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  • Incredulity of Thomas
Radical Belonging

Introduction: Problem I – Loneliness
Eleanor Rigby (Lennon/McCartney)

Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been
Lives in a dream
Waits at the window, wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door
Who is it for?

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from ?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong ?

Father McKenzie writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear
No one comes near.
Look at him working. Darning his socks in the night when there’s nobody there
What does he care?

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

Eleanor Rigby died in the church and was buried along with her name
Nobody came
Father McKenzie wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave
No one was saved

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

Introduction: Problem II – Insignificance

I believe that man’s greatest fear is “Extinction without Distinction”.

Let me say that again. Man’s greatest fear is “Extinction without Distinction.”

By that I mean that I believe that our greatest fear is that we will die and no one will ever know or ever care that we ever lived.

People come to church, and this group and they leave, feeling that something is missing. You may have come to church today knowing no one and sometimes even after you’ve been here a while you never really get to know anyone other than casually. Or you may have come to church for a while and then you stopped for a while, but when you came back, no one had missed you. And you don’t feel like you belong. And you feel you have no ties to bind you here. You may even think that you have nothing in common with people here. Or you may have friends here and yet after the service, you go home and you say … “that was it? I looked forward to this all week and yet here I am back home and I feel like nothing was worthwhile.”

Have you ever felt like that. And how about during the week, do you ever sit in your cubicle at work and wonder, will what I do ever have any value? Why am I so lonely? Does anyone care about me? What is all this all about? If I never get married and never have kids, will my life have been worthless? Meaningless? Pointless?

Many people want to belong, many people are lonely, many people long to be wanted, to be needed. And yet like Eleanor Rigby they are doomed to a life of insignificance. Doomed to no one ever caring that they ever existed. Doomed to Extinction without distinction.

The Solution for Loneliness

But you see the solution for loneliness is to belong.

Let me say that again: the solution for loneliness is to belong.

If fact, we want to belong, we crave to belong, we need to belong

And people search for belonging. They search for a meaning to their life, they search for a purpose in their life, they search for a reason to exist. And yet loneliness and purposelessness are tied together. Counselors deal with loneliness as one of the greatest causes of depression. People turn to drugs, sex, alcohol, gangs and sometimes even marriage for two real reasons. To battle that longing for belonging. To battle the search for purpose.

But you see these two things are tied together. Loneliness and insignificance are bound together. They both can have the same solution.

So first, let’s get into what belonging really means. How do we belong? What does it mean to belong? This is important, isn’t it, especially as Christmas rolls around. Let me ask you this: last week during Thanksgiving, were you at a place where you felt like you belonged? Some of us weren’t.

You see, if you really understand it, to belong, someone must want you around, to belong someone must miss you when you aren’t there, to belong someone must need you even if it is ever so slightly.

We need to belong, we long to be needed.

The Solution for Insignificance and Purposelessness

And right there is the answer. You see to belong, you need to be needed. And if you are needed, you have purpose, and if you have a common purpose with others you have belonging. But …… to be needed you must first share of yourself, to be needed you must first give of yourself, to be needed you must first minister to others. And when you are needed, you will belong.

You know what? Eleanor Rigby did not have to die alone.

If she had gone out and invested her life in others, given of herself, her love, her time. Eleanor Rigby’s funeral would have been one that would not have been able to fit in Father MacKenzie’s little church.

Have you ever wondered who’ll come to your funeral?

If Eleanor Rigby had looked beyond her own dreams and looked at helping others to make their dreams come true. Then all of Eleanor Rigby’s dreams could have come true.

Do you want to make your dreams come true? Then you have to make sure you help enough other people make their dreams come true.

You see this is all tied together, to extinguish your fear of extinction without distinction, to mean something to someone in this lonely world, you must give something of your life, you must give of your self, you must give of your time, your energy, your love, your passion.

You need to be involved in ministry …… to truly belong.

Let me rephrase what I just said: We are afraid that we will die without anybody ever caring that we ever lived or we are afraid that nobody cares that we live RIGHT NOW.

But the reality of it all is that for anyone to care that we live, we must have brought some love or sunshine into their lives. And in the process of bringing this love and sunshine into their lives we will start bonding. We will start binding. We will start belonging. This process of bringing love and sunshine into people’s lives is called ministering.

