So yesterday was both a sermon and
a major, mega church announcement.
Gospel proclamation and congregational reveal all in one place.
The first part of the message — in which I tried to imagine what it was like to be the unsuspecting Archippus and to hear his name read out loud at the Colossian church — was modeled after a similar effort by my friend and fellow Asbury Seminary alum Carolyn Moore. It’s vital to recognize that every book in the bible actually had a life before the bible — and the covered dish dinner scene in Colossae is quite possibly what that life looked like.
With that prelude, I then moved to demonstrate the ways that Archippus in the 1st century = Good Shepherd in the 21st: sitting on loads of untapped potential. That paved the way for the reveal on the ways we are going to massively expand our ability to invite all people into a living relationship with Jesus Christ. Don’t miss the video fly through!
So we’re in this Hidden Heroes series, taken from a hidden, closing section of the book of Colossians. It’s the kind of section those of you who don’t really read the bible didn’t even know was in there at all AND the kind of section that even the bible readers in the house skim right over. But do you know what it was like when one of these churches in the NT, like at Rome or Ephesus or in this case at Colossae, received a letter from Paul? These letters had a life of their own before they ever made it into the bible, after all.
Remember: there was no Constant Contact, there was no mass email, no telephones, gosh, no books even. So I suspect they would call a meeting by word of mouth and in all likelihood the entire church would gather at someone’s house at night. And it would be a dramatic night, because they all knew they’d gotten a letter from a VIP. People probably brought food … couples with small children stopped and picked up at Chick Fil A and widows with more time brought their own mac and cheese and put it in Tupperware with their names taped on it. God HELP you if you try and take someone else’s Tupperware home. And there was this sense of anticipation around the whole night because Paul was such a big deal and his words had such power and persuasion. It was really like the reading of a will . . . which makes good sense because the Gospel was in fact their inheritance.
And they no doubt recruited their best reader, the one with the clear articulation and deep, resonant voice. Maybe like this:
Baseball! So he starts. And early on, Paul’s words are dense & thick and goose bump-inducing, like 2:9:
For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, (All of God was in Jesus!)
Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
And remember: these people were used to listening because most couldn’t read. They gotwhat they heard much better than we do. And in the home that night with the rest of the Col church was a young man named Archippus, the son of Philemon. Archippus – from now on, merely “Archie” – was a young man of some privilege and a lot of potential. Everybody there knows the boy has GOT IT. He can speak and teach and persuade people towards Jesus. The younger kids love him. The ladies in the church dote on him. He’s been marked for greatness, clearly. Personal charisma.
But Archie is sort of . . . complacent. Comfortable. Coasting. In fact, on the night of the reading, after grabbing some CFA & mac & cheese, he’s actually in the back of the room while the reading is going on, and I don’t know, maybe he’s doing thumb exercises. Huh? Yeah! Those thumb exercises that adolescents and young adults do so much better than we do! Texting. Almost not paying attention. And then, just when Paul is winding down in his letter, having given some kudos to Tychicus & Onesimus and others and there is an “in conclusion” just hanging in the air, Archie hears this:
Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord.”
And he JOLTS up. What? Did I hear that? And everyone in the room swivels their head to look at him. So he raises his hand. Could you repeat that please? So the reader repeats 4:17: READ. You know what has taken place?
Archippus has been called out in front of everyone! Paul – geographically distant yet emotionally forceful – has chosen this very public place to deliver some private words. And he has taken on the task of addressing this supremely talented yet partially motivated young man, the son of privilege who is loaded with potential and in so doing calling him out. He’s called him out because he’s calling out the hero hiding within. Archie has evidently hidden his own hero. Wasting his own potential. So Paul must call him out, calling that hero to emerge. Complete what you’ve started, young man. You’ve begun, you’re gifted, you’ve got potential . . . so complete it. Why? Here’ what Paul is saying “Finish what you started because it wasn’t yours to begin with.” Archie didn’t conceive of his ministry; he received it. He inherited it. His ministry gifts weren’t his to begin with . . . but they are his responsibility now. “Finish what you started because it wasn’t yours to begin with.”
And my gosh, if every one guy could represent one church, it’s the way Archippus = Good Shepherd. If ever a church got called out because God is calling out the hero within, it’s us. If there was ever a time a church needed to hear a word, it’s us and it’s now. “Finish what you started because it wasn’t yours to begin with.”
Because we have started well as a people. This church is 23 years old, which in church years means we’re like an older adolescent. Emerging out of puberty, shaking off the acne scars, and have a lot of work to look back on with satisfaction. One of the 2-3 largest UMCs in the Carolinas. The most racially and ethnically diverse UMC in the Carolinas. (If all the Anglos were gone, you’d still be about the largest A-A church in WNCC!) A history of bold, almost incomprehensible projects: Million Meal March (AV), $400,000 in one day for the Hope House, 3,000 shoe boxes. And so with this level of accomplishment, it’s tempting to be like Archie: complacent, content, coasting, sitting on loads of untapped potential.
And so Paul calls us out by calling out the hero within us. Hey, tell GSUMC that they didn’t conceived of their ministry; they received it but now is the appointed time to complete it. Every RIP, every LifeGroup, every living relationship with Jesus Christ was God’s idea FIRST, but now is the time to grab it and complete it.
