Sermon:  Beginning to Be Simple

Summary:  Becoming simple in order to maximize focus and resources is really a matter 
of stewardship.  God is not only interested in what we give, but even more importantly 
how we give.  Becoming simple is an attempt to focus in such a way that we give God 
our very best because he is worthy of our best.  Taking the steps to become simple is 
much easier for a new church plant than an established church, but it can be done over 
time.  We need to spend considerable time in prayer as we move forward

Know:  God expects us to use his resources wisely and he expects results

Feel:  The desire to incorporate biblical principles of stewardship by becoming simple 
so that there can be greater results to the glory of God

Do:  Review the sermon series, taking time to discuss, understand, and communicate 
the clear discipleship process, how one step leads to the next, how each ministry 
needs to be aligned to the process, and what needs to be overhauled or eventually 
abandoned.  Life Group Leaders will be ready to discuss the group insights at the next 
Life Group Leader Meeting

Text:  Mt 25:14-30; Mal. 1

Scripture Reading:  Mt 25:25-30

Intro:
1.  Enthusiastic door to door vacuum cleaner salesman
	a.  First home, knocks on door, lady answers
	b.  Before has a chance to say anything, runs inside an dumps dirt on 
	     carpet, says, "If this vacuum cleaner donít do wonders in cleaning this 
	     up, I'll eat every bit of it
	c.  She said, "Would you like ketchup on that?"  He asked, "Why?"
	d.  She said, "We just moved in and the electricity hasn't been turned on 
	      yet."
		-  Sometimes you need to slow down and take a good look at things
		-  That is what the series on simplicity has been all about
		-  God hasn't made it complicated
2.  Review - