We are wrapping up our series called Do The Math today. In this series, we’re exploring a conversation that John the Baptist, or John the Baptizer, had with some of his followers. John laid out some very simple arithmetic that is absolutely crucial to our lives and to our church.
We’ve talked about addition, subtraction, and multiplication. Today, we wrap up with the granddaddy of them all: division. For the math impaired, like me, division gave you more trouble than any of the other operations. And division is still creating all kinds of trouble today. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Our church is living proof of that.
Let’s pray and then we’ll get into our last math lesson in this series.
Let’s start with a definition. We talk all the time about our church’s vision. Our vision is Connecting, Growing, and Serving. But when you hear us talk about our vision, you may still be confused. What is a vision exactly?
The best definition I’ve ever heard is from Andy Stanley. “Vision is a clear mental picture of what could be, fueled by the conviction that it should be.”
When I talk about our church’s vision, this is what I mean. Our church’s vision is a clear picture of what could be. We see what could happen if people were connected to Jesus. If they embarked on a journey of a growing faith in Jesus. If they served Jesus passionately. We have a picture of what could happen.
But it’s more than that. We have a conviction that it should happen. We actually believe the gospel is true. We actually believe that Jesus was God in the flesh. We believe that He lived the life we couldn’t live and that He died the death we should have died. We believe that He also rose from the dead, and that His new life gives us a new life. We actually believe that if everyone gave their lives to Jesus, families would be healed. Addictions would be broken. Injustice and hate would cease. And eternities would be changed.
We actually believe this could happen. And we are convicted that it should happen.
That’s why our vision is not for sale. That’s why we are so fiercely committed to it. We see what could happen and we have a conviction that it should happen.
Whenever you hear me talk about our church’s vision, this is what I mean. It is a clear picture of what could be, fueled by the conviction that it should be.
Now, here’s where some nasty math can come into play. Division. Break that word into two parts.
Di – The prefix “di” means multiple, or more than one.
Vision – What could be and should be.
When you have division, you have more than one picture of what could and should be. And when that happens, the wheels come off and you’ll go nowhere.
For example, do you know how many visions you can have in your marriage? One. In your marriage, there has to be a single vision. There has to be one picture of what could be, fueled by the conviction that it should be.
What happens if you have more than one vision in your marriage? You have division in your marriage. This is the source of almost all marriage problems that we’ll ever have. Your marriage is supposed to accomplish something. Maybe you’ve never thought about it that way, which is a problem in and of itself. Your marriage is designed to accomplish something. But if you and your spouse have different visions of what you’re supposed to accomplish together, then you’re going to have division.
We would put every marriage counselor and divorce attorney out of business if every marriage relationship could land on a single vision. When there is one vision of what could be and should be, then the couple will start working together instead of against each other. Trust goes up. Defenses go down. All because both people know, “Hey, we’re working toward the same goal. We want the same thing. We have the same vision.”
And just in case you don’t believe me, maybe you’ll believe Jesus. Jesus Himself said, “Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall.” (Luke 11:17b, NIV)
Is your house divided against itself? Have you ever sat down and talked with your spouse about the vision for your marriage? Some of you won’t do that because you think it sounds pointless. And that’s sad, especially when there is so much at stake.
And if you’re dating or if you’re looking to get married someday, this had better be priority #1 on your list. You’ll save yourself an untold amount of grief if you marry someone who has the same vision that you do for your marriage.
We see what division does to marriages and families. It’s all around us. Some of us are living right in the middle of it. It’s heartbreaking. It’s devastating.
But it’s not just families. The same thing applies in almost every other part of our lives, including the church.
Listen to how Jesus prayed for His church in John 17. “My prayer is not for [My disciples] alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23, NIV)
First of all, we have to realize who Jesus was praying for here. He was praying for us. He was praying for all who would come to believe in Him. Jesus prayed specifically for you and for me. How cool is that?
Look at what He prayed for us. That we would be one just as the Father and the Son are one. He prayed for complete unity.
When you look around at the state of the church around the world today, is complete unity what you see? It’s not what I see. And when you read this prayer, you see how much Jesus is grieved by the division in His church today.
Now, remember what division is. It’s more than one picture of what could and should be. And when that di-vision works its way into the church, things fall apart.
But this is nothing new. Division was around during Jesus’ earthly life. Let me show you one example.
Throughout this series, we’ve been exploring a conversation between John the Baptist and some of his followers. Let’s go back and read it one more time.
“They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.” (John 3:26, NIV)
Pause right there for a second. In this verse, John’s followers reveal their vision. They want more and more people to join their group. They want John’s following to increase, and Jesus poses a serious threat to their vision.
Next verse. “To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’” (John 3:27-28, NIV)
John reveals his vision. His vision is not to increase his following, but to increase Jesus’ following. His vision wasn’t to have more and more people following him. It was to have more and more people following Jesus.
