In this sermon, Pastor Tim looks at the markers of a healthy church from 1 Peter 4:8-10. Peter exhorts the church to love each other, to show hospitality and to use their gifts to serve!
What makes a church a great church?
- I think you are in one!
- Lots you could say… as a Pastor there are certainly churches I admire. Though none are perfect
- Old saying goes – if you are looking for a perfect church, your attendance at it, will ruin that!
- My friend Ger… and Vintage…
- HTB… what they have done… Alpha and Marriage Courses… church planting…
- Nicky Gumbel interview… arrived it was a church of 200 people with a robbed choir.
- Sandy Miller – GLOWS (Generous, loving, outreaching, worshipping, spirit filled)
- Explain those…
I want to read from 1 Peter 4:8-10
- We’re almost at the end of this amazing letter written by Jesus’ disciple Peter to the churches that had been established by the Apostles within a generation of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
- It was written to a church that was coming under the pressure of persecution and the growing pains of living in a hostile culture and society.
- That is why earlier on in 1 Peter they are described as foreigners and exiles…
- Not literal… they weren’t forced to flee and be exiled into strange countries…
- Rather, as a the newly formed people of God who had received such incredible mercy, they no longer really fitted into the world.
- They were called to live differently in light of the extravagant grace they had received!
- As it says they had been called out of darkness and into his wonderful light.
- So good.
So how were they to live as a church community. What was to make them into a great church?
Find it in 1 Peter 4:8-10, he implores the church…
8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.
Now, there are lots of things that make a great church…
- But there are three really good points in this passage that points towards the kind of church that is healthy.
- Remember, Jesus had said to Peter “you are the rock upon which I will build my church.”
- So it is really interesting, just 30 years later to see what kind of things Peter is saying to the churches that had emerged from the early preaching of the gospel.
- They have started with the remarkable good news of God’s love and Jesus death and resurrection.
- They had experienced the power of the gift of the Holy Spirit coming alive in them…
- But what about day to day life…
- Afterall, you get saved! But so does the person next to you….
- And now all of a sudden you are the church! You are doing life with them…
- And the grace and truth of Jesus has to be made demonstratable real and worked out in the midst of this new community!
Firstly, they were to love each other deeply, because (verse 8) love covers over a multitude of sins.
- The first defining mark of a great church is love, expressed in relationship.
- And Peter says, it is this love that covers, heals, puts a lid on the damaging effects of sin.
- It is love that creates a path for us to stay in community over a long period of time!
- I sometimes reflect that when people leave a church… unless it is to move to a different area….
- Then often it has been a failure of love!
- Because maintaining friendship and community and common purpose is a difficult thing to sustain…
- And it can be easier to drift away rather than do the hard work of keeping relationships healthy!
And of the 4 words translated as love in the New Testament, it is agape love, we are told that is to be expressed here.
- That is love that is selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love.
- It is the love of Jesus Christ who lays down his life for us sinners, so that we could live.
- And we are told to love like this deeply… it could be translated as eagerly, earnestly, even straining…
- Why? Because this kind of love is not suggested here or elsewhere in the scriptures… but rather commanded!
- This is not about your emotions and the rollercoaster that they can be or how you feel on any given day towards someone else…
- No. This kind of love is a decision of the will leading to action.
And here is why agape love is needed. Because most sin is about relationship hurt…
- Sometimes intentional, often unintentional, but we hurt one another.
- Might be through loose words we speak about other people. It might be through excluding people, it might be through jealousy or gossip or even slander.
- And in those situations the easiest thing to do in community, is to fight or leave. So we need something powerful to cover over the hurt that can be caused.
- And agape love is exactly that.
Of course Peter knew this. At the moment of Jesus betrayal and arrest, Peter had denied him.
- That would have caused a bit of relational hurt…
- And maybe in community you have had this sense of betrayal. Again maybe intentional, maybe unintentional, but maybe you have been hurt in a way where you felt abandoned.
- But Peter can talk about agape love covering over a multitude of sins…
- Because he was the recipient of this restoring, forgiving, tender love from Jesus who reinstated him, and loved him back into relationship.
- And that is costly. And most of the great Christian moments in your life will come at a cost.
- You have to die to your wounds and hurts and choose love.
- Especially if you want to stay in Christian community…
If we are to be a great church, we need to constantly practice this kind of love.
- My wife Victoria often speaks to me about cultivating an un-offendable heart…
- It’s a great concept. The idea being that we are so secure in God’s love. So shaped by God’s love. So practiced in God’s love that we become un-offendable.
- So someone talks about you behind your back… you just love them.
- Someone excludes you from a group, you just love them
- Someone cheats you out of something… you just love them.
- And all because Christ lives in you!
- So want to be part of a great church – then you and I need to step up in our love for one another.
- Don’t let stuff stew… get on the front foot and be pro-active. Be known for your love!
Alright, secondly, Hospitality… it says, “offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.”
- And again, what an amazing verse… as a key to being a great church.
- Offer hospitality. Open up your home. Be generous with what you have.
- Share a meal and your life with people.
- Be extravagant and costly in sharing your table with stranger, neighbours and friends!
You know, one of the amazing marks of the early church was what happened around the table.
