Manage episode 191229939 series 1711753
So now it is my privilege to introduce J.D. Greear. I recognize that for most of us J.D. is not somebody who necessarily needs to be introduced, but I recognize also that there may be a few here that are not familiar with J.D.'s ministry, so let me just give you a quick fly over. J.D. has been the lead pastor of Summit Church since 2002. He has a lot of different things going on in his life. He's a faculty member at South Eastern Seminary. Baptist Theological Seminary. He is leading a church planting network called Summit or providing leadership in a church planting network called Summit Network.
Probably closer to his heart is the fact that he is married to Veronica, his wife. He has four children. All of those are great reasons to invite somebody like J.D. to be here and be with us this morning. But one of the things in particular that we admire and are praying that god would use to stir up in us is that this is a man that comes with a profound heart for the lost and a pronounced gift for training leaders in reaching the lost and multiplying disciples, multiplying converts, multiplying churches, multiplying leaders and since that's part of the reason why we as a network of churches exist, to help pastors to multiply churches, it just seemed like a unique pairing and leading of the spirits. So J.D. is uniquely qualified to serve us and J.D. come and lets express our appreciation for J.D. Greear.
Speaker 2: Appreciate it brother. Thank you man. Well last session, early morning. Y'all ready for this? We feel like there's, I'm intimidated for a number for a number of reasons actually to be here, but not least of which is having address you so early in the morning after you've heard so many good things. I'll just start by, something I always tell our church that I'll give to you now. Drowsy whenever the word of god is taught or discussed is a sign of demon possession. So the person next to you looks like they're getting a little drowsy, you have my full permission to just reach over while I'm talking and grab their forehead and as loud as you can yell "Demons out!"
And I promise you, whatever your theology is, the spirit of slumber will depart from that person. So that's how we'll roll this morning. Hey, I'd love to just start us with a word of prayer here. So if we can just bow our hearts and our heads and lets talk to our heavenly father. Father, it is true that it is your breathe in our lungs that gives us the ability to praise you. And god I'm reminded that much more of how you're the only one who can build the church. You said "Follow me and I will make you a fisher of men." You said that if we would come to you, that you would, that god, you would bring forth fruit from us. An abundant fruit and that god, apart from you, we could do absolutely nothing.
That it's not by might or by power, it's only by your spirit that we accomplish these things, that we are going into fields of dead bones and how can these bones live again? It is only god. Through the life giving power of your spirit. And god if it's gonna take that when we preach and when we train, god, our people, then I know it's gonna have to take place here also as we open your word and our hearts to be trained by you in how to lead your church. Not a one of us is capable and not a one of us is worthy of hearing anything from you, but in your great mercy, you have promised yourself to your church. And so god, not for our sake and not for the name of Sojourn, not, god, because of any of our worthiness, but because of Jesus and for his sake I pray that would give good gifts to your church this morning.
We pray and we this god, in Jesus name. Amen. Amen. Well let me tell you how honored I am to be here with you. I have known about this network for so long and I admired it, although from a distance. Little known fact is I've actually been trying to get up here for years. I first ran into Daniel, Montgomery, and some of the Sojourn leadership years ago at a leadership network event and they told me about Sojourn Network and I was like "Oh, you should let me come and maybe I could one of the sessions for you." And Daniel just said "Man, I just don't feel like you're ready." And so I went back and I worked as growing our church and I ran into him a few years later and I planted our first church and I was like "Hey man, planted our first church. Now it's time for me to come."
He said "Man, I don't know. I just still don't feel like you're ready." And so I went back and then I wrote this book "Gaining by Losing" about how to plant churches and by this point Dave was leading the network and I said "Dave, I wrote a book, I published it. I'm ready to come to Sojourn Network." He said "Man, I read it. I just don't feel like you're ready." I said "Man, what have I got to do? I planted churches and I've written a booK and all this." I was like "I'll come up there. I'll come for free. I'll pay my own way." They've said "Now, you're ready."
So at long last I am here and I'm excited to be here. I know that your them over the last few days has been exploring networks and what role they play in seeing the movement of god happen. I've got two sessions with you, so in this first one I'm gonna take a slight step backward and I just want to talk about some of the theological under pennies if you will, that create the heart of a leader that is devoted to sending, devoting to raising up leaders and sending them out because until we really have that then a lot of the network conversation doesn't make a lot of sense.
People who are not devoted to sending are not really concerned about networking with other people and what role that plays and I know you're well versed in a lot of these things and so some of what I share may not be that new to you, but I thought it'd be a good place to start and allows me a little bit of a chance to tell you some of what I've seen god do in our church down in North Carolina and then in the second session, which will be more of a panel kind of dialogue or panel with two of us, we're gonna get more into the specifics of how and why of networks and kinda how to explore that. So if you got a bible I'd invite you to take it out and turn it on and scroll down to John chapter 16.
Anybody have an actual paper bible. I know that you guys are super cool up here, that's fantastic. I was not expecting that. My pastor, I grew up in a really traditional church and he used to say the sweetest sound he ever got to hear was the sound of the ruffling of the pages as people open the bible and to ... I never get to hear that as a pastor. I get to see the warm glow of god's word on people's faces which, I'll take it, but whatever you've got. John chapter 16. I'm gonna be in a number of different places this morning, but this is one that we'll start in.
The church that I pastor in the triangle part of North Carolina has been blessed, shall we say, with a lot of college students. Within about 20 minutes of our central campus there is a UNT Chapel Hill, Duke University, NC State, and some others. And what that basically means is that on the weekend, an unusually high percentage of our church are college students. Which I always say means a couple of things about our church. Number one, we are dirt poor as a congregation as I'm sure you can understand and appreciate. When college students started to come to our church at sometime in around 2003, I remember one week there were three of them that showed up.
