One Sunday morning the pastor was trying to move his congregation from being spectators to becoming participants in the ministry of the Kingdom. He had prayed all week that the Lord would open the eyes of all of those who called the church ?home.? The pastor knew that he had been given a word from the Lord and he was chomping at the bit to bring it to the congregation. His passion exuded from his voice as he told the congregation, ?With God?s help we can see the day when this church will go from crawling to walking.? The people responded enthusiastically, ?Let the church walk, pastor, let the church walk.? ?Oh yea! The Lord has answered my prayer! They are getting it,? the pastor thought to himself as he rolled into his next sentence. ?And when the church begins to walk, next the church can begin to run.? And the people shouted, ?Let the church run, preacha, let the church run!? The pastor was beside himself as he continued, ?And finally the church can move from running and finally begin to soar. Oh, the church can soar! But of course, that?s going to take the commitment of all of us for that to happen!? The congregation grew quiet, deathly quiet, and from the back of the small church, someone mumbled, ?Let the church crawl, pastor, let the church crawl.? And so it is.
Just last week, Pastor Herman, shared such a powerful message with all of us about stirring up the gift and getting involved in God?s work. I?ve been encouraged by those of you who heard Herman?s message and responded by sending either Herman or myself a list of the ministries that you feel called to being involved with in the upcoming year. At the same time, I?ve compared the list of those who have made some kind of commitment to those who call BCC home and I have to tell you that less than 10% have made any kind of commitment.
What I see taking place reminds me of something Dr. Howard Hendricks once said. Dr. Howard Hendricks has been a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary for many years and he once said, ?80% of the work of the Church is carried on by 20% of the people. This small band of faithful servants are the pillars of the Church who hold up the great ministry of our Lord.? I have been asking the Lord why this is so? I have been asking the Lord, ?Why, when there is something that needs to be done, someone that needs to be ministered to, do we have to always ask the same people?? I have racked my brain trying to figure out why so many folks who go to church, maybe attend a Bible study now and then, and call themselves Christians are so apathetic when it comes to the things of God, when it comes to serving the Lord, and getting involved in the ministry of the church? I believe that the Lord has shown me some of the reasons why we are where we are today. Let me share them with you.
First, I believe that you always see the same folks serving the local Body because some of us don?t understand that we are all ministers, we are called to surrender our lives to the service of our King. I am convinced that because there is a famine of biblical teaching today many Christians believe that once they come to know Christ that they can sit back and relax. They have secured a place in heaven so now they can go back to doing whatever they want to do. These folks do not read God?s Word, they don?t study God?s Word, and they don?t allow the Word of God to mold and shape them so they are simply ignorant of God?s will for their lives.
Secondly, there is another group of folks who call themselves Christians, but they are busy. You will find them hustling all over the city doing ?this, that, and the other,? but you will rarely find them visiting the hospital unless it is a family member or close friend. They call themselves Christians, but because they are busy you will rarely find them volunteering their time to help someone in need. They call themselves Christians, but because they are busy you will rarely find them sharing their faith with someone else. If someone from the church accosts them, guilt?s them, or grabs them by the collar and says, ?We need your help!? then they will help, while they complain under their breath, but they will never call and say, ?Please use me!?
The third reason why we see the same faces doing everything all of the time is because a large portion of the Body of Christ is simply lazy. They don?t want to be bothered. They don?t want their routine, their schedule, their preferences and free time interrupted by something as trivial as serving God. This is the saddest lot of those who frequent the church and know Christ as Lord of their life because they have no idea how they are missing out on the richest blessings of the Savior?serving Him by serving His people. The great preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon once wrote.
In all our churches there is a very large proportion of idle people. I hope they are saved; the Lord knows whether they are or not, but whatever else they are saved from, certainly they are not saved from laziness?Some Christians seem to think that they are ?a thing of beauty and a joy for ever? to the church, and that they have nothing to do in it for the common good? No, No, when their conscience is awakened one day, they shall have poignant regrets that they have neglected so many glorious opportunities of bringing crowns to Christ. (Charles H. Spurgeon, The Master?s Profession?The Disciple?s Pursuit. April 21st, 1870)
Pastor Spurgeon, like Howard Hendricks, is absolutely right! Those who are slouching towards the Kingdom have no idea what they are missing by neglecting the ministry provided by the Lord through His Church.
This morning I want to lay a biblical foundation for us as to what it means to be a Christian in regards to serving our King. ?Serving the Lord? is not a responsibility reserved for a few, especially for ministers, but it is a privilege and a call that goes out to each and every person who calls Jesus Savior and Lord. Let?s begin our study.
