A Healthy Church Part 1

Understanding What Makes A Church A Healthy Church

Ross Sawyers
Dec 12, 2021    52m
In a crazy and chaotic world, what marks an unhealthy church from a healthy church? Join us in today's message as we explore the four characteristics of what makes a healthy church according to the Bible. Video recorded at Grapevine, Texas.

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Ross Sawyers: [00:00:09] Father, thank you for just the opportunity this morning to be together, and we're grateful for that. Thank you, Father, for the beautiful praise to your name. And Father, I pray that that would be our hearts' desires, that your name above all names is honored and glorified. God, I pray this morning, would you meet us here and would you change us today, whatever that might mean, an encounter with you, God? And so we thank you and pray in Jesus' name. Amen. Lisa and I started a few, I don't know how many years I've been doing it now, but we started taking the week after Thanksgiving as a vacation week and an opportunity to just get away, isolate for a bit before the Christmas season really kind of amps up, try to get as much shopping as we can done and so forth. But we've gone multiple times now to Watson, Oklahoma, and someone in our church recommended this place called River's Edge a long time ago. And so we've continued to go back. We stay in the same cabin every time. It's called Windsong. It's a one-room cabin. Everything's in one room, and it overlooks the Mountain Fork River. It's absolutely beautiful. And so this year we spent four nights at that cabin and just a fantastic time together and time with the Lord. And it's beautiful hanging out around the firepit and so forth.

Ross Sawyers: [00:01:41] I don't know where you are life stage wise, but when I travel somewhere now, one of the first things I do is try to figure out if I'm going to sleep well that week. And so I test the mattress. And I went and just kind of hit the mattress when we got there just to get an idea of what it was like. And it's one of those mattresses where when I hit it, my hand just stopped. I mean there was nothing. It was just hard and flat. And I thought, I don't recall this mattress being this way in the past, but it is now. And I thought, I'm not going to sleep much this week because I don't like a real firm hard mattress. But Lisa, however, loves a firm mattress. And so it was a fantastic week of sleep for her. After the third night, she started looking, I don't know why she was looking, but she started looking underneath the mattress and she said, you know what? I think this mattress is upside down. And the pillow top part of the mattress was actually on the bottom. So we were sleeping those first three nights on the bottom of the mattress. Just imagine a piece of plywood, a couple of sheets, and they cover it multiple times to, in our COVID era, to make sure it's safe I guess. And that's what we were sleeping on. You would think at that point we would call the people who run the place and say, hey, any chance we could get this mattress flipped back to where the pillow top is actually what we're sleeping on? But Lisa slept so well that week, we just went and slept on the bottom of the mattress one more night.

Ross Sawyers: [00:03:18] Sometimes things are comfortable to someone, and they're uncomfortable to someone else. And sometimes things are uncomfortable to someone that is comfortable to someone else. That mattress was comfortable for my wife. It was uncomfortable for me. And I want us to think about in these coming weeks as we come to the end of 2021 and more so as we launch into 2022, what would it look like to be a little bit uncomfortable? What would it look like to get outside of that which is comfortable to us? A couple of months ago, I had the opportunity to be with a group of men in Colorado, and we spent some time in solitude, extended solitude alone with God in the mountains. And I don't always receive from God this way, but I did this time. And part of what I was praying is, where do we go as a church in 2022? What does that look like for us and so forth? And God gave me one word that's kind of a theme word for 2022. And again, God doesn't always do that. Some people, God gives you a word for a year, and you work under that theme. Other people, you have no idea what I'm even talking about. But the word God gave me in my time with Him was the word outside. And that carries with it a lot of meaning and a lot of opportunity. But one of the things, and I'll talk more in the future about other ways we think about outside, but when we think about outside today, I wanted to think about outside of our comfort zone, outside of that which is comfortable.

Ross Sawyers: [00:04:49] And will we be willing to step in there with God and to lean into Him in such a way that we step out of and into that which is uncomfortable, that we get outside of our comfort zone? That's exactly what's happening in the book of Acts. They're being totally taken out of their comfort zone. They're getting outside of what is comfortable to them, and God is bringing them into something else. I actually believe today that when we get outside of that which is comfortable, that's when we can become the most healthy. And I want us to think these next two weeks about how we can be a healthy church, and the way to be a healthy church is to get outside of that which is comfortable. If you'll turn in your Bibles to Acts two, we're going to hang out in one verse today. Acts 2, verse 42. We've been working our way through Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 in these last two and a half months. If you're newer here today, let me just do a quick recap, catch you up, and you'll be just in great shape as we launch into this one verse today. Acts is actually a continuation of the Book of Luke. So when we read our Bibles, there's the Gospels, the story of Jesus, and then there's those books of the Bible that follow it.