They came in two cars. The next week 300 showed up in the same two cars and during that season of our church, our attendance basically tripled and our weekly giving went down $13.48. So we are dirt poor as a congregation, in fact, one of my favorite memories as a pastor is in between two of our services, this happened just a few years ago. In between two of our services, one of our ushers comes back into my little green room area or back stage area and he's got the offering plate and in it is a bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit from a college student.
Literally a bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit and on the front is a little thing that says "Silver and gold, have I none, but such as I have, give I unto you." So we are dirt poor as a congregation, but the flip side of that is we know that we have a lot of potential missionaries. We have as a goal, as the Summit Church's goal, is to plant 1,000 churches in our generation. Which we say will end in 2050 and so we teach all of our students that unless they have heard from god audibly by the time that they graduate, they need to plan on spending the first two of their years post college in one of our church plants around the world. We tell them "You give us two years and we will change the world." We call that the Mormonization strategy that we've adopted there.
I'm joking about that part, but we do teach them. And this is the important part. We do try to teach them that the question is no longer if they are called, the question really is only how they are called and where they are called. I really feel like we're gonna have to get over the idea that calling is a sacred experience that a select few of us in the Christian life experience. The call to leverage your life for the great commission was included in the call to follow Jesus. Follow me and I will make you a fisher of men, which means when you accepted Jesus you defacto excepted the call to missions.
The question is no longer if you are called, we tell them, the question is only where and how. So we tell them that figuring out the call of god on their life begins by applying this statement. Whatever god made you good at, do it well to the glory of god and then do it somewhere strategic for the mission of god. God didn't make you all to be pastors and singers and writers. He made you good at something though and so whatever god made you good at, do that well to the glory of god. That's our doctrine of creation, but also do it somewhere strategic for the mission of god. That's our understanding of the great commission. You gotta get a job somewhere, so why not get a job in a place where you can be a part of something strategic.
A lot of factors go into where you pursue your career. Where you want to live, where you can make money. Just a part of the country that you're attracted to. Why not the largest of those factors be, being strategically used in the mission of god. And so that's the vision that we put forward. It's like our church plants are only college students and college graduates, but they do make up a large part of it. It's fascinating to me, when you go back into study the early church, all the great advances of the gospel in the Book of Acts happen through ordinary people, not really through apostles.
In fact, I've kind of come to believe, after preaching through Acts a couple of years ago, that it's almost a subtle theme that is kind of a little bit of dark humor that is written throughout the book of acts. Because all of these great advances are happening just through ordinary people. The famous church historian Steven Neil, he says that at the end of the first century, you have three major church planting centers in the ancient world. Antioch, Alexandria, and Rome. He said "What they all three have in common is we have no idea who planted the churches in Antioch, Alexandria, and Rome." He said "Now we who, Peter would lead the church in Rome one day and Antioch would send out Paul, but they weren't involved in the founding of those churches."
The story of the founding of the church in Antioch takes place in Acts 11 and all it says is this. Some brothers filled with the spirit showed up and planted this church in Antioch. Some brothers is Luke's way of saying a bunch of guys who aren't important enough for me to even tell you their names. Just some dudes that showed up and planted a church. That church would one day send out the apostle Paul, but he didn't plant the church. The founding of the church in Rome is at least referred to in Acts 28. Again the humor, I feel like, for the last half of the Book of Acts, Paul has been dead set on getting the gospel to Rome.
I've gotta get gospel to Rome. I gotta [inaudible 00:11:40] for he's never been named. I gotta get there. He goes through ship wreck, he goes through trial, prison, he gets bitten by a snake. It's an ordeal for him to get the gospel to Rome and when he finally drags his tired, old body into Rome, Acts 28, he is greeted by the brothers. Acts 28:7. They're like "Paul. Welcome. We got a church planted. We want you to come speak. Maybe write us a book. It's gonna be awesome." He didn't plant it. He just discovered it. All the advances of the gospel and the Book of Acts seem to happen through ordinary people who are being moved by the spirit, not by apostolic kind of people who are leading the church. The tip of the gospel spear has always been ordinary people.
I read this thing in a mission journal the other day and I realize this is the world's longest introduction, but I read this thing in a mission journal that just blew my mind. It was fascinating. If you add up all of the evangelical missionaries serving in what we call the 10-40 window. And you know the 10-40 window, the least reached part of the world, if you add them all, from every denomination that can even loosely be construed as evangelical, that number is 40,000. Praise god. We need 400,000. 40,000. The number of Americans, just Americans working in so called secular employment in the 10-40 window, 2,000,000.
Now we know that 30 some percent of them identify as born again. You and I know both know that's not really true, so let's just write off like two thirds of that as not even serious about their faith at all. Let's just take 10%, which is a pretty conservative number. 10% of two- if those 10% of 2,000,000 knew how to be disciple making disciples and knew that as a part of their employment in the 10-40 window that one of their primary responsibilities was to carry the great commission, we would see the mission force in the 10-40 window increase from 40,000 to 240,000 without costing the church another time.
The future of the great commission, I do not believe lies in apostolic figures, I believe it lies in ordinary people like what we see throughout the Book of Acts, so we rejoice that god has allowed our church to grow in the Raleigh-Durham area. We never want to stop reaching Raleigh Durham, but our greatest joy is probably what we did earlier this year. We do this every year around the month of May when we stretched about 100 members across our stage and these are the ones that our church planting residents have recruited out of our church to go and plant churches. It is always a very painful moment for me because, I'm sure you understand this, that the kind of people that volunteer to go on church plants are note sideline people in your church.
