June 2, 2024, God Has A Plan … And You Are Essential, Pentecost 3

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.)

CALL TO WORSHIP
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 “Are Ye Able,” Said The Master
“Are Ye Able,” Said The Master | HBBC Choir (Hosanna Bible Baptist Church, Bacarra, Philippines)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VkwBi5-huIs

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer − The Centering Prayer:
Lord Jesus, today I am far less than the person I want to be or can be with your help.
I ask today that you would be more and more the center of my life.
Guide me to all that is good, cleanse me from all that is not.
Teach me Your ways and form in me Your nature.
Help me to serve you in flow as I am gifted.
Help me to notice my neighbor and work through me to redeem my neighborhood.
I am a sinner; please be my Shepherd, my Savior and my Lord. 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 Lord, I Want To Be A Christian
Lord, I Want To Be A Christian – Acapella – Eugene Cha
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3h8uBLNy0M4

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: God Has A Plan … And You Are Essential.
Text: 1st Corinthians 12:7, 11-22, 31, 13:1-3, Ephesians 4:11-16.
Series: The Final Four

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

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SERMON NOTES

1st 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. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the organs in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single organ, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable …

31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

1 Corinthians 13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Ephesians 4:11 And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ; 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love.

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HYMN Great Is Thy Faithfulness
Carrie Underwood – Great Is Thy Faithfulness ft. CeCe Winans (Official Performance Video)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NT0HcAr9aeI

BENEDICTION

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!

TRANSCRIPT

The church sign has said this for a while because it’s at the heart of what we want as Christian people: Thy kingdom come. That’s what we want. Thy will be done. That’s what we want. And not some far-off future day, not somewhere else, but right here and right now.

And today, I would like to tell you about another aspect of that, which is that God has a plan. If God didn’t have a plan, how could we pray thy will be done? God’s already figured out what God would like to happen. And whatever it is that’s God’s plan. Whatever it is, that’s God’s will. But I want to say to you today that you are essential.

Yesterday, Kim said something to me that made me feel very anxious. She said, “There’s a lot of people that are on teams that are coached. And there’s something their coach said to them that they’ll always remember.” And she suggested to me that I ask you to tell me what it is that I’ve told you, this saying from Pastor Dave, that you will never forget. And for some reason, that just really scares me.

Now, it’s ironic in different churches that I’ve pastored, they would say different things because, of course, every preacher has sayings that they repeat. But to be honest, every church is different.

But what you’re looking at here is a basketball team, and they are running their offense. And I made the basketball team in seventh grade. Do you know why I made the basketball team in seventh grade? I was six feet, two inches tall, in seventh grade. And I sat on the bench all year long. But during practice, I was the big guy they got to run the offense against, which helped the starters to do better. And as a result, I made the team every year until I gave it up. But you see those two guys underneath the arrow in the picture? They’re setting up a wall. They’re setting up a pick. And you can barely see behind them the little guy who’s running around them. And behind him, number 31, there’s somebody on defense who’s not keeping up.

You see, that’s what they want. Somebody on defense not being able to stay with their man because when that guy comes around the corner, he’s going to get the ball and make a shot behind that wall that they practiced again and again and again. You see, there is a plan. They all know what to do. But every single person is needed so that they have that situation where five guys on defense are occupied with four guys on offense, and that frees someone up to make a basket.

So you see, there are the players on the floor. Every single one of them is essential. Now, what’s interesting in hockey: if you have bad behavior, they make you sit down, and the team has to play with fewer players. This would not be good in basketball, and it’s not good in church because every one of you are essential. Every single one of you is a player. Every single one of you is in the game. And God has a plan and needs every single one of you to do what you’re supposed to do to help the whole team to win. Every single one of you!

Well, Pastor Dave, you might say, “Well, what about you?” And I say, “I’m the coach. All of you are tired and out of breath, and I’m just standing there watching things happen.” Occasionally, the coach will also play. Not very often. Pastors are like coaches. Because of their guidance, the team will win. But the reason the team wins is every player does their job, and each one of you has a job to do. God has a plan and you are essential.

And the coach is also essential because it’s the coach’s job to help every single player do their very best. And it’s the coach’s job to help coordinate all of the players to play together so that everything works out. And if there’s any individual player that needs some help, a little bit of encouragement, it’s the coach’s job to take care of that. Let the players play the game. The coach watches over the players. And the pastor, in a sense, is the coach.

And here’s what the coach tries to do to help the team to win. Coaches are famous for pep talks in the locker rooms to fire up the team, to get them excited because excited, enthusiastic teams play better. And I want to tell you, friends, scientists have studied churches that grow in number. They did a study with this once. They put together a sample of every kind of church that was growing. And they made a list of all the characteristics of every kind of church that was growing. And then they put a matching sample together of churches that were shrinking. And they found there was only one significant difference. And that’s that in every church that was growing without exception and not found ever in any church that was shrinking were these four things. The first one is the laity, the players. The laity are excited – that’s how they feel – about what is happening in their church. And on the screen here, you see a picture of them unloading the ship and you see management standing off to the side watching that work being done. But friends, the more you get excited, the more God will be able to use you.

