MISSION WOODS CHURCH
Worship. Sunday September 19, 2021
      • Bible Trivia
        Loading...
      • Bible Trivia
        Loading...
  • I Will Call Upon the Lord
  • O How I Love Jesus
  • Celebrate Jesus
  • How Deep The Father's Love For Us
      • Mark 9:38–50ESV

  • Last week we began reflecting on our vitals that are a part of our marks as a congregation in our Vital Congregations initiative. Today we’re going to look at specific marks and see what our survey results were, and recognize how God is calling us.
    The two marks we’ll be looking at today are:

    Lifelong Discipleship Formation

    where we scored 74% on par with the denominations 75%, and

    Intentional Authentic Evangelism

    where we scored at 66% where we scored a bit below where the denomination came in at 71%. As we look at these closer today, let’s get to God’s Word.
    Will you open your hearts with me in prayer:

    Check Your Vitals (Part I)

    Holy Creator, Sovereign Lord, Cleansing Spirit, Our Triune God, we come before you this morning in worship. We have gathered here with friends and family for the purpose of giving you the glory. We have gathered here this morning, offering ourselves to you with hearts ready to hear from you. We ask that you would speak to our hearts this day, that the words read from your Holy Word would echo within our hearts and minds. That they wouldn’t simply be heard today and forgotten, but that they would find their way into our way of being. We invite you to change us Lord, into the people you created us to be. Speak Lord, for your servants are listening. We pray this in the name of Jesus the Christ, AMEN.
    Let’s hear now from God’s Holy Word.
    Our reading this morning comes from the book of Acts, chapter 2, verses 42-47. It’s a familiar passage, so let’s pay particular attention so as not to allow it’s familiarity to take away from what God has for us today.
    I’m going to invite Drew up here to read for us:
    Acts 2:42–47 ESV
    And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
    A reading from God’s Holy Word.
    Thanks be to God.

    Check Your Vitals (Part I)

    As we talk about lifelong discipleship and intentional authentic evangelism, there could not be a more appropriate passage. It is all encapsulated in this passage, this story of the early church.
    When I ask church going Christians when discipleship begins, the answers I most often hear are when a christian begins to take their faith seriously, or when a person joins a Bible study, or when a person begins to attend church.
    I want to challenge those ideas among you. Let’s think back to the Gospels. Jesus called the disciples, if you want to look at the passage, you can turn to Matthew chapter 4, or Mark 1, or Luke 5, or John 1, and in all cases what you see is Jesus simply approaching the disciples where they are in life. He wasn’t in the synagogue, he was at the temple, he was walking along the shore and he see Peter and his brother Andrew, and the James and John - all of them are fisherman.
    And Jesus shares that often quoted phrase:
    Matthew 4:19 ESV
    And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
    It’s interesting to note how our survey demonstrated the church’s role in discipleship:
    77% affirmed that this church prioritizes faith formation and discipleship making.
    94% said the church challenged them to become more Christ like to some extent or greater!
    88% said the church helped them apply faith to everyday life (somewhat or very well).
    And a whopping 92% said the church nurtured their spiritual development.
    Those are great reports! And exciting for this pastor to read! That is a measure of how well the church is helping worshipers grow as disciples.
    And then I get to the role of the individual, a measure of how well the worshipers are growing as disciples,
    I'm not going to read all of these, but notice “I see myself as a disciple - 55% say that is true or very true. 85% say it’s somewhat true or better.
    51% when they face a problem look to the teachings of Jesus (true or very true). That can seem discouraging. But it’s 86% true if we include the somewhat. As we read the scriptures isn’t that what we see happen again and again - the disciples, the very people who were with Jesus didn’t always look to Him when they faced problems. We’re no different.
    Give yourselves a bit of a break here.
    95% of you said it’s at least somewhat important that you make time to read the Bible.
    95% of you said it’s at least somewhat important that you make time to pray or meditate.
    95% said it’s somewhat important or more that you take time to deepen your relationship with God, and of that 87% said it was important or greater!
    Clearly, we are a church that chooses to be disciples! Followers of Jesus with foibles, failure, fortitude and faithfulness. All of it. Discipleship, following Jesus, is messy. We’re not perfect.
    In Acts we read:
    Acts 2:42–45 ESV
    And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.
    When we think of discipleship, we think of bible studies, prayer meetings, time for worship. And the reality is when we do this, and we hear one another’s stories and how God is working in our lives it brings about a sense of wonder. When we share how God has answered our prayers during our prayer times, can anyone help but be struck that an omniscient, omnipotent God would care about one life on this planet - and yet the evidence is clear that God does. That brings about awe.
    And when we look at verse 44 we read:
    Acts 2:44 “And all who believed were together and had all things in common.” This is not one socio-economic group, this all who believed. And they come together and they share what they have. I’ve been the recipient of such generosity. I know nothing about carpentry and yet I’ve had members of the church teach me how to make home repairs. I know for a fact that members of this church have shared their time, talent, and treasure to help others in our congregation as they had need.
    More than that, we see them continuing to be together, not just in the temple, but in their homes.
    Acts 2:46 ESV
    And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,
    Our faith is not something that should be left in the church building. If COVID has done anything, it has reminded us that the church is not the building, but the people. AS you go home, the church goes with you. As you read your Bible at home, as you talk about your faith to whatever extent you talk about it, you are the church.
    And that brings us to the point of Intentional authentic Evangelism.
    Our survey participants when asked if our church engaged in evangelism gave us a generous score of 91% saying we did this slightly well, though only 46% said we did it somewhat well or better.
    Yet 76% said the church encourages and equips them to share their faith somewhat well or very well.
    And 72% said that the church encourages and equips them to share God’s love when engaging in mission work or community service.
    When we then look at the individual in the church, you said:
    I try and ensure visitors feel welcome - no one said they didn't. I believe that’s true. I sometimes am concerned about overwhelming visitors with our welcoming.
    When it came to inviting people who do not attend church to visit our church, 56% said they don’t, or that they might occasionally.
    79% see our service in the community and missions as true or very true. That’s awesome!
    Yet 74% see discussing religion or spirituality with people who are not Christian as not important or only somewhat important.