Ross Sawyers: [00:06:06] Well, Luke wrote the gospel of Luke, and in it, he talked about in detail the birth of Jesus, which is this season we're in. He also spoke of the life of Jesus, the crucifixion of Christ, the resurrection of Jesus, the appearances that Jesus made after He was risen from the grave. And then Luke comes to a conclusion there, and he says there's a promise that the Holy Spirit will come and the Spirit will actually enable you to live the life that I'm calling you to live. So Acts is that continuation of Luke. And in the Book of Acts at the beginning, we saw that Jesus is speaking to His disciples, and He tells them that they're going to receive power when the Holy Spirit has come. You're not going to live this life I've called you to live apart from the power of the Holy Spirit. I'll actually give you the power to live this life and to be on the mission I've called you to. And there's 120 of them that end up hanging out for ten days in an upper room, and they're continually devoting themselves to prayer. And while they're awaiting the Holy Spirit to come, they're praying. And then in Acts 2, we see this supernatural movement of the Holy Spirit of God coming down.

Ross Sawyers: [00:07:21] And now He's on all 120 of those people. Peter then steps out, and he preaches the first sermon that comes after the Spirit comes. He lays the gospel out beautifully, and then he brings it to a close. And the question is, what do you do when you hear a message about Jesus and what He did for us? And Jermaine, last week was preaching, and he talked about that conclusion. And there's a response that's called for. It's not just I move on. It's I respond to this. And the way I respond is to repent, be baptized, and they'll receive the promise of the Holy Spirit. And Jermaine did something interesting last week if you were here. He said, hey, we're doing baptism on December 19th, but we don't have to wait until then. Sometimes people wait around and say, why do I keep waiting to be baptized? And it was funny the way he said it. He goes, we're waiting for Uncle Ray-Ray to come and we're trying to get all the family gathered up and everybody here and it just doesn't seem to work. And Before you know it, it gets away from you. Well, last week on Sunday after he did that, there were two people that were baptized. One lady was watching online, and when she heard that, she said, that's right. And so she got in her car with her husband. They drove up here, and she was baptized last Sunday morning. Yeah, it's awesome. Then our Spanish service meets on Sunday nights at five o'clock. And last Sunday night at five o'clock in that service, there were three people in the Spanish service that trusted Jesus Christ as their Savior. They repented and they gave their lives to Him. It was awesome.

Ross Sawyers: [00:08:59] The husband or the dad that trusted Christ, one of those three, his wife has been transformed by what God's been doing with her coming to the church. He wanted to know what was going on so he came just to see what's been happening to his wife. And God got hold of him and saved him and his daughter last Sunday night. That's a beauty of a household starting to come to Jesus. It's incredible what God's doing. We're just praying that God will continue to move with that kind of freedom among us in the power of the Holy Spirit. So that catches you up where we are in Acts 2. And then we'd have to ask a question. In light of Christ's birth, His life, His death, His resurrection, His appearances, and His ascension to Heaven, now what? What do we do now? We've repented. We've received the Holy Spirit. We've been baptized. Now, what do we do? Well, verses 42 to 47 is a descriptor of what we do. Really, the whole essence of what we do as a church can be found locked into Acts 1 and 2. It's a great place to hang out and study what we're to be about as a healthy church.

Ross Sawyers: [00:10:06] So I want us to linger in verse 42 in these moments together and think about what it means to be a healthy church. And I want to make sure that we understand that we're communicating the same way. We're in this big definition moment in our culture, and we would be wise to ask really good questions about what people mean about what they say really in some of the most common words today. But one word that has been around for a long time that I want to make sure we're clear on and sometimes we're not is the word church. If we're going to be a healthy church, then who is the church? Sometimes we think the church is what we're doing right here, that this is the church. But the word church actually is a Greek word that is ecclesia, and that word means called out ones. So the church is the called out ones, those who have repented and are following after Jesus. Now that's who the church is. So when we gather up, we're praying that there will be so many people among us that don't yet know Jesus. So the church is actually the people who know Jesus. That's who the church is. Sometimes people are a part of churches, they're very religious, they're very much committed to committees and teams helping the church. They've never really trusted Jesus. So they're not actually the church. The church are those who have trusted Jesus. So when we talk about a healthy church, we're talking about people who are followers of Jesus. If you don't yet know Him, this gives you a picture today of what God would say is a healthy church.

