2 Cities in 5 years

Pastor Jeff Struecker
I’m excited about this month, I really am and not just because it’s Christmas, though, I do love the Christmas season. I like all of the lights, I like people starting to act normal for one season of the year where there’s goodwill on earth, that’s how people are supposed to act. I love the music, but it’s not the Christmas season I’ve been really looking forward to, it’s this season in our church.
 
We’re going to do something really different today. For those of you who are tuning in, normally what we do is we study through a book of the Bible. We have been studying through the Gospel of John in the New Testament, but we’re going to take a one week break today and what we’re going to talk about is the five year plan for our church. What does 2 Cities Church look like five years from now?

 

That’s what I’m so excited about. For some of you, especially for you military folks in this room, you know how to plan exceptionally well. But for others of you, coming up with a plan may be a bit of a stretch for you. In fact, the idea of coming up with a five year plan may be freaking you out just a little bit right now. I am going to ask you before today is over with, to tell us what this church looks like five years from now. Here’s what I need everybody to do. I need you to go ahead and open up the 2 Cities mobile app because at the end of that page, there is a link that I’m going to need you to go to this week.

 

But I want to explain all of this to you before we get there. Our church is already recognized. We’re a nonprofit organization, we’re recognized by this watchdog organization that looks deep into the finances of nonprofits and make sure that money is going where we tell you the money is going. The organization is called GuideStar and GuideStar has several different levels of transparency.

 

We’re in the process of trying to reach the highest level of transparency. Meaning if you want to know whether or not your money can be trusted, all you got to do is go talk to these people outside our church and they will tell you whether or not you can trust the money is going where we say it’s going.

 

“In order to reach the highest level,” GuideStar says, “Hey, 2 Cities Church, you have to have a five year plan and we have to know what that five year plan is.” And it caused me to say, “Uh-oh, we don’t have a five year plan.” Check this out y’all, we’re not doing this sermon today in order to get the highest level of transparency from GuideStar.

 

We’re doing this sermon today because we should have done this already. Every church, every organization ought to have a plan. This is true of your family, as well as your business and it’s also true of your church. A failure to plan is really putting a plan in place to fail because you have no idea which direction you’re going.

 

We’re going to look at First Thessalonians, chapter three. We’re just going to use First Thessalonians, chapter three, as a guide, it’s going to be a handrail to help us figure out, “Well, how do you get a five year plan, Jeff?” Can I tell you why a five year plan and not a five month plan is important? Because some of us in this room or some of us who are tuned in, you can have a kind of a guess of what life looks like five years from now. But anybody in here want to be bold enough to tell us exactly what life is going to be like five years from now?

 

Five months from now, maybe I can guess what life is like, middle of the spring of next year, but five years from now, I don’t even have the first clue. The unknown is what’s causing us to say, “Let’s put a few things in place and make sure that we’re going in the right direction into the unknown. So that five years from now we say, ‘Hey, I don’t know what the future holds, but I do have an idea of the direction that we’re going to go for the next five years.'” So I’m going to ask you as a church to give input. Actually, you and me are not going to decide what this church looks like, the Holy Spirit of the living God is.

 

2 Cities in 5 years

He is going to speak through his people to describe for us what five years from now looks like because only the Holy Spirit of the living God knows the answer to that question. We’re going to ask the Holy Spirit three very specific questions about 2 Cities Church.

 

1. How will we serve?

“Whoa, wait a second, that question presumes something, Jeff. I never said I was signing up to serve.” And you’re already asking the question, “How am I going to serve?” Well, actually you did say you signed up to serve, not signed up to serve 2 Cities Church.

 

1 Thessalonians 3:11 Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you.

 

You said, “I’m signing up,” when you bowed your knee and surrendered your soul to King Jesus. Because the moment that you call him king, he calls the shots in your life. He calls the shots in my life, I don’t, and he makes it very clear his reason for coming to earth was to seek and save those that were lost, to create disciples who were equipped and trained to create more disciples.

 

And then when Jesus is getting ready to leave earth and go back to heaven, he gathers all of his followers around and he says, “Hey, y’all, I’m going to go back to the Father, and when I’m gone, you’re going to do far greater works than I did.” Wait a second. He healed the sick and he brought people back from the dead. He fed the multitudes and he’s saying I’m going to do greater works than that?