    Check Your Vitals

    As I read through our report, it is easy to see a lot of great things about our church. And, it is also true that we can see some things that maybe we’re not as excited about. Yet this is a snapshot of who we are and how we perceive ourselves.
    As I read through our Scripture passage today, I see a small band of believers being faithful. And God adding to their number. I don’t see church programs. I don’t see flashy presentations. I see people devoted to the apostle’s teaching, and it’s important to recognize those apostle’s were those called by Jesus. They were sharing what they’d learned from Jesus.
    I see people devoted to fellowship - being in community with one another, but not segregated from the rest of the world. There is a sense of how to help their neighbors and care for their community.
    I see people taking their faith out of the temple and into their homes, into the places where they lived and worked, and being glad and generous.
    I see people praising God wherever they are.
    I see people enjoying favor with the community.
    As we as a church, check our vitals. Let’s continue to ask questions of our church, and of ourselves.
    When does discipleship begin? What is a disciple? Am I a disciple?
    Are we comfortable inviting people who don’t attend church to attend ours? Why or why not?
    How can we as a church continue to worship God and be more inviting? How can we as individuals take that step to invite our neighbor?
    These are questions I’m asking myself, and our leadership. These are questions for all of us to consider.
    Let’s read once more from the passage for today:
    Acts 2:42–47 ESV
    And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
    To the glory of God.
    AMEN
      • Acts 2.42-44ESV

