"David, what is your goal? What would you like to happen? If you could make anything come true in this congregation that you would like to be true, what would happen?"

I have two goals. One goal is for all of us as a community of believers who belong to Jesus Christ. One goal is for me as a person. First, I want to begin by sharing my goal for all of us. If this congregation could become anything I imagined, what would happen?

To understand my desire, you must begin by realizing that the society we live in is complex. You must realize those complexities make life complicated for most of us. You must realize the complications most of us face produce lots of struggles.

"So your goal is to challenge us to make life simple instead of complex?" No, that is not my goal. Life has never been simple, and it never will be simple. The goal of Christ's church cannot be to simplify life.

"So your goal is to make the church an uncomplicated place?" No, that is not my goal. When people get involved in each other's lives, it is complicated. The goal of Christ's church cannot be to avoid the complicated.

"So your goal is to make the church a place where people can flee from struggles?" No, that is not my goal. Personal struggle is a part of existence on this earth. The goal of Christ's church cannot be to provide a haven free from all struggle.

"Then what is your goal?" My goal is to challenge us to be a people who want to be Jesus' disciples. "What would that look like?" This is my vision: we would become much more than the common concept of "a church." We would become a seven-day- a-week community of Christians who cared about each other because we care about Jesus.

  1. Focus on the word "community."
    1. The church in the book of Acts was not a building, not a Sunday assembly, not a collection of programs, not an organization that challenged people to place membership in it; it was a community of people who cared about each other because they believed in the resurrection of Jesus.
      1. Christians were disciples of Jesus.
      2. Jesus taught them how to treat each other.
      3. Jesus taught them how to treat all people.
      4. Jesus taught them how to serve God.
    2. I want you to see and understand what I am talking about. (Nothing I say is intended as a "put down" to anyone--I personally have dug sewer lines, worked as a masonry helper and a carpenter's helper.)
      1. For any community to exist and function, there must be persons willing to perform every task that needs doing.
      2. Somebody has to collect the garbage.
      3. Somebody has to unstop the toilets.
      4. Somebody has to fix the plumbing.
      5. Somebody has to put on roofs.
      6. Somebody has to install air conditioning and heating.
      7. Somebody has to build things.
      8. Somebody has to drive trucks.
      9. Somebody has to encourage people who are discouraged.
      10. Somebody has to take care of the sick.
      11. Somebody has to challenge people to reach for their potential.
      12. I could go on and on.
        1. There are lots of needs.
        2. We build a sense of community when people who care fill those needs.
    3. Jesus' disciples do two things.
      1. They let Jesus teach them how to care.
      2. They let Jesus teach them what is good.
      3. So disciples become caring people who commit themselves to doing good.

  2. An illustration Paul used to explain the same thing to two congregations was based on the human body.
    1. He made extensive use of this illustration twice; once in his letter to Christians in Rome, and one in his letter to Christians in Corinth.
      1. To both he said they would improve their basic understanding of the church if they would compare it to a human body.
        Romans 12:3-8 For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
      2. Your body has a lot of parts that do very different things.
        1. Yet, all of them work for the good of the whole.
        2. If all those parts do well what they have the ability to do, the body is healthy, and every part is benefitted because the whole body benefits.
        3. If even a few of those parts fail to do what they have the ability to do, the whole body is sick.
        4. The key is every part functioning well as it does what it has the ability to do.
        5. The key is NOT having every part doing two or three functions.
      3. Not every Christian has the same abilities.
        1. Some are great at producing insights.
        2. Some are great at serving.
        3. Some are great at teaching.
        4. Some are great at encouraging.
        5. Some are great at giving.
        6. Some are great at leading.
        7. Some are great at showing mercy.
      4. Paul said whatever you are good at doing, do it well for the good of everyone.
    2. Paul used the same illustration when he wrote to the Christians at Corinth.
      1 Corinthians 12:12-20 For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, "Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body," it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, "Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body," it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body.
      1. God's purposes in Jesus Christ are not accomplished by everyone doing the same thing.
        1. That was never God's purposes in Jesus Christ.
        2. That was never God's purpose when you were baptized.
      2. God's purposes are achieved when each Christian does well what he or she is capable of doing.

  3. "What difference does it make?" It makes a huge difference!
    1. Let me illustrate this huge difference by using 1 Corinthians 5 as an illustration.
      1. The situation:
        1. This community of Christians had a horrible case of incest in the congregation, and they acted like nothing was evil.
        2. A son was living with his father's wife, and the community of Christians ignored the situation.
      2. Paul's directive:
        1. Make it very clear that these people cannot be a part of your community and live the way they are living.
        2. Have no association with them.
      3. The objective:
        1. Verse 5: you want to move these people back to a spiritual existence.
        2. You want them to repent of their immoral lives and become spiritual people again.
      4. Why would it work?
        1. It would work because they were a community who needed each other.
        2. The loss of being a part of the community was so severe that these people would redirect their lives to be part of the community again.
    2. This would not work in most congregations today.
      1. If you tried it, the result would be horrible.
      2. They would quit, or the congregation would split, or they would go to another congregation.
      4. Why would it not work in most congregations today?
        1. Christians are not a community who seek everyone's best interest because they care.
        2. We have made the church an organization that stresses church membership instead of encouraging it to be what God intended: a community of people who care about Jesus Christ and each other because they are disciples of Jesus.
    3. Let me put this in very practical terms.
      1. There are several lonely people in the congregation. A community responds to the loneliness.
      2. There are several struggling people in this congregation. A community responds to the struggling.
      3. There are several alienated people in this congregation. A community reaches out to the alienated.
      4. There are all kinds of needs, all kinds of problems, all kinds of struggles surrounding us. In a community of faith, we all use our abilities to help because we care.

  4. For a community of Christians to exist here and now, what do we need to do?
    1. We have to be disciples of Jesus instead of mere church members.
    2. We have to use our abilities to help and benefit others.
    3. That is my goal, my vision: to challenge all of us to become Jesus' disciples who care enough to help people.
    4. Many of you share that same goal; may we all share it.

"At the start of this lesson, you said you had two goals, one for us as a congregation and one that was about you as a person. What is the one you have for yourself?'

My personal goal is to be the kind of disciple that causes other people to want to follow Jesus. Whatever I am, whatever the day of the week it may be, whatever the situation, I want to be a positive influence for Jesus.

What is your personal goal?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 27 April 2003

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