grow, Pentecost 16

If you prefer to worship at home at this time or simply wish to listen to the service or sermon again, you’re welcome to use the links below to have a time of worship at home. (Just click on the link to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

Lord, I believe: Help my unbelief. Help me to see my world as You see it.
Lord, I obey; Help my disobedience. Focus me; guide me. Prune me.
Lord, I follow;  Help me to stay on the path. Thank you for the path, for guidance, for providence and protection.
I humbly ask for wisdom and for knowledge in every human situation. 
Lord, help me to flourish as a part of the vine, as a means of grace, as a person through whom your Holy Spirit flows. Amen.

HYMN 557 Blest Be The Tie That Binds
Blest Be The Tie That Binds by Roland Borla/Gospel Souls

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer − Dear Lord, This morning as I contemplate a new day, I ask you to help me. I want to be aware of and filled with your Spirit—leading me in the decisions I take, the conversations I have, and the work I do. I want to be more like you, Jesus, as I relate to the people I meet today—friends or strangers. Amen.

Please pray for yourself and your neighbors, lifting up your needs to God while giving thanks for answered prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven; hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

HYMN 405 Seek Ye First The Kingdom Of The God
Seek Ye First – Maranatha! Music [with lyrics]

MOMENTS WITH THE CHILDREN – If you are blessed to have children with you, ask them what they are thankful for, and then thank God together!

GIVING OF OUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS – these can be mailed to the church office.

MESSAGE: Praying For “Jesus Is Lord and People Grow”
Text: Matthew 28:19-20, Luke 6:46, John 8:31-32, 15:12, 1 Corinthians 12:7, 11-14,
1 Timothy 2:3, 1 John 4:7-11
Series: You Have Not Because You Ask Not

Right-click, open in new tab to play … Sermon audioSermon slides as a PDF file.
Wesley Sermon Audio


John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God; for God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations … 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you …
John 8:31 Jesus then said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
Luke 6:46 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?

1 Corinthians 12:7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. … 11 All these are inspired by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. 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. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many.

1 Timothy 2:3 This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.


HYMN 156 I Love To Tell The Story
Alan Jackson – I Love To Tell The Story (Live)

BENEDICTION The Prayer of St Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

If you worship at home, please let us know so we can pray for you!


We’ve been talking about prayer and how we can pray more effective and powerful prayers for our lives and our benefit and for the lives and benefit of people around us. And while each week has had a different subject, what’s tied it together is the verse from James 4 that says, “You have not because you ask not.”

And I wanted to address what I think is a reality for us. There are things that we could pray for. There are things that we should pray for, but we forget. It doesn’t occur to us. And one of the things that doesn’t occur to us, I think, is that you can pray to grow spiritually.

Now, what happens if we don’t pray for God’s help to grow spiritually? We think it’s all up to us. And unfortunately, when it’s all up to us, we don’t always do the best. But how often is it true that we forget to ask God to help us to grow, to ask God to help us to learn, to ask God to help us to become better people?

So here’s where it starts, friends. You’re familiar with the Centering Prayer, but what you may not know is the Centering Prayer is about the stages of growing as a Christian person: Lord Jesus, today I am far less than the person I want to be. Far less than the person that Jesus wants me to be. Far less than the person I can be with God’s help.

And so, we don’t forget, but we intentionally pray, “Lord, I ask today that you would be more and more the center of my life.” This is where we begin, where we fall short, where we lag behind, where we are far less, and we say, “Lord, help us to catch up to what we want to be and what you want us to be.”

One of the reasons we do not have what we want or what Jesus wants is because we do not ask. Any place in your life which is far less, any place in the life of a family member, of a friend, that is far less than what you would wish you to be or what they would wish you to be, you can pray for that. And you can pray for God to come into the gap and help you and that person to grow.

Last week, we talked about praying for the vision because the vision identifies the gap between where we are and where we want to be. The vision for the church is this:

We are a functional family of God… Do you know why? God created families to help people grow up. Now, that doesn’t mean that everybody does a good job of growing up, that doesn’t mean that every family does a good job of helping children to grow up. But it is the way, through love, that people become all they can be. And you can pray, “Lord, may our church become even more a functional family of God.”

A functional family of God to where two things are important. The first one is this, where Jesus is Lord. Because that’s the secret. That’s the mysterious thing that we forget. If we do what Jesus did, if we do what Jesus told us to do, if we seek first the kingdom of God, then far less is going to become a problem to overcome. You can pray for this. You can pray every morning, “Lord Jesus, be the Lord of my life today, more and more.” You can pray every day, “Lord, help me to learn something today that will help me to grow and become a better person.” You can pray that every day, but you know something? Even I, as if I was a good example – I don’t know that I am a good example! – but I kind of take that for granted. I don’t put it into words – “Lord, I need you to help me to grow!” – because I make an assumption that it will happen automatically. But you can pray that every day!

