Monthly Archives: October 2015

“i will” serve


I Will Serve by Rick Burdette (With special thanks to Thom Rainer and his book, “I Will”)

Matthew 20:25-20:28

I WILL – “I Will” Serve
Matthew 20:25-28 (pg. 690) October 25, 2015


My buddy Frank Cloud, one of our older members gave me a book the other day called “True North” by Gary Inrig…It’s about discovering God’s Way in a changing world…I haven’t finished it yet but when I read Chapter 5 entitled God’s Compass I thought… “Man, that’s right on advice for us all!”

Here’s how it starts:

In the world of country music, Alan Jackson has superstar status. Among more than sixty awards and honors, he was named Entertainer of the Year in 1995 by the Country Music Association and twice the Male Vocalist of the Year by the Academy of Country Music. In a seven year period, an amazing twenty of his songs reached number one on the country music charts. He has sold more than twenty five million records and amassed a fortune of more than forty million dollars. He lives in a thirty thousand square foot mansion that contains most of the creature comforts known to man. Any reasonable accounting would have to consider Alan Jackson a successful man.

But appearances can be deceptive. In 1998, Alan Jackson found himself in deep personal trouble. His marriage to his high school sweetheart was on the rocks, and for the first time in his life he found himself in what he told a reporter from USA Today was “an almost suicidal depression…I kept trying to let everything else make me happy. Maybe that’s why I’m successful. I worked so hard to get all the stuff to make me happy. Then that didn’t do it. I actually got worse.

The Jacksons managed to work through their difficulties and renewed their vows as a special nineteenth anniversary celebration. But Alan Jackson wasn’t the first, and he won’t be the last, to discover that in the midst of public success, he was experiencing private failure in the things that mattered most. His life required a radical course alteration if he was to get to where he wanted to go, not to where he was headed. For many of us, the danger isn’t that we will fail to reach our goals but that we will have the wrong goals. The worst failure may be to succeed in things that don’t really matter, to arrive at the wrong harbor.

There’s this continuous thought for each of us…it goes something like this… “If I can just get what I want then I’ll be happy.”

We can’t help it…it’s part of our sinful nature…we long for a Lazyboy recliner much more than we do a cross. We long for the power, popularity and funds to be King’s of our own empire.

But Alan Jackson, Solomon and a multitude of others who got just that, will tell you “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired, I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor. And this was the reward for all my toil. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done…and what I had worked to achieve, everything was meaningless…like chasing after the wind…nothing was gained.” (Ecc. 2:10-11 p. 461)

Satan always leads us to try to be our own King….Selfish pursuits are always held out as the answer for happiness and satisfaction…but it’s a lie…from the King of Liars. It’s a mirage in the desert. It looks like water for those dying of thirst…but it’s just an illusion. The reward we thought we wanted ends up being a huge disappointment.

It happens with people in the Church all time…the focus turns to themselves…their wants, preferences and likes…a serve me mentality…but our King has a different plan for His people.


All you have to do is look at the encounter between Jesus and the mother of James and John to know.

She wants what every mother wants for her boys…success…power…she wants them to be kings…rulers.

“Jesus, promise me that each of my sons will share power with you…let one sit to your right…one to your left in your Kingdom.”

Jesus tells her, “you have no idea what my Kingdom is all about.”

And the other 10 disciples become “indignant.” “Indignant” is a mixture of anger, jealousy and pride. These worldly emotions wash over the group…because they probably wanted the same seats. They wanted to be kings too…Don’t we all?

But Jesus loves these men…He knows it’s a teachable moment…so He calls them over and says “You know the unbelieving Kings domineer their subjects…men with lots of power who make people do what they want…It can’t be like that with you…just the opposite…if you want real greatness become a servant…That’s what I’ve done…I came to serve others…not have them serve me…In fact I’m going to die to pay for their debt.”

Those are the clearest words ever spoken about what it means to be a Christ follower in a self centered world….what it means to move from “I want others to serve me” to “I WILL serve others.”

Thom Rainer in his book “I Will” says I hope you won’t be too offended but let me put these words in a modern vernacular:

“Hey church members: I know that the world says put yourself first. Look after number one. But that’s not the way you are supposed to do it. Stop complaining about the music style and what you want. Stop demanding church leaders to do thing the way you would like them to be. Stop trying to get your way in church business meetings. Instead, put others first. Put your desires last. Become a servant instead of a whiner and complainer.”

