Not to sound rude, but….WHY ARE YOU HERE?? :)
Why are you here?
Now, I don’t mean, “Why are you at Stonebrook.” I mean, “Why are you alive and on this planet?” What is your purpose, your reason for being?
We often hear from the business world or the self-help book world…or even the Christian world… “You need to find your purpose. You need to write your personal mission statement.” I agree wholeheartedly. Otherwise we are aimless. Wandering. Simply doing whatever our internal impulses tell us to do. But we can’t write up a personal mission statement without asking, “What is God’s Mission for me?”
“Since we didn’t create ourselves, we can’t define our own purpose, either. God created you and defined your purpose. Your role is to know what that purpose is, embrace it, and state it in a way that captures your own individuality and uniqueness…There are a thousand different ways we can say it… but the essence is the same for everyone.” (Matt Perman, What’s Best Next, p. 151)
To determine your purpose and mission, don’t start with yourself. Start with God. He made you, so what does he say is his purpose in creating you. So we look to God’s Revelation to Mankind. The Bible.
God has revealed to us why we are here. And what his plan is for us.
As a side comment, about the Bible, I believe 2 things.
In the Bible, God reveals a purpose for us as Individuals and a purpose for us Collectively - The Church. And these two purposes are intertwined. Really, they are the same.
This is the last week of a 3-week series on Stonebrook’s Mission and Vision. What is the purpose of our church? And how will we live this out? This directly relates to our purpose as individuals.
The past two weeks Paul and Matt started on the Big Picture view. The 10,000 foot view, then the 1000-foot view. Today I would say we’re going to be on the Ground. What we are to be about and what we are doing now. Today. This semester. This year.
The Apostle Paul summarizes it well: [Our memory verses]
Philippians 1:20-21 ESV “…it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Our life’s purpose centers around Jesus Christ. Our lives center around Jesus. Period. Nothing else matters without him.
Does this describe our lives?
Can I say, “For to me, to live is Christ?”
If I am alive, my life is to be all about Jesus. Who he is. What he has done. What he wants.
• My thoughts. Are they all about Jesus and for him?
• My time. Is it all for Jesus?
• My job or school. Is it for his purposes?
• My family. Am I leading them to be focused on Jesus?
• My money.
• My words.
Of course, no one except Jesus has ever done this perfectly. But by his grace and his power, is this the trajectory of my life?
He made us and he saved us for his purpose.
Colossians 1:16 ESV “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.” You and I have been created by God the Father through the Son. He made us. And he made us for himself. We are not aimless. We are not without direction.
Here’s one way I would summarize God’s purpose for us:
• His plan is for us to know him. To believe in him. To be made alive spiritually. And know him intimately. Plumbing the depths of God.
• That plan is for us to walk in his footsteps. To love him. To imitate him. To obey him. To serve him. To be on mission for him.
• That plan is for us to do all of this together. In community. In the church of God.
I don’t know about other societies, but at least here in the Midwest, we are a very independent-thinking people. We think about “My goals, my dreams, my schedule, my career.” Not entirely bad. But it tends to elevate individuality and diminish community. God calls us to love him and love people in community. This never changes. Our schedules vary. Circumstances change. Our spiritual gifts are unique. But our purpose never does.
For example, my wife has been sick for more than a year (she’s getting better), and it has definitely changed our schedules. We have had to limit her activity. We’ve been unable, at times, to do all we wanted to do. But it never changed our purpose. The same is true for all of us. There are seasons where our energy or time or relationships or job or school change our schedules, but it never changes our purpose. College students: you will have seasons in the semester. For example, your schedule now is different than during Finals Week. But your purpose in life doesn’t change. Parents, when a new baby is born, certainly your schedule changes for awhile. But your Mission never changes. Those who work, when you retire, your schedule will change, but God’s overall goal for your life doesn’t.
Here’s how we have summarized our Mission:
Stonebrook’s mission statement.
“Our passion is to love God and all people by living, proclaiming, and teaching the gospel of Jesus, God’s Messiah.”
It’s not fancy. Not unique. But it is fundamentally biblical. We are the church. Let’s join together.
Integrating All Facets of Life
We tend to compartmentalize our lives. Personal life. Walk with God (devotional life). Church life. Work or School life. And in some ways there is a distinction between them all. They certainly are different facets of our lives.
Let me describe 3 possible “phases” of our lives, shown on the slides.
1. Life apart from Christ.
God is likely a very small part of our lives. Maybe not at all.
2. Life in Christ. We believe in him. Are born again. Starting to walk with him.
But we haven’t figured out yet how or why every facet of our lives is to be fully integrated into Christ. And how the facets all connect.
There are parts of our so-called “Personal Life” that don’t involve Christ. That’s our time. And the Church and Personal life have a connection, but it’s only some of the time. We know God should be involved in our Work & School, but honestly, it doesn’t seem very spiritual. We have difficulty connecting it to our relationship with Christ.
3. Life in Christ, and one that is fully integrated.
Christ is over everything. Everything is brought under his headship. We understand how Work/School relates to Christ and should be done for Christ and in Christ. We understand God’s plan for the Church. It’s not just one facet to our lives. It is now part of our identity with Christ. It’s our Family. We are a Member of the Body of Christ. We are to consider otherwise strips away part of our new identity in Christ. We understand how our entire life, even our so-called “Personal Life,” belongs to Jesus now. Mowing the lawn. Brushing my teeth. Buying groceries.
