Why You Need A Church Family
by Rick Warren
(Originally shared in 2003)
Each week over 110 million people go to church somewhere in America. Let me put that into perspective. If you take all the people who have ever gone to a basketball game, ever gone to a football game, ever gone to a baseball game, tennis match, or any public sporting event and you added them all up in a single year, that would not equal the number of people who go to church on a single weekend. More people will be in church this weekend than will go to all the sporting events combined in America in an entire year.
For many of those people they have no idea why they attend church. Some of them go out of tradition. Some of them go out of guilt. Some of them go out of habit. So once a year here at Saddleback Church we pause and I do what I call the Annual Purposes of the Church Message. Just kind of like in our constitution it requires our president to do an annual state of the union message, I do an annual message that says let’s just remind ourselves why we do what we do. Why would we all get out of bed this morning and come to church? Why do we pave all these acres of parking? Why do we build these buildings? What purpose do we do this for?
If you’re a visitor here today you’re going to get an inside look at Saddleback Church. The Bible says that God created the church to help people fulfill His five purposes for their lives. So this morning we’re going to review God’s five purposes for your life and how the church is meant to help you fulfill those. And I always like to do a little what’s the next step of where we’re going as a church family for the next year.
1. You need a church family to help you center your life around God through worship.
Worship is simply building your life around God, centering your life around God. God didn’t put you on earth to live a self-centered life. He didn’t put you here for your benefit. He put you here for His benefit. You exist for God not vice versa. And God wants to be the hub of your heart, the axis of your existence, the core of your being, the focus of your attention. He wants to be the center of your life. The Bible calls that worship. Anytime God is the center of your life you are worshipping God.
How do you know if God is really at the center of your life? It’s real simple. You stop worrying. Worry is the symptom, the warning light that God’s not the center of your life. You will always in life either be worshipping or worrying. Those are the alternatives. When God is not the center of your life — when anything else, your career becomes the center of your life, your family becomes the center of your life, your money becomes the center, any time anything except God takes the center place in your life you’re going to be prone to anxiety. Prone to fear. Prone to worry. So every time you start worrying, it’s just a little sign that at that particular moment God is not the center of your life.
Notice what the Bible says. Jesus said in Matthew 22:37 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” Circle “first and greatest.” God says the most important thing you can do with your life, the most important thing you can do is know and love God. Why? Because that’s the first purpose of your life. God put you on earth, number one, so you could have a relationship to Him. Unfortunately many people go all through life and never get that relationship to God and they miss the first purpose of life. You were made to know God. Not to have a religion but to have a relationship with Him. That’s why He says that’s the most important thing you can do.
Whenever you focus on God, whenever you put Him at the center of your life that’s called worship. So what’s the best way to worship? Do I light a little incense? Do I have to say certain chants? Do I have to wear certain robes or clothes to worship… like socks? What do I have to do to worship?
In the Bible there’s only one requirement for genuine worship. Jesus said, “True worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. For they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks.” Circle “in spirit and in truth.” That means that God wants you to worship Him authentically and accurately. Authentically means in spirit. That means don’t just give God lip service. You say, “I love You, God,” but you’re really not thinking about Him. You’re thinking about the baseball game, the football game, the roast that’s burning in the oven. You’re thinking about all kinds of different kinds of things. God says don’t be a hypocrite when you worship Me. You’ve got to really mean it. You’ve got to do it from your heart. It’s got to be in spirit. It must be authentic. It must be genuine. You’ve got to really mean it when you say, “God, I love You.” Otherwise don’t bother. Don’t just give Me lip service. It must be in spirit and it must be in truth. That means it must be accurate. You can’t just make up your idea of God and worship that. Every once in a while I’ll hear people say, “I like to think of God as…” Who made you the expert? The truth is you’re just making it up. And when you make up an idea of God there’s a word for that in the Bible. It’s called an idol. God says “Don’t make Me into your image. I want to make you into My image.” It doesn’t really matter what you think God is like. It doesn’t really matter what I think God is like. What matters is what is He really like. We must worship Him in truth. You can’t just make up a God and worships that. We must worship the true God.
Notice it says, “For they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks.” Did you know the Bible says God is looking for people who want a relationship with Him? God looks all around the world and goes, “Is there anyone out there who really wants to know Me? Is there anyone out there who really wants to get close to Me? That’s the kind of person I want to know and I want them to know Me.” That’s what is the first purpose of your life — to know and love God and worship Him.
