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About this series
The Miracle of Life Change
Is a "changed life" really possible? If we're honest, most of us would say no. Maybe you've tried numerous programs that promise big changes, but in reality, they deliver very little results. You long for transformation, but don't know where to begin. There's good news for you! Life change is possible! God created you to grow, to change, to experience intimacy and adventure. In this series, from Ephesians 4, you will learn how true life change can happen to you. You'll be able to identify the barriers that have held you back from receiving God's best and you'll also learn how to break out of a destructive lifestyle so you can become the person you've always longed to be. This fresh approach to spiritual transformation is designed to move you from the frustration of failure to the freedom you have in Christ.More from this series
My first two or three years as a pastor, I worked eighty, eighty-five hours a week. I grew this magnificent church from thirty-five to almost a hundred people, and just about landed in the hospital.
My wife typed the bulletin. We did the mimeograph. My kids helped me cut the grass. I cleaned the toilets. I did all the counseling. I did all the preaching. I actually even helped lead the music, which was scary.
And then, this passage became a reality, and we flipped everything around in that church, and we helped everyone discover what God made them to do. And we moved the pastoral care from a person to a system of small groups, the way Jesus did. And they started loving one another. And then, that little town of about three thousand people – pretty soon, we had about five hundred people. And pretty soon we were connecting with the black church in town, and the Hispanic kids. And ministries were being launched by people, because I finally got, my job was to help.
Leaders equip. They drive the car forward. They help people like you – all of us regular people – to discover how God’s made us, grow to maturity, use our gifts, so that – notice the second principle.
The second principle is, every member is a minister. Remember that little phrase I said, “work of service”? That’s our word for minister. Every member is a minister.
When someone would ask me, “Well, how many ministers do you have at the church that you get to pastor?” you know what my answer is? “Well, we have between three thousand to thirty-five hundred that come on the weekends, and I know about a third of them, or forty percent of them, are out doing something, and for lots of good, legitimate reasons are off a Sunday, or weekend, here or there. And some of them, for not so legitimate reasons, are off a Sunday here and there. And so, I would say we have about three thousand ministers.”
Now, some of them pose, like secret agents, as stay-at-home moms, or software engineers, or CEOs, or plumbers, or construction workers. And other people are on college campuses, posing as students. But actually, underneath of it, underneath the robe of their clothes, it says, “Full-time minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
That’s who you are! So, you minister! You are the hope of your neighborhood, the hope your family, the hope of where you work. You are a full-time minister of the gospel. A leader’s job is to help equip you personally, spiritually, relationally, so that you can be an effective minister in your home, and at your school, and at your work, in your neighborhood.
And I remember this story – I always liked the old westerns. We still watch them.
And I always love the part where, “The bank’s been robbed! What are we going to do?” “Ohhh! What are we going to do? What are we going to do?”
And then, the marshal comes up, “Arright, fellers, we’re going to form a posse.” And then, what’s he do? “Arright. Marshal Dillon, I’m gonna deputize all you people. Fred, you’re now deputy. Bob, you’re a deputy.” Right? They deputize them.
And then, what do they do? They all get on their horses, and they have their guns. They now have the power to go do exactly what the sheriff does.
Can I tell you? When you came to Christ, God gave gifted leaders to equip you. You’re deputized. You can counsel. You can lead people to Christ. You can share your faith. You can open your home. You have a unique DNA, in terms of relationships, spiritual gifts, backgrounds, opportunities, and, often, your deepest hurts. Often, the things that you have been through, that you feel like, Oh…, will be the very things that will help the people in this Valley understand who Christ is. And I want you to know, you’ve been deputized.
I remember a really interesting experience – because we talk about life change, and sometimes, when we talk about authentic community, if you’re not careful, you can get authentic community to mean, I’m in a great small group. I’m privately reading the Bible. We share deeply. It’s a great time together. We are having these wonderful relationships. And I guess this is authentic community. No, no, no, no. That’s part of authentic community.
See, authentic community isn’t just about what you get, or deep relationships, or accountability. Authentic community has to do with being fitted in the right spot, so that those kinds of relationships are on mission to fulfill what Jesus said, when He said, “Go therefore and make disciples.” And if you’re not involved in, not just receiving, and loving, and caring, and the Word, but serving out of the supernatural deposit of gift, your life doesn’t change, and you don’t experience His power.
I had a weird experience with this. I didn’t grow up as a Christian, and I came to Christ, and then I coached. And when I coached, I did Bible studies with my players. And then, after Theresa and I got married, we both were in a college ministry.
