Sunday September 25, 2011
Sixteenth Sunday of Pentecost
Psalm 118:28-29 Common English Bible
James 1:22-25 Common English Bible
Romans 15:1-13 NRSV Bible
“Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations” by Robert Schnase
That’s Radical Man!
Have you ever heard about some churches that are out there on a limb helping others and wonder to yourself “how do they do that? What makes them so special? I wonder if my church could do something like that?”? I mean these people are really out there doing incredible work for the Kingdom. What’s their secret? They seem to have no fear and they just dive in with both feet. Why are these churches so “fruitful for the kingdom of God?”
I’ve been reading a book by Robert Schnase called “Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations” and it has really given me insight on the type of congregation that steps out of themselves and into the world and are accomplishing great things for God in the world. It has really opened my eyes to the possibility for all churches to be the kind of church. So. . . as we begin to gear up for our annual “stewardship drive”, so to speak, I think we would do well to look at these five practices. . . sort of grounding ourselves. . . while we take on the “task at hand.”
The five practices we will be looking at are:
1. Radical Hospitality→ What does radical hospitality really look like?
2. Passionate Worship→ what is involved in passionate worship?
3. Intentional Faith Development→ what can we do to develop our faith and make it stronger?
4. Risk-taking Mission and Service→ what are we willing to risk as we reach out to others with the Gospel of Christ?
5. Extravagant Generosity → what happens when we get it right?
As we journey on this road together, you will hear me talk about “we”. . . now when I say that. . . I’m not necessarily talking about Suncook United Methodist Church. I’m more talking about we as a church on a whole. . . we as the body of Christ. So please don’t take offense when I say we. I really don’t like pointing fingers, come on, we have all fallen short of the glory of God at times in our lives.
Because of the importance of our journey, let’s begin it in prayer. . .
Loving and Gracious God, we thank you for all the wonderful ways you bless our lives. We want to share those blessings with those around us. . . we want to proclaim your goodness from the roof tops. During this time of searching and listening, nay you give us eyes to see, ears to hear and a heart that is open to your will. Enable us to be that fruitful congregati8on for you. Lord you have said that the harvest is ready but there are too few laborers. May we labor in your vineyard as to bring about your kingdom here on earth. Speak Lord. . . your workers are listening and waiting for your instru7ctions for us. Amen. . .
So. . . let’s talk about radical hospitality. Now I know we have talked about this before but maybe. . . just maybe. . . we can see it from a different perspective now. In the reading from James this morning, we heard about one way we can begin to practice radical hospitality. By being doers not just hearers of the Word, we not only are a blessing but we are also blessed. We can begin that “title-wave” of grace that washes over all that we come in contact with. By being doers, we are following . . . practicing. . . that radical hospitality that Jesus modeled for us. But in doing this, we also take on a great responsibility.
We are Christ’s ambassadors therefore we need to check our self and our own agenda that we bring to the table. We need to make sure our hearts are in the right place, so to speak. Let’s look at what Paul has to say in Romans chapter 15 v9erses 1-13. . . how are we to act in light of our honor of being Christ’s ambassadors. Read the Romans from NRSV bible. . .
You see. . . the character of Christian hospitality is one that goes out of its way. . . its own comfort zone. . . to invite others into the congregation. This type of character sees others the way God sees them. . . as beloved children. We, as Christians, don’t have the monopoly on God. . . we are called to share the wealth.
Now this has gotten me thinking. . . understand that this is how we should think and act toward those who are outside church. . . those who need love and acceptance. . . those who need to see Christ in the world through us but what about our brothers and sisters within the congregation?
There are too many Christians that seem to have forgotten that they too have fallen short of the glory of God. In order to show genuine radical hospitality to others, we need to practice it within our church. Think about it for a moment. . . you are a new comer to the church. You are there because someone has invited you. . . they showed that radical hospitality to you. Now you come to church only to see division and “back-biting”. Now wouldn’t you think twice about coming back. . . wouldn’t you think that they did that “bait and switch” on you somewhere along the road. If we are to be fruitful congregations for God, we need to practice love. . . we need to practice mercy. . . we need to support one another. In other words. . . we need to get totally radical within in order to practice it on the outside.
Beloved children of God. . . we need to “practice” this type of hospitality. The operative word here is practice. We may fall at times but we are practicing and practice makes perfect. Let us search our hearts. . . is there someone in our lives that we need to practice with? Are there issues or problems with people in our lives that we need to get radical with? Are there situatio8ns within our churches that need us to practice what we preach with? Only as we search our hearts will we be able to turn the tide of the times and turn it into a wave of grace. Lets ride that wave of hospitality and see God’s glory reign!
Amen. . .