Churches across America are closing their doors. How can we ensure a thriving Christian community? As we consider what God intended for the church, we'll uncover four essentials to a healthy church: God's People, God's Principles, God's Purpose, and God's presence.
This collection of topical teachings from Skip Heitzig includes anniversary celebrations, messages about the vision of the church, special teachings from conferences and countries around the world, and more.
Cross References: Psalm 68:6; Matthew 6:33; Matthew 18:20; Matthew 25:21; Luke 2:49
In 1 Corinthians 12, beginning in verse 12 Paul writes, "For as the body is one and has many members, but all them members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one spirit we were all baptized into one body-whether Jews, Greeks, slaves or free-and have all been made to drink into one spirit. For in fact the body is not one member for in fact the body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body," is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body," is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased."
If you think about it, we belong to the greatest company in the world, the church, the greatest company in the world. First of all we have a product and our product works, it's called the gospel. And our product works universally. It doesn't matter if it's in Thailand. Doesn't matter if it's in South America, doesn't matter if it's in Europe or the United States, the gospel, our product what we have to share and proclaim works universally.
Second, we have offices worldwide in our company. You can go to any country, any culture, any people group and dig far enough and you will find a local representation of our company, you'll find churches around the world.
Third, we have pretty great benefits in this company, forgiveness for the past, purpose for the present, piece of mind in the present and fourth, we have a retirement package that beats every other company. Because what we have to look forward to when all of this service for our company is over on earth. We have the heavenly rewards and we have the words of a savior who will say, "Well done, good and faithful servant."
So it's the greatest company on earth. But to outsiders who don't believe in the product and they don't know our CEO, they don't even believe in him. The church seems well, awkward and backward and outdated and irrelevant. Did you know that in our country for every one person raised without God, who eventually comes to church, and they come took faith in Christ for every one person without God who comes to church, there are three people in Church who will leave the church.
One estimated -- I don't know how accurate it is but, that in our country on a weekly basis, 60 churches closed in America. A church in Chicago did a poll of survey and asked people who had decided not to make church part of their weekly deal to not became a part of any church family, they asked they why, the five top reasons people didn't go to church. Number one reason, they thought church is boring. Number two reason, they're always asking for money. Number three reason, church is so irrelevant, it has nothing to do with real life. Number four, people said I feel awkward when I go to church. It just doesn't feel right to me. It's just not my thing, it's not my world. And number five they said they were to busy.
So we live in a country where like our predecessor in Europe church that was once a huge deal on our landscape is becoming less and less a big deal. Their people are abandoning it. However, if you were then to compare the United States to our neighbors around the world in the East like in China or India, we find exactly the opposite occurring. What we find is churches growing at exponential levels. And I visited lots of places where there is such a palpable excitement about the work of Jesus Christ in a culture, in a city, in a county. That family members and extended family members and friends, it's almost like they can't wait to get on board with God and come to church.
For example, did you know that in sub-Sahara Africa, on a daily basis, 20,000 people are converted to Christ? Did you know that in Latin America on a daily basis, 10,000 people a day are converted to Christ?
So we have this incredible disparity between East and West, between first world, let's call it and second, third and fourth world, the cultured dignified west losing people from the church to places like Asia, South America, Central America and Africa where the church is gaining ground.
Now that disparity not withstanding, I believe with all my heart that the best days of our company are still ahead of us, the best days. You know why I'm so optimistic? Here's why, the way God has designed us as human beings is that we need people. We need a community, he has designed us in such a way that we require to function best, we need a family.
The bible calls it here "The Body," one of Paul's favorite analogies for the church of the body or the body of Christ. And just picture a human body and all of the different members and facets and functions that a human body performs, and you get an idea of what God intended for the church. This wonderful mechanism that has function and form and beauty and purpose, the body of Christ.
So I believe once again, the best days of God's family, our company are ahead of us. Now let me articulate a few of the reasons. Reason number one, we need God's people. In Chapter 12 of 1 Corinthians in verse seven, Paul writes this, "But the manifestation of the Spirit --" as he's talking about spiritual giftedness in the church. "The manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all." For the profit of all.
The spirit of God gives gifts to people so that there are gifted people within the body of Christ because we need each other. We need the gifts that you have and that I have and we need all of us working together in concert, we need God's people. Basic to human beings, basic to human survival is our need for a family.
Sociologically, it's been shown that people gravitate toward groups. They want some group of people that are like them or have like interests that they have whether it's the Club or the Science Club or Future Farmers of America or Alcoholics Anonymous. We gravitate toward the group of people that we can identify with. We need a family, we need a community.
Psalm 68, the bible says, "God sets the solitary in families." God's cure for isolation and loneliness is the family called the church. So that we belong to each other because as I mentioned, God designed us to need each other. Down in verse 26 chapter 12, it shows how it works when we're together. "And if one member --"that is one person in the body of Christ, one church member, "suffers--," here's the benefit, "All the members suffer with it." If one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it."