- We read post Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 when 3,000 have come to faith… that…
- Verse 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people.
- One of the markers as the church grew was the way Jews and Gentiles, men and women, slaves and free all ate together.
- Indeed it became a point of great contention in the ancient world.
- Those who were outside the church began to be very suspicious of what was going on. They accused the Christians of having orgies and all kind of revelries…
- But the sense was that there was a great party going on and everyone was invited to the table.
And they would gather around Christ.
- The verse about the breaking of bread is key. They remembered Christ’s body being broken for them.
- This is what united them and turned them into brothers and sisters.
- It was the common grace they had received.
- And the spread of Christianity, because it was persecuted and looked down upon for the first 300 years, spread not through big evangelistic campaigns by great orators…
- But through common people, opening their homes and sharing their faith!
We said goodbye to one of our young adults last week… she has moved to Brisbane.
- And you might have seen some photos of her getting baptised last Friday on our Instagram down at Freshwater Beach.
- It was a great moment… Lani the Baptist…
- But Anna wandered into Manly Life about a year ago… hadn’t been to church since she was a little girl and had been through a lot for a young lady!
- But what gave me great joy was watching Bec and other young adults fold her into community.
- I still remember the morning Bec messaged me to tell me she and Anna had prayed for her to follow Jesus.
- But here is the thing I love… the young adult girls get together at Freshwater Beach every (I think) Thursday morning for a swim, coffee, and faith and life chats!
- And the table is open… and people come…. And they make friends, and they find faith!
One of my favourite quotes is “Sharing a meal turns a stranger into a friend.”
- Is that true for you? Who can you think of in the last few months who you have had a meal with and become friends?
- Last week I had lunch with Joel who with his family are new to Manly Life… I reckon we are now mates…
- Victoria and I went for dinner this week with Rach and Adam… they’re good peeps!
- At Marriage Prep I had dinner with Sean and Sofia, Jimmy and Mon, Julie and Allan. We’re all good mates!
- Haha… shall I go on… I think you’re all a bit worried that this is all I do…
- But to be honest, it is probably one of the most important things I get to do!
- And everyone is looking for a friend. Everyone is looking for a community to belong to and people to do life with.
Christmas coming… do you have a spare seat or two at your table for someone you could invite?
Just 3 super quick tips on being good at hospitality
- Be extravagant. Nothing worse than a cheap Christian… (Twiggy: no cheap sausages).
- Kenya chicken. That was costly…
- If you get to the end of the meal and everyone else’s plate is clean and you are half done… you’ve probably talked too much. So shut up… and ask good questions… and then listen.
- Meme… strange way to start a conversation…
- Marriage Prep…
- Listening skill: ask powerful questions… follow up… don’t insert your own story.
- And thirdly, you don’t need a huge house or massive backyard. I love the intensity of density! That’s what makes hospitality fun!
- Party in London… turned the living room into a third bedroom…
- Fire department came…
- What do parties do? They invite people, connect people, include people…
- ML, throw more parties…
Ok finally today, Serving Others… verse 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.
And really this is what makes a great church. This is what makes faith come alive.
- So we are loving each other, even when we hurt each other…
- We are making room at the table for each other…
- And then you have a gift given from God that you can use to serve others!
- You have a purpose within the church
- You have a gift, no one else has that you can use to be a blessing!
In the church, one of the wonderful things, is everyone gets to play.
- I once heard a Minister describe the church as like a football game…
- 22,000 people in desperate need of exercise cheering on 22 people desperately in need of a break…
- We want 22 people cheering on the 22,000 as they make the most of every opportunity.
There are things that only you can do… 1 Corinthians 12 says the church is like a body where every part is useful… and every part needs each other…
- You know Manly Life would be the worst church in the world if I was doing everything…
- Can you imagine me in the band… I’m totally talentless…
- Or helping at creche. I’d make the kids cry…
- But I’m good at welcoming. And Kieran is good at worship and Janna is so good with kids and Susan is so good at praying for people…
- And Todd looks good making a coffee… haha!
- And church comes alive when you go from being a spectator to a participant.
- In fact probably the biggest indicator that you will still be a part of Manly Life in 12 months is you joining a team to serve on!
So let me encourage you to get involved…
- The local church is the hope of the world… there is no plan B. God has ordained that through us, his kingdom would come.
- And Manly Life is something to love and honour, just like Jesus loves his church we are called to love it too…
- Don’t just join the welcome team… be the best welcomer you can be… go the extra mile in making someone new feel at home and connected!
- Be the best kids helper or band member or Alpha leader you can be! Right, put your phone away and engage with the kids…
- Kids church: going to take a village to raise the tribe of kids we have… next year…
Well as I close, let me encourage you… how can Christ in you shape the way we love and show hospitality and serve?
I remember a thanksgiving dinner I went to and the 20 or so people there all shared something they were grateful for.
- Without being cliché… no one mentioned a brand new car or having the perfect summer body!
- What people were grateful for was friendship and family and the Manly Life Church community.
- It was enough to make a bald ageing Pastor shed a little tear.
- You guys are what makes this church great… and there are so many people wanting to be a part of a great church if we will all play our part.
- Could you open up your home, put on a meal, demonstrate some love and forgiveness?
- Of course you can… let’s do it Manly Life.