Glen Rose 5-P:
The Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations #2
How WILL they know? That’s a great question for every generation. How will they know? The mission and purpose of our church, of the United Methodist Church of every church is very simple, “To make Disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
We are called to be Disciples; to continually grow as Disciples and in the process of living and growing in our faith, we are called to intentionally develop the faith of others. Disciples live out their faith with their Heads, their Hearts and their Hands. We live out our Discipleship by Knowing God, Loving God and Servicing God. All of that is part of our Intentional Faith Development.
Bishop Schnase says that Intentional Faith Development is essential and is one of the 5 Practices of Fruitful Congregations. And that’s what we’ll be looking at today as we continue in our Glen Rose 5-P series. WATCH
The Apostle Paul, while not using the words Intentional Faith Development, does talk about how important it is for us to stay focused and to grow in our relationship with God; to grow as Disciples. There are two passages of Scripture I want us to look at this morning WHICH DEAL WITH Knowing God, Loving God and Serving God through Intentional Faith Development.
Romans 12:1-2 (NRSV)
 I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Philippians 3:10-14 (NRSV)
 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death,
 if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
 Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.
 Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,
 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.
I. KNOWING GOD: HEAD:
A. You know, the world sure likes to give us advice doesn’t it? For example, here are a few Wordly Word to Live By: If at first you don’t succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite criticism.
The severity of the itch is proportional to the reach.
If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple of payments.
Half the people you know are below average.
42.7 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot.
If you find yourself in a hole the first thing to do is stop diggin’.
Actually that last one is pretty good advice. The Apostle Paul wrote words that we truly CAN live by. I believe Romans 12:2 are some of the most important words Paul ever wrote. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds.” You see, there are a lot of messages floating around out there in the world we live in every day. If you are connected to the internet, have a television, read magazines, the newspaper, listen to the radio or talk to other people, there are messages bombarding you all day long.
Not all of them are positive. Not all of them are Biblical or Christian or healthy or good. The messages of the world can confuse us and actually tear us down. That’s why it is important to Know about God and to Know God on a personal level because the messages of God and the messages of the world are so different. After listening to the world we can develop a certain mindset and our thinking can become befuddled. “Our Thinking vs. God’s Promises.”
We think: “It’s impossible”
God says: All things are possible (Luke 18:27)
We think: “I’m too tired”
God says: I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28-30)
We think: “Nobody really loves me”
God says: I love you (John 3:16 & John 13:34)
We think: “I can’t go on”
God says: My grace is sufficient you (II Corinthians 12:9 & Psalm 91:15)
We think: “I can’t figure things out”
God says: I will direct your steps (Proverbs 3:5-6)
We think: “I can’t do it”
God says: You can do all things (Philippians 4:13)
We think: “I’m not able”
God says: I am able (II Corinthians 9:8)
We think: “It’s not worth it”
God says: It will be worth it (Romans 8:28)
We think: “I can’t forgive myself”
God says: I forgive you (I John 1:9 & Romans 8:1)
We think: “I can’t manage”
God says: I will supply all your needs (Philippians 4:19)
We think: “I’m afraid”
God says: I have not given you a spirit of fear (II Timothy 1:7)
We think: “I’m always worried and frustrated”
God says: Cast all your cares on Me (I Peter 5:7)
We think: “I don’t have enough faith”
God says: I’ve given everyone a measure of faith (Romans 12:3)
We think: “I’m not smart enough”
God says: I give you wisdom (I Corinthians 1:30)
We think: “I feel all alone”
God says: I will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5)
So, you see, in order to hear a different message we have to “be transformed by the renewing of your minds.” We have to fill our minds with God stuff not world stuff. We have to work at being Disciples and we have to work at raising our children and youth to be Disciples, too.
B. That’s part of what this past week was all about, planting seeds to help our children and the children of the community both Know about God and come to Know God on a personal level. It was a time of Intentional Faith Development. We should applaud all the volunteers who helped make it possible. We should take time to thank Shelly for all the hard work she put in organizing it. We should also thank Bryan for his support and the time he gave while Shelly was getting VBS ready.
While I love Vacation Bible School, it’s not enough. We can’t rely on one week a year. We have to be more intentional than that. The future of the Church and especially the future of the faith of our children and youth depend upon us because they aren’t going to get it anywhere else.
This year we averaged 56 in VBS. Last year our average was 42. That’s a 30% increase over last year. We need to be seeing that kind of increase in our children’s Sunday School Department as well. But that takes time, commitment, and willing volunteers.
If we’re going to be the church of the future and A Church in the future it means we may have to remodel and rethink how we do children’s ministry, just as you remodeled and rethought this Sanctuary and Worship. It means we may have to sacrifice the way our parents and grandparents sacrificed so the church could be here today.
What does it look like, what will it look like? I don’t know but I do know that for us, for our youth for our children to Know about God, we have to be Intentional in what we do and how we do it. Because ultimately we don’t just want them and ourselves to KNOW about God, we want them to KNOW God and Love God as much as we do. And even more.
II. LOVING GOD: HEART:
A. LOVING God is a matter of the HEART. The first Aspect is Knowing God but the Second aspect of Intentional Faith Development is Loving God. This is that aspect of moving from the head to the heart, from simple Knowledge about to Knowledge of which is relational.
We begin to experience the Love of God through Worship, through interaction with others, through, music, through acts of Grace and Mercy. We experience God’s Love through the Presence of God’s Holy Spirit interacting and sometimes interceding in our daily lives.
