Updated: Nov 10, 2020
Finding Transformers #6
7 PM, Tuesday, November 10, 2020
The Organic Church #06
The Church is a Nurturing Community
Sunday Sermon on August 9, 2020
We’ve been thinking about the church as an organic community as it relates to our current global situation since July. Although it may seem as if I am talking about the traditional understanding of the church like Contoocook UMC or Hillside UMC, actually I am talking about ourselves as the church, the temple of God where the Holy Spirit dwells based on 1 Corinthians 3:16
1 Corinthians 3:16 (NIV)
16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?
The reason we need to think about the church from an organic perspective is that the health of the church becomes more important than the growth of the church. Why? We find that so-called, fully-grown, large churches encounter health issues not growing issues.
Looking at our own lives, how healthy we are is more important than how fast we grow. Likewise, how mature we are is more important than how long we have been a Christian.
Danny grows very fast these days but more important is how healthy he is. It is the same for our spiritual health and growth. The speed of our spiritual growth is less important than how healthy out spiritual growth is and how mature we are spiritually. Even today, we might encounter the same situation as the Corinthian Chrisitans encountered in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3.
1 Corinthians 3:1-3 (NIV) The Church and Its Leaders
1 Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly —mere infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3 You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings?
5 What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task.
Although we have been Christians for a long period of time, from a spiritual maturity standpoint, we might be mere infants in Christ who cannot eat solid food but only milk. The Christians in Corinth encountered this problem.
What is the reason? They were not sensitive to nurturing themselves. Although they might have been Christians who were active in a variety of ministries of the church, they were not mature enough to teach others the truth about God because they didn’t continually eat spiritual food . They should have, over time, as they grew in spiritual health and maturity, eaten milk, soft food, then solid food continually.
Hebrews 5:12-14 (NIV)
12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
This situation the Corinthian Christians encountered shows how important nurture is as a part of Christian life and as a role of the church.
Let us try to imagine how important it is to understand the church and ourselves from an organic perspective. The main two structures of the organic church are the Input process and Output process. Compare this to eating and digestion of the human body.
Last week I shared one of the Input processes, which is Worship. Worship is one of ways of eating spiritual food for our spiritual and inner beings. According to John 4:24, true worship is the encounter with the Spirit of God through the truth, which is the Word of God. We eat spiritual food through worship. It is one of the input processes that allow us to know God ever more deeply. For many of us, most worship experiences take place in the church building on Sundays. But we need to remember that true worship happens whenever we commune with the Spirit of God through the Word of God. This is the true worship in the Spirit and the truth by renewing our mind. It is giving our bodies as living sacrifice according to John 4:24 and Romans 12:1.
So today, I would like to think about ‘NURTURE’ as another input process with you. The key difference between worship and nurture is in the way it is communicated. Worship is one way communication because, for the most part, only the preacher or teacher of the Word of God speaks and the audience listens. Recipients just need to listen and receive the message from God passively.
But nurture is a ‘two-way communication process’ between at least two or three people. Nurturing takes place by way of interpersonal interactions. For example, when we feed a baby milk, What do you do after feeding? Parents must help the baby burp because the baby is not able to start the digestion process by herself. The baby needs help from her parents.
The analogy of feeding a baby milk and helping the baby burp is helpful to understand the true meaning of Nurture. If we just feed the baby milk and do not help the baby to burp, we are not actually nurturing the baby well.
We are so familiar and used to listening to the Word of God through sermons, lectures, or videos like Youtube. But if we just listen and learn the Word of God and not internalize what we listened to, we are not nurturing our inner person well.
James 1:22 (NIV)
22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
James teaches that we deceive ourselves if we only listen to the Word of God, not doing or living out what we have listened to. James warns that we might think we live faithfully and responsibly according to the Word of God without doing or living out the Word of God. But, if we do not internalize and try to live out the Word of God, claiming we live faithfully and responsibly is only self-deceit.
Luke’s record of the Berean Jews in Acts 17:11 is a very helpful example for our nurturing life as the church.
Acts 17:11 (NIV)
11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.
What did they do? After the Berean Jews received the message with great eagerness, they examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.
Do you know what to do after this worship service today and every Sunday? You need to examine the Scriptures every day to see if what I said was true. Do not trust me too much; trust the Word of God much more. So you need to nurture yourselves with the original Word of God that is breathed by God and inspired by the Spirit of God.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV)
16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Nurturing ourselves is very important in our Christian life not just for our spiritual growth, health, and maturity but also for fulfilling the mission of God for the whole world.
Do you remember the dream of God? The dream of God as in 1 Timothy 2:4 is to save all the people in the world and see them come to the knowledge of the truth. This is God’s dream so God is going to make His dream come true.
Our mission for the dream of God is to nurture ourselves and others around us; our friends, families, or neighbors. Nurture through God’s Word tells us what God is going to do and what we are supposed to do. Through the nurture provided by the Word, we come to know God’s role and our roles.
Colossians 1:24-29 (NIV) Paul’s Labor for the Church
24 Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. 25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— 26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
28 He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.
What is our work role in fulfilling the dream of God? It is to proclaim, admonish, and teach every single one with all wisdom we have so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. As Paul declared, I hope and pray that we declare “To this end, we can strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in us.” Amen!
Let us pray
Father we thank you for your Word. We learned that we need to nurture ourselves diligently and need to eat spiritual food from milk to solid food continually as we eat a variety of food for our physical body. Lord help us to eat Your Word every day so that we may discern what is good from evil, what is Your will in the midst of the confusing world. Lord we commit ourselves to Your hand now. Hold us in your arms. Hug us with your heart so that we can walk through what we are supposed to go through with You. Thank you for leading us into another chance to look at ourselves and how much you love us today. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
Questions for discussion:
Growth for growth’s sake is not necessarily healthy. How does this apply to the church?
How is your spiritual diet going? Are you beyond milk? Do you feel ready for more solid spiritual food?
The two input processes described so far have been worship and nurture. What is the difference and why does it matter?
James admonishes us to be doers, not just hearers of the Word, lest we deceive ourselves that we are true Christians. What does this mean to you?
How often do you “fact-check” the Pastor by looking to Scripture to evaluate his or her teaching? Is that a habit you would feel comfortable developing? Why or why not?