I recently attended my wife’s 20 year High School Reunion. That sounds odd, doesn’t it? Let me try that again… my wife recently went to her 20 year High School Reunion, and I went with her. That’s better. Because it would be weird for me to just wander on into a reunion for a school I didn’t go to. To be honest, though, it kind of felt like that. Let me tell you how many people I knew: 2. One of those two was my wife. (I’ll take this moment to say thanks a lot to some friends of mine who graduated with my wife yet didn’t attend. You know who you are.)
At this event, I was the outsider. Me and a bunch of other outsider spouses just hanging out and saying “nice to meet you” a lot, even though there were a few people who weren’t actually nice to meet. These kind of settings are awkward for me. I am an introvert. My worst nightmare is attending an event where I don’t know anyone and the sole purpose of the event is socializing. So ya. Good times. I was the outsider.
Now at this event, people were mostly gracious with non-school-attending spouses. But I’ve seen other social gatherings where outsiders aren’t treated so kindly. You know, settings like church. Wait, what? I mean, people are usually friendly, but don’t necessarily make outsiders feel like not-outsiders. It’s the courtesy “hello” then back to catching up with my friends. Not cool, church people. Not cool.
Exodus 22:21 Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.
That’s what God told the Israelites while they were wandering around in the desert looking for the promised land. Now I know that’s a specific instruction for a specific application, but what if it still applied to God’s people today? Because I think it does. Here’s the heart behind the instruction: “Hey people, you used to be outsiders, slaves, and oppressed. The insiders weren’t nice to you. They didn’t include you in their social circles. Did you like that? I didn’t think so. So don’t do that to others.”
In God’s church there shouldn’t be insiders and outsiders; there should only be family. I could elaborate on that, explaining what inclusiveness means. But I think I’ll just leave it there. Church = family. If you have attended 1562 services or 1 service, you are family. No outsiders. Church people, let’s see if we can make that happen.
I love being a pastor and I love my church! I love to see people’s lives redeemed and restored. I love it when people grow in their walk with the Lord. I love to see people step out in the calling God has placed on their lives. I love when people walk in the gifts that the Holy Spirit has given them. I love to see the church operate effectively and powerfully. I love watching the church grow as lives are turned over to Jesus. I love the church!
But after reading my Bible this morning, I’ve come to realize that I’m called to pastor more than one church. So starting today, that’s what I’ll do. My second church is a small church. In fact, there are only 6 people in it, including me. I have absolutely no plans to grow this church – I think 6 is a great number. Honestly, I don’t know that I would be able to manage more than 6 people in this church. “So,” you ask. “Why the decision to pastor a second church with 6 people in it?” Here’s why:
1 Timothy 3:4-5 He must manage his own family well, having children who respect and obey him. For if a man cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church?
Friends, God calls us to manage our homes. I’ve got to be a pastor at my “home church” before I can be a pastor at Abundant Life Church. It’s what the Bible says. How can I be a leader in God’s house if I’m not leading in my own house? How can I prepare sermons yet not lead devotionals? I can’t. So I’m pastoring two churches. Please excuse me while I give my children a Godly heritage that will impact generations of Grasleys to come.
*How well are you doing at leading YOUR family?
Genesis 9:7 As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it.
I am part of a church with lots of kids. Really, I mean it. On a given Sunday, close to half of the people there are under the age of 18. We get this verse at Abundant Life. I have friends with 5, 6, 7, 8, and even 9 children. Yes, they are a fruitful bunch! My wife and I have four children, which some days seems like a lot. But when we hang out with our church friends, we feel like underachievers. God Bless ’em.
God told Noah and his family to be fruitful and multiply. As I read this passage of scripture, I wonder if God is speaking to us today at a deeper level. I wonder if this “be fruitful and multiply” thing has more to it than making babies. You see, Jesus also talked about being fruitful and multiplying. He said to go and make disciples of all nations. He instructed his men to multiply the kingdom of God. We are giving birth to children, but are we giving birth to spiritual children?
As a Christian, each one of us has been given the same command: make disciples… be fruitful and multiply. This is not only the calling of pastors and evangelists; it is the calling of a believer. For if the believer is not fruitful, the world will not find Jesus through him. And if the believer does not multiply, the kingdom of God will become like stagnant waters and begin to stink. The church should never be setting still. There should be new life happening. New faces should be walking through the doors and life should be springing up. So be fruitful and multiply church. God told us to.
