Welcome to week two of the series I started last week. Today we’re going to look at the unseen side of a dangerous church.Before we do so, how many of you remember what a “Magic Eye” picture is? You know those images that are full of all kinds of different colors in a seemingly random pattern that on the surface look like just a mess of lines and colors. But supposedly if you look at this image in just the right way a three-dimensional image will appear as if by magic. Now, there are some people that can pick up these unseen images right away. I’m not one of them. When these images first started becoming popular I remember looking at them for what seemed like hours and not getting anywhere. I started to wonder if maybe there was a conspiracy among the have seens to pretend they had some sort of superior skill of observation even when the image really contained nothing. Supposedly, there was a trick to getting the image to appear. You’d start with the image close to your nose and stare at one particular spot on the image as you slowly move it away from your nose until you reach the “sweet spot” where the blur of unfocused eyes becomes the elusive 3-D masterpiece. I was just about to write off these things as a hoax, until one time it happened. I saw the unseen! It was amazing and I was mesmerized by this previously unseen picture manifesting seemingly miraculously out of a mess of shapes and colors. It captured my attention until something distracted me. I don’t remember exactly what the distraction was now but it was only for a microsecond. Someone called my name or tugged my arm, or bumped into me and my gaze shifted and instantly the image disappeared.
For a brief moment though, I saw something that many of you have never seen. Today, I want the people here in this place to see a side of the church that many people simply do not see. There’s an unseen side to all sorts of great things – and hopefully today I’m going to help you see the unseen side of the church and maybe you’ll see something that others do not see. Jesus said, “If you have eyes to see let them see, if you have ears to hear let them hear”.
We’ll start off today with the foundation of a fairly well known parable, “The parable of the Talents” (Matthew 25). If you don’t know the story, let me give you a brief overview:
• Jesus told the story about a master who was going away for a while and before leaving on his journey he gathered up some trusted servants and left with each of them some talents according to their abilities.
• One guy he gave five talents, another he gave two and the third he gave one.
• The master went away and he said, “Guys do what you need to do to take care of what I’ve entrusted to you”
• The first guy made a great investment and doubled his investment from five to ten.
• The second guy did so as well, he doubled his investment from two to four.
• The third guy though, he knew how important the talents were to his master, so instead of risking losing it – he played it safe. He buried the talent in the ground to guard what he knew was important to his master.
Now, if you had just walked up on the story you would have seen the two guys who had maximized their investments and may have said, “Wow, I wish I had it so good”. What you wouldn’t see is the unseen side of what went into their success. For example, and obviously I’m reading a lot into the story, but they could’ve spent a lot of time agonizing in prayer – where is the right place to invest? They could’ve spent a lot of time studied the markets – they could’ve looked at all sorts of things and spent a lot of time in discomfort wanting to make the right decision – leaning towards one investment, hesitating wondering if this is the right one, making the investment and then sweating as they think, “I hope I did the right thing!” The discomfort – the unseen side of the success story.
There could also be an unseen side to the guy who buried his talent. For example, he could have sat back and said, “Those idiots! They’re putting the master’s cash at risk! How could they be so foolish? I’m doing the right thing by playing it safe. I’m guarding what belongs to the master, I’m playing it safe.”
The master came back and did something shocking! The guys who had doubled the talents by investing them came and the master said, “Well done”. He took the guy who had played it safe and took his talent and gave it to the guy with the others. This is what he said to the guy who played it safe, “You are a wicked and lazy servant” and Jesus said that the master cast this servant into darkness. Pretty interesting isn’t it? The unseen side to the man who thought he was doing it right and yet the master said he was wicked and lazy.
That foundation brings us to where we are in today’s North American church. A lot of churches I would argue are playing it safe – guarding what we have, burying the true treasure, and not taking risks. Could you imagine if one day Jesus would say, “You wicked and lazy servant – you’re guarding what I gave you rather than serving faithfully”
Three Qualities of a Safe Church:
1. Strives to keep the members happy
Let’s hold what we’ve got. Let’s bury the talent. Let’s play it safe.
2. Avoids controversial issues.
Let’s not risk making anybody mad – especially the people with the money. Let’s stay away from dangerous issues. Let’s just play it safe.
