This is the sermon for Sunday morning, October 5th, 2008. Before the sermon, I’m going to show a short video. I will post the video as well.

John 4:4-35 (Read from my Bible)

After watching the poem on video based on the text we read, it really brought this passage to light for me. God had a plan for Jesus to go to Samaria, and lead this sinful women to become a follower of His. Not only did she become a follower, but several people within the city became followers of His as she shared her testimony. God had a vision and a mission for both Christ and this woman at the well.

This morning you may have thoughts and plans for your life, your family, and even an idea of how you’d like to see our church function; but God has a higher and greatly plan for all of these things. He wants us to be like the woman at the well, once Christ shares Himself with us, we share Him with others.

The question must be asked: Does God have a plan for Faith United Church? Yes, I believe He does. It is not some new plan that can be learned by imitating other churches, but it is a plan that is as old as the Word of God itself. It is a tried and true plan, that we must be obedient too and follow.

This morning we are going to take God’s plan and simplify it so we can remember it and follow it: God wants Faith United Church to be Upward, Inward, and Outward in focus.

Before we looked into some facts and His Word, let’s invite the Holy Spirit to come and bless what He wants to say to us.

1. Some startling facts about the modern day church.

A. I did some research into church growth numbers and facts concerning the last decade that we have lived in, that I’d like to share with you.

Right now, there is growth in the technological world and publishing world of the church than in any other time in history. Many books are sold outside of Christian bookstores and authors have made inroads into places like Walmart, Barnes and Noble, Borders, etc… Movies like Fireproof, Facing the Giants, The Chronicles of Narnia, the Passion of the Christ, have become sell outs in the theaters. Novels like the Left Behind series are popular for Christians and non-Christians alike. There are now Christian video games, and T-shirts which are very popular. Christian music is now being played on secular stations. All these on the surface seemingly are good, but the question is, are they producing any disciples?

Here are some hard facts concerning the modern day church and the church growth movement: In the last 10 years there has been a decrease in church attendance in every state in the U.S. with the exception of one – Hawaii. You see churches growing all over the place, but they are not from new coverts, but from people dissatisfied with their own church – all that is happening is transplanting, not true church growth.

You see, while it seems the church has made some inroads into the culture there has been no missional impact – in other words, no one is coming to faith in Jesus Christ.

Some other brutal facts: 85% of the people in the United States call themselves Christians – that’s 247 million people. But amongst that number, you cannot tell the difference in who is a Christian and who is not by their actions. This means we have a number of people that claim Christ by name only, but devoid of relationship. The divorce rate for first time marriages (51%) is higher in the church than it is in the secular world (41%). The abortion rate in the church is equal to the secular world. Churches are now compromising by allowing homosexual pastors, ministers, and singers all on staff or ministering in their churches.

The lack of a clear distinction between Christians and non-Christians is a very real problem that must be addressed in the church of the U.S.

B. How can we address this problem?

Well, we must go back to the Bible to find the answers. It is found in the Great commandment and the Great commission It is living our lives upward, inward, and outward.

Let’s look.

2. Upward.

Matthew 22:37-38 TNIV – 37 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment.

The first two points are of course found in the great commandment.

A. We are first and foremost to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12).

B. This is what upward represents.

Our worship must not be our own image of what we think about God, but it must be completely focused on who He is. It is not about the music style either, but it is about how we live our lives, what we think on throughout the day, what our heart is geared toward, and what we are working toward. It is all about Him.

C. As Pastor of this church, I declare to you this morning, that everything we do here at Faith United Church must be out of a heart of love toward the Lord.

If you are not happy because your agenda is not being accomplished, then you need to change your agenda, it’s about Him, not about you. Everything that we will do from here on end at this church will first pass through this upward focus: does it bring glory to our Father and show Him our love. This goes for every ministry, every program, and every plan.

3. Inward.

Matthew 22:39-40 TNIV – 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

A. This second point of the great commandment is to love our neighbor as ourselves.

You see, loving one another is secondary only to loving God. Let’s just allow the Bible to speak to us for a few moments on loving one another.

John 13:34-35 TNIV – 34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

John 15:12-13 TNIV – 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Romans 12:10 TNIV – Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

1 John 3:14-16 TNIV – 14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15 Anyone who hates a fellow believer is a murderer, and you know that no murderers have eternal life in them. 16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for one another.

B. Here at Faith United Church, let’s be a church that loves one another, holds each other up in prayer and encourages each other in the faith.

C. How will we do these things?

Open up your individual hearts to one another. Share strengths and weaknesses. Times of all church fellowship. Let the Sunday School hour be a time of growth in the Lord (upward) and growth with each other (inward). Watch what you say and how you treat each other; don’t be judgmental. Small groups coming on Sunday nights to share with one another and love one another and the Lord as well. I would love to see every member of this church become a member of a small group.

D. Let’s look at the last point.

4. Outward.

Matthew 28:19-20 TNIV – 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

A. You make disciples by sharing your faith one on one.

Tell them your story, use the what’s been called the Romans Road. We need to baptize some of you here, we are going to improve on this, we need something brought up here or meet at someone’s home sometime for this.

B. Another way to biblically reach out is to meet physical needs that people have.

Matthew 25:35-40 TNIV – 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

C. It is my hope and vision to see each person here plugged in to some type of outreach type of ministry.

We need a team that will visit our guests (visitors) and people going through difficulties. We need someone to take the Garden Apartments ministry the church does. We need help with our Outreach team, people who will work, pray, and have a vision and plan.

We have as a vision for our church this phrase: United in Faith…United in Love…United in Christ.” This vision can only be accomplished if we live our lives as a mission. The mission being: Living upward (loving God), Inward (loving others), outward (Loving the world).

You see, God is not interested in transplant growth, He wants to see sinners saved. He also wants to see believers grow in love with Him and with each other. What would happen if Faith United Church begins following the three principles I laid out? Perhaps community transformation. Let’s be transformed by the Lord by loving upward, inward, and outward; so that we can see others transformed as well.