*Spiritually speaking, how are you doing on being fruitful and multiplying?
Acts 11:17 So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?
The early church was comprised of Jews who believed in Jesus, were baptized, and filled with the Holy Spirit. God took their religion and pumped in some high octane fuel! This all came at a time in which the church was running on status quo. There had been no prophet for hundreds of years and no great move of God. But them came Jesus, who ministered with such power and authority that it made people’s heads spin. Some wanted to kill him, others gave their whole lives to him. And among the latter, His church was birthed. His church: Jesus believing, Spirit filled, Jews.
Then something strange happened. God’s “not chosen” people began to believe. Not only did they believe, but He filled them with His Spirit. They too began to speak in tongues and prophesy. Like the Jesus following Jews, they too became God’s chosen. And all this messed with the original members of the church. How can we possibly let these people who are different than us in? Why would we associate with God’s unchosen? For starters, they look different than us. They couldn’t possibly strive to look like Jesus; they don’t even resemble Him. Not only that, but they have no knowledge of the scriptures. They don’t know our history or our pain. How can this be? Yet God gave them the same gift that He gave us. How can I oppose that?
Today we can so easily get stuck in the same mindset. We gravitate toward people who look like us and have the same life experiences. We have this idea of what a Christian should look like. So when someone walks through the doors of the church, we wonder what they are doing here. I’ll tell you what they are doing: they are coming to receive life. They are coming to get the same gift you have. They haven’t been through all the Bible classes you have, yet they are hearing the same teaching. Jesus died for all, friends. For all. He died for those who don’t share your values. He died for those who don’t live your same lifestyle. He died for democrats and for republicans. He died for those who root for a different sports team or drive a different brand of car. He died for you, but He also died for someone not like you. He died for humanity. For humanity is who He longed to save.
If this frustrates you, if you wonder why God would use that guy, think on the words of Peter today. “Who was I to think that I could oppose God?” This was God’s plan: to love the world so much that He sent His Son to reconcile that world to Himself. So embrace it. Welcome the stranger who is different from you. Embrace those who you would prefer not to tolerate. For if they just believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, they will become your brothers and your sisters. Then what are you going to do?
2 Samuel 21:1 During the reign of David, there was a famine for three successive years; so David sought the face of the LORD. The LORD said, “It is on account of Saul and his blood-stained house; it is because he put the Gibeonites to death.”
Warning: There are 2 big takeaways today. Yes, in this one little verse there are two profound truths we can discover. So bear with me as I tackle them both.
Up first: I wonder what took David so long to ask God what was going on. Do you ever do this? Israel had some serious lack for three straight years when David finally decides to ask God what is going on. I’ve experienced this phenomenon myself. I remember one year as I was planning a summer outreach, the other leaders and I would regularly meet to plan out the details. We would talk for two hours and accomplish nothing. Then one of us would say, “maybe we should stop and ask God what we are to do.” It was a giant, NO DUH! So we prayed and God showed us the plan. Why are we humans like this? We struggle on our own for far too long before we ask God for His help. If we would just ask God why there is a famine in the land sooner, maybe we wouldn’t have to endure it for three years.
The second part of this verse gives us a good dose of Godly truth as well. Let me paint a picture for you. Let’s say that in the church there were two types of Christians: those who grew up in Christian homes and those who did not. We will call these two groups the “lifers” and the “latecomers.” Now what if the lifers decided that they were superior to the latecomers. They had been saved longer and didn’t really care for inexperienced Christians. (Boy, I hope this doesn’t really happen anywhere!) So the lifers decide to form their own little subgroup that only lifers are welcome to. The latecomers don’t belong and considered second-class citizens. What are your thoughts on that?
That would be a shame, wouldn’t it? That would defeat the purpose of the church; it would be contrary to the heart of God. But Saul committed a similar crime – he killed Gibeonites. Who are the Gibeonites, you ask? They are a people group who the Israelites made a treaty with in the book of Joshua. They weren’t born the people of God, but they were brought into the nation of Israel and were given the privilege of serving the Lord. They essentially became one big happy family. You see, once God adopts someone in – He doesn’t plan on kicking them back out. Once He promises protection, He doesn’t throw them to the wolves. Saul violated God’s heart by killing those who seemed less important to God. He misread God’s heart and passed judgement that wasn’t his to pass. Let’s not do the same.