I am so excited to be here for Connect at The Crossing today. It is my honor and my privilege to be able to preach here at The Crossing today, because I love this church. All of us at Connect are blown away by what we see God doing here at The Crossing, and we celebrate every time you guys take more ground for the Kingdom.
I don’t know about you, but I love it when churches decide to cooperate with each other instead of competing against each other. And the reason that happens is because those churches have humble leaders who are more about God’s Kingdom than they are their kingdom. And The Crossing has that type of leaders. And it starts with the pastor.
Kenny is one of the most down-to-earth, humble pastors I’ve ever known. He’s also one of the godliest and most gifted pastors I’ve ever known. And that is a combination that is very rare and very special. I’m honored to call him my friend. In fact, I’m honored to call the entire staff here at The Crossing my friends. And I just want you all at The Crossing to know that the people of Connect are some of your biggest fans. Man, we are cheering for you and we are celebrating every time God gives you another victory.
And that’s what God wants to do in His church. He wants to bring victory.
God has a mission for His church. It’s a mission of more.
Everybody say the word, “More.” Say it one more time. “More.”
This is the mission of the church. The church has been called to a mission of more. And the church should never, ever, EVER apologize for being committed to a mission of more.
Today, we’re going to see that mission of more described in a passage of Scripture in the Old Testament book of Isaiah. So let’s read the passage, and then we’ll go back and unpack it.
In Isaiah 55, here’s what God said through the prophet Isaiah. Starting in verse 8, He said, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever.” (Isaiah 55:8-11, 13b, NIV)
This is such a cool passage. Today, we’re going to see that this Scripture is all about our mission and God’s promise. It’s about our mission of more and God’s promise of more.
Here’s the first thing we see in the passage. The mission is more than we can handle.
This is a hard thing for me to accept in my day-to-day life. I don’t like to admit that there are things that I can’t handle. But the truth is, there are.
And here’s one example. This is my son with his new scooter. Ryan is 9-years-old. He loves riding his Razor scooter. He rode his old one so much that it literally fell apart, so we bought him a new one. And I wanted to get him one that he would never grow out of, so we bought the biggest scooter that Razor makes. This bad boy is rated for riders up to 240 lbs.
And one day last week, I thought, “You know, I don’t weigh 240 lbs. So, this scooter was made for someone like me.”
So off I went down our street. And one other thing about me…I don’t like to go slow. Whatever I’m doing, I automatically assume that faster is better.
I was convinced that I could ride this scooter. I was convinced that I could go faster and faster and faster. It wouldn’t be a problem, because I could handle it.
And in case you’re wondering, I was wrong. Here is Exhibit A (arm in sling). I was flying down our road and I wiped out HARD. I fractured my elbow, but I shattered my pride.
Maybe you’ve had an experience like that. Something where you thought, “I can handle this.” And then you were humbled BIG time. You couldn’t handle it after all.
Here’s the truth about our mission as the church. It’s more than we can handle.
Go back to what God said in Isaiah 55. Look at verses 8-9. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9, NIV)
God is telling us right up front, “This is going to be more than you can handle. I’ve got a mission that is so far above how you think. My ways are so much higher than your ways. I’ve got something in mind that is so much bigger than you. It is so much more than you can handle”
And that can be really scary. It is frightening, because we have a mission, but that mission will always be too big for us.
That’s why a lot of churches have tried to change the game. They have settled for a manageable mission. But here’s what I love about our churches. I love this about The Crossing and I love this about Connect.
We understand that a manageable mission is a damnable mission. A church that settles for manageable mission is settling for a mission that will damn a lot of people to hell.
See, here’s what we believe. We believe the gospel is actually true. We believe that Jesus really did come to earth. We believe He really was God incarnate, God in the flesh.
We believe that Jesus lived the sinless life that we couldn’t live. And we believe that He died the death that we should have died. We believe that Jesus died on a cross as the full and final payment for our sin. Instead of condemning us for our sin, God chose to punish His own Son for us. Jesus receives our punishment. We receive grace and forgiveness and mercy.