The example for serving in God’s kingdom is set by the King Himself. He said,

“I came to serve…I came to give my life for you.” Our King’s service led Him to die on a cross…He served us by dying for us.

It’s time His people, Church people, stop being “I want” members and become “I Will” servants.

It’s exactly what Paul told us… “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in Humility consider others as more important than yourself…stop looking after your own interests and start looking after the needs of others…Have the same attitude as Jesus.” (Phil. 2:3-5)

We are to serve….That is the foundation for joy…and it’s what Church members should do.



A test…for 90 days we will ask nothing for ourselves from the Church…and for 90 days we won’t complain in any way. And we’ll commit 2 hours a week to serving someone else…I know because of age, physical limitations and other factors this service won’t be the same….maybe you write encouraging letters to other members…maybe you visit and serve the homebound…maybe you commit to answer the phone at Assurance or another local ministry…maybe you help clean the church building or grounds…you pick up trash in the community…you might work in the nursery or preschool…for 90 days you commit to be others focused…and you commit yourself to withhold negativity and complaining.

I know we’ll never get 100% participation…but if 100 people made that commitment for 90 days.

This Church would have members serving like Jesus for over 2,600 hours in this 90 day period.

It would revolutionize our Church and move us from people demanding service to Christ followers acting like our King, serving others, instead of country club members who complain about not getting what their dues paid for…we’d become a MASH unit of grace filled with joy serving wounded people.

That’s the question we have to answer in our commitment to Christ…do we want people to serve us…or will we serve others?

A first grade teacher asked her students, “What do you do to help at home?”

One little girl said, “I dry the dishes.”

One of the boys said, “I sweep the floor.”

Another one said, “I feed and water the dog.”

Every student in the class had something to contribute except for one boy sitting in the back. The teacher looked at him and asked, “What do you do to help out at home?”

He said, “I stay out of the way.”

That’s a problem in the Church. Too many church members just stay out of the way. A Gallup poll discovered that only 10% of church members are active in any kind of personal ministry in their church. 50% said that they have no desire or interest in serving in any ministry.

Why? Because there is still a belief that Christianity can be about my salvation only…I can do something one time, like say a prayer or get baptized and still keep control of my life…I can get my “I want” ticket punched to heaven without any real spiritual change to my soul.

Funny how scripture explains the difference between our lives before salvation and after. It’s dramatic and very very clear.

ROMANS 6:3-7 (p. 785)

Death, burial…RESURRECTION. The difference between a dead body and active new life.

Jesus tells Nicodemus it’s like “a new birth.” “I tell you they are born again.” (Jn. 3:3) “No one can enter the Kingdom of God unless they are born of water and spirit.” (Jn. 3:5)

John the beloved Apostle compares it to the difference between light and darkness. “If we claim to have fellowship with God and yet “walk in darkness,” we lie and do not live in the truth….If we walk in the light as He is in the light…we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus, His son purifies us from all sin.” (1 Jn. 1:6-7)

We cannot move from being “I want” people to “I Will” servants in our own power…it takes a spiritual awakening to our sin and a rebirth…It takes the light being turned on for a darkness to be pierced…It takes a death, burial and resurrection…He’s for us…and ours for Him.



Thom Rainer writes in the book “I Will:”

There has been a slow but discernible change in many of our churches. We have retreated into a self-serving shell and made church mostly about us.

It is time for a change.

It is time for a change that won’t come from a denominational bureaucracy or a plug-and-play program.

It is time for church members to stop nitpicking the small issues in the church and to discover the needs and hurts where we can serve.

It is time for a change among church members around the world to seek to serve rather than seek to be served.

It will be a revolution! Will you join it?

If so, consider this commitment prayerfully and with total sincerity:

I will serve.

How about 90 days where God and His family business comes 1st? 3 months where we follow the example of our King…or make Him our King today…regardless of our age, physical abilities…or schedules.

[One of our ladies who was serving the other night was asked, “why would you do this…why would you serve us? Her response “It’s what Jesus would do.”

She’s right]

Let’s pray.




