No force on Earth can stop a focused church

Pastor Jeff Struecker

What you’re going to hear today is God’s plan for his church. It’s not our plan. It’s not our church. This is God’s plan for his church. But I also believe that if we have done our job. When you were praying and seeking the Holy Spirit, you are going to hear God’s future for you. What does he want your future to look like in the next year or five years?

 

I’ll tell you as a warrior, like some of you in this room, who spent many years in two different combat operations at the exact same time. Sometimes when you lack focus, it gets frustrating.

 

I really believe that today’s sermon is supposed to focus on us. I know some of you in this room or some of you who are watching from home, felt exactly like I did for months or years in both Iraq and Afghanistan at the same time, thinking if the United States would just dedicate all of its time and all of its attention to one of these two, we would be done 15 years earlier. But because we’re in both of them at the same time, what we need to win on this theater of operation is in the other one and what we need in the other one is in this one.

 

It was frustrating, it was maddening for me and it was probably like that for you too. Here’s what I want you to know about. Today’s sermon is about the vision for the future of our church. I am convinced of this with every fiber of my being, there is no force on planet earth that can stop a focused church. But when the church starts to lose focus, it starts to lose effectiveness.

 

The world needs a focused church today more than ever in the history of humanity. Let me show you a couple of verses from Ephesians chapter four. Today is not supposed to be an exposition of the bible, we’re going to zero in, on one very specific part of a passage from the bible, and we’re going to look at that part in its context.

 

I want to just keep coming back to this part over and over and over again. I want to paint for you, what our future looks like. You’re going to hear about our past, you’re going to hear about our present. But what I want you to hear about is our future.

 

No force on earth can stop a focused church

 

Ephesians Chapter 4 is kind of my thoughts for everything that we do as a church. We’re going to start in verse 11, we’re going to cruise through to verse 16, but what I do is focus on verses 12 and 13, specifically verse 12.

 

Ephesians 4:11-16 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

 

Now many people believe that in the last phrase. The pastor and teacher there, it’s one person doing both things. It’s saying that the pastor must be a teacher also. Doesn’t have to be the only teacher, probably shouldn’t be the only teacher, but the pastor has to have a teaching aspect of it.

 

Jesus gave leaders to his church. Why did he give leaders to his church? The most important thing you’re going to hear from me today is what we read next. Now. These are the gifts that Christ gave to the church, the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists and the pastors slash teachers. Their responsibility is to equip the people or to equip God’s people to do his work, pause for just a second. If you have a paper bible and you’re reading a different translation, chances are your bible does not say God’s people, chances are your bible says the word Saints, when the bible in the new testament uses the word saint. It’s talking about you, the people of God, God gave these gifts to his church, and here’s the responsibility that these leaders have. Their responsibility is to equip the Saints of God to say I am a Saint of God out loud. Their responsibility is to equip the Saints of God, Jeff is including this in here to do his work and to build up the church, the body of Christ, that word is all about focus.

 

What the bible is going to do next, is it’s going to show us, what it looks like when the church is focused. Let me show you what it looks like when the church is not focused. So here’s what it says next. This will continue until we all come to such unity in the faith. That’s a focus phrase and the knowledge of God’s son that we will be mature in the Lord focused, measuring up to the full and the complete standard of Christ, we will be focused. Now let me show you what it looks like when the church is unfocused from Ephesians. We will no longer be like immature children unfocused. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching unfocused. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever that they sound like the truth radically unfocused. Instead, we’re going to be focused and we will speak the truth in love growing in every way more and more like Christ laser-focused. Now, who is the head of his body, the church focused? He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. I just read in my mind perfectly focused as each part does its special work. It helps the other parts grow so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. That’s what a church that is focused looks like. And what Ephesians is describing is what happens when the church is not focused and it’s describing what it looks like when the church is focused. It is awful when it’s not focused. It is awesome when it is focused.

 

1.     Our Past

Let me do a little bit of history with you very briefly so that we can get to where we are and where we’re going and for us to get there I think I need to take us to our past, for just a second.

 

What the bible is going to describe for us is without using these words a theological phrase called the priesthood of the believer, you the Saint of God.

 

Now I am convinced of what the priesthood of believers means in the new testament. If you were to go back and look at the old testament in order for somebody to get an answer from God. They had to go to a priest, literally, they had to go to an in-between. You went there when you needed your house to be blessed, you called the priest to come to your house. If you had a skin condition, you took your skin to the priest and they had to look at it, when you messed up and you needed to sacrifice, you took the sacrifice to the priest and the priest sacrifice on your behalf, literally in the old testament, the priest stood in between God and people in the temple.

