Simple Reminder

Up late one night and asked God to show me our church and what He would want for me to say.  In my mind’s eye, the Lord impressed upon me a vision of how He wants to see our church and quite frankly, how he sees us right now. 

The difference in the vision has to do with the quality and the level of our relationships.

 If someone were to ask me what my vision for Branches would be, it would be this vision “to see a community of believers in genuine relationships with one another.”  It is great that we believe in God and desire to draw close to Him but it is just as important to relate and interact with one another let alone love one another

1 John 4:7 – “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love… No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his loves  is made complete in us… For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.

This might be a redundant message but Churches are not about the building, the theology, the type of music nor programs and activities but it is about the people…. It is about the RELATIONSHIPS.  It is why at the end of last year, at our leader’s retreat, we shared with one another and felt that we needed to build and to deepen our relationship with one another. 

May I remind us all that our goal this year is to focus on “BUILDING A RELATIONAL COMMUNITY IN CHRIST.

Throughout the Bible, God has always expressed concern for the community that is his whether it be the Israelites, “You will be my people, and I will be their God,” or the Early Church as our bodies is His temple.  2 Cor. 6:16 – “And God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”  Lev. 26:12, Jer. 32:38: Ezek. 37:27

Relationship is the foundation of who God is… the make up of the Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is based on relationship, “perichoresis,” a dance of one.  All creation and live is based on relationships… i.e. DNA, the atom (proton, neutrons, and electrons)

Relationships are a key principle expounded in Scripture and exemplified in the life and ministry of JesusJesus did not do or say anything that He didn’t see the Father doing.  John 8:28

Jesus related to the twelve, the three, the seventy-two, and the multitudes.

As I reflect upon the vision, I see that we are a people still in progress, we are not there yet.  It is not a criticism as it is a reminder to me that this is still a work in progress and for us not to lose focus of what God wants to establish in and through this churchAs with any goal or vision, you work towards it.  It takes time and the commitment of everyone to see it

What does a relational community look at? 

Acts 2:42-47 –

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.  All the believers were together and had everything in common.  Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.  Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.  They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of ALL the people.  And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

We devote ourselves to the Word of God, the Bible, but

  • Are we devoted to the “fellowship,” to socializing and interacting with one another, to praying and ministry with each other.
  • When we send out a prayer request… do we actually take it to heart to pray?
  • When we have a fellowship gathering, is it with glad and sincere hearts? Or Is it with selfish, indifferent hearts?  
  • When we gather, do we interact or socialize with all the people? Or some of the people?  Are we enjoying the favor of ALL the people.
  • Do we care to find out what each other’s needs and concerns and try to meet in some way either practically or to prayer?

I still see that we are not comfortable (even having known each other for a while now), still stuck in our comfort zones, still lacking in depth and quality.  I’m not saying that every relationship has to be buddy, buddy or that we have the same level of interaction with everyone, however, I believe there needs to be that ability to relate.

Some of you have come to Branches for quite a while now, yet if I were to ask how well you know the people here, it would probably be difficult. 

How many of us try to greet everyone in the church each Sunday?  Is it the usher’s responsibility or the pastor to greet everyone, or is it our responsibility? 

Do you CARE?  Here is a simple reminder of what it means to care: 

C – Concern, compassion… being able to place yourself in other’s shoes, feeling from other’s perspective… Jesus’ outlook upon the crowd who had gathered… Matthew 14:14, Mark 6:34 – 5000; Matthew 13:32 – 4000.

A – Accepting… not just words but actions.  Jesus interact and spent time with tax collector, prostitutes, etc., the outcast of society  Luke 5:27-31; Luke 7:36-50; Read Luke 14:1-14 

R – Real… Keeping it real, genuine, authentic…. dealing with the person not just on superficial or outward but what makes the person tick, in touch with what is going on in the inside.  I.e. the Samaritan woman at the well, John 4:1-26.  Jesus was concern with what was going on inside her.  Jesus was concerned of her spiritual emptiness and need.

E – Effort – inconvenient, stretch of our own comfort zone… makes you think beyond ourselves… Feeding of the 5000 (Jesus and his disciples were tired, itw as getting late, the disciples didn’t want to bother, yet… willingness to spend time, resources.  Mark 6:30-44

It is out of our relationship with God, we have genuine care because God shows us who, what, and how.

We cannot do it in our strength.  We cannot sustain it in our own strength.

Realistically, our human nature and tendency is to be Selfish, Indifferent, and Negligent.

Being a Christian is primarily being other-centered because to love God we must also be able to love others.  When we make a commitment to Jesus, we make a commitment to being part of his people, his church, his body…  It is part of the entire package… 

Some like to keep our religion personal and private; something you hold on your own and involves only you.  But the reality is the Bible talks about relationship with God as having to involve the people we live with and interact with here on earth

Throughout the OT the Laws taught the people how to live in right relationships to one another and to God… fairness, compassion towards the aliens, widows, orphans, those in distress.

In our Growing Kids program for parenting, we focus on training the moral character of the child.  God sets a standard and we need to bring our children up to that standard…. It has nothing to do with personality (shy, introvert, extrovert, etc.) but all about how we relate to one another.

This afternoon, Rex and Emily have opened their home for us for fellowship and BBQ.  It is an opportunity to intentionally be relational….

We have Vinepower coming up… 

The vision is a simple reminder to encourage our body to continue growing and deepening our relationship with one another and that relationships should not be taken for granted… We ALL need to put CARE into it; concern, accepting, real, and effort into it… Relationships that are right before the eyes of the Lord… intergenerational, healthy relationships with the opposite gender, strong marriages and family, relationships in which we can speak into each other’s lives and build one another up.  All this happens in an atmosphere of care and love for one another.

Pastor Daniel