The two problems and their solutions

So you see the first problem is loneliness

The solution for loneliness is to belong.

To belong you need to be needed.

The way to be needed is to be involved in Ministry.

The second problem is insignificance.

The solution for insignificance is to have purpose.

The purpose we need to have is to Serve God.

The way to Serve God in the Church Body is to be involved in Ministry.

You need to be involved in ministry …… to truly belong.

Let me say that one more time. You need to be involved in ministry ….. to truly belong.

What is Ministry?

What is ministry? Ministry is the act of ministering to others, the act of reaching out to others and meeting the needs of individuals or the community. It’s doing the works of service. It’s giving up of yourself.

But you know what ministry isn’t. Ministry isn’t pain. Ministry isn’t something that you hate. Because if you are in the right area of ministry you will be digging it. You will be loving it. You will be enjoying it. You will be growing through it.

You need to be involved in ministry ….. to really have a blast.

You need to be involved in ministry ….. to grow spiritually.

But you see there’s more to this. You see not only do You need to be involved in ministry ….. to truly belong.

You also need to be involved in ministry …… to be truly satisfied.

It all ties together. Let me tell you a story that I hope will explain why:

The Story of the Chisel

There was once a Master Tool Maker, and his fame for the tools he made spread throughout the land. Craft people of all trades would come to him to have their tools made. His tools were made of the highest quality and craftsmanship. His tools were also artistic and elegant and yet strong. In fact, great objects of art and majesty had been made using his tools. Thrones for kings, sculptures for Churches, Crowns for Princes.

One day he endeavored to create a chisel. A chisel of fine quality. He said, this chisel will be used by a Wood Crafter to create a Throne or a fine carved bed for a King. And so he spent hours and days working the metal, the edge and then just as much time on the delicate gold inlay into the wooden handle. So that when it was finished it was a tool to be admired. A tool to be envied, and yet a tool to be used. For it had a blade on it that could split a hair in two lengthwise.

And yes, I know what you all are thinking right now…this story is going to be one that ends up where the chisel carves the cross that Jesus hung on. I thought of that, but I realized that you guys were far too intelligent for a story like that. Besides, nobody uses a chisel on a cross. They’d use an axe.

So back to our story….One day into the village came a Master WoodCrafter. He was one of the famous wood carvers known around and a maker of Thrones for Kings in at least 3 kingdoms and the carver of altars and sanctuaries of about 5 churches. It was said that he was now commissioned to carve the very Altar of the new Cathedral that was being planned by the Bishop himself. The Master WoodCrafter had heard that the ToolMaker had been designing and creating this chisel that would be the primary chisel in a family of tools to be used for such creating fine works as he had been commissioned to create. So the Master Wood Crafter came into the shop of the ToolMaker and the ToolMaker brought forth the chisel, wrapped in a oilcloth. As he opened the cloth, the tool glistened in the light and the Wood Crafter knew that here was a tool worthy of creating masterpieces.

They made their arrangements, but there was very little haggling. For one does not haggle over true art. The Wood Crafter took the Chisel and returned to his own shop. Ready to put it to use. He laid the chisel on his workbench carefully and started planning the altar that was to be his legacy to the world.

But, days later, as the chisel lay on the workbench in the oilcloth there arose an emergency in the shop. The water driven saw that was used to slice down the lumber loosened a large nail that kept a gear in place and jammed. The nail bent back on itself and embedded into the gear. Panic set in as this great apparatus started to creak and groan with the pressures of the water and the wood. It would splinter and be destroyed in any minute. Somebody yelled, cut the water, get something to bend the nail. A young apprentice was sent into the shop to get a tool. He was excited to be used in such an emergency, but he was also not sure what to get. He looked around. All the usual tools were gone, being used at the Church, but there on the counter was a tool wrapped up in a cloth. He grabbed it and they used it, not asking whence it came in their hurry. They pried over the nail, the sharp edge on the chisel was perfect for gouging the wood to get leverage under the nail, they propped the nail back up and used a stone to pound it back it.

It wasn’t till later when the dust had settled that the Master Wood Crafter found out what had happened. Our story does not cover what happened to the young apprentice, only that the chisel edge was gouged, the inlay was askew and the entire tool was scratched. It was obviously not usable anymore and the Wood Crafter put it on a top shelf and left it there unused. And as time went by it started to rust.

