Church: Assembled on Purpose

What is the Church and Why is the Church?

These are two questions that people may have, today.

IN TURKEY

In Turkey, people would ask me, “what do you do?” To which my favorite response went like this:

“I am a pastor.”

“What is a pastor?” they would follow up with.

“I am a monk with a wife and a priest without a big hat (priests wear big hats in Eastern churches).”

People would chuckle.

The next question was usually this:

“Where is your church?”

I would answer by telling them the name of the neighborhood where my church was.

Their next response would be:

“There is no church in that neighborhood.”

This is because to them, “church” meant “building.”

So, then I would teach:

“Your term in Turkish, “kilise” comes from the Greek term in the Bible, “ekklesia.

“’Ekklesia’ was not a building, but a gathering.

“The term comes from two Geek words, meaning to ‘call out.’

“So, the church is not a building, but it has always been people.

“We meet in an office building, but we are still the church.”

I would usually, then, invite them to church, and their response was almost always,

enshallah” meaning,

if Allah wills”….and that was actually a polite way of saying

no way.”

🙂

In Istanbul and in Almaty, we had to have church on purpose.

We could not “play” church, but every worship service was about serving and sacrifice.

Many people rolled up their sleeves and served because they saw the awesome opportunity to present the gospel to people who need it, but are blocked from receiving it.

Every meeting was an opportunity to declare God’s praises in a place of spiritual misunderstanding/darkness.

Just going to church took much effort.

I recall that Clover and I used to go to church in this way:

  • Walk 10 minutes to a shuttle bus,
  • Wait, then take the 10-minute shuttle bus to the Metrobus.
  • Wait, then take the Metrobus, which was a bus in a dedicated line, and it was often crowded. This took about 30 minutes
  • Walk 10 minutes to church

Often, we did this with 1-2 bags, each, in our hands and a guitar slung over my back.

IN ALMATY

When we lived in Almaty, we would drive 20 minutes or so to the church, but we always had traffic police waiting to stop us.

Probably every other Sunday we would be stopped by the police.

Once, when I was stopped, I realized that I had left my license in my other trousers, so as soon as the policeman stopped me, Clover got out, and caught a taxi back to the apartment to get my wallet, while I stalled the policeman.

A couple from our church saw me being stopped. They were on a Trolley bus that went past us.

They prayed.

People rode busses sometimes one hour to come to church in Almaty, and in Istanbul, some people rode for two hours to come to church.

Perhaps the longest distance we have here in this congregation is about 25 minutes.

Here, we need to be careful about speeding, yes, or we will be stopped by the police, but our insides don’t twist whenever we get behind the wheel like mine did in Almaty.

We had to be “On Purpose” in order to attend church in Almaty and in Istanbul.

But we must, also, here, in Virginia.

Satan doesn’t want us to be in church.

And schedules and the media are on his side.

He doesn’t want us to assemble on purpose, but if he can get us to assemble for other reasons that are less dangerous, then he is happy.

But we don’t take our orders from Satan

WE Take them from Him Who defeated Satan on the cross and in the grave: Jesus the Christ!

IN HENRICO

Tuesday evening, we had people in the sanctuary, in the fellowship all, in the foyer, in the kitchen, in the back area, and in the front yard.

Eggs were being tossed, water-balloons blasted, conversations were happening, and in the fellowship hall at one point, we had several different ethnic groups singing and listening to hymns and songs in different languages.

We were eating, fellowshipping, singing and getting to know each other.

It was indeed a picture of heaven.

I want you to know, River of Life, that you proved on Tuesday, what God revealed to me and Clover last year: that this congregation can and should host and welcome people from other nations.

This vision was not only something that we saw from God, but former Pastor, Dwayne Stephens, also believed that we could be an international fellowship.

Look what God did among us:

We had at least 120 people at the cookout. I know that because I keep a running list of who is with us, weekly, and this was our largest event.

When I looked at the list of those who were here, I realized that not only did we have people from 14-15 different nations, but most of our ESL volunteers were here.

Not only that, but almost the whole church was present and serving.

I teared up several times as I told people about the event during the week.

  • Some guests were from out of town, and they told me that they wish they lived here and could be part of our fellowship.
  • Another guest told me that he felt so very welcomed by our friendly church. He said that he could learn a lot from us. And, this man doesn’t go to church, but practices another religion.

He spoke so highly of YOU.

And who are YOU? Who are WE?

Why are We?