Like our day today, the day of the Apostles in Jerusalem was rich with opportunities to serve the Lord and proclaim His Truth in the neighborhood. In Acts 5, Peter and the other apostles were put in jail for preaching the Good News. An angel of the Lord freed them from prison and they picked up where they had left off. When they were brought before the Sanhedrin they were chastised and threatened. They wanted them to stop their teaching. Peter said, ?We must obey God rather than men.? This only infuriated the religious leaders more. Peter and the others left the presence of the Sanhedrin and began to teach again. When the Sanhedrin heard about it they had them brought back in and they wanted to kill them, but Gamaliel persuaded them to only flog the apostles. After the beating was over, Peter and the apostles left, and we read in Acts 5:41-42.
41The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 42Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ. (Acts 5:41-42 NIV)
They were rejoicing that the Lord would count them worthy of suffering for His name! The atmosphere was thick with opportunities to minister in society and the followers of Jesus were seizing the moment. This sets up our Scripture for today found in Acts 6.
1In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, ?It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.? 5This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas fromAntioch, a convert to Judaism. 6They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. (Acts 6:1-6 NIV)
The Church was growing. There were many demands being placed on the shoulders of Peter and the other leaders. There was grumbling going on among the believers who felt that their people were getting slighted. What do you do? Instead of working a 40 hour week, should Peter and the apostles work an 80 hour week? Should they stop studying so much so that they can spend the bulk of their time visiting hospitals and preparing meals for the shut-ins? Probably many of the folks in the pews would have said, ?Absolutely!? Something different took place in Jerusalem. Read along with me in verses 2-4,
2So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, ?It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.? (Acts 6:2-4 NIV)
The delegation of the ministry was set forth. The Church was moving from a crawl and beginning to soar and they didn?t even know it! What was the result of this delegation of work? Take a look at verse 7 with me.
7So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith. (Acts 6:7 NIV)
The Body was functioning and the Church began to grow! The lost were being found, the broken were being healed, the isolated were being brought in, the sick were being visited, the imprisoned were no longer forgotten, and God was glorified as His people went to work!
Are these servants of God who were chosen to carry out the work of the Lord a select few folks? Are they spotless saints who are worthy of serving the King? Are they men and women of leisure who had nothing else to do? Hardly. They were folks just like me and you. Simon Peter, who was the early leader of the Church and suggested the choosing of the seven, denied that he even knew Jesus! What a hypocrite! What a coward! God can even use a Simon Peter! Stephen?s ministry was short as he was stoned to death for his faith by the end of Acts 7. Longevity is not the measure of a successful ministry, but faithfulness is! Five of the men who were chosen and named in Acts 6 are never mentioned again in Scripture. They are nameless servants who simply did what God had called them to do?faithfully.
Another name that is mentioned in Acts 6 is Phillip. Phillip was chosen for the task of waiting tables for Grecian widows. Not quite an earth shattering, world changing ministry huh? Don?t let that get back to Philip. As Philip served those Grecian widows he served them as if they were Jesus Himself! Philip couldn?t believe that he had been chosen to serve! Philip was honored to serve His Lord by serving His people. Philip was found faithfully serving the Lord and God chose to expand his ministry. Later Philip was called by God to be an evangelist. He preached the Good News in Samaria and many other nearby cities in Acts 8. Philip also sowed the first seeds of the Gospel in Africa as he shared the Gospel with a Gentile Ethiopian eunuch who was in charge of the treasury of Queen Candace.
Those are impressive accomplishments. I?m amazed at how God took a young man who was willing to simply wait on tables and use him to sow the seeds of the Gospel in distant lands, but the most impressive thing of all has nothing to do with Samaria or Africa, it is found in Acts 21:7-9. Read along with me.
7We continued our voyage from Tyre and landed at Ptolemais, where we greeted the brothers and stayed with them for a day. 8Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven. 9He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied. (Acts 21:7-9 NIV)
The Apostle Paul is now the driving force of the movement of the spread of the Gospel. Paul is on the road. He is traveling. When he arrives in Caesarea he stays at the house of Philip. Twenty years after Philip received his call to wait on tables he is still faithfully serving the Lord! Notice that Paul refers to Philip as ?one of the seven.? He was still just one of the seven who waited tables, but his service to the Lord had impacted nations and his own home. His daughters were now preaching the Gospel, the Gospel that they had watched their daddy share so many times throughout their life!
You see my friend, waiting on tables, serving in Children?s Church, tutoring a young person through HIS Kids or the Middle School Learning Center, serving as a deacon or elder, greeter or committee worker, visiting hospitals, seeing patients in the King?s Klinic, or serving in the church in any capacity is not menial labor, it is not a ?well-they-need-somebody-to-do-it? kind of effort ? it is a high calling!
It is amazing how God is glorified, lives are changed, and the Church grows when ordinary men and women are gripped by a sense that what they are doing is for the King of Glory.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon was the most popular preacher of his day. People would line up for hours before services just to have an opportunity to hear him preach the Word of God. Spurgeon was a brilliant man. He could have done anything that he set his mind to, but he viewed his call from God as the highest calling of all. He wrote about his passion for God?s call and the honor that he felt in being used by God. Listen to these powerful words.