      • Acts 2.45-46ESV

      • Acts 2.47ESV

      • Matthew 4:19ESV

      • Acts 2.42-44ESV

      • Acts 2.45ESV

      • Acts 2.42-44ESV

      • Acts 2.45-46ESV

      • Acts 2.47ESV

  • This weekend we remember a day we said we’d never forget. As no doubt you’ve been reminded often the past few days, it was 20 years ago that extremists hijacked four planes: two flew into the World Trade Center, one hit the Pentagon, and one was downed by a counter highjack by brave passengers.
    And the skies went empty for the next several days. No doubt you remember where you were when you heard the news.
    Suddenly the things that divided us seemed to have much less importance. Later that day, early 150 members of congress gathered on the steps of the Capitol; Senators and Representatives, Democrats and Republicans, stood side by side( in some cases arm in arm) to make a statement of unity, breaking into an impromptu rendition of “God Bless America.” It wasn’t Kate Smith, but it sent chills through those who observed it.
    In the coming days and weeks, church attendance rose as much as 25% in parts our nation. Even here in the Pacific Northwest churches saw a tremendous increase in attendance. By November of that same year, the swell of people dissipated and church attendance returned to previous levels.
    All of this may have caused some to ask, “Is the church still relevant?”
    Over the past two years we have seen much division in our country and around the globe. As the pandemic burst upon us in early 2020 travel bans were put in place. Some saw it as xenophobic, others saw it as a pre-emptive step to try and slow the spread of whatever this was. As the virus spread around the world there would be masks, and shut downs. In the midst of those shut downs there would be virtual learning, and parents tried to help their children while working from home. Then we would learn of George Floyd and the need for social justice would again burst to the forefront of our minds. And of course, there would be different ideas on how that should happen too. Conflict, angst, perhaps intensified by months of being segregated and locked isolated in our homes worried about whether our jobs would ever come back. Then a vaccine was made available and the battles began again; some wanted it as soon as it was available, others refused, and on and on it goes.
    And the question comes echoing back to us even today, “Is the church still relevant?”
    I could ask you this question this morning, and my guess is that each one of you would in one way or another say, “yes, it’s relevant to me.” Of course it is, or you wouldn’t be here. Yet, our chairs are not full. Church attendance in our country piqued sometime in the late 50’s of the last century. According to one poll in 2018, only 41% of those professing Christianity as their faith attend church.
    Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_attendance accessed 9/12/2021

    Vital Congregations

    In early 2020, our church and our church leadership began a journey of discovery of who we are, and our influence in the community. We began to ask the questions. We joined the Vital Congregations Initiatives and began to ask hard questions. It was to be a two year initiative, and then the pandemic hit and I will say that the timeline has been thrown out the window. Yet, we continue on this journey.
    This past spring, most of you participated in a survey where we sought to glean information about who we are, where we are, and are we relevant. More than that, we are asking the question, “Are we vital?”
    Are we vital - alive, and functioning?
    Are we vital - to our community?
    Are we vital - would people notice if we weren’t here?
    We have those results. And I know that many of you commented personally to me, or a member of leadership, and even by write in comments that you hate taking surveys. So first I want to thank you for taking the survey. We had great participation. Many larger congregations than ours did not have as many surveys returned. They’re anonymous, so I can’t tell you who participated and who didn’t, but the results were enlightening, challenging, and we will be gleaning information from them for months to come.
    Some have challenged whether we could have gleaned the same information just by asking in conversation. Yes, and no. There are things that we learned that were obvious to all of us. And that we probably could have gleaned from conversations in our entry. Yet, we invited everyone who is a member of our church (whether they currently attend or not) to participate in the survey. And, there were details that would have escaped us. My hope is to share much of this in the coming weeks.
    2 Corinthians 5:11–6:1 (ESV)
    Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
    From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.
    A Reading, from God’s Holy Word.
    Thanks be to God.