Now, here’s something that’s not always included in the Centering Prayer, but it certainly is a part of growing. Because again, remember, families help us to grow. So your family of origin helps you, but also your church family helps you to grow. Look at the picture of the flock on the screen. Do you see those sheep gathered into little families? The shepherd is walking across the middle with the sheepdog, but the sheep are gathered into their little families. This is how God helps people to grow. He gathers you together into little families.

I always know when the sermon really touches people’s hearts. Do you know why? I see you standing around in little groups, just like the sheep. Now, I’m not so egotistical to think you’re talking about the sermon, but if the sermon’s good, it makes you want to be together like this. Lord, include me with your flocks. Connect me with other people. Surround me with people who love one another because that’s what I need to grow.

“Jesus is Lord,” means the commandments of Jesus are important. And Jesus says this, John 15:12, “This is my commandment that you love one another as I have loved you.” Brothers and sisters, no matter how good the sermon is, the sermon’s not good enough. You need the vitamin C of community and connecting and being with each other to grow.

Now, please understand why this is a problem. A pandemic happened. All of a sudden, we weren’t meeting in small groups anymore. A pandemic happened and the Wednesday night Bible study evaporated. A pandemic happened and committees met scattered around a room, 12 feet away from each other. A pandemic happened, and, all of a sudden, Sunday morning worship became Pastor Dave doing all the talking. Why? I wouldn’t want to ask any one of you to come up here and breathe the cloud of air around the pulpit because if I had the coronavirus, you could catch it from me!

As we come out of that time, we need to make some very significant changes. And the biggest change is this, we need to get together, not just in big groups, but in all kinds of groups. Now, thank God for Kim’s bible study; the ladies are getting together. They’re going to be starting another study up later this fall. Thank God for the SALT potlucks. Thank God for the SALT trips. If you look at the SALT potluck, it’s like the sheep in the picture: people are sitting at different tables visiting with each other. We need this to grow spiritually.

And so I’d like to make an announcement. Starting in October, we will have different small groups meet on weeknights. We will have a small group come together and talk about our worship service and how it can be more inspiring and exciting.

We will have a small group come together to pray for each other.

We’re going to have small groups for all kinds of purposes.

And I hope you’ll come out to the ones you find interesting. Come out to the ones that seem to draw you to participate because your opinion is very valuable. And we need this talking to each other in order to grow. Because as it says in 1 John 4, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” You have a chosen family of God. And if we pray that loving one another would grow between us, we will see amazing miracles of God’s love begin to happen all around us.

There is nothing we can do, as I understand the Scripture, that is more powerful than for us to intentionally work at loving one another. Notice that verse, “He who loves is born of God.” When you love one another, God begins to change your life and you become a beginner, someone who is born of God, born again. The word that used to be there was infant, but I didn’t want to call anyone an infant! So, let me call you a beginner!

Beginners grow through relationships. And each one of us, to the extent that we’re a beginner, need someone to reach down and help us to walk. And that person in your life is the person who watches over you and cares for you. And here are two things that beginners need.

They need to be brought into worship so that they will feel God’s love.
They need to be brought into fellowship groups
to experience what it’s like for a church to love one another.

Ironically, one of the most powerful things that you can do to help someone come to Christ, to help someone to come to church, is not to invite them to worship. Now, I know that sounds astonishing – because my sermons are so good! They’re good, but they’re not good enough!

If you look at the fastest-growing churches all across the world, people come first to the SALT potluck and they get to know people. And then they want to come to worship.

They come first to the playground. And they get to know people. And then they want to come to worship.

They come first to the SALT trip. They come first to a small group where you get to know other people. And then, as those other people follow Jesus, they follow them into a church.

So when somebody gets stuck in life or in growing as a Christian, they probably need more love.

Now, if you’re a parent or a grandparent, you know what happens when little children get all the love they need. They begin to feel safe. And you know what happens when they begin to feel safe? They begin to explore their world. And all of a sudden, you’re scared to death, “Where the heck are they?” When infants feel safe, they begin to explore their world.

Curiosity grows within them, and they begin to ask questions. Now, I don’t know the exact age where it starts. But there’s a certain age where children begin to ask hundreds of questions every single day. Parents, you remember the worst one, “Why”? And you give your best answer, they ask “Why?” again. Then you give another answer … and “Why?” But kids begin to ask questions.

Kids begin to ask questions. You know the saddest thing in a church? Because as a pastor now – for over 42 years, this has been my experience – the saddest thing in the typical church is the pastor looks out at all kinds of people, and not a single one of them has a question. Let that sink in for a moment. Beginning to ask questions because you’re hungry for answers is a sign of spiritual growth. Consequently, please, please ask your questions.