Ross Sawyers: [00:11:42] Now I actually believe that 121 is healthy. We're not perfect. We certainly have unhealth in places because we're primarily children of God, loved by Him and accepted by Him. Secondarily, we're broken people still. But we're moving into more and more of what it means to be like Christ. We grow more and more healthy. And I want to, some of you, depending on your background, I think it's possible that we've actually idolized Acts 2:42 to 47. We've looked at this and said, oh, this is the early church, and this is what we want to be. And that's the right answer. But I would say in a number of cases, we're closer to this sometimes than people think because when they think about this, they think this would be what the healthy church would be. And we're not this exactly. And because it's not perfect, we think somehow we've got to go find something else to do and be. But if you read Acts 3, which we will be in 2022, and you keep moving, there's a lot of problems that come into the church. This is like really a highlight moment that's going on right here. And when you read Paul's letters that follow the book of Acts in our Bibles, you see a lot of dysfunction and a lot of problems that Paul is addressing.

Ross Sawyers: [00:13:08] So we can be healthy while also addressing those things that are problems and unhealthy. When we look in Acts, look at verse 42 and I want to look at four things today. Primarily I'll spend time on the first two, and the second two, I'll hit briefly. And then next week we'll do part two. All of this kind of weaves together, and we'll hit the things that I don't cover as deeply today. The first thing that a healthy church is is biblically sound in their teaching. A healthy church has biblically sound teaching. Now I am on purpose in the way I said that. We live in a culture where those who are not biblically sound, those who are not even Christian are actually interpreting God's Word for us. They're using social media as a mechanism for that, but they're taking Scripture and verses and they're telling us this is what they mean. So we have people that are not Christians actually trying to shape us with their interpretation of the Scripture. Now I find it interesting. It's awfully convenient for people who do that, that they're looking at the cultural narrative, those things that would be anti-God, those are the things they're taking, they're reshaping the Scripture to fit what today's narrative is. They're not talking about things that aren't all out there in the culture and just saying, Hey, we ought to take a look at this. No, it's funny. They're talking about the things that are in here that the culture wants to go against God on, and they're trying to find a way to make it okay. And so I want to make sure that we're under biblically sound teaching and that the people we listen to and the people that we learn from are biblically sound.

Ross Sawyers: [00:14:56] Let's look at verse 42. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer. They were continually devoting themselves. This is the same phrase that was used in Acts 1:14. So when we study the Bible and we start looking at it, we want to look and see where are the repeat phrases? And in Acts 1:14, it's continually devoting themselves to prayer. And here they're continually devoting themselves to these four things. To biblically sound teaching, to the apostles' teaching. Now note what it also says. They were continually devoting themselves. They were taking the initiative to be under the apostles' teaching. They were sitting under the apostles' teaching. They were moving towards it. I think part of our problem today is a discipleship failure. Some of that can be put on leaders, but some of that can also be put on followers. Because it's on us as followers of Jesus to get ourselves under teaching that is biblically sound and to have our minds saturated by it. So it's a responsibility on our part to step into it. Well, they didn't have Bibles like we have right now when they had this moment in time. So what teaching are they referring to? They're referring to Jesus' teaching. They were passing on what Jesus told them.

Ross Sawyers: [00:16:35] And we know that Jesus also leaned back into the Old Testament. In Luke 24, it says that He was walking along a road to Emmaus, and as He was walking along that road, there are two disciples. And they were concerned. They didn't understand what was going on. And so Jesus said from the Scriptures, the Old Testament Scriptures, He explained Himself to them. So we know that Jesus was familiar and had been teaching the Old Testament Scriptures. We know the meaning He was infusing into them that the disciples heard. And now this is what they were passing onto the new followers of Jesus. We have now the benefit of a couple of thousand years later of the Scriptures as God unfolded them for us. Now, one thing that I hear people say is that we've mistranslated the Scriptures. Again, that's makes a cultural moment a little more appeasing if we can just say these were mistranslated. Well, 2 Peter 1:21 says that it was men moved by the Holy Spirit of God that wrote the Scriptures. The Scriptures that we have were authored by the Holy Spirit working through these men, worked through their personalities, worked through who they were. But God's the one who authored it through His Holy Spirit.

