We are THAT Church – Matthew 16
The first message in the New Core Group series.
(Find the rest here.)
We had a family visit us for our Christmas services and when I spoke to them later the wife told me, I checked in on Facebook when we there because you guys were doing the ckeckins for a cause and I had friends ask me, “Did you go to that church where the pastor walks in the parade in that Christmas suit?”
Yes, it was that church.
I’ve had people ask me, are you guys that church with the inflatable dinosaur?
Are you guys that church with the addiction group?
Are you guys that church with the big VBS?
Aren’t you with that church that puts on the run?
Are you with that church that puts all the videos on Facebook?
I take joy in responding Yes, we are that church.
There are also some less positive references to us as well. I’ve heard some of them. I’m sure I haven’t heard all of them.
I like what my pastor friend, Daniel Voss said. The best way to get people to stop criticizing your church is to stop doing anything that’s effective and reaches people- cause when nobody is talking about you, no one is criticizing you.
When you have an impact on the community, people will talk. Jesus experienced that. A lot of what people were saying about him wasn’t true. A lot of it was unfair. A lot of it was misguided.
So one day when Jesus is walking along with the disciples He asks, what do people say about us? Who do people say that I am?
Let’s take a look in Matthew 16:13-18
This past November as we celebrated our 34th anniversary I spoke of the group of individuals who had a common vision and shared a passion for starting a new church. The were the “Core Group.”
They probably didn’t think of themselves in those terms, but because of their dedication, commitment, faithfulness, and generosity the church that we have today exists.
I then invited everyone in the room to become part of the new core group. To be committed, dedicated, faithful, and generous so that we could build the church our children will lead in another 34 years. Then I said, if we are the new core group we’ll need a photo for them to show at the 68th anniversary so we grabbed a quick selfie right there in the church service.
That was a little different. It was out of the ordinary, but hopefully it was memorable. I’ve loved over the past couple of months when I’ve heard someone say something like, that’s what the New Core Group would do, or that’s something the New Core Group needs to make happen, or when someone has said with pride, Pastor Daniel I love being in the New Core Group.
Now, when you read the passage a second ago and we ran across the word church, it doesn’t strike you as out of the ordinary because you are familiar with, at the very least, your concept of a church.
But what if we had read and upon this rock I will build my unicorn or my rocket ship? That would catch you off guard because it would be unexpected, it would be unusual.
When Jesus said this to the disciples, it was unusual. Maybe not as unusual an a unicorn, but it was out of the ordinary.
It was completely New.
Jesus is talking to a group of Jewish men who have attended Synagogue weekly and Temple seasonally their whole lives. Maybe they hadn’t been as faithful as they should have been, but in their culture it was the norm. It’s what you did on the Sabbath. It’s what you did at the passover feast. It was expected and they were part of a culture that had been doing that for generations.
But here, Jesus is speaking of something completely new and foreign to them. It will be hard for us because we are so familiar with the word, but imagine what it must have been like for the disciples to hear this without the familiarity that you and I take for granted.
Jesus said that He did not come to do away with the law but to fulfill it and that’s exactly what He did, so when He was sacrificed for our sins there was no longer a need for the sacrifice of lambs and oxen in the Temple as they had practiced for generations.
Jesus was starting something new because He had completed the old through His own sacrifice.
When Jesus founded His church,
He started something new.
The church would struggle with this for year because it was hard for them to break out of their traditions and the way they had done worship.
Much of the New Testament is about doing away with the old laws, walking away from the old feast, and no longer needing the religious ceremonies of their past…
When Jesus started the church, He started something completely different and new and the disciples were wading into uncharted waters when they launched the church in Acts.
They had to figure some it out as they went.
They had to get together make sure they were straight on some stuff, but they did and every time they did the church advanced.
God loves to do a new thing.
In Isaiah 43 God reminds the people of all the things that He did for them in bringing them out of the wilderness.
He reminds them of the fact that he brought them out of captivity, through the Red Sea, across the desert, through the Jordan, through battles and into the land they now live in, but then he says in verse 18.
18Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old.
19Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it?
I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.
God reminds them of all the incredible victories He gave them. He reminds them of all the times He saved them.
He reminds them of all the miracles He did to bring them over,
then He says,
Remember not the former things
Neither consider the things of old.
Why did you just remind us of them God?
Why did you just go over all of them?
I think the answer to that is a few verses down in verse 26, but I’m going to read you verse 25 too cause it’s just sooooo good.
25 I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.
Isn’t that good? Can we just take a timeout from the sermon to thank God He is the one who blots out our mistakes and doesn’t remember our sins?
God just said, I take whiteout across all your mistakes…
I don’t even remember them.
Anyway, back to what I was saying.
God has just reminded them of all these things that He did for them and THEN says don’t remember the former things.
Why? He tells us why in verse 26 He says,
“Put ME in remembrance!”
God didn’t want them to remember the stuff, He wanted them to remember Him and His power and His grace and that would give them faith for the New Thing He will do.
If were merely remember what happened in the past and not who caused it, we’ll end up with too much nostalgia and not enough faith.
We just watched a video of all kinds of great stuff that happened in 2016, but we shouldn’t walk away from that saying that we’ve got to repeat every bit of this year- we shouldn’t walk away saying look at we did, what we should walk away saying is I can’t wait to see what New thing God is going to do this year!
You see if a new thing is going to happen,
it will be God who does it….
Jesus said, Flesh and Blood has not revealed this unto you but God in heaven.