And after three days after His death, we believe that Jesus really did rise again. He really did walk out of that tomb. And His resurrection to life gives us new life.
That’s the gospel. It’s the good news. It’s the very best news. And we have been given the mission of taking that news to a world that is dark and broken and dying.
We really believe what John the Baptist said in John 3. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” (John 3:36, NIV)
Jesus is the only one who can change our eternity. The only difference between a Christian and a non-Christian is Jesus. Jesus is the difference between life and death, between heaven and hell.
And as Jesus’ church, we understand that our mission is swinging the doors open as wide as possible so people can meet Jesus.
That means that when a church is making decisions, the first question is not, “How much will it cost?”
The first question is not, “Who will this upset?”
If we take the mission seriously, then it’s going to be expensive. And it’s going to upset some people.
But let me ask a question here…aren’t you glad Jesus didn’t count the cost when He saved you? Aren’t you glad that He didn’t look at the cross and decide that the price was just too high?
And aren’t you glad that He didn’t worry about upsetting religious people? Those are the people who get upset when you talk about mission. Non-Christians don’t get upset about it. Pagans and heathens don’t upset about it. The only people that get upset about a big mission is religious people. They got upset at Jesus. In fact, they’re the ones that had Him killed. And they get upset at Jesus’ church, today.
But those aren’t the questions that the church should be asking. The question is not, “How much will it cost?” The question is not, “Who will this upset?”
The question is, “Will this make heaven more crowded?”
That’s the question. So many churches settle into small, manageable missions because they just want to guard their bottom line. Or they want to keep certain religious people happy.
But healthy churches are willing to ask this big, audacious, dangerous question. “Will this make heaven more crowded?” If the answer is yes, they go. Even if the mission seems too big. Because they understand the truth…the mission will ALWAYS be too big. If a church has a mission that is not too big, that mission is not of God.
In his book called The Circle Maker, Mark Batterson wrote, “Bold prayers honor God, and God honors bold prayers. God isn’t offended by your biggest dreams or boldest prayers. He is offended by anything less. If your prayers aren’t impossible to you, they are insulting to God.”
The thing I love about the two churches that are gathered here today is that these churches believe this. Our churches aren’t perfect. We’re very far from it. In fact, I tell people at our church all the time, “If you came to Connect looking for flaws, you won’t have to look long. In fact, you won’t have to look any further than the pastor.”
We’re not perfect, but we are on mission. It’s a mission that is bigger than us, but it’s not bigger than Jesus. In fact, the mission is all about Jesus.
Go back to our text in Isaiah. Skip ahead to verse 13. This is crucial. “This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever.” (Isaiah 55:13b, NIV)
It’s about the Lord’s renown. In other words, it’s about the Lord’s fame. It’s about the Lord’s notoriety. It’s about the Lord’s recognition. It’s about making Jesus famous.
Which means that the mission is about more than me.
I can’t be about the Lord’s renown if I’m thinking about me. I can’t make Jesus famous if I can’t see past myself. The mission is about so much more than me.
If you want to find the most self-centered people in the world, take a walk over to the nursery today. We’ve got a ton of new babies at Connect, which is awesome. I always tell people that we practice the Song of Solomon method of church growth. It’s awesome, but here’s the truth about babies. They are incredibly self-centered.
Seriously, has anybody ever met a baby who said, “You’ve done quite enough for me. Please, just have a seat. Put your feet up. Is there anything I can do for you?”
My wife and I have two boys, and when they were babies, neither one of them did that. Babies are incredibly self-centered. They live in a world where it is all about them. We understand that. We expect that.
But here’s where it becomes tragic in the church. The tragedy sets in when you can’t tell the difference between what happens in the nursery and what happens in the worship center. There are a bunch of babies in the nursery who believe everything revolves around them. But it’s a tragedy if the worship center is filled with adults who believe the exact same thing.
The very first core value we have at Connect is it’s all about Jesus and it’s not about us. And I know that The Crossing shares that same heartbeat. But I just want us to remember how easy it is to lose sight of that value. It is scary easy for the church to become all about me.