 

God is in this very special place called the holiest place or the most sacred spot on earth. That’s the thought where God’s presence dwells.

 

The priest stands in between the presence of God and the people of God, literally in the old testament, the priest repped God to the people and rep the people to God. The priest was the go-between.

 

When you get to the new testament, things radically change. In fact, they radically changed at two specific moments in the new testament.

 

The first moment is when Jesus died on the cross and the bible tells us that there is this huge thick veil that separates this holiest spot on earth where people believed God’s presence dwells and at the moment of Jesus’s death, that veil was torn into and what’s bible, teachers have said for years is that’s an image of the people.

 

Now being able to come to God and meet with God personally. But actually, I don’t think they do that image justice because the moment that Jesus dies, this temple veil is torn into and I think what the bible is saying is that’s the moment that God stepped out of the holiest place and started to meet with his people.

 

That’s the first very powerful moment in the new testament. The second happens at Pentecost, 50 days after Jesus’s death, resurrection, and ascension back into heaven.

 

God, the Holy Spirit falls on listening to this, not just the leaders on everybody and the bible says that from that moment forward, God now dwells inside the heart of his people and now his people don’t have to go to a temple, you don’t have to go to a priest, now you are a priest of God and you can go and have access to God right there in your living room, right here in this room.

 

This is what the theological term, the priesthood of the believer really means. And Ephesians is describing your access, personal direct access to a Holy God.

 

The reason why I’m going through such detail to talk to you about this is because of our five-year plan several weeks ago, I asked everybody in our church, would everybody pray when and seek the Holy Spirit? And would everybody in our church give some feedback

 

Now, here’s the truth. Me and one or two other people could have done this five-year plan on our own. But I didn’t, because I’m convinced of the priesthood of the believer. I’m convinced when people seek God’s answers and people hear the same answer from God. This church has literally heard from the Holy Spirit of God. And when I saw the responses, your responses to our five-year plan, it was incredible, overwhelming how much everybody said the same thing. And I was reading those results thinking, this is the spirit of God, telling us exactly what’s happening right now and what’s happening in our future.

 

That’s one of the reasons why I’m covering the priesthood of the believer. But the second reason has to go all the way back to our first day together, it actually happened across the street at the burger King restaurant in the little lobby of that Burger king restaurant when 20 people came together in the summer of 2019 and we started to talk about what it would look like to become a church.

 

The two things that came out of that conversation that has never changed for us are, one, we said we live in a very multicultural cosmopolitan community where there are people from Africa, Jamaica, Asia, and from Europe, that live right next door to us. But there isn’t one church in our community that adequately represents people from other cultures and other ethnicities and we will be that church.

 

The second thing and maybe the most important thing that you hear today from our past that happened in that conversation is one incredibly wise man in that room said whatever happens with this church, all of us, every single person connected to this church must be individually passionate and personally committed to making disciples.

 

I can’t tell you how brilliant and how true that one statement was because of the priesthood of the believer. We don’t look to a paid professional to go do all the ministry. We believe that God has equipped and empowered his people to do the ministry, his ministry of making disciples until Jesus comes back again. That’s our past.

 

2.     Our Present

 

Now, let me tell you about our present. And the reason why I want to describe it this way is that I’m a guy who pays attention to numbers, but I don’t get stressed out about them. I don’t put too much time and energy into numbers because numbers can deceive.

 

Don’t get me wrong, take a picture of right now and that picture does give you 1000 words. You can learn a lot of information from one picture right now. But the picture can’t tell you everything.

 

Take a whole lot of pictures over time and now you start to get a much more accurate idea of what’s happening. Here’s what I’m saying, look around the room today, there’s a whole lot of people that are here, there’s a whole lot of people that are not here for various reasons, because of the holidays, because of the weather, because of COVID.

 

I don’t have beef with anybody who’s not here today, but take a picture of right, here right now, and it doesn’t tell you the whole story trends over time. That tells you the whole story. This is true in our church. By the way, all this is true in your life too. I’ll illustrate it for you. I’m going to put a picture on the screen and this is a picture of a plant. It’s a pretty awesome plant. If you were to look at it, it looks like this plant is strong. It looks like this plant is healthy. It looks like this plant is kind of beautiful. How many of you would like to have this plant in your garden? But the rest of you don’t like this plan. You hate this plant.