I Will Grow Together with Others by Rick Burdette (With special credit to Thom Rainer and his book “I Will”)

Acts 2:46-2:46

I WILL – “I Will” Grow Together with Others
Acts 2:46 (pg. 759) October 18, 2015


About 15 years ago I was walking down the hallway at Fern Creek Christian Church on a Wednesday night and I ran into a guy I’d never met before…I’m not sure of the entire conversation, but I remember saying, “Hey, how’s it going, my name is “Rick.” And this guy responded, “Hey, my name’s Stan.”

And instantly I knew he wasn’t from New York or New Jersey…He was a “hick” like me. I laughed and said, “Where you from?” and He said, “West Virginia, but I’ve been livin’ in Dayton Ohio for the last several years.” I said, “I’ve ministered in Beckley West Virgina and loved those folks…what part of WV are you from and he said, “Charleston.”

Funny how friendships start, huh? I mean real friendships that go way beyond “just knowing each other.” They’re not relationships that you can manufacture. You have to really like each other and have a bond that unites you. And usually that bond will have to survive some painful tests.

Stan and my friendship survived our children being married and then going through a divorce. We both just decided our friendship wasn’t going to stop…it didn’t. We’ve buried parents together, lifted each other up through surgeries and parenting…and I’m not sure which one is more painful.

But what bonded us together was the grateful hearts of a redeemed alcoholic and a redeemed pot-head. A love for a Savior that saved us both from the “uttermost” glued us together…and still does…but my favorite part of our friendship is that Stan is driven to share his salvation with people…to open his heart to a community…a group…we prayed together for a Hispanic ministry…God sent just the right person after 2 years and the assimilation was beautiful…He began one of our first new classes…an open Sunday School that welcomed hurting and new folks…He became a point person with me on an outreach team…and served with me as a deacon and then an Elder…Stan would often say to me and to our small group leaders…the 2 purposes of the Church…“Win the lost…Disciple the saved.”

The point is, Stan and my friendship has always been about loving each other so we could care about the community…the group…and those who weren’t part of it yet.

But something has happened in our communities we call Church. To see the problem we need to go back about 2,000 years ago.


Last week we talked about corporate worship, and how powerful it is to connecting us as a spiritual family…but what about smaller groups…where we can connect more honestly and intimately?

Acts 2:46 says “Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple complex, and broke bread from house to house.”

The two contexts where these early believers met and worshipped were in a large group in the temple courts (all the believers were together) and in smaller groups in their homes…It wasn’t one or the other…it was “BOTH.”

The large group worship celebrated God…connected the entire believing community to Jesus…around His table…in His Word…corporate worship was the launch pad for the coming week…but the smaller groups allowed for life to be shared daily…houses became Christian life connectors…shared struggles…shared praises…shared questions…shared meals.

Fast forward to the present, where for many, Church becomes a place you go…and your daily life has very little to do with it. And the effects of this are staggering!

[Thom Rainer has a research project report in his book “High Expectations” where hundreds of Church members who had joined the church 5 years earlier were tracked…the factor that was used to reveal the most telling result was “Those members who only attended worship services and those who also shared their lives in a smaller group. The church members who became involved in a smaller group as well as attending worship services were 5 times more likely to be active in their faith than those who didn’t. 5 times! (They did not include those who moved to another community, became incapacitated or died in the drop out category).

I had to check the results a second time. They were astounding. More than 83 percent of those who joined and were involved in a small group were still active in the churches. But only 16 percent of those who attended worship services only remained in the churches five years later.

I have led a lot of research projects, and I have read even more. But these results were some of the most surprising and most amazing I have ever seen.]

There are four primary reasons that growing in a smaller group like Sunday School, Life Groups, home groups or ministry groups keep us connected by a factor of 5…First:


You remember my friend Stan Holstein in the introduction? Do you know why we’re still friends after a decade and a half? We established a strong relationship because we were in the same groups.

Not only did we see each other most weeks, but we had fun together, served together, went on mission trips with each other…we connected.

The hard truth is if you are not willing to be in a smaller group you are not really willing to be connected to the body of Christ…at best you are a marginal church attender…It means you are not willing to grow spiritually together with other Christians. And if you think Lone Ranger Christianity is acceptable to God, you need to read your New Testament again.

It’s time for revival…and time for millions of Christians to remember the “house to house” aspect of connecting relationally with a group.

