Connect to Church
The following is a summary of my sermon on Sunday, October 23.
We’re in a series called Forward Together. It’s a series focused on the Cornerstone's core values. Core values are ways of telling what's most important to us. We're at number 4: Connected to Church.
Connected to Church means this: We're in this together. We're on the same team, on the same mission, for the same cause. Until Jesus comes.
Not everyone feels connected to the Cornerstone in this way. Or maybe the connection's gotten a little loose or frayed over time. Or maybe you've been checking us out and now you're thinking, "I'm ready to connect to community here."
So ... today, I'm going to show how to deepen your connection to church. I've got six insights to share. Lists are not my favorite format for preaching, but I hope this will be of great help to you.
Let's pray and read Philippians 1:1-8.
In order to deepen your connection to community ...
1. THINK WE, NOT ME.
This seems to be Paul's point here because he uses the word "all" over and over:
Verse 1: To ALL the saints in Christ Jesus ...
Verse 4: always in every prayer of mine for YOU ALL ...
Verse 7: It is right for me to feel this way about YOU ALL ... for you are ALL partakers with me of grace ...
Verse 8: I yearn for YOU ALL
Church is about the whole group - “ALL.” It’s family. It’s team. It’s all of us in this together. Togetherness is the key to connectedness. You'll get connected really fast when you embrace the "ALL" of it all. Show up more than Sundays, join in, hang out, serve.
2. SHOW GRATITUDE NOT ATTITUDE.
Paul modeled this. He was in jail, chained up, but he was thanking God. How could he do that? One reason is that he really enjoyed his relationship with the church in Philippi:
3 I THANK my God in all my remembrance of YOU … - Philippians 1:3
This is something the Lord had to teach me. Every day, we're faced with a choice: We can either say, “Thank you God," for our church. Or we can gripe to God about our church. There are days when its much easier to gripe!!!!
Try this experiment: Take time daily to thank God for the Cornerstone. Thank you Father for bringing me to this church. Thank you for my friends here. Thank you for the servants, and the ministries, and the teaching. Thank you for the support, prayers, and encouragement.
Do it for a month. Then ask yourself, “Do I feel a deeper connection to the church?”
3. PRAY FOR PEOPLE BY NAME.
I can tell you from personal experience that nothing connects you to a church faster and deeper than praying for people by name:
3 I thank my God in all my REMEMBRANCE of you, 4 always in every PRAYER of mine for you all making my PRAYER with joy, - Phil. 1:3-4
Paul's prayers were multiple, grateful, and joyful; and about real people. On my prayer walks, I pray for some of you by name. I get really intense as I think about your situations. My emotions kick in - tears, happiness, anger, concern - and a bond forms in these prayer - even if I don't know you real well.
You don't have to pray for everyone. If Kim and I are the only people you know by name - just pray for us!!!! We need all the help we can get. Pray for people you see serving. Or the people you serve. Pray for friends in the church - needs, blessing, aspirations. Tell them you’re praying.
When you pray for people by name, it’s like glue connecting you to the church more deeply than ever.
4. THINK OF FELLOWSHIP AS PARTNERSHIP
We're partners in a great cause - on mission for God. That’s how Paul saw it …
5 because of your PARTNERSHIP in the gospel from the first day until now. - Philippians 1:5
“Partnership” is actually the word often translated as “fellowship,” in the Greek, it’s koinonia. When we think of fellowship, we think food. But Paul doesn’t mean that at all. For him fellowship was partnership with a purpose. And the purpose was sharing the gospel. He talks about the partnership in verse 7:
"you are all partakers with me of grace (1), both in my imprisonment (2) and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel (3)“ - Philippians 1:7
Three ways they were partners:
(1) Paul had led them to faith in Jesus. They shared in the grace of salvation.
(2) They sent money and help to Paul in jail - Epaphroditus.
(3) They sent money to support Paul on mission as he defended and confirmed the gospel in synagogues, market places, and and court rooms.
Friendships are good. But partnerships are better.
Try this: make the move from just attending church, to actually being the church. Join the team which is working together to advance our mission and ministry.
5. COMMIT LONG-TERM, NOT SHORT-TERM.
Commit to partner with us for a long time. Paul put it this way:
6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work (in verse 5, this their partnership in the Gospel) in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ - Philippians 1:6
Paul told them, “We’re partners until Jesus comes!”
These days, that kind of thinking is not easy. There are so many options. There are better programs, better preachers, better buildings - better whatever and a quick Google search will show us all where. But church hoppers cannot connect.
Here’s the truth: to grow deeper connections we must make make deeper commitments. Get rooted down deep here and the connections will come. There will be good days and bad days, but stay invested.
Let’s agree to partner together until Jesus comes!
6. MOVE FROM ACQUAINTANCE TO AFFECTION.
8 For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the AFFECTION of Christ Jesus. - Philippians 1:8
That’s an oath. Paul is really serious. Here’s why: Jesus loves his church with a deep affection - the affection of Christ - and if he loves the church in that way, we should not love it any less.
“Affection” emphasizes the feeling side of love - tender, emotional, personal. I could translate it as "gut wrenching love.” That’s the same kind of love you have for your kids. Paul says that's how he felt about the Philippians.
Where did that come from? He didn't know them real well - spent less than a month with them. I think it's a gift from God. Honestly, it would be easier never to feel that way because it will make you vulnerable and it will break your heart some times.
You’ve got to ask the Lord for the affectionate love of Christ for his church - warts and all. "Lord, please give me a "gut-wrenching, affectionate, love for the Cornerstone folks.” He will answer that prayer. He did it for me. This is my experience.
When you have the affection of Jesus Christ, you will definitely feel connected.
The American church is experiencing a seismic shift. It's a very bad thing and it's disastrous and it's shaking the church. The seismic shift is this: Many professing Christians are choosing not to connect deeply with a church family. They come and go. Pick and choose. The consumer mentality has taken over. Church is just one store in the mall. There are so many options for our time and commitment. These consumer Christian aren't committed to Target and they aren't committed to one church family, where they serve, and pray, and invest. I think the results of this consumer mentality will be disastrous for them, but even more for their kids.
My parents in law, Gordon and Ellen Parker, have been committed to one church for over fifty years. When they moved into the area, they joined First Baptist Church of Vassar and they have served there ever since. They have been involved in all sorts of ministries and have remained committed to the people through every age and stage of life. I think that is the way it should be. Stay rooted in one congregation for life if possible.
Unfortunately, Mom and dad Parker are the exception these days. Why don’t we decide to be the exception? Let's deepen our connections to this church. Working together as partners in God's great cause. Asking the Lord to give us deep affection for each other. And let's pass this way of life on to the next generation. So our kids and grandkids will say: we’re in this together until Jesus comes.