 

Let me show you what happens when you watch what this plant does over time. Let me show you a time-lapse of the same plant. Just watched over time. How many of you wish you had that thing in your garden? It is a different-looking if you observe it over time than just taking a snapshot and a picture of what’s happening right there at that one moment in time.

 

Well, that’s true of a church too. And what you see right around you is important. I don’t ever dismiss numbers. They’re important. They tell you something, but they can’t tell you everything. Numbers can tell you what’s happening right now, but numbers cannot tell you unless you look at trends. They cannot tell you what’s happening over time.

 

So as we were asking your thoughts and your advice in that five-year plan, we were asking you, to give us your assessment of right now. That was called a SWOT Assessment, our strengths, our weaknesses, our opportunities, and threats.

 

You guys gave some very specific, very important feedback, and almost all of you. Here’s what’s awesome said the same thing. Now, I’ll be honest, a couple of you had a couple of pet projects when I started asking when the five-year plan asked questions about what does the future looks like. I didn’t get my feelings hurt.

 

Some of you said, man, our child care needs to get a lot better. Totally agree. Some of you said we need a youth program, totally agree. Others of you make comments about the music and what I’m saying is all of those things are true. But what everyone in this room said and this spoke it shouted to me from the Holy Spirit that this church is today and must continue to be in the future.

 

All about reaching people that are far from Jesus and helping them become disciples who are trained and equipped to make more disciples. You really talked a lot of you about the basic training program that we have as a church and about what that basic training looks like and how that basic training program impacts you and our church today and going forward.

 

Did you know in the Bible verse 12 of Ephesians four says, it’s not the leaders of the church that are supposed to be doing the ministry, it’s the people of the church and when the leaders of the church are training and equipping the people of the church to do the ministry, then it says verse 13 a very powerful statement, it says, then the church will be built up in the body, built up in Christ. Can I tell you something fascinating about that phrase built up, does not mean bigger, might shock you to know that phrase built up in Ephesians 4:13 doesn’t mean better.

 

It’s actually saying Jesus Christ will complete or finish his mission. You see the second most important thing there in verse 13 is the bible is saying, we don’t get a chance to choose what we do as a church, that’s not our decision when we declared that Jesus is king and that he is Lord of our life, he gets to call the shots in our life, he gets to call the shots in his church. It’s his mission. And we just join him in his mission.

 

We had the honor and the privilege of joining him in his mission. And what many of you said is this Church is all about the Great Commission and must be all about the Great Commission. But here’s what most of you, almost all of you said Jeff, you’re doing way too much around here and you need to stop doing as much as you’re doing around here because it’s not good and it’s not healthy.

 

And I heard what you had to say from those surveys and I’m taking it very, very seriously. Because almost every one of you said to some degree, something like that around here, many of you said one man cannot do all that we’re doing right now, and it’s not good for one man to do it.

 

So, here’s what we’re going to do next. Because not just because of your results. I felt this as strongly as you do. I’ve asked Troy Singleton who has agreed if he would come alongside and start to help lead our church and in the next few weeks next month or two, I’ll tell you a little bit more about what that looks like and how that’s going to happen.

 

But I just want to say, we heard you. What a lot of you also said is not just one guy can’t do it all, but Jeff, you do need to start doing less of the personal disciple-making and more leading.

 

I’m about to make a statement. If you were to quote what I say next by itself on Twitter, it’s going to sound like Heresy. So please listen to the whole statement, here’s my goal for myself.

 

In 2022, I am going to personally do less discipleship than I’ve ever done in my life and I’m going to spend more of this year helping you teaching you, encouraging you, pushing you, or pulling your hair a little bit to help you do discipleship because this is exactly what Ephesians chapter four says the role of leaders in the church is not to do it themselves, that’s not happening, but that’s danger around here.

 

To teach the people of the church how to do it and when the people of the church are doing it, then the church is built upon its way to completion, then his mission is accomplished.

 

All of this was quick just to get to the 3rd and maybe for us the most important part of this sermon today. You see where we are right now, where we’ve been in our past has a big impact on where we’re going, this is true of every organization at all times, but at some point, in an organization or our case an organism because the church is a body, that’s the language that the bible used today and some, there are some points where this moment in time is very powerful, very important, but it’s also very dangerous if you get this wrong and I believe this is one of those points for us as a church.

 

3.     Our Future

 

What I asked of you in that survey is would you tell us your thoughts about where we are and would you seek the Lord and tell us what he tells you our future should be?

 

And then I asked three very specific questions. What do you think we should be doing? How should we be doing what we do? We all agree that we should be making disciples.

