Embarking on a Fruit Bearing Adventure

(Acts 2:41-47)

For today's message I'd like to begin by, describing where Trinity has been, where we currently are, and where our journey is leading us; a kind of State of the Church message if you will.

Over the past 5 years Trinity has been on an aggressive discipleship journey. We've moved from a Sunday morning chapel to a center of vital ministry, providing ministry opportunities almost seven days a week now. We've become a visible presence in the community. And we are being recognized as a place of hope.

Now most churches trudge along waiting for something to happen, meanwhile the world passes them by and society influences more and more generations in ways other than God's. But a healthy and vital church needs to have a sense of urgency about it. " We need to be proactively influencing society and its people. " We need to be spreading the Gospel. " We need to be showing people there's a better alternative to what our secular society offers. Yes, there are times when active patience is called for, but sometimes active patience can quickly lend itself to complacency if we're not careful. And complacency can lead to the death of a congregation, of which there are numerous examples.

God does not call a community of faith to maintain the status quo. God's call and reign is far bigger than any one ministry or outreach event. And God often times forces us out of our comfortable places in order for us to turn to him for wisdom and strength.

Today I give thanks to God for your work and response to the Holy Spirit working on and within you. I give thanks for your heightened sense of urgency and willingness to move beyond the status quo in the name of Jesus.

You know we've been on an incredible journey, as it was only six years ago Trinity was part of a part-time, two-point charge. Since then Trinity has become a cooperative parish with a full-time and part-time pastor. And this has been no small feat. Your faith, your response to the Holy Spirit, your willingness to step out and face the challenges of what it means to be the church, is to be affirmed and congratulated. And you have proven too many naysayer's that a small church does not have to mean small ministry.

As a result other small membership churches within our denomination and several outside our denomination are now looking at our transformation and are asking how they can do the same.

Trinity has reached out to the world through active mission work and the internet. Trinity has changed the lives of many in our community through outreach projects and an openness to begin new ministries. Trinity has changed the lives of many who have walked through these doors to worship, fellowship, and grow with us.

" Because of your desire to reach out to the community, this winter 36 children and youth come to this church every week, that otherwise may never have experienced this place of ministry. " Because of your generosity over 300 kids have been blessed by receiving Christmas gifts over the past three years, that otherwise would have been forgotten. " Because of your desire to make a difference, a family of eight received gifts and a meal this past Christmas. " And through your service to, and care for one another, the needs of many here in our church family have been met through our family ministry and caring ministry efforts.

And these are only four examples of the impact you're having on this community, and generations to come. It's a blessing for me to be able to serve with you in the name of Jesus.

You know over these past several years it's been interesting the way the Lord takes all of us, faults, failings, talents, abilities, and everything in between, pour himself into us, so we can serve and love.

But our work and transformation is not complete. As we discussed in our Bible Study two weeks ago, achieving the goal is not necessarily what it's all about. Yes, we have goals, and they're listed on the back of your bulletin insert this morning, because accountability leads to action, but in the end the journey is what's most important.

You see, life changing transformation takes place within the journey, not in achieving the goal itself. And our journey is not complete.

As individuals our journey continues as we seek to become more like Christ in how we live. As a Church family our next step is to move from a center of vital ministry to a discipling congregation.

You see it's inadequate to just have a place of worship and a place where ministry takes place. Now make no mistake about it these are important activities, but the ultimate goal is to bear Kingdom fruit, and Kingdom fruit equals disciples. To be the Church Christ envisions, requires a focus on making and equipping disciples.

Some have described the definition of fruit as a mature seed. Well Kingdom fruit is born from mature Christians. Fruit comes from spiritual leaders and disciples through a consistent sustained effort that seeks to live like Christ daily.

Based on the most recent Conference newspaper fewer than 50 of the almost 700 churches that make up our Conference are consistently bearing Kingdom fruit. Quit frankly this is a sad commentary on the Church and I dare say these numbers are the same all across the Church universal regardless of doctrine or denominational affiliation.

But the good news in all of this is Trinity is recognized as one of the churches bearing Kingdom fruit, and we now can serve as an example for other churches, especially to the smaller churches that make up a majority of all churches in America, that regardless of size, churches can bear Kingdom fruit if they're willing to focus their energies on making and equipping disciples.

As I look at American churches today my assessment of the problem with making and equipping disciples is that many Christians today just kind of hang around the cross, perhaps even touch it now and then, but this is religion, not faith.

