Go Local!

July 2, 2017

Message Title:

Get Local!

Acts 1:8

(unedited manuscript)

Good morning everyone.  Happy 4th of July to all of you!  This morning I want to start by reading a couple of scriptures to you.  The first one is from one of Jesus disciples, John, who wrote a letter to young Christians based on Jesus’ teaching.  He told them, “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”  1 John 3:17-18


When it comes to being a serious follower of Jesus, there are three activities you will need to execute.  First, you will need instruction on how to live the Christian life.  This is why we have a teaching ministry here each week at Celebration.  Secondly, you will need to imitate the faith.  You will need to get around some Christians more mature than you and see how they live out their faith.  This is one aim of our Go Groups.  Thirdly, you will need to be immersed- as in jumping in and serving in Jesus’ name.  This is when you take what you have been taught and seen and take your own action.  This is done by serving others.

John says our faith isn’t truly executed unless we love others with deeds.  God did not put you on earth to live a self-centered life.  He put you on earth to make a difference.  He wants you to make a contribution with your life.  He wants you to give something back.  Whenever you use your talents, your abilities, your background, your time, your energy to help someone in God’s name; the Bible has a word for that, that’s called ministry.  Everyone is a minister.  We all have been gifted by God do something well.


How do you serve God?  This is what we will do in heaven- serve God.  Here on earth the only way to serve God is to serve people.  You cannot serve God directly on earth.  On earth it is by serving people you serve God.  God wants us to serve God together, in community, in relationship with others.  Notice John says, “Let us…”  He’s talking about us serving together.  We need to work together with heart and purpose.


The second verse I want to share with you is something Jesus said to his disciples just before he ascended into heaven.  He said to them, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  Acts 1:8. This is exactly what the early church did.   They talked about Jesus first in the city of Jerusalem, then into the surrounding region, Judea (the country that contained Jerusalem) and Samaria to the north (The country the Jews despised because they were culturally different), then it spread into Rome, India and North Africa, places that are geographically distant and culturally different.  All the way to you today.  Let’s apply this scripture to us.


Use Paper graph


For the disciples Jerusalem meant reaching people who lived across the street.  This is people who live within our geographical proximity.  People who live in your neighborhood, work with, go to school with, and play with.  Judea meant reaching people across the country but are like you.   These people are like you culturally but geographically distant.  Samaria was populated with people close to Jerusalem, but they were culturally different.  Then to reach across the seas meant reaching people who are geographically distant and culturally different.


No matter the different combinations and geography we are given one mission, the Great Commission, where Jesus commanded us to make disciples- and every Jesus follower is called to embrace it.  As I heard one minister put it, “The question isn’t “Does our church have Jesus’ mission,” but “Does Jesus mission have us?”  A growing church is an obedient church.  A healthy church follows the Great Physician’s instructions.

I believe being obedient to these two scriptures is incredibly important in today’s world.  It’s important because we are living in a more and more culturally diverse world.  We need to know not just what we believe but why we believe so we can properly shield our faith in Jesus.  We need to do what Jesus said to do in order to take the Gospel to our community and neighborhoods.  Jesus’ mission needs to take hold of in deeds and not just word so we can truly make a real difference.  We need Jesus mission to take hold of us so our lives on social media match our real day to day life.  We live in a world of terrorism, racism, political divides, and following and doing what Jesus’ said is our only light in the darkness.  It is important!


Today I want to share with you how our church is working at being obedient to these two scriptures.  What I mean by church is our mission partners.  Us in this room.  I specifically want to focus on our Jerusalem- Suffolk.  What good deeds and actions are we doing to demonstrate God’s love and make disciples?


The first place I want to show is our church family.  Psalm 68:6 says, “God sets the lonely in families.”  God did not design us to be alone. One of the greatest punishments we can give someone, one of the greatest tortures, is to solitary confinement.  Why is that?  Because it goes directly against how God designed us.  God never wanted you to deal with loneliness.  This is why we say Celebration is a church family.  You are not assimilated into our church family, you are adopted.  You are one of us.  You are loved.


Romans 12 says, “Since we are all one body in Christ, we belong to each other and each of us needs all the others.”  Notice that last phrase, “Each of us needs all the others.”


Because we are a family we do a lot of things a caring family does.  We have cookouts together, like the one recently did for Father’s Day.  When you are sick we pray for you.  If you need a meal to help in your recovery we bring you- sometimes several meals!  We listen to each other.  We celebrate the births of babies.  We encourage each other to persevere and to pray.


God never intended for you to walk through life alone.  Never.  We need each other. Proverbs 26 says, “Only fools trust what they think alone is right.”  A church family is God’s answer to loneliness.  We all need a place where we can practice and really learn how to love like God.
Recently we had a gathering of our Go Group leaders and as part of the discussion we talked about the strengths of our church family.  Everyone agreed we are a church that loves everyone.  We are a church that will look over people’s faults and failures and love them like Jesus.  We truly try to live out “No perfect people allowed.  Come as you are.”


Another area where we are doing good deeds in our “Jerusalem” is by empowering the poor.  One time Jesus got up and spoke about his ministry here on earth.  He said, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18-19  Our ministry is to look no different.


A few years ago the Elders and leadership made a great decision to be an externally focused church.  What does that mean?  An externally focused church is a healthy family of God, but they are oriented externally.  As a result, we sought to engage our community through good works and the Good News of Jesus Christ, making Suffolk a better place to live.