 

That is the mission of God’s people. That’s the reason why you exist on planet earth. That’s the reason why Jesus left his church here and didn’t just take them all to heaven when he went to heaven.

 

How do we do that? And most of you said, “we’re going to make disciples and we need to do it through basic training, and the doing part was very, very powerful.”

 

Your answer was very specific asked a question about what do we want to be five years from now. And here’s what you guys said, you basically said one word in very different ways, but all of you answered the same one word when we’re not around and people in our neighborhood talk about Two Cities Church.

 

The being questioned asks, what do you want them to recognize? Two cities Church for when none of us are around. And they’re just talking about the kind of church and the kind of people that we are.

 

Virtually, everybody who answered that survey said we want people to recognize us; anybody wants to take a shot at this. It’s the word love, basically what you said is we want to be known for our love for each other and our love for Jesus, and our love for the lost. And if when we’re not around people in our neighborhood, people in your community talk about Two Cities Church. And they talk about our love for Jesus, our love for each other, and our love for people that are far from God.

 

We’re doing something right. If they talk about a whole lot of other things, but they don’t mention those things, then we’re doing something wrong and we’re becoming something that’s unhealthy and perhaps unbiblical.

 

If you listen to what Ephesians chapter four is saying. And then, the final question that we asked your answer on is, how do you think our church should grow in the future?

 

Most people when you heard the word grow, may have been thinking numbers. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But I hope you were thinking more than numbers based on your answers. I really do believe most of you were thinking numbers. But I think that many of you believed it’s much bigger than just numbers. Of course, we need to grow in numbers.

 

One very wise person in this room by the way. All of those results were anonymous. So I can’t tell you who sent this in. But one very wise person who filled that survey out said, well if we’re going to talk about the future, we need to talk about the short term, medium-term and long-term future. And I think you absolutely nailed it.

 

So the short term for us would be one year from now. Medium-term for our church would be 2-3 years from now. And the long term for our church would be five years from now.

 

What does one year from now look like for our short-term future? And I’ll tell you the answer to this one right now. I want to put before you a challenge to 2 cities church. The challenges are that we would double in size in everything that we do. Please hear me double in the number of people that are in this room. Double in the number of people that are connecting with us online, double in the number of people that are being saved by the King Jesus. Double in the number of people that are making their salvation public by being baptized. Double in the number of people that are joining our church double in the number of people that are joining your life group, double in the number of people that are going through basic training and becoming leaders who were disciple ng others.

 

If all of us would just get committed about that one thing this year, this church would be more than double. So I want to place a goal before us. The short term goal is that in January of 2023, we look back and we say, we doubled and every one of you in this room, every one of you is connected online say, I had a part to play in us doubling because it is the saints of God who are called to do the work of ministry. Short term or medium term, 2-3 years from now.

 

Many of you, in fact, it surprised me how many of you said, hey, this church really does need to double down and do more to reach Fort Benning. What a lot of you said is Ford Benning Georgia is the key to reaching the world and this church needs to reach Fort Benning Georgia because by reaching Fort Benning Georgia, we can, we would reach the world and I heard you loud and clear at least one of you said, hey, we have to do a better job of reaching the students that are on the campus of CSU because they’re going to leave college and they’re going to go all over the country and some of them will go around the world and you said the same thing, just talking to a different demographic.

 

So 2 to 3 years from now, the medium-term goal is that we are radically reaching Fort Benning and the campus of Columbus State University both here and the River Park campus.

 

The long-term goal, the five years from now goal. And honestly, this one, was a challenge for me because I didn’t really like what I was hearing from you.

 

Most of you said, hey, what we’re doing every Sunday, this army of volunteers that sets up and tears down and puts wear and tear on all of our equipment and all of the horsepower that it takes to set everything up and tear everything down.

 

We really need to own a building. And from the very beginning I have kind of settled with God if we never own a building, God, I’m totally comfortable with that. If we’re renting and leasing for the rest of history until Jesus comes back. That’s fine with me. Because if this building burns down, all of the equipment is insured, I’ll just buy new equipment and I’m not out anything because I don’t own a building.

 

But after those surveys have taken a complete shift in course and heard what you had to say and have started praying. Okay God, five years from now, we need you to give us building. A building that’s our own that we can customize and we put our identity and our culture into it. A building that represents who we are, to our community, into the world, not just to save on wear and tear on equipment and on volunteers, but we need a building that will give us the ability to do ministry every day all day long. We rent this space for three hours on a Sunday morning and there’s a whole lot of money that goes into just renting this space for three hours once a week.