There is no other place, there is no other organization, no other company that I feel the liberty when I'm struggling with life to go struggle with in a public place. In other words, when I'm going through a trial or a struggle, I don't go down the City Hall and pour out my woes and to all the people who are down at City Hall.
I don't go to the club and say, "Here's what's on my heart but I feel perfect freedom to do that within the confines of the fellowship of the family of God." One member suffers, we all suffer. One member is honored, we're all honored. It's that mutual give and take that a family should have.
So we need God's people. Number two, we need God's principles. See, when we gather together, we gather around the texts, the texts of the bible. We are a textual family, a textual community. We believe the bible to be the word of God. We say, turn to this book and look at that verse and we consider what God has said in the unfolding drama of redemption from Genesis to Revelation.
So in chapters of the bible like Chapter 12 of 1 Corinthians, we find many of God's principles. And when we gather together as a family, it should always be front and center, first and foremost. Where we're getting constant doses of truth, if there is one place where the truth is unmistakably and unashamedly proclaimed, it had to be God's family. This company, this group.
Listen what Paul said again, he wrote this to young Timothy. In first Timothy Chapter 3, he said the church of the living God which is -- listen to this description, which is the pillar and the ground of all truth. It's the pillar and the ground of all truth, we need God's people, we also need God's principles. We need God's principles because as you live, as I live, as we go through our days and we hear all of the clutter, of all of the voices and all of the opinions of people on what is right and what is wrong and how you should live and what you should do, in the midst of all of those clutter voices, we need to hear the clarion call of God and the sure steadfast thus sayeth the Lord. Its food to our souls, we need god's people, we need God's principles.
It's interesting; those two characteristics are really true of all living things. All living things are made of cells, and cells in order to thrive, live and reproduce, they need other cells and they need food. If they have other cells and if they have food, they will naturally reproduce. We need other cells and we need food for us to naturally reproduce and have the fuel to do God's will. So we need God's principles as well as God's people.
There's a third thing we need, we need God's purpose. If you go back with me to the beginning parts of Chapter 12, Paul begins this chapter, this thought process, this paragraph in verse one now concerning spiritual gifts brethren. I don't want you to be ignorant. I was going to write about spiritual giftedness and their part in this company, the body of Christ. But notice what he says is verse two, concerning the Corinthians as a whole, those who have been redeemed.
You know that you're Gentiles carried away to these dumb idols. Now when he says dumb idols, he doesn't mean like these stupid idols though they were, but he meant they have the inability to speak. It's awfully frustrating to have a God that you can talk to and can't talk back to you, has so power at all to communicate or reveal himself.
So you remember your past Paul says, "That you were Gentiles carried away by these dumb idols, however, you were led. You really had no purpose in this life. You really didn't have a God given purpose, carved out, crafted out that you laid a hold off that gave empathies to your life. Now you do, that's the implication, this is what you used to be like, you had no purpose, now you have purpose. You've been saved from that, you've been redeemed from that."
Everyone I've ever met has a desire to be a part of something greater than himself or herself. A cause, a greater cause, everybody has a desire to be able to say, I know the purpose that I'm on this earth. There's a cause that I'm a part of that is greater than myself and I'm fulfilling that purpose and that cause while I live.
If you want a cause -- and there's lots of causes you can join up for there's sociological causes and political causes and environmental causes and all of them can be pretty great in of themselves, but if you were on a cause to live for. Live for the salvation cause. That's what drove Jesus on -- speaking about the company. Remember when he was at the temple when he was 12 years old? And his mother and Joseph took him down to the temple and Jesus was lecturing and answering and dealing with questions in the temple and people were amazed or blown away with his knowledge and his mother tried to drag him away and Jesus said, "Don't you know that I must be about my father's business?"
We have a family business. You've been called into God's family. You're a son of God, you're a daughter of God, you're part of the family, I'm part of that same family, but we're brought also into the family business. To bear the product of the gospel with as many people as we can, to live it out ourselves but to bring that, to preach that, to bury that to the world.
So if you want a cause, if you want a purpose, the greatest cause, the greatest purpose is the family business. The father's business, I must be about my father's business and it's great if you could wake up everyday and say the same thing, "I'm going to be about my father's business. I know why I'm here, this is what God has called me to do," and the thought that I could somehow further the family business today is the cause greater than yourself and a wonderful, wonderful way to live. So verse 2 brings that out.
Fourth and finally, we need God's presence. One of the reasons that we gather as we do, whether we know it or not, there's just sort of part of our fabric now I think but, one of the reasons we gather is because we remember that Jesus said at Matthew 18, "Wherever two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in their midst." There's a special presence of God that happens when we gather together as cells in a body and there's something that we do together corporately, reading the bible together, praying together, worshiping together as we're led by the worship team.