The reason we call our Go Groups “Go Groups” is want our groups to be strong but have an orientation to help someone in the community.  As a result, our groups have partnered with several organizations in the community.  Each month, Butch Gross’s Go Group supplies the volunteers at the Western Tidewater Free Clinic with a meal so the doctors and nurses donating their time, who often come straight from work skipping dinner, have something to eat.


Derby and Maria Johnson’s group works with Elephant’s Fork Elementary School and Oakland Elementary School in getting school supplies every school year.  In fact, we will have a drive coming up here in August.


I know other groups are involved in sending gifts oversea to sailors, helping widows, and more.


The scriptures also teach us to “Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” Ps 82:3-4


Just a couple weeks ago we through a party for some kids in the “For Kids” outreach.  For Kids is an organization that helps homeless families find a permanent place to live.  Now, here in Suffolk you might say we don’t have a homeless problem, like say what we hear about n Virginia Beach.  One unseen part of homelessness is what is called “Couch surfing.”  What happens is a family is homeless so they stay at a friends house for a couple weeks, then a relative’s house the next, and so on.  One of the biggest issues that crops up is school attendance.  Because the families are hopping from one home to another they hop from one school zone to another.  Many kids don’t get to finish school.  So when a homeless child finishes the school year it is a big deal.  They had to overcome a lot to get that accomplished.


This is why we are the sponsor for the For Kids end of the school year party.  We just did it a couple weeks ago.  To tell you about this year’s experience I asked Wendy and Jennifer to share about this year’s big party.


{Wendy and Jennifer share / photos}


Let’s give them a hand!  Thank you Jennifer and Wendy.


One last area I would like to share is a dream.  It is God’s dream.  And it has to do with the issue of racism.  I’ll be honest I am a little nervous talking about this.  I have a very limited perspective.  I grew up in eastern Indiana and my home county is 95% white, but I feel the need to talk about God’s dream in this regard.  At the heart of the Gospel is loving everyone- including those who are different.  Racism is not God’s desire.  He did not design us with racism.  As comedian Denis Leary said, “Racism isn’t born, folks.  It’s taught.  I have a two year old son.  You know what he hates- naps.”


The Bible says, “If you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin.”  We all have sorts of ways of doing this.  Rich people are snobs.  Heavy person is lazy.  Younger generation doesn’t work.  Preachers of megachurch’s are crooks.  Old people can’t teach.  White guys can’t jump.


God is after everyone. He is not prejudiced. The Bible says, “Everyone who calls on the name the Lord will be saved.”  Romans 10:12.


God’s vision and dream for heaven isn’t gold streets or fancy homes.  It’s a gathering of all kinds of people all across the globe.  Listen to this from Revelation, “…There before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb…And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” Rev 7:9-10


The good news we are part of making God’s Dream come true!  There is no plan B!  This is God’s dream for his church.  We live in a diverse area.  We can see God’s dream for heaven lived here at Celebration.  What did Jesus teach us to pray? “May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”  Matthew 6:10  Father, may the diversity in heaven be done here on earth.  May it be done right here in this room!  I believe the church is a critical part eradicating racism.  We get to be part of God’s dream!  What a beautiful scene it could be in this room, incredibly diverse: black, white, Asian, Latino, rich and poor, education levels, age differences, Tarheels and Blue Devils, Hokies and Wahoos, all gathered saying, “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the lamb.”


How can you get involved in making God’s dream come true at C3?  How can you help the orphaned and the homeless and the widow?  How can you help out in our projects at For Kids and the Schools?  There are three ways you can get involved.

  1. Community Wide Events. A few times a year we sponsor an event for the entire community to attend.  This past spring we did the 10,000 egg Easter egg hunt.   This fall we will help the Y feed over 400 people buying the Turkeys for their Thanksgiving dinner.  All you need to do to participate in these event s is listen for the announcement and sign-up wherever you can!
  2. Then we have Church wide events. The End of School year party for 4 Kids, the backpack drive, or food drive, are all examples of a church wide event.  All you need to do at these events is bring in a donation.
  3. Lastly, and the one I want to encourage everyone to get in on, is to get involved in a Go Group. Each Go Group does several activities throughout the year to be externally focused.  Each Go Group decides what, who, and how of their service.  If you would like to get involved in a Go Group you can pick up a flyer at the Welcome Table or talk to me after worship.  I’ll be by the Welcome Tables.

One way I like to describe a church is a tree.  A tree has three healthy parts:  The root system, the trunk, and the canopy of branches with fruit.  A successful church has three primary activities.  With its roots it grows deep into God’s word, his family, and in worship.  It grows together strong by forming circles, like the rings of a tree in the trunk.  Then lastly, a healthy tree will spread out in community with other trees and make each other stronger.  It will bear fruit.  It will plant seeds to make more trees.  A healthy church does the same.


(Show video of Redwood Trees)


Redwood trees are massive and gorgeous to look at.  However, if they were to stand alone the would fall down.  By the mingling of their roots and branches the trees help each other stand up.


I believe it is the same for this community we live in.  We all help each other stand up and I believe the church is God’s gift to this world to bring people, businesses, schools, families, together to make a better Suffolk and western Tidewater through the power of God’s grace and shed blood.  I believe the church is God’s plan to make America great again!











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