On the other hand, as the rest of you want to beat the Baptists to the restaurant for lunch, let’s not ask questions during the sermon. It will make you unpopular. And you see, that’s what that small group is for. It’s a place to where you can ask questions. It’s a place where you can say, “I think it’s this. Is that right?” It’s a time to listen to other people. You need that to grow. Consequently, as the pandemic eases, we need to begin to link up with each other and have these conversations. There is a Sunday school class, perfect place to start, perfect place to start. Because our questions need to be answered.

Jesus says, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and not do what I tell you?” The best answer to that is, “Lord, I didn’t know what you were telling me to do this.”

If you are a learning person, you will pray this prayer. You’ll ask Jesus to guide you, “Lord, guide me to all that is good. I want to let go of all that is bad. Cleanse me from all that is not good. I want it not to be a part of my life. Teach me your ways -now that means you know them intellectually – And form in me your nature; that means it becomes easier and easier for you to live as Jesus wants you to live. But how often do we pray that? How often does our day begin, “Lord, show me what you want me to do today” because it’s so obvious it’s easy for us to let it be an assumption.

So where do we turn to learn what the Lord Jesus Christ wants us to do? The answer is turn right to the words of Jesus. Have a New Testament and read it. And when you find a command of Jesus, something Jesus wants you to do, make a mark or underline it — because whatever it is that Jesus is asking you to do in the New Testament, that’s something that will benefit you to do. As Jesus said in John 8:31 to the people who believed in Him, “If you continue in my Word–“ now that doesn’t mean just to look at the Bible once a month. Continue doesn’t mean just to listen to the pastor once a week. “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples.” And because of that – look at verse 32 – “you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.” Friends, just simply knowing that this is something you should not do will help you not to do it. Friends, just simply knowing that Jesus says this is something you should do will help you to do it. It starts with knowing. And then it begins to change our lives.

How do people grow as disciples? Let’s take another look at the Great Commission. Matthew 28:19 says, “Go therefore and make disciples.” We know that. But do you know how those disciples grow? Look at verse 20, “Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” What does God want? Whatever Jesus told us we should do. And that should be the topic of our discussion as we’re learning: What does Jesus ask us to do? Because you and I have something to learn. And as we learn it, it will change our lives.

Now, in addition to that, if you get stuck at this phase, here are some things that help children learn. At this child level of spiritual growth, we want to involve each other in reading God’s word and seeking Christ’s commands because that will lead you to begin to ask questions, sometimes prompted by the Holy Spirit, so that your knowledge becomes deeper. And as you ask questions of each other, you will learn from each other. One person will say, “Well, I had a problem with that.” One person will say, “God helped me by telling me to do this.” You’ll share with each other.

And in addition to that, your pastor loves to answer questions! I love to answer questions and probably other people do too. And consequently, if you involve yourself in a group that’s talking and learning, it will help you to grow. After the pandemic, that’s something we need to get back to. Because when people get stuck, they need to learn how to ask and they need to learn how to answer questions.

So please, I want to hear your questions. Because you see, God is preparing you for something very important, and it’s called the body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12 talks about the church as if it was a body. The church has all different kinds of parts, just like your body has parts. Everyone has a purpose. As 1 Corinthians 12:7, which is one of my favorite verses in the Bible says, “To each …” To every single one of you here, there is a way that God’s Holy Spirit wants to show up and work through you. Each person is given the manifestation of the Spirit so you can be a part of helping everybody else in the church. You have something to do. You have a church job. Some of you have the job of being Sunday School and Bible School teachers. Some of you, thank God, are wonderful musicians. Some of you are wonderful singers. We need to get you up and out of the pews and up here and singing together. We need to start the choir up again! Some of you are really good at noticing when someone’s discouraged, and you have a kind word. And some of you make the best cookies. Because you see, here’s the problem at the church in Corinth, people would look down on what they were good at and would say, “I’m not very good because I’m not as good as so-and-so.” Whatever you’re good at, you want to ask the question, “How can I use that for God?” Because in order to be the church God wants us to be, in order to be the church really that we want to be, every single person is needed to play their role. God created the human body so that everything has a purpose. God creates the church so that in the church — every single person — has a purpose. And friends, if you’re you’re not doing what God wants you to do, it’s like the church is handicapped. In order to do what God wants us to do, everybody has their part to play.

And this coming together and being together is something that we don’t always talk about, we don’t always emphasize. Small groups are an important means of sanctifying grace that helps us to grow up. When Jesus says, “Follow me,” what that first means is, “Be with me…” And when people be with Jesus, all of a sudden, bang, it’s a small group. “Follow me” then becomes, “Learn with me in a small group” as the disciples spent time with Jesus. And eventually, it means to, “Carry your cross, and serve with me in a small group.”

