BELIEVE – Chapter 6 – The Church 

 

Confession Of Faith:

I believe the church is God’s primary way to accomplish his purposes on earth.

Key Verse:

Ephesians 4:15 (NIV) 15  Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.

Key Idea: 

I believe the church is God’s primary way to accomplish his purposes on earth.

 

CHARACTERISTICS OF A HEALTHY CHURCH

 

What are the “Characteristics Of A Healthy Church.”

The simple answer is (You might not agree) – If the leadership i healthy – then the church will be healthy.

This is not a sermon about process but end result - THE characteristics of a Healthy Church.

There is a lot of material out on this very subject.  Many pastors and authors have written and spoken much in regards to this subject.

A lot of my thoughts about the church come from Roy Hicks Jr.  I remember that when he spoke – it was often about the church.

I like what Rick Warren writes in “The Purpose-Driven Church”; "the key issue for churches in the Twenty-first century is church health, not church growth”.

It is not how big your church is but IS YOUR CHURCH HEALTHY?

A lot of stock is given to size and facilities but church health is so much more than that.

  • Is it a safe place for people to come?
  • Will people be cared for and loved in your church?
  • Would they say that they are being pastored well?

The life of Jacob’s son Joseph is a rich source of insights into how God raises up influential people and influential churches.

The story of Joseph is a great allegory for the church today… (I don’t where this outline came from.  It was in an article I read sometime ago and I can’t locate it.)

 

1.  A Church That Has Grasped Its Prophetic Destiny

 

Basically… it understands its purpose and call in its community.

 

(Genesis 37:5-10 ESV)Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more. He said to them, “Hear this dream that I have dreamed: Behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright. And behold, your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf.” His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words. Then he dreamed another dream and told it to his brothers and said, “Behold, I have dreamed another dream. Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?” 

 

When Joseph was a young man he had a dream about his life.  

 

  • What are the dreams that you have had?

 

  • What are the dreams/ prophecies that have been given concerning your church? About your community?

 

  • Are you grasping your destiny and future?

 

  • Do you understand your DNA (who you are and who your church is) and where are we going?

 

I believe that everything that has happened to you has happened for a purpose and God desires to use your past to help shape your future.

 

What is holding you back from realizing your dreams and aspirations?   

 

What are some of the dreams you had as a child?  What are some of the aspirations you’ve held in your heart?

 

There were a number of things that built dreams in my life.

 

  • As a child – growing up in a pastor’s home – I always wanted to be a pastor.  It became a dream that grew into reality.

 

But it was deeper then that – I was following a call of God upon my own heart.

 

When I was child – I remember a dream of Jesus coming into my bedroom and placing a globe of the world in my hands and saying, “I give you the world.”

 

I look back now and see that God has allowed me to go many places in the world and touch people with the gospel.

 

There were also other things along the way that I would begin dream of and aspire for my life.  

 

There were many men and women who came alongside me and helped shape and mold that dream.

 

Some dreams have been realized and fulfilled.  Others have fallen along the wayside with no hope of ever seeing that happen.

 

I wonder how many of lose our dreams a long the way.

 

  • Life begins when we put our trust in what God has destined for us.

 

(John 10:10 ESV)The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 

 

Life – Two Greek Words…

  1. Pnuma – breath, ie… I give you breath.
  2. Zoe – “aliveness, appetite for life/ zest for living.  This is what is being used here.

 

  • We are called to life and to live it abundantly

 

Before my dad passed away I asked this question – what would you do differently?  He said, I would have gone to Disneyland more often.

 

2.   A Church That Has Successfully Passed Spiritual Testings

 

(Genesis 50:20 ESV) As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. 

 

Joseph’s brothers created a lot of problems and obstacles for him.

 

What are the obstacles/ problems we have faced personally and with our church.

 

Have we successfully passed those spiritual testings?

 

I read a story some time ago about a man sat and watched a butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through the little hole in the cocoon. 

 

Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could and it could go no further.

 

So the man decided to help the butterfly, he took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon. The butterfly then emerged easily. 

 

But it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings. The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time.

 

Neither happened! In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It never was able to fly. 

 

What the man, in his kindness and haste, did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening was God's way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.

 

  • You will always encounter obstacles along the way

 

GUARANTEED!

 

Noah did.  People didn’t believe his message.

 

Moses did.  Pharaoh.

 

Peter did.  Fear and disbelief.

