September 10, 2017 | Matthew 16.24-26 & Philippians 1.3-11 • “Our Future Story: Disciples Growing in Christ’s Love”

“Roast,” by Boris Mann, 2006 (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Matthew 16.24-26 (NIV)

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?


A mom and her son were working together to cook a meal.

The mom, took a roast, cut a piece of meat off of each end, put set the meat in a roasting pan, and then into the oven. Her son, watching all this, did one of the things kids are best at doing. He asked, “Why.” “Mom, why did you cut both the ends off the roast before you cooked it.”

The mom paused.

She thought for a moment.

She realized she didn’t know why she always prepared a roast the way she did. It was the way she watched her mom cook. This was the way she learned to do it. The mom told her son, “That’s the way your grandmother taught me … and I guess that is the way I have always done it.”

Of course, this was not a satisfying answer for the kid.

His curiosity sparked his mom’s curiosity. Both mom and son, decided to call grandmother to ask why she cooked roasts the way she did.

Why? Why do you cut both ends off a roast before you cook it?

The grandmother was surprised.

She hadn’t thought about cooking roasts and why she used this particular method for a long time. She realized she cooked them the way she did because a long time ago she didn’t have a pan that was big enough for a whole roast. Now she had a big enough pan, but she kept preparing the roast the way she always had, even though now it wasn’t necessary.

It can be challenging and require effort to come up with a helpful answer, but “Why?” is a really good question.

Wrestling with “why” can affirm the value of what we are doing. Asking “why” can push us into new directions … toward new methods … toward discovering deeper meaning and more satisfying ways of doing things.

As a church, it is important for us to look at our life and ministry and ask ourselves, “Why?”

“Why are we doing the things we do?”

“Why do we do things the ways we do?”

Last spring, our Session discerned it would be a good thing to participate, along with two other Denver Presbytery churches in New Beginnings. New Beginnings is a process designed to help churches ask “Why?” “Why are we doing the things we do?” Asking why can help churches to know themselves, know their community, and make a bold discernment about the ministry God is calling churches to be part of.

Session has felt that for us, a more relevant and helpful title for New Beginnings, would be “Our Church’s Future Story.” I like this idea – because as a church we are finding ourselves more and more in territory that is unfamiliar to many churches … we are growing … we are connecting with lots of new people … and we are trying to figure out how do we grow in ways that are sustainable, how do we share the good things God is doing in us and through us, and how do we include the people we are connecting with in our life and ministry, while at the same time nurturing and growing the unique church culture that defines us.

This is an awesome time to be asking “Why?” We have energy … we have people who are passionate and who care … we have people who are generous and support our life and ministry in amazing ways.

There have been a number of steps to “Our Future Story.”

We gathered and compiled information about our calendar and about our participants (you all).

Last May we had a site visit – a guy named PJ came to Fairplay. PJ walked our buildings, he explored the South Park Area. He interviewed our congregation’s leaders. Then in the evening we packed the fellowship hall full of people and PJ asked questions about our experiences with South Park Community Church. I loved hearing your responses and insights during that time.

Now we are starting our home group meetings where we will reflect on the report that developed from the tours, conversations, data, and appreciative inquiry.

Over the next four Sundays we will make our way through a sermon series that will line up (more or less) with the topics “Our Future Story” home groups will be discussing … This is a challenging series because there are a lot of variables. Some people are able to participate in the groups, and some are not. We have four home groups, two groups started their meetings last week and two groups will have their first meetings next week. Hopefully these sermons will be helpful as we think about what our life … what our future as a congregation can look like.

In their first session, our Home Groups will talk about the similar qualities of vital congregations.

Vital … lively … living … energetic churches ask “Why?”

Why do we do what we do?

Why are we doing things the way we do them?

As we think about vital churches … healthy … lively … growing churches … it is really important to remember that churches are people. The church isn’t just a building … The church is a community of people who may happen to have a building, a tent, a living room, or even like my friend, Collin’s, church an unused corner in a brewery. When the New Testament talks about the church, more often than anything else, it is talking about a community. The church is people. South Park Community Church isn’t just a beautiful building. South Park Community Church is this amazing group of people who God is drawing together to share life and ministry.

So, why are we doing what we are doing?

We heard the answer in the verses Russell read to us. As South Park Community Church, we are doing the things we do because, we are disciples. We are responding to Jesus’ call … we are accepting Jesus’ invitation to become his followers, to learn how to live our lives the way Jesus teaches us to live, to learn Jesus’ life rhythm and to embody his greatest commandment, to love God and love our neighbors.

When I think through why we do what we do as a church, and even why I do what I do as a pastor, my answer is because of God’s love. God reveals his amazing love for us in Jesus … and God shapes us to be people who are loving … who grow in understanding this love … and who grow in passing this love along.

In the Bible study part of our first home group sessions, we will be looking at Philippians chapter one, verses three through eleven. Paul’s prayer for the church in these verses is really helpful as we ask why we do what we do …

3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

Why do we do what we do as disciples of Jesus … why do we do what we do as South Park Community Church?

We do what we do to be reminded of God’s great love and to be shaped more and more to be people who pass along that love to the people around us. One of my favorite authors understands the church as a “school of love” … a community where together we learn about God’s love, we experience God’s love, and we grow together as people who love God and love our neighbors.

Why do we do what we do?

God’s love is why.

God’s love shapes us, claims us, calls us, inspires us, and moves us to do what we do.