In the Bible notice how they worshipped. In the first church in Jerusalem, in Acts 2 it says this, “They worshipped together regularly at the temple courts.” Circle the letter “s” at the end of “courts.” Notice that it is plural. It says they worshipped in the temple courts — plural, many places. There was only one temple in Jerusalem so why did they worship in all the courts around the temple? It’s really a practical reason. There wasn’t enough space. They had too many members at the church of Jerusalem, there wasn’t enough room. They couldn’t fit everybody in one spot. Scholars and archeologists and history experts tell us that the church at Jerusalem quickly grew to about 100,000 members. Imagine 100,000 members in a single church! So where were they going to put them all? In Jerusalem, the city only had 200,000 people in the city at that time. So half the city was a member of this church. And they had to spread them out in temple courts.
We’ve had this problem at Saddleback. We all can’t meet together at one time. In fact, at our church we have six different service times and nine different services. Nine different temple courts. Why? Because there’s no building in all of Orange County that would hold us. If we were all to meet together as a church family we wouldn’t even fit into the Anaheim pond. It’s too small. So we have today the temple courts. We have for instance here at the 9:45 hour we’ve got this one right here. We’ve got the people sitting outside. We’ve got the people who are up on the roof in the café. We’ve got the people in the Unplugged service, which is in the Plaza Room. And we’ve got people down in Tent 3 at another service down there. So we are a New Testament church. We’re all spread out.
I have a friend who’s a pastor of a church in Sau Paulo, Brazil. I was in Brazil recently. This is a church that runs 25,000 in attendance. And their building only holds 1,000. So they have 25 services a week. Several a day. Many people in that church, their church service is Thursday morning or Thursday afternoon or Thursday evening. Or Friday morning or Friday afternoon or Friday evening. To me, that sounds like a good use of money to build a building you use multiple times. We’re never going to build a ten or fifteen thousand seat worship center that we use once and then it sits empty the rest of the week. That’s not good stewardship. So I’d rather have a building that you use over and over and over in many different ways.
What’s our church’s next step?
In each of these purposes today I want us to look at where we’re going as a church family and I want us to look at where you need to go personally. So first, where are we going as a church family? We have two goals.
First to develop fifteen different worship venues or services or temple courts on our campus. This means different times, different styles of music, different sizes of church. Have you noticed that not everybody likes to go to a big church? Some people want to go to a small church. We want to have small churches on this campus. If someone says, “I’d like to go to a church that’s about 300.” Then we can say, We’ve got one right over there. “I’d like to go to a church that’s 75.” We’ve got one right over there. On this 120-acre campus we can have all sizes of temple courts.
There’s going to be different styles of music. Does everybody like the same style of music? No. I can’t even get everybody in my family to agree on the same style of music much less everybody in the church. Does everybody like the same style of teaching? No. So we want to have different styles. If someone says, “I want to go to a church with polka music.” It’s right over there. Right next to the reggae church, next to the rap church. Then right next to that is the contemporary. Then there’s the church that does hymns. So we can have all different styles of music in the temple courts on our campus. Then it’s going to have a different feel, different target groups, different age groups, different targets. Different even language groups. A Spanish service and Vietnamese service. Temple courts. That’s where we’re going.
We already have five different venues, here at Saddleback already. Those of you who are here in the worship center we call this venue Big Church for obvious reasons. But we also have on Saturday night at 6:30 we have a service called Single Focus that meets in the Plaza room for single adults who want to get to know each other and see who are the other single adults in this big church. We have a service going right now called Unplugged over in the Plaza room. It’s for people who want a little less loud music. It’s no amplification. Kind of like MTV plugged. It’s acoustic. It’s a little bit more intimate. It’s not such a big crowd. It’s the same message just a different style of music. We have a service right now going on in Tent 3 down below called Saddleback Praises which is gospel music. If you like choir you ought to try that. They have a choir every week in that service for people who like choir music.
So where we’re going is multiple different styles and services. Someday Saddleback will have more services — temple courts — than the Cineplex has shows. It will be like when you come in, “Now showing — 9:00, 9:15, 9:30, 9:45, 10:00…” You will never be late again! No matter what time you get here there’s a service starting.
Does this make sense? Instead of putting everybody in one big giant service we have lots of little services all over the campus with different styles of music and different targets and different times and things like that. That’s where we’re going.