The 2nd factor of why smaller groups are essential to us growing together in Christ is


The truth is you cannot really love someone you don’t know…you can be attracted to someone…maybe even “like” that person’s personality if you’ve met them…but ministry at least within the Church, is more likely to take place with people who know each other well…and the primary way we can get to know each other well is smaller groups.

It is a New Testament precedent that every adult group act as a church within the Church. I promise you when “all the believers” were together in the Temple, the “all” couldn’t know and care for each individual’s needs…whether it was widows being left out in the daily distribution of food, or “Isaiah’s” injury at work…This is true whether it’s 3,000 or 300. It wasn’t that the Apostles didn’t care about hungry widows, but that the first servants “deacons,” were set apart in a smaller group…it was so the body of Christ could function in a healthy way…Listen:

ACTS 6:1-7 (p. 762)

Jesus didn’t design his body so that its leaders do all the ministry…He designed the Church so that Holy Spirit filled and led servants are recognized by its leaders and set apart…a ministry of all believers creates disciples who make disciples.

This outward focus is what keeps smaller groups from becoming cliques…when an adult house to house group or Sunday School class adopts a single mom and her children or a family that’s out of work, the gospel can permeate the world and the number of disciples can increase rapidly…and daily.

Also when “our own” are hurting…if someone has lost a job or encountered sickness…that smaller group can overwhelm them with love and grace…it seems to be how Pastoral Care works best according to the New Testament. It’s why Galatians 6:9-10 says:

GALATIANS 6:9-10 (p. 813)

Good is what we do…not what we are…and smaller groups have opportunity to plant seeds of goodness inside and outside the Church…and the harvest we reap is lost people and growing believers.

There’s also a 3rd benefit to smaller groups:


We can learn through preaching…Paul says when “he preached the gospel in Troas, the Lord opened a door for him.” (2 Cor. 2:12) I believe preaching is a powerful way to communicate God’s truth…a door opener for lost people and disciples committed to growth as well…We can also learn from the bible in our own personal study time…but the most common way to study God’s Word is in a smaller group…interacting with others who are studying the same scripture.

[Most of us struggle with many of the same things so when a loving teacher of God’s Word helps us dig into questions and discussions we grow…and we realize we’re not alone in our biblical journey.]

I love the Scripture from Proverbs 27:17 which says “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” I know it’s true for this man…I learn from others…I’m encouraged by others…I’m challenged by others…I’m held accountable by others…Groups matter.

The final essential reason smaller groups matter is:


Not every single smaller group is evangelistic…but any group can be.

[Becky invited me to this weird guy’s apartment behind Champs Rollerdome for what she called “Bible Rap.” Sounds dated today but I was in the middle of searching for something…my life was a mess…and in this little efficiency apartment there was a group of kids my age. We did stupid stuff like eat really “hot” stuff and play stupid games (which I loved) but this weird guy with a weird name…Brewster…loved us…and I felt a part of it…when we studied the Bible I felt God speaking…and when I had questions I had a place for answers…and on January 17, 1978 I was baptized into Christ…in large part because of this group, it’s leader…and how God worked after I became a part of it.]

Any small group can be evangelistic! If it has this kind of purpose.

Smaller groups matter because “The health of the whole Church is tied directly to these groups. It’s how we grow in community with others. It keeps people from coming in the front door and leaving out the back door…someone in a small group is 5 times less likely to leave and 5 times more likely to be involved in an active ministry…that makes churches healthier! Church members who aren’t part of a small group lack commitment. It lets you remain disconnected, marginal at best. You can come to a large gathering in corporate worship, but you are not part of the connected community. You are more likely to become disenchanted, critical and drop out. And finally, everyone in a group should be inviting others to the group. It’s one of the most effective ways to assimilate people. When a group stops thinking this way…the group has become more important than our purpose.]

What if Becky, Brewster, Glenda and that group that met in a little apartment behind Champ’s had forgotten what it was all about? I hate to even think about it.

Let’s pray.

‘I WILL” worship with others

Man with arms raised in worship

“I Will” Worship with Others by Rick Burdette (With special credit to Thom Rainer and his book, “I WILL”)

Acts 2:46-2:47

I WILL – “I Will” Worship with Others
Acts 2:46-47 (pg. 759) October 11, 2015


We have a rule at the Burdette household that my daughter and wife continue to break and disregard…Here’s the rule: If you’re playing “Phase 10” with me (it’s a family card game that I dominate…not really) you cannot be playing “Candy Crush” on your phone at the same time…or you cannot be constantly checking your Facebook on it at the same time.

