Damariscotta Baptist Church
Monday, May 21, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

05/15/11 Sermon

Matthew 28:1-20 
 
Have you ever achieved something that you had always longed for and strived for and once it was over and you achieved it you asked yourself “What’s Next”?
 
I’m reminded of the Disney World commercials that are shown after the Super bowl.  When the winning team is celebrating and all the confetti is falling and people are ecstatic and someone goes to the winning team’s quarterback and they say: You’ve just won the Super Bowl what are you going to do next?  And with excitement they scream “I’m going to Disney World!”
 
I thought about that “what’s next” question when I was reading our scripture today.  I tried to put myself in the shoes of the disciples and imagine what they felt like after they had witnessed the resurrection themselves.  As they were trying to make sense of the resurrection, they had to have wondered “What an I supposed to do now?---I mean there wasn’t a Disney world yet!  But then we read that Jesus gives them the “what’s next” instructions.
 
He gives them the “Great Commission”.  He tells them they are to go out to all the nations (that means everybody, every person) and make them disciples, Go and baptize them, Go and train them, Go and teach them in the way of Jesus.  Jesus’ “what’s next” command was to go out and share the Good news of a life of joy and freedom from our guilt and fears and hopelessness.  Jesus called them to go and share the news of an abundant life, eternal life that is available to all who will believe.
 
That was the disciples’ “What’s next”.
 
And it’s the same “what’s next” command that we’re given as well.
 
As people who have experienced and believed the resurrection, we too are to go out and share the Good News. This is our purpose—this is what God has called his church to be about.  Unfortunately God’s church has often forgotten this command and as a result many churches have become irrelevant and have shut their doors.   Instead of being focused outwardly, churches have instead looked inward. They have forgotten what’s supposed to be next:
 
I’ve shared this illustration with you before but I think it’s worth sharing again……
 
On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occur there was once a crude little lifesaving station.  The building was just a hut, and there was only one boat, but the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea, and with no thought for themselves, they went out day or night tirelessly searching for the lost.  Many lives were saved by this wonderful little station, so that it became famous.  Some of those who were saved, and various others in the surrounding areas, wanted to become associated with the station and give of their time and money and effort for the support of its work.  New boats were bought and new crews were trained. The little lifesaving station grew.
 
But some of the new members of the station were unhappy that the building was so crude and so poorly equipped. They felt that a more comfortable place should be provided for those saved from the sea.  So they had fundraisers put on by the women’s alliance to replace the emergency cots with beds and put better furniture and beautiful curtains in their meeting room.  They also spent their time raising money for stainless steel flatware instead of life jackets, new carpets, and decorations instead of spotlights.  They put on programs and dinners for stained glass windows, and for a pointed monument on top of the building to let everyone know who they were instead of focusing on the need for lifelines and buoys.
 
Suddenly, the lifesaving station became a popular gathering place for its members, and it became sort of a club.  Less of the members were now interested in going to sea on lifesaving missions, as they were more focused on the club.  So they sent money to others to do it; hired professional life boat crews to do their work for them.  And as a result the passion and energy was gone.
 
The mission of lifesaving was still given lip-service but most people had too little time, lacked the necessary commitment, and were also too busy arguing about the club activities than taking part in the lifesaving actions personally.  But some members insisted that lifesaving was their primary purpose and pointed out that they were still called a lifesaving station.  But at a meeting they were voted down and told that if they wanted to go out and do the saving of of people who were shipwrecked, they could begin their own lifesaving station down the coast.  
 
So they did.
 
But as the years went by, that new station experienced the same changes that had occurred in the old. They evolved into an inward focused club and yet another lifesaving station was founded.  
 
If you visit the seacoast today you will find a number of exclusive clubs along that shore.  Shipwrecks are still frequent in those waters, but now------ most people drown!
 
In the past 100 years, over 50,000 churches in the US have closed their doors.  In many, many cases the church has lost its “what’s next” direction.  Instead of being an outward focused lifesaving station they have become inward focused institutional clubs.  The damage is done. The postmodern culture we live in today does not want to come to church because they see it as an institution.  People outside of church see the church as being for church people not them. They mistrust the church, scandals, and don’t see the relevance of organized religion.  Things are also different today---People are too busy to support an institution, and serve on committees. In the 1960’s the church had a wealth of people to volunteer. But today 80 percent of women work outside the home. Time is a valuable commodity today for families.  We also see many people moving today and so they don’t want to join something they aren’t going to stay with.  And then there is the generational issue of our multitasking youth. They can watch TV, talk on the phone, play on the computer and do their homework at the same time. Sitting thru a worship service bores them to death.
 