    VITAL CONGREGATIONS

    Please pray with me.
    Lord, Jesus. We come before you on this day, to remember. We remember all that you did for us. We remember the love that was poured out for us, the death you died for all. We remember that our old self is no longer living, but we are new creations in you. Open to us now your message, open to us the message of reconciliation; Open to us the task of being ambassadors in the midst of our church, our families, our neighborhoods, our communities, and indeed the world. Lord, we thank you for bringing us together under your grace and love; fill us with that light today.
    In Jesus’ Name we pray. AMEN
    Hearing these words from the Apostle Paul, I want to share with you some of the results from our survey as we work through Paul’s message to us.
    First, our overall vitality score:
    Vitality score
    Our congregation’s vitality score is 76%, which is on par with the 77% average of our PCUSA denomination among other congregations that have taken this same survey.
    Anytime we are assigning a “score” to who we are it is a snapshot in time. At the time we took the survey we were meeting in the parking lot, and our building was for all intents and purposes shut down. Yet the message, the truth comes from Paul’s words in verse 11,
    2 Corinthians 5:11 (ESV)
    Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience.
    Paul of course is referring to himself and Timothy as they wrote this letter to the church at Corinth. Yet there is truth there for us as well, we are known by God, better than we even know ourselves.
    Again from our survey:
    Vital Congregations: ”This Church is Spiritually vital and alive"
    As we look at this, what you’ll notice is that 77% responded that this statement is “true or somewhat true about our congregation. 57% said it is true. In the midst of pandemic.
    I want us to have an opportunity to dive into these results deeper, and we will have that time coming soon. Our hope was to have a big celebration with food and all, but with COVID we’re having to look at other ways we might do this. Stay tuned.
    Still, we can celebrate 77%, and yet Paul reminds us again that we shouldn’t be boasting about ourselves but what Christ is doing in us.
    2 Corinthians 5:12 ESV
    We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart.
    and vs 14.
    2 Corinthians 5:14 ESV
    For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died;
    And that gets to the crux of what makes any church vital:
    2 Corinthians 5:15 ESV
    and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
    Paul concludes with a list of Therefore’s
    2 Corinthians 5:16 (ESV)
    ... therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer.
    2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV
    Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
    2 Corinthians 5:20–21 ESV
    Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
    I began this morning reflecting on the impact of 9/11 on all of us, all of us that were alive at the time anyway. Yet, even more, there was a role that the church played in the midst of bringing our nation together, of healing the divisions, and of indeed reconciling people of different backgrounds, ages, experiences, economic situations, etc. together. Uniting us.
    Finally, I want to end with one last result from our survey for today:
    Vital Congregations: Greatest Strength
    According to our survey results our greatest strength is: Caring Relationships.
    Our congregation is least strong in “Outward Focus & Evangelism.”
    I don’t think this is a surprise to anyone, and yet as we’ve been working together as a session and deacons, we have a slightly different take on that. We may be more outwardly focused that the average person in our congregation realizes, that still might be our lowest strength, but we’ll talk about that later.
    I want to share with you a story. It goes like this:
    On a dangerous sea coast where shipwrecks often occur, there was once a crude little lifesaving station. But the few, devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea, and with no thought for their own safety, went out day and night tirelessly searching for the lost.
    Some of the people who were saved, and various others in the surrounding community, wanted to become associated with the lifesaving station and to give of their time and money for the support of its work. New boats were bought and new crews trained. The little lifesaving station grew.
    Some of the members of the lifesaving station were unhappy that the building was so small and poorly equipped. They felt that a more comfortable place should be provided for those who were being saved from the sea. They replaced the emergency cots with beds and put better furniture in the enlarged building. Now the lifesaving station became a popular gathering for its members, and they decorated it beautifully and furnished it exquisitely. It became sort of a club.
    Fewer members were now interested in going to sea on lifesaving missions so they hired professional lifeboat crews who were specially trained to save lives. The lifesaving motif still prevailed, and a ceremonial lifeboat was place in the room in honor of all those people who had been saved in the past.
    About that time, a large ship was wrecked off the coast, and the hired crews brought in boatloads of cold, wet, and half-drowned people. They were dirty and sick and some of them were from a foreign country and couldn’t speak their language. The beautiful new club was in chaos. So the property committee of the lifesaving stations called an emergency meeting and decided to build a shower house outside the club where victims of shipwrecks could be cleaned up and properly instructed regarding the rules of the lifesaving station.
    At the next meeting there was a split in the club’s membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club’s lifesaving activities because they were unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal social life of the club. Other members, however insisted that lifesaving was the primary purpose of the club. They pointed out that they were still called a “lifesaving station.” But they were finally voted down and told that if they wanted to save lives, then they could start their own lifesaving station down the coast. They did.
    As the years went by, the new lifesaving station experienced the same changes that occurred with the old. It evolved into a club, and yet another lifesaving station was founded. History continued to repeat itself, and if you visit that seacoast today, you will find a number of exclusive clubs along that shore.
    Shipwrecks are frequent in those waters, but most of the people drown.

    VITAL CONGREGATIONS

    As we consider our vitality, we must also consider our purpose. Jesus established his church to be a lifesaving station. His final instructions to the church are found in the great commission in Matthew 28:19-20 “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you...” Our job is to go out as Paul would say, as ambassadors, into the world and rescue the perishing. It’s not just the job of a few professional life-savers, it’s our job too!
  • In Moments Like These
  • Freely Freely

Let us get to know you!

Please take a moment to send us your information so that we may stay connected with you. Your information is carefully managed and protected.
I am a:
Age:
How did you hear about us?