They are people that are leading ministries, they are elders, they are people who are already engaged that start to accept this call and I look up there and I feel a sense of panic because I'm like I don't know how we can lose these people, but it is painful, but it is in another sense joyful for us because our studies show that for every one member, Summit member that we have sent out, there are now 20 people worshiping in churches that we have planted just in North America alone. We've sent out a total of about 900 of our members over the last few years on church planting teams. That breaks down to about 460 domestically and then 440 internationally. They have planted a total 238 churches around the world and so that is our greatest joy.
The point in all that is that I've convinced as I study the Book of Acts, that Jesus's plan for reaching the world is not gathering large groups of people to bask in the anointing of one man. His plan for reaching the world is raising up ordinary people in the power of the spirit and sending them out and that therefore the measure of success for a church or the measure of health of a church ought not to be seating capacity. The real measure of health for a church, if you're gonna have one, ought to be sending capacity.
Now let me confess, we were not always that way. I started with the same ambition as I think most pastors do, which is I wanted to grow a great big church for the glory of god. Bit attendance, big auditorium, bigger budget, even bigger attention for the guy behind it all like I've heard said, ministry is a great place for guys with the idol of success to hide because we can couch all of our accomplishments under the cloak of "I'm doing it for god", but it was definitely the vision that I had went in, that this is what god wanted, to grow a great big church for the glory of god.
Looking back now, I realize that there were four things that kept me from embracing a truly sending view of the church and that's what I want to talk about. Four obstacles. You can almost hear this as confessional, as me telling what was in the way of me becoming a multiplying leader and just to be clear, by sending I'm going to mean both raising up people to leave your church and go plant other churches. I'm also going to be meaning raising up people from within your church to lead ministries in the community and not just attending on the weekend.
So there's that. Here's number one. Number one, for me it was a failure to take seriously Jesus's promises about the Holy Spirit. They just started with this really simple, theological premise that Jesus's promises about the greatness of the church almost always concern the power of the spirit multiplied on new leaders. They never concern one person's ministry growing larger and larger. In fact some of these promises are just staggering when you really read them. In fact you don't really take them seriously.
I'll show you a couple of em. John 16:7 if you've got your bible there, I'll put on the screen here for you as well. Let me just read it to you. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth. By the way, stop there. Jesus was not in the habit of telling lies or exaggerating. He didn't have to be like, no, no, no, I'm really serious now. This is always a marker for him, that what he is about to say is so mind blowing that unless you turn your mind and faith on, you're not really gonna get it. Watch. It is to your advantage that I go away. For if I do not go away, the help or the Holy Spirit won't come to you, but if I do go then I can send him to you. How absurd must that have sounded to Jesus's first disciples? How awesome would it have been to have walked around with Jesus for three years as your ministry companion.
And now he is telling you it is to your advantage that he goes away? I mean what is walking around with Jesus on your ministry team, what does that look like? I mean you have tough theological debate that you have. Brad and I had a vigorous one last night. When you come down and you're done, you just ask Jesus and bam, he answers it right there and you know whose right and whose wrong. You got your small group and then run out of Chex mix, bam, Jesus multiplies the Chex mix so that there's 12 baskets left over. Your dog dies, bam, Jesus raises your dog back from the dead. Your Cat dies, Jesus digs a whole to help you bury the cat to get rid of it forever. Right? Amen?
Yes. So no, that's probably not exactly what it was like to walk around the Holy Spirit, but it had to have been awesome. And now he's telling that it's to your advantage that he goes away because if he goes away, he's going to send the Holy Spirit to you. Let me ask, does your attitude toward the Holy Spirit, does it justify that statement? I mean if we, if you got a call that one of your favorite staff members or your favorite elders was resigning and going to another church, you'd be bummed.
Oh no, no, no, don't worry. We've already got a new application for our student pastor. It's Jesus of Nazareth. I mean you're going to be over joyed right? Are you as filled with joy that you're going home to lead a group of people that have the Holy Spirit that he said was better than if Jesus Christ came to join your ministry staff? You see I think it shows us how far we are away from getting our minds around whatever it was that he was talking about there. Or one more real quick, I won't put this one up, but John 14:12, if you want to skim back there. John 14:12, Jesus said "Greater works than I've done, you will do."
Greater works than Jesus. Even if you take out all the miracles and the raising of the dead, who in here has preached a greater sermon than Jesus? Anybody wanna say "Yep. Last Sunday was better than the sermon on the mount. I'm pretty confident." Anybody ever council with greater insight than Jesus council the woman in John 4, prayed with greater clarity than John 17, anybody? No? There's nothing you've ever said or done or even thought that is anywhere close to what Jesus said or did or thought, so how in the world is it greater?
The [Alosians 00:20:21] say "The only way it could be greater is if he is referring to the power of the Spirit multiplied on ordinary believers is going to be greater than if that power stays concentrated on one person even if that one person was Jesus himself." The power would be greater when he's just on ordinary people. How we celebrate success in church world today turns that principle on it's head. Because we celebrate successful churches as the ones who gather the most people to admire in the anointing of one man, but Jesus's promises about the Holy Spirit mean that the real power is released in the church when more leaders are raised up in the power of the Spirit and sent outside of the church.