I know I’m oversimplifying here. Life is more complicated than this. But I propose this morning that life is not as complicated as we might think. I propose that our lives are far more integrated than we might realize. My point here may seem subtle, but it’s highly important. My point is this. Over these 3 weeks we’ve been talking about Stonebrook’s Vision. It’s tempting for me and maybe for many others of us to compartmentalize that and make it very distinctive from Personal Life. But God calls us to integrate our whole lives with Him and His Family. You are part of God’s Family. You are a member of his Body. Whatever you do affects the whole family. Whatever you do influences the whole Body. Do you see the distinction?
Stonebrook’s Strategy and Tactics
So let’s bring all this down to the Ground Level. What is our strategy and our tactics for living out this God-given purpose? What does Life Living for God’s Purposes look like at Stonebrook?
First, let me give you some of the things we are actually doing now. And WHY we are doing them.
Do you know why you come here?
Teaching and music are only 2 reasons.
Our goal is to together…….
• Break bread
This is not just a meeting of friendly people. This CAN and SHOULD be a deeply spiritual time. A holy time, powerful through the work of the Spirit. Lives should change here…..every week. Paul said the church is the “pillar of the truth.” The Truth of God in Christ is HELD UP by us.
Teaching topics this Fall: Holy Spirit. Heaven. Prayer.
Here are three application points:
1. Come regularly.
We need you. You need us. Do not isolate yourself. Our spiritual well-being hinges on us being together.
2. Come prepared.
Prepare your heart: Humility, Love. Pray before. Pray for pastors. Pray for church in general.
Know WHY you are coming. Coming to serve in these ways: Worship. Singing. Serving. Giving. Praying. Learning.
3. Come to serve.
Consider how you can bring good to others. Be ready to serve and give. Be a giver, not a taker.
Ways to serve: Greeter. Usher. Music. Sunday School. Prayer.
And unofficial ways: Meeting people. Praying with someone. Inviting them for dinner. Listening. Comforting them.
• Life Groups
• Home Groups
• International ministry
Purpose is very similar to Sunday morning, but it’s brought down into more connected relationships. A place to “LIVE LIFE” together.
Ephesians 4:15–16 ESV Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Here are a few application points:
1. Join one.
Brochure in Lobby. If you’re already in one, make every effort to go. Don’t be half-hearted.
2. Give your heart to the people there.
The goal is not just to GO. The goal is to share life in Christ together. You simply are not meant to go it alone in the Christian life. Nor are the others. They cannot do it without you.
Serve. Love. Care. Listen. Correct. Pray.
3. Believe the Lord wants to change lives.
Eternal issues are at stake. We are in a WAR for our souls. Don’t play around with all this.
With both Sunday and Small Groups, many of us have been doing these things for years. And It’s easy to simply do the same old things, and we lose the sense of awe. May the Lord stir our hearts to see that we are living out the very purpose God has Created and Saved us for.
The Lord calls us to export what we’ve been given.
Luke 8:38–39 ESV The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.
Personal and small group efforts.
• Write a testimony tract. College students at the Dells this summer all wrote a short tract giving their personal story of their faith in Christ. Your small group could do this.
• Talking to a co-worker.
Taking him out for lunch to share your spiritual journey with Christ.
• Helping the poor and those suffering.
Dave and I were taking to an Ames City Council member on Wednesday. He is passionate about getting churches more involved in meeting needs in Ames. Foster children. There are needs. Mentors at Boys and Girls Club. Habitat for Humanity. At least one of our small groups is regularly involved with providing for some needs of Kids at one of the Elementary Schools in Ames. Talk about these things in your small group. Spur one another on in this area.
• Rock events
• Wednesday night English Conversation group
• Saturday night international student Bible study
• Car Care event
• Spring Break mission trips (El Salvador, elsewhere in Iowa.)
Join together in these efforts.
• ISU Atheist and Agnostic Society asked if a couple pastors would come to one of their meetings this Fall.
Our specific plan this year to equip the saints for the work of ministry:
New this year: We are gathering all our leader [Rock, International, Community] together on Wednesdays for training, growth, prayer, vision-casting, and mentoring.
• Be more united as a group of leaders.
• Grow in our confidence in and obedience to the foundations of the faith.
• To streamline our efforts in training leaders.
• To better cross generational lines. Older and younger together.
As part of this, we are also stepping up our efforts at Mentoring. Passing on the Faith to the next generation. We met with leaders on Wednesday, so they’re already aware of this. For anyone else, you are welcome to join us on Wednesdays, 7:00-8:30. Have discussions in small groups. From 8:30 to 9:30, leaders will meet for prayer, encouragement, vision, etc. Anyone is welcome to join that time as well.
“Thriving at College” November 8th. Helpful for any college student. Plus parents and their teens who are near college.
“Technology and the Glory of God” December 6th, Tim Challies
So WHY ARE YOU HERE?
In all these things, let us join together in them. Our unity in our faith in Christ is more powerful than we can imagine.
John 17:23 ESV “…I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”
God is in our midst. He lives in the hearts of his children. Let us not underestimate what he wants to do. Let us not allow the glorious become mundane in our hearts. Let’s give our hearts to him and to one another with JOY. With EXPECTANCY. Through our faith in the work of the Gospel, God has drawn us near and set us into HIS Family. The Body of Christ. This Body is to grow up following the Head, Jesus, and into his likeness.
There is no more glorious purpose in the world.