Church It's not a spectator sport
Sermon Summary
This message basically had one major point: Church is not a spectator sport! Every member of the Body of Christ has a vital role to play in the building of God’s Kingdom and God’s Kingdom is made up of people! The way in which we live our lives for God’s glory and purpose becomes a living sacrifice to God. Each of has a different role to play in God’s family, or as a part of God’s team. One of our staff shared with me the other day that being a member of the church as a spectator only is like asking to be on a football team but asking the coach to never put you in the game. That wouldn’t make sense! Paul says living for Christ is our spiritual act of worship. Some translations say “reasonable act of worship!” Paul then shares a brief picture of what this looks like inside the church and out. Our text for this message ended with these words: Romans 12:21 “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” We can only do that by participating in the grand purpose of God for His Church!

Community Group Discussion Guide

1. Bro. Larry said the church may be more like the Super Bowl than we like to admit. What do you think he meant by that statement?

2. Paul said in Romans12:1 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.” Discuss what he meant by the following statements: “In view of God’s mercy,” and “living sacrifices.” Peter’s words might help your discussion...
1 Pet 2:9  But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
1 Pet 2:10  Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
1 Pet 2:11  Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.
1 Pet 2:12  Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

3. The church is not supposed to made up of volunteers, but transformed individuals who have been grafted into the Body of Christ and as such are now vital members of that Body. Once we are part of the Body of Christ we begin living a new way of life with a new motivation and purpose. Read the following verses and discuss some of the ways we can become participators instead of spectators as we seek to be the church!
Rom 12:4  Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function,
Rom 12:5  so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
Rom 12:6  We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.
Rom 12:7  If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach;
Rom 12:8  if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
Rom 12:9  Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
Rom 12:10  Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.
Rom 12:11  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
Rom 12:12  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
Rom 12:13  Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Rom 12:14  Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
Rom 12:15  Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
Rom 12:16  Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.


Full Sermon Notes

"I believe in the saint's communion
And in Your Holy Church"
What is the saint's communion? It's the spiritual union and bond we have as followers of Christ. A few weeks ago we had Holy Communion or The Lord's Supper, which reminds us that our bond comes from the fact Jesus died a horrible death and made our inclusion into His Body, the church, possible by His sacrifice on the cross! We've been made clean because Jesus poured out His precious life blood in order to wash away the stain of our sin! This is the tie that binds us together to be the Holy Church! The Church is not a particular denomination, but is in fact made up all those who have allowed Jesus to forgive them of their sins and have invited Him into their hearts and lives to be the Savior of their souls and the leader of their lives! And we must remember...
The Church is not a place it's a people in relationship with a personal God!
The Church is not a building, it's a body of believers. Church is not about rituals, it's about a way of life! And as we'll see today, Church is not a spectator sport! Let's pray

Father God, we thank You for allowing us to be adopted into Your family and for granting us all the privileges that come from being Your children! While we could never fully understand the cost you paid for our adoption, we are so grateful and we never want to take that sacrifice for granted! We know we could never pay you back, but we sure would like to live our lives in such a way that everyone can see our gratitude. Help us today to understand the church is a body and a body moves! A body does things. A body follows the direction of the head. Jesus, you are the head of the church! Direct us how to move, how to live, how to worship, how to serve, and how to love! And we know when we follow Your leadership we will stop simply going to church and we will start being the church, Your body, and we will impact our world in powerful ways!! I'm Your servant, so speak through me and reveal to each of us how we can stop being spectators and start being participators in Your glorious work! In Jesus Name I humbly pray!! Amen

Before we read our Scripture today, I have an apology to make. There are people in this room today who've had significant events in their lives and I totally missed some of them. Maybe you had a serious surgery or illness and I wasn't there. Maybe it was the loss of a loved one, and I wasn't there. Maybe it was a celebration of a milestone in your life and I wasn't there. It may have been because I didn't know about these things, or it may be that I just dropped the ball. At any rate, I apologize if I've not been there when you needed me.  And what I'm about to tell you is not an excuse, but it is a reality. Studies have shown, that if a pastor is the sole person responsible for pastoral care duties, then he can effectively serve around 75 people. That may explain why a majority of churches are so small. I know some of you understand this dilemma and for that reason, when you've been sick or went to the hospital you purposely didn't call me because you didn't want to bother me or burden me with something else. I really appreciate that, but that's not the answer to the problem!