We are the “church.”

For several months now we’ve been “Living on Purpose.”

I remember when we started this theme, I thought it would continue for 1-2 months, but had no idea it would become our theme for the year.

As we have been “On Purpose,” God began to open opportunities for us.

  • Marina is one of those gifts and opportunities.
  • Ernie is one of those gifts and opportunities.

I had no idea when we began to pray about River of Life last Summer that this Summer we would have an intern and an Associate Pastor.

You may wonder, how can we afford this?

I wonder those kinds of questions, too, but God has provided a little extra funding and He even gave us a nice little gift that helps with their funding for several months.

During this time, we all need to continue to work and be on Purpose, that our church will grow, and we’ll be able to continue to minister to this growing and changing community.

THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH

When Jesus spoke of the Church he said that He will Build His Church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

We are the ekklesia, the Assembly of God. That is the name of our denomination, but it is also the biblical term for “church.” And as the Assembly of God, we are “Assembled on Purpose.”

What is the purpose behind the Assembling of the Church?

Let’s consider Jesus’ final prayer on the night he was betrayed.

After Jesus prayed for himself, and for his disciples, he prayed for you and me:

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

John 17:20-24

Let’s Pray

PRAY

As I look at these verses from Jesus’ mouth just before his arrest, I know that he knew what was happening…and he chose to pray for us.

Even as his disciples were falling asleep and not keeping watch with Him, as He had requested, and yet, He knew that, though they were failing, they would pass the gospel on…

This is beautiful, for his prayer is still being fulfilled.

Isn’t it wonderful to think that a prayer that Jesus prayed is still being fulfilled?

His Great Commission, too.

Why?

Because within the Great Commission is the perpetuation of the Great Commission.

If the Church stops witnessing, then the Church stops assembling on purpose…and the Church stops.

Those churches who focus solely upon their own needs and turn a deaf ear to the needs around them, often dry up.

We were assembled on purpose for a purpose…

But who are we?

  1. Believers

 I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message (John 17:20)

Jesus knew that the Church would continue. He knew that there would be people who would believe what other believers believed.

He knew this, and he prayed for these.

He prayed for us. We are included in this.

For whom did Jesus pray? I ask, again.

“Believers.”

He didn’t pray for “Christians.”

Though, certainly, a true Christian is a believer in Jesus.

But “Christian” is recklessly applied label.

There are people who say, “I’m a Christian,” but they haven’t the slightest clue what it means.

We are to be followers…not merely believers.

But how does one become a believer?

Through other believers.

Notice:

I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message    (John 17:20)

Jesus later commissioned his followers to make disciples of all nations.

Are we making disciples?

I understand that there needs to be

  • the work of the Holy Spirit,
  • and there needs to be the work of God the Father drawing someone toward Jesus,
  • but Believers are important to the equation.

I recall when we were first in Kazakhstan, back in the late 1990s, and there had been an evangelistic revival in that nation.

Former atheists were now presented with the gospel, and they were embracing Jesus for the first time.

I was invited to a meeting of Kazakhs who were from small villages.

They were not Westernized at all.

They had practiced a form of Islam, but really, their faith was in charms/talismans and witch doctors.

Now, they had found Jesus

For some reason, they enjoyed how I presented the gospel (through an interpreter, of course) and many were growing in their faith.

One young woman approached me. She was shy and hesitant and I didn’t know what she was going to ask.

I thought it would be a question about the baptism in the Holy Spirit or about church leadership, but it was simply this,

“How long do you plan to live in Kazakhstan?”

My answer was, “As long as God allows me to live here and serve.”

You see, at that time, many of us missionaries were concerned we might not be able to remain in the country.

As she stepped away, I asked, “why do you ask?”

Her answer stunned me:

“We need good examples like you. Our people don’t know what it means to be a follower of Jesus. We need examples.”

[ask congregation] Are we being examples?

People will believe through our message.

Our message may come from our lips but be nullified by our actions and our example.

Let us grow to be the right examples that more people will come and follow Jesus.

I think that the church around the world needs to make more disciples.

We need to share with more people the message that is worth believing that Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead.

As a pastor, you know I am keenly concerned about reaching the community and building up this church.

Do you know that most of the churches in this community are reaching out to the same people?

We are reaching out to the easier people to speak with: the whites and the African-Americans.

But who is reaching out, deliberately, to the growing international community?

You Are.

What I saw the other evening at our cook-out was an effort of our church to reach out to a part of the Richmond community that is neglected by many churches.