If you go through the Book of Acts and you count the miracles, there are 40 of them in total. Listen 39 of the 40 happen outside of the church. I tell our people, the Summit Church, that that means that as a pastor who works inside the church, I've got access to about 1/40th of the power of god. I know that's not great hermeneutics, but I think you understand the point I'm trying to make. Is that what the spirit of god wants to do, He wants to do through ordinary people in the community, not just through me in the pulpit. And when you ask most people in our churches to talk about a moment where they've experienced the power of god, they're gonna talk about a moment in a sermon or they're gonna talk about a moment in worship and praise god for powerful sermons and anointed worship, but that is not where the spirit of god wants to be most using his church.
It wants to use them in the community. What this means by the way, just really practically, if I can delve into this for a minute. It means that as reformed people, we have to teach our people how to hear from the Holy Spirit again. And I know you could, this gets a little bit dicey because I know this is areas where different ones of us agree, but let me just say what I think, or disagree, but I know what we can agree on. The Holy Spirit shows up 59 times in the Book of Acts. In 36 of the 59, he is speaking. Now what's frustrating for me is that the Aleutian, just to be totally honest and as a pastor, is it doesn't usually tell us how he speaks. It just says that he speaks. Acts 13:2 The Holy Spirit said to the early church "Separate Barnabus, this is all for the work of ministry." And my question is "How did he say it?"
Did it just appear on the screen? Did everybody think the same thought at once? How did he say it? I want to know that. Rarely does it indicate how he does it and by the way, I think that's intentional because I think there's supposed to be a lot of humility about thinking we've heard from the spirit. It's supposed to be tested within the church. More havoc has been wreaked in the world following the words "God just told me" than probably any other phrase in the world. So there's so ambiguity in how he speaks, but that he speaks, moving dynamically in the church, that is really not up for question at all.
And until we become churches whose people hear from the Holy Spirit and are being moved by the Holy Spirit, we are never going to see the rapid multiplication of the gospel in our community or around the world, period. If there is one major lesson in the Book of Acts, it is that the Holy Spirit moves the church. I've got one little piece of evidence for this and this one kind of hits personal to me and it makes me mad to be honest, but I've read this mission journal that was saying that the denomination that does the best job mobilizing it's people for mission, what do you think it is? Now I know you want to alt reformed right? Because good theology equals, right, okay, so that's one answer. My answer was Baptist because I'm a Baptist and, I mean to be honest with you, all the great mission speakers are ours. Right?
John Piper, David Plat, Louie Giglio, they're all Baptist, so I'm like it's gotta be the Baptist. Well I kept reading and it said "You might think the Baptist because ..." Blah, blah, blah, blah. It says "But, if you just do the math, the percentage of people that are engaged in mission, the one who does the best job are the Pentecostals." And that made me mad because I'm like "We're Baptist and missions belong to us. That's like the one thing we gotta be proud of. It belongs to us, why do they get credit for that?" And what this article went on to explain, it says "You'll see a different approach in reformed and Baptist world and in the Pentecostal world." It said "In reformed Baptist world, we're always talking about the weight of the need." And we need to hear that.
We need to have our hearts broke for 2.2 billion people that have never heard the name of Jesus. He said in "But in charismatic and Pentecostals, they talk a lot about the empowerment of the spirit." And evidently being gift driven is more compelling than being guilt driven. And it's, he says "Where as the weight of the world will crush you, sensing that god has put a gift inside of you and he intends to use you is something that will liberate you and carry farther than just knowing the great extent of the need will."
So the answer is to preach both, yes, but the point is, the point is that churches have to know how to hear and how to wrestle with the Holy Spirit. Now I know that'd be a great thing to spend a whole nother three sessions on, of how we do hear from the Holy Spirit, but that's gonna be somebody else at a different time. Number two, here's the second obstacle, was a failure to understand how most people in our culture have to be reached today and just a failure to understand how most people in our culture are gonna have to be reached today. Every year, the amount of people who check none, N-O-N-E, for religious affiliation on a census in our country increases at an astounding rate. Nones as they are called, no longer casually make their way into churches. That's kind of the reality that we have to deal with.
Really for any reason. In Great Britain, which is farther along in this or farther down in this then we are here, a pastor over there, you're very familiar with, I know. Steve Timmis. He sites this study in Great Britain where 70% of British people say that they have no intention of ever attending a church service for any reason. It's not that their mad at the church, it's just that they don't ever see life carrying them into a church. Now they're not gonna go at Easter, they're not gonna for a marriage, they're not gonna go for a funeral or a Christmas Eve service. Again, it's not that they're boycotting the church, they just don't see life ever taking them into the church. He says therefore, if you are depending on the quality of your product being what wins people, it's not going to work because they're not going to be there to experience it. When I read that, I thought if I started my ministry in South East Asia as a missionary in a Muslim Unreached People group and less than 200 yards from where I lived was a Muslim mosque.
Two years, I never stepped foot in that mosque for any reason at all. I wouldn't have gone on a holiday. I didn't go on a holiday. I wouldn't have gone when I was on hard times. I wouldn't have gone if the Imam were doing a really helpful series on relationships or loneliness. I wouldn't have gone if the guest services had been Disneyesque. I wouldn't have gone if they'd had added a rocking drum loop to the prayer chant I just really found fresh and engaging. Islam was a completely different world for me and it's one that I knew that I did not belong in. Which means that somebody was gonna reach me for Islam, they were gonna have to do it outside the mosque and not count on me coming in to experience the good things in the mosque.