3. Guards the status quo.
Let’s not take any risks, we better make sure we keep what he have, let’s bury the talent and play it safe.
I’m going to argue that today people aren’t rejecting God as much as they are rejecting the church. Why is it that people don’t go to church?
Some would say because they’ve already been. Right? “Been there, done that, and nothing happens” People aren’t rejecting God as much as they are rejecting the safe church where nothing ever happens. So, our dangerous mission is crystal clear as I reinforced last week – if you remember it would you say it aloud with me right now,
Our mission is to allow the light of God to shine so powerfully in our lives that people can’t help but join us in becoming fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.
It’s a dangerous mission because when you submit your life to Christ, you CANNOT stay the same! Our purpose, how we live out this mission is simple.
INSPIRE – Bring IN
EQUIP – Build UP and train
INVOLVE – Build togetherness and community (discovering and using our gifts, talents and abilities to serve one another and others)
SEND – Send OUT
Today I want to talk about the UNSEEN side of a dangerous church. If you walk up on any success story our first reaction is usually, “I wish I had it so good”. You see a great marriage, you say, “Man, I wish I had a great marriage like that!” There’s an unseen side to that great marriage. There’s years and years of sacrificial decisions leading to that great marriage. There’s a couple that have learned how to grow through conflict, who have CONFLICTED and grown through it. You see somebody financially strong and unless they inherited it – there’s an unseen side to their success. Year’s of living beneath their means, years of investing, years of working very, very hard at what they did – there’s an unseen side.
The same is true in church. Some people say I wish I was part of a church like that or I wish that our church was like that. Before you do that though it’s important you understand that there are unseen qualities to a dangerous church. We’ll look at three of them today.
The first one is this. The first unseen quality of a dangerous church is…
Get ready for it. It’s painful when you are making a difference for the Kingdom of God. John 15:18-19 – help me out with this as we read it together.
18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.
John 15:18-19 (NIV)
Do you realize that if you are a fully devoted follower of Christ that the world is going to hate you? You’re going to be rejected. You’re going to be despised by men. You’re going to be persecuted. Listen, if you are being persecuted for your faith, do not worry! Worry, if you are not being persecuted! Because if you are a fully devoted follower of Christ you will experience pain!
Now here’s an odd thing. This is what bugs me. It is that many people come to God hoping to eliminate pain and there’s kind of this false teaching that if you come to God everything is going to be okay! If you come to God everything is going to be just great – just hunky dory.
And so we have a lot of so-called Christ followers who goal is to live in a very insulated environment. When we’re surrounded only by church people, we have only our little Christian circle, where we speak only our “Christianese” where the goal is this safe insulated life. If that’s your goal, safety and the absence of pain you are following a false God.
Jesus did not die on a cross so that we could be safe! He died on a cross to save us into a life of faith and risk. So that we could die to ourselves, so that our old nature is dead and we only live through Christ and Him through us. Have you forgotten that? See there’s this side of pain.
This is what Peter says,
Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.
1 Peter 4:1 (NIV)
Where is that message preached in the North American church today? I don’t hear it? Do you? Be ready to suffer. There is an unseen side. Understand this clearly – you will be rejected, you will be misunderstood, you will be an outcast and when you are embrace it because this is not your home anyway! If you are a Christ-follower you are not of this world, your home is somewhere else.
If you want to be part of something great in the kingdom of God get ready for some pain.
Some of these so-called “Christians” they get hurt, they take their ball and go home. “They’re mean to me, no one called me” Grow up! We’re talking about heaven and hell here. We get our feelings hurt we stay in the game!
There is a verse that reminds us that the pain is worth it and gives us a reason to push through – I want to share it with you,
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:2 (NIV)
Behind the scenes is an unseen side. You no longer want to be a consumer but you want to be a contributer – well there’s going to be some pain involved!
The second unseen quality is this…
And lots of it. I want us to look at Acts 19. In this story there are seven sons of a man named Sceva and they saw some of the disciples casting demons out of people and so they thought, “We can throw the name of Jesus around and we can do the same thing.” And so they saw a guy and he was possessed and they went up to this guy and they say, “Come out in Jesus’ name” The evil spirit replies,
… “Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?”
Acts 19:15 (NIV)
Now let’s look at what happens next,
Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.
