Next Steps: Growing Steps

Categories: Next Steps

How’s everybody doing today? My name is Mike Edmisten. I’m the pastor here at Connect, and I’m so glad you’ve joined us today.

We’re finishing up a series of messages today called Next Steps. In this, we’ve been looking at the next steps that we all need to take, because like we’ve said throughout this series, everyone has a next step. Wherever you are in your walk with Jesus, there is a next step for you to take.

We kicked off the series by talking about seeking steps. What if you don’t really believe in Jesus, but you’re curious? You want to seek out the truth about Him. You want to seek to know if there’s anything to all this Jesus stuff or not. We talked about the next steps you can take as you seek out the truth.

Then last week, we moved on to connecting steps. After seeking steps, there are connecting steps. How do we know that we are connected with Christ? We talked about those next steps that we need to take.

If you missed either of those messages, you can check them out on our website at connect.cc.

Today, we’re wrapping up the series be talking about some growing steps. After seeking steps and connecting steps, there are growing steps. How do we grow, how do we mature in our walk with Jesus? Those are the next steps that we’re talking about today.

Let me pray for us and we’ll jump in.

A couple of weeks ago, my family spent a couple of nights at Mammoth Cave. Which was awesome, by the way. If you’ve never been there, you really should go. The largest cave system in the entire world is only about 3 ½ hours from here. That’s pretty cool.

Anyway, on our way back from Mammoth Cave, we stopped at Ryan’s Buffet. We haven’t been there in years. We don’t do buffets in our family. But on this day, I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, and it was now about 5:00 pm. Plus, after a 2 mile hike through Mammoth Cave, I was about ready to eat my own arm. And when you’re that hungry…almost hangry at that point…you tend to not make the best decisions.

For example, you don’t go to the grocery store when you’re really hungry, right? Because you know that you’re going to buy stuff that you’ll regret later.

Well, by that same logic, I shouldn’t pick a restaurant when I’m that hungry. Because I know that buffets are a bad idea in my head. I know that buffets are where you get mediocre food, you just get a lot of it. I know that I never leave a buffet feeling glad that I stopped there. I know all of that in my head. But at that point, my stomach said, “Go for it! I’m starving here!” And my stomach won.

After about ten trips to the buffet, which included two huge helpings of bread pudding for dessert, I realized that I hadn’t made the best decision. I was entering into a food coma, and I still had over 3 hours of driving left to do. Not good.

But when I think about that experience, it really reminds me of something that is happening in the church today. There’s a really popular criticism that you’ll hear in a lot of churches today. People will say, “I’m not getting fed.”

And it sounds so spiritual, doesn’t it? “I’m not getting fed. I want to go deeper. I want the meat and potatoes. But I’m just not getting fed here.”

It sounds so spiritual on the surface. But in reality, it’s anything but spiritual. When a Christian in America claims that they’re not getting fed, it’s really like someone standing at a buffet and claiming that there’s not enough food.

Seriously, we have more translations of the Bible in our language than any other language on the planet by a mile. Thanks to technology, we have access to thousands of pastors’ sermons online. If I’m the only pastor you ever listen to, you’re severely limiting your growth potential.

When you look at what is available to us everyday, it’s staggering. There is more spiritual nourishment that is available at our fingertips now than at any other point in history. If you are a Christian in 21st century America and you aren’t being fed, it’s your own fault. Seriously. It is your own fault.

But the problem is that so many of us want the cookies and marshmallow side of spiritual growth. We want it all to be sweet and fun and easy. That’s why we evaluate a worship service based on the question, “Did that entertain me or not?” Or we evaluate a sermon by asking, “Did I enjoy that or not?”

Can I tell you something? We don’t give a rat’s rear end about entertaining you here at Connect. If you want to be entertained, go to a concert. If you want to listen to a speaker that you enjoy, find a comedian. That’s not why we’re here. We’re here to connect you with Jesus. Period.

When we evaluate our services, entertainment doesn’t even enter into the equation. We don’t sit around and ask, “Did people like that?” We ask, “Did people connect with Jesus?” That’s our measuring stick for success. It’s all about Jesus.

But even with that approach in our services, this worship service can’t be the only place where you are fed. You’ve got to eat some vegetables. And as we mature as believers, it’s up to us to start feeding ourselves.