Still churches think that if they do church better people will come.  And so churches try to be more entertaining, more hospitable, offering coffee shops and recreational facilities, small groups, contemporary services.  But they miss the point. The culture we live in today is not going to come to church because they don’t want to be part of an institution.  And it’s not that they don’t want spirituality. Spirituality is up in the United States. People are open to hear the message of Jesus---but they don’t believe Jesus is found only in the institutional church.
 
The point here is that even if we do church better, if we do church better than anyone in the whole world, people will still not come.  Doing church better to draw more people in is not the answer.  It’s not the answer and it doesn’t address the “what’s next” command that Jesus had in mind for his followers.
 
Jesus’ what’s next command was not about growing church. It was about growing the kingdom---- and the two are not the same thing.
 
Now today we are having our annual meeting after the service. And decisions about the future of the church are going to be discussed. Should we unrestrict portfolio funds? Should we sell the parsonage so that we can buy time for the ministry to grow?  
 
The natural response for this church and any church with financial issues is to say that we just need more people. We say, “If more people come our problems will be solved”.
But getting in more people is not really the problem. It’s like the woman who needed a new furnace……….The furnace salesman looks at the house and says that a new furnace is not the issue. Your house is 130 years old and it doesn’t have a cold air return; a new furnace doesn’t solve the problem.  Getting in more people does not address the real problem.  The real problem to address has to be about our faithfulness to Jesus’ commission. The real issue is about who we are and where we’re going as a church.
 
We have to have a direction; a specific direction.  We can’t just say we’re going to sell the parsonage and hope it buys time so that more people will come.  We need a specific direction, a plan on what we’re going to do and who we’re going to be. That comes first.
 
What is the end game we want? What is the specific direction we’re headed? Whats next?
 
Is the “what’s next” about trying to grow this institution despite the reality that people are not going to come? Or is the specific direction about focusing on Jesus’ “what’s next “command to go and make disciples, to grow his kingdom, to be a lifesaving station?  Are we going to have a course that is about being an institutional church or are we going to become a commissional church? AKA, a missional church.
 
You know the two aren’t the same… In fact they are very different.  Some of you know I’ve been speaking about the missional church for some time now.  Some might think I’m trying to introduce some kind of new age stuff.  But in reality I’m speaking about old age stuff; I’m talking about going back to the early church and what is was about before this institutional church took over.
 
So what exactly does a missional church look like versus an institutional church??
 
Well a missional church is nothing to be afraid of. We’re often afraid of the unknown. So let’s clear up what being a missional church looks like:
 
Now I’m going to put up this chart which I think does a good job of explaining the difference between the institutional church and the missional church.  And when we look at this chart, the most significant difference between the two is that the Institutional Church sees mission as a separate thing that churches do---There is a church and it has a mission.  For the institutional church, mission is a program or ministry of the church. It’s a task or a duty that a church does.. For example, we have a task of raising money for some mission project or some mission trip.  Now---- a Missional church sees mission as an identity. It’s not a task, it’s who you are. It’s a way of life. You inhale gospel and exhale mission through your everyday, ordinary life.   When you go to the grocery store you are in mission. When you are at work you are in mission. If someone is down and out you are there to listen and care. You are open to pray with them and listen to them and befriend them just as if you were in a mission field (because in reality, that’s where you’re at.)
 
Being missional is in your DNA—it’s not something separate that you do.
 
Now the next difference we see between the two is that an Institutional church sees mission as Optional. It’s an elective that a church member can either choose to do or not do.  Now I do want to point out that when we look at the Great Commission that Jesus gave the disciples we don’t see that he made it optional. He told all 11 the same thing.  If you are a believer, mission is not optional.  Now as we see in the missional church, mission is essential. It’s at the core of being a Christian.  Mission is not a program or a committee that we can join or not join. It’s not voluntary; mission is critical for all of us to be doing.
 
The next difference we see between a missional church and an institutional church is that with an institutional church, mission is for the extraordinary; the elite.  In the institutional church, mission is done by the experts, the exceptional. The pastor and the few leaders in the church are the ones who are supposed to do the missional work.  
They’re those ones who get in the lifeboats to go and save people while the rest sit in the clubhouse and have some mint julips!  But in the missional church, the priesthood of all believers is embraced. There is no hierarchical structure of experts in the missional church.
 
You know for too long we have been duped into this silliness that people who go to a foreign country are somehow more spiritual than others.  The same things happens with clergy. Clergy are the worst about promoting or propping up institutional church.   It makes them more important. It justifies authority which keeps them in a place of influence and power.  Unfortunately this institutional hierarchical way has led God’s called people to not see that everybody is to be involved in mission.  Again it’s not an option; all of us are equally called to go and make disciples.
 