It’s easy to go home today and just critique the service instead of saying, “How did God change me because of that service?”
It’s easy to ask, “What did I get out of that?” when what we should be asking is, “What did I put into that?”
It’s easy to shift from service into “serve us.”
It’s easy to shift from making Jesus famous to making ourselves comfortable. And the longer you are part of a church, the easier it becomes.
It’s amazing how many people want to sleep with the church but not commit to her. They want a “friends with benefits” relationship with the church. All the benefits without any of the commitment. Because commitment requires sacrifice. It requires serving. It requires putting the needs of others ahead of my own.
And for our friends here at The Crossing, I know you know this because your pastor dropped the hammer last week. I know, I watched his message online. I’m surprised I’m preaching on this stage today because I was pretty sure he burned it down.
Can I tell you something? My buddy was spot on. The Word that Kenny preached last week was spot on.
We can’t afford to follow the trend of the modern-day church, which has centered its efforts around the already-convinced. Another one of our core values at Connect is focus on the outsider, not the insider.
We exist for people who aren’t even here yet. We exist for the outsider. That means that we have to continue to innovate and expand and change. And there is no more dirty word in the church today than the word “change.”
Several years ago, I was part of a coaching community with pastors from all over the country. The group was led by a pastor named Scott Hodge. And I’ll never forget the very first thing he said to us in the very first session.
He said, “The church should be the most flexible group of people on the planet.”
Now, I grew up in the church. I’m a BUICK: Brought Up In Church Kid. I’ve been part of the church for as long as I can remember, and let me tell you…some of the most rigid, inflexible, resistant-to-change people I’ve ever met, I met in the church.
I love this quote that I read on Twitter. “Most new pastors think they are going to change the world. Then they get fired for changing the bulletin.”
That’s the tragic reality in a lot of churches. Our churches here at The Crossing and at Connect can’t fall into that trap. And if you say, “Well, we’re different. We dress different. Our music is different. We’re portable churches, which makes us different,” just remember that the journey from being different to staunchly traditional isn’t as far as you might think. It doesn’t take much to start thinking, “I like how we do this. This is how we should ALWAYS do this.”
And immediately, what used to be different starts to become tradition. Tradition to be valued. Tradition to be protected. Tradition that is resistant to change. And the minute we land there, we begin to die. As Kenny said last week, we begin to become a zombie church.
Living things grow. Living things change.
Craig Groeschel said, “To reach people no one else is reaching, we must do things no one else is doing.”
We’re on a mission, and it is a mission that requires us to continue to change. To adapt. To do whatever it takes to reach people with the saving message of Jesus. The message never changes, but the methods will always change.
The church does not exist to make me comfortable. It does exist to comfort me, but never to make me comfortable. Those are two very different things.
My hope for our churches is that we would be comforted by the love of Christ, but we would never settle for comfortable when it comes to the mission of Christ.
I saw a study a couple of years ago that said that 2/3 of Clermont County residents claim no religious affiliation at all. 2/3. Right here. In Clermont County. In the buckle of the Bible Belt. 2/3 of people claim no religious affiliation at all. And even that number is a really conservative estimate. The religious affiliation of the remaining 1/3 is about as sweeping and broad as it could possibly be.
At least 2/3 of people in our county have no connection to God whatsoever. They have no knowledge, no relationship with, no connection to Jesus at all. And I’m not okay with that. And I love being part of a church that is not okay with that. And I love partnering with other churches who are not okay with that.
We’re called to a mission. It’s a mission of more. It’s a mission that is about bringing more people into the Kingdom. It’s about turning more lost people into found people. It’s about bringing more lost people to Jesus.
Sometimes church leaders get criticized. “You’re just all about the numbers.” And I will absolutely admit that it’s easy to get swept up in numbers as a way to boost a pastor’s ego, or to make church leaders feel like they’ve arrived, etc.
But on the flip side, a healthy church should be all about the numbers, and they should never apologize for it. Not to give the pastor or staff a pat on the back. Not to make a church say, “Hey, look at us. We’re the jam, aren’t we?”
