Here is the video of last Sunday morning’s message. Following that is a copy of the notes I read from, including the video clip we showed during the message. This is an important message for our Living Faith Family to hear.
Am I ready to face Jesus? If I were to stand before Him in judgment today, would He say, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” or would I be among those He addresses in Matthew 7? In Matthew 7, Jesus has surprising words for people who achieved what many of us aspire to. Here are people who have prophesied, cast out demons, and done many mighty works in Jesus’ name. And yet, rather than commend them for a job well done, our Lord condemns them for a task left undone.
How could Jesus condemn people who had accomplished things that many of us only hope to do? No matter the quantity or quality of the good things we do, we will not be commended if we leave undone the very thing Jesus left for us to do. Jesus’ last words in Matthew’s gospel are known as the great commission.
Why this commission is great:
- because of who gave it – Jesus!
- because He rose from the dead to give it
- because He promised his presence to those who obey it.
What is the great commission? The great commission is to make disciples. Everything else in this life is secondary to our responsibility to fulfill this commission.
Pastor Jessica and I have had the privilege of being the pastors of this church for a little more than seven years now. During this time, we have seen people added to God’s family, marriages restored, and families added to the church. And yet, we have not seen the growth we long for.
I sometimes think in five-year blocks of time. So, about two years ago, after our fifth anniversary here, I took stock of how we were progressing as a church. Frankly, I was discouraged by what I saw. That discouragement became frustration as I was forced to admit I did not know what to do next.
My prayer at this time was, “Lord, if I have done all I can do here, show me who is to lead this church into its next season and show me what I am to do next.” I was sure the Lord was not done with this congregation. However, I was wondering whether the Lord was done with me as the leader of this congregation.
And the heavens were silent. I received no response to my request. I learned a long time ago that when you are uncertain of what the Lord wants you to do, you go back to the last thing you are sure of. The last direction I was certain of was that the Lord wanted me to lead this church.
Now my prayer changed. Knowing that the Lord was not done with me here, I prayed, “Lord, I cannot bear the next five years being a repeat of the last five years. For me to stay here, I have to change. Show me how I can grow as a leader for the sake of your church.”
But Pastor Jessica and I did more than pray. We sought counsel. We read books. We received instruction. We listened to coaching. As we did all these things, God answered our prayer. We began to see the way forward. There are many things we learned during this season, and there are two that have already begun to significantly shape the future of our Living Faith family.
The first significant change is one that we, as a church, are growing accustomed to. We admitted the need to share the responsibility of pastoral care. Pastor Jessica and I prayerfully developed a plan for how to see every single member of our congregation receive the level of care, counsel, protection, and correction the Lord desires.
Next, we invested many months in meeting with, praying with, and coaching our pastoral care team. Then, about a year ago we installed our elders and they began to care for you. The care that our pastoral care team has shown for each of you over the last year has been a blessing to me. Over the last year, knowing that each of you is being well cared for by our team has enabled me to discern what our next significant shift is to be.
The next shift, and the main point of this gathering, is simply this:
I am quitting leading as if the church is an institution whose primary goal is its own survival. I am quitting leading as if my primary responsibility is to come up with programs that are attractive enough for the community to consume and to put on services that are entertaining enough for the congregation to enjoy. I am quitting providing counsel in such a way that a person gets their answers from me rather than the Holy Spirit. I am quitting trying to build a church in the hopes that we can produce some disciples.
Now, I want to reassure you, I am not going anywhere, and I am certainly not resigning. I am committing to leading in a Biblically faithful, Spirit-empowered way that honors Jesus by preparing His saints to stand before Him one day able to say, “I have fought the good fight, and I have finished the race (2 Timothy 4:7).”
This means that our highest goal is the fulfillment of the great commission, not the survival of an institution. I repent of trying to entertain and please a comfortable crowd. I commit instead to equipping saints to fulfill the commission Jesus gave us to make disciples. I repent of endeavoring to get people to do something at the expense of helping people be someone.
