The Purpose Driven Life
A Place to
A place to belong. That’s all they wanted. In 1921, less than three years after the end of the Great War, the ‘homes fit for heroes’ promised by the authorities to returning soldiers had not materialised. A place to belong. Over 600,000 able-bodied ex-Servicemen were unemployed, and 100,000 were severely disabled. Something had to be done. A place to belong.
For what ever reason, the Churches were unable or unwilling to take the initiative. Instead God raised up the British Legion in July 1921 and that November, saw the first Poppy Day. The 11th hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month became a symbol of this countries commitment to remember the fallen, to care for their dependents and resolve to work for justice and peace for all.
Just 18 years later the Legion was still on active service. This time fighting for the pension rights of the shattered men returning from the WWII front, as well as widowed women at home. At the same time it became clear there was not enough suitable accommodation for ex-Servicemen disabled in both World Wars, and the Legion began buying houses and adapting them top provide suitable homes for disabled war heroes.
A place to belong. Although more than 80 years have passed since the Legion began to fight for the rights of ex-servicemen and women, the situation is still shamefully similar. A place to belong. British Forces are presently serving in 28 conflicts worldwide, including the Black Watch in Falluja. And yet, yesterday’s heroes still sleep in shop doorways, and ex-prisoners of war face a lonely, desolate old age. That is why the British Legion is needed as much today as it was yesterday. That is why the Legion continues to need our support. To provide a place to belong. But is that not what we are here for? Is that not the role of the Church? To provide a place to belong. A place for all, for all ages, all abilities and disabilities, all races, all nations?
These Sunday mornings leading up to Christmas, we are thinking about our purpose as a church. We are discovering God’s purposes for us. We have already observed that our first and most important purpose in life is to know that we were planned for God’s pleasure. To know God through Jesus Christ, to become his friend, to please him and to enjoy him forever.
This is our deepest need. To discover who we are and why we exist. Our second purpose in life is to realise that we were formed for God’s family. In his family we can find a place to belong. In his book, The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren tells us,
“You are called to belong, not just believe… We are created for community, fashioned for fellowship and formed for a family, and none of us can fulfil God’s purposes by ourselves.
The Bible says we are put together, joined together, built together, members together, heirs together, fitted together, and held together and will be caught up together. You’re not on your own anymore… “While your relationship to Christ is personal, God never intends it to be private. In God’s family you are connected to every other believer, and we will belong to each other for eternity... Following Christ involves belonging and not just believing. Lets discover what our reading from Romans 12 has to teach us about the church and becoming a place to belong. You may like to turn to it with me.
A church family moves you out of self-centred isolation
“For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” (Romans 12:3)
Listen to Rick Warren on the importance of the Church in scripture. “Membership in the family of God is neither inconsequential nor something to be causally ignored. The Church is God’s agenda for the world. Jesus said, “I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.” (Matthew 16:18 NLT). The church is indestructible and will exist for eternity. It will outlive this universe, and so will your role in it.
The person who says, “I don’t need the church” is either arrogant or ignorant. The church is so significant that Jesus died for it… “Christ loved the church and gave his life for it.” (Ephesians 5:25).
The Bible calls the church “the bride of Christ” and the “body of Christ.” I can’t imagine anyone saying to Jesus, “I love you but I dislike your wife.” Or “I accept you, but I reject your body.”
But we do this when ever we think we can live in splendid isolation, “whenever we dismiss or demean or complain about the church…” “The Bible says a Christian without a church home is like an organ without a body, a sheep without a flock, or a child without a family. It is an unnatural state. Today’s culture is one of independence, personal freedom and individualism.
This has created many spiritual orphans, what Rick Warren calls “bunny believers” who hop around from one church to another without any identity, accountability, or commitment.”
“The local church is the classroom for learning how to get along in God’s
family. Only in regular contact with ordinary, imperfect believers, can we learn
real fellowship” as well as discover our true selves. “Isolation breeds deceitfulness;
it is easy to fool ourselves into thinking we are mature if there is no one to
challenge us. Real maturity shows up in relationships. We need more than the Bible
in order to grow; we need other believers.”