The second next step for our church is we’re going to build a chapel, a 600 seat chapel that will hold about five or six more of those worship venues plus we can use it for weddings and for funerals and smaller events. It’s actually going to look like a real church. It’s going to seat about 600 people — 350 on the floor, 250 in the balcony. There will be about 400 seats outside for additional worship seating and also for receptions — weddings, 400 outside. There will be a separate nursery and cry room. I love this. This building is going to have all the classical elements of a chapel — wood, stone, pews, stained glass, a pipe organ. Some of you who want pipe organ music we’ll have a service over there for that. It’s going to be unbelievably a brilliant, beautiful, magnificent place for weddings and for funerals and for special events plus other temple court worship services.
How many of you know somebody who may need to have a wedding or a funeral in the near future? Who wants to get married in Costco?!?! When you put a 150 people in a 3200 seat auditorium it doesn’t look too good. So we’re going to build a wedding chapel.
What’s the next step for you personally in this area of worship because that’s the first purpose of your life — worship?
Learn to worship God every day. Worship is not just for weekends. Worship is every day. That’s your next step. Learn to put Him at the center of your life everyday of your life. Psalm 27:4 “The thing I seek most of all is the privilege of meditating in His temple, living in His presence, every day of my life [circle “every day of my life”] and delighting in His incomparable perfections and glory.” That’s worship. Putting God at the center of your life every day.
That’s the first purpose of the church. To help you center your life around God everyday through worship.
2. The second purpose of the church is you need a church family to help you connect with other believers through fellowship.
God wants to help connect you with other believers through fellowship. First God wants you to connect with Him. Then He wants you to connect with other members of His family and learn to love them. Fellowship is learning to love other people in God’s family. That’s all it is, learning to love other people in God’s family.
1 Peter tells us this “God has given us the privilege of being born again so that we are now members of God’s very own family.” The Bible says God is love. So He wanted a family and He created us. You want to know why you’re alive? God made you to be a part of His family. That’s the whole reason you’re alive. God wants you in His family. And that family is going to go on forever. The Bible says God wants you to learn to get along with other members of His family. Just like a parent enjoys watching his or her kids get along, God wants you to learn to love. Why? Because God is love.
When you get to heaven one day, if you’ve opened your life to Christ, there are a couple things you’re going to do in heaven. One of them is worship God, loving God, and another is loving the other people who are there. God says “On earth, I want you to practice. I want you to practice learning to love Me and learning to love other people.” Because God is love. And if you don’t learn to love other people you can never be like God.
Unfortunately a lot of people live very self-centered lives. They live for themselves, for their own comfort. And they go through life never learning relational skills. Never learning how to love other people. Never learning intimacy. Never learning genuine fellowship. Never learning how to get along with other people. They have missed the second purpose of their life.
The most important lesson you can learn in life is learning to love God. The second most important lesson you can learn in life is learning to love other people in God’s family. God says I didn’t put you on earth to live an isolated, insolated life. Kind of a solo act. I put you on earth to practice loving other people in the family of God. So you’ll be ready for heaven.
“We’re members of God’s own family,” the Bible tells us in 1 Timothy. “That family is the church of the living God, the support and foundation of the truth.” Circle “church,” “support,” and “foundation.” It says the church is the support and foundation of the truth.
We all know the importance of a good foundation. We live in California. We have a thing here called earthquakes. If you don’t have a good support and a good foundation when the earthquake comes your home is going to crash. It’s going to crack up and fall apart. I’m no mind reader. I’m no fortuneteller. I can’t predict the future. But I can tell you this about your life. You’re going to have some earthquakes in the future. Personal earthquakes. You’re going to have some health earthquakes that rock your life. You’re going to have some financial earthquakes that are going to rock your life. You’re going to have some relational and emotional and moral earthquakes that rock your life. And if you don’t have the support and foundation of the truth you’re going to crack up. What is the support and foundation? It says it’s fellowship in God’s family. It’s the church.
That’s the support and foundation of the truth. You need more than truth to grow as a Christian, to grow in the way God wants you to grow. You need more than truth. You need the support and foundation. You need relationships. God wants you to be healthy and balanced. And to be healthy and balanced in the Christian life you have to have both relationships and you have to have truth in your life. Just as you have two ears and two eyes and two legs. You couldn’t walk if you only had one leg. If you only had one leg there’s no way you could walk. You’d have to have crutches to walk because you can’t walk with one leg. The same is true in walking with God. You cannot walk with just truth. You have to have relationships. That’s why the Bible says God wants us to have relationships in our lives.