Ross Sawyers: [00:18:02] It's the same Holy Spirit that then makes the Word come alive to us. The one who authored it is the one who makes it come alive to us. And the same God who authored it and makes it come alive is the same God who's preserved it so that what we have is credible, reliable, trustworthy because it's from the spirit of God, from God Himself. These early followers were devoted to being shaped by these Scriptures, shaped by the teaching of Jesus. Now we have to be careful today of what shapes us. We are all being shaped by something. So sometimes I hear people talk about, it's kind of an argument out there in everybody's kind of world of they're trying to shape you this way or trying to shape you. Everybody's being shaped by something. You can't get away from that. The question is, what are we allowing to shape us? The early followers of Jesus were allowing the teachings of Jesus to shape them. I believe we live as much as any other time in a battle for the mind.

Ross Sawyers: [00:19:23] I was with a couple the other night, a young couple and their kids go to Lionheart, our preschool here. And they just do a phenomenal, they were just bragging about it and how well they've enjoyed it for their kids. But one of the things I love is that for all day long at Lionheart, the minds of children are being shaped by the Scriptures. And I've never forgotten when Stan Dobbs, who started Lionheart, shared the vision of it. He said, there's such a large percentage of people that are working today, and so, so many kids are in childcare. Wouldn't we want to be the ones that are helping shape the minds of children that are in the preschool in children years rather than secular daycares? Our minds are primarily shaped by the time we're 10 years old. We want our minds shaped by what is gracious and good and freeing and true, shaped by the truth of God. It's what we do in creation land with our children, in 121 kids with our children. We want to get ourselves in a position to be shaped by the Scriptures. They were continually devoting themselves. Not a little bit here and there. They were consumed with being shaped by the teachings of Jesus. So I want to just give further strength to God's Word this morning from God's Word. And why that's the right thing to shape us.

Ross Sawyers: [00:20:58] In 2 Timothy 3 verses 16 and 17, this is all Scriptures inspired by God, meaning it's God-breathed and it's profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training and righteousness. It's the way we're taught. It's the way we're corrected. It's the way we're trained so that the man of God may be adequate and able to be equipped for every good work. This is what equips us to do the good works that God's already prepared for us. We know God's Word is powerful. In Hebrews 4:12, it says that the Word of God, it's living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword. And it's piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit. And it's able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. It's why sometimes we can get uncomfortable underneath God's Word because it pierces our thoughts and our motives. It's powerful. God's Word is what directs us. In Psalm 119:105, your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. In a dark world, where do we find direction in life? God's Word lights that path. In Acts 17, verse 11, we want to be like this people group, the Bereans who examine the word daily to see whether these things were so. I want people to examine what I teach and what your life group leaders teach and to examine it, to make sure that it's so.

Ross Sawyers: [00:22:25] So we examine God's Word. And then we look at Ezra as a great example of the rhythm of the way we roll. In Ezra 7, verse 10, and I know that's a highlight book of the Bible you've probably been reading lately. But Ezra 7:10, he says that, Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord. In Hebrew, that word heart, it means the way we think, it's the way we feel, and it's what we do. So Ezra, he set his heart, all of who he was, his heart, soul, and mind to study the law of God, to study God's Word. And as he studied God's Word, then he practiced it. He obeyed it. He put it into play. And once he practiced it, then he taught it. That's a beautiful rhythm of the way we live life, that we study God's Word, then we practice, and then we teach it. This is what God has for us in His Word. And then we look in Colossians 3:16. It says let the Word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Oh, when we come together to worship God, our hearts should burst with gratitude towards God in our songs. We teach and we are corrected and we learn and we're trained inside of our songs. Let the Word of God richly dwell within us.

Ross Sawyers: [00:23:50] That's what they were doing. And the content from Genesis to Revelation in God's Word is a salvation story. A few years ago, I tried to, I went on Twitter. You had to have 140 characters. You couldn't do more than that. I know that's changed now. But at the time I thought, could I get the gospel in 140 characters for someone to be able to just hear the truth of who Christ is? And this is how I wrote it. God created. Humans broke it. Jesus fixed it. He thought you were worth dying for. Do you think He's worth living for? That's the gospel. That's good news. Is it worth it to you to get in on that good news and follow the one who died for you and the one that God raised from the dead? Once we know Christ, now it's the love of Christ that motivates the way we live. And it's the Holy Spirit of God who empowers us to live the way we're motivated. Apart from the Spirit's power, we'll be unable to live the life God's called us to. It's yielding to the Spirit. He'll do it throughout.