So right here, we have di-vision. There is more than one vision present in this group. John’s followers wanted more people to follow John. John wanted more people to follow Jesus.
And that’s why this conflict happened. That’s why things were so tense and uncomfortable. Division breeds tension. It breeds arguments and fights. Things get very, very uncomfortable.
But after laying out his vision, John plays the trump card verse 30.
He must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:30, NIV)
Or another translation is, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (ESV)
The solution to division is more of Jesus and less of me. It’s about me serving Jesus instead of seeking to be served myself.
In other words, if we understand the math that we’ve talked about earlier in this series, division will take care of itself.
When you were learning the basic math operations in school, division came last. And the reason it came last is because you needed to understand all the other operations first. If you didn’t know how to add or subtract or multiply, you were never going to understand division. But if you could master all the other operations, you could navigate division.
The exact same thing is true here. If we understand all the other math operations we’ve talked about, we’ll be able to navigate division.
If we understand the addition…that Jesus must increase…that it’s all about Jesus…
And if we understand the subtraction…that I must decrease…that it’s not about me…
And if we understand the multiplication…that our impact and our joy gets multiplied when we serve Jesus instead of seeking to be served ourselves…
If we understand all these other operations, then we’ll be able to navigate division. When there is division, it means that we’ve failed in one of the other operations.
If there is division, then we have forgotten that it’s all about Jesus. Or we’ve forgotten that it’s not about us. Or we’ve forgotten that we are not called to be served, but to serve. Somewhere along the way, we have messed up the math, and that creates division.
If it’s all about Jesus, and it’s not about me, and I’m sacrificing my comfort and preferences so I can serve instead of be served, that pretty much takes away all the fuel that division needs to keep going.
That would take away all the division in a marriage. Or in a business. Or in a club or an organization. Or in a church.
I know, because I’ve seen it happen. I am so thankful to be part of a church that is unified. I am so thankful to be part of a church that is on mission. I am so thankful to be part of a church where it really is all about Jesus and it really is not about us. I am so thankful to be part of a church where we seek to serve instead of be served. That stuff isn’t bumper sticker slogans. That’s the stuff we actually believe. That’s the stuff that is at the core of who we are.
And all of that is possible because we are a church that has one vision. Now, we’ve had to fight to hold onto that vision. There will always be people and circumstances that try to highjack the vision. But we’ve held on tight to the vision, because we know that it isn’t our vision. It’s the vision that God has given us.
And that vision has pushed us to make tough decisions and bold moves. One of the boldest moves to date is our relocation.
On April 7, we will launch at our new location, the Eastgate Holiday Inn. And we will launch under the new name Connect Christian Church.
These are obviously huge changes, but they are changes that are 100% fueled by our vision. I will never forget the elders meeting where the final decision about this move was made. We were talking about all the what-ifs and the how-do-we-do-thats. And we were getting nowhere.
Then, Rocky Coppola spoke up. And if you know Rocky, he doesn’t say much. But when he speaks, you’d better listen because it’s going to be good.
Rocky said, “We need to forget about all this other stuff. Here’s the question that we need to answer. Does this move fit our vision?”
And our conversation turned on a dime. Every one of us at that table had lost sight of the main thing…the vision. As soon as Rocky said that, there was a collective light bulb that came on.
The moves we’re making are 100% fueled by our vision. Our vision to connect lost people to Jesus. Our vision to make heaven more crowded. Our vision that it’s all about Jesus and it’s not about us.
In other words, we’re doing the math correctly. We’re adding Jesus. Subtracting us. And we’re serving Him, and allowing Him to multiply our impact.
To that end, we’ve been talking a lot about the serving opportunities that are going to be available in our new location. This week, we are ready to open the floodgates and start signing people up for these teams.
Our guys are going to pass out sign up forms right now. Just take one and pass the rest down the row.
On these forms, you’ll see the four teams that we need to make Connect Christian Church happen every Sunday morning. And there is a place for you on these teams.
Now, for some of you, you’ve already committed to a team. If you have already talked with one of our directors and you’ve committed to a team, then you don’t need to do this. But if you’re not quite sure if you formally committed to a team, then please fill out a form. When in doubt, fill it out.
And if you know you haven’t signed on yet, then this is your chance.
Now, if you’re a guest…if this is your first time, or if you haven’t been here for very long…we’re not looking for a commitment from you. But if you do decide that this is your church, you just need to know what kind of church you’re jumping into. This is a church of servants, not spectators.
Last week, we talked about the simple truth that saved people serve people. It’s one of the core values of our church. It’s hardwired into our DNA.
If you are part of a church, then you need to be serving in that church. If you don’t believe enough in your church to serve in your church, then you’re probably in the wrong church. I’m not trying to sound mean or unloving…it’s just the truth. If you’re not serving in your church, then the Kingdom of God isn’t growing at it’s fullest potential.