 

(James 1:2-4 ESV) Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing

 

  • Obstacles are a chance for God to show his power

 

We should be asking this question… is this where God wants me to be right now?  If it is… - it is a chance for God to show his power in the situation.

 

Ask yourself this question… “What is in your life right that it takes Jesus Christ to explain?”

 

What is in your life that if God doesn’t show up – everything goes south?”

 

We should be asking this question… Is this where God wants me to be right now?”  If it is… - it is a chance for God to show his power in the situation.

 

Ask yourself this question… “What is in your life right that it takes Jesus Christ to explain?”

 

What is in your life that if God doesn’t show up – everything goes south?”

 

  • God has everything you need to succeed

 

He has the needed resources for you to be successful in what God is calling you to.  He has the needed anointing.

 

(Philippians 1:6 ESV) And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. 

 

We should put ourselves in a situation of needing God for everything we do.

 

  • If you are going to fall… fall forward

 

At least you’ve advance and you give those behind you a ramp for them to walk on you to get to their dreams.

 

(Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV) Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. 

 

These witnesses are those who have gone on before us.  We should say… “I’m going forward with God, no matter the cost!

 

Nothing is going to stop us.  No obstacle will stop us either.

 

For the children of Israel… their journey was part of was God was doing in their life.

 

  • If “Emmanuel (God With Us) is true, then every moment has possibilities

 

3.   A Church That Has Become A Spiritual Storehouse

 

(Genesis 41:56-57 ESV) So when the famine had spread over all the land, Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe in the land of Egypt. Moreover, all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe over all the earth. 

 

There is a great spiritual famine in places where we pastor.

 

  • Are we going to be a place for replenishment and nourishment?  
  • Will people be fed?  
  • Will they be welcomed?
  • Will this be a safe place?
  • Will we open our hearts to hurting?

 

Notice the people came to Joseph for grain.

 

Do people seek you out for help (whether they go to your church or not)?

 

Do people say to you, “I have no other place to turn?”

 

Look at God’s Promise. Notice all the places where the pronoun you/ your is used.

 

 

(Isaiah 60:1-7 ESV) Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. Lift up your eyes all around, and see; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from afar, and your daughters shall be carried on the hip. Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and exult, because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you. A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall bring good news, the praises of the Lord. All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered to you; the rams of Nebaioth shall minister to you; they shall come up with acceptance on my altar, and I will beautify my beautiful house. 

 

Do people come to you for help?

 

In Carthage, North Africa, 252 AD. The Bubonic plague spread rapidly through the city.  Death raced from house to house!

People resisted helping each other for fear of catching the disease! 

 

One group (The church of Jesus Christ/The Christians) committed themselves to help!

They worked tirelessly to minister and save people!  They put their lives on the line for Jesus Christ!

The became known as the “Parabolani” (The risk-takers).  Are you a risk taker for your city?  Are you a spiritual storehouse that people are being drawn to.

4.   A Church That Has A Deep, Full Well With FRUITFUL Branches. 

 

(Genesis 49:22 ESV) “Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a spring; his branches run over the wall. 

 

This sounds and looks healthy.

 

It is a well that is full.  It is a place for nourishment.  It is a place for strength.

 

Characteristics of a Healthy Church

 

  1. The people are joyful
  2. The church teaches and practice grace
  3. The word of God is not compromised
  4. The people are friendly
  5. The facilities are neat and clean
  6. New comers feel welcomed
  7. New comers are greeted by many people
  8. It has a good reputation with its community
  9. The pastor is a man of vision
  10. The people love to serve
  11. The pastor is well respected
  12. The services are orderly
  13. The parking lot if full
  14. New comers can easily find where to go
  15. The music is anointed and well arranged
  16. The children are anxious to come
  17. There is a cross section of ages
  18. Sermons are simple and to the point
  19. People know what to expect in the services
  20. There are a multitude of ministries for different needs

 

What type of branches do you have in your life?  How about the church?

 

Are your branches growing and expanding or are they dying shriveling up?

 

Are the people you are discipling turning around and being fruitful in their lives and ministry?

 

When I first started pastoring I had to learn some hard lessons.  It seems that every Monday I wanted to resign.

 

I called my dad and he helped me through this.

 

He would say… what do you do on Monday after everyone has picked your branches clean.

 

My response was that I just laid around and did nothing.

 

He told me something that has always stuck with me – you must replenish your well/ leaves.