Now the next difference we see with the missional church and the institutional church is that one is project focused, and the other is people focused.  In the institutional church, the focus is about putting on a good event to look good in people’s eyes. The event itself becomes the primary focus. We’re not really focused on the people we’re serving as much as putting on a good event.  But in the missional church it’s not about the event, it’s about the people you are serving.  Missional churches care about people. They love people. They look to the culture and see where the needs are and they go about meeting them.
 
While the institutional church is doing mission, the missional church is being mission by being lifesavers for drowning people…..
 
The next disparity between the missional church and the institutional church has to do with church growth versus kingdom growth.  The institutional church is about growing the church; it’s about getting more people here inside the building, inside the club where they can live out their faith.  The mentality is that people have to come to church because this place is where Christians become Christians and where they remain Christians.  But the Missional church is about Kingdom Growth----It’s not focused on how many people we bring into the church---it’s instead focused on how much of the kingdom of God we bring to the world.  There is a two part focus in this. The first part is about making the community we live in a better place. (shining light and shaking salt)  We’re doing this right now---People serve at Miles of Friends, work at the community dinner, serve at the ecumenical food pantry.  I think of the Divorce Care ministry and the purpose of helping people have hope and light again. I think of the Help Your Community Day and the Harvest Supper and Pirate Rendezvous and a Health Fair.
 
Now these are NOT simply projects or events that we put on to do mission.  Instead they are a result of us wanting to shed light on the community.  They are done not to bring more people in here because that turns it into a task, and an option that has at its core the purpose of church growth.  There is a fine line here because many people hope that by doing these things that people will want to join our lifesaving station.
 
But to be a missional church, that is never a consideration. Lifesaving mission is at the heart. You love people and care for people not the institution you’re wanting to grow and be proud of.  When we have in our vocabulary the idea that we will be in mission and more people will come, then we are making mission a program of the institutional church.  This church growth mentality is deep-rooted.  We all struggle with it because we’ve been conditioned to think this way.  But growing the institution is idolatrous because it keeps us from focusing on Jesus’ “what’s next” call of a missional identity.  Remember that when Jesus taught us to pray the Lord’s prayer he didn’t say we’re to pray “Thy Church come, he said to pray “Thy Kingdom come”.
 
Now the second part of this kingdom growth in the missional church is the evangelical part.  Missional churches aren’t just about doing community social events that make the world a better place.  Missional churches are also about building relationships with people. A missional church loves people, all people, not just the people who come to church.  Being missional is about building genuine relationships because when we do, we are able to pray for others and share faith.  Missional churches grow God’s kingdom by sharing the resurrection of Christ. We build relationships so that when someone is down and out and living in darkness and despair we can witness to them the Good News that rescued us. 
 
The kingdom of God is grown when people come to know Jesus personally, not by growing a church.
 
Now the next difference we see between an institutional church and a missional church is that the institutional church is focused on numbers-------attendance and financial giving and number of programs. All of these measure the growth of the church.  However a Missional Church is not concerned about numbers--- instead it has a different yardstick to measure things: A missional church asks: To what extent is our church a 'sent' community in which each believer is reaching out to his/her community? (Mission moments)  Instead of being about numbers we want to celebrate and measure how our church is impacting the community in a kingdom building and evangelical way.
 
Now finally the last difference we see between an institutional church and a missional church has to do with how it uses its resources.  In the institutional church it typically takes 80 to 90% of its budget for its building maintenance and utilities and staff salaries. It uses its resources to support the institution.  But in the Missional Churchnearly 100% of the tithes and offering can go directly to funding their mission outreaches, because those outreaches, (not a building and its staff) are the heart and purpose of the church.  A missional church can worship anywhere. And they don’t necessarily need a full time pastor to be the club director.  A missional church looks to find ways to free up their finances and resources to be in mission in their local community as well as internationally.
 
It takes time to move in this direction but when an institutional church begins to embrace this missional identity and live it out, it begins to utilize its resources to follow Jesus’ “what’s next” call……………………………………………………..
 
Now today, Damariscotta Baptist Church is being faced with the “what’s next” question.  The lifecycle of this congregation is in a place where it needs to be specific with where it’s headed.  It cannot kick the can down the road and hope for more people to come and grow the church so that it can sustain the status quo.  Buying time hoping that more people will come is not the answer.  The real issue is our identity. We have to be focused on where we are headed and what we are going to become.  Numbers can keep the church going for awhile.  But we first and foremost have to be a vital congregation that is serious about following Jesus’ commissional call.
 
Of all the decisions this church has to make, the most important one, is how we will respond to Jesus’ resurrection.  Will we hear his command to intentionally go and make disciples? Will we go into our community and go about the work of building God’s kingdom?
 
The choice is up to us…
 
So today I ask you the congregation-----What’s next?
 
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen