A Beautiful Mess: The Great Commission

Good morning Journey Church.  My name is Phil Human and I’m one of the pastors here at Journey.  And it’s a pleasure to be speaking with you through the miracle of technology today.

We miss you guys so much!  And we can’t wait to get back together and worship with you all.  We really miss you guys!

Today we are starting a new series – we are calling a beautiful mess.  And no – we’re not talking about your hair!  We’re talking about the Church!

The Church is a beautiful mess.

Now – it might surprise some of you to hear us say that the church is beautiful.  I mean – many of you haven’t had much experience with a beautiful church.  Far too many have only had experiences with ugly church.  Judgmental church.  Ungraceful Church.  And some of you are watching online today because it’s safe – you can do this anonymously – and kudos to you for keeping the door open to there being a God who loves you deeply – because there certainly is.

The church has problems – but I do want to share a couple of things that I find beautiful about the church.

For one thing – the church is made up of people who speak every language – every country – every color – right now as you and I worship billions of people are worshipping with us.  People of every language – every color – every culture – worshipping together.

You can travel to any country in the world and you will find a brother or a sister in Christ.  That’s pretty cool.

About ten years ago I traveled with Ian Vickers to China.  China!  We were trying to figure out whether or not Journey might be able to partner with organizations that were starting churches in China.  And I sat in a room with Josh and Sabina – we were in a high rise building – in an apartment and about 7pm on a Wednesday night people starting to arrive and soon there were about 50 of us in an apartment living room and we were singing our hearts out to God.  We were singing different languages but our hearts were together.  And afterward – lots of hugs.  Lots of smiles.

Listen – you try that.  You try flying to some country – you fly to Togo Africa and start hugging people.  See how that goes over.  Then go to church – you’ll get hugs.  Because you’ll find brothers.  And you know the old saying – And brothers don’t shake hands – brothers gotta hug!

The church is beautiful because it unites people.  Different color skin – same Jesus.  Different language – same faith.  Different socio-economic backgrounds – same joy of our salvation.

One of my favorite memories is worshipping in Gonaives Haiti with our youth group from Journey. It was a hot Sunday morning – and one of my favorite memories was that they had ushers with long sticks walking up and down the aisle – and if they caught anyone sleeping they would poke them with the stick.  And the kids loved it -narcing on their dads who fell asleep – in fact – kids – if you are listening now – if you see your dad or mom fall asleep during this service just give them a little poke in the ribs to wake em up.

Haiti – one of the poorest places I’ve ever been – and yet – smiling – singing – praying – worshipping – they in Creole – we in English – brothers and sisters in the Lord.

The church is beautiful because it tears down barriers and unites people.

The book of Acts chapter 11 tells us that followers of Jesus were first labeled “Christians” in Antioch.  Why?  Why the need for a new label?   Antioch was the third largest city in the Roman more – More densely populated than NYC –  people from all over the world.

And Antioch didn’t know what to do with these people who were gathering to worship this Jesus.  IN the room there were Jews sitting next to gentiles – Africans sitting next to Romans sitting next to Asians sitting next to Romans.  Rich sitting next to poor.

The people in Antioch – they couldn’t help but notice this new thing called the church.  There was nothing on earth like it.  And they didn’t know what to call these people – the weren’t Jews or gentiles or rich or poor – they had no label – and the label that stuck was – Christians – which is – “Little Jesus.’”   Perhaps the label was meant to belittle – but believers loved it!  Yes – we are all trying to live our lives as if Jesus were living my life through me.

The church is beautiful – But –  it’s also a mess.  In fact- there are some of you listening and you want nothing to do with Jesus because somewhere in your past the church has been a source of a deep wound.  Somewhere in your past – you’ve experienced religion at it’s worst.  So you see the church as something that is not beautiful.  You see the church as – well, it would be charitable of you to only call it a mess.

Why the mess?  I’ll suggest two reasons why the church can be an ugly place.

For one thing – there are churches in the world who meet in Jesus name but Jesus is no where to be seen.  What I mean is -they study Jesus – they know all kinds of facts about Jesus – but – so do the demons.

I’m being tough on them because Jesus is tough on these kinds of religion clubs that specialize in moralism.

Moralism – is not Christianity – Moralism divides rather than unites.  Religion clubs tend to have person who thinks they are a very good person sitting next to someone else who thinks they are a very good person.  And it divides – and some of you found out the hard way because you or someone in your family did something that the rest of the club considered NOT good- and suddenly you or your loved ones were on the outside looking in.

I will say – don’t confuse a religious club for the church.  They are in many ways opposite – they are tidy little groups – not messy at all.  But boy, they are ugly.