Being part of a church family will, says the Apostle Paul, ensure that you do not think more highly of yourself. A church family moves you out of self-centred isolation.
A church family identifies you as a genuine believer
“For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and each member belongs to all the others.” (Romans 12:4-5)
“We are members of His body – the church. C. S. Lewis has noted that the word membership is of Christian origin, but the world had emptied it of its original meaning…” The bible insists that, “the church is a body, not a building, an organism not an organisation… For the organs of your body to fulfill their purpose, they must be connected to your body. The same is true for you as a part of Christ’s Body. You were created for a specific role, but you will miss … it … if you are not attached to a living, local church. You discover your role in life through your relationships with others… If an organ is somehow severed from its body, it will shrivel and die. It cannot exist on its own, and neither can you. Disconnected and cut off from the lifeblood of a local body, your spiritual life will wither and eventually cease to exist.
is why the first symptom of spiritual decline is usually inconsistent attendance
at worship services and other gatherings. When we become careless about fellowship,
everything else begins to slide too.” “Biblical fellowship is being as committed
to each other as we are to Jesus Christ.” Most Christians can recite John 3:16.
Not so many have memorised 1 John 3:16, “Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.
And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” (1 John 3:16). The Bible says that you can’t claim to
be a follower of Christ if you are not participating in a church home. And your
membership in a church identifies you as a Christ follower. So,
A church family moves you out of self-centred isolation.
A church family identifies you as a genuine believer.
3. A church family is our primary place of
“Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.” (Romans 12:7-13)
“You will never grow to maturity just by attending worship services and being a passive spectator. Only participation in the full life of a local church builds spiritual muscle.” “The difference between being a church attender and a church member is commitment. Attenders are spectators from the sidelines; members get involved in the ministry. Attenders are consumers; members are contributors. Attenders want the benefits of a church without sharing the responsibility.”
The Bible says, ”As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” (Ephesians 4:16). Over 50 times in the New Testament
Pray for one another
Encourage one another
Admonish one another
Greet one another
Serve one another
Teach one another
Accept one another
Honor one another
Bear one another’s burdens
Forgive one another
Submit to one another, and
Be devoted to one another.
church family moves you out of self-centred isolation.
A church family identifies you as a genuine believer.
A church family is our primary place of service.
4. A church family enables us to reach the world for Christ.
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.” (Romans 12:14-16)
“As members of Christ’s body, we are His hands, His feet, His eyes, and His heart. He works through us in the world.”
As we bless others, as we identify with them, we are fulfilling Christ’s mission in the world—we are a model of Christ’s love for others and a place where people can come and experience Christ’s love. We become the place they too can belong.
In a couple of weeks we will begin to share how you can help Crisis at Christmas serving the homeless in London this Christmas. Talk to David if you want to serve. Another way you can help is by providing a home for students from overseas this Christmas. Talk to Paul if you want to share your Christmas.
A place to belong.
“We are created for community, fashioned
for fellowship, and formed for a family, and none of us can fulfill God’s purposes
by ourselves. The Bible says we are put together, joined together, built together,
members together; heirs together, fitted together, and held together and will
be caught up together. You’re not on your own anymore.”
”While your relationship to Christ is personal, God never intends it to be private. In God’s family you are connected to every other believer, and we will belong to each other for eternity.
God created the church to meet your five deepest needs; a purpose to live for, people to live with, principles to live by, a profession to live out, and power to live on. There is no other place on earth where you can find all five of these benefits in one place. God’s purposes for His church are identical to His five purposes for you. Worship helps you focus on God, fellowship helps you face life’s problems, discipleship helps fortify your faith; ministry helps find your talents; evangelism helps fulfill your mission. There is nothing else on earth like the Church!
Why is it important to join a local church family? Because it proves you are committed to your spiritual brothers and sisters in reality, not just in theory. God wants you to love real people, not ideal people. You can spend a lifetime searching for the perfect church, but you will never find it. You are called to love imperfect sinners, just as God does.
to belong. That is what we offer. That is what we want to be. It is your choice.
This sermon is based on chapter 18 of Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Life, pp.130-139.