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A Church that Loves its Community

July 28, 2011

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A Church that Loves its Community – Matthew 5:13-16, Philippians 2:15-16

– Well, have you enjoyed the conference so far?…
– our overall theme this year is…More than Counseling: a Vision for the Entire Church.
– And we have been helped greatly by what Dr. Mohler and Nicolas Ellen have presented to us…

– now in this hour, my assignment is to try to make all of this as practical and applicable as possible…We’re talking about A Church that Loves it’s Community…
– or maybe another way of saying this is – what does biblical counseling look like when it hits the streets?…. – and we need to do this for at least two reasons….

[Introduction]

1. Two reasons this topic is important

a. We want to be sure that we’re emphasizing that biblical counseling is certainly not locked into a one hour a week, one time a week, only done formally in an office-type approach.
– that’s one of the beauties of doing this in a local church…because it is the perfect setting for these twin doctrines of the sufficiency of Scripture and Biblical progressive sanctification and everything else that goes with it…to permeate and impact everything that is done ministry wide…
– we say it this way around here – there’s huge difference between a church having a counseling ministry and being a counseling ministry…
– so what does biblical counseling look like when it starts seeping out of the doors of the counseling room and down the hallway into all the other discipleship and outreach means and methods of the church?…[could repeat the point]…

2. We want to explore ways you and your church can love your community more creatively and effectively to generate more counseling opportunities (redemptive conversations) in the days ahead.
¬
– now as I said, my prayer is that this material will be as practical and applicable as possible…
– I’m hoping there’s going to be light bulbs going off all over the gym and the auditorium with men and women saying things like…
– we could do that…we could try that…let’s investigate that…there’s a possible opportunity there…
– if you leave with additional ideas about how biblical counseling principles can be used to help you impact your community for Christ, then this was time well spent…
– this is almost like a Ministerial…Entrepreneurial…Job Fair…A Church that Loves its Community

– maybe we ought to start with this question…how well do you think we’re doing…at the issue of penetrating our communities with redemptive relationships?…
– does the average church know its neighbors?…do the neighbors know them?…
– has the average church positioned itself as a haven of grace…as a place that really loves its community?…

1) Think about that from the neighbor’s perspective…if an unsaved person’s marriage was breaking up…would it even dawn on that couple that they might be able to go down to the church-house and receive compassionate and competent counseling?…
2) When the Juvenile Judge has a teenager who just needs some loving attention and focused mentoring, would the Judge ever think of your church as a community asset with people who are trained and ready to help that at-risk family?…
3) When the Mayor is dealing with shrinking budgets and rising unemployment – would he have any reason to contact your church and ask you to start a job loss support group…

– see, are the relationships in place between the church and its community…and are the resources available to serve, and love, and help people in need?…
– and I’m not asking you that in some sort of fuzzy, ethereal way…
– I’m asking specifically about your church, in your town…right now…

– Here’s another way of asking that…perhaps a bit blunt but sometimes some of us need it that way…
– if God removed your church from the face of His earth…
– would your neighbors notice…and would your neighbors care?…

– and perhaps an even more fundamental question is – is there evidence that God’s people care about the answers to those questions?…
– do we really want to penetrate our communities with potentially redemptive relationships?…
– do we, at the core, really love the people in our town?…
– sometimes it’s easier to say that…than to live it…

– Consider this…[Tim Hawkins Video]

– I wonder how close that is to the way things are in many of our churches…we really don’t want those kinds of people around here…
– obviously, for anyone here this afternoon with that kind of heart, what we’re talking about in this session isn’t going to make any sense at all…
– conversely if you would say — we want to impact our community, but we are not as effective at it as we would like…then let’s talk about that…

– I’d like to suggest to you that…
2. Effective Biblical Ministry is at least a three-fold process…
a. Understanding the text
– I’m assuming that we’re all committed to handling God’s Word well…
– this presentation is not “creative methodology” as a replacement of sound biblical ministry…
– there is not an ounce of the social gospel as it is historically defined coursing through my veins…
– Psalm 19:7 – The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
– 2 Timothy 2:15 – Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