The basic New Testament pattern is for you and I to follow Jesus in a group, rather than as an individual. As a part of a team, rather than you out there as the Lone Ranger trying to do your very best. We are better when we work together. And in fact, if you read through the New Testament, what you see again and again and again is that when they did things for God, there’s only one example of the disciples doing anything by themselves, and that’s when Philip talks to the Ethiopian eunuch. In every other example in the scripture, it is two or three or more that do God’s work.

We follow Jesus, not alone, but with other people. And when you follow Jesus, where is he going to lead you? Well, friends, you and I have a micro-mission field. The command is for you and I to love our neighbor – our ministry is to pray for the people around us who are our neighbors. Some of them are people we go to church with. Some of them are people who have not found a church yet. But whoever it is that is in your neighborhood, whether that’s the neighborhood of your friends and family, the neighborhood of where you work, the neighborhood of the people who like to do for fun, what you like to do, the people you see, for example, at ball games, or it’s the people who live in your literal neighborhood. They’re next door or down the street. We’re supposed to pray for those people.

And you see, here’s the problem. We get so busy. Thank God we live in a small town. Maybe we’re less busy than big city people. But we want God to help us to notice our neighbors because then we’ll see how to pray for them. And as you pray for them, God will work to redeem them and bring them to Christ.

Because it starts with compassion: Jesus looked out at the crowds, Matthew chapter 9, and he had compassion for them because they were harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd. The very next verse, Jesus says, “Pray for God to send out laborers into the harvest.” People to help with that feeling of being harassed and helpless. Who do you know who’s harassed and helpless today?\

It begins with compassion because here is the truth about all those people around you. 1 Timothy 2:3, “This is good and it’s acceptable in the sight of God our Savior who desires all–” See that word all? Who desires all people to be saved, who desires all people to come to the knowledge of the truth, who desires all people to find a Savior who can help them, the way the Savior has helped you and me. And the most powerful way for that to happen, I want to suggest, is that when you notice your neighbor, you will also notice whether they go to church, you’ll notice whether they have a faith. And for the ones who don’t have a faith, you can pray for them to find a faith.

We talked about this last week. If you begin to pray for people and love them, you’ll find that they’ll follow you into church. And in this picture of a little girl in the back seat, the main thing mama wants is for her to grow up. And you know the great thing about kids growing up? Yeah. They leave for college. Bye. They go get a job, they move to Austin, Texas. What’s wrong with them? They do that. But if you let them grow up, they bring your grandchildren to visit you. If you help someone to grow up, they’ll help someone else come to Jesus. And that’s the most beautiful thing.

And so last week I shared this example with you, this church in Seoul, Korea, the world’s largest church with over 700,000 members. They keep starting new churches, and they grow right back up to 700,000 again. And that’s because the entire church is divided up into small groups just like we talked about. The entire church. And each one of those small groups is asked — now this can be anywhere from 3 to 12 people. They’re asked to select someone who’s not a Christian and to begin to pray for that person and help them, whatever that help might mean, and care for them and consistently show them Christian love.

And the founding pastor, Dr. Cho, says is after three to four months of being consistently loved like that, the hardest soul softens up and surrenders to Christ. That’s why Jesus told us to love one another.

So friends, if you look at the empty pews around you, I want to tell you, in all honesty, what will help them to fill up with people who love Jesus Christ, just like you do, is for us to consistently begin to love people — because that’s how they will realize that Jesus is real if they’re loved. That’s how they begin to realize that God’s Word is true if they’re loved. And they’ll begin to hunger and desire the same Savior you and I have found because it begins with compassion and it grows with love.

Please pray with me. Lord, not to criticize anyone, not to judge anyone, not to look down on anyone, help us to begin to notice the people around us. Help us to begin to notice the people around us so that, Lord, if they seem harassed and helpless, we can pray for them. But if everything is going perfectly well, we can rejoice with them.
Help us, Lord, to build caring relationships. And Lord, not with 100 people, not even with 20 people, maybe not even with 12 people. But Lord, help us to notice that there could be one person, who, if we showed them consistent Christian love over the three to four months, as Dr. Cho said, they’ll begin to hunger for You to live in their life, too.
And so, Lord, we pray that You would help us to be, as a church, a functional family of God. And especially, Lord, that You would help us to grow as Christians. And not simply to grow, Lord, but to grow up. Because infants cannot have babies. Elementary school children, with all their questions, can’t parent children. Only mature Christians can be trusted to love someone else who needs Jesus Christ. And Lord, so I pray that we would be those mature Christians. And I ask this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

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?

Additional Resources

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 Road, 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.

(If you wish, you can listen to the Prayer of St. Francis being sung:
Sarah McLachlan – Prayer of St. Francis )

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