Now I want you to hear all this. I want to make sure I put the context in it. I'm not a mega church hater. Our church is quite large and I just, when I read the New Testament, I see a lot of things in the New Testament that are, I'm not trying to use a flash word here, but they, I don't know how to say it, they're attractional. I mean Jesus attracted large crowds through provocative engaging teaching and miracles. We know the early church attracted large crowds. The only way to baptize 3000 and 5000 in one afternoon is when you got a large group of unbelievers standing in front of you. Lesslie Newbigin who coined the term missional. He said preaching in Acts is essentially somebody standing up to the answer the question "What is going on among you Christians?"
There is something that attracts the group and somebody gets up there to answer it. First Corinthians 14:25 when Paul is describing a worship service in the New Testament, he is clearly talking about unbelievers who have been attracted into the place because of the teaching and the wisdom and the things that are happening and he talks about them having their hearts exposed and falling on their face and saying "Surely god is among you." So I just feel like it'd be foolish to hate on church growth movements and things that are focused there, but the point that I want to make to you that, again, I know you agree with, is that for a large portion of our society, it's like we're engaging people of a completely different religion and if we do not equip people to carry the gospel outside the church, we're going to lose all audience with the majority of them.
I think that what we're going to see in the future is mega churches that put all of their focus on weekend awesomeness, are going to be fighting with each other for larger pieces of a rapidly shrinking pie. A pie of bored Christians, but for those of us who want to reach the rest of the culture, it means that we have got to think about growing the pie and that means equipping people to go outside of the church. It means to preach Christ to people who won't step foot inside and to live out the gospel in front of people and this has been a big thing that god's done in our church over the last years. The first time I preached the Book of Act, I've actually preached through it twice and the first time I did it, we got to Acts Chapter 8 and it's a story of Phillip where Phillip, he goes into Sumeria and it's said that as a result of the preaching he did and the works that he did, there was much joy in the city.
So I just asked our congregation what I thought was a good application question, is there much joy in the city as a result of the Summit Church being here? And we felt like the answer was not really. Acts 9, the next week, the sermon. It was a disciple by the name of Tabitha whose nickname was Dorkus, I should probably just stick with Tabitha, but she made coats for people in the community and it says that her ministry was so wide spread that when she died people in the community gathered at her bedside and wept. And so I just asked out church, would anybody in our community weep if the Summit Church died or are they just gonna be grateful that there's one less flyer in their mailbox at Easter time? What is gonna be the reaction and we just, it was several years ago, it was about a decade ago. We just wrestle with this as an elder team and just felt like our ministry strategy has just been off.
We've been trying to grow this church by sucking people out of the community up into it and what we need to do is be committed to reach the city and bless the city and if god grows our church big in the process, then so be it, but our focus is not going to be on simply growing the church, it's going to be on blessing the city. And what that did is that enlarged our understanding of the attitude that we were to have to the city. So I met with the mayor, the mayor of Durham and I said "Hey, you telL me the places in our city that our broken and we're gonna try to develop a ministry strategy for each of them." And gave me five areas. The homeless, the orphan, the prisoner, the unwed mother, and the high school drop out. Those are the five most broken places in our city.
I said "Well, I don't have a lot of expertise with any of those, but we're gonna do what we can" and so we went back and we just put this out to our people and said "Lets carry these 39 of 40 miracles out to these areas." So all these things began to develop in our church, just ministry ideas that began to really multiply and take off and one of them was, one of our campuses adopted this local school. It was the worst ranked school in Durham county. In fact they run two years, a two year track to shut the thing down so that they could just redivide it because it was just so bad.
So we approached the principal and said "Hey, we just want to love this school. We want to get involved with this school. We just want to walk with you." As you can imagine, the principal was pretty skeptical because she was like "I know you evangelicals and your southern Baptist. I know how you do things. You're gonna come in all we want to love you and then there's gonna be like John 3:16 written in lipstick on the underside of a toilet and you're gonna be tracks everywhere and ..." And I was like "Nah, I promise, we'll do just what we say."
And so we just one summer spent the entire summer doing what we can to renovate the school and to bless it and when the teachers came back, I met with every teacher and just said "You tell us what you need and we can't promise we'll meet every need, but you come here first and we're gonna try to be apart of blessing your students." And we had challenged our people to get involved tutoring these students and so we had all of our people. Not all of our people, but a lot of them were engaged in this.
Well after, about toward the end of the year, this principal was pretty excited and she came to us and she said, she said "I got a weird request." She said "Our school gets evaluated based on the end of the year exams." She said "And they're getting ready to come up." She says "Do you feel like you could have a few of your people come and pray over the school while they're doing the end of the year exams." And I said "Well ma'am, that's gonna look weird, us just out walking through the halls doing like this." She said "I'll keep the door shut, you just do it." So I was like "Alright, we can do that." So we had all these creepy Summit people walking through the halls while they were just praying over these test.
And make a long story really short, after being involved with the school for four years, they went from the worst ranked school in Durham county to being the top inner city school in the whole thing in terms of test scores and interviewed this principal in the news paper and they said "What do you credit with the turn around?" And she said "Well I've gotta give credit where credits due." She said "I first gotta give credit to ..." She says, her words were "The spirit of god through the people of the Summit church." She said "Everything changed when they began to get involved."
Well shortly there after, it was a year or two later that I got a call in November from the mayor's office and it was of his assistance and she said "The mayor wants to know if you will come and speak at Durham's annual Martin Luther King Jr. Rally." Now this is a big deal in our city as I know Louiville's the same way, but there's a lot of racial tension in our city and this is an event where all the city county government officials are required to come. It is televised. I am not the typical Martin Luther King Jr. speaker for the session if you understand what I mean. And so I was like "Why does he want me to speak?" And her, she literally said "I have no idea. I'm just delivering the message. He wants to know can you do it?"