Notice how God wants us to connect with other believers. Acts 2 tells us how God wants us to connect with other believers. The first church was the church at Jerusalem and that’s the church we model our church after. Here’s what it says they did. “Those who believed were baptized and added to the church. They joined with the other believers and committed themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship. They worshipped together regularly at the temple courts and they met in small groups in homes for communion and they shared their meals with great joy and thankfulness.” This tells us what the church should do. It’s all there in that verse.
In the first point I just gave you part of the verse — “They worshipped together regularly in the temple courts…” but notice it says, “They also met in small groups in homes.” That’s what you need. You need, if you want to be healthy and balanced as a person, you need large group worship in the temple courts and you need small group fellowship in homes. You need both to make it in your Christian life. If all you do is come to church and listen to the truth and worship you’re never going to grow as a Christian. You need fellowship. You can’t fellowship with 3,200 people. You can only fellowship with four or six or eight. That’s why it’s so important we emphasize we want everybody in a small group. You need a small group for the relationships. You don’t get relationships in a crowd. You can worship in a crowd but you can only fellowship in a small group. So for your spiritual growth and for you to become all that God wants you to be you need to worship in the temple courts and you need to fellowship in the home. You need to be in a small group.
What’s Saddleback’s next step in helping you grow in fellowship?
Our goal is to have every attender connected to a small group fellowship. Why? Because I know you need it. God says you need it. And we’re never going to stop talking about it until everybody’s connected so when the earthquakes come in your life somebody’s there to help you.
What’s your next step personally in the area of fellowship?
Notice the order of Acts 2. First it says they believed. Then number two they were baptized. Then three, join a church family. Four, they committed to regular worship. And five, they connected to a small group fellowship.
Which of these steps do you need to take to go to the next leave on your life? Don’t just stay where you are. Maybe you need to believe. Maybe you need to trust in Christ. Maybe you’ve already done that but you’ve never been baptized. We’re baptizing today after this service. Why put it off? There’s not a better time than now. You need to take that next step and be baptized. Or join a church family. You need to take Class 101, which is our membership class. We’re offering on November 17th. You can take that class and become a part of our family. Commit to regular worship. Then you need to connect to a small group.
Let me get personal here. This last week was one of the toughest weeks in my entire life. Emotionally and many other ways. I was just beat up. Most of you know that two weeks ago we discovered that Kay has stage one breast cancer. She had her surgery and came through that fine and this week we discovered that because of the size of the tumor she’s going to have to go through a regimen of chemotherapy and then a regimen of radiation which basically means my life’s been planned till next April. That was a big blow for both of us. Then we got word from Kay’s parents. Her folks are in their 80s. They’re moving over here in two weeks. We found out that her dad has a big tumor on his kidney. So the very likelihood is that my wife and my father-in-law will be going through this regimen together. Then three or four or five other things happened this week that I don’t want to depress you and tell you about. But the bottom’s really dropped. It got worse and worse and worse. By Thursday I was pretty down.
So you know what I did? It’s what Kay and I have always done when we’re down. We went and met with our small group. The people that we’re living life together with. We’re building into their lives. They’re building into our lives. We’ve been together for some time now. They came and they ministered to me and to Kay. They encouraged us and they prayed for us. They uplifted us.
This week I didn’t need truth. Believe me, I know the truth. I know the truth about suffering and pain. I know what God says to do about it. I know the truth. I didn’t need that. I needed the support and foundation of the truth. I needed relationships this week. I needed somebody to hug me and encourage me and to be there when I was going through an earthquake. I know the truth.
Who do you turn to when you’re under attack? What do you do when you’re going through a tough time? Do you have a small group? I have followed Jesus Christ for 43 years. I know the truth. I also know that even as a 43-year follower of Christ that I need a small group. Are you telling me that you’re more spiritually strong than me and you doesn’t need one? Is that what you’re thinking? I don’t think so. Because God says we all need fellowship. It’s the second purpose of life. If you doesn’t have anybody who’s building into your life in an intimate way I pity you. You may have shallow friendships but I’m talking about gut level real fellowship where there’s no secrets. They’re in your life and you’re in their life and you’re helping each other.
From the California Department of Mental Health which is, by the way, not a Christian organization: If you isolate yourself from other people and you never develop any close fellowship, that’s intimate relationships with a group of others, you doesn’t need a lot. You just need a few. You are three times more likely to die an early death. You are four times more likely to suffer emotional burnout. You are five times more likely to be clinically depressed. And you are ten times more likely to be hospitalized for an emotional or mental disorder.