Let me ask you a question: What is your purpose for existence?

What were you made for?

Do you know what it is?

Have you been used for the wrong purposes by someone? Have you been hurt, have you lost your edge? Have you been left on the shelf rusting?

Do you believe that until you find out the purpose for your existence and fulfill it, you will never be truly satisfied?

Do you believe that until you find out what God made you for you will always feel this hole in your soul?

Do you believe that you were wired for a purpose and until you are right in the middle of that purpose you will continue to search for something that you do not understand? For a satisfaction that cannot be fulfilled.

Do you know what you were created for?

The Bible talks about why we were created. It talks about it on both a general scale and on a more specific scale. First let’s see why what it says about why you were created on a general scale:

Isa. 43:5 Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. 6 I will say to the north, `Give them up!’ and to the south, `Do not hold them back.’ Bring My sons from afar and My daughters from the ends of the earth– 7 everyone who is called by My name, whom I created for My glory, whom I formed and made.”

You see the Bible says that God created you for what? He created you for his glory, He created you to glorify Him.

In the words of the great Westminster Confessional:

The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

Let me say that again: The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

So the next question is: If you don’t accomplish your chief purpose, like the chisel will you be satisfied? Will you feel accomplished, will you be content? Will you find true joy?

Sure you may find temporary happiness, or you may be able to postpone the pain for a while, but can you find true permanent joy if you never accomplish that which you were created for?

And you know what? I can answer that from my own life. Absolutely NOT.

If like the chisel you are never used for the right purpose, you will never find satisfaction. Because nothing will fit. Nothing will work, nothing will satisfy.

I believe that God has wired each of us in a specific way to glorify him in certain ways, and until we discover those ways, we will always feel unfulfilled. We will always be searching for something that we don’t even understand. That we can’t even comprehend. Like the Chisel, we were created for a specific task. and if someone uses that Chisel for the wrong reason it becomes useless. And many times somehow someone has gotten us messed up, and we sit rusting on the shelf of life. Unsure, unfulfilled and unloved. Just like Eleanor Rigby.

Who lives in a dream that will never come true.
Waits at the window, wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door
Who is it for?

Look at all the lonely people, where do they all come from? They come from people not being used for their designed for purpose in life. Never being fulfilled. Waiting for a dream that never will come true. Because it can’t.

You need to find what God created you for, then your dreams will come true and moreover you will find satisfaction in them.

So how do we find that certain purpose that God has designed us for.

I believe that you can only find the specific answer to that by being in ministry. You see you need to be involved in ministry ….. to find your purpose in life.

You need to be involved in ministry ….. to truly belong.

You need to be involved in ministry ….. to find your purpose in life.

To fulfil what you were created for.

To fill that hole in your soul.

To live in a dream that will come true.

You see by being in ministry, you will learn what it is that God would have you do. By starting in ministry and growing in ministry, God will show you what your passion is for. He will show you what He wants you to do in the Body of Christ. He will show you how to fill that hole in your soul. He will show you His plan for you.

Part of that is that you will realize that you are part of something that is greater than yourself. And I’ll say more about that later.

The other part of that is that God has wired you to be able to truly receive ….. only if you give. God has wired you to be able to truly receive ….. only if you give. The more you give of yourself, the more you get. God has made us that way. There’s just no way out of it. How much do you think Mother Teresa gave?

Why she gave it all? How much do you think she got? Do you think she got more than she gave? I’d say so.

You need to be involved in ministry ….. to have a blast.

The Training for the Solutions: The purpose of the pastors and teachers

But you might object. First you may say: “But I don’t know what to do or how to do it. I can’t speak like you”

Or you may say: Why should I minister, isn’t that why we have Pastors? Why should I minister, aren’t the Pastors paid to take care of us? Why should I minister, aren’t the Pastors there to make sure we belong? Isn’t it the job of the Church to make sure that I fit in? Isn’t that why I come to church in the first place?

Turn to Eph 4:11, because the Bible talks exactly about this.

Eph. 4:11 It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up

Do you understand what this is saying?

“some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people”

It says: some people were appointed by God to be pastors and teachers, and they were appointed so that they could prepare God’s people. Who’re God’s people? Well we are. OK

But what were God’s people to be prepared for?