Ross Sawyers: [00:25:14] So what would be outside? What would get us outside of our comfort zone? What would get things a little bit uncomfortable for us? If we're thinking about how God wants us to get outside of our comfort zone, how we can be the most healthy, what is at? Well, one of our visions at 121 is establish worship where there is none. In life groups, out in different neighborhoods, all over in the multiple cities of which we're represented of people in this body of Christ. And when we think about that in January, we know right now we'll be at least commissioning 18 life groups that have either just now gotten started that are new. And I am confident that a number of those 18 new leaders, that they're getting outside of their comfort zone to lead a group. One of the ways we can get outside is to actually be the teacher. I was told the other day in a staff celebration time of what God's doing, that we have 17 new kids leaders in these last few months it's awesome. My hunch is several of those, this is new for them. They got outside of their comfort zone to do it.

Ross Sawyers: [00:26:16] One of the best ways we can learn the Bible is to be teachers of preschoolers and children. I didn't grow up in the church, and I missed out hearing all the basic stories from the Bible. And sometimes it's hard for me to remember the detail, and I have to go back to work hard at getting the stories and making sure I've got them right. But I tell you what, one of the best ways you can get the stories locked in is to be a teacher of children. All you have to be is a week in advance of them, and you're in good shape. And then our leaders help train you so that you can do it. To be candid, I'm just a week ahead of you right now. So it's anywhere you want to be. If you're just a little bit ahead, you're good to go. And there are people to be of help. But I think that's the way. It's God calling more people to get outside of their comfort zone to teach. You always hear teachers say they're the ones that get the most out of it. Why? Because you spent more time studying so that you can turn it around and get it in a way maybe someone could understand it. Maybe God will call you out to do that. But it might be that outside of your comfort zone is to actually just start getting into the Bible itself, that it's been intimidating to you, that you're not quite sure where to even start. And outside of your comfort zone could be, you know what? I'm willing to get in there. And can somebody help me? And it's stepping out. Remember, they were devoting themselves. They were stepping in and getting what they needed.

Ross Sawyers: [00:27:46] So you can step in and start asking, hey, how could you best help me so I could get into Biblically sound teaching? There are so many good podcasts out there just to listen. But we want to make sure we're listening to people that are strong and solid in their teaching. We can recommend good podcasts to listen to. Many of you have the YouVersion app of the Bible and there's all these reading plans, and there's so many different ways to use it. Candidly, it could be kind of intimidating even to look at an app like that to know where to go once you have it. So getting outside of your comfort zone can be saying, can you help me understand this app and help me figure out what's the best reading plan for me? Sometimes I'll hand out Bibles, and I'll forget somebody has never seen a study Bible with the kajillion study notes at the bottom of it. And I've gotten to where I realized I've got to walk through how to use this Bible. So we want to be a help to people so they can see what those resources are for them. It could be getting in a life group where you're getting biblically sound teaching. I just asked the other day what's going on in some of our groups and they're working through Daniel and some of the minor prophets this year and Titus and Ephesians. And I just love hearing that our life groups, that there's biblically sound teaching, that we're anchored to God's Word, and we're flowing out of what God is doing there.

Ross Sawyers: [00:29:11] One of the ways we get God's Word in our heart is to memorize it. A lady in our church took up the challenge a year ago of Scripture memory. She and her friend that are walking together every day, once a week, they're memorizing one verse a week. She told me the other day, we've memorized 60 verses since we started this last Christmas. What a great way to spend your time walking. Just rolling it over. And when God's Word gets in our heart, it starts to take over and to shape us. When we think about sports, we're trying to, sometimes we have to teach the mechanics of that again and again until it becomes natural. You want a baseball player to go to the plate and be able to, just so he doesn't need to be thinking about what all his mechanics are anymore. He's worked on that so much that it's just ready. It's just natural in what they do. And the more we put God's Word in our hearts, the more it just shapes us. We're not going to have to think about it as much anymore. He shapes us with His Word. Those are some ways to think about it. One way to step out could be the Discovery Bible study method that we've talked about. And it may be that you say, I'm going to get outside of my comfort zone and not use a devotional help or somebody else to help me. I'm just going to open God's Word and just read it for myself and see if the Holy Spirit will actually teach me something, just opening His Word.

Ross Sawyers: [00:30:31] This Discovery Bible study method is a great way to go at it. So I just want to ask, what does it say? If I read a few verses, what does it say? And then I read it again. What does it say about God? And then I read it again. What does it say about people? And I read it again and say, what does God want me to do with this? And then I read it again and say, who does God want me to pass this onto? God's Word isn't designed to terminate on us. It's to flow through us. So whatever He's saying to me, then who can I pass it onto? That's what these early disciples were doing. They were just passing on what Jesus was saying. So a healthy church is a biblically sound church. The second thing we see in verse 42, they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship. Now to hang our hat on this one, I've chosen a clunky way to say it because I want us to think differently about this today. The second mark of a healthy church is a giving oneself away kind of fellowship. It's a giving oneself away kind of fellowship. Let me explain. The word fellowship here is a Greek word, Koinonia. It means common life. So when they're writing about fellowship and they're devoting themselves to that, they're devoted to the common life.