And our lives were filled with caring, and loving, and discipling. And it was very fulfilling.
In fact, that’s why I actually thought, I think God wants me, Chip, regular, ordinary person, to actually be a pastor. And I thought, You’ve got to be kidding, God. Certainly, you have to be smarter than me, and a lot more holy than me. And God said, “No, actually, you’ll do.” So, I said, “Okay.”
And so, we go to seminary and in West Virginia, a huge church is two hundred people. And, well, we get to Dallas, and it was like, Oh my lands. We ended up at this church of about twenty-five hundred people, and the pastor was awesome. And they had all these seminary professors teaching Sunday school classes.
It was like going to a conference every weekend: You go to a class over here, and amazing things for your kids. And so, it was like, Wow. Wow – week one, week two, week three, week four, week five, week six, week seven. And I’m getting all this stuff at seminary, and we’re trying to figure out life.
And I can still remember getting right to the door of where you went in this big church, and I turned to my wife, and I said, “Do you feel like going to church today?” And, please, don’t make too heavy an application on this. She said, “No.” I said, “Me neither. You want to go to Wendy’s?” She goes, “Sure.” Sorry. So, we did.
And so, they’re doing this great stuff with our kids, so we go to Wendy’s. And we get in Wendy’s, and I said, “Honey, something’s wrong. I have never been in a church with such good teaching. I have never been in a church with such great programs. But, man, I just feel blah.” And she said, “I feel exactly the same way.” I said, “Well what could be wrong? We’re here, preparing for the ministry, and…” And she said, “Well, why did we come?” And we began to talk about what a normal week was like in West Virginia.
And you know what I realized? I realized that all I was doing was eating, spiritually, but there was no exercise. The grace of God wasn’t flowing through me to help other people. And so, I was in a small group, and I was getting all this great teaching.
Becoming the person you long to become cannot happen by being simply a spectator, and a receiver of great spiritual food, in a great spiritual environment. It’s by that which “every joint supplies according to the proper working of each individual part.”
And I remember writing on a napkin. I said, “Okay, we’ve got to fix this.” So, I’m working full-time; I’m going to school full-time. I don’t have any time. But I’m thinking, If my spiritual life is – I’m doing a dive. There’s no power. There’s no energy. There’s no life.
And so, I got an appointment with the pastor, and we sat down at this booth in this little restaurant. And on a 3x5 card, I had my name, my phone number, what I thought my spiritual gifts were, ministry experience I’ve had in college ministries. And then, I pretended I had to go to the bathroom – “Excuse me, I need to go to the bathroom. I’ll be right back.” And I handed him the card. And on the back of it said, “You tell me any place in this church you need help. I’m in.”
And so, I went to the bathroom – two and a half minutes, maybe he needs three. I want to make sure he reads the card well. And I came back, and we sat down, and Don says, “Well, hey, it seems like you’ve had some ministry experience.” I said, “You can check me out however you want. I’ve got to get back in the game.” We ended up doing the high school ministry. Six or eight months later, we ended up doing the college ministry. And life. Leaders are gifted to equip. Every member is a minister. And if you aren’t ministering…
You know those little things where I said, can you imagine what it would be like to forgive someone so deeply that your first reaction would be, you rejoice? That’s supernatural. That doesn’t happen by reading your Bible alone, and trying really hard to change some habits.
See, there is a design. There is a spiritual cocoon. There is a Master Creator. And He says, the way it works is, when leaders equip, and every member is a minister, then amazing things happen. And in verse 13, it’s that ministries are developed to help every believer to live every day, in every way, just as Jesus would live, if He were living out His life in their physical body.
And what I want you to know is that in God’s design, when leaders equip, instead of do all the ministry and rob people of it – when every member realizes, You know something? Okay, I’m in school. Or, I’m a stay-at-home mom. Or, I’m working in this company. I am His representative! I am the living Christ inside of me. The hope for this whole department may be me. I may be the only Christian. How I live, how I talk, how I love, when and how I communicate, is the hope of the world. I’m a minister! I don’t a have a little collar, but I’m a minister!
And then, what happens is, when this occurs, ministries – in other words, outreaches to people – are developed, so that every single believer lives every day, in every way.
So, it’s not like it starts at work, but it’s at home, or it’s with your roommate. It’s in your neighborhood. Nine out of ten of most all the people in this part of the country, where I live, do not have a personal relationship with God. And there is great need, and there’s a God who loves them.