And I said "Well what does he want me to talk about?" She said "You'll get 20 minutes. It'll be televised. You can say whatever you want. Just don't be controversial." That's what she said. "Don't be controversial." I said "Well, I'ma talk about Jesus." She said "Oh, he's not controversial." I said "I don't thinK you know him." So Martin Luther King Jr. Day rolled ... And we had the thing and so, and I'm backstage and I'm dressed in my suit and I'm nervous. I speak in front of groups enough that I don't get really nervous a lot anymore, but I'm talking, we're talking Joel Osteen about to speak at the Gospel Coalition nervous. And so ... And I'm back there and I think it was sort of written all over me. And so the county manager comes up and he says "Son." He said "You look nervous."
I said "Yes sir. I am very nervous." He said "Why are you so nervous?" I said "I don't know why I'm here." And he said "I'll tell you why you're here." He said "In our board meeting that we discussed this event ... " He said "One of the pre people brought up that everywhere we look in this city that something is broken, there is somebody from the Summit Church there that's trying to fix it." He goes "I'll be honest, y'all are not even doing always that good of a job, but you're there and you're trying." He said "We couldn't think of a spirit that we thought better, that we wanted to promote on this holiday then that spirit and so that's why you're doing it." And so I stood up there and in my 20 minutes I gave the respect that I believe is due to Martin Luther King for four or five minutes and then I talked for 15 minutes about the grave of the lord Jesus Christ that though he was rich for our sake became poor so that we through his poverty might become rich.
It was something that put the gospel on display in the community and it is something that we have to grasp if we are going to reach the culture. It means raising up people in the power of the spirit to go outside of the church to pursue these 39 of 40 miracles and not just inside the church. Number three. The third big hindrance to becoming a multiplying leader was my own idolatry. I was interviewed recently where, and maybe this is where I got the idea for this particular one, but the interviewer said "What's the biggest hindrance to a church becoming a Sunday church?" And I said "No question about it, it's been the pastor. It's been me." The biggest hindrance to a multiplying church was my own idolatry.
Like I said at the beginning, ministry is a great place for guys with the idol of success to hide because we can cloak all of our ambition in the terms of I'm doing it for god. Well god really revealed this to me, I was praying one afternoon, I had taken the whole afternoon for fasting and prayer and I was gonna fast between lunch and dinner and so, just to pray about what god was doing in our church and our city and I was just praying these, I think I just read "Circle Maker" by Mark Batterson and I was in drawing circles and was "Lord, I just wanna pray that you'll just poor out your power here." And I remember using the phrase "God I want you to do something in the triangle area that will change the city for ever. The kind of thing that they'll write about in history book in 200 years and talk about this awakening that took place in the triangle area."
I'm not a guy that feels like god speaks to him all the time through his Cheerios and I just, this is one of those times were the spirit of god spoke, not in audible voice, but in a voice that was louder than if it had been audible. You probably know I'm talking about. Spirit of god, he said "Okay. What if I say yes to that prayer and I do send an awakening into the Raleigh-Durham area that they'll write about in 100 years, but what if I don't use your church to do it? What if use the church down the street and what if they get big and famous and nobody even mentions your name five years from now? What if they're the ones who experience the fruit of this and get passed over altogether? Do you still want me to do it?"
Now y'all I know the right answer of that. "Oh yes lord, you must increase and I must decrease." I know the right answer, but that may have been the right answer. It wasn't the real answer. The real answer was "I'm not okay with that." And in that kind of afternoon of prayer, god revealed to me that all this time that I've been up saying "Thy kingdom come" what I really was saying was "My kingdom come". And I really wanted god to do things in our church so that I would benefit and so that I would get the glory and I was biggest obstacle to doing it. What if the biggest obstacle to your church becoming a movement church was the idolatry that you possess and that the prayers you pray for your church are not really sincerely for god's glory, they're actually for you and that's revealed by the jealousy that you possess towards others who are growing faster than you grow.
James Chapter 4 talks about, he says there's two reason god is not moving. One is you're not praying. Number two, you are praying, you're doing it for the wrong reason. And the analogy he uses is a really kind of a disturbing one. He says "You're pray like an adulterer." What's praying like an adulterer? Well imagine a man who goes to his wife and says, this is praying like an adulterer, he goes to his wife and says "Hey, you know, when we got married, you promised that you would meet my romantic and sexual needs and so I know that what I need from romantic and sexual needs, is I need you to talk to your friend so and so and convince her to sleep with me." She is not going to respond to that request because when she said I will meet all your romantic all sexual needs, she didn't mean she would be his pimp that would get him to someone who would do that, is that she would do that in herself.
So when you pray like an adulterer, what it means is that you are praying to god to give you something for a reason you ought to really find in him. And when your significance comes from the size of your church and whether not you get on the platform or whether you get your name listen in Outreach magazine or whether you get some kind of notoriety, then you are paying like an adulterer and god ain't gonna be nobodies pimp. And he says "Why wouldn't you find that in me? Why wouldn't you find that in me brothers and sisters?" You know how evil it is for us substitute our glory in the place where god alone gets the glory.
Do you know how wicked that is? I mean just think about it for a minute. I mean even the analogy, that verse I quoted a minute ago, you must increase, I must decrease. Right after that John uses the image of being the best man at a wedding. John the Baptist. And he says "The bridegroom is what the weddings about. Traditionally the best man, his role in the wedding is to make sure that the bride gets to the bridegroom. That's his role. And so at that moment when you've probably done weddings, you're standing there and the best part of the wedding is always when those doors open and there she stands in all of her resplendent glory and everybody starts sniffling and crying and everybody starts cutting eyes back and forth at the groom and to see if he's crying and it's just sort of this moment and everybody's focused on the bride and the groom. Here stands the best man.