Ross Sawyers: [00:31:55] Well, what is that common life? It's a life that's common and centered around Jesus. That's the commonality. That's why so many different personalities and so many different socioeconomic groups in so many different backgrounds of people can come together because the commonality is in Jesus Christ Himself. In 1 Corinthians 1, verse 9, it says that our fellowship is with the Son and then it's with each other. And so in 1 John 1, verse 3. So with those two, our commonality, our common life is in Christ Himself. That's where we're common. And then it's with each other. That's what makes us a fellowship is that commonality of who we are in Christ together. Now, why did I say it this clunky way? It's a giving oneself away kind of koinonia, a giving oneself away kind of fellowship. Because the word in itself means that it's a fellowship marked by giving yourself away. It's marked by giving. It's not marked by consuming. And one possibility today is the way we think about small groups, our life groups, or the way we think about our gatherings in church is I'm coming to get something. That's not this kind of fellowship. The kind of fellowship we're striving for that's actually healthy is the kind that gives itself away.

Ross Sawyers: [00:33:31] So when I come to be a part of a small group, then I go and see, how can I be a part of giving myself away? How can I serve people in this group? And the Scripture tells us that God has placed us in the body just as He desired. I know at the end of the day, we think we're the ones that are selecting the church we're in. God's the one that places us here. And if God places you in the church body, so if He's placed you at 121 or He's placed you in another church body and you're visiting today, let my encouragement be to you today that He's placed you there to be an active part of the fellowship, and it's giving yourself away. And one of the best places to do that is in that small group community. Sometimes I'll hear people say I'm not going to join that. I don't need that right now. Or I can just study the Bible on my own. Why do I have to go to a group to do that? It's not about you. Somebody in that group needs you. And if you're missing, something is missing from that group where God intends you to be. This gives itself away. So my mentality is I'm going to give myself away. My older brother, I thought framed it really well with people on this idea. It doesn't matter where you are in your walk with Christ, it could be you're trying to figure it out, you're not even a follower of Jesus yet. It could be that you're new in your faith. It could be you've been in the faith a long time, but you've really never devoted yourself to being a part of God's Word and under that kind of teaching and letting it really sink deep. You still have something to offer. Because everybody has a story and everybody has experiences and you've got something to offer.

Ross Sawyers: [00:35:25] You could be in a life group one day and you're listening to a need that somebody has and you realize, you know what? I don't even know how to find a book of the Bible today, but I know how to do that. And I'm going to be the one over at your house to help you fix that. Because I can do that. How can we give ourselves away? Where does God want me to be that I can go, where I can serve? And when we serve, yes, we get back. But our motivation is not to go, get, and consume. Our motivation is to give ourselves away. That's the kind of fellowship they were devoted to. We see it unfold a little more in verses 43 to 47, and we'll talk about that a little bit more next week. But one of the places I'm excited about this kind of fellowship that's developing is with our 20-somethings at 121. We've been kind of working on some things for a few months now, and it's been really cool. God's unfolded what He's doing. We had a Christmas party the other night for our 18 to 29 year olds, and we had over 70 that were there at somebody's house. And we've got a couple of life groups for college that are starting. We've got three different life groups for our singles. We've got four groups for our young marrieds. We've got mentors that are in place.

Ross Sawyers: [00:36:49] And at the end of the night, I thought this was the coolest deal. This is what we're aiming at. It will be like this. Really healthy giving ourselves away. How can we be on mission? How do we serve? How do we serve each other? How do we grow together under God's Word? The one young lady said to me with just a big smile on her face, she said, I just love this tonight. And we had several older adults. As the Bible says, it's the older to pour into the younger. And she said, I didn't know this many people cared about us here. Would God stir your heart if you're a little bit older to turn around and would you be willing to mentor somebody that's younger that would love to have someone that's older in the faith to help lead them and guide them in the faith? And then she said, my family is not in this area. This is my family. That's such a beautiful picture of what God does because we're called the household of faith, and we're to do especially good to those in our household. And we want to do each other right by serving each other really, really well. That's the second mark of a healthy church.