It’s my firm belief that if you want to spend time with me and the family…then give me your undivided attention…Karissa will say, “I only do it while you’re dealing…Kari just gives me “THE LOOK.” Guys “you know the look I’m talking about, don’t you?” (DEMONSTRATE)

Family time is really important to me…whether it’s around the table for dinner, or time playing “Phase 10.” I don’t want to share you with “Candy Crush” or “Facebook” during this time.

I think our heavenly Father feels like that when it comes to our worship as His family…I don’t want to share you with “Nursery Crush” or “Sports” or a million other things that pull us away from the family table…and relegate Him from a connected Dad to a spectator who watches us do other stuff.

Let me emphasize that worship in scripture has two distinct components…a daily worship where we are aware of His presence in all activities….

Paul tells the brothers and sisters in Rome “In view of God’s mercy offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2)

Clearly the Apostle is saying “Our daily lives connect us with God or the world. His Spirit transforms our thinking…or the world shapes our minds…if you want to be in God’s will…to know He’s working in and through you…offer yourself to Him as you live…This is your personal lifestyle of worship.

But there is also worship that involves connecting to Him with other believers…it’s family worship…and there’s a gathering around a table involved in this worship as well.

How do we move Christians from:


It seems in our busy culture we have to beg people to attend worship services.

Thom Rainer writes “But so many have inexcusable conflicts like the football game, or the kids soccer game, or the traveling softball team, or the weekend at the lake, or the fact I only slept 5 hours. For many Christians, all other activities have become mandatory while the worship service has became an optional afterthought.” (I Will p.29)

I kind of hate the term “Worship Service.” Service sounds like some kind of duty…an obligation.


(You remember the joke about the little boy who was standing in the entrance foyer of the Church looking at this enormous brass plaque with dozens of names etched on it…An older usher looked at the boy and said, “Those are names of individuals who died in the service.” And the little boy said, “Which one…the 1st or 2nd?”

If you remember we did an entire series called “The Well” where Jesus met a Samaritan woman….a divine appointment where Jesus reveals Himself as the Messiah to the woman with a painful past…she is amazed and the last words He spoke to her in John 4:23-24 are “An hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in Spirit and Truth. Yes, the Father wants such people to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and truth.”
(John 4:23-24)

  • It’s a powerful, powerful declaration from Jesus’ own mouth about the commitment of worship and God’s desire for it.

This worship could only take place after Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection and ascension. This worship is dependent upon our Spirit connecting with God, who is Spirit…Only possible for His “born again” children who are filled with His promised gift, the Holy Spirit.

Our text in Acts 2 makes it pretty clear that the early believers longed to be together in worship…it was anything but an obligation…or duty. It was joyous…sincere…and so powerful it affected their daily lives of worship so much it caused their numbers to grow daily…as God added their friends, family and neighbors in salvation

Family worship…corporate worship is not one good option among many others…it should be the consistent and faithful practice of every believer. It’s more important than Phase 10 family time!

“I Will” worship with other believers” is essential for believers in an “I Want” world.

You see we live in…


And this has caused a terrible shift in how many view the Church…especially here in America.

I’m not sure when this terrible shift from an attitude of self-sacrificing service focused to self-serving attitudes took place…but it’s been devastating for disciple making…some blame the secularization of our culture…others blame the pop theology of many of our churches…still others say church leaders made the Church like a “business” and turned our churches into consumer focused organizations. There’s probably some truth in all three explanations.

But one thing is sure…the focus of too many of our churches has moved from God to ourselves…our wants…our preferences…our needs.

It’s a terrible shift when a church becomes preference driven…its focus turns inward instead of outward as Jesus intended.

Please understand, I understand preferences. I have them too. There are music styles and worship I prefer…and each of us should have freedom to share them, but I’ve witnessed hateful words spoken and churches that have divided, over preferences…about styles…and this is sinful and self focused.

Here are some of the comments lists concerning these preferences.

“That music is not the style I’m accustomed to hearing. If they don’t change things I’m leaving this church.”

