Matthew 16:18-19 / Matthew 28:18-20
– Have you ever taken a picture, taken it to be developed, and it came back “out of focus?” Do you remember your frustration? And do you remember that your frustration was controlled somewhat by basically two factors; how personal the picture and the cost of the picture. For instance, a picture of a house, car, or a tree probably evokes a different response than one of your “grandkid” or “girlfriend”. Additionally, one that was taken by a professional in a studio would have a high frustration level.
– Now, please remember this about the frustration level as for the next four weeks, our time in God’s word will be centered about the focus of the Church. Did you also know that every church has a focus? Did you know that the focus of any body is not necessarily determined by what they say, but rather what they do? Did you also know the FOCUS of the church IS, in actuality, its PURPOSE?
– Let me illustrate. We can “say” that the purpose of this church is “changing lives for time and eternity” or that the motto is “touching Hueytown with hope,” but in point of fact does our schedule; our budget, our ministries, & our actions affirm our statements? Or does our emphasis give evidence that we say ONE thing but do something else? I begin with this penetrating question; where is our focus?
– Deep in my heart I believe it goes without saying that since the church is not “OURS,” but “HIS”, that the focus of the church is NOT ours to make up but rather, ours to obey.
– It is my deeply held belief that the focus of the church is to build the Kingdom of God. As your pastor, I have attempted to lead us down this road on this journey. Last year, the “To Be or Not to Be” series of messages covered our statements, core beliefs and functions.
– This year, we expanded to our “Purpose Statement” (of “changing lives for time and eternity”) and then called us to “Just Walk Across the Room” and make an eternal difference in someone’s life. For the next 4 weeks we will discover the Kingdom Focused Church. (For this 4-week journey you may try these 2 resources)
– It is my deep prayer that with every series of messages that we lay back another layer of skin in the process of seeing the plan and place God has for us to take part in the building of His Kingdom. To do this is to become a Kingdom Focused Church.
– In Matthew 16:18-19 Jesus introduces His Church by saying “I will build MY church, will give her the keys to bind & loose in heaven and on earth—and don’t worry, hell itself cannot overpower it.” As Jesus left this earth, He gave the Church her marching orders in Matthew 28:18-20.
– Why “the Kingdom Focused Church?” Why not the Jesus Focused or the God Focused or even the Soul Focused church? It’s a matter of perspective. When John the Baptist introduced Jesus, his words were about the Kingdom. When Jesus introduced His own ministry, He brought attention to the Kingdom.
– So what exactly IS the kingdom of God? Most think it’s heaven, eternity, or even the millennial reign at the end time, but what Jesus repeated teaches us is that the Kingdom is a great deal more personal than that. Look at the screen; The Kingdom of God is; “The reign of God in the lives of His people, enabling them to serve Him whole-heartedly and to live the kind of life Jesus died to give us.”
– Gene Mimms breaks this truth down to a more simple form when He says, “The Kingdom is the rule and reign of Jesus Christ as Lord and King of our life.”
– So now, we can understand that the church is to be focused on the Kingdom, like John was, like Jesus called us to be.
– But isn’t every church a Kingdom Focused Church? The answer is a bit harsh, but it is “Obviously Not.” Because of the promise of Christ (that the gates of hell will not overpower it) it is reasonable to assume that many are not. So how can “I” tell if a church has a Kingdom Focus or not? For the remaining time this morning, please let me expose such a church.
1) THE KINGDOM FOCUSED CHURCH HAS ONE PRIORITY.
– Our Lord Christ had full knowledge of both time and eternity as He departed this world & His words were clear and carefully thought out.
– The Kingdom Focused Church has as its number one priority, to reach people. That is number one. In his book, Kingdom Principles, Dr. Gene Mimms teaches us that the ONE DRIVING FORCE in every church is the Great Commission. If we are not reaching people we are not Kingdom Focused, rather we are like a café which has prepared food for hungry people and then has no one to feed. Or it’s like planning a party and then inviting no one. There is nothing we can do in a church body which overcomes our refusing to reach people. Without this characteristic there is no way to be a Kingdom Focused Church.
– Jesus says, “as you go”, “make disciples”, “baptize them”, and “teach them.” It is the MANDATE for the Kingdom Focused Church.
– To complete this thought, we will only have this priority when we are simultaneously committed to the Great Commandment. Others have said it other ways, but I say, “We need a Great Commitment to the Great Commission through fulfilling the Great Commandment.” This is only the first step, the beginning to becoming a Kingdom Focused Church. But it is a required step.
2) THE KINGDOM FOCUSED CHURCH HAS ONE PHILOSOPHY.
– The typical American church is filled with many different philosophies. We have the philosophy of the Pastor, deacon, charter member, young people, the older people, those who believe they have paid their dues and have the right to control (by the way, only one person paid their dues and that gives Him control). With all these philosophies floating around is it any wonder that 70%-90% of churches are failing at their mission and declining in attendance in the year 2007? Is it any wonder that many (if not most) of the churches find themselves in conflict? It seems to be a philosophy of “everyone does what he thinks is right in his own eyes.” Candidly, this has been done before and the results were disastrous.
– So what is the philosophy of the Kingdom Focused Church? Generally, the Members minister, the deacons serve, & the pastor leads. In America, as a result of some unhealthy circumstances, the average Baptist church member, doesn’t desire or like the idea of being Pastor-led, yet it’s Biblical.
– Specifically, what is the philosophy of the Kingdom Focused Church? We outlined the philosophy on my first Sunday with you as found in 1 Corinthians 9:20-23. (Read) Even I can interpret this text. Paul says, “I am willing to do what it takes to reach people for Christ. My philosophy is to take the unchanging gospel to the ever changing world and I’m committed to doing it in such a way that they can hear and respond.” What a statement.
– But there is more Biblical help for the church. Turn to Acts 2:42 and see what we discovered last year. Here is the process the Kingdom Focused Church is to use. (Acts 2:42-47). Do you remember these? As a church, our philosophy to do “whatever it takes” is driven by the Priority of the Great Commission and given teeth by our functions. There are six of these (all of which are found in this text) These are prayer, evangelism, worship, discipleship, ministry, and fellowship. Warning: To focus on one of these six functions more than any other is be hazardous to your health.
3) THE KINGDOM FOCUSED CHURCH HAS ONE PLAN.
– What is this one plan? The Kingdom Focused Church is completely committed to discovering and doing God’s will while totally depending on HIM.
– Some of us are asking, “Don’t you think all churches do this?” Not really, because we get this thing of the institutional church “figured out” and we try to run it. The services, the organization, the structure, the ministries, you know the business of church. The Kingdom Focused Church gets out of the “business of church” and “becomes the church”. The Kingdom Focused Church of the first century has a joy, power, holiness, enthusiasm, and connection that we don’t seem to understand. The Kingdom Focused Church is a simple church.
– Having watched the “church” go through some of the golden years till today, I see something interesting happening. The inspired leaders who write for us seem to be telling us the same thing. In 1994 Gene Mimms wrote Kingdom Principles. In 1995, after talking with Dr. Mimms, Rick Warren wrote “Purpose Driven Church”. In 2001, Dr Mimms released “Kingdom Focused Church.” In 2005, Dr. Thom Rainer releases “Simple Church.” (Clarity, movement, alignment, focus). Kingdom Focused Church is all about HIM & THEM. To focus on the Kingdom is to busy ourselves with the work of the Kingdom, both individually and collectively.