– but I think we would also say – that is not the end of the process…it’s the beginning…
– yes, you have to exegete the text…in whatever ministry setting we’re talking about…
– but you have to be equally skilled at…
b. Understanding the application.
– God’s Word was never given in a vacuum.
– one of the reasons our Lord was such an effective Teacher was that He taught truth in a way that challenged men and women to change…from the depths of their heart to the tips of their fingers…
– Matthew 5:21-22 – “You have heard…But I say to you…”
– the tendency of human beings is to be satisfied with being a hearer of the Word, and perhaps a superficial or even legalistic applier of the Word…without truly being a doer…
– so we’re not just interested in exegeting the meaning of the text…we’re equally interested in helping our hearers understand all the practical ways that passage applies to their hearts, and their lives…

– now if we were honest, many of us—at least those of us who were trained in the original languages, and hermeneutics, and exegesis, and theology, and church history, blah, blah, blah…
– that we are often better at #1 than we are at #2…
– we’re often better at nailing the meaning of the text than we are at identifying helpful and practical applications…
– so what ends up happening…we’re bypassing our hearers…
– we’re answering questions they don’t have…and we’re not answering questions they do…
– and if someone from our community happens to rub shoulders with who we are or what we’re saying…it’s like a foreign language…we miss each other…
– so then there’s this mindset built up over time…that when I have real problems [inside and certainly outside the church] that I have to go to some place other than the Bible, or other than the church-house to find directions, and answers, and help for the practical issues I’m facing every day…

– and to whatever degree that’s true…it’s because this third component is so often missing from evangelical ministry…
C. Understanding our contemporary audience.
– see friends, here’s my question…do we really know our neighbors?…
– are our churches open haven havens of grace…or closed fortresses of indifference?…
– do we know our neighbors well enough to understand the questions they have…
– and are we building the kind of compassionate relationships where those around us might know us enough, and trust us enough to ask for help?…

– Here’s a question – does Chick-filet get that better than we do?…
– [Chick-Filet video….]

I repeat my question – does Chic-filet get it better than we do?…

– here’s what we’re going to do with the time we have left…I’d like us to think about 2 passages of Scripture…you can turn there in your Bible if you want…we’ll also have them on the screen and I imagine many people here know them well already…
– but I want to ask us to think about them, and then I’m going to have a bunch of other leaders from this community talk to you about them (that comment will make more sense in a minute)…
– but here’s what we’re looking for….
– Three principles to help you and your church love your community.
– and as I said at the beginning, I hope when we’re done – you’ve been stimulated to think more creatively about what this might look like, or look like to an even greater than it does now, in your ministry setting….

– here’s the two passages…Matthew 5:13-16 and Philippians 2:15-16…

Matthew 5:13-16 – You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.  You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

Philippians 2:15-16 – prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.

– now, again—with the time we have remaining… Three principles to help you and your church love your community

– it starts right here…
I. Find Ways to Let Your Light Shine before Men.

– clearly that is the emphasis of both of these passages…
– Matthew 5:16 – Let your light shine before men…
– Philippians 2:15-…among whom you appear as lights in the world…

– that’s a great metaphor…but how does it practically work…
– the question is – how do we develop the kinds of relationships in our communities where there’s a desire and a willingness to discuss the claims of Christ and the truths of God’s Word?…
– here’s what I’d like to start doing…I want to introduce you to some leaders from this community…
– the mayor, the prosecuting attorney, a principal at a local public school…
– and let’s let them help us think about how verses like this come alive…

– Tony Roswarski Video #1

– Isn’t it interesting that the Mayor would have to tell the church “to take their faith outside the walls of the church”…
– just you hear his last sentence…the way that we move forward is through that type of relationship and so we’re excited to be able to partner with our faith-based communities…

– isn’t that the kind of relationship you want to have with your Mayor?…
– where he sees you as a community partner?…