And it’s the same way with the sports team. The more they get excited, the better they play. One of the coach’s jobs is to make sure that the team gets excited. Every single one of you is gifted to play your position. Now, the little ones that run very fast and are good at dribbling, they’re very gifted at playing their position. That’s why the coach put them in that position. Being the biggest guy, I rarely got into the game, but the coach said to me, “Never, never, never dribble.” And I said, “Coach, why would I never dribble?” And the coach said, “When you dribble, you put the ball down where the little guys are. Don’t do that.” Tall guys have their job. It’s different. Everybody has a unique way of serving God.

“Are you able?” says the Master? Yes, this verse says, “Every single one of you is able to do what you’re supposed to do.”

Now, what goes along with that is you’re not able to do what you’re not supposed to do. You don’t have to worry that much about what you’re bad at. You’ll get to focus on what you’re good at. Because 1 Corinthians 12:7 says– and to be honest, if somebody asks you, “What is it you will never forget Pastor Dave saying,” it would be this verse. “To each of you, to every single one of you without exception, to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” You have your particular, unique way of helping God. And if you don’t know what it is, it would be good if you and I had a conversation as your coach.

Here’s the other thing that’s ironic. I have never wished that I was a little guy, but I have wished that I was quick and that I could dribble. Do you get to choose what your gift is? And the answer is no. God chooses God’s will for your life. 1 Corinthians 12:11 says, “All of these, all of these special abilities, the way the Holy Spirit works through you, all of these are inspired by one and the same Spirit who apportions, who hands them out to each one individually as he wills.” And what that means is if you’re not like me, that’s God’s will. And if you’re not like the person sitting next to you, that’s God’s will. And if you’re not like the person on the other side of the church, that’s God’s will, because God doesn’t want us all to be alike.

As Paul goes on to say, comparing the church to a human body, “If the ear should say, ‘Because I’m not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make the ear any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing?” Because in the earlier Corinthian church and also today, we have a tendency to wish to be like someone else, to envy what someone else can do and think that because we’re not like them, we’re not needed.

If everybody was like that other person, how would the church have what you can offer? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the organs in the body, each one of them, as he chose. So if you’re an eye, focus on seeing. If you’re an ear, focus on hearing. And if you’re a nose, focus on your sense of smell because that’s what God needs from you. Having said that, you see, those are players.

Here’s the verse that talks about what pastors do as coaches. Ephesians 4:11, “And his five gifts were that some should be pastoral leaders.” Now, in Ephesians, Paul actually talks about five different people doing five different things but we tend to roll all these together and expect a pastor to do all of them. The five are listed in the lower right-hand corner on the screen:
The pastoral leader is frequently an apostle. That’s someone who links different churches together.
The pastoral leader is frequently a prophet. That’s someone who prays to know what God’s will is, and through the pulpit in sermons and in other ways, share it.
The pastor is expected to be an evangelist and good at helping people outside the church come in.
The pastor is also a shepherd, someone who takes care of people and also a teacher. But basically, this is the verse that talks about the five things that pastors do, and verse 12 is the heart of it.

The task of the pastor is, number one, you see the green print, to equip the saints for the work of ministry. The pastor’s job is not to do the ministry. The pastor’s job is not to be in the game. But the pastor’s job is to help every single one of the saints, that’s you, to be ready to do what it is God wants you to do. That’s ministry, a word that means service. Now, what’s interesting is the word equip literally means, in Greek, it literally means to mend.
It means to perfect. It means to repair, and so a coach is watching the saints. And when there’s a need to remind a player how to do a left-handed layup, the coach takes that player’s side and works to mend that flaw. When there’s a need for a player to rest because maybe their leg is hurting, their knee is hurting, the coach takes the player aside and says, “We need you to rest for a bit” because the coach sees to it that all the ministry is going on that is done by all the unique and amazing people that are a part of God’s church.”

The second thing is all of that work that the people do has its focus on, you see the blue print on the screen, to build up the body of Christ. This is a Greek word called “oikodomeo” that is also translated as edify, but what it basically means is to connect. Think about it. When you build things, you take two-by-fours, you take paneling, you take concrete blocks, and you connect them together. The outcome of ministry is to connect us together, to link us together as people that care about each other, who are united in serving God.

And we do the work of ministry and we connect with each other until we all attain to the unity of faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children… And so part of this connecting and building each other up is to speak the truth in love. And by doing that, we are to grow up in every way into Him, Jesus, who is the head into Christ, from whom the whole body, all the different parts, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied. When every part, when each part is working properly, when every single one of us is doing what God wants us to do, it causes bodily growth, and it causes that building up, that connecting people together in love. Because you see, we are here to love one another. And that’s what builds the church up.

