Being A Part! Life Groups in the Kingdom Sunday Jan.

5, 2014 Focus: God urges the church to reach her present culture at her present location with the never changing gospel. Function: The church must continually adapt her communication forms to effectively share the gospel. Angle: We are engaging in an experiment designed to challenge our faith and help us identify effective forms for communicating the gospel story in the Springtown area. Introduction: 1. Hold up a car part. Envision the entire car. Every part is vital. This is true of the church. Every part/member is vital. We are not trying to force everyone to be a carburetor. We are trying to help each one explore his/her potential for finding his/her place in the work of the kingdom. You are in the kingdom because you have submitted to the saving work and lordship of Jesus. The challenge of leadership is to help equip you to be the part God created you to be in the service/ministry/work that God prepares for you to do. We are taking Eph. 2:10 seriously. You were created in Christ Jesus for good work. The next few weeks will be a unique exercise designed to help us creatively explore what that work may look like in the future. 2. Did you ever try to get excited about something you do not understand? That is what I am asking you to do this morning. a. In 1891 there was an unruly class at the YMCA in Springfield Mass. James Naismith was given 14 days to come up with an indoor activity that would engage the young men. Of course he took two peach baskets and suspended them from the walkway that surrounded the upper deck of gymnasium. He wrote out 13 rules for what he called “basket” ball. The rest of course is history or something like it. b. it is tough to get people excited about what they do not understand. They did not dribble and could not run with the ball. The pass was the only way to advance the ball. You could travel some little distance after you caught the ball as long as you were attempting to come to a stop. c. I wonder what Mr. Naismith would think of the game today. He did not envision anyone ever dunking the ball. The whole purpose of putting it at 10 feet was to neutral some of the athletic advantage so that everyone could enjoy the game no matter what their skill level. 3. Our present culture calls for the church to investigate new ways of sharing the gospel. I have not seen or heard of anyone attempting the type of experiment we are undertaking. We are approaching the identifying of giftedness and evangelistic possibilities in an entirely new way. This does not make it bad. This also does not make it effective. This simply states that we are serious about exploring every option for accomplishing the work God needs done in Springtown. We will by all means become all things to all people that we may win souls to Jesus. 4. Some of the ideas seem outside the box and even odd. I am grateful for minds that don’t work like mine. Minds that say, “What if!” Minds that yeast and explore rather than crystalize and freeze. 5. I am excited about the future. Nothing energizes me more than sharing faith with my grandkids and then challenging them to go and be the church.

6. Our present undertaking is a visionary attempt at dreaming things we have not yet thought so we may meet the needs of a world we have never before encountered. HOW will this be accomplished? Someday the radical exercises we engage in over the next 10 weeks will seem as remedial steps. We will look back and say. “Remember that time we tried all that stuff back in 2014.” We may just say, “Wow! God really did something powerful through that experience.” We may say, “God must be laughing at the stuff we tried to use to tell His story.” 7. At least we will be able to say that we did all we could to get every member to realize how important each one of them is to the proper working of the kingdom in Springtown. We tried not to leave anyone out. If they did not find something in those 10 weeks that sparked them to serve God then they simply were not willing to step out and try something different.

The Situation: Our world is radically changing and God anticipates His children will reach that ever changing world with ever adapting techniques. The message and focus remain the same. The forms will be as diverse as the culture demands. Mat 28:18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Mat 28:19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Mat 28:20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

The Facts: We need additional interaction with each other and the world to help the church do the work of God. (LifeGroups can be an effective tool in this process.) Traditional forms make sense to insiders but not necessarily to outsiders. We cloud the simple truth of the gospel when we demand that our world understand and do the forms that make sense to us. Men and women of the Bible used what made sense in their culture to impact their world. God trusted that any culture and environment could embrace the simple Lordship of Jesus. Jesus being Lord in that new region will create a church that made sense and is effective in that location. Acts 2-4 The larger world is impacted by the physical social environment created by the church. The Way really cared for one another and sacrificed to help support one another physically. Meals/Social and Benevolent, Needs were met, Paul became all things to all people. In Athens he spoke to a multicultural society about their unknown god. In Jerusalem he expounded the history of the Jews. In Roman court systems he called into order the teachings of the day.

