Want to make a difference for those who are guests on Sunday? Here’s a very simple way: Show up early.
As a pastor, I’m at our gathering location early every week. And I’ve noticed that, at least at our church, only 3 kinds of people show up early (at least 10 minutes before):
- Older people
- New people
Older people are just respectful and are basically not in a hurry, ex-cons have been subconsciously trained that if they don’t show up early they don’t eat, and new people are there because they didn’t want to show up late and get embarrassed.
When these guests arrive, wouldn’t it be great if there were a bunch of genuinely joyful people there, excited about the chance to be together and celebrate Jesus? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there were loving, devoted Christ-followers ready to strike up a conversation or say hello?
If you were a guest, that’s what you’d want. And all it takes is showing up early.
I know, I know…it takes kids forever to get moving in the morning, especially when you want them to hurry. But they do it for school and you do it for work. Why? Because showing up early to those things is important to you. Shouldn’t the opportunity to love on guests to our church (people who are likely exploring the faith) be just as important?
There is low-hanging gospel fruit and ministry every week for those who will take it. So join me, your pastors and the band and come love on some new people!
For a context of this discussion, see The Sermon Starts in the Parking Lot.
Making a difference with the guests to our church is not hard. It takes surprisingly little effort. But, sadly, few Christians intentionally focus on this opportunity to love and serve our neighbors. When we invite our own friends and family, we do this naturally. But what about the other Sundays when other people have invited their friends?
Make a mind-shift.
Colin Marshall writes:
See church as a place where Christians go to work. Church is a gathering of God’s people to hear his word and respond in faith and obedience. In this gathering, we are in fellowship with each other, through the blood of Jesus, and, because of our fellowship, we seek to serve each other. We use our gifts and abilities to strengthen one another and build Christ’s Church— ‘edification’ is the word often used to describe what goes on in church. All believers are involved in building the church, not just clergy or preachers. The New Testament consistently teaches that in the growth of the body of Christ each part must do its work (see Eph 4; 1 Cor 12-14). Because of this, we aren’t to see ourselves merely as part of an organization called [Second Mile Church], but as servants of God’s people, eager to meet the needs of others even if it means sacrificing our own.
This will change your reasons for going to church. Make the shift from being the ‘helpee’ to the helper, the served to the servant. Church is where we seek spiritual food and encouragement in order to become more godly; but church is also where we go in order to feed other people and encourage them. In God’s mercy, we become more Christ-like in the process, as like him we deny ourselves for the sake of others.
Why do you think we do this naturally when we bring guests to church, but we forget it the other weeks?
Our mission to take the gospel to people and make disciples is definitely not limited to what we do on Sunday — it happens all the time, everywhere we go. But it should also be happening at the Sunday gathering. If we can’t do it well there, we’ll have a hard time doing it elsewhere. Everything we do when we gather is a chance to communicate the beauty of Christ.
Hell is real, and Hell matters.
If this were not the case, then the recent controversy surrounding Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins, is totally ridiculous (click here for Pastor Jake Johnson’s helpful review of Bell’s book). But Hell truly does matter—and not for just theological reasons, but practical ones also. Believing that Hell is real should impact your life.
So, here are four practical ways that believing in Hell should affect your life here on Earth:
1. It should give you greater love for what Jesus accomplished on the cross
Jesus did not die merely to save you from feeling bad about your unfulfilling life. He died to save you from his Father’s wrath against sin and then bring you into a relationship with him that could never be broken.
One of Hell’s greatest horrors is being cast away “from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his might” (2 Thess 1:9). If everything good and perfect comes from God (James 1:17), then to be shut out from his presence means solitary eternity without good—nobody to laugh with, nothing beautiful to admire, nobody to sympathize with your pain, no taste of food or drink, and no longing for friendship fulfilled.
In contrast, Jesus’ death accomplished eternal life—and all that goes with it: friendship (with God himself), camaraderie, singing, eating, drinking, working, delighting, laughing, and rejoicing—all centered and focused around Jesus and what he won for you. This new life with God begins now, and you should enjoy it.
