Brookdale Baptist
8.1.21. Worship Service
  • In an age fascinated by startup companies, it’s also fascinating to acknowledge longstanding, multi-generational companies which have weathered the sands of time. Consider the following four companies which have operated for more than two centuries.
    Harper-Collins (books and magazines) has operated since 1817.
    Remington (firearms but also typewriters and sewing machines) has operated since 1816.
    Colgate (toothpaste and more) has operated since 1806.
    JP Morgan Chase (a bank) has operated since 1799.
    As impressive as these runs may be, I’m even more fascinated by a much longer run. The church has operated (though not as a business) for not just more than two centuries but more than two millennia. Christ himself announced this unstoppable nature of the church.
    Matthew 16:18 (NKJV)
    I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.
    For more than 2,000 years, Christ has moved the church forward from one generation to the next. In this sense, the church is unstoppable.
    Though the church is unstoppable in the big picture, any one church may fade into oblivion. Where are the churches of Rev 2-3, for instance? There may even be churches in our community that have come and gone.
    To avoid this outcome, the members of a church must pray for more than numerical growth. We must work towards forward progress, too.
    A church must have a forward-looking approach to ministry.
    A church may grow in size then disappear altogether if we don’t have a biblical model of ministry that plans for the future.
    In this letter, Paul provides a personal example of this biblical, forward-looking model of ministry. This example first appears in his introduction to the letter, when he identifies his recipient - a man named Titus.

    Expand your circle of involvement.

    When we think about Paul’s ministry, we focus on his NT letters, passion for Christ, and the churches he helped start. Yet there’s something else he exemplified - a commitment to training others.
    The record of Paul’s life reveals that he did few things alone.
    On his first missionary journey, he traveled with Barnabas and Mark.
    On his second, he traveled with Silas, Timothy, and Luke.
    Of course we know that he devoted extensive effort to mentoring Timothy to be an effective leader in the church. He did the same for Titus.
    This model of carrying out ministry with others by your side fits the pattern that Christ followed in his earthly ministry.
    Mark 3:14 (NKJV)
    He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach,
    Though Christ influenced many people (even large crowds), his greatest impact occured through his close, side-by-side life and ministry with the twelve disciples. Those are the men who carried his ministry into the future.
    If Christ had only taught large crowds of people on the hillside, where would the church be today? Christ was not content to speak to large crowds and then disappear into his private life in between speaking sessions. He spent quality time with a handful of men in between. That was the key. Those were the men who carried his ministry forward and started the church.

    Teach others intentionally.

    Paul expanded his circle of involvement by teaming up with other people - like Titus - when he did ministry, but these people didn’t just “tag along.” They learned on a deeper, more personal level by hearing him discuss his teaching and the response to it afterwards, from his Q & A, and so forth.
    2 Timothy 2:2 (NKJV)
    The things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
    This is what Paul said to another man like Titus, named Timothy. He said that he had taught Timothy certain things, things which other people had also heard him say and which Paul expected Timothy to teach to others.
    When we hear teach, we envision a classroom, lecture hall, or church auditorium. We may even envision a coffee shop. But do we envision the kind of teaching Paul and Jesus practiced? A mobile classroom?
    This mobile classroom consists of doing things together, as Paul with Titus. Notice what he did with Titus at an earlier time in his ministry:
    Galatians 2:1–3 (NKJV)
    After fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and also took Titus with me. And I went up by revelation, and communicated to them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles ... Yet not even Titus who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised.
    On a difficult journey to Jerusalem, Paul took Titus with him from up north. Titus saw and heard how Paul spoke to the legalistic people who were there. He was with Paul as he handled a difficult church situation.
    This type of ministry together “with” people goes like this:
    First you model and let the others observe. You take them with you.
    Then you discuss what you’ve said and done with them afterwards.
    This is the hands-on, practical side of teaching that is often missing in ministries today.
    We know how to recruit volunteers and assign them to ministries in the church.
    We know how to teach a SS class or even lead a small-group discussion.
    But do we know how to teach them what to do?
    Pastor Walton, for instance, used to take people like Dan Lund out for door-to-door gospel outreach and this was a formative experience for Dan.
    When you serve in a Sunday School class, make a hospital visit, or do some gospel outreach, who is with you?
    Are they watching what you do and hearing what you say?
    Do you break down and discuss what you said and did afterwards, or do you just move on?
    Once you learn to teach others deliberately this way as you serve Christ, then there’s something else you need to do as well if you will help your church be a forward-looking church.
    As we move forward at Brookdale, I’d like to challenge us to take this approach. Don’t do ministry things alone. Whatever ministry role you have, find at least one other person to help you, someone who’s less experienced, younger, or newer in Christ:
    Invite them to be with you
    To see what you are doing
    Then talk about what you did, why you did it that way, and answer questions afterwards.
    How many “ministry things” are you doing by yourself and then what are you doing with another person or two at your side? If you’re doing much or most of what you do alone, then do what you can to invite and include someone else in at least 25 or 50% of those things in the months ahead.
    This approach is vital for a forward-looking church and is a vital approach if Brookdale will be a forward-looking church in the months and years ahead.
    As we take this approach, we should also practice one more step.

