I reckon you may have heard me say at least once, “The local church is the hope of the world”.
It has been a long journey for me to believe this to the point of giving my heart and life to it.
I heard a guy say that line back when I was about 25. His name is Bill hybels. He is a pastor of a large church and global network of churches now called Willow Creek. Willow Creek is in the western suburbs of Chicago.
Why are we here ad why are we calling you to be involved; to step up and to step it up?
Play Clip… http://www.willowcreekglobalsummit.com/next_steps_2012_HOPE.asp
I believe this. I heard it 20+ years ago by this man and resisted it with all my might for ages.
It has taken me a few decades of questioning, kicking against the church, chasing more visible and more “worthy” causes to put my heart into to come to this realisation that the local Christian church is where it is really at.
I spent most of my teen years and young adult years searching for more grand, more world-beating, more important ways to serve God. I thought music was the key and playing in a band was everything. I learnt eventually that the local church is the bread and butter mission in God;’ grand mission and that belonging to and serving in a local Christian community committed to serving its community was the primary way God brings about his kingdom in the world and that I can be OK with giving my heart to it.
This is not for everyone and you may be on the search for other things. That’s OK. We are all on a long journey with Jesus.
But I do believe that the local Christian church is the hope for the local community.
I actually do believe from all my experience and my reading of the New Testament that God works the longest and the most lasting bringing his kingdom of justice and peace and forgiveness into a local community through the people he calls, gathers and sends out in the power of the spirit with Jesus Word and in his power. And he does this despite the fact that Mr Schmidt farts in the pew every Sunday, the preacher is often tired or boring, the music is not as slick as the You Tube clip or CD version, the praying is done by a kid, the oldies think it’s too loud or the mid-life people think they know it all.
Sure the local church is not as “sexy” as other worthy things, and it full of sinners, but it lasts and it shapes and it is where we have the best chance to truly learn his Word and learnt o love all kinds of people for the long haul of faith.
Not saying that other para-church ministry is not valid or important and worthy of our effort and commitment. God is big and he work when and where he wants through all kinds of people and in all kinds of places.
But, without that local long term community of faith in Jesus, we are lacking the very best and the most potent source of God’s changing love.
Sure, not all churches get it. Not all churches have the heart or the vision or the people to be of huge impact and help to their community.
But even a group of 20 people gathering faithfully to be empowered to serve their local community in Jesus’ name is the church – Jesus in action through his people.
So, why are we asking you to get better at your skills in singing and music?
• Why are we saying practice stuff before you rehearse it with the band
• Why are we urging you to turn up on time and be ready to go for your team
• Why are we working on our 4 band structure, our leadership skills and our gear?
• Why are we doing today?
• Why are we trying to give you experiences that build up your confidence and your skill and your commitment to your team?
So that this little guys gets Jesus. So that his dismal life is halted and hope overwhelms him and his destiny is changed.
Serious. You think your just playing a few songs. I think your being a steward of Jesus’ kingdom breaking into people’s lives as we gather in that church building.
You think it merely a matter of your hobby or interest or need to sing and play. I believe it is sacred calling and privileged service of people just like that little guys and his parents and his grandparents.
I believe that God works longest, broadest, across the generations, for the long haul and in the most consistent way through a community of people he gathers together in a local community.
I believe singers and musicians and sound people and pastors are stewards of God’s transforming power to change people’s lives and bring people hope and new life. We don’t preach or play music or sing or pray because its nice or because we are expected to or because we have not got anything else on. We do what we do because Jesus calls us to it, gives us the gifts and says, serve – serve them in my name.
I am only here because someone took this seriously. I can list mentors, friends, and strangers who had the fire in belly to be serve little me with their gifts – musical and otherwise. Who are you serving into a relationship with Jesus? Who might the Spirit call and gather through you and the using of your gifts for his kingdom?
As Pastor of St Petri and community song leader myself I want to see you all develop in lots of ways;
• Your skills in singing and playing your instrument,
• Your understanding of how bands work and team work.
• Your understanding of your gifts and your calling
• Your understanding of worship and what the Lord is doing when we gather in Jesus name
• Your understanding of what a local church is and why it is worth growing in your gifts and serving God’s people.
I don’t really care about music that much in a way. I don’t really mind about your skills or lack of or your great moments or your mistakes and I don’t think the Lord is concerned about these things as we are at times. He cares about you and I do too and I care about this local church – the hope of this town.
But why wouldn’t you want to give it your very best? Not for me or even your band mates but for him? So sure, we don’t strive for perfection because that is just silly. But we do strive for excellence – for him and each other and God’s people.
So in as much as we sing and play and hold ourselves well as we serve and play and sing and give of our time and effort for the love and hope of others, I am keen, I am proud and I am committed.
So, don’t play to just take some noise or fulfil some personal need or because it is expected by someone or because you’ve got nothing else to do – learn to serve to be a steward of Jesus’ transforming love in this community of people – your home, your community, your place where Jesus is on the move in this town.
For the local church really is God’s hope for this town, what does this require of you?
Where do your attitudes need to be changed?
Where do you need to shuffle your commitments?
How do you prepare for your singing and playing?
How will you develop your skills on your own?
What will you commit to in your band and how will you hold yourself?