Ross Sawyers: [00:37:59] The third one is the reflective breaking of bread. Most believe that this is a reference to the Lord's Supper. The is in front of it so it's to the breaking of bread. We see later in this passage that there's the meals together and hospitality. We'll talk about that a week from now. But I want us to think about that breaking of bread in the Lord's Supper and what that looks like. We're deeply reflecting on the work of Christ and we're going to actually do this in a few minutes and I'll come back and explain a little bit more. But just right here, I want to ask the question, and you're wondering, well, how would this get outside of my comfort zone and how does this work on what we're talking about today? Well, in this context, it might be really comfortable to take the Lord's Supper. For some people, it might not be. But one of the things we've been teaching over the last year, year and a half or so is it doesn't just have to be in this context that we take the Lord's Supper. We can do the Lord's Supper together in our life groups, in our small group community. We can do the Lord's Supper in our families. We can do the Lord's Supper with a few friends. It's not confined to just when we gather like this. Maybe going outside the comfort zone is to get in on what they were continually devoting themselves to, and that's in different settings. And we'll see that again in verse, I think 46, 45 or 46 where they were doing it. But maybe God will stretch you out there. And we have on our website these eight ways, and one of those ways is the Lord's Supper, and there's a video of modeling of how you could lead that in your home. Just do exactly what that is and you could lead that somewhere. So it's reflectively breaking the bread. And we'll come back in a moment, and we'll spend that time.

Ross Sawyers: [00:39:52] The fourth thing of a healthy church is one that has a devotion to prayer. Not a head nod to prayer, a devotion to prayer. A continually devoting themselves to prayer. Some believe right here that the word where it says to prayer, maybe in your translation, it says to the prayer, that this is a reference to the Lord's Prayer. Our Father, it's what Jesus taught His disciples when they said, teach us to pray. Our Father who's in Heaven, hallowed be your name. Your Kingdom come, your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For yours is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. They were devoted to praying how Jesus taught them to pray. And I don't think He was teaching them to pray that in just a memorized rote fashion. Rather, when we look at that prayer, it's filled with praise. Our Father who's in Heaven. Holy is your name. It's a prayer for the Kingdom to break into the hearts and lives of people, that hearts will be changed. It's a prayer for God's will to be done. It's a prayer for our daily needs to be met. It's a prayer to help us forgive in the same way we've been forgiven. It's a prayer because we need to be delivered from evil. And it's a prayer that helps us realize this is about God's glory, His power, His name. And they were devoted to that kind of prayer.

Ross Sawyers: [00:41:45] In our life groups, we have different groups that right now, that the way they focus their prayers, they're celebrating answers to prayer. They're taking time to celebrate. One group, it keeps a prayer journal, and they write down the prayer requests each week. And then they go back, and they talk about how God has answered those prayers. We have another group that's praying Scripture. And one of the things we're going to do in January is to be more specific in teaching how to pray Scripture. And then some people are using what we taught in the eight ways, the acronym pray, P-R-A-Y, and it's just a quick little guide for us to think about how we can pray to God. Praise. Repentance. Ask. And then yield to Him. And it can just be a broad way to think about it if that would be of help. But a devotion to prayer. How could I get outside of my comfort zone? It might be comfortable for some. It might be uncomfortable for others. But how can I stretch out in devotion to prayer? Well, one way I'm going to ask you is in January, we're going all-in on the month of January to pray and seek God out as we launch into the year.

Ross Sawyers: [00:42:55] One thing that could be outside of your comfort zone would be Friday nights at seven o'clock, we're going to have a prayer and praise time every Friday night at 7:00 in January. David will lead one of those. Travis will lead one of those. Our Spanish will lead one of those. And our students who've been raising up students to lead worship, they'll be leading out in one of those. Praise, prayer. Would you be willing to come, come into an environment you might not be comfortable with? See what God does. Maybe a stretch for you would be once a month in the community around us, we have both Spanish and English going out together and prayer walking in the neighborhoods around us. Would you be game to stretch out once a month and get on a prayer walk and to see what that's like? You might think, what is that? You just come, maybe just kind of watch and observe one or two times, and then get in on it. Would you be willing to stretch out that way? What about in our homes? I challenge husbands quite often to pray with their wives, and I find quite a few don't. There's an intimidation factor there sometimes or I don't know how to do that. I wonder if getting outside of our comfort zone would be a willingness for husbands to go to your wives and say, you know what? I'm not comfortable with this. I'm not comfortable praying out loud. I don't even know what I'm doing. This will be the clunkiest prayer you ever hear. But I'm asking you, is there some way I can pray for you? And I'm going to do that right now. However, it sounds, out of my love for you, I'm going to do this.