Acts 19:16 (NIV)
Now for some reason this is funny to me. I don’t know why – maybe it’s the picture of these guys who have gone into the house of this man all pompous like and thinking they’re all that because they’ve got the “magic” formula for casting out demons and then a few moment later running out naked and bleeding from getting beat up because of their stupidity.
These guys took a risk and they failed miserably. If you continue reading the story though, you see something amazing. So many people were overwhelmed with what the name of Jesus must mean and that it should not be taken lightly that the majority of the town repented from their sin after seeing some guys risk, fail, and then the name of Jesus was lifted up.
Interesting… a lot of so-called Christ followers want to eliminate all risk out of their lives and yet the Bible says that we learn to walk by faith and not by sight. We want to see things…figure them out from our logical perspective when God says you can’t please Him without faith.
When is it that we take a risk?
Write this down.
Your willingness to risk is based on potential return.
Are you going to take a risk – well it all depends on what is the possible return. For example: If your house or apartment catches on fire and you escape, you make it out and you realize you left your goldfish inside. Let’s all take a vote. How many of you would say, “I would run back into the flaming building and risk my life to get my goldfish.”? If you raised your hand you people need counseling…it’s okay…
Now let’s look at another scenario. You’ve successfully escaped your burning house or apartment and you realized that your child is still inside. Now let’s take a vote. How many of you would say, “I would run back into the flaming building and risk my life to get my child.”?
Why? Because the return is worth the risk.
Now I’ll ask you this. Let’s say, I’m going to take you a chance to make a bet. 50/50 bet – you put $100 on the line and there’s a 50/50 chance you can get a $10 return. You win – you get your $100 back plus your $10. You lose – you lose all your money and get nothing back. How many of you would say, “oh that sounds great! I’m in!”? A few of you need to go to gamblers anonymous – that’s a bad bet.
Now let’s say this. Same odds – 50/50 chance but this time I tell you to put up your $100 and if you win – you get a million dollars – if you lose you get nothing. How many of you would say, “I’m taking that bet. I’m taking that chance. Forget that gambling is wrong – I don’t care – it’s a million dollars!” Right? The return is worth the risk.
People may ask, Darren why are so passionate about this God thing, this Jesus thing – the church? My answer is this, I simply can’t find anything else where the return is greater! You show me something that is more eternally valuable and I will leave what I am doing at this moment and I will pursue it with every bit of passion in me.
Think about this. Depending on who you read – the most conservative Bible scholars and historians will tell you this, and they debate it, they tell you this: Based on years and years of population, people who have lived from the beginning of the world until now – somewhere between 1/3 and ½ of the people who have ever lived are alive at this moment. Think about that. Remember this is debatable – some people say it’s 1/10th. Let’s say it is 1/10th – 1/10th of the people who have ever lived are alive at this moment. Some people say it is as many as ½. We have the technology to take the gospel all over the world and we want to sit here in our little seats and play it safe?
There’s no greater return! Why is it that people in church today don’t want to risk? We want to bury our talent and play it safe. What do people do? They don’t tithe 10% of their income because its too big of a risk – I want to hold on to it rather than trust God with it! We’ve forgotten the potential return which Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35) and so you rob yourself of a blessing. The potential return that when you obey God with your tithe, He blesses you in ways that you cannot contain – but still there are many who want to play it safe!
Serving. We know we should probably serve as part of the body of Christ but some people don’t serve because it might not be good enough or it might take too much time but they’ve forgotten the return. The return that you can be truly great! Jesus said,
25 Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. 26 But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. 27 For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.
Luke 22:25-27 (NIV)
In the kingdom, greatness is not a measure of fame or fortune or title – but is a measure of one’s willingness to simply serve. Jesus said, “I don’t come to be served, but to serve.”
Witness and sharing our faith: Every single one of you have someone that you love who doesn’t know Christ. Every single one of you – unless you surround yourself with this Christian cliché. Every single one of you knows someone who doesn’t know Christ and yet many of us don’t share our faith because we’re afraid of what they are going to think of us. We’ve forgotten the potential return…
In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Luke 15:10 (NIV)
What opportunities has God given you to be a part of bringing this heavenly party about by talking to someone about Jesus that you’ve passed up because you’d rather play it safe?
