Your Greatest Investment: Investing in the CHURCH - the Movement of God!
What if you could invest your assets into the same thing Jesus invested in!
I was 17, and it was the summer after my graduation from high school. I had accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior at a camp the summer before, and had been baptized at my local church. During that summer after graduation we had a youth group with high school and college age kids from Pennellwood, Garden Park and Southlawn, and we met in the old Southlawn parsonage, which was torn down about 18 years ago to enlarge the parking lot just east of the church. We met on Thursday nights, and our group was called “Action Group.” I painted a big sign that was placed in the front yard - using psychodelic lettering that was popular in the early 70’s. There was a group of about 7 of us kids who were chosen to go on a mission trip to L’anse Michigan, in the Upper Penninsula, near Marquette.
Our mission was to put on a Vacation Bible School for the kids in town. Besides the fourteen hour bus trip there, and another 14 hours coming home, we had plenty of opportunities to talk with one another throughout the week. A few of us were going to be leaving in a couple weeks to attend the Bible College. One of guys who wasn’t going to the Bible College told me that he didn’t believe it was necessary to attend church - that he could be close to God and live out his faith with no involvement or participation in a local church. I remember trying to reason with him, but I certainly never changed his mind. And I know he has lived his life with that conviction -- He can be close to God and yet have nothing to do with the church.
I want to address this matter of the Church today, and try to put it in a proper focus. I don’t know what my friend’s view of the church was, or what all his hangups were. I just know he was insistent in his view point. I wish I knew then what I have come to realize, and what I want to share with you today. We spent the first several weeks of the year considering how we can be certain we are laying up treasure in heaven, and today I want the opportunity to convince you, the GREATEST INVESTMENT into eternity that you can make - aside from accepting Christ as your Savior -- the GREATEST INVESTMENT is investing into the local CHURCH.
I know that sounds SELF-SERVING, for the Pastor to say, but look at it this way: I am practicing what I am preaching. Every major dicision and movement in my life has all been made in this consideration: how can I invest MORE into the Church? Sure -- if you buy into what I am selling today, it will benefit me as the Pastor. But primarily I am telling you this for your own good.
There are several points I can made to convince you that the CHURCH is a worthy investment. I wish I had these notes when I talked to my friend so many years ago. Maybe it would have changed his perspective. It surely would have given him something to think seriously about.
1. The “Church” is a MAJOR TOPIC in the New Testament
The word “Church” first appears in the book of Matthew, so all 70 occurances of the word are found in the New Testament. The word CHURCH is found in the gospel of Matthew, many times in the Book of Acts when the church was born, in Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galations, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 3 John, and Revelation. This fact alone indicates to us that the Church is an important subject.
2. The Church is the MOVEMENT OF GOD in this age! Matthew 16:15-18 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.18And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
The first mention of the “Church” is found in Matthew 16:15-18. Now I want to share with you a thought that I would guess none of you has ever considered: The disciples had never heard of this thing, the “Church.” When Jesus said He was going to build this thing that even the gates of death could not overcome or destroy, they must have wondered what He was talking about.
They had believed He was the Messiah who would restore the good fortune of Israel over her oppressors, primarily the Roman Empire at the time Christ appeared. They thought in terms of the Kingdom of God, and even after His resurrection their main question (Acts 1) was are you going to “restore the Kingdom to Israel at this time.” But Jesus was introducing an entirely new part of the God’s plan unfolding. The movement of God on earth would not be focused on Israel during this period - in fact the nation would be overthrown and the people dispersed within a few years. The Roman Emperor Tiberious destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
We know it’s a major part of God’s plan because it has endured two thousand years! The Church is the MOVEMENT OF GOD on earth until the end of this age! Let’s establish this point then: An INVESTMENT in the CHURCH today, will be REWARDED in the COMING KINGDOM of God!
3. Jesus INVESTED His Life in the Church - and He is Working in the Church today! Ephesians 5:25-32 "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church."
Look at the importance of the Church in this passage:
Christ LOVED the Church - v. 25
Christ GAVE Himself up for the Church - v. 25
Christ PURPOSE for the Church - to Present Her to Himself as a “RADIANT” Church! - v.27 This is referring to His return at the end of this “Age”
Christ FEEDS and CARES for the Church - v. 29
Christ is ONE with the Church - v. 32
After reading these words - especially v. 30 “for we are members of [Christ’s] body” -- how could a Christian say “I don’t need the Church!” “How could a Christian say “I have no use for the Church.” How could a Christian say, “I don’t believe in the Church.” Our Savior gave His Life for her - and He works through the church today!
