The “I Will” Church Member by Rick Burdette (With Special Credit to Thom S. Rainer and His book)
I WILL – The “I Will” Church Member
Philippians 2:3-4 (pg. 819) September 27, 2015
Let me ask you a really important question. When it comes to your relationship with Church…and if you’re part of the family here that we call Gardenside, this church…is your main concern, “what do I get out of church…Is this church doing everything I want?”
Because if you view church that way you’re viewing church in the wrong way.
And this series of messages is an encouragement to consider saying “I Will” instead of “I want.”
Philippians 2:3 & 4 jumps out at me when it comes to how we should view our relationship with the Church…it says:
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, rather in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.”
You see the “why” you are part of a church will greatly affect your attitude about church.
In the two years I’ve been at Gardenside Christian there is a statement I hear often when I meet people in our community. In fact I heard it so often it kind of makes me chuckle…It’s this statement: “I used to go to Gardenside or my parents or grandparents were members at Gardenside.”
What doesn’t make me chuckle is many times when I ask “where do you go to church now?” And they usually answer “nowhere.” Sometimes I’ve even asked “why?” The answers are varied from a silent smile to “I got hurt, to my life just got hectic, or I went through a divorce.
Many of us who grew up in Church went because we had no choice in the matter…the “why” I went was because Dad would whip my behind if I didn’t…It was part of our family’s lifestyle…Sundays and Wednesday nights were times to go to church .
Or maybe you got married to someone who went to GCC and the natural thing to do was to be part of their church.
[My buddy Ralph, his wife Nancy and their three kids went to Fern Creek Christian together. They were all involved in music, the youth group and different ministries…and then came the divorce…it was devastating for them all. Ralph’s friends, Nancy’s friends, their kids and their friends…After it was final I remember the Church trying to love them all…but Nancy would sit in one pew…Ralph another…and the kids had to choose where and with whom to sit…Finally Ralph moved…and Nancy left…she said “too much past baggage.” The kids stayed…they were teenagers…we had a strong youth group…but I’ve seen Ralph and Nancy’s story over and over again….the pain of staying became much stronger than the pain of leaving.]
Here’s the truth of every single human life…
I. SIN AFFECTS US ALL IN VERY MESSY WAYS
In Malachi 2:16 God says, “I hate divorce!” Why? Not because He hates the people who go through a divorce. He hates divorce because of what it does to people…It’s emotionally shredding…it divides families, friends and churches…And there has never been a divorce without “sin” being involved…and it doesn’t matter if that sin is 99% one person and 1% the other. God hates what all sin does to the hearts of people…especially when that sin flows like acid into the lives of the unsuspecting and innocent.
And on top of this the reaction of some in the Church who treat divorced people as lepers…or judge their situation with the words “I’d never do that.”
Much like the older brother in the story of the prodigal in Luke 15…They judge harshly and refuse to go in because of a false self perceived “righteousness.”
When the Church stops becoming a hospital of grace and becomes a “country club” for only the “right” members the world sees no hope for their messy lives as we sit around and clean our golf clubs and spikes.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or van conceit” is the Apostle Paul’s plea for us not to become self focused and hard of heart…
Lee Strobel wrote a book several years ago called “Inside the Minds of Unchurched Harry and Mary” and he recalls his life before Christ as a big city newspaper investigative reporter…
It was heavy stuff…Being a big city newspaperman can be an ego trip; I stroked mine to the limit.
But after a while, I began to notice that I was becoming increasingly desensitized to other people. I recall interviewing a grieving woman whose young daughter had been raped and murdered. As she poured out her pain, I remember thinking to myself, “Wow! These are great quotes! And I’m the only reporter who’s got them!” I didn’t care about her daughter or her despair; I was after a front-page byline and another bonus from the boss.
Even other people noticed my hardening heart. Once I covered a trial in which the key witness was a teenage gang member. He testified how a rival gang had lined up him and his friends against a wall and then, one by one, shot them point-blank in the head. Three of his friends died instantly; somehow, he survived. At least, he survived long enough to point out the killers in court. According to a doctor’s testimony, it was only a matter of time before the witness himself would probably die from his injuries.
After the trial was over, the prosecutor allowed me to interview the teenager for a feature story. I was excited because I knew it was going to be a front-page exclusive. In fact, I was so pumped up about beating the competition to the story that I was interviewing the witness in a very lighthearted and upbeat way.
In the middle of the interview, the prosecutor pulled me aside and said angrily, “Strobel, what’s wrong with you? This kid watched three of his friends get blown away, he’s probably going to die himself, and you’re interviewing him like you’re Bob Hope or something.”
His words haunted me for a long time. What was wrong with me? Why didn’t I care about that kid or his murdered friends? Why did I not empathize with the woman whose daughter had been murdered? Why did I only care about myself, my byline, and my career?
The Bible has a term for it – hardness of heart.
Something happens to us when the lives of others become a story to be reported on. Something horrible happens to our soul when we forget how messy this sinful world is…when we separate ourselves from the pain of others…Hardness of heart is the opposite of “In humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.”
This attitude…the mindset of Jesus is what moves our hearts from hardness to humility…and our desires from “I want” to “I Will.”
The truth is when lost or hurting people encounter Jesus, especially in the messiness of their sin they are loved…the problem has never been about Jesus…it’s been about His representatives…some who have forgotten that “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling place among us.” (John 1:14) and “Out of His fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.” (John 1:16)
If Gardenside is going to “Passionately Prepare All People for an Eternity with Jesus” it begins with God’s people…
II. CULTIVATING A HEART OF SERVICE
Verse 7 of Philippians 2 says “Jesus made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant.”
Every time I read that verse my mind goes to the Upper Room right before Jesus’ arrest.
He’s taken off his upper garment, rolled up his sleeves…wrapped a towel around himself and He’s going from disciple to disciple…lowering himself to their feet…and He washes them.
It’s a powerful lesson about who He is… “You call me Lord and Master and rightly so, but what I do now I do as an example for you to follow.” (John 13)
We will never be more like Jesus than when we humble ourselves and serve others. Churches that become self serving places create arrogance and hardness of heart….they become churches filled with spiritually sick people who continually say “I want.”
Churches filled with people who become servants and follow the heart of Jesus become filled with joy and love and continually say, “I will.”
Can you imagine what would happen if that heart flowed through the lives of every single person here at Gardenside Christian…From the time they got out of their cars, to dropping off their babies and children to how they are almost overwhelmed with the love of Christ?
But even more than how they are loved when they walk in our building…but how they are loved by God’s people through the week…Somehow in this messy, dark world of sin…the light shone.
What would happen if you chose this attitude of service with the girl whose serving you at the restaurant? What would happen if you chose to wash their feet with love and encouragement to the guy who washes your car?
What would happen to our souls if we chose to cultivate a heart of service in the everyday encounters of our lives?
God would add to His Church daily those who are being saved…Church would no longer be a place we go but a people we are…And the “I Will” heart of service would beat in our chest…instead of the “I Want” heart of the world.