Paul said he "was crucified with Christ and that he no longer lived, but Christ lived in him." He went on to say, "I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Gal. 2:20-21) Paul willingly shed himself of all things but Jesus, and this is what true faith is all about. This is what the cross is all about.

To be crucified with Christ means we need to embrace the cross, not just hang around it, and crucify those daily sinful desires that keep us from following Christ. We must replace old sinful influences with Christ-like influences, and this is where the Discipleship Adventure can help us.

The Discipleship Adventure is a journey we will walk together, to grow closer to Christ, to be more like Christ, and to bring glory to God in all we do. And as Christ lives in us he then becomes our power for living, and our hope for the future. (Col. 1:27)

The Kingdom fruit I've been speaking of was mentioned in our scripture reading this morning and includes the following: " New believers, meaning those who join our fellowship by profession or reaffirmation of faith (Acts 2:47) " Added to their number, in other words increased worship attendance (Acts 2:41) " Shared all they had in common and gave to any one as there was need, this includes our outreach and mission involvement to the point of engaging at least 90% of our congregation in a ministry beyond worship, sharing with others financially through our offerings and connectional giving, and by reaching the world with the good news of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:44-45) " And signs and wonders which is the Holy Spirit at work through the congregation, leading to the transformation of the kingdom from a secular focus to a Godly focus. (Acts 2:43) And we know its Kingdom fruit because Kingdom fruit glorifies God.

As disciples and as a church it's imperative that we bear Kingdom fruit to indicate to the world whom we follow.

If we say we follow Jesus and yet bear no fruit, then we confuse the world about the power of God through Christ. If we say our only task is to be faithful and don't bear fruit, then we are branded "almost Christians," and rightly so.

We become faithful disciples through a consistent and sustained life that celebrates in worship, connects us as one in fellowship, develops our faith, offers opportunities to serve others and to share our faith.

To this end we will now be more intentional about engaging in the Discipleship Adventure the Bishop mentioned during his visit in December. In reality we've already implemented all paths of the adventure, over three years ago, but we will now connect all the paths of the adventure together and be more intentional about ensuring we are engaging in the adventure completely.

So let's review the five paths of the adventure for just a minute. And again, you will find these in your bulletin insert. Inside the Walls " Celebrate - worship. We celebrate the significance of God in our lives and live all of life as though it were in the worship of God;

" Connect - fellowship. First we connect with God and then with others to build up the body of Christ;

" Develop - study. Through Christian education and the development of spiritual insights, we grow in our understanding of God. Beyond the Walls " Serve - mission and outreach. We discover the purpose of our life through justice and mercy ministries in the community and the world; and

" Share - witness and evangelism. Meaning we must share with others what God has done in our life.

My vision is that all people who call Trinity their church home will engage in all five paths of the Discipleship Adventure in some way. Because it's my strong belief that until we are committed and entirely engaged in the adventure we're not encountering all that God has to offer us, and we're not experiencing the wholeness of God's grace. In other words we're not being all that God wants us to be.

Now some may come to me and say, "Pastor, my faith is strong and I don't need to do such and such." Well my response is, "How do you know how strong your faith is? How do you know you've experienced all that God has in store for you?"

The most rewarding part of faith and life, isn't so much the destination, it's the journey. So I suggest that for us to live a life of complete faith we each need to engage in all aspects of the Discipleship Adventure in some way: by regularly celebrating, connecting, developing, serving, and sharing.

By engaging in all aspects of the adventure I am persuaded that we have more opportunities to grow in faith, to experience God's grace in many different ways, and we will be presented with more opportunities to grow the Kingdom of God.

Also each path of the adventure offers opportunities for those who are currently outside our church family to enter into the journey with us. You see, each path also serves as an entry point to faith and to the church. Each path offers the opportunity for all of us here to invite others to participate.

What is clear to me is that we are called to be a people set apart from the world to bear Kingdom fruit: yet we're also called to be part of this world.

Many of you here today can testify to the truth that following the Word of God leads to a more abundant life. So why not share this truth with others, why not invite people to join us on the adventure of a lifetime.

The Kingdom as a present reality was embodied in the life and death of Jesus, and continues to be embodied in the community of Jesus' followers, the church. But it's also a reality that is only partially manifest. And as Christ's followers, we are called to be agents of transformation in the world.

Therefore, as we embark on this life-changing and fruit-bearing journey, and experience the power of discipleship, I am persuaded that we will move deeper, wider, and further into our relationship with God, and more and more Kingdom fruit will be produced.

So engage in the journey, experience the adventure that awaits, as we walk with, and grow in Christ.


Read other messages by Pastor Wade