“12 to prepare God’s people for works of service,”

Not so that they would just grow spiritually, not so that these people would just have happy and prosperous lives. But so that they could be prepared, yes, prepared, but prepared for what? Prepared for works of service.

What is works of service? That is ministry.

What is the job of the pastors and teachers? Not to do the service, but to prepare us for the service.

The pastors and teachers equip us for ministry. But who does the actual ministry? Who does the actual service?

We do. We are God’s people. We are the ones to do the ministry. Not them. But US.

The pastors and teachers equip up for ministry. But WE do the actual ministry! And this way God can use you to make an eternal difference in someone else’s life.

If we translate that verse into simpler language it would be: God gave us pastors and teachers to prepare us “everyday folk” to do the ministry.

Do you see that? You may not know what to do or how do to it, but that’s the job of our pastors, Dave and Peter. Their job is to train us for ministry. It’s not to entertain us, it’s not to just teach us, it’s not to just minister to us. It’s not just to make sure that we don’t do stupid things like marry non-Christians, drink and drive, be mean to our neighbors, or join a cult. It is to teach us the gospel, which is the message of Jesus and Salvation, to teach us theology, which is the study of the nature of God, to teach us the ever-living truth and to train us.

The Bible says that they are here to train US to do the Ministry.

The Bible says that we are here to DO the ministry.

Are you involved in ministry?

You need to be involved in ministry ….. to obey God.

That is so important let me say that one more time. Who is to do the Ministry? WE ARE.

Who is to train us? How do we learn what to do and how to do it? Who teaches us all that? The Pastors and teachers. They are here to train US for ministry.

You need to be involved in ministry ….. to obey God.

I find it interesting that when someone becomes a pastor, they say: Oh, he went into the ministry. You know what. When you become a Christian, they should say: Oh, he went into the ministry. When someone becomes a Pastor they should say: Oh, he went into the business of training people for the ministry. Because WE are the ministers. They are the trainers.

How to choose your church

Some people come to a church to grow spiritually; some people come to a church because they are lonely; some people come to a church because they are needy; some people come to a church because it’s about the time for them to get married and the prospects frankly seemed a bit dim at their old church.

Now all of these are valid reasons. But in almost all the above cases, you noticed that these people were coming to church to what? … get, rather than what? … Give.

You see these are all valid reasons to come to church, but if you remain at a church expecting to get something, the tragedy is that not only will you not get anything of value, but even if you did get something you’ll never be satisfied.

Because you see you would be fundamentally missing something. You would be missing one of the great joys of life. The Church you should go to is the Church where God will grow and use you the most in the ministry that you love!

Let me say that again.

The Church you should go to is the Church where God will grow and use you the most in the ministry that you love!

That’s the church you should go to,

Not the Church where you feel loved the most,

not the church where you learn the most,

not the church which you like the most,

not the church where you feel you belong the most,

but the church where you can be grow and be used the most in the ministry that you love!

That’s the church you should go to.

And note that there is a fundamental tie I have learned, I have experienced and I have lived. There is a fundamental tie between where you will be used the most and where you will grow the most.

You see the church where you are being used by God the most, is usually ALWAYS the church where you end up feeling loved the most,.

You see the church where you are being used by God the most, is usually ALWAYS the church where you end up learning the most.

You see the church where you are being used by God the most, is usually ALWAYS the church where you end up growing spiritually the most.

You see the church where you are being used by God the most, is usually ALWAYS the church where you will end up feeling like you belong the most.

And that’s the church you should be going to. The church where you can be grow and be used the most in the ministry that you love.

We long to be needed, we need to belong.

You need to be involved in ministry ….. to truly belong.

God created you for his Glory, then He put you in a church to be trained and to do His ministry.

So the real question is: Are you doing that? Are you fulfilling your purpose? Are you being trained in ministry, growing in ministry everyday, learning how to minister, learning your spiritual gifts, learning your strengths and your weaknesses. Learning to glorify God.

I can tell you from practical experience, that when I have not been in ministry, when I have not been reaching out to others, when I have not been doing what God has commanded me to do….I am not happy. I am not satisfied and I search for contentment vainly, and I search for belonging and cannot find it.

But when I am in ministry I ENJOY it. I thrive on it. I grow on it. If you are in the right area of ministry you will too.