We all worked together, using our abilities, serving, playing, talking, etc.

As a body, we are working to bring people into the Kingdom of God.

Now, let’s look at what Jesus wanted for the believers…Unity.

We were assembled on purpose for a purpose…that purpose is to be One.

  1. Unity

Unity is Jesus’ desire, and He prayed this before going to the cross and giving his life.

By giving his life, he enabled us to have unity, but before doing this incredible act of love, he prayed that we would be unified.

I love that Jesus was a man of action and a man of words.

Unity is not easily attained, but it is still desired, and many times we are not happy unless unity means everyone agrees with us J

Compromise is hard for some if not all, but unity without compromise is dictatorial.

We need to be unified, but it may mean we need to learn to understand each other.

God created culture at the Tower of Babel when He created other languages.

And with culture came the stress of crossing cultures.

We have stress across cultures already present in the US, and we have stress crossing the gaps between generations, and even between neighborhoods.

On the Day of Pentecost, there were 120 believers gathered in one place, and at least 15 different languages were heard, spoken by people who had not learned those languages.

What creates unity?

What drew them together?

The Spirit drew them toward unity.

Jesus had just prayed about 53 days before that they would be one, and in their oneness, 3000 people joined them, and the Church continued to grow.

In Jesus’ prayer, he prayed that the church would be unified.

But, as we look at the Church around the world, we may not always see unity.

There are so many opinions that separate us, but when we can focus upon what we agree upon, I believe that we can attain some unity.

Unity comes from love, for if we don’t love, then we will be unable to unify.

Unity is also the result of the work that Jesus implemented in order to establish His church.

He gave gifts to the church in order to equip it.

Paul wrote in Ephesians about this:

11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Ephesians 4:11-16

We were not only a group of believers reaching out to people the other day, but we were working according to our gifting in unity.

Our moment of unity and outreach may have seemed to be hastily organized and quickly put together, but know this, in the heart of God, He has been waiting for this moment to happen with us.

He wanted to see nations streaming into this building and among His people.

He wants this to continue.

He wants us to assemble on purpose for His purpose.

For unity, and so that the world will see the Gospel.

As Jesus said in his prayer, when we are in unity,

Then the world will know that you sent me 

John 17:23

Now, let’s consider what Jesus wanted His Unified Church of Believers to see and to know…His Glory

  1. Glory

When Moses wanted to see God,

God would only show him a “safe” part of him, referred to as his back,

and Moses came back to his people after that experience with a glow around him that was bright and godly.

When Jesus was on a mountain with three of his disciples, he changed, and they saw him as God, and were amazed.

They saw God’s glory.

Moses saw God’s glory.

We will see God’s glory, soon, but we are already seeing something of His radiance.

24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

John 17:24

When we were gathered together on Tuesday, there was something supernatural happening.

I looked around and saw people from other languages, eating together, listening to worship together, even singing together.  It was like heaven.

I looked at one of our members and almost fell over as the look on her face was angelic.

Jesus calls us to believe and to share that belief.

He calls us to be unified and to declare Who He is in that unity.

He wants us to see His glory, and if we will open our eyes and our hearts,

I believe that we will see His glory more and more.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

1 Peter 2:9, 10

We ARE a chosen people

chosen By God as we believe in His Son.

A Royal Priesthood…called upon to serve and worship.

A Holy Nation…made up of people from all around the earth…

We are God’s special possession

  • May we be unified,
  • may we declare His glory to the world.

The Scripture doesn’t say,

“You WILL BE…”

But that

“You Are.”

QUESTION:

How am I resembling what Scripture declares?

I want us, through this series on the Church: Assembled on Purpose, to see

WHO WE ARE?

AND

WHY WE ARE?

To see how God has called us to do the following:

  1. Evangelize
  2. Fellowship
  3. Worship

Let us declare that

WE ARE NOT A CHURCH OF CONSUMERS

BUT, WE ARE A CHURCH OF CONTRIBUTORS.

Remember the words of President John F. Kennedy, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

May I turn that around and say,

“Ask not what your church can do for you, but what you can do for your church.”

We are living on purpose so that there will be life.

In Jesus’ parable of the talents, the ones who did something with their talent were the ones who benefitted, while the one who hid his talent were punished.

So, this is what I ask of River of Life:

Are you ready to serve?

If not, then what is needed in order to be ready?

LET’S PRAY

 

 

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