Ross Sawyers: [00:44:33] That'll be outside the comfort zone of many. Maybe God will stretch you out in that way, I have no idea what He wants to do. I don't know what is comfortable and uncomfortable for every person. I do know that the more uncomfortable we get in God's way of things, the more healthy we become. So I want us to take in the last part of our time to actually take the Lord's Supper today, and I want to explain why we do that and then how we'll do it. When I think about what Jesus did on the cross and what we talked about today, Jesus was willing to get outside of His comfort zone. In the garden of Gethsemane on the Thursday night before He went to the cross, He agonized in prayer, asking His Father to remove the cup of His Father's wrath that was about to be poured on Him. He sweat, we're told in the Scriptures, drops of blood. He was way outside His comfort zone. On the cross, He took on our sin, our shame, our guilt. And He bore that on Himself on the cross outside anything that's comfortable. By doing that, He took our own comfort and discomfort and sin away from us and made us comfortable inside Himself. And He took us from being outside to being inside with Him. And for every person that trusts what Christ did for us, we go from being outside to inside. And then the Holy Spirit of God is the one who stretches us to get outside and uncomfortable again so that we can more and more be healthy like Him.

Ross Sawyers: [00:47:04] So when we think about the Lord's Supper, we think about it some different ways. One, it's a reminder of what Christ did on the cross for us. And it looks back. And we look back and we think about what Jesus did for us way back here. But then it's also present right now. Because what Christ did on the cross, it's what saves us. It's also what motivates us. It's also the way we're able to live today. And then we look ahead to the future. And what Christ did for us on the cross, it enables us today to celebrate this, but we're looking to a day when everything is made right that's gone wrong. And we'll have a feast with Him on that day. And the entrance into that feast is what Christ did for us on that cross. So we're looking back, we're looking today, and then we're looking ahead. When we take the bread and the juice, we're also told to not take it in an unworthy manner in 1 Corinthians 11. So what is an unworthy manner? How could I take it today where it's unworthy? Based on context of that chapter, the way I understand it is if we are living in sin as a Christian or we've embraced sin, so the way I know how to talk about it, I think there's a difference in embracing sin and fighting sin. All of us are fighting sin every day.

Ross Sawyers: [00:48:42] But I think an unworthy manner is when I say, you know what? This is such a besetting sin, and I actually don't care what God says about it. I'm going to continue in it. That, to me, is embracing it. I know, God, you say this, but I'm doing it anyway. That's different than I'm fighting it. I can't stand that I keep failing. I hate that I keep falling to that. I keep asking God to give me the power to overcome it. So you want to consider those things before you take it today. We have tables set up, one in the back of this section, one in the middle, one in this section over here, one up front, and one up front over here. And in a minute, just whenever you're ready, you can work your way to one of those tables. When you get to the table, there's options for you. There's prepackaged elements that we've been using so you're welcome to take those and then head back to your seat. We also have the juice and the wafers. And if you'd like to, you can take one of those wafers and you can dip that in the juice. And that's a picture of the broken body and the shed blood of Christ that you would then be taking. So either way, whatever would be comfortable for you. It might be that the idea of everybody moving around here is uncomfortable for you.

Ross Sawyers: [00:50:08] And I'm saying these in light of our current kind of scenario of all things going on. So I just want to make sure there's a freedom for you, for whatever good health-wise today. So if you just wanted to wait and when the service dismisses, it will be easy for you to make your way to one of these tables where there's not as much congestion. So just wanted to offer those as options for you as you consider this time. Let's pray together, and then David and his team will lead us in praise as we reflect. Father, thank you again for our time today. And God, I pray that we'd be shaped by you and that we be shaped, God, by the truth of your Scriptures and by the grace and love of Christ today. I pray, God, we'd continue to grow, to be just as healthy as a body of believers can be. God, that we'll be under biblically sound teaching and that we'd study ourselves. God, help us where we don't know how. Father, will you help us to give ourselves away in community and to just have a refreshed mindset of what that's about? And then God, will you help us to be faithful in the way that we break bread and do the Lord's Supper together is a reminder of what you did for us? I pray it'll never lose its depth of meaning to us. And Father, I pray that we'd be a prayerful people and that you'll stretch us out in ways we've never been stretched before, whatever that might mean, God. So help us please. We need your help. This morning, I pray as we reflect on what you do with your shed blood and your broken body, I pray, God, that would just stir our hearts for an increased love for you and an overwhelming desire to bring glory to your name. I pray that in Jesus' name. So just whenever you're ready, you take your time, but whenever you're ready, you feel free to make your way to the table.

Recorded in Grapevine, Texas.
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121 Community Church
2701 Ira E Woods Ave.
Grapevine, Texas 76051