Now image you're at a wedding and here you are with the pastor and you notice that as this moment is happening, you see the bridegroom kind of lean out, or the best man lean out from behind the groom and he starts kind of raising his eye brows and licking his lips and I don't know, winking at her or however he's flirting with her and the groom notices it. So what is the groom going to do? He's gonna run and punch this guy in the throat, right? Because this moment is about them, not about her distracting, him distracting the bride. What do you think it's like for Jesus when I am more concerned with the glory that the church is bestowing on me than I am the glory that is being bestowed upon Jesus.
And the quickest way that is revealed is through the jealousies of my heart when I am not rejoicing in success that is taking place when it is not through me. Brothers listen. Jesus calls us first to an altar, not a platform. His invitation to us was not come and grow and shine. His invitation was come and die. Yes, he wants you to bring forth abundant fruit, but it is fruit that is obtained through dying, not through growing and shining. Which leads me to number four, unbelief. The last one here. Unbelief. In John chapter 12 when Jesus was talking about the growth of his kingdom, he uses a very odd analogy when you think about it.
But what he said, John 12:24, was this. "Unless a grain of seed goes into the ground and dies, it abides alone, but when it dies it multiplies into much fruit." Now it's an analogy because I don't think of a seed going into the ground as dying. I think of a seed going into the ground is just beginning to live. Yet in one since, it is indeed dying. Right? It's dying because it's dying as a seed. It's going to, it's shell is going to break, it's no longer going to exist as a seed. A lot of seeds you can grind up for food and eat. You can longer do that. When you put it in the ground it's gone, but through that death comes this plant that will produce hundreds of seeds.
And Jesus is saying that this is analogous to the growth of the church. Life in the worlds happens only through death in the church. And I will tell you, the moment that you are asked to offer something in death is scary, but that is the only way that the kingdom grows. It's like when I told you we have 100 stand on our stage and I'm looking up there and I'm like "I'm not sure how to replace him and I'm not sure her and that's a big donor." Not that I know who gives what, but "That's a big donor right there and I'm not sure we're gonna get rid of that." And I did, in fact I actually make it part of the ceremony now, it happened kind of involuntary the first time we did it. First time we did it, they were all standing up there and I was just having this moment like "I'm not sure if I really believe in this. I'm not sure if I'm committed to this. This is a bad idea."
And I just, the Holy Spirit just felt like it was telling me to take my hands and pull them out of my pockets and just them open them up before god and say "This is your church and if you want to take every last person out of it and you want to scatter them around the nations, that's fine because it's your church, not mine and I will not cling to it. The church is my seed that has to die." And here's what happens, when you do that, not only does god multiply the seed in the world, he also takes care of you. We have found that in this area, as in every other area in the Christian life, you cannot out give god. It's like for every one leader that we give away, he raises up three more in their place.
By the way pastors, we know to teach this principle to our people regarding their money. None of us stand up and say "Hey, if you've got left over money at the end of the month and you can't figure out what to do with it, god is a good option." You know we don't say that. We say give god your first and your best. Give it to him when you can't afford it. When you feel like you can't afford it, still give it to him and watch how god will take care of you. You want to know the reason that a lot of our people don't believe that when we say that to him is because they see that we don't really believe when it comes to our churches. Leaders are the one thing we don't want to give away.
I need that leader. I need that resource. I'm not giving my first and my best away to god, I'm keeping that. The principle of the harvest applies from start to finish and that is god only multiplies what you sew in death. I believe this is a matter of survival for the church, I mentioned at the beginning I wrote a book called "Gaining by Losing" and I'm not mentioning it to try to push the book because that's really tacky to do at a conference and also somewhere in the bible it says that every time you self promote an angel dies in heaven and a puppy loses, no an angel loses it's wing and a puppy dies in heaven. I'm not trying to do that.
But there's a chapter in there, the last chapter in there I called, it's called "There's more than one way to be wicked." And I took it from the parable that Jesus told about the master who leaves the servants five talents, two talents, you know the story. One whose give turns it to 10, ones two, turns it to four, then the one who gets one buries it. And what really caught my attention as I was reading through it is that he described when the master gets back, the guy who had buried his one talent and gave it back to the master, he describes him as wicked.
And my question was what wicked thing had he done? Right? I mean he didn't even steal the money. He didn't spend it on prostitutes or gambling or drugs. He literally gave it back to him. That might be bad stewardship, but why is it wicked? And what Jesus is teaching is there's more than one way to be wicked. Yes you can be wicked through an egregious violation of the 10 commandments. That is one way to be wicked. You can also be wicked by failing to give away what he has given you for the kingdom of god. Is it possible that Jesus might consider some of our fastest growing churches to be wicked because they have turned all of their blessings back on themselves and failed to open up their hands and to invest them in the harvest fields of god's kingdom.
Things that you hang onto, you die. When you hold onto your church like a seed, it dies and when you open your hands with it, that is when god takes it and he multiplies it. God only multiplies what we sew, not what we keep. Pastors, god did not call us to a platform, he called us to an altar. His invitation is not come and grow and shine, it's come and die and that means die through our dreams for our churches and open our hands and scatter our resources into the harvest fields of god's kingdom. To give away more than you can feel like you can you spare. To give away your first and your best because then the harvest will come.