You know who relies on other people to feed them? Babies. Babies are completely reliant on someone else to feed them. But as we grow, as we mature, we start feeding ourselves.

Now, it can get a little messy at first. And that’s fine. It’s ok if the process is messy. It’s ok if the process is not perfect. But as followers of Jesus, we’ve got to be committed to grow. To feed ourselves. To take steps toward maturity. And that’s what we’re talking about today.

In Ephesians 4, Paul talks about how we grow and mature in Christ. And here’s the point of what he says. Growth happens through serving, not sitting. If you want to grow and mature in your walk with Jesus, it won’t happen by sitting. It will happen through serving.

So let’s get into this. Ephesians 4, pick it up in verse 11. Paul wrote, “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-13, NIV)

Look at my job as a pastor and a teacher. My job is to equip all of us for works of service, so that together, we can build up the Body of Christ.

Now that’s not how it works in a lot of churches, because there are far too many people who want the pastor to do all the building, while they do all the building inspections. He does the construction. They do the critiquing. He does the serving. They do the sitting. That’s not Biblical, and that’s not how we operate here at Connect.

That’s because if we want to take the next step of growth in our walk with Jesus, we will become servants. All of us. Not just me. Not just church staff. Not just leaders. All of us.

Our church exists to connect people to Jesus Christ by leading them into a growing relationship with Him. We don’t just want people to connect with Jesus. We want them to grow in their relationship with Him. And Scripture is very, very clear about how this happens. Growth happens though serving, not sitting.

Look at what Paul said here. Look at everything that happens to a church when the people of that church become servants.

When the people of a church commit to works of service, that church is built up to achieve unity. I preached hard about that last week. I reminded us that the unity of our church is precious, and it will be protected.

Did you hear what happened to Jets quarterback Geno Smith this week? He suffered a broken jaw when he was punched in the face. But here’s the thing…the punch came from one of his own teammates! One of the Jets reserve linebackers punched Geno Smith in the locker room, breaking his jaw. That linebacker was immediately released from the team, but now Smith is going to be out for 6-10 weeks.

Is that not the dumbest, most bone-headed thing you’ve ever heard of? Taking a shot at someone on your own team. Injuring someone who is wearing the same uniform as you. It’s incredibly stupid, and it’s exactly what happens in a lot of churches all the time.

There are so many churches that can never move forward because they’re too busy taking shots at each other. They fight with each other over the dumbest things. And that’s the thing about this locker room fight. Jets coach Todd Bowles said, “It was something very childish, something sixth-graders could’ve talked about… It was nothing to do with football… It was very childish.”

That sounds like a lot of church fights that I’ve seen. And it grinds the mission to a halt. You can’t expect to move the ball down the field if you’re fighting with your own teammates. That’s why we simply won’t tolerate that here at Connect.

But Paul gives us a better way. He tells us that serving is how unity happens. It’s hard to be divided with someone when you’re serving them. It’s hard to hold a grudge against someone when you serve them. Serving puts a lot of things in perspective. It reminds you of what does and doesn’t matter. When you serve, you have your eyes on the mission and vision of your church, and that’s what unifies us as a church body.

Also, when the people of a church commit to works of service, Paul says that church grows in the knowledge of the Son of God. This goes back to the buffet idea. There are a ton of Christians that just want to be fed head knowledge about Jesus. They just want to consume, and consume, and consume more and more knowledge. But they never get off their butt to do anything. They just want to sit and consume more and more and more knowledge.

What happens to your body when all you do is consume, but you never move? You get fat!

There is an epidemic of spiritual obesity in the American church. We belly up to the buffet and eat and eat and eat, but we never get up and actually do anything. We consume but we never serve. I’m not sure who said this first, but the quote is true. “We are educated far beyond our level of obedience.”

It’s true. Do you realize that the last thing a lot of Christians need is another Bible study? The last thing a lot of believers need is another trip to the buffet. Instead, they need to take what they already know, what they’ve already consumed, and turn it into action.

Did you notice that Paul didn’t say we will grow in our knowledge of the Son of God by sitting? He said our knowledge of Jesus will grow by serving. If you really want to know Jesus, sitting and listening to sermons isn’t enough. Along with sermons, you’ve got to start serving.