 

What Jesus is essentially saying is, “You’re going to keep doing what I did. And because there’s a whole lot more of you than there was me, just one of me, you’re going to accomplish much more than I accomplished because there’s a lot of you.”

 

When you stepped into faith with Jesus Christ, it was the moment that you signed up for his great commission to make disciples. And no one gets an excuse, there are no exceptions to this. The question is not will you serve?

 

The question that every Christian needs to answer, every church needs to answer is, “How will 2 Cities Church serve the mission of King Jesus?” Did you know that even one of the greatest Christians in the entire Bible, a guy by the name of the Apostle Paul, he didn’t call the shots in his life. God was calling the shots and the Apostle Paul writes this passage in First Thessalonians, chapter three.

 

And in verse 11, he reminds this church that he started as he’s hearing reports about how they’re doing. Paul started this church, he left and he went to start other churches and people were telling him about this church that he started and he’s hearing their reports.

 

In First Thessalonians, chapter three, he prays for his church and he reminds his church, “You don’t call the shots, I don’t call the shots. Jesus is king, which means he calls the shots.” And here’s what Paul says in verse 11 of First Thessalonians, chapter three, “May our God and Father Himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way back to this church.” That’s really what he’s asking in First Thessalonians, chapter three. I love the word that he chooses here, the word “direct” is a leadership word.

 

What Paul is saying is, “Hey, God is directing my steps. He is leading me and because He’s leading, my job is to follow.” Now, this is true of Paul, it’s true of every Christian, but I also want you to know, this is true of the local church. And what that means is I don’t get a chance to make the decisions around here. You don’t get a chance to make the decisions. Collectively, we don’t make the decisions, it’s Jesus’ church and so Jesus leads the church and we follow his leadership.

 

What is really beautiful about the word “direct” in that path is the way that he’s leading. You see that word in this specific context is describing God leading Paul in a perfectly straight-like laser straight line. And I think what Paul is saying is, “Listen, there are a lot of things that are competing for my attention and I could focus over here and it might get me off track a little bit.

 

What I need is for the Holy Spirit of the living God to direct me in a laser clear focus. And that means I need to ignore the other things that would get me off track.” Paul is saying, “I am praying that God would direct me in a laser straight line back to you because I long to be with you.”

 

I’m sure you guys are already thinking this idea, but basically, there are 100 things that the church could do to serve its community. Can we just be honest? 99 of those 100 things are really good things. The community longs for and would love for the church to do those 99 things, they’re just not the most important thing.

 

And a church that forgets the most important thing because it got distracted with the 99 good things will miss the most important thing that God left His church on planet earth to do. I feel this in my life, you probably feel this in your life too.

 

You’re being pulled in this direction, you’re being pulled in that direction and God is saying, “If you will listen to me. But you’re going to have to slow down, be quiet and listen, if you’ll listen to me, I will lead you in a perfectly straight line, a crystal clear way.” But that also means there’s some stuff over here, as good as it is, it’s just not most important.

 

Let’s stay on the most important thing. When I ask the question, “How will we serve?” I’m asking you, would you go and seek the Holy Spirit this week? And would you say, “Holy Spirit direct me in laser clear focus on the most important thing you want this church to pursue.”

 

Can I also remind you of one other thing? When God directs His people and they’re all unified in this one direction, life is a lot less frustrating and it’s a lot less difficult. You see, you don’t argue with your brother or sister because we’re all on the same track. We’re all heading in the same direction. We’re all focused on the same goal.

 

The churches where there are lots of arguments, I kind of wonder, “Are you guys going in a 100 different directions at the same time? Because that’s going to get frustrating. It might even get a little bit painful.” If two or 20,000 of God’s people are focused in one direction, all of the other junk just falls to the side.

 

And what we’re asking is, “God, how do you want us to serve you?” And we’re going to put that one thing above everything else, and we’re not going to get off of track. And so would you just start to pray, “God, how should this church serve you? What is the way that you want this church to accomplish your mission of making disciples?”

 

2. What will we do?

  

Question number two is about action. And it says, “What are we going to do as a church five years from now?” I’m going to caution you. When people start talking about doing church, this is where sin can show up in the equation because this is where selfishness can start to show up.