So how many times do I have to say it before you get it? You need to be in a small group. If you’re not in a small group you need to join one today. Not next month, next year. No more excuses. No more procrastination. No more “I’m too busy…” then you’re too busy. You need time for relationships. And for your own health I’m pleading with you as your pastor, get in a group.
The Bible says this in Romans 12:5 “We belong to each other and each of us needs all the others.” That’s what fellowship is all about. We all need each other.
You need worship because the first purpose of life is learning to love God and the church helps you to do that. And you need fellowship because the second purpose of life is learning how to relate and get to know other people.
3. The third purpose of the church is you need a church family help you cultivate spiritual maturity through discipleship.
Discipleship is just the Bible word for growing up. It is the process of growing to spiritual maturity, becoming a disciple. God doesn’t want you to stay a spiritual baby. He wants you to grow up. How? By knowing His word. By trusting His wisdom. By obeying His commands. By developing His character. God wants you to grow up. A lot of people are saved but they’re shallow. They’re stuck in perpetual immaturity.
I’ve got three kids who are now 18, 22 and 24. I don’t want to be diapering them any more. That would be really sad. That would be tragic. I don’t like to change diapers. Except for grandchildren — I like that. Grandchildren’s poo doesn’t smell like your children’s did. I’ve noticed that. For some reason it doesn’t bother you as much as your own kids. If you have kids and they never grew up that would be tragic. If they were stunted growth and they stayed as toddlers, you’d be worried about them. God worries when He looks at a person who’s been a believer for five years and hasn’t grown. They haven’t got out of bed. They’re still playing in the shallows. They haven’t got out into the deep. They’re not growing spiritually.
At Saddleback church your growth is our goal. Everything we do here is to help you grow spiritually because God wants you to grow up. We’re al ways trying to think of new ways to help you grow. Using the internet, using tapes, using books, using seminars, using video curriculum. We’re always trying to think of ways to help you grow. Little memory verse cards. All kinds of stuff. Whatever we can think of to help you grow spiritually.
What is Saddleback’s next step to help you grow? There’s a couple of things.
First, we’re going to build a bookstore and resource center right out here on the patio we’re going open a bookstore and resource center built in front of the worship center. It’s going to be indoor and outdoor combining three different components. The bookstore will have books and Bibles and tapes and small group curriculum and things like that. We’ve had a little table out here but we have a whole lot more we want to give you and this is going to be open seven days a week. The bookstore will be open seven days a week.
Connected to the bookstore will be a coffee shop and café that will also be available seven days a week. So you can come up, buy a book, sit down with a friend, read a little together, talk about it. A place to relax and all that.
Then next to that bookstore and coffee shop café we’re going to build another outdoor venue, kind of like we’ve had here on the patio but it’s going to be here. We’re going to put in big wide screen videos for the Coppertone crowd who refuses to come in here. That’s fine. You can work on your tan and grow spiritually at the same time. It will be out there with big video screens so you can see that in another venue.
Our second goal to help you grow is to have every member complete Classes 101 through 501. We’re adding the last class for the fifth purpose this next year in 2004 — Class 501 — and to complete Foundations which is our basic study of the Christian beliefs that was written by Pastor Tom and my wife Kay — Foundations.
How do you know when you are spiritually mature? There’s lots of ways you know. One of them is character. Another one is skills but one of the primary ways you know when you’re growing and mature is you start passing it on to other people. It’s the ability to reproduce. How do you know when a kid has reached physical maturity? They’ve gone through puberty. The mark of physical maturity is their ability to reproduce — have babies. And the mark of spiritual maturity is the ability to reproduce — to teach others, to pass it on. If you’ve never passed on what you know to anybody else, you’re not mature yet. God wants you to grow up and be able to pass it on.
Hebrews 5:16 “By now you should be teachers. Instead you still need someone to teach you.” One of the marks of maturity is that you pass it on. Maturity is not an end in itself. Maturity is for ministry.
Only a few of you here listening right now are spiritually gifted to teach. Only a few people have the gift of teaching. But all of us are called to teach in different circumstances. We’re called to teach a friend who needs some advice. We’ re called to teach a brother, a sister, a loved one, a parent. Sometimes called to teach our children, a co-worker, one on one. May be called to teach in a small group occasionally. Every Christian is called to grow to the point that they can pass on what they know to others. One of our goals here at Saddleback is to help you grow to the point that you get to that point. That you can teach other people. We’ve got lots of ways to do this.
So what’s your next step of growth?