Putting doing before being was the root of my problem. I was asking God what I should do. I was not hearing answers to that question, but it was not because God was not communicating. He was. But He was communicating something I did not expect. Instead of telling me what to do, He was reminding me of who I am. It is essential that we remember that being always precedes doing. Identity comes before action.
The importance of identity can be seen throughout the Bible. Our first father, Adam, fell precisely because he forgot his identity. The deceiver convinced him to eat the fruit so he could be like God. But he was already like God, not because of anything he did, but because of His creator. Think of our father in the faith, Abraham. God changed his name from Abram to Abraham, which means Father of Many Nations. It would be years before Abraham would have a single child. And yet, in order to change Abram’s destiny, God gave him a new identity. This is what God does, He declares a thing and then it comes to pass.
This is the essence of the shift I am speaking about today. I am committed to living out my God-given identity. I challenge you to commit to living out your identity as well. Interestingly, we can trace our identity back to the same passage of Scripture where we found our mission. Matthew 28:19-20 not only tells us what we are to do – make disciples; it tells us who we are.
Baptism is the public declaration of our new identity in Christ. In profound symbolism, our old self is buried with Christ under the baptismal waters and we rise again from the waters with Him, blessed with our new identity. We are baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Baptism establishes us in our identity as a family of servants on mission.
We are children of God who care for each other as a family.
We are baptized in the name of the Father to establish our identity as His sons and daughters.
We are God’s chosen people – His family – set apart to live in such a way that the world would know what he is like. Through faith in Jesus, we are Children of God and brothers and sisters with each other. As God’s family, we see it as our obligation to personally care for the needs of one another – both physically and spiritually. We disciple, nurture and hold each other accountable to Gospel life together. (Genesis 12:1-3; John 1:12-13; Romans 12:10-16)
We are servants of Jesus who serve Him by serving others.
We are baptized in the name of the Son to establish our identity as servants.
Fully God and fully human, Jesus took on the posture of a servant. He gave his life, even unto death, so that others could experience salvation, peace, and restoration. Jesus said, “I am among you as one who serves…” All those who follow Jesus are called to serve in the same humility. For us, this means joyfully submitting to Jesus as Lord, to the leaders he has placed over us and to each other as we also serve whomever God brings into our lives. We do whatever He leads us to do. (Matthew 20:25-28; 25:31-46; John 13:1-17; Philippians 2:5-11; 1 Peter 2:16)
We are sent by the Spirit to restore all things to God through Jesus Christ.
We are baptized in the name of the Spirit to establish our identity as missionaries.
God sent Jesus to Earth to take on human form and live within the culture. He lived in such a way that those around him could see and experience what God was truly like. Jesus came so all people, places, and things could be restored to a right relationship with God. In the same way, we believe we are missionaries sent by God’s Spirit into our culture to restore all things to God through Jesus. We live this out through involvement in a missional community. (John 1:14; 20:21; Colossians 1:19; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21)
This is our identity in Christ. Because of Him, we are a family of servants on mission. It is well past time for us to live out the truth of who we are. For too long, our effectiveness as missionaries to Collingwood and the surrounding area has not been as fruitful as it should. One reason for this is that we have not served others the way Jesus serves us. We have all too often failed to treat one another as family.
We have lived as materialists more than missionaries, more concerned with what I can get than with who I can reach. We have behaved as employees rather than servants, wondering why our payday has yet to arrive. We have treated one another as strangers instead of family, resenting others for not loving us while we ourselves withhold compassion from them.
We have prayed for revival as though God were a sleeping neighbor whose reluctance had to be overcome, rather than a loving Father whose mercies we are fools to refuse. We have spoken of the mighty Holy Spirit as though we needed to talk Him into moving through us when in reality He is working to talk us out of our pride.
I have but one invitation for you today. I invite you to follow me as I follow Christ, to imitate me as I do my best to imitate Him. I want us to so fully express our identity as a family of servants on mission that it brings much glory to Jesus’ name. But before we can do that, we must repent of the pride that has blinded us to who we really are. We need God to free us from the false identities we have adopted at the expense of being who He redeemed us to be.
Let us call out to Him now.