A church should be all about the numbers because every number has a name. Numbers represent people, and the church should be ALL about reaching people for Jesus in greater and greater numbers.
Here’s what my prayer has always been for Connect. And it’s my prayer for The Crossing, too.
In John 10:42, John wrote, “And in that place many believed in Jesus.” (John 10:42, NIV)
If you want to pray for your church but you aren’t sure how, just pray that. We need to be praying for our churches to be a place where MANY will come to believe in Jesus. And we should never, EVER apologize for that prayer, because we’ve been called to a mission of more.
It’s a mission that is more than we can handle because it’s about more than me.
But if we are faithful to our calling, the victory will be more than I can imagine. We have been called to a mission of more, but it’s okay because we worship a God of more.
Let’s go back to the Scripture in Isaiah 55. This is one of my favorite parts of the passage, because God makes a rock-solid promise to us.
Look at verses 10-11 in Isaiah 55. God said, “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11, NIV)
I love this promise. God promised that His Word will NOT return to Him empty. It WILL accomplish His desire and purpose.
Now, there’s an important distinction. God didn’t say a word about my desires. He didn’t say one single thing about my purposes. Because it’s not about me. But when the Word of God is faithfully preached…when the people of God are faithful to the mission of God…failure is an impossibility. God has already promised victory. And the victory will be more than we could ever imagine.
Here’s what we forget about God a lot of times…God wants to reach people more than we do. God wants our churches to flourish more than we do. God wants to see people changed by the love Jesus more than we do.
And God has already promised that He is going to do exactly that. It’s really not possible for the church to think too big, but it is absolutely possible for us to think too small.
Church, we worship a God who turned a crucifixion into a resurrection! The cross was God’s greatest success, even though it initially looked like His ultimate defeat. The victory of the cross was sealed when Jesus got up and walked out of that tomb.
If our God can turn a crucifixion into a resurrection, is there anything He can’t handle? Is there anything in your life, in your family, in your marriage, in your finances, in your job, that He can’t handle?
Is there anything in our churches that He can’t handle?
There is nothing He can’t handle, because He is a God of more!
In Ephesians 3, the Apostle Paul reminds us exactly who God is when he wrote, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more [How much more? IMMEASURABLY more!] than all we ask or imagine [His thoughts and ways are so much higher than ours. We can’t even imagine what He actually wants to do in our churches and through our churches], according to his power that is at work within us [the same power that brought Jesus back from the grave is alive and at work in our churches], to him [NOT to us!] be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21, NIV)
We are a church of more because we worship a God of more!
He is able to do immeasurably more in our churches than we could ever ask or even imagine. But if we want to see this mission of more become a reality, we’ve got to remember that it’s not about us. It’s all about Jesus. It’s all about connecting lost people to Jesus. And when that’s the mission, God will bring the more.
And this doesn’t just apply to churches. It applies to every one of our lives. And if you haven’t surrendered your life to Jesus yet, you just need to know that He wants to give you more than you’ll find anywhere else.
We’ve been looking at a passage in Isaiah 55 today. But go back and look at what God said at the very beginning of the chapter.
Starting in verse 1, “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? [In other words, why keep trying to find hope, peace, fulfillment, purpose, and life in places that can never give it to you?]
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. (Isaiah 55:1-2, NIV)
God can give you more than you will find anywhere else. He is a lavish, extravagant, selfless giver. In fact, He gave up His own Son for you. Jesus died on a cross for you. He died to forgive your sin. All of it. He died so that you could have a second chance. So that the slate of your past could be wiped clean. So that you could have life, now and for all eternity. And if you don’t know Him yet, there are some people who would love to talk and pray with you today. Don’t let today go by without taking that first step toward a God who wants to do more in your life than you ever thought possible.
It doesn’t matter what has happened or what is happening in our lives. God wants to do more in us than we will ever know.
It doesn’t matter how far away from Him we have fallen. He has never once given up on us. And that’s what this last song talks about. We worship a God of more love, more mercy, more grace, and more forgiveness than we’ll ever be able to comprehend. So let’s stand and let’s worship Him now.