So I trust, I pray, I believe, in this journey toward completion is upon us. Here’s the deal. WE have two enormous projects coming up that are really one thing. First: Zoar. As a lot of you know about 18 months ago the UMC asked us to absorb another UMC about 4 miles from here that had become insolvent. My first answer was “No.” But you all are so blessed that you have a Church Board who is willing to speak wisdom into its frightened preacher. So we “solved” it, and for the last 15 months it has been the ZROC, not for Sunday morning, but for a # of outreach programs we have. Then earlier this spring a # of us had an epiphany: since Zoar became part of GSUMC, an incredible housing boom has erupted w/in a 3 mile radius of that site: (AVs of neighborhood signs, Merritt Meadows, etc). 2300 homes coming up within 3 miles and it suddenly became clear why God had given that to us. We realized OMG we’d be fools NOT to have a Sunday morning worshipping presence there on that site that straddles the state line in a way that gives us a tremendous foothold into Tega Cay and Fort Mill. What an incredible opportunity to expand our ability to invite all people– because the folks moving in there are, well, people!
So we’re going to upfit the space, redesign, redeploy and about a year from now we will have Sunday morning worship at Good Shepherd Church Zoar Road campus. Live band. Live children’s ministry. Video, hi def sermon recorded here at 8:30 and ZAPPED over there by 10. You know what I love about it? We are taking this DNA, this inviting all people into a living relationship with Jesus Christ passion, and reproducing it there. And that thing we do pretty well — making a big church feel small. It won’t be an impersonal satellite of some major mega church; it will be our DNA through and through. We’ll be investing not in brick and mortar (parking and paint, yes!) but in people. And it’s not possible without you. We’ll be calling you out to call out the hero within you … the hero who works with kids, who plays an instrument, who recognizes that greeting ppl in the parking lot is the first step in an invitation to eternity. Pioneers. We figure a launch team of 50, led by a campus pastor, and that in a short time we can have 400 or so new attenders at the Zoar Road Campus of Good Shepherd UMC. “Finish what you started because it wasn’t yours to begin with.”
But that’s not all. Remember how I said two enormous projects that are really one thing? Some of you know of our Corner Campus which houses our growing Latino worship on Sunday morning and our Student Connect on Sunday evening, is a leased space. And the lease is up, over, done, finis, in July of 2016. We will lose that valuable square footage AND the right to park there. Well . . . all people includes teenage people, Latino people, andpeople who drive cars here and need a place to park. So that’s why we’re adding the parking lot now on what used to be the Boyd land – after years of saying “No,” the owners (miraculously) sold it to us earlier this. So I was like “fine, we got the cars settled. But what about the people? Do we want to change our mission to Inviting All Cars? We are inviting all people, after all!” And then I got this email from a young man who started coming to church alone as a 17 year old and is now away at college:
GOOD SHEPHERD CONTINUTES TO DO THE LORD’S WORK AND I AM SO GLAD WAS AND AM STILL ABLE TO BE PART OF THE CHURCH.
IT IS SO AMAZING TO HAVE A PLACE LIKE THAT WHERE EVERYONE CAN BE INVITED INTO A LIVING RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS CHRIST.
Then I got this from someone in our Latino worshipping community:
Llegamos al ministerio latino en un momento donde creíamos que todo estaba perdido para nosotros, en el ministerio latino de Good Shepherd nos recibieron con una sonrisa y nos trataron como uno mas y cada una de las personas allí nos enseñaron (y siguen enseñando) lo maravilloso que es tener una relacion viva con Jesucristo. Nuestra familia aprende semana a semana y nuestra vida cambia dia a dia. Nuestra relación con Jesucristo crece y crece y estamos muy felices de ser parte de esta congregación.
Translated: We arrived at the ministry Latino in a time where we thought everything was lost to us, in the Latino ministry of Good Shepherd we were greeted with a smile and treated us like one more and each one of the people there we were taught (and still teach) how wonderful it is to have a living relationship with Jesus Christ. Our family learning week by week and our life changes day to day. Our relationship with Jesus Christ grows and grows and we are very happy to be part of this congregation.
Guess what: una relacion viva con jesucristo is a living relationship with Jesus Christ! Students getting the mission and taking it to college. And Latinos getting the mission and sharing it with each other. And I realized: we’ve got these people with a living relationship with Christ and no place to put them! We need to make room for all these living relationships.
And that’s why we are building The Living Room here. We are going to expand our inviting ability with a new Living Room: Space for additional seating at 10. Room for Latino worship at 11:30. And most especially, the first ever “home” on site, on campus, connected to the rest of the bldg, for GS students who aren’t tomorrow’s church, they are today’s church. It will enhance, soften, and modernize our exterior, and completely re-imagine our interior. We’re so excited we made a movie:
Check it out:
We’re going to spend the rest of Hidden Heroes providing you with opportunities to explore, to ask, to understand. Then we’ll celebrate Christmas (Good idea?). And then in January & early February of 2015 we’re going to have a campaign called Beyond. And in that campaign we’re going to explain and inspire and invite you to make this project possible. Yes, we’ll ask for money. Yes, above and Beyondwhat you give to church now. Yes, this project is not only needed, it is essential.
And you know what? We can’t accomplish this, we can’t radically expand our inviting ability, if we rest on our accomplishments and sit on our untapped potential. We won’t make this happen if we are a church full of Archies. Because we too, need to be called out so that God can call out the hero – the inviting all people hero – hiding deep within.
We’re a really good teenage church. Time to move to maturity; to act on that which we did not conceive but which we received. “Finish what you started because it wasn’t yours to begin with.”
Concluding fasting challenge