From Pastor Johnny

Does Your Church Have the Right Signature? Part 7 - Obvious Generosity

          There was an amazing attitude among God’s people that said, “My things are not my own, but they are God’s.  My life and my things should be readily available for use through the body of Christ.”   While God’s people in the church continued to possess personal property, they did not see it as their own but saw it as God’s possession. This was the obvious generosity brought by the Holy Spirit that helped power the early church.

            In the mid to late 20th century missionary Eunice Pike spent 40 years working with the Mazatec Indians in Southwestern Mexico.  During that time she discovered some interesting things about “these beautiful people”. For instance, the people seldom wish someone well.  Not only that, they are hesitant to teach one another or to share the gospel with each other.  If asked, “Who taught you to bake bread?” the village baker answers, “I just know,” meaning he has acquired the knowledge without anyone’s help.

          Eunice explained that this odd behavior stems from the Indian’s concept of “limited good.”  They believe there is only so much good, so much knowledge, so much love to go around. To teach another means you might drain yourself of knowledge. To wish someone well—“Have a good day”—means you have just given away some of your own happiness, which cannot be reacquired.

            Too often, if not careful, God’s people will operate this way. The idea that, if I give generously then I will not have enough, often stunts generosity in the church.  Rather, when God’s people realize that it is all God’s anyway, the giving simply becomes a matter of sharing God’s resources with God’s people.   Furthermore, Scripture seems to indicate that generous giving actually brings more back to the givers (see Jesus’ words in Luke 6:38).

          We must remember that, as members of the body, we do not give in order to get back.  We must never say, “I gave a lot in the offering and now expect certain things done my way”.  We are on the wrong track if we say, “I gave and sacrificed toward that, now what am I going to receive back in return?”  We are not true givers if we say, “I gave that to the church body now I should get some use from it.”

          The heart of giving is generosity and the heart of Christ.   God gave (John 3:16) when He needed nothing and, because He is fully perfected, could receive nothing of benefit.  God gave to us, through His Son Jesus Christ, simply to bless us.  This is the heart of generous giving that is a signature of the Holy Spirit on the church.

Does Your Church Have the Right Signature Part 6 - Powerful Worship

          Amazing things were happening as the believers gathered.  They gathered to exalt Christ and worship Him.  As they did, their worship was characterized by five responses:

  1. There was a deep reverence out of a fear of God. -- “sense of awe”
  2. There was a drastic revelation out of a focus on God – “wonders”
  3. There was a definite reminder of the presence of God – “signs”
  4. There was a daily reunion of the people of God – 46 - “continuing daily...in the temple (corporate)..and from house to house. 
  5. There was a detailed response to the goodness of God – “praising”

             For them, gathering was not about getting what they needed personally, but it was pouring out their hearts toward God.  There is no doubt in my mind that every believer NEEDS to be in worship much worse than he or she needs to be in a deer stand, shopping mall, horseback, golf course, or sleeping in.  Yet, our need to be in corporate worship is not the primary reason for gathering.  The primary reason for gathering in corporate worship is God Himself.

            Suppose an elementary school caught on fire, and you happened to be driving by. You stopped and acted quickly. You realized that there were two classrooms of students and teachers trapped by the fire.  They would all die if something were not done. Without any consideration of your own life or well-being, you climbed on to the roof of the building and rescued all 45 people in those two classrooms.

            You were so brave and so heroic, with no regard to your own life, that the county throws a banquet for you, and you can invite 100 of your friends.  The banquet is for the county to honor and award you for this amazing feat of bravery.  They are going to have a meal, honor you with songs, and speak of your heroism.

            You give the organizers the names of 100 friends to invite to the banquet. Only 50 of the 100 say that they will come. The other 50 have cars to wash, fish to catch, deer to kill, relatives to visit, overtime to work, and grass to mow.

            In addition, suppose that out of the other 50 who come, 30 of them do not notice you at all.  They complain because it is too hot.  They talk about it being too cold.  Others in that group of 30 complain that they could not read the menu properly or that the food was new recipes that they did not like.  Still others said that the food was too old-fashioned and they were bored with it. 

            Finally, there is a group of about 20 people who come to you and tell you what a great thing you did in saving those lives.  These people hug you, pat you on the back, and speak of the amazing things you accomplished by your selfless act.  Some of this 20 even bring you gifts and give you rewards because you saved their children.

            After it is all said and done, an amazing thought crossed your mind.  You realize that out of 100 people invited to be at a banquet honoring you, only about 20 realized it was for you.  The other 80 people seemed to think that the banquet did not matter, or that the banquet was for them.

            Weekly Christians have the opportunity to gather to praise God, recount God’s goodness, revere His power, and reveal His greatness.  We have an opportunity to honor Him and Him alone. Too often, many of God’s people view corporate worship in terms of what they can receive.

            How many believers really understand worship is about God?  How many believers who sit at home, find other things to do or go somewhere else fail to realize that it is about God?  How many believers who do walk in the doors for corporate worship on Sunday mornings really think worship service is really about their needs rather than about God’s glory?  

            Powerful worship in corporate worship is God’s people gathering to express God’s greatness and praise Him. Powerful worship happens when God’s people know that it is about God.

Does Your Church Have the Right Signature? Part 5

          DAY 1:  A signature can be a cursive, handwritten name that seals a deal or identifies an owner.  In April 2020, my bride and I closed on a house we built after moving to Smiths Station, Alabama to pastor Golden Acres Baptist Church in Phenix City.  We provided our signature many, many times in that closing. 

          A signature can also be a characteristic or identifying mark that points to an individual (often referred to as their brand).   Michael Jordan has, on his athletic clothing line, the figure of the “Jump Man.”   It is a silhouette of a dunk in his first NBA slam dunk contest.  It is the signature of Michael Jordan 

          In Major League Baseball the Green Monster is a signature of the Boston Red Sox stadium – Fenway Park. It is a huge, tall, green wall in left field.  

          A signature, for a corporation, can be an identifying logo.  Coca Cola has its flowing script and Nike has its swoosh.  These images are two of the most iconic corporate signatures in the world.   And, as these signatures are true about people, stars, and corporations, so will a true, biblical church have its own signature.  

          The church of Jesus Christ should have a signature – and identifying mark – not of programs, activities, or marketing schemes, but of the Holy Spirit.   A Holy Spirit empowered and Holy Spirit filled local church will have the signature of the Holy Spirit on it.   When a local church is filled with the Holy Spirit, there is a clear signature of His power and presence. 

REVIEW 

          After the ascension of Christ to the Father (Acts 1), the Holy Spirit baptized the church on the day of Pentecost.  This all took place in Jerusalem, and as the believers began to preach the Gospel in the street (Acts 2), a crowd gathered to see what was happening.  

          Peter then stood, with the other 11 disciples and preached so that 3000 people were saved (Acts 2:14-42).  The church began meeting and a few of the following characteristics can be seen in their ongoing ministry according to Acts 2:42-47: 

  • Focused  Instruction: 2:42a 
  • Fellowship Communion: 42b, 46    
  • Forceful Prayer: v.42 

           The narrative continues with additional examples of the signature of the Holy Spirit on the church of Jesus Christ.  Consider these expressions of His signature on the true church. 

  

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