So that's why I would say the future belongs to churches that send and why we really have to measure our success not by our seating capacity by our sending capacity. Let me close, if I could, with one final thing. It's a little bit almost, maybe random, but I just, in praying through this, I felt like maybe god would have me share this with you all, it's just a promise to [undergird 00:48:41] this because I really like, I mean all scripture is for us and it's always through all the time, but there're certain times that god takes a promise and he just says "I really want you to believe this right now."
So you test this, whether or not this is from god, but I'll give it you. In fact it was interesting that the worship team already quoted this passage, but quoted a different part of it. Amos chapter 5 is, you put that up there. Amos chapter 5. Thus is the lord to the house of Israel. Do not seek Bethel. Do not enter into Gilgal or cross over to Beersheba. Seek the lord to live." I'm like, well that's a random list of cities. You know, thanks for sharing that. The three cities feel random to us, they're not random at all to Israelites. Especially not in Amos's day. Bethel, that was a place were Jacob had his vision, you know the whole ladder deal. Was a very special place where he went back for spiritual renewal.
Gilgal, that was the place where Israel emerged after wandering in the wilderness for 40 years and god renewed the covenant with them. Rolled away their reproach and knocked down the walls of Jericho. That all happened right there at Gilgal. Beersheba, that was the place where Abimelech first gave to Abraham possession of the promised land. So we're talking about three very key moments in Israel's history where god moved powerfully. And evidently by the time of Amos, what had happened is they were in the habit of talking about the good old days. Oh the good old days. Oh wouldn't it had been awesome to have been with Joshua at Gilgal and to have actually watched him knock down the walls of Jericho? Wouldn't it have been awesome to be with Jacob and have that vision of god? Didn't god move so powerfully then?
And by the time god speaks to them and Amos, he basically says to them "Would you shut up about Gilgal and Beersheba and Bethel. I am sick and tired of hearing about those three cities because you're treating me like I'm a god who moves in the past and not a god who wants to move in the present. The greatest that I want to do are not behind us, they are in front of us."
You see I feel like sometimes god would look at you and me and say "Would shut up about the reformation? I'm sick and tired of hearing about John Calvin and Martin Luther and Johnathon Edwards and to be honest I'm really kind of tired of hearing about the early as if everything was awesome then. Have you read the book of Corinthians? There are dudes sleeping with their moms in the book of Corinthians. It wasn't that awesome back then, but yes I moved powerfully. And I moved powerfully in the reformation. And I moved powerfully in William Carey's day. And I moved powerfully through [Attanine 00:51:09] Jutson. And I moved powerfully through Billy Graham and I'm always looking for a leader that I can raise and move powerfully through so stop talking about me like I'm a god of the past and talk about me like I'm a god of the present and the future. My name is not I was, my name is I am." The greatest works of god, listen, the greatest works of god are not behind us.
They can't be. There's still 6400 unreached people groups in the world. And I don't know if you turn on the new recently, but the evangelical church is not doing awesome right now in the United States. And the greatest works of god are not behind us, they're in front of us, they have to be because I know that god is not going to let history close until every one of those people groups has had a witness of the gospel, so I can go forward with boldness expecting god to do great things. Isn't that what William Carey said, that the whole vision of gospel centered faith is, is to expect great things of god and then attempt great things for god? I mean it's a very gospel rich motivation. You first expect from the gospel and then you attempt in great faith because if this is how committed Jesus is to the salvation of the world, then surely he'll move in my day when I call in his name.
Isiah 59:1 "And too of the lords arm is not short and that it cannot say the lord's ear is not heavy, that it cannot hear. It's your sin that separates you from god." In other words, the lord is not, his arm is not short in that cannot say, he's not less powerful then he was in the reformation and in the early church. The lord's ear is not heavy that it cannot hear, he's not less compassionate. It's not like he was in a really benevolent good mood when he trained all the people in Acts three and Acts five and 3000 and 5000 got saved. It wasn't a mood of gods, no it is you. It is you and I who are no longer believing in the compassion and the power of god and thereby releasing his power into the world.
You see those of us who go forward expecting and attempting great things for god, I tell to every mission team that leaves our church to go over seas. I tell them, I was like "You're gonna be like the proverbial woodpecker. If you believe, if you believe that the greatest thing you can do when you get over there is just believe. I mean do your work, yes, but believe because you're gonna be like that proverbial woodpecker whose tapping away at the telephone pole and not making any difference in the telephone pole at all. And all of a sudden lightning strikes a telephone pole. Splits it in two. That little wood pecker is like 'whoosh whoosh', you know kind of looking at this telephone pole split in two. Then he flies off and goes gets all of his buddies and brings it back to like, there she is boys. Look at what I did." I was like "That's gonna be you."
You're just dat-tat-tat-tat. You're not making any difference at all. Not making any difference at all. And all of a sudden god strikes it with the lightning bolt of his power and you're gonna back up and you're gonna be like "I knew it! I knew he would it. I knew he would do what he said he would do and this is he would pour out his compassion and power because his arm is not shortened and his ear is not heavy. And I knew if I just stayed and was faithful and believed in him that he would do exactly what he promised to do." I am very excited to be alive at this time of Christian history. I'm very excited to be in the triangle. I am very excited to be in the United States. I'm excited to be in a world where there is Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong whatever his name is and all the crazy people in the world.
I'm glad they're all there because I know that god is about to do something amazing and I just want to be there when it happens. And that means I'll be on the front lines with him believing and expecting and attempting great things for god. So keep on brothers, keep on sisters, and keep on looking for what god promised he would do. Let me pray for you and then I think we'll go to a break here.
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