It may be to finish Class 101, 201, 301, and 401. If you haven’t done that, that’s my first suggestion. The next would be to take Foundations. I believe that God is getting ready to do something in our church like He’s never done before in 23 years. I feel as confident about this as I do the day we started the church. I believe that God is going to use Saddleback church to bless the entire world. I really believe that. And I want you to be ready. The way you get ready is you have a spiritual foundation in your life, to have it in your life, to know what the Bible says. That’s why we want everybody to go through Foundations. Pastor Tom and Kay went up to Toronto and taped all these studies in the session and they’re now available for your group. You can go out on the patio and if you have an existing group I suggest you study Foundations so that you know the basic beliefs of what the Bible teaches.
If you’re just starting a new group I recommend that you start with 40 Weeks of Purpose. I went to Toronto too and taped forty sessions, one on each chapter of the book. We now have a whole new curriculum. It’s not 40 Days of Purpose. It’s 40 Weeks for the small group who wants to study a chapter a week. If you’re starting a new group you might want to use that. We have lots of studies that can help you grow. You need a foundation and that’s why Saddleback is here — to help you grow.
God wants you to center your life on Christ. We do that through worship. God wants you to get to know other believers and grow in learning to love and in relationship. That’s called Fellowship. God wants you to grow to maturity. That’s called discipleship.
4. You need a church family to prepare you to contribute something back through ministry.
Ministry is not something pastors do. Ministry is something everybody’s called to do. It just means using your gifts and abilities to help other people in love. God didn’t put you on this earth just to take up space, just to use resources, party and die. No. He put you here to make a contribution with your life. You’re to leave this place a better place because of you. That’s called ministry. Anytime you use your talents, your gifts, your abilities, your money, your time, your intelligence, your energy, your physical skill, your opportunities, anytime you use anything God has given you to help somebody else in Jesus’ name that is called ministry. God wants you to practice that here on earth because you’re going to do that in heaven.
In heaven for eternity you’re going to do four things. You’re going to love God — worship. You’re going to love the other people there — fellowship. You’re going to grow spiritually. And you’re going to serve God. And God says I want you to practice on earth before you get there. In fact, the Bible says that your reward in heaven and your responsibility in heaven is going to be based on how well you serve here. Jesus said if you’re faithful in little things then I’m going to give you greater responsibility and greater reward in heaven.
Your salvation — getting to heaven — isn’t based on what you do. That’s based on trusting Jesus. But your reward and responsibility in heaven is based on what you do with what you’ve got here. One day God’s going to ask you this question. You’ve heard me say this many times. He’s going to say to you, “What did you do with what I gave you?” I made a lot of money, retired and died. Wrong answer! God says I want you to use it. Some people go all through life basically living the selfish life. They never do anything except for money. Is there anything you’re doing in your life that you’re doing totally unselfishly? You’re serving the needs of our community, the church or something and you get nothing back from it. You get no reward. You get no money. You’re just doing it out of a servant’s serving heart. God says I want you to learn how to serve others. Some people never, ever learn that. They’re not going to have many rewards or many responsibilities in heaven. They may get in by the skin of their teeth but they’re not going to have much to do compared to what God wants to do in their life.
1 Peter 4 says, “God has given each of you some special abilities. Be sure to use them to help each other.” The way we serve God is by serving others. You cannot serve God. The only way you can serve God is by serving other people in God’s name.
If you were to take tennis lessons, they would tell you that you need to practice your serve. That’s why you’re here on earth. God wants you to practice your serve so you’re ready for eternity. Practice serving. Jesus said, if you want to be great learn to be the minister of all. Learn to be the servant of all.
Anytime you minister to other people, any time you help others, you are acting as a minister. Turn to the person next to you and say, “You’re a minister.” Now if only I could get everybody a tax deduction that would be great! The IRS doesn’t get it. They think that only hired holy men are ministers. But the Bible says that everybody is a minister. If you know the Lord, you are a minister.
I read a study the other day that said one-half of all the men in New York die within two years of retirement. Why? Because we weren’t made for 24-hour a day leisure. If the whole goal of your life is just to retire, you are missing the point of life. Sometimes I’m out on the patio and somebody will say to me, “I just live for the weekends.” I go, “Then why should God keep you here?” Because you’re obviously not doing anything with your life. If you’re just living to relax then you have missed the point. Why doesn’t God just kill you and take you on to heaven if you already know Him? You’re obviously not practicing the things He put you on earth to practice. You’re just living for the weekend.
What’s our next step as a church family?