– in many cases the church has positioned itself as an angry and cynical political action committee and the only time the Mayor hears from the church is when they’re mad about something…
– and the politicians in turn just blow off whatever the church has to say because there’s no platform of credibility…

– we’ve made it clear to our Mayor that if there is any need in town, please contact us and we’ll try to meet it…
– [develop – tearing some buildings down for the city – Mayor, we’re Baptists, if we’re good at anything, it’s tearing stuff down…]

– now, you might say – no one is going to be saved by that…that’s true…
– but here’s a very important point I want to try to make to all of us…
– effectively shining your light is a process…we’ll say more about that in a minute…

– and if this has not already occurred, what would happen if every church here approached the Mayors of all their respective towns and essentially said – please tell us ways we can serve you….

– now please listen to the Juvenile Judge of Tippecanoe County….
– Judge Rush Video #1

– here’s a judge talking about the church’s collective wisdom…
– she said – even if a church does a small part, do a small part well…

– that sounds a whole lot like, let your light shine…
– and there is a Judge Rush in every community, in the sense that there is someone on the front lines, dealing with the broken families in our towns…
– and with resources drying up in every community here…there is a huge opportunity to let our lights shine…

– [letting teens in trouble work off their community service hours here…]
– [Judge Rush asking us to deliver Faith Community Institute catalogs so that she can have them available in her court]
– [publically stating that she is happy to allow Pastoral Counseling to be accepted as part of the court-ordered treatment plan for at-risk families—that is a huge connection point]

– the obvious question – does the judge of the juvenile judge in your town know that you are prepared and ready to help shoulder the load (and of course, are you?…)

– Tracy Brown video #3

– are you hearing this common theme?…it’s important for a church to understand the community…the county Sherriff said that…
– you are going to have to get out of the pews…
– If you don’t have a vast knowledge of the community – its wants, its needs, its hurt – it very difficult to be effective…

– these law enforcement officers are right in the middle of all sorts of domestic problems…and would do anything to have more resources to offer people in need…
– that’s sound like a really good place…the light…

– now, let’s pause for a minute…[and I’m not going to give an invitation right now…but maybe we should…if the shoe fits…]
– but here’s the question – the two texts we’re talking about are clear – Find ways to let your light shine before men…
– here’s the Mayor asking us to do that…
– here’s the Judge…here’s the Sherriff…asking us to do the exact same things Jesus commanded us to do…
– the question before the house is – is the church going to do what Jesus is commanding and the community is requesting?…

– now, let’s push it further…
II. Often People Do Not Care How Much We Know Until They Know How Much We Care.

– see, what did Jesus mean when He said… Matthew 5:16 – Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works.

– is that something that Wal-Mart came up with, or is it an essential part of the Christian faith?…
– [is it possible that we’ve been so fixated on Ephesians 2:8-9—that salvation is not by works…that we’ve left out verse 10 – that saved people do good works…for people around them in need…]

– and you might say – but my community is wicked…any more wicked than the isle of Crete…[cf. Paul – One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons…their testimony is true]…
– so then what?… Titus 2:7 – In all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds…
– Titus 3:14 – Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful.

– the point here is – we can biblical counseling principles coming out our ears…and have our offices all set up…blah, blah, blah – but if we are not thinking creatively about how to first show love to the people around us…we may be missing tremendous points of connection…

– Ben Bargfeldt video

– I get tired of people tried to get Christ through me without knowing me…
– it’s a lot easier when you know them to really believe what they are saying because you know that they are believing in it, and you know their life and that they’re not just cheating on it…

– how many churches represented in this room have a population of kids just like this one all around you?…and you don’t have to build a professional grade skate park…but what are you doing to try to reach them…

– [Faith's skate park ministry…]

– Arbuckles video #1

– these folks actually raise an interesting point – are our communities our first mission field?…
– I’m for supporting missionaries anywhere and everywhere we can…
– but for some Americans it’s a whole lot easier to give some money and say we’re missions minded than rolling up our sleeves and finding ways to love our neighbors…

– Here’s one from the head of Child Protective Services…
– Smith Grossman video…

– so frequently churches set themselves up in an adversarial relationship with the government…
– here’s people who are on the front lines and who find that kind of work just exhausting…is there a ministry opportunity to them?

