Sermon Titled “State of the Church” (Acts 17:22-34) – Sunday 12th January, 2014
In this second of a three-part series on “Being the Church,” the following five questions (regarding Koza Baptist Church) were addressed and answered:
- Who are we?
- What do we have?
- What are we doing with what we have?
- How are we doing it?
- How can you help?
The passage of scripture upon which this sermon is based (Acts 17:22-34), provides details of Paul’s attempt to share the gospel with the “People of Athens.” Paul, compelled by a vision (Acts 16:9-10), traveled to Greece from Asia. His goal was to hopefully reveal God’s truth to a group of people whose culture was heavily influenced at the time by art, religion, and philosophy. And by religion, I mean that they worshiped many gods.
Here in Japan, many customs and rituals are observed, and most people tend to follow the religious teachings of Shintoism or Buddhism (or a combination of both). Christianity, and it’s message of hope, is little understood by most Japanese people. When Paul delivered his speech in Athens, he addressed a group of people who also knew little about the gospel truth, hence his words were largely scoffed at. Still, some believed, and I think one of the key points we are to take away from this piece of scripture is that Paul went to a foreign land and had the courage to talk about Christ.
In order for us at Koza Baptist Church to be better equipped at sharing the gospel within our communities, we should first seek to understand the answers to the questions above. In having a thorough knowledge of who we are, as members of Koza Baptist Church, and what we are called to do, we can acquire the confidence we need to go out and BE the church.
1. Who are we? According to our mission statement, we aim:
- To become followers of Christ on mission with God
We are, therefore, a community of Christian followers whose purpose is not to settle for weekly church attendance and feel good about ourselves because we “show up” every Saturday or Sunday. No, our purpose is to seriously pursue Jesus Christ, not just on our own but also together with our church family. To seriously pursue Christ, we are encouraged in Philippians 2:1-5, to BE like Christ, and put others above ourselves.
Pastor Reimer is quick to remind us however, that being like Christ does not come naturally to us. It’s not easy to accept that others are better than us (more money, better job, more attractive, etc….), yet we are told to be humble and to value others above ourselves. Christ’s ways are hard to follow because our natural tendency is to pursue all the things in life which bring wealth, status, awards, and generally, greater overall success than others.
The good news, is that spiritual growth eventually leads us to a place where none of these things matter any more, and our natural tendency changes to one that is in pursuit of Christ’s ways, and not our ways. A great way to visualize this process of change, is by imagining a water fountain with water flowing from the top tier, to the middle tier, and into the bottom tier.
As we worship Christ, He pours Himself into us (water flows into the top tier). We are eventually filled with His spirit, causing us to desire a more intimate relationship with Him, and changing how we respond to others (water now overflows from the top tier to the middle tier). Finally, as we continue to worship, and seek greater intimacy with Christ and more loving relationships with those around us, His spirit moves us to yet another level, causing us to truly desire to BE LIKE Him and start serving others instead of ourselves (water flows more freely now from the top and middle tiers to the the greatest tier below).
2. What do we have? Koza Baptist Church was founded in 1963, but did not move to it’s current location until 2008. The membership has grown significantly over the past few years, and additional pieces of land and property have since been acquired. Koza Baptist Church has 100% ownership of all it’s assets, preferring to operate on a “pay-cash” only system for all purchases, both minor and major.
Plans are under way to purchase more land further north in the Camp Hansen and Camp Schwab areas, with the specific intent of making the gospel message available to the many service members working and residing in those areas.
3. What are we doing with what we have? Koza Baptist Church freely discloses to it’s members it’s monthly budget needs and actual amounts received. Also made known to members, is how the church plans to use it’s income from year to year, including exact percentages of income allocated to various ministries and charitable organizations. Last year the church gave away a sizable amount of money to it’s chosen ministries and also invested much time and money in many at-home events which involved serving the community in some way. The goal of Koza, says Pastor Reimer, is to sow generously, as urged in 2 Corinthians 9:6-15.
4. How are we doing it? By acting on the Holy Spirit’s leading, and faithfully obeying. In his book Experiencing God, Henry Blackaby says that we must make major life adjustments in our lives to join God in what He is doing. But as we step out in faith and trust that God will make provision for everything we need as we seek to follow Him, we are likely to arrive at a place where suddenly the major adjustments turn into major blessings. It’s here that we start to “fall in love” with God and be completely awe-struck by Him, realizing for the first time that His plans for us far exceed anything that we could ever hope to accomplish on our own. I dare you to test Him in this – surrender to Him, follow Him, and see what happens.
5. How can you help? There are many, many ways you can help to serve at Koza Baptist Church:
- Be a greeter
- Help out with childcare
- Teach Sunday school
- Bake cookies for Saturday night services
- Help make coffee
- Help serve at community outreach events
- Work with the youth
- Contribute to the various ministries
- Go on a mission trip
- Help the ESL team
You don’t have to be “gifted” to serve; you just need to start worshiping God and allowing His spirit to pour into your heart. As you stay connected to God through private worship and through regular fellowship with other Christians, you will eventually (and without resistance):
- become a follower of Christ on mission with God.
And that is the ultimate goal desired for all members of Koza Baptist Church.