    Entrust others with responsibility.

    Paul wasn’t content to dispense his knowledge and display his skills to the people with him. He eventually entrusted key ministry opportunities and responsibilities to those same people.
    Jesus did this himself. He would not only spend time with the disciples as he ministered, teaching and explaining things afterwards. He would also give them opportunities to practice what they’d seen and heard.
    Mark 3:14 (NKJV)
    He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach
    When Mark wrote “that he might send them out to preach,” he wasn’t primarily referring to that future day when the disciples would preach and start the church. He was referring to those times during Christ’s three-year, earthly ministry when he would send out the disciples to preach and teach and then they would come back to talk about their experiences afterwards. Yet these smaller, earlier opportunities to serve led to larger, more significant opportunities later on.
    Consider how Paul had entrusted Titus with ministry responsibilities, too.
    Though we’re not sure when Paul first met Titus, we do know that he had at least trained and mentored for serving Christ. After spending time with Titus, he entrusted Titus with some serious responsibility - responsibility which he himself may have more easily taken himself if he weren’t committed to training and entrusting ministry to others.
    In Paul’s second letter to the church at Corinth, he spoke about Titus a lot. The church at Corinth had been working through some difficult problems and Paul was unable to return and help them. So, he sent Titus instead.
    2 Corinthians 8:16–17 (NKJV)
    Thanks be to God who puts the same earnest care for you into the heart of Titus. For he not only accepted the exhortation, but being more diligent, he went to you of his own accord.
    Notice that Paul didn’t send Titus alone either. Just as Titus had traveled with Paul first before, now another unnamed man traveled with Titus to learn from him like Titus had from Paul. This fits with Paul’s pattern of “never do ministry alone.”
    2 Corinthians 12:18 NKJV
    I urged Titus, and sent our brother with him. Did Titus take advantage of you? Did we not walk in the same spirit? Did we not walk in the same steps?
    From Paul’s statement here, can you see how Paul refers to his training strategy? He describes Titus as someone who “walks in the same steps” as he would have done. This is a figurative expression of course but also a literal one, because when you train people the way that Jesus and Paul did, those people literally walk where you walk and do what you do with you.
    By spending intentional time with Paul, Titus had learned to be like Paul in his heart and approach towards ministry - so much so that Paul was able to send Titus to handle a difficult situation knowing that it would be handled just as effectively - if not better - than if he had traveled there himself.
    Ultimately, Paul would do the same thing again with Titus later on when he sent him to the island of Crete to solve some more challenging problems there (Tit 1:5). We’ll talk more about this in another sermon.
    So here’s the question you need to ask yourself. If a pressing need comes up in your area of ministry (teaching a SS class, being an usher, a church maintenance project, visiting a member at home or in the hospital, preaching a sermon, singing a song, planning an event, doing outreach in the community, leading a Bible study group, etc.), then:
    Who could you call on to do that in your place if you are unable to do it yourself?
    Would that be someone who has done this with you before, talked about it with you before, and been entrusted to try it already before?
    If not, then your ministry is not forward-looking with a plan for the future.
    Let me encourage you to do things with others to train them along the way. And as you do that, let me encourage you to eventually entrust greater responsibilities to them as you’re able so they can do those things in your place in the future. This is a mark of a healthy, forward-looking church!

    Develop close relationships.

    Forward-looking ministry requires more than a formal training method or strategy. If that is all t is, then ministry training differs little from being an apprentice to an electrician or farmer. A forward-looking ministry also requires close, family-like relationships, a dynamic Paul understood well.

    Emulate a parent/child relationship.

    Here in the opening to this letter, Paul called Titus “a true child.” Not just a partner or even just a friend, but a child.
    We don’t know if this “parent-child” relationship between Paul and Titus meant that Paul had led Titus to Christ or not. At the very least, we know Paul had mentored Titus to grow spiritually and serve Christ.
    Paul viewed his relationship with Titus as more than a mentor-trainee relationship but as a father-son. He felt a close relationship with Titus as though he were his child. This level of relationship was meaningful for both.
    First, there are those people in the church who are less equipped and less experienced than others at following Christ and serving in the church.
    Such members should spend quality time with those who are more equipped and experienced.
    They should view those who are more experienced with appreciation and respect, just as a child should appreciate and look up to his or her parents.
    They should also seek to emulate how they serve Christ and should ask a lot of questions in the process.
    Experienced believers, then, should take special interest in others, like a parent does to a child.
    They should take the initiative to reach out and recruit others to spend time with them and serve with them.
    What’s more, they should make sacrificial investments into the lives of lesser experienced believers just as parents do for their children.
    This level of involvement will require time, energy, and resources, but it’s worthwhile in the end.
    To become a forward-looking church, we must do better than teach well-run, engaging Sunday School classes and preach engaging, biblical sermons.
    While activities like these are essential to a healthy church, we need to connect with one another on the level of a family and not just a religious or educational institution. We need to do better at developing relationships that both equip *and* encourage those who are less experienced. We need relationships and not just a strategy.