This is why some of the most immature Christians you’ll ever meet are people who have been in the church for most of their lives, but they’ve never transitioned from sitting to serving. Growth happens through serving, not sitting.

That’s exactly what Paul points out next. A church that is committed to works of service will be mature. If you aren’t serving, you’ll never mature. You’ll never grow. It’s really that simple.

In his commentary on the book of Ephesians, Kenny Boles wrote, “People grow to maturity through service. So long as the saints are merely consumers of the program and product of the church, they will remain immature and selfish.”

I’m sure a whole lot of us have done our back to school shopping by now. A lot of our kids here at Connect are going back to school this week. And that meant the dreaded shopping trip for new clothes, backpacks, lunchboxes, etc.

Back to school shopping is kind of depressing, but I’ve got to tell you that it’s not nearly as depressing as church shopping. Church shopping makes me sick.

And here’s what I mean by church shopping. There’s a huge contingent of people that will just hop around from church to church to church. They’ll start attending a church, but the minute that something doesn’t measure up to their standards…the minute that something doesn’t line up with their preferences…they’re off to shop for another church. They just continually shop for the church that will line up perfectly with all their personal preferences. And it never, ever happens.

If you are a church shopper that is here evaluating us, you are free to move on. I hope this is your last Sunday here at Connect. And I mean that. Because we have no time to cater to your every whim and desire. In fact, we won’t even try. If you are a church shopper, you are exactly what Kenny Boles pointed out. You are a consumer, not a servant. You are immature and selfish. And you can take that somewhere else, because it’s not going to work here.

Man, I might just start preaching soon.

Look, I understand that there can be legitimate reasons to leave a church. I get that. But church shopping isn’t one of them. Leaving a church because of some personal preference issue is not good enough. Hopping around from church to church to church because you’re too easily offended or you have impossible standards or it’s all about you is not good enough. And the reason it’s not good enough is because growth happens through serving, not sitting. Growth doesn’t happen through sitting and critiquing and criticizing and fault-finding. Growing doesn’t happen by sitting and waiting for a church to serve you by catering to your every preference and want and desire. Growth happens through serving, not sitting.

We mature when we serve an imperfect church, not when we shop for the perfect church. Boom. Done.

Lastly, Paul tells us one more thing that happens when the people of a church are committed to works of service. They attain to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. In other words, we become more fully like Jesus when we serve. We grow to be more and more like Him when we commit to works of service. In fact, we are never more like Jesus than when we serve.

When the people in a church are servants, there is unity. They know Jesus on a deeper level. They grow to maturity. They become more fully like Christ.

I want to be a part of that kind of a church. That kind of church understands that growth happens through serving, not sitting.

Let’s read what Paul said again, only this time we’re going to read just a little bit further.

“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Then we will no longer be infants [because we’re growing, we’re maturing], tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Ephesians 4:11-16, NIV)

Really key in on that last part. “From him [meaning from Jesus] the whole body [meaning the whole church], joined and held together by every supporting ligament [meaning we’re pursuing a common vision, we’re in this together], grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”

We are all part of the Body of Christ, and each part is called to do its work. Our church will never achieve its fullest potential if you and I are not doing our part.

And that’s why part of the commitment that our partners sign is a commitment to serve selflessly. Partners are servants. It’s just understood. If you’re a partner here at Connect, you signed a commitment that you would serve selflessly.

That doesn’t mean that you have to be able to preach or sing or play an instrument. If you can, that’s awesome. If you can’t, that’s awesome. There is a place for you to serve.

As a growing church that is also a portable church, we always have open spots for more volunteers. For example, in our Connect Kids ministry, we have openings for people who are willing to teach or volunteer with all age groups.

I talked with our kids director, Tish Carwell, and she said that there are openings in pretty much every age range in our kids ministry. And by the way, who ever decided that this ministry was a ladies only thing? Tish said that the kids love it when guys volunteer, and you know what? We need godly men and godly women leading our kids. And we have openings for you to start serving our kids.

Here’s the thing…I know the reasons that people give for not volunteering in something like the kids ministry. I’ve been in the church long enough that I’ve heard them all. “I don’t want to miss the worship service. I don’t want to miss the sermon.”