 

Don’t allow people to pick all your fruit…

 

(Psalm 107:35-38 ESV) He turns a desert into pools of water, a parched land into springs of water. And there he lets the hungry dwell, and they establish a city to live in; they sow fields and plant vineyards and get a fruitful yield. By his blessing they multiply greatly, and he does not let their livestock diminish. 

 

5.   A Church That Excels In Spiritual WARFARE

 

(Genesis 49:23-24 ESV)The archers bitterly attacked him, shot at him, and harassed him severely, yet his bow remained unmoved; his arms were made agile by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob (from there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel), 

 

(Psalm 144:1 ESV) Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle; 

 

Like it or not – there will be times that you will have to do battle for your church, your community, your family and even yourself.

 

We need to excel in this area.  It is where we grow.

 

We don’t grow on the mountaintops but we grow in the valleys.

 

There will be times that you will feel as if you are fighting the devil himself.

 

You can’t run from the battle.   You will need to take up your armor and exercise your authority.

 

You will need to have times of fasting and prayer.

 

(Nahum 1:13 ESV)And now I will break his yoke from off you and will burst your bonds apart.” 

 

(Isaiah 58:6 ESV) “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? 

 

There are many people today (even Christians) who are bound by the power of Satan.

 

There are many strongholds that people have … alcoholism, drug abuse, sexual immorality or a myriad of other evil devices designed to bring an epidemic of spiritual destruction to this generation.

 

Satan is fighting harder than ever to capture the souls of our youth.

 

(Luke 4:18 ESV) “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, (

 

6.   A Church That Has Received And Guards The Blessings Of The Lord.

 

(Genesis 49:25 ESV) 25  by the God of your father who will help you, by the Almighty who will bless you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that crouches beneath, blessings of the breasts and of the womb. 

 

Are you thankful for the blessings of the Lord in your life?

 

Have you given over to a complaining spirit?

 

Are you giving thanks for “everything?”

 

7.   A Church That Expects God To Visit His People In Due Season.

 

Genesis 50:25 (ESV) 25  Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.”

 

Joseph was at the end of his life – yet he still expected that God would come and visit them.

 

Do you have an expectancy for God to come and touch you/ us once again?

 

Isaiah 44:3-4 (ESV) 3  For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. 4  They shall spring up among the grass like willows by flowing streams. 

 

The Joseph church has a specific dream for a specific place and a specific time.  Joseph thought it a privilege to be used of God.

 

There’s a story of pastor in a rural church where the community was suffering through a severe drought.

 

The congregation decided to come together and pray for rain.

 

Sunday evening came and before any of the prayers were offered, the pastor looked over at them and asked… “I thought we decided to pray for rain?”

 

They replied… “Yes, pastor, that’s why we are all here.”

 

The pastor said, “Do you really believe that if we pray it will rain?” 

 

They said, “Yes, we believe!”

 

So he looked around and said, “Then where are all your umbrella’s?”

 

Matthew 16:18-19 (ESV) 18  And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 

 

Has anyone ever seen a tapestry?  I’ve seen some beautiful tapestries from other countries.

 

When you look at the front – it is this beautiful picture that is woven together.  But if you are to look at the back – it is a tangle of yarn all knotted together.

 

  • In the tapestry of life… every single moment counts.

 

Every event of your life is there for a purpose to help you in the ministry that God has for you.

 

It might look like a tangled mess.  But every event is important and God can use it for His glory.

 

Ecclesiastes 3:1 (ESV) 1  For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: 

 

  • Often the journey is the destination.

 

On the eastern coast of Africa there was a missionary who was serving the people in that area.

 

One day, on his birthday, a young man came to his front door with a gift.

 

The missionary was overwhelmed by the gift but also by the fact that he knew this young man had come a long distance to bring this gift.

 

He asked him how he got to his house.

 

The young man stated that he had walked.

 

But didn’t that take you a long time?”  asked the missionary.

 

In fact, it had.  He started the night before and walked all night long.

 

The missionary said… “Well… at least let me drive you back home.”

 

Over and over, the young man refused.

 

Finally… the young man said to the missionary… “The walk is part of the gift.”

 

See… It doesn’t matter that we get there.  It matters how we get there that is important.

 

Our journey is often the destination.

 

Don’t wait for your ship to come in.

 

The place you are is where God wants you right now.

 

We must all “expect” a visitation from God in our lives and in our churches.

 

Ephesians 1:17-19 (ESV) 17  that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18  having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19  and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might