We’ve already built our adult ministry center, which is down at one of the entrances. Out of that ministry center we help organize 196 ministries of our church. Then just last year we just built our children’s ministry center which, by the way, on a typical weekend we have 3200 children in the ministry center. That’s bigger than any grade school in Orange County in that ministry center ministering to children and all of the thousands that help put it together. So we’ve built the children’s ministry center and the adult ministry center. Now we’re going to build the junior high and the senior high ministry centers. Actually we’re going to call them The Student Zone. The Student Zone like our children’s ministry center is going to be both indoor and outdoor with elements specifically designed for students. It’s going to be open seven days a week. There’s 50,000 square feet indoors. We’re going to have two large meeting rooms, one seating 600 students and one seating 400 students. It’s going to be incredible. It’s going to have an indoor basketball and volleyball court with seating. It’s going to have a food court, a coffee shop, a youth bookstore, breakout reading rooms. Then outside of the student zone there’s going to be sports courts, volleyball courts. There’s going to be a skate park, activity decks, sports fields, water features, another baptism pool.
I am telling you — this is no prediction. This is just going to happen — the moment we open that Student Zone it is going to become the most popular place for kids to hang out in South Orange County — bar none! It’s really going to be unbelievable. Kids are going to want to come here. It’s going to be open seven days a week. Teenagers are going to come after school in a safe environment where they can hang out with their friends, play games, study, meet with our youth leaders. We have over 74 adult leaders working with junior high school students and 154 adult leaders working with our senior high students. These people are mentoring and caring and coaching and helping and being a friend in this really difficult stage of life. This place is going to become a kid magnet. It’s going to be unbelievable.
When all of these kids in the children’s ministry center — 3200 of them — graduate we don’t want to put them back in portables. That would be a downer! So we’re going to get The Student Zone built.
What’s your next step in growth in ministry?
Real simple. Get involved. Find a ministry. We have 196 ministries in this church. There are plenty of options for you to get involved, where you can find a place to give back. One of the great lessons we learned with 40 Days of Purpose is that you don’t have to be a Bible teacher to lead a small group. All you need to do is be a host. We’ll provide the video teaching on videotape. So we said remember what a host is? HOST — Have a heart for people, Open up your home, Serve them some coffee, Turn on the VCR. So if you’re not in a small group, let me tell you what you might do — start a group. Just get a couple of your friends and start a group. We’ll give you the Bible teaching every week, the curriculum, the teaching on videotape by me or Tom or Kay or any of our pastors. You can do this. Today if you want to start a group just write “HOST” on a card and we’ll get you all the information. Just start a group with your own friends if you want to.
Let me give you a word I want you to write down. It’s very important for this purpose in your life. It’s the word “whatever.” What you say to God is, “God, I don’t know what You want me to do but whatever You want me to do, I’ll do it. Whatever.” I said that to God many years ago and I now say it almost everyday. When I think of all the demands on my life and my time and all the people and the contacts and emails and phone calls, I just have to get up in the morning and go, “God, I can’t get it all done so whatever You want me to do help me to get that done. Whatever.” If you will say that to God, you will be blessed beyond description, beyond measure. God blesses people who say to Him, “Whatever God. Whatever You want to do in my life, You can use me.” The Bible says this “Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord because you know that your work for the Lord is never wasted.” Just say, “God, whatever.”
5. You need a church family to help you communicate God’s love through evangelism.
What does that mean? Evangelism. That’s just the Greek word in the Bible that means “sharing good news.” That’s all it means. Evangelism means to pass on something you know that’s good to somebody else. Anytime you’re doing that, when you’re passing on God’s good news to others you are doing evangelism.
What is the good news? Here’s the good news: you’re not an accident. Here’s the good news: you were made to last forever. Here’s the good news God has a purpose for your life. Here’s the good news: no matter what you’ve done Jesus Christ will forgive you because He’s paid for it on the cross. God has a purpose for your life. He has a plan and a place for you in heaven. He wants to forgive all your sins. That’s good news. And everybody needs to hear it.