And I’d like to think that Journey would be immune to this, but we aren’t.  We gotta keep our heads on a swivel – and our eyes on Jesus.   Keep our eyes on Jesus – and being the kind of church that – Displays Grace.  And Declare the Good News, and Does Good, and Depends on the Holy Spirit.

For eleven years this has been our road map – our vision as a church.  We think it will help Journey stay beautiful.

Now that doesn’t mean we aren’t a mess.  Other times – the church can seem ugly because it’s filled with people who are – let’s be honest – flawed.  The church – is made up of people like me and you – who are in various stages of spiritual development – people who are deeply flawed – people who are growing in their faith but at times – don’t always get it right.

We all have stuff we are working on – right?  It takes a work of God to transform us into different kinds of people.   It takes effort on our part to partner with God to become different kinds of people.  Transformation is the goal – but it is not automatic.  It takes time and a work of God, and frankly, it takes the church.

You were never meant to go it alone in your spiritual Journey.  It takes the church – brothers and sisters in the Lord who are willing to display grace to us and also – lovingly challenge us- sharpen one another.

The church is filled with messy people – but it’s a beautiful mess- and by the way – it’s always been this way.

The church has always been messy.  Why did the Apostle Paul – one of the most important early church leaders – write a letter to the church that met in Corinth?  Because they were a mess!

The greatest chapter ever written about love is found in Pauls first letter to the church in Corinth.  Why?  Because the church was not acting very loving.  They had some growing to do – learning to leave behind the old ways and be transformed into new kinds of Human beings.

And yet – Paul begins the letter by saying – I’m writing to those called by God to be his own holy people?  1 Cor 1:2 – Paul knew that the church is a beautiful mess. 

Now that’s a beautiful church – the kind of church that can look through our present shortcomings and see who God is creating us to become.  The kinds of people who are charitable, patient, loving, and truthful.  Paul didn’t pull any punches.  He was direct where it was required.

Journey – let’s agree together that we will be this kind of church…  The kind of church that treats people with love and patience and is able to see beyond our present shortcomings to see who we are becoming.

Journey Church!  You beautiful mess!  We love you and miss you all.

And personally – I think it’s the perfect time to do this series.  Because we can’t meet in a building. Now – many of us who have been following Jesus know this – we’ve heard it for years – that the church is not a building.  And at Journey we always said-  it’s not a building – we meet in a school.

Well, now we can’t even meet in a school.  But that’s okay – because the church is people – not bricks!  And – according to Jesus – it’s an unstoppable force that even the gates of Hell itself will not be able to thwart.

Where did this unstoppable force begin?  Let’s look at the beginning of the church this week and next.  And I’m going to look at Jesus and what he taught his disciples after he was resurrected from the dead – and before he ascended to the heavenly realm.

Acts 1:3 tells us that Jesus was with the disciples for 40 days before he ascended.  He appeared many times to many people – and he continued to teach his disciples about the Kingdom of God.

Jesus was teaching the church about their mission.  Now next week – Kyle is going to speaking about some of the internal workings of the church.  This morning though I want to talk about how Jesus gave us a mission – he wants the church to be externally focused on other people.

I want to look this morning at Jesus’ last words with his disciples – according to Matthew 28:18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

So let’s begin with – What is the purpose of the Church?

And the purpose of the church is to partner with God in whatever God is doing on earth.  To Partner with God about what he is doing inside of our soul – transforming us – and to partner with God in what He is doing to bring the good news of Jesus to the world.

1 Corinthian 1:9 God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Listen – last week we celebrated Easter – why did Jesus die on the cross?  Listen – Jesus didn’t die on the cross just to forgive you of yours sins.  That happened – and it was glorious.

He didn’t die on the cross just so that when you die you get to go to heaven – though that too will happen and it’s a wonderful perk.

Why did Jesus die?  He died to give us meaning in our life.  He died to give us a vocation – a calling.  He died to make our right now life meaningful and important.  That we might be his co-laborers with Jesus to bring hope to this broken world we now live in by helping people

God is always at work in every heart we know.  He is always working.  And he invites us to partner with him in bringing hope and healing to the world.

The Great Commission – which is what Matthew 28 is often called- might be called the great invitation.   It’s God’s invitation to join his team on the greatest adventure of all – making disciples – apprentices – friends of Jesus.

By the way – God has always been a team player.  God the Holy Trinity is three in one.  God has never gone it alone – he has always worked in conjunction with others.  And so – what has God done?  He has expanded the circle – and invited us to join the Father Son and Holy Spirit in bringing hope to the world.