    Reach beyond cultural norms.

    To become a forward-looking church, we must do more than develop close family-like relationships with people in our own, tight-knit circles. We need to build such relationships with people with whom we are not naturally friendly or familiar.
    When Paul called Titus a “genuine” child, he was using a word that first-century people chose to describe a child born within a loving, faithful marriage, not from other situations outside of marriage.
    It is significant that Paul used this word for Titus.
    Paul was a natural-born, properly-circumcised Jew.
    Titus was *not* a Jew; he was an uncircumcised Greek or Gentile.
    From a Jewish standpoint, it might have been appropriate in some cases to teach a Gentile how to become a Jew. Doing so would at least require the Gentile to be circumcised, though. Even then, he would not be as much of a “Jew” (or “insider”) to the Israelite family as a natural-born Jew. But here, Paul goes out of his way to call Titus not just a friend, not just a convert, and not just a son - but a genuine son in every way.
    So, Paul reached outside of his normal, cultural sphere to invest in the lives of people with differing backgrounds and cultures, and we should do the same. This is a mark of a forward-looking church.
    We should reach outside of our normal, church-going families.
    We should extend our reach to people outside our church and outside our most natural ethnic and cultural circles.
    Though Paul had been raised as a die-hard Jew, he lived in a growing, multicultural world - much like we do today. He knew that he must reach out beyond his own cultural comfort zone if he was going to have a forward-looking impact for the church. We must do the same today.
    What steps are you taking to build meaningful relationships with people who are outside your normal church, culture, and generational comfort zone and normal way of life? If the answer is “nothing” or “not very much,” then that is a sign of a church that is moving forward into the future.

    Emphasize the clear teaching of Scripture.

    Though I won’t belabor this point, it’s important to point out. In our first sermon of this series through Titus, we emphasized the authority of Scripture. Paul continues to emphasize this principle here again when he says “in our common faith.”
    To be a forward-looking church, we must expand our circle of involvement by doing things together with other less-experienced believers so we can teach and train them to follow in our steps.
    We must also developed close, family-like relationships with less-experienced believers - even people outside our normal church, cultural, and ethnic comfort zone.
    But let’s be clear - there’s one thing that a forward-looking church must never change, and that’s an unswerving commitment to what Paul calls here “our common faith.”
    A forward-looking church does not change its bedrock beliefs. We believe the gospel. We believe what the Bible says. We don’t change on that.
    Churches too easily drift away from a firm commitment to Scripture in an effort to be “relevant” and contemporary with the times, but this approach is disloyal to Christ and shortsighted as well.
    Rather than minimize, disregard, or apologize for what Scripture teaches, we should recommit ourselves to this “common faith” which has withstood the test of time. We share this faith with generations of believers from throughout the past 2,000 years.
    Salvation by faith alone by grace alone in Christ alone is a timeless message that has withstood the test of time. A faithful, forward-looking church will hold true to this message and the teachings that Scripture associates with it.
    To be a forward-looking church, we must maximize this shared (“common”) foundation which - in part - includes what Paul teaches in this letter to Titus. What he teaches is not negotiable.
    At the same time, we should not expect to have *everything* in common. Generations and cultures differ in a variety of ways. Sometimes these variations disregard clear teaching from the Word of God. Other times they simply reflect or apply God’s Word in differing but appropriate ways.
    A forward-looking ministry needs to know the difference between what is our “shared faith” (what is clearly taught in Scripture) and what are appropriate, wholesome differences in the way that we express or live out that faith.
    A forward-looking church hones in on the “faith we have in common,” those gospel truths and principles of Scripture that must never change. This gives a church the stability it needs for future longevity and integrity but also the flexibility it needs to adapt as needed in healthy, biblical ways.
    If we studied churches in history from the first century until today, we’d discover a lot of variety. A first-century Greek or Jewish church service, for instance, a fourth-century Latin church service, a seventeenth-century Puritan church service, a 19th-century American frontier church service, and even a 20th century Baptist church service differs in a variety of ways - for instance - from a church service today. Even 21st century church services and ministries differ from one another in numerous ways today, from one community, one region, and one nation to another.
    This is the history and future of the church! Yet, one thing persists from one healthy church to another, one generation to another - a firm commitment to the faith that we all share. That’s why our church needs to ask, “Are we focused on passing along the ‘common faith’ that has persisted for millennia? Or are we committed instead to passing along all kinds of other ideas and ways of doing things that aren’t that level of important, things that have differed from the beginning until now?”
    By God’s grace, let’s be like Paul. Let's involves more people in ministry, build close/family-like relationships, and emphasize the clear teaching of Scripture in all we do.
      • 2 Corinthians 12:18ESV

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