2. It should give you a greater appreciation for what Jesus experienced on the cross
Jesus’s death on the cross was violent and awful. It was torture. But it was torture for two criminals next to him as well. What made Jesus’s crucifixion truly hellish was that he was experiencing separation from his Father—a taste of Hell. Let’s be clear: Jesus did not go to Hell when he died to suffer more there (he told the repentant thief, “Today you will be with me in paradise”). But Jesus’s suffering on the cross was a taste of the agony of Hell. The weight and guilt of sin crushing down on him while his Father turned his face away. The Savior you treasure has tasted Hell for you.
3. It should remind you that even the smallest of sins sent Jesus to the cross
Jesus mentions Hell twelve times in the Gospels. A number of these times warn of the seriousness of sin. In Matthew 5:22, Jesus declares that it’s not just murderers who deserve Hell, but those who angrily say to a friend “You fool!” One of the major themes of Jesus’ teaching on Hell—appearing five times (Matt 5:30, 18:9; Mark 9:43, 45, 47)—is that sin is so serious that it would be better to lose a body part causing you to sin than to keep it and go to Hell. Thus, Hell instructs us to fight sin with an amputation-level seriousness.
4. It should propel you into conversations about Jesus’s cross
The Bible says that those who reject Jesus will “perish” (John 3:16) and that “the wrath of God remains” on those who do not obey him (John 3:36). In other words, the stakes are high. People need to hear the good news about Jesus’s saving death. If you believe that being with Jesus is the most delightful thing you could experience and that those without him will experience a solitary eternity of misery apart from him, then you must offer the only hope—the cross of Jesus Christ. To say you believe in Hell but don’t ever talk about Jesus with those who are going there is, at best, inconsistent hypocrisy and, at worst, hate-filled indifference. This is why even Penn Jillette, a committed atheist, can applaud a Christian for genuinely sharing Jesus and ask, “How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”
Do you believe in Hell? If so, then let it transform the way you adore Jesus, the way you fight disobedience to Jesus, and the way you talk about Jesus.
What are some other practical reasons that Hell matters? What would you add?
As a follow-up to Pastor Tyler Johnson’s excellent sermon on integrating worship into all of life, I wanted to discuss a key factor that will determine the degree to which your work is satisfying: motivation.
Everything we do is motivated by something. So is work. The question for every follower of Jesus is, “Is my motivation for work a biblical one?” Below are 8 motivations to work, but first a few important observations about this list:
- Scripture affirms all of these motivations.
- The more of these motivations a person has about his work the more motivated he will be about his job and therefore more productive.
- The more of these motivations a person has about his work the bigger perspective he will have.
- The more success a person has in implementing these motivations the happier and more personally fulfilled he will be at work.
8 Motivations for Work
1. “I have to work.”
For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. (2 Thessalonians 3:10–12)
2. “To meet my needs and the needs of my family.”
But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1 Timothy 5:8)
3. “I desire a certain standard of living.”
Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God. (Ecclesiastes 5:19)
4. “I desire to accomplish something meaningful.”
There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, (Ecclesiastes 2:24)
5. “I do something at work that is beneficial and meaningful to others.”
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: (1 Peter 4:10)
6. “I can earn money that I can use to help others.”
Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. (Ephesians 4:28)
7. “I can earn money to give that would help advance God’s kingdom on earth.”
Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; (Proverbs 3:9)
8. “I can serve and glorify God in my work and spiritually impact people by the way I go about my work.”
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (Colossians 3:23–24)
8 Motivations, 4 Drives
Essentially, these 8 motivations could be broken down into 4 drives:
1. Paycheck driven – “I can provide and have a certain standard of living.”
2. Passion driven – “I can do something meaningful.”
3. Philanthropy driven – “I can help others and make a difference.”
4. Purpose driven – “I can make much of God through the quality of my work.”
After a couple of weeks of slow-down waiting for door frames, the work at 8743 E Pecos Rd is hopping again. Most noticeably, we’re starting to see pieces of the OSB wood get installed. It’s a fairly involved process of sanding, staining, and finishing, but the finished product looks great.
Here are some of the latest photos:
This past Sunday we talked about the values of Proclamation and Demonstration — the idea that Jesus talked about the good news of his Kingdom and also did actions that proved his love.
I joyfully borrowed from Andy Stanley’s principle, “Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone.” It’s a helpful principle, especially in light of how many overwhelming needs there are in our cities and communities.
I’d encourage you to watch a recent message that Stanley gave on this entitled, “One, Not Everyone.” In particular, don’t miss his personal story of how he has seen this principle work out in a very powerful way (starts around the 20:00 mark).