1 Thessalonians 3:12 And may the Lord cause you to increase and overflow with love for one another and for everyone, just as we do for you.

 

“I want my church to do X for me,” put whatever you want in X. If you’re not careful, you’re listening to your spirit instead of the Holy Spirit. I want you to notice something else, just say it out loud, “I am not going to talk about budgets and I am not going to talk about buildings at this point in creating a five year plan.”

I’ll tell you why in just a moment, because by the time we look at verse 12, maybe it’ll be clear to you, sometimes budgets and buildings, as good as they are, they may be the 99 things that will get you off track of the one most important thing.

When Paul continues his prayer for church, he says this next, “May the Lord cause you to increase and overflow with love.” Notice, two different ways that this love is expressed. I want you to have love for one another.

 

Remember when Jesus was getting ready to leave and he said, “Father, I’m praying for my followers. I’m praying that they have unity. I’m praying that they love one another.” And then Jesus said this, “The whole world will know that they’re Christians by the way that they love each other.” And what Jesus is basically saying is the rest of the world is going to say, “I want to be loved like that. How do I become a part of that church? Because whatever they’re doing, I want some of that.” So the first thing that Paul is praying is that the church would love one another. Isn’t it interesting though?

 

He didn’t leave it there. He said, “I don’t just want you to love one another…” That’s a no brainer, that’s a non-negotiable, “I want you to have love, not just for one another, but for “Everyone.”

 

Who’s the “everyone”, then, Paul? Because if one another is everybody in the church, then who’s the “everyone” that we’re talking about here? And Paul says, “By the way, I want you to love one another, I want you to love everyone, just like I love you. Just like we, the founders of this church, love you.” The “everyone” that he’s referring to here are those that are not in the church.

 

First, we need to talk about loving each other and that one’s a no brainer and it’s a non-negotiable, but I’m not just praying that you would love people in the church well, I’m praying that you would love like Jesus, which means love people that are not in the church, far from Jesus and far from the church. I’m praying that you would love them well.

 

Well, our question to wrestle with is, “Well, how do we do that? Because we want to love people in very practical, very action oriented ways.” You can stand up until you’re blue in the face and say, “I love you,” but it really doesn’t matter until you show people that you love them. And Paul is challenging his church, “Would you love each other in tangible, practical ways so that people say, ‘Man, I want some of that.

 

I want to become part of Jesus’ church, if that’s what being part of Jesus’ church looks like.'” But Paul says, “I don’t want you to just love one another, I want you to love everyone.”

 

I got a beautiful story about this, I just heard it yesterday. Many of you that have been around, connected with us for a while, you know Alex and Cynthia, they were founding members of our church. Helped get us started here in Columbus and then he’s in the army. So the US Army moved him from here to New York, Alex and Cynthia are doing ministry everywhere they go. It’s beautiful, the way that they do ministry. And Cynthia got a job working in the warehouse of UPS. And because Cynthia is a follower of Christ, she just takes her faith with her to work like you do, like I do.

 

Cynthia’s been trying to share her faith with some people that she works with and one of them in particular, her supervisor, I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to share your faith with your boss, but that gets really touchy really fast. This week, her supervisor grabbed Cynthia, pulled her off to the side and said, “Last night, Jesus radically changed my soul.”

 

“And Cynthia, I need you to know that Jesus radically changed my soul because it’s watching you that Jesus used to radically change my soul. Cynthia would tell you what I would tell you, what all Christians would say, “I didn’t really do this, only the Holy Spirit of the living God could change my supervisor like that. But my supervisor grabbed me and wanted me to know, ‘It’s because of what I see in you, that Jesus grabbed a hold of my soul, Cynthia.’”

 

I said, “Cynthia, this is awesome. We need to talk about baptizing this guy, we need to talk about getting him started becoming a disciple quest’s sharing his faith with other disciples, because this is absolutely beautiful.”

 

This is the church just doing what Jesus left his church on planet earth to do. As you’re praying this week, you’re asking this question about the church as a whole, 2 Cities Church as a whole, “Father, show me how you want this church to do what you’ve left this church on planet earth to do.” That’s question number two of the three questions that I’m going to ask you to answer this week.