– Jancose Video #2
– there’s another example of what we’re talking about…[Titus 3:14 – Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful]…
– is there a more pressing need in our culture right now than the economy, and unemployment…
– why wouldn’t every church in our country offer a job loss support group?…
– and you heard Rocio say it – “but I just started out to find out that the void I had, it was spiritual…”

– here’s something else the Sherriff said…
– Tracy Brown #2 video…
– Isn’t that what you want the head of law enforcement in your town to be saying?…
– “there are times when you may need something and your first thought is, “I can go to that congregation because they may be able to fill that need…”

– [could also talk about how this helps the witness of the police officers in your church as they witness to their co-workers – “that church gets it” – they love us…
– now, where does all of this lead?…
III. The Goal is the Glory of God.

– Matthew 5:16 – Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

– a lot of our strategy around here could be summed up with this…we want our neighbors to constantly have reason to ask…why do you do that for us?…because we love you

– hopefully I’ve got your wheels turning – not about us—that’s certainly not the focus…but about this text..and about your community…and what loving your community better might look like, what some of the untapped potential ministry areas might be, and how moving into those areas could eventually provide great opportunities for counseling….

– now let’s broaden that out—what other areas are there?…

– Mike Gibson video…
– providing a base of volunteers to demonstrate to the community that God loves them…

– Judge Rush video #2
– is God scared of a juvenile delinquent?…
– don’t we glorify Him when we aren’t scared either?…

– Karen Combs video
– [strategy with new school being built, and the pending meeting with our Scott, Dustin, and the public school superintendent]…

– here’s an example of someone doing this in another city…
– Paul Anderson video…

– exactly…but those opportunities are everywhere…
– Mike Brezinski video

– that’s someone from a local Big Ten University…
– here’s our prosecuting attorney…

– Pat Harrington video…
– do you have a prosecuting attorney in your town?…what would he say about the church?
– Here’s a county commissioner, talking about one of the most stressful times in the last 20 years in the community…a very divisive ordinance was being proposed…and we went in and essentially did biblical counseling at a community level…

– there’s one more thing I’d like you to hear from our Sherriff…

– Tracy Brown video #3

– he poses an interesting question, doesn’t he?…
– are we willing to stand at the front door of the jail and reach out to people who are being released?…[sit next to the hypocrites and backbiters….]

– listen to this one from a women who leads one of the largest social service agencies in our community…
– Biggs Read video

– now, we could go on and on, couldn’t we?…
– my prayer is that the Lord has used this in the hearts of many people here to motivate you to look for additional ways to love your community, to build relationships and connections that often lead to counseling opportunities…

– now, what’s really neat is when that comes around full circle to people who have been reached by this philosophy in turn wanting to be trained so they can help someone else…
– here’s 2 final stories of how that happened…

– Arbuckle video #2

– it offers an opportunity to have the courage, and gives me the tools to work with…to help people, to not be afraid to ask them what’s really wrong or if there is something I can help them with…

– Jancose video #1

– I want to provide the same opportunities to other people…
– and guess who is in our current biblical counselor training class on Mondays?…Rocio Jancose…

She became connected with the job loss support group, came to know Christ, continued to grow, and now wants to receive training to give back to others.

This is more than counseling…it's a vision for the entire church. Loving our neighbors in such a way that we earn the right to have redemptive conversations with them. Do you agree with me that God loves that skateboarder in your community? That God loves the person coming out of prison, or the person who's been abused? That He loves that CPS worker, or that person in public education?

The question is: Are we glorifying God by giving others the right opinion about Him by choosing to actively, aggressively, and creatively love those that the Lord has placed around us?