What do you think of Church? Is Church even relevant today? Most of the people I hang out with, don’t go to church. They tell me a lot of things. Some say that they went to church years ago and were hurt. They saw a double standard. The leaders in the church, they say, had a set of rules for people and then later the leaders broke the same rules. They concluded that they believe in God, but don’t like organized religion, so they avoid Church.

To me, that’s like saying, I went to Sheetz to get gas and an MTO sandwich. An employee at Sheetz messed up my MTO order and gave me a hard time. So, I have concluded that all Sheetz stores, all 580 of them, and all Sheetz employees are bad, and I will never go back to Sheetz. It doesn’t make much sense.

Others tell me, they don’t go because they get nothing out of it. They say, Church is just a group of people doing boring things asking you for your money. Instead of going to Church, their Sunday mornings are filled with sleeping off a Jagermeister party [that’s liqueur that I’m not supposed to know about] or late-night movies. Or, they would rather have fun trips away or shopping, or golf.

My friends who do go to church, tell me they try to get out of attending. They literally tell me, they only reason they go is because of guilt of their spouse. And they say, the best Sundays are when the pastor or priest can bang out the talk in ten minutes or less so they can be on with their day.

In general, for most people who don’t go to church, they just don’t see how Church is an answer to life’s problems. They see Church as an irrelevant place, filled with rules they could never live up to, and even worse, a place the mistreats kids.

For many people who do attend in North America, we may or may not attend depending if it’s time change Sunday.

I want to read for you what the presence of God is like.

9 GOD said to Moses, “Get ready. I’m about to come to you in a thick cloud so that the people can listen in and trust you completely when I speak with you.” Again Moses reported the people’s answer to GOD.

10 GOD said to Moses, “Go to the people. For the next two days get these people ready to meet the Holy GOD. Have them scrub their clothes 11 so that on the third day they’ll be fully prepared, because on the third day GOD will come down on Mount Sinai and make his presence known to all the people. 12 Post boundaries for the people all around, telling them, ‘Warning! Don’t climb the mountain. Don’t even touch its edge. Whoever touches the mountain dies – a certain death. 13 And no one is to touch that person, he’s to be stoned. That’s right – stoned. Or shot with arrows, shot to death. Animal or man, whichever – put to death.’ “A long blast from the horn will signal that it’s safe to climb the mountain.”

14 Moses went down the mountain to the people and prepared them for the holy meeting. They gave their clothes a good scrubbing. 15 Then he addressed the people: “Be ready in three days. Don’t sleep with a woman.”

16 On the third day at daybreak, there were loud claps of thunder, flashes of lightning, a thick cloud covering the mountain, and an ear-piercing trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp shuddered in fear. MSG Exodus 19:9-16

Somehow, we have lost the meaning of Church. If God came near, we would shudder in fear. Have you ever noticed that everyone who meets an angel in the Bible, falls to the ground in fear? God’s presence is holy, it’s righteous, it’s all consuming, it’s so unbelievable you fall to the ground.

To turn Church into a religious event that we may or may not attend because we are sleepy or we have something going on at camp, just misses the point of Church. And just for clarification, I’m not talking about guilt motivation to attend church every Sunday. I didn’t say you cannot go on vacation or go to camp. If you heard that, you missed the point of what I was saying. What I am saying is, somehow, Church has become less about God’s presence where we are in awe of God.

Recently, I was in a Brethren in Christ Church meeting. We were in a room of about 50 pastors and they wanted us to break up into small groups to answer questions and then get back together to talk about our answers. One of the questions was, ‘Why do you think people don’t attend church today?’ My answer, ‘Because our community doesn’t see or experience God in our Churches.’

Honestly, many Pastors wouldn’t go to Church if they didn’t have to.

We are in a series about integrity. Integrity matters. Who you are matters. We talked about integrity in marriage. We talked about integrity in family. Last week, Sam talked about integrity in relationships. My favorite part was when Sam said:

“Life, people, culture with all of this momentum flowing one way; while God is standing upstream saying come to me. It’s hard to live a life of integrity with people, and the world just simply not living the same way. It doesn’t seem fair at times does it? Life with people and in relationships is so messy. It can be hurtful at times, and in all of it if you live a life with integrity you seem to be the odd person of the bunch. Everything of this world is telling you to conform, don’t stand in your God given identity, just turn around and float downstream with everyone else.”

If you missed his talk, you have to find it and read it. It was so well done.

Today I want to talk about integrity in Church. And today, I kinda want to talk from my heart with very little filters. Here is why. Every local church matters. If you think about it, the local Church is a small division of God’s kingdom. And when the local Church gets it right, it’s unbelievable what can happen spiritually. It means we get to advance God’s kingdom.