Look at all the lonely people, where do they all come from. Look at all the lonely people, where do they all belong? Look at all the lonely people, please understand you don’t need to be one of them. Build your family here. Start your family now.

You need to be involved in ministry ……. to build family.

Objections

But there is a problem. A lot of us have a lot of good reasons why we shouldn’t be involved. I can speak to some of them from personal experience. Time is the biggest one. I remember having to struggle to make time for ministry on one hand and having a futon in my office at my start up company on the other hand, so I could catch a quick nap during some of my 18 hour days. There will always be excuses. But you know what, what you do in ministry can have eternal consequences. It’s a real struggle. But it’s worth it. And I found out personally that being involved in ministry charged me up. It was refreshing and actually allowed me to do a better job at work.

I had one of our fellow VP’s a Hindu, analyze me and tell me: You know why you are so calm? It’s because at the end of the day, even though you’ve done you very best here at work, even if it all falls apart, you realize that what is truly important to you is the stuff you are doing at your Christian Church.

I would be willing to say that I am convinced that “You need to be involved in ministry ….. to balance your life”

But most of all, never say “but I don’t have enough talents.”

The talents, you will stand before God

In this story that we are about to read, the word Talent used here is an amount of money. It is an appropriate use of the word if you ask me, for in our application we will apply the example to our actual talents.

Turn to Matt. 25:14 “Again, it (the Kingdom of God) will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. 15 To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. 17 So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. 18 But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. `Master,’ he said, `you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’ “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ 22 “The man with the two talents also came. `Master,’ he said, `you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’ 23 “His master replied, `Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ 24 “Then the man who had received the one talent came. `Master,’ he said, `I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ 26 “His master replied, `You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. 28 “`Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. 29 For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory.

God will hold you responsible for the talents He has given you. God will hold you responsible for the gifts He has given you. God will hold you responsible for the opportunities He has given you. Yes, God is sovereign. Meaning he is in total control. But man, man is responsible, and God will hold you responsible. He will ask you: What have you done with the talents I gave you? Can you sing? Can you pray? Can you lead a prayer group? Can you help with activities, can you help organize things in the morning? Can you help with the bulletin? Can you welcome people who are new. Can you call people who are new and invite them to activities. Can you do name tags in the morning, can you help with the multimedia stuff? Can you help facilitate a small group Bible Study? There are many many things that need to be done. And if you can’t do any of that, can you LEARN to do something? You don’t have to have 5 or 10 talents. Because if you sit and compare your abilities to the person who has many many abilities, and then don’t do anything with it, you are doing exactly what the servant with the 1 talent did!

And God will hold you responsible. Do you have 1 talent? How did you use that one for the glory of God.

And in fact you may start with 1 talent but God will give you more talents as you use them. It will multiply. It has in my life.

Again remember, the pastors and teachers are here to train you for ministry! Not to just teach you. But to train you. To develop those other talents.

We are already training Bible Study leaders, there is a need for so many people to fill so many holes both in the new church plant and in those spots where people will be leaving for the new church. Now is the time for you to get trained. Now is your time to learn to fulfill your purpose.

And once you are using your talent or talents, you will belong. You will start to feel fulfilled. You will start to connect with people.

What kind of ministry can you be involved in?

Now you may ask: OK Maybe I’m convinced, but what kind of ministry should I be involved in? I can’t teach like you.

There are many many options and I will name a few of them but remember, a ministry does not HAVE to be one that is part of an institution. You could have your own ministry at work, just make sure it is something you do regularly and it is well defined.

I’ve found though that I do better when I am in a structured ministry. Because then it encourages me to get involved. Also if you want to belong, you need to be doing ministry with others, together. Building family. But do remember, there are many types of ministry visible and invisible, that is, in the background. What you need to remember is that your objective is to grow in ministry. Start slowly. I didn’t start by teaching and preaching. I started by just hanging out with Junior High kids.

Some people start by doing name tags and then move to starting their own church in a few weeks.

OK I’m kidding, but whatever the situation, don’t say, but there is no area that I can do anything. You can work with the Junior High, you can work with the High School, you can work with the Singles. You can work with convicts, you can work with City Team. You can work with elementary kids. Look at your handout for a few examples.

It doesn’t have to be glamorous. Not everybody wants to teach. It may be anything… You may try a ministry and decide it isn’t for you. Excellent, try another one.