What is the answer? The answer is for each of us to stop simply attending church and for each of us to start being the church by becoming participants in the work of the church. Now I know how busy we all are and I know it will be a sacrifice on your part to actually become a participant! It'll take time, effort, energy, resources, commitment, and a heart felt passion if you are going to be the church! Someone might say, "Pastor Larry, you don't know the effort and commitment it takes for me just to get there on Sunday morning and now you're asking me to do more?" Actually, no! I'm not the one asking. Let's turn to our text for this morning. It's a powerful passage. Romans chapter 12.  Let's see what God's Word says...

Romans12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.

Paul urged his fellow believers to heed his words. I can't even imagine how overwhelmed Paul must have felt. I've planted one church with the help my dear brother in Christ, Jay, and very early on we brought Andrew on board with us and wow, what an amazing staff we have today! Paul planted many churches and traveled to them when he could. He knew how vital it was to raise up leaders within the church who would encourage every member of the church to become the church. Why? The job of reaching the lost souls of this world is way too big a job for one evangelist. Besides, reaching people is most effective when you first build a relationship with them and they get to know you and your heart. Paul then gave the motivation that should motivates us all...

Romans 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and...

In view of God's mercy! When I think of the mercy God has shown me, how could I not want others to know the same forgiveness, peace and joy that I've found in my personal relationship with Jesus? I know I wouldn't even be here if it weren't God's mercy!

I love the way Paul put it in his 1 letter to Timothy chapter 1 vs 14-16...

1 Timothy 1:14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners —of whom I am the worst.
16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.

That's the mercy Paul is talking about Romans 12:1. Let's look at the next part of that verse...

Romans 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.

We are to be living sacrifices. Jesus' sacrifice was death on a cross so we could live. He did this so we could live our lives as one continuous, daily sacrifice unto God. Not in order to earn our salvation, but to live out our salvation in a beautiful expression to God of our thankfulness. Paul said...

Romans 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.

Holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Can you see it? Worship is not something you just do on Sunday. No! We worship everyday by the way we live our lives in service to our Savior, our Lord, our King, our friend! Our Spiritual act of worship means we are no longer spectators, but participants in the very work of God! In fact Paul says that we are no longer motivated by what motivates the world, but by a desire to do God's will. And the will of God is that we work together as the body of Christ to accomplish His will!

Listen as Paul gives instructions to the Church on how to be the church...

Romans 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —his good, pleasing and perfect will.
3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.
4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function,
5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.
7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach;
8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

It is clear from these words that the church is not a spectator sport! God wants us all in the game and we all have different gifts and abilities. You might say, "I'm not a prophet, or a teacher, or a leader!" To which I would say, "you left out serving, giving, encouraging, and showing mercy!"

You might even say, "but I'm physically unable to go and to do things." To which I would say, "you can encourage, you can support, and you can pray!" I guess you might consider yourself a water boy! And if you ask any football player how important that is, they'll tell you, "Very!" Speaking of football, next week millions of people will be watching the Super Bowl. I can safely say it's a spectator sport because the vast majority of people involved in football are watchers. And oh the irony.
Next week there will be millions in desperate need of exercise watching 22 in desperate need of some rest! The reality of church may be more like the Super Bowl than we like to think. Stats tell us that 20% do 80% of the work! 20% participators and 80% spectators. Now you might think this message is about me guilting you into volunteering here at the church. Actually, I'm hoping you'll do more out there than you'll ever do in here!

Of course we need people to do things around here, but let me read something to you I read in Christianity Today. It was an article entitled, Church Volunteers: An Oxymoron.
Why is it an oxymoron? Because if we are the body of Christ then we aren't volunteers, we are vital organs, hands, legs, feet, eyes, and ears! Here's the way the article, written by Michelle Van Loon, put it...

"The idea of a volunteer kidney or tibia in a functioning body is nonsensical. And when we viewed fellow congregants as volunteers, we subtly emphasized what they could do over against who they were as members of the body of Christ. I wondered if we were unintentionally building a culture where 'our volunteers' were our blue-collar laborers, doing tasks assigned by us, the white-collar staff."

Once we understand we are the Body of Christ, then we'll start functioning as such and then our problem will be starting enough new ministries to keep up with the folks who want to serve! Why? Because it's a privilege not a chore, it's an honor, not a burden, and it's only natural to do what you've been designed by your Creator to do! And when each of us starts being the church instead of just attending the church, we will be able to accomplish what we've been tasked by God to do, inside the church and outside the church! Paul put it this way in verses 9-21  of our text. It's so beautiful. First inside the Church...

Romans 12:9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.
11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
13Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

If we do what we're supposed to do as the church, inside the church, then we'll be able to do what we're supposed to do as the church, outside the church! And if we do that, we'll accomplish our mission of transforming the world! Check it out in the last few verses of our text Romans 12:14-21…

Romans 12:14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.
18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

What does this "heap burning coals on his head" mean? That seems painful. Paul may have been alluding to an Egyptian ritual in which a person showed their remorse by carrying on his head a dish containing burning charcoals on a layer of ashes. If this was the case, Paul was saying that our kindness might actually be the very thing that leads someone to see the error of their ways and repent.