Once you know the first four purposes of life the fifth purpose God says is I want you to pass it on. There are only two things you can’t do in heaven. You can have fun in heaven. You can relax in heaven. You can do all these other things we talked about in heaven. But two things you can’t do in heaven. One of them is sin. There’s no sin in heaven. And the other is tell people who haven’t heard it the good news. Now which of those two do you think God leaves you here on earth to do? He doesn’t leave you here to sin. Why doesn’t the moment you say yes to go, yes to Jesus Christ, why doesn’t He just kill you and take you to heaven so you don’t have anymore problems? He leaves you here on earth for one purpose, the reason you’re still alive is this. He wants you to tell others. He wants you to pass it on. If you don’t share the good news why should God leave you here on earth? When I think about the fact that every person I know is going to spend eternity one of two places heaven or hell, everybody I know and everybody you know is going to spend eternity in either heaven or hell. Jesus came to earth so we don’t have to go to hell. We can go to heaven. All we have to do is tell the good news so people can accept it and put their faith in what He has done.
Here’s what God expects you to do. 2 Corinthians 5 “God has done it all. He sent Christ to make peace between Himself and us and He’s given us the work of making peace between Himself and others. What that means is God was in Christ offering peace and forgiveness to the people of this world. Now He’s given us the work of sharing His message about peace.” Circle the word “peace” every time it’s used in that verse. This is so important that I’m going to teach next month in November a five-week series on the work of peace that God has given us to do. I’m going to unveil a new plan that’s going to involve all of our small groups that I’m calling the Global Peace Plan. I’m very, very excited about it. I’ve been waiting to share it with you for a long time. You’re going to need to sign up to be in a small group now so you can get the blessing of what we talk about next month.
What’s your next step? What’s your next step in telling others?
Let me give you a real simple one. Bring somebody to church. Anybody could do that. Bring somebody to church. Invite them. Let me take a little survey. And everybody in all of the venues I want you to raise your hand on this — whether you’re in the overflow, outside, the one’s that are in the Plaza room or down in the tent, the different venues. How many of you heard about Saddleback church from another person? Almost all of us. I’m not going to ask you to raise your hand on this one. But who have you told? You’re here because of somebody else. Is anybody here because of you? Is anybody going to be in heaven because of you? Tell somebody. The greatest thing you can do for others is tell them about Jesus Christ. Tell them the good news. Tell them that God has a plan and purpose for their lives.
So here’s the question. Who do I know who doesn’t know Jesus? Start praying for them and invite them to church. Ask God to give you the opportunity to share your story.
Going to the next level. I’m not going to take you through all this material. I just put it there because I want you to go home and read it. The Bible says put into practice what you know. Here are a number of suggestions that you can do for going to the next level spiritually in your life. It might be trying out one of the new worship venues. It might be getting baptized today. It might be taking Foundations in your small group or the 40 Weeks of Purpose in your small group. Or lots of others things that you can do. You can read all of that.
Let me close with a very personal question. How many of you have the gift of procrastination? That’s pretty universal. The stuff we talked about this morning, it’s not new. It’s not rocket science. It’s not like you haven’t heard this before. If you’ve been around Saddleback you’ve heard this many, many times. At least once a year for the last 23 years when we do what is the purposes of the church. So it’s not new stuff. Somebody said, “Rick, when are you going to stop teaching on this?” When you’ve done it all! Then I’ll stop!
So everybody take out the little commitment card that’s inside your program. It says, “I want to go to the next level at Saddleback church.” I hope that you will take some practical steps today. Why? Because 30 minutes after you leave here you’re going to forget all this. You’ll forget it. So make some steps here. “I’ll join a small group…” a men’s, women’s group, a couple’s group, a single’s group. If you want to be a host of a group just write “Host” and we’ll get you some material and you can start your own group. “I’ll take the next class — 101, 201, 301, 401. I’ll study Foundations in my small group… I’ll try a Saddleback worship venue… I’ll serve on the weekend in one of the campus ministries… I’ll invite a friend to a weekend service.” Take some next steps that you could do in a practical way.
Before we close I want to pray for you.
God, I look out on all these people that I love and that You love and I thank You for our church family. Dear God, it’s not usually that we don’t know the right thing to do. We know the right thing. It’s just that we forget it. We get so busy and we forget it. We make excuses. We procrastinate. We postpone it. We get busy and we just don’t do it. Today, I ask You to help each of us to take some next steps and move to the next level of spiritual growth and maturity. Help us to act on what we know to do.
Now you pray. In your heart say, “God, I want to center my life around You. I want to get better connected to Your fellowship and Your family. I want to grow to spiritual maturity. I want to make a contribution with my life. I want to communicate Your love to others. I want somebody to be in heaven because of me. Thank You for this church family where I can learn Your purposes for me.” If you’ve never opened your life to Jesus Christ say, “Jesus Christ, I want to believe in You and be baptized as You commanded. In Your name I pray. Amen.”