Wednesday, August 3, 2011

All it takes to grow a great church...

“All it takes to grow a great church is everybody doing what they can do.” That’s something my long time Pastor Dr. Bill Sutton would say quite regularly from the pulpit at First Baptist Church in McAllen Texas. Hearing that simple statement regularly from Brother Bill had a profound impact on me personally and on our church culture there at First Baptist and under his leadership and in the power of the Holy Spirit, became a great church. All Bill did was summarize the realities of the Christian life and the process of making disciples. A huge part of being a maturing disciple of Jesus Christ is to learn how to be a servant. Jesus Himself taught His disciples to be servants and commanded them to “wash one another’s feet” after Jesus took a basin of water and washed their feet. We don’t understand what that means in our modern culture but in the 1st century, the famous Roman roads were dusty and since the primary mode of transportation was walking.  Since Nike hadn’t produced a tennis shoe, sandals were the foot wear of the day. As people walked, their feet would get filthy with caked on dust and dirt. To make matters worse, they didn’t typically sit upright at table to eat; the custom was to lounge on your side by a low table and obviously your feet would be close to your neighbor’s space – those dirty, nasty feet. It was the custom to provide a basin of water for your guests to wash their feet or better yet, have a servant come and wash and dry the feet of your guests. Except Jesus was the host of the dinner and He strapped a towel around His waist and took a basin to wash His disciples’ feet. That exercise of washing the feet of your guests was so refreshing to them and so kind. It’s about like being on a long airplane ride and the stewardess brings you a hot moist towel to refresh yourself before landing. There were some important lessons learned that night those disciples never forgot; and Jesus made an amazing statement in that context of having washed the disciples’ feet in John 13:17 “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”

Jesus was clearly saying that blessings flow to those who are willing to serve others. Is the work glamorous? No! Is it always fun? No! is it necessary? Absolutely! I share this because this past Sunday night in at our church in conference, we formally appointed over 270 volunteer workers who’ve said they will serve this next church year in some capacity here at Calvary! These folks have said yes to servant-hood, they’ve said they will wash the feet of others and have volunteered to carry out a variety of assignments that range from changing diapers in preschool to keeping records for Sunday School. No job is more important than another – in God’s view, the diaper changer is just as important as the most eloquent Sunday School teacher. I can tell you the child of God who is not involved in some kind of servant ministry is not growing closer to Christ and they certainly are not experiencing the blessings that flow from the throne of God into their lives. There is in many cases a lack of joy, peace and contentment in folks who refuse to serve.  One of the things that makes church life here at Calvary so wonderful is the presence of the Savior shining through the many volunteers who faithfully serve Jesus doing all the things needed for the church to minister effectively. Menial tasks that need to happen that may be nasty to perform, but so beneficial to the church body and the lost world looking on around us. Men laboring in a bathroom on a Sunday morning to mop up a water leak from a bathroom toilet that flooded the bathroom and destroyed the ceiling tiles in the classroom below. A dear woman on her knees pulling weeds out of a flower bed and planting new flowers to beautify the grounds. A mom and her kids cleaning up and organizing a storage closet. A woman preparing supplies for an upcoming promotion we’ll hold in August. A man with weed killer spraying weeds in flower beds, another man cleaning a bathroom with no real supplies between services because it needed attention. A group of adults leading a group of children to a homeless shelter with gifts – teaching them mission work…all these things are just some of what I’ve witnessed around here just recently. Every time I see volunteers working for the King of Kings around here, I can hear the echo of brother Bill in my head from years gone by “All it takes to grow a great church is everybody doing what they can do.”

There’s always more that needs to be done though and some ministries haven’t even been undertaken yet because people haven’t stepped forward and said they will take that on. Sadly, we live in a consumer culture where many people are content to sit on the sidelines and be served. Some may think since they came to church on Sunday and found a spot in a seat that God has gotten the warm fuzzie’s about their presence; yet they wonder why there is a painful void and the nagging feeling that something’s missing. The “missing something” is not serving. Here at Calvary, we’ve identified 4 critical ingredients we all need to be adding to Calvary for our church to be all God intends it to be: Connect, Grow, Serve, Renew. I won’t take time to explain them in detail but we want simply to connect with God and each other in genuine relationships. In those connections with God and each other, we’ll grow in our spiritual walk as we’re intentional about studying God’s word together and caring for one another. As we grow, a natural result of that is serving the Lord. As the disciples hung out with Jesus daily, they learned how to serve others and minister because Jesus mentored them in how to do that. The renew part comes through corporate worship as God’s people gather, our spirit’s are revived and renewed because of the focus on Christ. The process of discipleship is found in those simple ingredients but I’m highlighting serving here today. Let me thank all of you who’ve agreed to serve the Lord here at Calvary this year. Do it heartily as unto the Lord and know that the Lord loves a cheerful giver. If you serve bountifully, you’ll reap bountifully. Maybe you’ve been burdened for a ministry and God is calling you to serve. Step out on faith and watch God do amazing things through your service. Maybe you’d like to be involved but never have before in a particular ministry – ask someone in that ministry if they’ll teach you. I’m sure you’ll find them receptive to that request. Those of you who serve, seek out someone you can teach how to do what you do. I proudly echo my beloved pastor Bill Sutton: “All it takes to grow a great church is everybody doing what they can do.” Praying you’ll find the rich blessings of serving our Lord Jesus, from my little corner of the world to yours….

Ralph Green

Senior Pastor, Calvary Baptist Church

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