Click HERE for the audio version of this message.
The Six Great Ends of the Church: “The Shelter, Nurture, and Spiritual Fellowship of the Children of God”
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Lord Jesus, open our minds and hearts to Your truth, through the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God. Amen.
On this is second week of a 6-week sermon series on what is known as the Six Great Ends of the Church, the word “Ends” in that means “purposes, or reasons for existence” – we discover more about what the Church is for! This has been true almost since the founding of this particular church.
LPC was chartered in 1907 under the denomination called the Presbyterian Church in North America which adopted the Great Ends in 1910. In 1958, when that denomination united with the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, giving rise to the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, this statement was incorporated into the new constitution. And when the UPCUSA united with the Presbyterian Church in the United States in 1983, healing a rift that had lasted since the Civil War era, the Great Ends were made part of the Constitution (in the Book of Order) of the PC(USA).
These six statements describe a healthy church – one which realizes that not only must the Gospel be preached to all (like we said last week), but that the people who have responded need to be nurtured, that worship correctly done is as important as preserving the truth, that justice for God’s people cannot be ignored, and that our individual lives and our corporate actions should show the world what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. (If you listened closely just then, you heard all Six Great Ends mentioned.
Today is Reformation Sunday – remembering and honoring people like Martin Luther who, 499 years ago, started a Christian Reformation when he posted 95 ways the Church was not doing/being what the church should do/be, this seems like the perfect time to look together at why we exist.
Last Sunday we saw that the first, and by implication the foundational, End/Purpose of the Church is The Proclamation of the Gospel!
Today we discover the second End/Purpose of the Church is The Shelter, Nurture, and Spiritual Fellowship of the Children of God!
Listen with me as Paul describes this reason for our existence from his letter to the Philippians 2:1-11….—-
1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Earlier last week I was looking at a friend’s Facebook post about God’s grace and my heart broke as I read one of his friends comment on that post. She said something about how she totally believes in God’s grace and mercy, but she doesn’t believe you need a church to be a good Christian – the only thing the church is good for, in her opinion, is causing pain and disappointment. She said, “Jesus never said anything about the church”.
Another of his friends starting arguing with her and posting Bible verses to prove his point, and I could see that this was gonna be a debate where the hole just got deeper and the hurt was gonna get worse… so I decided to not get in on the discussion.
But my heart sank for this woman who had had such negative experiences with churches. Where was her “sheltering and nurturing and spiritual fellowship”? And then I wondered how many people in churches where I have been active have felt just like she felt…. And my heart broke again….
“Sheltering the children of God”, to me, is not protecting them from the world or keeping them safe from controversial ideas. But it is providing a place where believers with full-bodied faiths as well as believers with more fragile faiths can come together as a Christian community, learning, worshiping, fellowshipping, serving, and mutually nurturing one another.
In just a few weeks we will be celebrating Andrew’s 10th Baptism Anniversary. On November 19, 2006, Jennifer and I, and Caitlin and Brianna, and every member of this congregation promised to bring Andrew up in the Church and to teach this newly baptized member of the family of God. That was true Andrew 10 years ago, but it has also been true of every single person baptized in this church for the last 109-½ years!
How are we “sheltering” and “nurturing” our fellow Christians? Especially those who are truly searching? Remember last week we said that the Proclamation of the Gospel was both the first and the foremost End of the Church? That’s because, in part, when believers, and those who do not yet believe but are asking all the right questions, come in and want to know what we believe – we owe them a solid answer! We believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ – we believe in salvation by grace alone, through faith alone (Reformation Day phrases!). We believe that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life!
Paul tells the Church in Philippi, “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Have you ever felt the need for “shelter”? Did you discover that “sanctuary” in the Church? [Any “shout-out” answers…. If they say that they needed shelter but did not find it, apologize on behalf of the Church – we have failed….]
Beau Weston, a Sociology professor at Centre College in Danville, KY, as well as a Presbyterian Elder, in an article called “Presbyterian Evangelicals—They just might be on to something” in the April 2004 issue of Presbyterians Today, wrote:
“Christians always tell pollsters that what they want [in church] is ‘good music and good preaching’, but ‘what they really want from religion is religion.’…
“Liberal churches that work hard to accommodate the secular world by offering a refined, intellectual, reasonable faith keep losing people to the even more reasonable pleasures of the newspaper, the golf course, and the warm bed.”
Do we provide a place where people are both comforted and challenged? Let’s be a place where we can shelter each other with God’s love.
How does LPC provide “nurture”? In our relationships with each other, do we have the same mindset as Christ Jesus? Are we so humble as to ignore our rights as privileged majority status citizens – and then pick up our crosses and follow Jesus, suffering on behalf of those around us? (Thursday Bible Study people, that’s exactly what we saw Jesus say last week, in Luke 14!)
How is our “fellowship” “spiritual”? [Any “shout-out” answers…. ]
The first, and most foundational, Great End of the Church is the Proclamation of the Gospel – if there is no Gospel being proclaimed any Social Organization could suffice our church-needs (and maybe even better). Jesus often criticized church-leaders as hypocrites, two-faced, fake.
The second, and right on the heels of the first, Great End of the Church is the Shelter, Nurture, and Spiritual Fellowship of the Children of God – if we fail at helping each other grow in our faith and our Christ-likeness, we fail at actually being a church!
Friends, let’s live like we believe what we say we believe! Our Mission Statement declares that we are a people who:
Know the power and love of God, and
Grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, compelling us to
Go in the footsteps of the Holy Spirit, loving and serving others who do not yet
Know the power and love of God….
Did you hear the sheltering, nurturing, and spiritual fellowship of the people of God in that? Let’s be that kind of Church! Amen.
The 6 Great Ends of the Church: Leader’s Guide; Episode 2; The Fellowship Community; 2016.
Weston, Beau; “Presbyterian Evangelicals—they just might be on to something”; Presbyterians Today; April 2004.