Don’t say: I’m too shy. Or I don’t know how to do anything or I’m too physically challenged, or I’m too depressed. There are places in ministry where everyone can fit. If you are shy, be involved behind the scenes, if you need to learn to do something and want to, we can teach you. If you are physically challenged in any way there are ministries where we can use you, if you are depressed, let me tell you, spending quality time with Junior High kids will work wonders for you. You’ll be so busy chasing after them, you won’t have time to be depressed.

You need to be involved in ministry …. to truly belong.

You need to be involved in ministry …. to fulfill the purpose that God has created you for.

You need to be involved in ministry …. to begin to be satisfied.

Eleanor Rigby did not have to die friendless and alone. Father MacKenzie did not have to have an empty church.

Look at all the lonely people where do they all come from? Look at all the lonely people where do they all belong? I’ll tell you where they come from. They come from people who are too scared to go out and reach out to others in need, they come from people too scared to go out and give of themselves, they come from people who are too scared to minister. They come from people who are afraid to trust even a little. They come from people who have too many excuses.

Where do they belong? They belong in ministry. For that is what God has created his people for. For the good works of service to glorify Him and build up His church.

And that is why you were created, that is why I was created.

You need to be involved in ministry ….. to truly belong and have purpose in life.

What Kind of Ministry can I get involved in?

If you don’t find one that you feel you could contribute to, start a new one, or ask Dave and the other pastors to help train you.

End of the story of the Chisel/ People who have been hurt.

Remember our chisel? It was left on the shelf, unused, rusting. Useless to anyone. In fact, if the chisel had been a sentient being, it would have felt unfulfilled. And there it sat, until one day the Master Tool Maker visited the village where the Wood Crafter lived and worked. When told the story of the chisel. The Master Tool Maker immediately said: Why didn’t you tell me right away. And he took that chisel back to his shop where he re-polished it, reset the inlay and re-sharpened the edge. He then brought the chisel back to the Wood Crafter and that chisel was used to create an Altar of such fine workmanship that people came from miles around to see it and to admire it.

You see if you have been used for something that is not the purpose for which you have been created you will never be happy. In fact you will carry the scars and the damage of your abuse. And you maybe here today recovering from something like that. But if you are put back in the hands of a healer, a teacher, a pastor, if you are surrounded by fellow workers in ministry who are now part of your family and who help you along, you will be able to find your purpose and sometimes even be healed while in the middle of ministry. If today you fall in that category, where you’ve been hurt and need a time of healing then consider taking that time to heal, but also perhaps consider building a ministry family around you, co-workers who are then used by God to minister to you while you minister to others.

And if you are not a Christ follower today, I want to tell you that this is a safe place to come and just be. But at the same time I want to invite you as you feel comfortable and when you feel ready to become involved in radical belonging and invest in someone else’s life as we invest in yours.

My story of how I grew in ministry

I want to tell you also of my practical experience. Some of you may have noticed that I got involved right away as soon as I got here. I mean, if you think about it, I visited South Hills around August last year and by October, I was teaching a class. You see when I decided to move to South Hills, I knew right from the start that unless I was going to be in ministry right away I’d a) never really belong and b) never really get much out of church. So as soon as I got here I started looking for opportunities.

But you see I’d learned that the hard way. You see I’ve been at churches where I just didn’t belong, I’ve been at churches where I visited for months and never felt a part of. 14 years ago when I first moved to California, I visited a bunch of churches for a while, but I never felt like I belonged anywhere. After about 7 months of visiting various churches I went to Los Gatos Christian Church, after I’d been there a short time I got involved in the Activities group. I immediately had a bunch of friends. Then one day, one of them said: Why don’t you come to the Junior High All Night Party as a counselor. I said: Junior High? I hate teenagers. I don’t know anything about them. Why would I want to work with Junior High? For the next 7 years I was a Junior High Counselor. For those 7 years, I had a family. Because we were a team. The Junior High staff, did things together, hung out together, went on trips together, we were a family. For those 7 years I belonged. I was needed. And I grew. I first started out by just being there. My one talent, that is my loud voice developed over time into other talents. First I started just leading now and then in prayer, then I did short 10 minute bible studies, then I moved onto doing a small 15 minute talk, I started working with some of the kids to help them do announcements, I then moved to leading entire teams of kids and then got involved with Military Wild and Crazy Mod night event and so it went. I was growing and learning along the way. My talents were multiplying slowly and surely. But most of all I was having a BLAST doing all this. Later I left the Jr. High ministry and started teaching young adults at LGCC. Do you think I could have led the young adults when I first started? Of course not. I have never been to a Bible college a day in my life. I have never been to a Bible Seminary a day in my life. God had to use the pastors and teachers to train me. And you see the whole time I had a purpose, and I knew that as long as I was in ministry, as long as God was using me somehow, I would never really have to question what my purpose in life was. My purpose in life is to be being used by God. And within the context of the Church body, my purpose is to be in ministry. And you know what. I honestly believe that the Bible says that your purpose is also to be in ministry.

