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Pruned for God's Vision

REVEAL

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REVEAL | presented January 25, 2015

We all can be filled with gratitude and humbled by the fact that we are a part of a church that has had tremendous impact for the Kingdom of God for nearly 30 years.  This impact has been made one life at a time, both next door and around the world.

When we are in the will of God, he always provides.  The Hebrew for the Lord will provide is Yahweh Yireh (Jehovah Jireh).  It is first used in Genesis 22.  A man was put to the test, a test that would rock his world and push his faith to the limits.  Many of you know the story.

Genesis 22:1-18  (Sarah was 90 and Abraham 100 when Isaac was born).

God provided then and God still always provides when we are doing his will.  Abraham was severely tested because he was asked to sacrifice his only son by Sarah, a son whom he loved.  What is it that God is calling Asbury Church to offer as a sacrifice, believing that if we do, God will provide?

The answer to this question will shape the future of Asbury Church.  The answer to this question will determine our destiny.  But first, I want us to reflect for a bit on who we are.  Who we are is not very complicated; who we are is an expression of the scriptural mandate God has given us.  Simply stated, Asbury is Jesus, Prayer, Mission.

Jesus came to bring good news to the poor, to declare freedom for the prisoners, recovery of sight to the blind and to set the oppressed free.

Let us go back to Abraham.  As an act of incredible faith he placed his beloved son, Isaac, on the altar of sacrifice, somehow believing that God would provide.  What is it that we love, that God is calling us to place on the altar of sacrifice?  I love this church, I love the children’s ministry, the youth ministry; I love the worship; the prayer ministry, missions, groups, care ministry.  I have been with Asbury nearly 18 years; this is Carla’s and my home; our children became young men here.  In so many ways I feel that this is my church, you are my people, and these are my ministries.  I have ownership in the ministry that has taken place. 

And so I hear the voice of God calling me to lay on the altar all these things that I love.  Isaac was Abraham’s beloved son.  Yet, Isaac did not belong to Abraham; he belonged to God.  I must surrender to God my church, my people, my way of doing ministry so that I may recognize: this is God’s church, not mine; you are God’s people not mine; this is God’s ministry, not mine.

Even though I have spoken personally I believe these words apply to us all.  There is nothing that any of us do, through our life and ministry at Asbury, which is ours; it is all God’s.  Together we place on the altar of sacrifice all the: me, myself and I’s.  The future is yours Lord.  Do with us what you will…you are Jehovah Jireh!

Our stated mission is to:  make disciples of Jesus who are grounded in prayer and sent on mission.  This mission is a biblical mandate from God.

Although God’s mission is unchanging, the world is in a continual state of flux.  In many places Christianity is under attack, mocked, dismissed or ignored.  We should not be surprised or fearful.  God is God and the gates of hell cannot prevail against the church.  We will never stop being missional because there is urgency inherent in the gospel message.  A way of describing this urgency in modern language is If you don’t meet God on the journey, why should you expect to meet him at your destination?  The message of our Lord is not complicated: repent, turn from your self-centered, power hungry, abusive and controlling ways, seek the forgiveness of God, and receive the gift of Christ.  He not only forgives completely; He thoroughly imbues us with His Spirit: His Spirit which bears the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness and self-control.  He seals us with His love and presence, that we are forever His! Forever!  How the world needs the life, which only our Lord Jesus can give!

Will we rise to the challenges, which are before us, or will we shrink back into the safety of comfortable thoughts about a world that is no more? If so, we will then fade into irrelevance…and, as Jesus said to the Pharisees, then the stones themselves will then cry out.   

I share with you some specifics of the vision God has for Asbury:

This vision of a future reality is impossible without God.  To dare the impossible one has to see the invisible.  With God, all things are possible.    

By 2020 this is what I see:

  • 300 professions of faith and 200 baptisms per year
  • 100 young adults (21-39 years of age) added per year.  The average age of an Asbury member will be three years younger than in 2015.
  • Children’s and Youth ministry will be impacting at least 50% more people than they are doing at the present.
  • Every member of Asbury is on an intentional growth path through the following:

Spiritual disciplines (prayer, scripture, tithing, fasting, study, worship)
Small groups
Missional living
Serving within the Body

  • Asbury debt free.
  • Asbury is reproducing itself as a multi-site church.  There will be 3 sites by 2020 averaging 6,000 people in worship.
  • The DNA of the Christ-followers of Asbury is prayer and missional living.

This is an incredibly lofty God-sized vision.  In order for this vision to become a reality we must learn anew what it means to take up our cross and live passionately and sacrificially for the sake of the One who died for each of us.  This vision will become a reality through much planning, strategizing and organizing.  But most of all this vision will be realized through the sacrificial acts of each of us; it is costly to take the initiative to embrace the lost and broken; to invest our resources, our time, our energy and our lives for the sake of those who stand outside the faith.  If we are loyal to Jesus, there are no other options.  We must hold each other accountable.

God is purging His church today.  No longer can we accept perfunctory messages about lukewarm discipleship.  One reading of the Sermon on the Mount is enough to conclude that our Lord has set the bar high.  Jesus simply spoke truth; truth is what is so desperately needed.

Young people are staying away from organized religion by the droves.  Young people can smell inauthenticity a mile away.  They do not want organizations telling them what to believe and do.  Yet, there is a great spiritual hunger and a desire for authentic and meaningful relationships.

We must take the initiative to reach the next generation for our Lord Jesus.  Twenty-nine years ago a mustard seed was planted in a warehouse and Asbury was born.  We must now plant more mustard seeds.  We must place young people in leadership roles: both staff and laity.  We must create places for young people to enter into significant relationships, most of all, with the Lord Jesus himself.  We must free more resources to reach people by paying off the debt.  We must reach people where they are by reproducing our church through the planting of mustard seeds in other locations as the Lord so leads.  We must engage young people in the high calling of loving the poor, the lost and the forgotten. 

Even though we have the mandate to reach the next generation, the message of Christ through Asbury is for all people, regardless of age, race, station in life and societal standing.  We all need one another.  Those of us who have moved beyond the summer season of our lives are needed to mentor, to guide, to dream, to provide.  We are all in this together.  

As our church is aging, we could succumb to the temptation to rest on our laurels and coast to our personal finish line.  God forbid!  Let us lay this temptation upon the altar of sacrifice.  For this was not how Asbury was born.  This is not how God commands us to live.  As long as we have breath we will seize every opportunity to bring glory to our Lord Jesus, by fixing our eyes upon him, and by following in his steps. 

This vision is a gift from God.  It is our responsibility to walk by faith, confident that Jesus will continue to establish the eternal Kingdom of God through His people called Asbury.  In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen!

I challenge you to join with me for a season of prayer and fasting.  The season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, February 18.  I invite you to join with me by fasting and saying special prayers each Wednesday from now until Easter.  You may choose to fast one, two or three meals.  I will fast until the Wednesday evening Fellowship Meal.  The purpose of this time of prayer and fasting is to seek God’s direction, favor and strength through the power of the Holy Spirit has we begin to put into action that of which I have spoken tonight or more bluntly to “put our money where our mouth is.”

You will be given a card with a mustard seed.  Place it in a prominent place in your home.

This evening represents a beginning…there will be many more conversations and as always, we appreciate your input and feedback.  If you wish to communicate your thoughts please feel free to email any of us on the Senior Leadership Team.