You see, we can put on an event. We can put on a dinosaur costume. We can put together a fun VBS. We can go to the jail…
Only God can reveal this necessary truth to hearts…
Jesus said “I will build my church.”
He’s got to do it.
We are just along for the ride.
Oh man, what a fun ride it is!
What prompted this talk of the church was the essential truth that Peter had just spoken. You are the Son of God.
Jesus had just asked them, who does everyone else say that I am? What are people saying? What are they thinking in reaction to our ministry?
People had some misguided ideas about who Jesus was- some of them weren’t bad- they were faith in the miraculous. For example they thought that Jesus was a dead prophet come back to life- that was a pretty remarkable idea- it would have taken a lot of faith to believe that…
But Jesus didn’t respond with, well we should probably change our message to be more inclusive to their ideas and their thinking on this…
Now Jesus already knew what people were thinking. He didn’t need the disciples to tell Him that- but if Jesus were a modern pastor He would have gotten this market research and then said, hmmm. We need to be inclusive to think the mindset of these people…
On the flip side, Jesus recognized where people were, where the misunderstanding were and then used that as a starting point to get them to where they needed to be- to the truth that He was the Son of Man- the term that the Prophet Daniel had used to speak of the coming Messiah.
Jesus didn’t start His church based upon market research of the prevailing opinions about Him in that culture.
He started the church based upon a bedrock truth that was revealed from heaven- that He is the Son of God.
That he was more than a man- that He was more than a teacher, that He was more than a prophet, rather He founded his church upon something harder to believe than He was a dead prophet raised from the dead, He started it upon the premise that He is God who would die and raise again…
When Jesus founded His church,
He founded it upon core truth.
Jesus picked a hard truth to establish the church upon.
This bedrock truth has been a stumbling block for many people, they’ve struggled to believe that He is really God.
They’ve struggled to believe that He rose from the dead…
There are people who say, well if you just set that stuff aside then I would be able to wholeheartedly jump right in…
If you would set that stuff aside the church could welcome all kinds of people whether or not they believed those hard to agree with ideas…
Many churches have gone that route- they’ve set aside what I would call core doctrines and truths so that they could open their arms to all kinds of people and you know what has happened? They’ve waved goodbye to more people than they’ve welcomed.
Their pragmatism wasn’t very pragmatic.
In a Washington Post article that shared results from a Pew Research Study on churches that showed churches who had walked away from a literal interpretation of the scripture were dwindling while “conservative” churches were growing pointed out that…
“20 years ago that John Shelby Spong, a U.S. bishop in the Episcopalian Church, published his book “Why Christianity Must Change or Die.” It was presented as an antidote to the crisis of decline in mainline churches. Spong, a theological liberal, said congregations would grow if they abandoned their literal interpretation of the Bible and transformed along with changing times.”
Interestingly just a day before reading that article about the churches that have walked away from their core truth and mission, I read a really interesting article about Quicksilver.
Interesting to me at least.
Quicksilver walked away from their core. They walked away from what made them great, producing top quality surfing gear.
They tried to become a snow skiing brand. They tried to become predominantly a clothing brand. They tried to appeal to the masses by branching out into all of these different directions and when they did they walked away from their core and now they’re bankrupt.
The Core truth of the gospel isn’t just our identity,
it’s what works. It’s what changes lives.
If it ever becomes about the events, about the funny suits and dinosaur costumes, about the meals, then we’ll not only lose our identity, we’ll lose all hope of helping people.
I smile when people ask, aren’t you that church with inflatable dinosaur or aren’t you that church with the crazy suit in the parade, but I cry tears of joy when people say,
Oh that’s the church my buddy goes to.
He seems to be doing really good. He hasn’t been in any trouble. He’s been sober for a while now…
He’s got his kids back in his life now…
He seems to really love that church.
When I talk about a New Core Group, I’m not just talking about a new set of people in the center of church life and activity, I’m talking about a new group of people committed to the same core truth and doctrine which Jesus established His church upon and our church was founded upon in the late 70’s… The core truth of the gospel.
The place of worship that these disciples were familiar with beforehand was the temple which had one location, it had one place that you came to worship God and offer your sacrifices. Everything centered around that location, that building.
Because the Temple was so central to their identity, it was always destroyed when they were overtaken in wars and battles.
However, what Jesus talks about establishing isn’t a building, rather the word is an assembly.
In the Old Testament there were lengthy instructions about how to build the tabernacle and then the temple.
In the gospels the emphasis is upon the foundation being Jesus and building being the people.
The connections that built the structure of the church were the people…
The call was for there to be an assembling, a coming together, a building of relationships, groups, and teams.
One of the benefits of this church not being a place but a group is that they were mobile and no longer were the people coming to the church as they had done with the temple, they were taking the church out.
Jesus said, the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Jesus positioned the church to head outward, to take the core truth of the gospel out, to go with it, and He promised that the defenses of hell would not hold it back.
Jesus commissioned His New Core Group to take on the gates of hell.
The church is called to play offense. We are called to go out into our community carrying this
message out into the world up to and yes even through the very gates of hell.
There is no territory that is off limits,
there is no space that Satan has claimed that we have to walk away from, —- Jesus said His New Core Group would take on AND PREVAIL against the very gates of hell…
That means there is no town too broken, not even Chandler.
There is no family too dysfunctional, not even your’s…
There is no life too messy, not even in the jail
There is no marriage too far gone, not even your neighbors
Jesus said I’m starting something new. A group of people built upon the core truth of me. That’s the church Jesus started and Yes. We. Are. That. Church!