And then, after they die – because I spent yesterday with a guy that doctors said had about six or nine months to live. And when you look in the eyes of very powerful people, with all kinds of backgrounds, and they know they have six or nine months to live, they act very differently.
He said, “When it’s theory – you know you die, but it gets real different when it’s up close.” And he was seated across his bed, and I asked him – I was amazed at how bold I was – “So, what are they telling you?” “Less than a year.” “What are you most afraid of?” Whoo.
You know why I was so bold? He’s going to die! He’s going to die! And right now, all indications are that he is going to die apart from Christ.
I said, “I don’t know all about your past life, and how many regrets you might have, but you don’t want to have eternal regrets. I want you to know there is a Jesus, there’s a God who cares, and He’s prepared a place for you, if you will receive His gift.”
And he looked at me – and you know what hit me this morning? Everyone I meet’s going to die. You know your neighbors? I’ve got news for you! Flash! They’re going to die! You know your co-workers? They’re going to die! You know your family? They’re going to die.
You know what makes you bold? When you get it, and we stop worrying so much about how people think of us, and we start realizing, I have a supernatural endowment and power inside of me. The living God lives inside of me, and He cares about them. And the only issue is me getting over me.
But the only way I get over me is when I get equipped by leaders. And the only way I learn to minister is when I take baby steps, and start doing it. And when you start doing it, guess what? You fail a lot. Okay.
You know, when I see Jesus with the disciples, you know what I notice? They fail a lot. You find for me, in the gospels, where He yells at them for failing. I can’t find it! The only time He gets upset is, “Where is your faith? You’ve got to be kidding Me! You’re not even trying? Oh you of little faith.”
So, leaders equip us, we are all the ministers, and then ministries are birthed. This is how the Church works. Church isn’t coming, and listening, and spectating, saying, The music was okay. The guy kept me awake most of the time. Now I’m going to go out and try and be a nice person. That’s not it! It’s you getting equipped. It’s you being a full-time minister. It’s you watching ministries grow and develop, according to your hearts and your passions, and you begin to serve.
And as you do, the grace of God comes inside of you, and He uses you, and you have this amazing experience, where people’s eternities, and families, and marriages, and kids are completely transformed because of an ordinary piece of clay, like you, in whom the living Spirit of God lives.
And He gifts you, and trains you, and you take baby steps of faith, and you fail, and you struggle, and have ups and downs. But, in the midst of all your weakness and hurt, the power of God is displayed.
Leaders are the equippers. Ministries will grow and develop – special ministries to special age groups, and special needs, and special backgrounds – out of your hurts, and your pains, and your gifts, and your passions.
And then, what you’ll see is, this is what happens: You’ll find that there will be doctrinal stability. You’ll find people – because they’re in the Word, you know what? They can spot a false teacher. “As a result we are no longer children” – right? – “tossed here and there by every wind of doctrine.”
As a result, what you find is, people have authentic relationships. You do ministry with people and you fail, and you struggle, and you pray together – pretty soon, you’re tight. Not just in a small group, but you’re tight. And they’re loved. And there’s full participation. “It’s by that which every joint supplies” – we need you!
Here’s the deal: This isn’t, like – I hear some people, “Oh, I don’t need to go to church, because there’s nature, and I’ve got a Bible, and there’s God, and I don’t need the church.” Okay, granted. We need you! Okay?
It’s like the tight end saying, “I don’t need you. I can toss the ball to myself.” And I’ve got news for you. There are certain patterns and plays we can’t run without a tight end, and we need both guards, and we need a quarterback, and we need a coach, and we need a manager. We need everybody! The Church can’t be the Church – full participation.
And when that happens, that’s when those imaginary things that I described – they’re not imaginary. They’re not imaginary.
Are you ready? I know this will come as a shock: You’re going to die. And there are going to be people at your house, or near your house, eating those munchie little sandwiches, and they’re going to talk about you. And I don’t know about you, but I want them to say, by the grace of God, “You know what? He was one of the most loving people I ever met. Oh man, I mean, had his idiosyncrasies” – and they laugh about those – “but full of integrity. Christ-like. Cared about people. Generous. Loving. Authentic.”
That’s not going to happen by trying hard, and coming and sitting in this building, to be a good person. That’s going to happen when you understand who you are in Christ, when you understand the power is in Christ’s resurrection, for you and with you, to walk in newness of life, and when you allow leaders to equip you, and when you minister. And ministries are birthed along your gifts and passions and you know the Word, and you speak the truth in love, and you are connected, and God produces it.