Now let’s talk about where we are called to go.  And I want to show you from the book of Acts what is Luke – the same Luke who write the Gospel of Luke also write the book of Acts.- and in Acts chapter 1 we read this version of the Great Commission…

Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

It’s interesting that Jesus told the church where he expects us to minister.  And we find these four rings of expanding territory.  Where he expects us to be working with him to bring Hope to the world.

He says Jerusalem.  That is where they were.  Gretna is our Jerusalem.  And Journey Church is passionately committed to being the best church we can be for Gretna.

The surrounding areas – Omaha – Springfield, Ashland – you all are our Judea.  And we love you guys too!  And will always look for opportunities to bless and help those in need in our larger circle of Omaha area.  It’s why we partner with Heartland Hope, as well as Lift up Sarpy and the Gretna Food Pantry, and we worked with Restored Hope – we love our Jerusalem and Judea.

Let’s jump to the idea of making disciples to the ends of the earth.  We’ll come back to Samaria in a moment.

We understand the ends of the earth – and at Journey we have adopted four countries as countries we pray for and give money for in order to make disciples.  We support Christopher’s Hope orphanage in Gonaives Haiti.  Your generosity allows us to send more than 40 thousand dollars a year to Christopher’s Hope- enough money to buy all the 50 kids and staff breakfast lunch and dinner every day.  We believe God has called us as a local church to love those kids.  And I hope that you are praying for Jan Thompson and our kids in Haiti.

We love the Dominican Republic- which is on the other side of the Island it shares with Haiti – and we are helping an organization start churches.  We had 14 people lined up to go to the DR next month but we had to cancel the trip for now – we’ll get back there.

In Africa – we support Global Partners in Hope with another 40 thousand dollars a year – to help them build health centers in remote parts of the world.  We are currently building our first health center in Togo – here’s a picture of the center and we are excited to see what happens there.  Over the past ten years we helped to build nine health centers in Mali Africa – and just two weeks ago we got an email from Daniel Thera in Mali – who write these words…

In the far and forgotten places of the world, like in the Bako Region of Mali, there is a robust spiritual awakening taking place.

The health centers we built were staffed by Christians – who started to worship in these villages.  And in short time, one of the villages had 150 believers worshipping in a place where there were no Christians previously.  That village decided to go and make disciples in the next village with a health center.   And that second village – Christians gathered and said – we need to start a church in the other village.

In total over nine villages are seeing spiritual awakening. Churches are being established, Pastors are reaching out, and the Gospel is spreading throughout the region. This year Easter will be celebrated in this region by a growing group of new believers.

See how this works?  Jesus told us to go and make disciples.  Nine years ago Daniel Thera came to Journey and said, I’m looking for someone to partner with me to make disciples in the most remote parts of Africa – and we said – we will partner with you and God in what He is doing in the Bako region of Mali.  And nine years later there are hundreds of brothers and sisters.

See, Jesus is relentlessly pointing churches to be externally focused – to go and make disciples.  And I can’t help but throw this out there – maybe there’s someone out there today who feels God calling them to go to another country.  Like our friends Brett and Shari McClain – who are using their medical knowledge to bless the countries of Mali and Togo – Like our friends at Journey Marcus and Jacoba Rand – who will soon be leaving Nebraska to go live in Togo to support our work there.

Maybe someone out there is feeling a call to go.  Go then and make disciples along the way.

Now as we near the conclusion of this first talk about the work of the church – I want to come back around to this group that Jesus mentioned – Let’s make disciples in our Jerusalem – our Judea – the ends of the earth and – let me go back to the one group I passed over – the Samaritans.

Who are the Samaritans?  Quite simply – it was the group of people that the Jewish disciples had the most contempt, least love-  I don’t want to say hatred for – but I don’t think we can take that word out of play.

Why?  we can talk about another time – but suffice it to say that these are the people who – in Luke chapter 9 – because they were inhospitable to Jesus and the disciples – some of the disciples suggested – Perhaps Jesus – you should rain down fire and burn this village to the ground.”

And here is Jesus  – hi last words to his disciples – go to Samaria and make brothers and sisters in the Lord.

It is God’s desire that we be the kind of people who partner with God to love people the rest of the world feels contempt for…

Who is your Samaria?  It’s worth asking.  It’s worth contemplating.  How is God calling us to love the least of these.

Remember Jesus words?  Whatever you do for the least of these, you are doing for me.  He is already there.  He is already at work.  He is looking for people to partner with him to bring the good news.  And the good news is that no one is beyond the grace and the love and the forgiveness of God.  No one is beyond repair and renewal.

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