4. Jesus is the HEAD of the Church - Ephesians 5:23
5.The Holy Spirit is given to the Church to Empower - Acts 1:4,8; 2:1-4, 32-33, 41-47
This is the birth of the “Church” - and throughout the Book of Acts, which is the record of that Jesus did AFTER HE ASCENDED TO HEAVEN THROUGH THE 12 MEN HE PERSONALLY CHOSE. We need to recognize the Holy Spirit is given to us to empower us to advance the Church today. 17 times the “Church” is mentioned in Acts. The Book of Acts could correctly be called “the Birth and Beginnings of the Church!”
6. Jesus gave the church it’s MARCHING ORDERS - Matthew 28:16-20 "Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
The first thing I want you to notice is the last words of this passage - actually the very last words of the entire Gospel of Matthew: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” As we have already pointed out, the Church is the work of God, the movement of God, for THIS AGE. Jesus said the church will remain until the VERY END of this age.
APPLICATION: Your GREATEST INVESTMENT is to INVEST in what JESUS INVESTED His Life in: the Church! Ephesians 4:11-13
"It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ."
Christ has given the church everything it needs to grow and become all it was intended to be - to accomplish the purposes which God has for it. This passage describes how God has given various “gifts” of LEADERSHIP to the church, and this is where YOUR INVESTMENT really comes in to play. Too many people miss out on making a GREAT INVESTMENT by looking at the church through the perspective of a consumer rather than looking at it as the movement of God on earth today, and seeing themselves as a member of the Body of Christ. They look at the church and ask, “What can I GET OUT OF IT?” -- as if the church exists to please them. They completely miss seeing how they can make an investment in the church. Like any investment - you HAVE TO make INVESTMENTS NOW to see a REWARD in the FUTURE! So let’s consider what I think may be the MOST IMPORTANT WAY to make a GREAT INVESTMENT:
Word Association Game: Parent / Child; Husband / Wife; Teacher / Student; Leaders / Followers
Think about it - If Christ gave LEADERS, it must be that He intended others in the Body to be FOLLOWERS in an important sense. The Apostle Paul appointed OVERSEERS - the best description for leaders in the church - in every church he established, and he established churches throughout Asia Minor: in Rome, in Corinth, throughout Galatia, in Ephesus, in Colossae, in Thessolonica, and throughout those provinces. The Bible notes that he appointed LEADERS in every church. If a person wasn’t appointed a leader, what was his or her role IN RELATION TO THE LEADERS? To follow! Simply following your spiritual leaders is an investment in the Kingdom!
This past year has been so rewarding in this regard!!! There has just been one example after another of the Holy Spirit at work within this Body, and it has moved Southlawn forward. If we could capture the magic and put it in a bottle, there is no telling what we could accomplish for the Lord. What is this ‘Magic Elixor”?
Simply, it is trusting the Leadership. When we have asked, without fail someone has stepped up. When we have invited, people came. When we made a proposal members considered and approved it. And, as a Pastor that is SOOO rewarding! As a church, it has blessed ALL of us immensely. I want you to know, when we look at any of these events individually, they are ALL INVESTMENTS in the Church, and in the KINGDOM of God.
What kind of investments are we talking about. In every single case that I asked someone to lead or to serve, they have stepped up! In 2014 we turned a corner as a church in this regard:
The first person I asked was Jim - after January Board meeting - to CONSIDER becoming an Elder
The next person was Jennifer - to help with the Children’s Ministry. She said she would love to.
The next person was Ruth - not even a member of our church - just to help from time to time. She’s been here every week!
The next person was Clayton - to teach the Youth Class. He said he would be happy to teach.
The next person was Trevor - to assist Clayton with the Youth Class. He said, "Sure!"
The next person was Jim - to decide if he would serve as Elder - he accepted it as the call of God.
All of these people have served for the past year, fulfilling various ministries, and the spirit of unity has greatly increased. It seems like everything we attempt to do is blessed, from great turn out for our Fall Color Tour and Game Nights to ministries being filled by several people where the load used to be carried by one or two, who were often over-burdened.
Bottom line: Saying "Yes!" to an invitation to SERVE the CHURCH is an INVESTMENT in the MOVEMENT of God. As each member of the Body does his or her part, the church moves forward in effectiveness. And the church comes full circle: Jesus continues His Work through us, and thus we ARE investing in EXACTLY what He is investing in! And that will bring certain reward.
1 Peter 1:3-9
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls."
It would be a beneficial exercise to determine how you could make a greater investment in the church, knowing that the church is what Jesus invested everything into. The church is the work of God on earth today.