We are all, as John Wesley said, going on to perfection. When a child is conceived, the first few times the cells divide, they’re all exactly alike. But as the child grows to become– or as the embryo grows to become a baby that can survive and live, the cells begin to differentiate. One decides to become an eye. One decides to become an ear. One decides to become a foot. And the body becomes a human being by each part becoming more and more different. And consequently, as you go on to perfection, you will be more uniquely who you are. The closer you come to perfectly fulfilling God’s will for your life, the more you will be you, and the less you will be like anyone else. Because how God defines perfect is for you in your place to be doing your task in the body of Christ. Centers on the basketball floor need to be tall and they need to do what centers do. Centers on the football field need to be strong and they need to do what centers do on the football field. Each one of us has a place on the team that’s unique and it is fulfilled by us allowing ourselves to differentiate. So in the church, differentiation is this: Doing your own thing while remaining connected with other people. That’s what it means to live as a part of the body of Christ.

And so consequently, these words from Howard Thurman help us figure out our differentiation: Don’t ask what the world needs. Don’t ask what the church needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive in Christ Jesus and go do that. Because what the world needs is these people who have come alive.

Psychiatrist Dr. Murray Bowen and Rabbi Edwin Friedman, who have studied churches as families, have noted this: When families all try to put pressure on each other for everyone to be alike, it causes more and more conflict. If you’re in a family where there’s conflict, what’s needed is for people in the family to begin to encourage people to be different, to be who God made them to be. And in churches that are in conflict, Pastor Dave wants to say, if there’s conflict, it’s because somebody’s trying to boss everybody else around. What’s needed is for everybody to do their own thing. And by that, I mean what God wants them to do because setting people free to be who they are is the cure for conflict. All around us, on Facebook and elsewhere in our nation, you see all this feuding going on? It is caused by people over here saying, “You need to be just like us.” And people on the other side say, “No, I don’t want to be like you. You all need to be just like us.” And they’re all going to fight until they’re willing to allow the others to be who they are. That’s what’s required.

So consequently, as your pastor, I need you to differentiate. “Well, Pastor Dave, you asked me what makes me come alive. I’m really sorry to tell you this. It’s not singing in the choir.” Well, okay. I don’t want you to sing in the choir then. “Well, Pastor Dave, it’s not teaching Sunday school.” Well, okay, I don’t want you to teach Sunday school then. What makes you come alive? And a person thinks a minute, and they say, “Well, it’s playing golf. But God doesn’t need me to play golf, Pastor Dave.”

And see, here’s the thing. You help the person who loves to play golf answer one question, “How can you serve Jesus Christ while you were playing golf?” And you know what the answer is? And you can try this if you love to play golf. Go to the clubhouse, volunteer to be a part of a foursome with three other people you don’t know, and through all 18 holes, tell them how much you love Jesus … because the only choice they have is to quit if they don’t want to listen to you! But you know something, instead of preaching to them, what you might do is say, “How are you? How are you doing? Oh, you’re having a problem? Do you mind if I pray for you?” Because ironically, it’s those conversations that lead a person to want to believe in Jesus Christ. And a golf course is a perfect place to corner– I mean to have a conversation with someone.

But you see, the key thing is to ask this question, “I love to play golf. How can I use that for Jesus?” Here’s another one. And this is a true story. Kim and I have a number of friends that go to the Godfrey United Methodist Church. And what these friends found out is they love Monday Night Football. So the question is, “How can God use Monday night football?” So a number of the guys got together, picked the house with the biggest TV, and they invited other men from their church to come over and watch Monday Night Football. And when halftime starts, they turn the TV off and have a Bible study. And when the game starts up again, they turn the game on. That house is full every Monday night.

How can I use what I love to serve Jesus Christ? And I look out at all of you, and after 10 years, I know some of what you love. I could tell you what you’re doing that is so wonderful. But then the sermon would be longer, and we’re not going to do that. But if you know what you love to do, you’ll find yourself doing stuff like this. This is Larry Hebren, the grill master, being cheered on by his fan club, making food for a SALT Potluck.

Serving God, if you serve in the place where God has made you able, will be fun. It’ll be meaningful. It will be rewarding. You are attending a church, which is a great tool that God uses for growing beautiful Christians. But the goal is for you to bloom, not for you to wear yourself out making the flower pot pretty. God’s will is for you to bloom because you are a part of a functional family of God where Jesus is Lord and people grow. And what that means is that what God wants is for you to let your light shine. Now, as good as Judy’s light is, God doesn’t want you to shine Judy’s light. That’s her job. You get to shine your light. And your light is needed and it’s essential. Because if you let your light so shine before other people, they will see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, help us turn away from that temptation to imitate other people and help us turn toward discovering what it is you’ve asked us to do so that we can do well, what you’ve already helped us to be ready to do well. And so, Lord, we pray that you’ll work through each of your people, each in a unique and beautiful way that fits together perfectly to do your will on earth as it is in heaven. We ask this in Jesus’ name. 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
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agPnMxp5Occ )
 

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