The vision of our church is Connecting, Growing, and Serving. And we make no apologies for that last step in our vision. Saved people serve people. And if this is the church where you and your family are connecting, if this is the church where you and your family are growing, then this needs to be the church where you and your family are serving.
On these forms, you’ll see four teams listed. The Setup Team, the Security Team, the Connect Team, and the Connect Kids team. And there is also a very brief description of the vision of each team.
What we’re asking everyone to do is to choose two teams that you’re interested in being a part of and rank them with a 1 and a 2. It’s our goal that no one serves on more than two teams. We believe that saved people serve people, but we also believe that overcommitted people become obsolete people. We want everyone to be fully committed to serving in our church, but we’re not asking anyone to die for our church. Jesus already did that. You don’t need to do it, too.
As you look at these forms, what grabs you? As you read the descriptions, where do you say, “That sounds like a good fit for me. I can do that.”?
That’s where we want you. We also said last week that serving is a joy, not a job. That’s especially true if you’re serving in an area where you’re gifted.
God has given everyone different gifts and abilities. And when you are serving in an area where God has gifted you, that’s when you really thrive. That’s when it becomes a joy. And that’s when the Kingdom of God benefits the most.
Before you leave today, we’re asking you to fill out this form, with your #1 & #2 choices, and turn it in over in the Connect Area. Our team directors are going to be over there to collect the forms and to answer any questions that you might have. So if you’ve got questions, go ask them. Our directors are awesome and they’re ready to talk with you.
Now, I do need to give this disclaimer. The reason we’re asking for multiple choices from each person is because we’re probably not going to be able to put everyone on their #1 team. As a church that is filled with servants, we’re asking that everyone be a little flexible as we get this thing up and running. This is a huge undertaking, but we’re well on our way to nailing it.
When you think about it, serving is one of the best ways to avoid division. It’s hard to be divided against someone when you’re serving them. Serving disarms both the person who is serving and the person who is being served. And the reason it does that is because it brings everything back to where it should have been all along. Serving reminds us that it’s all about Jesus.
It brings us back to the essential truth that John the Baptist gave us. “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30, ESV)
This was John’s vision. John knew this could be, but he also knew that it should be. Jesus MUST increase. I MUST decrease. It could happen. It should happen. It must happen. That’s how strongly John held onto his vision, and that’s how strongly we hold onto our vision.
Jesus MUST increase. We MUST decrease. When we seek to serve instead of to be served, it reminds us who it’s all about. It’s not about us. It’s all about Jesus. And when a church unites around that truth, that church is unstoppable because God will multiply His blessings on that church.
Listen to these words from Psalm 133. In fact, since this Psalm is just three verses long, we’re going to read the whole thing. This Psalm is all about unity. I want to specifically pull out all the words that David used to describe unity among God’s people, and what God does for His people when they are unified.
All those words are going to be in yellow on the screen. So every time we come to a yellow word, I want you to say that word out loud.
Here we go. In Psalm 133, David wrote, “How GOOD and PLEASANT it is when God’s people live TOGETHER in UNITY! It is like PRECIOUS oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the LORD bestows his BLESSING, even LIFE FOREVERMORE.” (Psalm 133, NIV)
Just think about those words. Don’t get too caught up in the stuff about oil running down a dude’s beard. This isn’t Duck Dynasty. (Two straight weeks with a Duck Dynasty reference. I am one culturally relevant pastor.) Think about the words that David uses to describe the unity of God’s people.
It is good and pleasant when we live together in unity. It is precious, because when we are unified, the Lord goes to work. Unity is where God bestows His blessing. It is where we find life forevermore…in other words, when there is unity among God’s people, eternities get changed. Heaven gets more crowded.
Unity changes eternity. That’s why division simply cannot be tolerated in the church. Because God doesn’t bestow His blessing in division. Life forevermore isn’t found in division. But it does happen in unity.
And by God’s grace, we will continue to be the unified church that we are today. In fact, by God’s grace, we will grow even more in unity. We will grow in our love for God, for each other, and for people who desperately need Jesus. We will grow in our service. We will grow in our commitment. We will grow in our sacrifice. We will grow in our giving. We will grow into people who are becoming more and more like Jesus.
And as that happens, you just watch what God does. That’s where God will pour out His blessing. And that’s where people will find life for all eternity.
This series really hit on the heart of who we are as a church. We’ve talked about a lot of our core values. It’s all about Jesus. It’s not about us. Focus on the outsider, not the insider. Saved people serve people.
And like we’ve been saying throughout this series, those aren’t just catchy sayings that work on Twitter. This is at the core of who we are. And it’s the reason that we know that God is going to bless this next season of our church.
As we get ready to sign up to serve…as we prepare for the next step that God has prepared for us…we move forward with the simple words of John the Baptist.
He must increase. We must decrease. To God by the glory.