Now I want to end today's message with a hypothetical story written years ago by Dr. Avery Willis Jr. in his book, “Biblical Basis of Missions”
He introduces the story like this...

A Comparison of New Testament churches with the practices of churches today makes us wonder if the following scenario might not have taken place. Satan calls a summit meeting of the rulers of darkness, the rulers of wickedness, the principalities, the powers, and the eons sometime in the second half of the first century A.D.

"I have called this extraordinary plenary session of representatives from every sector of the Evil Kingdom because we need a new strategy. Since the Pentecost sensation, we have had a standoff or worse with the followers of the Nazarene. Our strategy of intimidation, persecution, temptation, and murder has not stopped the church."
"We have Paul, that over-zealous missionary, in jail," said the Spirit Prince of Rome, "so we have their leadership under wraps."
"Remember Philippi!" warned the Spirit Prince of Macedonia. "Neither Paul nor the other leaders are our main problem," said Satan. "We have killed several of the apostles, but we can't stop the ordinary people." That's right added the potentate of Palestine.
"They talk about Jesus spontaneously, whether they have a leader or not. When we scatter them by persecution, it is like trying to stamp out a grass fire. In no time new leaders spring up."
"they don't need a place to meet either," added a demon from Asia Minor.
"When we have them kicked out of synagogues or public meeting places, they just worship in their homes. When we have services banned, they go to the catacombs."
"Why should they be such a problem?" asked an evil spirit. "They're unlearned and ignorant."
"They may not be educated," said Legion, "but they are not unlearned in spiritual things. They can cast you out of someone in a moment. Their leaders equip and train them to face anything."
"Then how do we stop them?" asked Satan.
"If we can't stop them by force, we must be shrewder."
All the evil spirit beings sat in silent despair. Suddenly Satan stood to his feet. "I have it!" he exclaimed. "We will make Christians think that only leaders can witness!"
"Hey, that's a great idea!" shouted the Spirit Prince of Greece. "We can tell them that leaders are different and no one else is equipped or ordained to do their jobs."
"And we can tell the leaders that they can have the authority in the church," said the Spirit Prince of Persia, "and they'll gladly fall for that!"
"Right!" said a spiritual potentate.
"We can even tell them that the offices of the apostle, the prophet, the evangelist, and the teacher are all combined in the one office of pastor. Then the pastor will have so much work to do that the church will hardly grow."
"That way," added the Spirit Prince of Persia, warming to the discussion, "he won't have time to pray or to study the Word."
"More important than that," Satan said, "he won't have time to equip the saints. Especially if we can keep him busy trying to do all the church's ministries."
"Then we can get the ordinary Christians to gripe at him because things aren't going well," added a demon, gleefully.
"We could even get them to say that the pastor gets paid to do the spiritual work," said the Spirit Prince of Egypt, "and the Christians will forget that they are priests, too.
We can tell them they have nothing more to do than to support the pastor."
"Right," interjected a potentate, "and we could give the pastor designations to make him different. For instance, we could say he is 'full-time' so the members will think their ministry is 'part-time.'"
"We could say he is the servant of God so members would think they aren't. We could even say he has surrendered for special service so that they think their service isn't important."
"Then, if we could make him think he has special status through special spiritual gifts, ordination, or education," chipped in a lesser power, "we could wipe out the service of the people of God. They will think they are amateurs."
"We could even make them think that missionaries who go to other races are holier than anyone else. Then on ordinary Christian would ever dream he is to be a missionary," said the Spirit Prince of China.
Satan said: "Most honored potentates, principalities, powers, and demons, we have devised a most propitious strategy. It will take time to accomplish it, but it will work. We will revise our strategy and make Christianity respectable.
That will dull the cutting edge and blur it's distinctiveness to the world. We will convince men again, as we have in the past, that worship is to be done in a certain place and at a specific time. We will make them passive spectators of their hardworking leaders.
Our kingdom will not be in danger if we can keep the church members passive and have to fight only overburdened leaders."

As your Pastor, as your brother in Christ, as your fellow servant, I plead with you today not to buy the lies of Satan and the powers of darkness! If you have trusted in Jesus and received His forgiveness, His mercy, His love, then you are a part of His body the church!
Don't be a spectator, be a vital participator in the glorious work of the kingdom of our God. That work is glorious because it is changing lives, saving lives, changing families, changing communities and has the potential to change our world!