Let me give you a tangible example. I was in Japan, serving in the Coast Guard when my oldest son Paul was born. He was two weeks old before I got a picture, but for the last 3 months of her pregnancy, Mary wrote me almost every day, describing changes and plans.
And finally when Paul was six months old I got see him face to face and hold him for the first time. And you know what, I loved him already. Because of those pictures, because of all the things Mary had written and shared about things he was doing and how much he was growing, I knew about him and I had already begun to love him. But when I held him and hugged him, that love became deep and real.
That’s the way it is with God’s love for us. God knows and loves us long before we ever come to know about God. And long before we ever come to love God, God loves us. It is that embrace of God’s love, that unmerited gift of God’s grace that is offered through Christ, even though we’ve never known Christ, that eventually leads us to love God.
It can be a gradual thing like it was for my wife Mary who grew up in the church and has never really doubted or questioned God’s love as part of her life. Or it can come in an overwhelming life changing blast of forgiveness, renewal and purpose like it did in my life. It doesn’t matter which. But eventually, whether it is suddenly revealed or we come to now know it gradually, we experience God’s love and all that knowledge about God moves to our hearts. And in our HEARTS, it becomes Faith.
III. SERVING GOD: HANDS:
A. Then our Knowledge and our Love for God move us, draw us, call us, lead us into acts of Service or using our HANDS.
This is simply giving hands and feet to our Faith. This is putting our Knowledge of God and Love for God into action in our everyday lives. And that is done through as many different ways as there are people to respond and people to respond to.
Christmas In Action is one way. So, is VBS, teaching Sunday School, leading a Disciple Bible Study group, serving at the Thrift Store or Food Bank, going on Mission Trip, helping to dig a well in Yaukani Village, Nigeria for a struggling start up church.
I think maybe this whole SERVING GOD WITH YOUR HANDS aspect of Intentional Faith Development might best be summed up in some of the One Another passages found in the New Testament.
B. Love one another (John 13:34-35, Gal 5:14)
Encourage one another (Heb 3:13; 10:24-25)
Be devoted to one another (Rom 12:10)
Build up one another (Rom 14:19; 1 Thess 5:11)
Be kind to one another (1 Thess 5:15)
Live in harmony with one another (Rom 12:16)
Accept one another (Rom 15:7)
Serve one another (Gal 5:13)
Have concern for one another (1 Cor 12:25)
Confess your sins to one another (James 5:16)
Forgive one another (Eph 4:32)
Teach and admonish one another (Col 5:16)
Pray for one another (James 5:16)
Don’t judge one another (Rom 14:13)
Don’t slander one another (James 4:11)
These are all action verbs, not passive verbs. There is nothing passive about being a Christian. Intentional Faith Development demands action with our Head, Heart and Hands by Knowing, Loving and Serving God and by creating opportunities for everyone around us to do the same thing.
You see, Knowing, Loving and Serving are all entry points into this life of Faith. And you can start at any one of them and going any direction.
But it’s a process which Eugene Peterson has called “A Long Obedience In The Same Direction”. I like that. He gets that it is a process, a journey.
Rev. Ken Carter wrote: “Intentional Faith Development is INTENTIONAL in that we are on a road, a path, a journey. It is FAITH because it is not obvious, it is something we cannot see, but we know it is real. It is DEVELOPMENT in that we need to take the gift we have been given and exercise it, sharpen it, make it stronger. How does intentional faith happen? Just like in athletics, it’s a process. It does not happen overnight. And that’s hard for a lot of us to get because we live in an instant gratification culture. But it takes time and it’s a process. Intentional faith development is a lifelong process.” (1)
There’s a great scene in the new Karate Kid movie that talks about that process. The movie is basically the same story as all the others, just set in a different time and place. This time the boy Dre, played by Jaden Smith, is in China, and his instructor Mr. Han is played by Jackie Chan.
As Dre begins his training is earnest, Mr. Han takes him out into the countryside to show him some new moves. Dre sees a woman who moves like a cobra and decides that this is the kind of kung-fu he wants to learn. But Mr. Han knows it’s a process and Dre has to learn fundamentals first. WATCH
Dre wants to learn now what Mr. Han tells him takes a lifetime. Dre is like a lot of us. We’re impatient. We want it all now. We want to run before we can walk, or, in theological terms, we want to eat meat before we have learned to drink milk. We forget that spiritual growth, like the development of athletic prowess, takes discipline.
So, here is the invitation. I’m not going to pitch some program or ministry this morning. But I am going to ask and challenge us as a congregation and you as individuals take the practice of Intentional Faith Development very seriously. I challenge you to take one step, undertake one new discipline, in your spiritual life. How that happens or what will be is a conversation between you and God.
But if every person in our congregation takes one step forward in this area, I think the effect within our congregation will be amazing. We would begin to truly live into our vision, to be the body of Christ, glorifying God and serving others. You can call it discipleship, you can call it pursuit of holiness, or simply see it as an invitation to follow Jesus more deeply and become the person God created you to be and the church God calls us to be.
We have been given a gift; the gift of salvation. What do we do with it? That’s up to you. Personally, I think we should claim it and live into it, by faith. Because Intentional Faith Development won’t happen by accident. You see, it’s Intentional.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.
1. Ken Carter sermon on Intentional Faith Development on Five Practices Website