Music wars have ripped apart many congregations from both camps…it’s OK to like something better…it’s not OK to forget grace and sacrifice in congregational meetings and who worship is all about!

“I don’t like the Pastor’s preaching.”

If your pastor is preaching a health and wealth gospel…or something contrary to the Word of God…you should be concerned…you shouldn’t like it.

But if it’s his personality or sermon topics or if you’ve compared him to your favorite preacher’s style and it’s not the same…your agenda is about yourself….and you’re not worshipping God with fellow believers.

You get the idea…when we make the corporate worship time about me, myself and I we’ve allowed the consumer mentality of the world to overshadow our awesome God.


Remember our goal is to be part of a united band of brothers and sisters assembled for a greater good…and a greater God!

There is something powerful, even miraculous when we connect spiritually in worship together to exalt our God.

So what are the action steps we can take to truly become “I Am” worshippers…There are 4 actions of accountability and action…First:

1. I will attend Worship services. It’s that simple…I’ll make worshipping God a priority…I will make sports, entertainment, and vacations a lower priority than corporate worship…Just watch what happens when you make a firm commitment that you will faithfully attend weekly worship services. Secondly…

2. I will pray before I attend worship services. I’m not telling you when…maybe it’s the night before or the morning of but I’ll pray for my heart to be right…I’ll pray for my attitude. I’ll pray for others. I’ll pray for my family and that we won’t have conflicts and be frustrated as we attend. 3rd…

3. I will pray as I enter the sanctuary. I’ll echo the prayer I’ve prayed earlier…God prepare me…prepare my heart…prepare my attitude…I’ll pray for other believers and for unbelievers to hear the gospel clearly…and that God’s Spirit will connect and convict us all. I’ll pray for distractions to be removed for me and others so we can focus on the true worship of God…and finally

4. I will be a worshipper instead of a judge. What I mean is this…I used to be a pretty good swimmer and diver…in diving competitions the judges would hold up three signs…for executions, form and entrance. 7…8…7.5….for a final score. Perfect was 10. All too often we judge worship services like a diving competition…the preacher gets a 5…the worship music gets a 6…other worshippers get a 3 because they wouldn’t let me in my pew…We go home adding up the score. When we do that judgmental perceptions have made us attend an entertainment event instead of worshipping God….we’ve experience a lecture and a concert, not a Holy God.

We have to pray for our focus to be on Him instead of ourselves and others.

Let me end with this challenge…

[Our ladies just got back from a mission trip to Eastern, KY


9 ladies, some were newer member here at Gardenside, 1 was from Fern Creek, some have been friends for a long time, some have known each other for a while, but had never gotten close by sharing their lives….They served with Mission Journeys’ missionary Leonard Stone. (our 8 men also served with Leonard and had a great experience.) but I want to share with you about worship and how I believe God seeks and speaks to us corporately through the experiences that happened with this “band of women” as they worshipped. Each morning and night they shared a devotion from God’s Word…and shared their lives…all by the way in the context of having physically served others (a lady who had broken her back and was trying to paint her porch and her house a board at a time.)

One night as they shared their hearts Betty Lou Donaldson shared about the child they had lost when she was 24…understanding she doesn’t talk about this a lot, but it was a powerful, transparent moment for each of these women…as God bonded them together…it was worship…as they were finishing up…Kari started to pick up some of the drinks that were on the table…Cokes…The first one she picked up made her stop short…It had a name on it…Janet…Betty Lou and Nelson’s daughter’s name…and the powerful tears of worship, connection, and love came upon these “band of sisters” as God seeks and speaks.]

Let’s Pray


Picture 526

Moving From “I Am” to “I Will” by Rick Burdette (And special Thanks to Thom Rainer and his book, “I WILL”)

Philippians 2:5-2:8

I WILL – Moving from “I Am” to “I Will”
Philippians 2:5-8 (pg. 819) October 4, 2015


It was October 18, 1980…35 years ago, almost exactly when I went into a seafood restaurant named Peter’s Pier 4 with Kari Pascal…we’d met in a church in Stuart Florida…2 years earlier. The first time we ever laid eyes on each other was in a Sunday School class. I still remember the lesson…it was about Jacob and his flock…how God worked to bless him. After Church when my brother in law tried to introduce us she was so embarrassed she ran across the parking lot and just waved at me. She was wearing a peach sundress.

