by Robert Brow (www.brow.on.ca)
We had many Baptist missionary friends. I did a conference for the pastors of the Baptist conference in Orissa. I worked in student work with Subodh Sahu, and I preached when I was in Calcutta at Carey Baptist Church. A wonderful work was done by American Baptist missionaries among the head hunters of the Naga Hills. The missionaries were soon thrown out, but the Naga church has multiplied. Many students from there came to Allahabad to study and they would meet in our home. They had learned to write music in Tonic Solfa before they could read - we would sing one verse of a new chorus and they would write it down, and three minutes later sing it right back to us in beautiful four-part harmony.
What makes it possible for Anglicans and Baptists and many other denominations to work together, not just in four-part harmony but in many-part harmony all over the world? In any big business corporation success depends on the CEO (the Chief Executive Officer) having a clear idea of what he intends to do. He also needs the ability to impart that purpose to every single person from the Vice-Presidents down to those working on the line. Without that, the organization flounders and fails.
In our case as Christians, Jesus is the Chief Executive Officer of his world-wide business. This is what he said to the first one who grasped who he was. Others had thought he might be John the Baptist risen from the dead, or Elijah, or one of the prophets, but Peter said "You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God." And Jesus picked him as the first living stone of the world-wide temple he intended to build. "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church" (Matthew 16:15-19).
Notice that our Chief Executive Officer decided to build his church according to his vision, and in his own way. He said "I will build my church." And he intended to make it succeed against all the powers of evil. "I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it."
In doing that he gives tremendous responsibility to those who work for him. In every big company people are entrusted with keys. Each office, and computer and filing cabinet has its key. Some have the keys to the company cars and trucks. As CEO Jesus has given some of you keys to this building, and the organ, the bank accounts, and the cupboards of the Sunday School. My little task in Jesus' world-wide company is to write for a website. This sermon I am now preaching with you in First Baptist Church will be available for Baptists, or Anglicans, or any others, anywhere in the world by Wednesday. But my friend Les Potter has the key to the website - nobody else can put their stuff on it.
So Jesus said "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." Which means that each of us are given keys to a department of his business. But people who are given keys must be helped to understand exactly what the CEO has in mind. Let's look briefly at his church's LOCATION, ORGANIZATION, and VISION.
LOCATION - Jesus' business is the Kingdom, and it has a church in each city and the surrounding area that it serves. Paul wrote letters to the churches in Rome, Corinth, two cities in Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colossae, Thessalonica. There were also churches in Caesarea, Samaria, Damascus, Antioch, Athens, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphis and Laodicea. But in every city and its surrounding area there is only one church. And there is only one church in Kingston, or Brockville, Belleville, or Ottawa. The one church in our city of Kingston city has congregations meeting in many locations, buildings, rented halls, private homes, jails, hospitals, nursing homes. And these use all sorts of quaint names to identify themselves. One building is called the Church of the Good Thief. If you want a building packed with young people and loud rock music you go to the Next Church.
Many congregations are connected with a denomination which helps them function effectively. In the next few weeks your Baptist denomination will be helping you in the selection of a Pastor. But a denomination is not a church. In the New Testament there is no such thing as the Anglican Church, or the Roman Catholic Church, or the Presbyterian Church. There is just one church in each city. There is a church in the city of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, or Kabul, Afghanistan, but it has no denominational name and it is not allowed to have a building.
ORGANIZATION - Secondly we note that Jesus, our CEO, has decided that his church in each city will function like a human body. The word "corporation" means a body. And in that body Paul explained that "there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them" (1 Corinthians 12:4-7). Each of us is given a huge amount of freedom to choose what we are going to do, and how we do it. And right here in Kingston there are as many kinds of Christian with different functions as there are parts of your human body.
You also discover that the Lord likes to have a variety of flowers in his garden. He puts a clump of Chrysanthemums next to Lily of the Valley, and then some Phlox, a line of Lilies, and a bunch of Lupins in the corner. The tulips complain that the Roses have thorns, and the Roses despise the tulips for lack of perfume. But all of you have experienced the fact that in your work for the Kingdom, whatever it is, you find yourself working very closely with Christians from other congregations and denominations.
So we have noted the LOCATION of the Lords's church here in Kingston. And its astonishing ORGANIZATION working with all the complexity of a human body. Thirdly we note the way we are to grasp our VISION.
VISION is a direction of looking. In a business corporation people must to keep their minds on the customers, what policy the CEO has in mind, and the money that makes it all work. Our vision is very different.
Jesus wants our customers to get a vision of God the Father. As CEO, he says "I want you to know how much he loves you, even when you fail. He counts you as his children even when you don't behave very well. As I kept saying to ordinary people 'Your sins are forgiven.' You can't see the Father (John 1:18), but like a loving Parent, he cares and watches out for you behind the scenes of your life."
Our CEO also wants us to have a vision of how he did things. And we do that by reading the Gospels. This is the way he touched lepers. This is the way he enrolled disciples to begin learning with him. This is the way he freed people from burdensome rules - Jesus had no time for legalism. Rather than complicated theology, this is the way he told parables. This is how we are to love enemies and other tiresome people. This is how he faced the storms of life. And this is the way he died with absolute certainty in the resurrection.
Instead of money to control our direction we need a vision of looking to the Holy Spirit for inspiration and empowerment from the very depths of our being. When we have something difficult to do like loving an enemy, teaching a parable to children, praying for a sick person, we admit that we cannot do it by your own wisdom. There are lots of other things we can do by our own efforts, but none of us can do a single thing to share in building his church without the Holy Spirit.
So you can see how he builds his church by our vision of the love of God the Father, and by our vision of how he did things in his life, and by our vision of the mighty empowerment of the Holy Spirit. That is why we will be concluding this service with "The Grace of our Lord Jesus the Messiah, and the Love of God the Father, and the Empowering of the Holy Spirit." The world may not understand, but you can see that the mystery of being involved in Jesus building his church is very exciting.
In a moment of silent prayer I am going to invite you to tell him you
want to work with him. You may already have a clear vision of the special
gifts he has given you and how you fit into the work of building his church.
Others of you feel quite useless and can't imagine what you have to contribute.
Ask him to show you, and you will be surprised. (Silent prayer)