To give you a disclaimer, Sam and I care deeply about Church. Both of us have dads who gave their lives to build the local church. Our dads have been missionaries, church planters, bishops and men who completely transformed unhealthy churches. When we were boys, we saw how grown men pointed their fingers in our dad’s chest saying, ‘If you don’t do what I want, we are leaving and taking our money with us and this place will crumble.’ We watched our fathers in public meetings take on challenges from people who had very hard hearts. We have seen our dads walk through unspeakable pain to build the local church.

Because of that, Sam and I have tried to build a culture in MRC to be a place where you can experience God’s presence and at the same time protecting people new to Christ from the critical, judgmental, hard hearted religious people.

Please hear me, Church matters. It matters because when we get it right, God moves.

Probably one of the best chapters in the bible that addresses the practical function of a Church is found in 1 Corinthians 12. As we walk through this, you will see that the practical function of the Church always has huge spiritual implications.

1 What I want to talk about now is the various ways God’s Spirit gets worked into our lives. This is complex and often misunderstood, but I want you to be informed and knowledgeable. 2 Remember how you were when you didn’t know God, led from one phony god to another, never knowing what you were doing, just doing it because everybody else did it? It’s different in this life. God wants us to use our intelligence, to seek to understand as well as we can. 3 For instance, by using your heads, you know perfectly well that the Spirit of God would never prompt anyone to say “Jesus be damned!” Nor would anyone be inclined to say “Jesus is Master!” without the insight of the Holy Spirit. MSG 1 Corinthians 12:1-4

Have you ever wondered how the Holy Spirit gets worked into our lives? How does that happen? That is what this chapter is about. Paul is saying to the people of Corinth, before you came to Christ, you did what you wanted. You worshipped idol after idol. Now as a Christian, you must know you are to live a different life now. Paul said, think it through, use your intelligence, use your head, in this Christian life, you live differently.

Paul begins to explain how the Holy Spirit is worked into our lives?

4 God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. 5 God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. 6 God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. 7 Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! 8 The variety is wonderful:

wise counsel clear understanding 9 simple trust healing the sick 10 miraculous acts proclamation distinguishing between spirits tongues interpretation of tongues.

11 All these gifts have a common origin, but are handed out one by one by the one Spirit of God. He decides who gets what, and when. MSG 1 Corinthians 12:4-11

God placed something special inside you, a gift. Something that you are good at and something that you enjoy doing. That means you have value, you are important, you matter. It also means God placed a gift inside you for the local Church, for us, that is MRC. And when you engage the local church, it shows who God is.

Paul says, this is the way God created community in the local church. It’s like a large puzzle. Everyone has one puzzle piece and when we come together, we put our puzzle pieces together to reveal God.

If you take your puzzle piece and never share it, the puzzle never looks right. The local church doesn’t look right. You miss experiencing your value. And you miss out on the gifts others have that you need.

To show us how important the local church is, Paul gives us an analogy.

12 You can easily enough see how this kind of thing works by looking no further than your own body. Your body has many parts – limbs, organs, cells – but no matter how many parts you can name, you’re still one body. It’s exactly the same with Christ. 13 By means of his one Spirit, we all said good-bye to our partial and piecemeal lives. We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which he has the final say in everything. (This is what we proclaimed in word and action when we were baptized.) Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain – his Spirit – where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves – labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free – are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive. MSG 1 Corinthians 12:12-13

You used to be independent of God, doing whatever you wanted. Now, as a disciple of Christ, you are a part of something bigger than yourself. You are a part of God’s body. So, like the human body, there are many parts with many functions. When you engage the local church, you are a part of God’s resurrection body.

The old labels you have don’t apply to you anymore. I am a sinner doesn’t apply to you. I don’t go to Church doesn’t apply to you. I am a failure doesn’t apply to you. I am a disappointment doesn’t apply to you. All those are old labels that don’t apply to you. You are now a part of God’s resurrection body.

Paul continues:

14 I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together. 15 If Foot said, “I’m not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don’t belong to this body,” would that make it so? 16 If Ear said, “I’m not beautiful like Eye, limpid and expressive; I don’t deserve a place on the head,” would you want to remove it from the body? 17 If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell? 18 As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it. MSG 1 Corinthians 12:14-18

When you bring your gift and serve God’s body, that brings significance to you. And, regardless of your role, you are significant because God placed you there.

I think about Annie Cooke. Do you know why she is leading children’s ministry? Because 43% of kids accept Jesus before the age of 13. 64% of kids accept Jesus before age 18. 13% of kids accept Jesus between 18 and 21. Annie Cooke and her team are not on the stage today, but I would say, what her and her team are doing might have a bigger impact today.

For Annie to be great in her role, what does she need? Someone to mow. Someone to cut checks. Someone to clean. Someone to fix a running toilet. Someone to repair the HVAC system. Do you see it?