2 years later as we walked into that restaurant I could hardly breathe. I had given one of the waiters a diamond ring to bring out with the key lime pie, her favorite (probably not the smartest thing I’d ever done). That ring had cost me my class ring, a summer of work and 25 more payments at Leroy’s Jewelry Store.

When he finally brought out the pie…with the ring…I got down on one knee and asked “Kari, will you be the grandmother of my grandchildren…will you marry me?”

And to my utter amazement she said “Yes.”

It’s been 35 years and I am still amazed that she said yes…I can be stubborn, impetuous, and silly at times. I can get so busy with ministry stuff that I miss family things…but through it all Kari has been my constant companion…my best friend…my biggest cheerleader.

She has become the grandmother “Nana” to my grandchildren…She has been faithful to me in richer or poorer, better and worse, sickness and health.

She is the most loyal person I’ve ever met…She is a “Till death do us part woman.” That has been her attitude since Day 1.

She said “yes” and I’m still amazed at her love…She made a decision about her attitude and that attitude has made all the difference in our marriage.

So let me ask you a question about another union…It involves a groom and his bride as well:


From Thom Rainer’s “I Will”
[Have you ever met a GCM…A grumpy church member? They are the church member most likely to complain. They are the constant and persistent critics of the pastor, the staff, leadership, and any other things they don’t like. Almost every conversation is started with “why aren’t you doing this…or I want to tell you something that bothers me. They are the members who view the Church as an organization where they pay their dues to get their perks and privileges. And they are grumpy and divisive when they don’t.]

This series of messages is about what we should “do” in our Church…but if you are not doing the right things with the right attitude you will become legalistic, judgmental, frustrated and critical and burn out.

But if we have the right attitude, the right “heart,” doing becomes natural. It becomes joyous. If you have the right biblically directed attitude you will experience joy in Church membership.

I will openly acknowledge that I have many shortcomings, our staff and leadership are not perfect…but we serve and do anyway…we are so grateful for what God has done for us through Jesus.

So what exactly does the right attitude look like?

1. The Right Attitude: “I AM A UNIFYING CHURCH MEMBER.”


[My favorite thing that’s ever been on television was a miniseries about the 101st Airborne Div. called “Band of Brothers.” It traces this division from when they were called up…to the end of the war…but it’s the love, the unity…the bond that captivates me…The title comes from this statement by a German General while addressing his defeated troops…it’s a quote from Henry the 5th while addressing his troops…“From this day until the ending of the world we in it shall be remembered. We few, we happy few, we band of brothers. For today he who sheds his blood with me shall be my brother.”]

Unity is the band that holds any group together…whether it’s the University of Kentucky Wildcats, the 101st Airborne, or a family. And it’s the band that holds churches together too.

But here’s the essential truth…you have to choose to be a part of that band if unity is to exist. Every part of the group has to choose to put the group before his or her own needs. It only works for individuals who have the right attitude.

Paul emphasized this when he wrote to the churches. In Ephesians 4:1-3 he says:

EPHESIANS 4:1-3 (p. 815)

Unity doesn’t just happen accidentally, it requires humility…“This means we view others of more importance than ourselves,” Gentleness…which means we control our anger and show kindness to others…even when they are mean-spirited. Unity requires patience…This means we put up with a lot! Even in our frustration when someone has the wrong attitude and behavior…unity requires “acceptance of one another in love.” We don’t condone sinful attitudes and behavior…but we show a lot of grace.

But I have to be honest…I think of some people I’ve encountered in this faith journey and I think – “NO WAY.”

[I was preaching one time and I dropped my Bible to illustrate “the law of gravity” and the next day I had someone visit me. He was extremely angry…and said I had almost committed an unpardonable sin by treating the Word of God that way….I shared truth with him about “the law” and “grace” and how ironic I though this meeting was…but being humble, gentle, patient and accepting was extremely hard.]

But when I remember that “I am the dog rescued from the pound”…when I remember Jesus died for my sin…and how I have been forgiven a debt beyond measure…I remember His grace…and in His strength I can seek unity….

The 2nd right attitude is


These verses say we are to seek the same attitude as Christ…a sacrificial attitude that led Him to a death by crucifixion.