Peter found himself in strange places doing unconventional things. Even things that ran counter to his culture and tradition. He did these things at the urging of God in an attempt to reach a new audience with the good news of the gospel. (Acts 10-11; Gal. 1-2)

Our present exercise is not a slap at who we are. The exercise is an admission that we live in a diverse culture that demands diversity of forms to communicate the simple gospel. * The Pearsons group demonstrates the effectiveness of sharing the gospel through embracing strong family ties. * The Teen Group and Parents of Teens group is highly effective in reaching young folks that hunger for a place to be valued and held accountable. * The Gilbert’s group provides an environment where young children are highly valued and where families are growing. * The Slate/Pennington group has been a blessing in meeting the needs of some of our elderly. We need a support structure specifically designed to reach out to those who are older and in need of special edification. * We need a group of young professional folks to give voice to as well as guidance to questions that only you are wrestling with at your stage in life. * We need an empty nesters group to bless those whose family structure is changing. The Challenge: So what is supposed to come from this present exercise? If you have identified needed areas what are we doing experimenting? Answer: Because we have been identifying out of our past not necessarily with an eye to the future. What will God really do evangelistically if we open our eyes. * Can God use shared personal interests to both build-up the body as well as create interaction with those who need to hear the gospel? Acts 18:2 And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, having recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. He came to them, Act 18:3 and because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and they were working, for by trade they were tent-makers.) YES! * Can God really use service projects to share His love and light with those in need both inside and outside the body? Mt. 5:13-16; Becoming Salt and Light Act 9:36 Now in Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which translated in Greek is called Dorcas); this woman was abounding with deeds of kindness and charity which she continually did.) YES! * Can God really use an intense study of His word to be engaging and transforming? John 8:31 So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; John 8:32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." YES!

* Can God really use the simple act of families getting together to share a meal for the good of the kingdom? Acts 2:46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, Acts 2:47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. YES! The Experiment: Form: We will rotate through four different emphases during our experiment. We will focus on a different exercise designed to help us engage in kingdom work that specific week. Next week we will provide a loose structure to help us layout our weeks. Week 1 - Jan. 12-18th we will encourage each member to engage in a social event that explores some shared interests. Week 2 - Jan. 19th-25th you will be encourage to provide some needed service to church and/or community. Week 3 - Jan. 26th - Feb. 1st We will share in Bible Study emphasis. Groups will be offered to study various texts/topics. Week 4 - Feb. 2-8th Family week. We asks that each family gather with two or three other families. Preferably some families you do not know well. and just spend some time eating and fellowshipping for the purpose of building relationships. This format will be repeated over the four weeks from Feb. 8th - March 8th. Goal: To explore ways that may be effective in the future for reaching out to those in the community as well as building strong bonds with those in the kingdom.

Statement: We need new mechanisms to reach new folks. We have many new faces that have been in groups in other locations that can aid our process of diversity. We have many new faces that need to be embraced immediately rather than patiently wait to break through our unintended-but-still-existent-homegrown cliques. We need each of you to attempt to engage in the work of the kingdom. Just because you are in something that meets your needs now does not mean you do not need to stretch yourself to help meet the needs of others as well as help the church explore possible avenues for kingdom work in the future. This experiment will likely be a both/and experience. We are going to continue to meet at the building at 6PM because that meets the needs of some. However, I am going to encourage everyone that meets at the building… to also create/attend a group that sparks their personal interests. to be involved in the service projects that arise. to share meals with others.

Other groups may need to take a break from present activities so you can simply have the time to accomplish the set goal for the upcoming week. If this is needed then fine. If you choose to maintain your present form as well as engage in the experiment then that is fine as well. We are encouraging every member to engage in the prescribed form for each of the 8 weeks. This will help us identify the effectiveness of this type experiment. It will also help us walk in faith as we ask God to show us effective forms for doing His work in our present culture. We may not learn anything helpful from this process. We may learn something profound from this activity. If we do nothing other than learn more about one another and our interests and unique gifts and talents then the body here will be blessed by this activity. Controller: Potential/Yeasting: Something might happen that I have not yet envisioned. I am comfortable with this. There is nothing more faithless than dictating the outcome of what God might do! Diversity: The Kingdom is best served when every member supplies his/her part in the work. We cannot structure any system to the point that those that don’t fit into the structure are left without a place to offer service in the kingdom. They will simply make their way out the back door and rightly say, “They didn’t seem to need us at that church.” So please come next Sunday. I will preach from the Sermon on the Mount (Seek First the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness. Mt. 6:25-34) We will share a potluck meal together. We will have a brief sharing session to help us get this experiment kicked off well.