 

3. Who will we be?

Question number three is by far the most important. Check this out. Question number two is about action. And what we do is important, it’s hugely important in our community, but it is not even close to as important as who we are.

 

1 Thessalonians 3:13 May he make your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. Amen.

This question is not about action, it’s about identity. And here’s what I want you to ask, “Five years from now, when people in my neighborhood hear the phrase ‘2 Cities Church’, what do I want them to picture in their minds?” I can already tell you one of the things I don’t want them to picture in their minds. I don’t want them to picture a building.

 

In Western Christianity, most people, when they hear the word “church”, they automatically think red bricks and a white steeple and they associate the building itself with the church. Nowhere in scripture do you ever see the word “church” or the assembly in the Old Testament associated with a building itself. It is the people of God called out of their sin and into a relationship with God, that’s the church.

 

What I want you to pray is, “God, when people hear this name, 2 Cities Church, in the Chattahoochee Valley or around the world, what do I want to come to their minds?”

 

Because this is a question of identity, not action. And when we talk about identity, Paul kind of summarizes it for us at the end of chapter three, he says it this way, “May He make your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. Amen.”

 

This ends Paul’s prayer for his church. If you’re freaking out a little bit, if you just peed in your pants a little bit by the phrase, “blameless in holiness,” so am I. And Paul’s not saying, “I’m expecting you to be perfect Christians,” because he’s not a perfect Christian.

 

He even says this in the Book of Romans, “There’s something wrong with me and I’m the chief among sinners and I don’t do what I want to do and the things that I supposed to do, I don’t want to do them.”

 

Even Paul would admit he’s not perfect. Blameless in holiness means quick to recognize my sin, quick to run to Jesus to repent for my sins, quick to go to another brother or sister and to say, “I’m sorry.” It is God’s righteousness at work in my heart that is starting to make me blameless among God and other people.

 

Every time I mess up, I run back to His holiness and I try to ask for His forgiveness so that He can restore me. He’s continuing to make me holy and continuing to make me blameless. And I’m going to need that gospel tomorrow just as much as I needed Jesus’ gospel on the first day, because I’m going to keep messing up. I don’t want people to feel like you got to have things figured out to become part of 2 Cities Church.

 

In fact, I really desperately want people to hear, “I think there’s a bunch of messed up sinners in that building and I’m a pretty messed up sinner myself, maybe they would be willing to accept me because I need somebody to come alongside me and help me work on my relationship with Jesus.”

 

Help me work on what’s wrong inside my heart. I’m putting this up to remind us I’m not perfect and nor are you. Paul, the guy who writes this, isn’t perfect. There’s one perfect man that ever walked on planet earth. But some churches can unintentionally give the community the impression, “You’re not welcome until you figure everything out. And when you show up, you better act perfect because we all act perfect around here.” Everybody in the room knows they’re not perfect and the people next to them are not perfect, they just act like they’re perfect.

 

My challenge to us, the third and the final challenge to us is what kind of identity do we want? Who are we going to be five years from now that when people hear the phrase “2 City’s Church”, this is what comes to their mind.

 

I’m going to tell you exactly how we’re going to do this in just a second. And then I’m going to pray for us. I’m going to pray for us to take a few next steps this week. On that mobile app, go ahead and pull it out and look in that sermon, at the bottom, you see a little button that says, “Take the survey,” or “Fill out the survey.”

 

It’s just orange with white blob on the screen, but it said something about a survey. When you start that survey, it’s going to ask you at the beginning, the three questions that I’ve already put on the screens and I’m going to ask you, would you fill in the blank and just give an honest answer to those three questions.

 

The 99 good things that may cost us the one most important thing. I need you to hear how to do this, because here’s what I’ve been doing. I have been praying, I have been listening, but I have not answered one of those questions yet.

 

My goal for us is that we’re all asking the Holy Spirit. We’re all praying and desperately longing to hear from the Holy Spirit. And this is important, so I need you to look up here for just a second. What you fill in in those blanks has nothing to do with what you would want to see. You’re simply going to put in those blanks, what you believe the Holy Spirit is speaking to you about our church.

 

See, our goal is not to try to figure this thing out on our own. This church belongs to King Jesus, we believe that he has left his Holy Spirit to guide his peop