Risk. Some will say, “Yeah that’s okay to talk about when everything goes well but what’s going to happen when something fails?” Here’s the thing – there are going to be failures! Nothing will get built, and nothing will happen unless there is failure. It works like this, Risk – failure – learning – adjusting. You can’t be a part of something great without taking faith risks!
As I prepared this message there’s something I realized that I’ve got to confess to you folks. I’ve been pastoring this church thinking about what we can do. That’s wrong. I need to pastor this church by thinking about what God can do. I got sidetracked for a while…I forgot the potential return! No more! Friends – as a church, we need to stop thinking of what we’re capable of and start focusing on what God is capable of! Friends, it’s time to start taking faith risks like you would not believe. The recent Zimbabwe 2007 project that we were a part of is a taste of what can happen when you focus on what God is capable of…
There’s an unseen side – there’s pain, there’s risk and finally, there’s…
Don’t miss this. There’s loss. Jesus said,
For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.
Matthew 16:25 (NIV)
There’s so many people who go around saying, “I want to find my life…maybe if I get a new car, a new job, a new house, maybe it’s some more money, maybe it’s a different relationship…I just want to find my life.” If you want to find it – lose it!
Lose your life in Christ…so you can find His life in you. “I’m on the search for something” …in your search, lose your life!
Loss, is the unseen side of a great work of God. Here’s a really good definition of sacrifice I came across in my studies that I believe is the best way to look at it.
Sacrifice: Giving up something that you love for something that you love even more. (Craig Groeschel, Lifechurch.tv)
You can always tell how much you love something by what you will sacrifice for it. Did you hear me? Parents should understand this definition well. When Kerryanne and I had kids we gave up some alone time, we’ve lost some sanity, and we’ve even missed out some neat things that we could have done as a couple if we didn’t have children. But here’s the thing – we love our kids more and so the sacrifice is worth it. It’s painful, it hurts at times but all it takes is one hug and kiss from that Zachary, or Karissa, or Jenna or Liam saying – “Daddy I wove you” and it’s all good.
Every decision we make as leadership in the church going forward in what we believe God is asking us to step out in faith in will involve some sort of loss for a gain. It won’t be easy and will probably be painful – but we always need to remember that He is in charge and there may be a loss but in the end there will be gain.
If it means giving up some of my personal preferences for what we do in church so that the lost come to Christ then I’m willing to give that up so that His kingdom grows. Sacrifice is giving up something that you love for something that you love even more.
Luke, chapter five has a powerful story that teaches us much about this. Let’s get the context here: There’s some businessmen, that’s who they are, they own a fishing business and this business has likely been in their family for generations. One day, Jesus shows up, does some miracles and says to these businessmen, “Would you like to change the world? Here’s what you have to do…you have to lose your life to do it. I invite you to drop everything follow me and you will no longer be in the business of catching fish but I will make you fishers of men.” Here’s what they did,
So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
Luke 5:11 (NIV)
Two words that grab me. They left their family business, they left financial security, they left everything they loved for something they loved even more – reaching people.
That’s what the Cooledge’s did… (share a bit about their decision to leave everything and move to Zimbabwe)
How many of you know the song “Hokey Pokey”? “Put your right arm in, put your right arm out and shake it all about. You do the hokey pokey and turn all around. That’s what it’s all about!”…
Let me say as respectfully as I can that many of you are “Hokey Pokey” Christ-followers! You’ll put your right arm in until there’s a little bit of pain and then you’ll pull your right arm out. You’ll put your right arm in until there’s risk involved and then you pull it back out and not have anything to do with that. You’ll put your right arm in until it costs you something and there’s loss and you’ll back off.
Remember the last line – “put your whole body in”…that’s the only way to follow Christ! Not a partially devoted follower of Christ – but a fully devoted follower of Christ. Where it’s no longer about me and it’s all about Him!
If there is pain I count it an honor to suffer for the Lord who died for me.
If there is risk I’ll take it willingly and believe by faith that God will empower it.
And if there is loss…who cares – because the eternal gain is worth it.
There is an unseen side to a dangerous church. He who eyes to see – let him see. A Christ follower is willing to pay the cost because the return is worth it. Our mission is clear…
To let the light of God shine so powerfully in our lives that people can’t help but join us in becoming fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.