We experience God's presence in a very unique kind of a way, two are three are gathered. We have to remember that. If we start making church about what I'm going to get out of it and by the way you should get something out of it. You should be fed, you should be edified, but if the motivation is about me. This is all about me, "I'm here tonight because it's all about something I need," then we have strategically missed the purpose and the focus. And what will happen? Let me give you a guarantee, you will become less and less satisfied.
However, if you make the focus where the focus where focus ought to be that is not really about us but our gathering is about him. We're learning about him that we might glorify Him. We're singing songs to Him in order to glorify Him. We're praying to Him because we depend on Him and that glorifies Him. When we live for Him and for his glory, there's a payback that is a part of that. And that is a satisfaction happens when the focus isn't on us, the focus is on Him. It's funny how it works, the happier we are, the more satisfied we become.
If we make it about us and we try to be satisfied and I want to become content and I'm seeking to do that, it never -- we never seemed -- it's like chasing that elusive carat, never find it. It's been put this way, the more you do as you please, the less you are pleased with what you do. But if you turn that around, this is what Jesus said and we covered it a couple of weeks ago, "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added into you."
So we need God's presence and when we make worship about God and his glory and his presence, God blesses us with a satisfaction you can't find anywhere else. So the way we do that is we become the body, the body of Christ, members of the body.
Now I began by reading that little section, beginning in verse 12, all the members are put there by God. All the gifts are given for the profit of all and every member of the body is necessary.
I want you to hear this clearly, whatever part you play in the body of Christ, there's no member that's of a vestigial organ. There's no unnecessary members, its not like well I'm here but I'm really not functioning any grand purpose, not true, not true, not true. There are not vestigial or unnecessary organs in the body of Christ. God has you here for a purpose and we want you to know, you have all the grace that God has to give to discover that. Even if tonight you go, "I don't know what that purpose is." That's okay, we want to help you discover that and when you discover it and when you engage like you're going to find next week would expound all the gears start coming together and you find your life in sync with other believers, and with God's plan and purpose, there's no greater way to live. Each one of you is vitally important to everything that we do here.
Back in 1981, John Hinkcley Jr. pulled out a gun and put a bullet into the body of Ronald Regan. It hospitalized our President, for a few weeks, the Chief Executive Officer of the United States was in a hospital and unable to function as the president of the United States.
Interesting thing about that, nothing really happened in America. I mean, the country kept going, it kept working. The chief guy was hospitalized, but America didn't shutdown. But some years ago, some sanitary engineers, garbage collectors, in Philadelphia went on strike. The city almost shutdown and after that it was big news, the news people reported that if -- what would happen if all of the garbage collectors in America decided to go on strike. They said two weeks, the country would shutdown, within two weeks.
So I thought about that and I thought okay, the president gets shot, America goes on just fine. Garbage collectors go on strike and they have the ability to shutdown the nation. Who's more important? The real answer is all of them are important, the president is important, the garbage collectors are important, that office has been so well insolated and trained and managed that there's cabinet members and layers of management that can keep thing going in an interim period. But the point being is that one isn't more important than the other were all vital to the body of Christ.
So as we launch and to expound, that's why we ask for your involvement. We're asking for your involvement to come, go to the book of Exodus with us. If you want to just come, I notice sometimes people come and when I say, turn to this chapter and this verse, this is -- I'm not going to point it but yeah, but this is the respond.
So when I see that, when I see them not looking down and turning something, okay they didn't bring a bible. But at least they're here, that's okay, it'd be great if they could actually have a bible because it is a bible study after all. It's nice to have one to study but they don't bring one, that's okay, they're here. They're coming and they're observing or they're listening.
Others are taking notes copiously, at whatever level you want to be involved, if you want to be simply involved as a spectator, we welcome you as a spectator. No judgment, no hassle, we welcome you. If you are just a visitor, you want to just come and listen and come when it starts and leave, fine. But, I want you to know there are other levels, there's levels of taking what were going to bring to you on Wednesday night and making that a part of your daily devotional time where we can send you email reminders or Twitter reminder or we can send you this stuff on Facebook or whatever way you want to receive it. Even if you want the old fashion handout sheet, we're prepared to even mimeograph, not mimeograph but just a copy, remember those things.
Now we're going to copy those things so you'd have notes if you don't want to have any electronic stuff. But also, if you do, let's say you have like a computer or you have a hand held device and you're thinking, I'd like to use these things for the glory of God. We're going to have a whole tech team that will be here after and before to show you how to use it. Maybe you have it but you don't know how to use that in bible study, we're going to teach you how to use it.
In fact, we're developing an app for the iPad, iPod that will be out -- and the Android I believe, that will be out I think by next week.
At least that's what we're shooting for, so you'll be able to download the app and have the expound app and all the bills and. So it will be something that will be an interactive way of doing it. Then beyond that, we'd love you to be involved on a volunteer basis as part of our leadership team, our counseling team, our usher team, our security team, our children's ministry team, our tech team, so we can all study the word together and all minister together as a body.