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Becoming a Whole Church

This is the introductory sermon to a series on becoming a “Whole Church”. This sermon was born out the concepts in Mel Lawrenz book – “Whole Church: Leading from Fragmentation to Engagement“.

As I mentioned in the introduction this morning, over the next four months we are going to looking at how we can become a whole church. We want to take full advantage of the opportunities that God is sending to us to expand His kingdom, but we can’t do that as a broken church or a fragmented church. We have to do this as a whole church.

Now there are two aspects to this idea of a whole church. The first aspect that I want us to look at is the idea of unity. Moving beyond our differences and focusing on what we have in common. This is exactly what we read in our passage earlier.  1 Corinthians 12:12-13

12 The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. 13 Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.

Yes, there are many different parts, but we make up one body. Does everyone still have your puzzle piece? Can you take it out and hold it up for me to see for a minute? (Earlier, I had invited everyone in the congregation to come to the front to take a piece of a jigsaw puzzle that I had put together earlier…)

One of the biggest issues that I’ve wrestled with as a pastor over through the past two years is this issue right here. God has a lot of different puzzle pieces. And I don’t always know how they fit together, but I know that somehow they do. Just like the verse says…

Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.

Isn’t that awesome?! We can be totally different – yet because of Christ, we can be united as one. We can get together and worship the same God. We can go out into our community and together serve the same God.

Sometimes we focus on how we’re different. How we’re not the same. We take out our puzzle piece and compare it with the guy beside us. Oooh, you’re shape’s a little different, and my colors aren’t the same as yours – I’m not sure we can work together.

No, that’s hogwash. Of course, we can work together. We’re part of the same puzzle. If all the puzzle pieces looked exactly the same, you wouldn’t have much of a puzzle, would you?

But yet we see this in the church quite often. We see church splits over minor details. We see churches of different denominations in the same area that all but ignore each other. We see conflict between the older and younger generations because they do things so different from one another.

God has all kinds of different people in His church. We worship God differently. We serve God differently. We even understand God differently. But because we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, we can worship and work together. Each of us has an important place in the family of God. And when we realize that, God can do some amazing things through us.

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! Psalm 133:1 KJV

It’s just the sweetest thing for people to do things together in unity. So that’s the first aspect of a “whole church”. Moving beyond our differences and focusing on what we have in common.

The second aspect of a “whole church” is being a church that fulfills the whole purposes of God.

Now, to help me explain what I mean by this, take out that yellow DNA paper in your bulletin and look just under Philosophy and Purpose paragraph for the statement “ The church that is in love with God will express that love in the following five areas:”

A whole church is a church that successfully balances those five areas. Worship, Fellowship, Discipleship, Ministry, and Evangelism. Because together, those five things make a complete, repeating loop.

Worshiping together leads to fellowship. Fellowship leads to discipleship. Discipleship will result in ministry. Ministry will lead to evangelism. And Evangelism will lead back to worship. And that’s how the church grows. When all five things are happening in balance, you will have a healthy, whole church.

But what happens when you have a church that really focuses on just one thing… let’s say worship? All the church’s energy and resources go into creating an awesome worship experience. They have the best music and the best worship leaders and the best Sunday morning service ever. But they neglect to make disciples. Is that church fulfilling the whole purposes of God?

Or if you have a church that really focuses on fellowship. They have the best potlucks and youth group get togethers. They meet in each other’s homes all the time. They just love being together! But they never get out into their community for ministry or evangelism! Is that church fulfilling the whole purposes of God?

Do you see what I’m saying? There’s a balance there. Let me put it on a personal level… I don’t want to neglect any part of God’s purpose for me. For example, I don’t want to focus on being the best pastor this church has ever seen and neglect being the Dad that God wants me to be to my kids. That would not be fulfilling God’s whole purpose for my life. I need to have a balance there.

So that’s the second aspect of a “whole church”: Fulfilling the whole purposes of God.

Now that we know what a “whole church” is, how are we going to get there? How can this group of very different people get to be a whole church? What are the practical steps we can take to get us there?

In a nutshell, I propose a four part strategy. Four Levels of Engagement.

We want to engage with God
We want to engage with God’s people
We want to engage with our community
We want to engage with the world

The key word in each of these is “engage.” It’s one thing to talk about doing these things on Sunday morning, and it’s another thing to actually do them. Becoming a whole church will not happen by simply talking about it. We need to actually engage.

If you look up the word “engage” in the dictionary, you’ll find several definitions and all of them are exactly what we want to do:

Engage Defined:

  • To become involved in or participate in
  • To pledge or to promise
  • To assume an obligation
  • To become meshed or interlocked
  • To draw into

With all those definitions in mind, when we talk about becoming engaged with God, or engaged with each other, or engaged with our community, or engaged with the world – suddenly, there is a lot less talking and a lot more doing.

Engagement at all these levels requires a great deal of intentional effort. It doesn’t come naturally or easily. But it is absolutely necessary and absolutely worth it.

When we become engaged with God, our Sunday morning services stop being just a routine, going through the motions service. But instead, they become deeply, meaningful encounters with God.
When we become engaged with God’s people, we get beyond coffee and potlucks and experience true, life-changing community together.
When we become engaged with our community we stop being just one of those religious people that spout off Christian catch phrases, but we become real people who really care and who might just have some real answers.
When we become engaged with our world, missions becomes more than just newsletters and sending the occasional cheque overseas. It becomes you getting your hands dirty and being personally involved with something that God is doing miles away.

Engagement is when we stop coming to church and start being the church.

One of my favorite definitions of engage is “to become meshed or interlocked”. And that’s one of the reasons why you’re holding that puzzle piece this morning. Just like the pieces of this jigsaw puzzle interlock with each other perfectly, I want to challenge you to become interlocked with God, interlocked with each other, interlocked with our community, and interlocked with our world.

There is so much more to being part of the church than just having your name on a membership list or attending weekly meetings. If you want to experience what that “more” is, then I invite you to become engaged. Engaged with God, engaged with each other, engaged with our community, and engaged with our world.

To close our service this morning, I want to do three things. First of all, I want to ask our senior pastor to come up here and lead us as a church in a prayer. We want to commit to God that we will become engaged. We will not just warm the pews on Sunday morning – we will become engaged with God, each other, our community, and our world.

And after He does that, the worship team will lead us in a few more worship songs and as we sing, I’m going to ask you to come back up to the front and put your puzzle piece back in the puzzle as a symbol of your commitment to becoming engaged, or interlocked, in these four different areas. I won’t dismiss you in any order, but as you feel ready to make that commitment, come on up and put your piece in the puzzle. If you can’t remember exactly where your piece goes, that’s fine, just lay it on the puzzle and we’ll work it in later.

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