First of all, all our sermons are posted online. Second of all, if you volunteer for a month, you’re only talking about four weeks. Five tops. Thirdly, and most importantly, growth happens through serving, not sitting. Sitting is not how you mature. Serving is. If your reason for not volunteering is, “I don’t want to miss the sermon,” you need to understand that that is an immature answer. I know I’m preaching hard today, but I love you enough to tell you the truth. And the truth is that growth happens through serving, not sitting.

Now, maybe something like kids ministry is just not how you’re wired. You’re not making excuses. You just legitimately hate kids. Or maybe kids hate you. Alright. We’re not going to plug you into the kids ministry.

But you know what? There’s an open space for you on our setup team. We are a portable church, which means all this gear gets set up and torn down every week. And if you just walk in here at 10:30 am, you may just think it all appears by magic. Here’s the thing…it doesn’t. All this stuff is set up by servants. And because our partners are willing to serve, people come to Connect and they encounter Jesus in an atmosphere that is warm and welcoming and inviting. And it all happens because of our servants.

Our setup team runs on a monthly rotation. You serve one month, and then you’re off four. We make it very doable. And you get to serve on one of the most impressive teams that we have here at Connect. This team just flat gets it done. It’s awesome. And there are openings on that team right now. And one of those openings has your name on it.

If you’re ready to jump in, please see me or Brian after church today and we’ll get you plugged in with the right people. It’s a next step that we all need to take, because growth happens through serving, not sitting.

And here’s the other thing…serving doesn’t just mean within the church. We are committed to serve our community. And like Jay told you earlier in the service, we’ve got an entire Sunday committed to serving our community coming up in just a few weeks on September 6. We’ll be giving you lots more details about that starting this week. Watch our website and our Facebook page for more details.

But here’s the point of all of this. When you serve, you need to know that you’re building up the Body of Christ. That’s what Paul said. The Body of Christ is built up when we all serve. And that means that your role matters. It’s really, really important. I don’t think our volunteers always understand just how significant their role really is. What you do matters. It’s really, really important.

So if you already volunteer, you need to know how important your role is. What you do matters. That means that when you show up to volunteer, you’re prepared. You’re ready. You’re on time. Your role matters too much to scramble at the last minute.

It also means that if you commit to serve, you follow through. We understand that emergencies arise. Life just happens sometimes. But we also need to understand that when a volunteer calls at the last minute to say that they can’t be there, it sets off a domino effect. It puts a great amount of stress on our staff and on our other volunteers. It gets really chaotic. Now, a lot of people don’t see it, because we’re committed that, no matter what happens, we will be ready when people start walking in the door. But you need to know that if you call off on your volunteer role for a week, especially if it’s at the last minute, it really puts a lot of stress on a lot of other people. And the reason is because every role is so important.

The lifeblood of our church is our volunteers. If you serve here at Connect in any way, you need to know how much we appreciate you and how important your role is. I’ve said this before, and I’ll keep on saying it. If our staff was gone tomorrow, Connect would carry on. If our volunteers were gone tomorrow, Connect would cease to exist. So if you volunteer in any way, there are two things that I want you to know.

  1. What you do matters more than you know.
  2. I am more thankful for you than you will ever understand.

Serving is how we grow. It’s how we become mature followers of Jesus. So if you think you’re not getting fed here at Connect, if you want to go deeper, here’s my question: are you serving? Because like Perry Noble says, “You’re only as deep as the last person you served.”

And the reason that’s true is because when you serve, you are being like Jesus.

In Mark 10, Jesus said, “Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man [which is Jesus referring to Himself] did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:43b-45, NIV)

Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve. He served us when He gave up His life for us. His death paid the price for our sin. His sacrifice set us free. We are forgiven. We are pure. We are made perfect in the sight of God, all because Jesus was a servant.

And that’s why we serve. We serve because our Savior is a servant.

And if you don’t know Him yet, we’d love to serve you by helping you connect with Him. He served you by dying for you. He did everything to make you right with God. All you have to do is surrender to Him. And we’d love to talk and pray with you about that. We want you to come to know your servant Savior today.

Author: Mike Edmisten

Senior Pastor