We hold there is nothing can dignify a man more than being appointed to an office in a Christian church. I would rather be a deacon of a church than Lord Mayor of London. To be a minister of Christ is in my estimation an infinitely higher honor than the world can bestow. My pulpit is to me more desirable than a throne, and my congregation is an empire more than large enough; an empire before which the empires of the earth dwindle into nothing in everlasting importance. (Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Divine Sovereignty. May 4, 1856)
Nothing was more desirable to Spurgeon than his pulpit. He yearned for everyone in his congregation to feel the same passion that he felt towards their own calling, regardless of how they served the Lord.
I want to spend the remainder of our time this morning looking at an important word that will hopefully help us gain a better understanding and know that God has called all of us to serve Him faithfully with the gifts He has given us.
The word that I want to look at is the Greek word, ?diakonos? (diakonos). The word means, ?to be a servant, attendant, to minister, to provide care for, to take care of the poor and the sick, or those who administer the office of a deacon.? This is the same word that we get our English word, ?deacon? from, but in actuality the application of the word is much broader than merely an office in the church. I want to show you the far reaching implications of this privilege of service to our King. First, turn with me to 2 Timothy 1:16-18 and see how Onesiphorus ?served? the Apostle Paul. Paul writes,
16May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. 17On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he searched hard for me until he found me. 18May the Lord grant that he will find mercy from the Lord on that day! You know very well in how many ways he helped me in Ephesus. (2 Timothy 1:16-18 NIV)
Onesiphorus ?helped? Paul while he was in prison. What a wonderful service both to the Lord and to Paul.
Next, I want to take a look at a Mark 15:40-41, where you will find some folks ?deaconing? that many in the church today say shouldn?t be serving in such a way. There are people today who say that women have no place in leadership in the church. They use the texts from Timothy and Titus to exclude women from leadership and we could spend plenty of time examining those texts to see if Paul was truly telling women that they could not serve as deacons and elders. I will leave the debate to the debaters and simply let the women?s service speak for itself. Read along with me.
40Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. 41In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there. (Mark 15:40-41 NIV)
These women weren?t concerned with titles; they simply wanted to use the gifts God had given them to serve their Savior! We need more men and women like these faithful servants!
The key my friend is that we are to use whatever gift God has given us to serve Him as we serve His people. Peter wrote to the brothers and sisters of his day and said,
7The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. 8Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God?s grace in its various forms. 11If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:7-11 NIV)
God has not given us gifts so that we can simply use them for our own benefit or allow them to lay dormant. For those of you who think that you don?t have any gifts, that God has not blessed you with any abilities, then you need to know that God has gifted every person with gifts. Why would God do this? Great question! God has given us gifts so that we might offer them back to Him so that He might use us, and the gifts He has given us to bless the lives of those around us. He has gifted us so that we can help those who are struggling, so that we might share the Gospel with those who do not know about the hope, mercy, and salvation of our King, and He has given us these gifts so that we might bring glory to His name as we serve Him.
I want to urge you to find some time this week to get alone with God and allow Him to search your heart. Ask Him to show you how He desires to use you to bless the lives of others and to glorify His name through your service. I am convinced that very few of us are truly seeking God?s will for our lives in this area. I?m not being critical; I?m just telling the truth. I base my conclusion on irrefutable evidence. Let me share with you a sad reality.
I have been a part of four different churches since I have been a Christian. I have never been in a church that has more gifted people than Britton Christian Church. I have never been in a community that had more needs than this community. I have never been in a church that had more opportunities to serve than this church. Yet, with all of this available for us ? so few are passionate about the work the Lord is doing here at BCC. Is it a burden or a blessing when someone asks you to help in some way here at the church? When was the last time you called and stopped someone in the hall and said, ?How can I help? What needs does the church have in order to minister more effectively??
I am praying that the Lord will raise up men, women, boys, and girls who will have the same mindset as ?the Seven? of Acts 6. Folks who are committed to Christ, dedicated and devoted to the Lord?s work, willing to serve with gratitude rather than grumbling, and looking for doors opened by the King. Is the Lord speaking to you this morning? I love the story that is told about a nurse who was volunteering in a leper colony taking care of the nasty wounds and open sores of the patients. Someone was coming through on a tour of the facility one day and said, ?I wouldn?t do what you do for a million dollars.? The nurse looked up and smiled, then said, ?I wouldn?t do it for a million dollars either, but I would do it for Jesus for free.? May her tribe increase!
Before we can ever surrender our schedules to the Lord so that He might use us to bless the lives of others, we must first surrender our hearts. If you?ve never asked Jesus into your heart then won?t you come forward and give me your hand as you give Jesus your heart?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
November 11, 2008