When we sacrifice ourselves for something more important to us than ourselves we are acting like Jesus.

[My dad was 19 when he stepped on a landmine in WWII…it blew his left leg off below the knee and severely damaged his right. He wore an artificial leg his entire life. I never knew anything different…Kids would come over and see dad’s leg leaning against his dresser and be shocked. “What happened to your dad’s leg?” And I’d say “What do you mean?” I thought every dad had one leg. People would often ask him… “How’d you lose your leg?” and He’d respond, “I didn’t lose it…I gave it.”]

I’m pretty sure my dad’s leg was important to him, but he sacrificed it for his country, for his family, and for freedom…things more important to him.

The greatest joy comes when we put others before ourselves…whether it’s older members who sacrifice for a future generation or God’s people in ministry loving lost people in our community…It’s the attitude we’re called to have for unity…it was a powerful force 2,000 years ago…and it still is today.

The 3rd right attitude for Unity is

3. The Right Attitude: “I AM A PRAYERFUL CHURCH MEMBER.”

The Apostle Paul knew about the power of prayer in the Church…He wrote to the Church in Colossi:

COLOSSIANS 1:9-10 (p. 821)

Having an attitude of prayer is absolutely essential for unity…and our spiritual health.

Paul knows that leaders are especially open to Satan’s attacks…and its “praying continually” that keeps us “aware” and “alert.”

He writes to Timothy in 1 Timothy 3:7 and says, “The pastor or overseer must have a good reputation among outsiders, so that he does not fall into disgrace and the Devil’s trap.”

The word “trap” is rare in the Bible. Traps are set on purpose…it’s a strategic and powerful plan for Satan to take down leaders. If leaders fall, the outside world takes notice…It’s a powerful, intentional threat.

So how do we fight back? How do we respond?

It certainly can’t be in our own strength and wisdom…We fight this spiritual reality with spiritual strength…Prayer!

Immediately after Paul commands the Church to put on the full armor of God to fight spiritual warfare he finishes with an admonition in prayer… “pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6:18)

Prayer unifies, protects, provides wisdom and strength…and it’s absolutely an essential attitude for God’s people, the Church.

The final right attitude is:

4. The Right Attitude: “I AM A JOYFUL CHURCH MEMBER.”

Have you ever noticed that grateful people…are joyful people? When Paul wrote to the Philippian church he tied the spirit of joy to an attitude of thanksgiving…Listen:

PHILIPPIANS 4:4-7 (p. 820)

Paul shoots straight with us…If we are to have joy in our lives we must be gentle and gracious. We are to pray instead of worry. And as we pray we are to pray with an attitude of gratitude.

All of us have been around grumpy people…Almost every conversation turns into the subject they don’t like or something they’re disappointed in…it sucks the life out of you.

But everyone of us have been around joyful and thankful Church members…They seem to always be grateful and encouraging…you feel lighter and better when you’ve been in their presence.

One is grumpy…one is joyful…one tears apart…one unifies…It’s all a matter of attitude

Isn’t it time we move from “I am” to “I will?”

Our attitudes determine who we are and how we’re known. I am joyous…I am angry…I am jealous…our attitudes are the foundations of our actions. If I’m a joyful person I’ll be encouraging…If I’m an angry person I’ll be critical. Let me end by returning to my opening story about Kari.

[Being the baby of the family can be dangerous….my brother’s a decade older…my sister 7 years older…I grew up with a maid named Jane who helped take care of me and our house. I loved Jane and preached both her and her husband Roland’s funeral…But she spoiled me…picked up my clothes…ironed them…folded them…cleaned my room. I’d throw my clothes in the corner…and magically they would be pressed, cleaned, folded and put away. I did it without thinking…I was a kid.

When I got married I had the same attitude…throw my clothes in the corner and expect them to magically change. That was my childish attitude…serve me.

Then one day at a Promise Keeper’s conference in Nashville the speaker challenged us… “Do you treat those you love as servants…or do you serve them?” And God convicted my heart…Do I serve my wife…do I serve those I love the most with an attitude of joy…And I began to put away childish things…If I am to love Kari as Christ loved the Church then that had to become my attitude…And I’ve been seeking to love her 18.9% more than she loves me from then on (our little joke).

I had to move from “I am” to “I will.”]

Let’s pray.