Paul continues:

19 But I also want you to think about how this keeps your significance from getting blown up into self-importance. For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of. An enormous eye or a gigantic hand wouldn’t be a body, but a monster. 20 What we have is one body with many parts, each its proper size and in its proper place. No part is important on its own. 21 Can you imagine Eye telling Hand, “Get lost; I don’t need you”? Or, Head telling Foot, “You’re fired; your job has been phased out”? 22 As a matter of fact, in practice it works the other way – the “lower” the part, the more basic, and therefore necessary. You can live without an eye, for instance, but not without a stomach. 23 When it’s a part of your own body you are concerned with, it makes no difference whether the part is visible or clothed, higher or lower. You give it dignity and honor just as it is, without comparisons. 24 If anything, you have more concern for the lower parts than the higher. If you had to choose, wouldn’t you prefer good digestion to full-bodied hair? MSG 1 Corinthians 12:19-24

As significant as it makes you, it makes you significant only because you are a part of something much bigger than you. As special as you are because God put a gift inside you, you aren’t special because you are a part of God’s body.

You aren’t a diva. God’s body isn’t about you. God’s body is about you sharing your gift making God’s body stronger. This is why, regardless of talent, we want people who have the right heart. This is why, if people want to get to know others, we invite them to serve. Why do we do Church this way? Serving always reveals what is in the heart. Do you want to bring your puzzle piece and make the other puzzle pieces around you stronger? Your humility is revealed when you serve the parts that you would consider lower than you.

Think about what Randi Walker did. She started the women’s group. What happened? Ladies got together, prayed together, cried together and experienced God. What made Randi so significant was her heart when she served the ladies. Do you see it?

One of the reasons leading in the local church can be a huge challenge. People can come and serve for the wrong reasons.   They are Christians and they are going to heaven but they serve for the wrong reasons. They want a title, authority or stage time. All this comes from a wounded heart that leads to insecurity that makes people serve for the wrong reasons.

What is worse is when a person serves and they can’t see the damage they are creating. If you point it out, they will probably explode, become wounded, and they leave never addressing their heart.

So here is a great question. If you have to give up your role, your title, your authority, how would you respond? The answer reveals your heart condition.

25 The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, 26 the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.

27 You are Christ’s body – that’s who you are! You must never forget this. Only as you accept your part of that body does your “part” mean anything. 28 You’re familiar with some of the parts that God has formed in his church, which is his “body”:

apostles prophets teachers miracle workers healers helpers organizers those who pray in tongues. MSG 1 Corinthians 12:25-28

The only way this all happens, is when you accept your part. You take your puzzle piece and put it together with the other puzzle pieces.

29 But it’s obvious by now, isn’t it, that Christ’s church is a complete Body and not a gigantic, unidimensional Part? It’s not all Apostle, not all Prophet, not all Miracle Worker, 30 not all Healer, not all Prayer in Tongues, not all Interpreter of Tongues. 31 And yet some of you keep competing for so-called “important” parts. MSG 1 Corinthians 12:29-31

Then Paul ends this chapter 12 with:

But now I want to lay out a far better way for you.

Then Paul begins with 1 Corinthians 13. Do you know this chapter? It’s known as the love chapter. It explains what love looks like. We use this chapter in many wedding ceremonies. It’s actually a chapter that explains how we are supposed to act with each other in church. How all the different parts are supposed to treat each other.

1 If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. 2 If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. 3 If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love. MSG 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

What Paul is saying, you can be amazing as you serve in church, but if you can’t love others in Church, what you do has no value, your bankrupt, you have no value. If you want to work the Holy Spirit into your life, Paul wrote, you do it by being a part of a local church and serving with love.

Let me close with talking about, based on scripture, what it means to be a part of a local church. Every church you attend, will basically say the same thing but with different vocabulary words.

Love God. Live in an intentional way that pursues a relationship with Christ as your Lord and Savior. It’s allowing space and time for His grace to transform you into an emotionally healthy adult.

“Greatest achievement of the day: when you sense God’s grace in your life.”

Love Others. To intentionally build a relationship with people who don’t know about God’s grace.   Engage them, serve them, pray for them, be a real friend.

“It starts at home and grows out to others.”

Love Growth. To intentionally grow and develop. Do something that grows your dependence on God. Risk. Lead. Serve. Read. Something.

“The greatest tragedy isn’t our sin, it’s the life we never live.”

Serve at MRC. Be a person with the capacity to bring others up. Serve with courage and see that the ordinariness of the day has eternal implications.

“Only in losing yourself, Jesus said, will you find yourself. There are things you discover in serving that you cannot discover in a book or a conference. Only in serving do you learn things like empathy, humility and purpose.”

Give Financially. Giving our first 10% [or getting to that point] to the local church is worship. It’s practically putting God in first place in our life and declares our dependence on God.

“Test me in this and see if I don’t open up heaven itself to you.” – God

I want to ask you, what are you doing with your puzzle piece? What is Church to you?

I leave you with this. Church is supposed to be us praying and inviting God to share His presence with us.

Where you go spiritually, is where your church goes.

Where you go spiritually, is where your community goes.

Maybe church isn’t about being a religious event. Maybe it’s about us praying, fasting, asking God’s presence to come and forever transform us.