You need to be involved in ministry ….. to truly belong.

You need to be involved in ministry ….. to fulfil your purpose in life.

You need to be involved in ministry ….. to have a blast.

As we finish, I want to summarize what we’ve talked about.

1. Man’s greatest fear is Extinction without Distinction. You can eliminate this fear by being someone to somebody. By being in Ministry.

2. We all need to belong. We can only belong if we bring our passion and our service to others. You need to be in ministry to truly belong.

3. God has created you to glorify him. Specifically in the Church body, God has brought Pastors and teachers not so that they may do the work, but so they may train you to do the work. That they may train you to do the ministry. And until you are doing that you cannot even start to feel fulfilled. You can solve that by being in ministry.

4. God WILL hold you responsible for what you did with what He gave you, be it little or lots. He will hold you responsible for developing the little you had. You must develop and multiply those talents that God gave you. You can start to develop that by being in ministry.

In a moment I am going to ask you to make a commitment to start becoming involved in a ministry in this church or in the new church. I’m going to ask you to change your life, and the world. I’d like to ask you to start thinking about that. Will you make a commitment?

You see there is one more item, item 5.

You can change the world.

5.You can change the world by being in ministry. You can change lives and you can be instrumental in world upheaval. Let me give you one example, I recently talked to a man in our very congregation, who while obeying God and working with a missions team in Europe. And as part of that ministry effort, years ago he gave them a computer. The team was in Romania. Did you know that the entire government was overthrown because of an incident that started at a pastor’s house. For weeks the government had been trying to force the pastor to join the official state church and only teach what they wanted him to teach. It became apparent that they were going to arrest him because he kept refusing and kept teaching the gospel. The day the soldiers came to arrest him, his house was surrounded by Christians. The soldiers tried to make their way through the people but they peacefully resisted. Then one of the men lighted a candle and started peacefully walking around the house. Immediately others followed and there were candles everywhere. Then the soldiers fired. This created such an uproar in the nation that almost over night the entire government was overthrown. Today Romania is free, and people can worship God in peace.

One day the man in our congregation got a flyer in the mail. It was the flyer that had been sent out by the members of the congregation calling people to the event at the pastor’s house, that fateful night when Romania started to break its shackles. The letter simply said: “This flyer was printed on the computer and printer you gave us.”

You can change the world. It happens one incident and one person at a time. Will you choose to change the world today? Could you commit to meet with one High Schooler once every 2 weeks to help his walk in Christ? Or just to be there as a friend?

Are you in ministry? Because when the end of time comes, what you did for yourself will have no meaning. Only what you did for eternity.

Eleanor Rigby died ……and was buried along with her name

Nobody came.

You don’t need to be buried along with your name. You can live not only forever in Heaven, but also forever in the memory of the people you have reached out to here on earth.

Because you see, if your life is you. And you are working for nothing greater than your life. Then you can only ever be as great as your own life.

But if your calling and your dreams and your hopes and your goals are for something far far greater than you. Then you will truly be great. And then you will remembered for all eternity.

Will you Commit?

I’m going to ask you for a commitment now. I’m going to ask you to make a commitment that you will get involved in ministry. If you today commit that you will be involved somewhere somehow in the ministry of God, can I ask you to contact me. Remember we don’t expect you to know exactly what to do. Just be willing to be used and make yourself immediately available.

And as you minister you WILL belong.

Neil Mammen.

San Jose, CA

December 6th, 1998

 
Read some of Neil's Blogs on Frank Turek's Site:
www.crossexamined.org
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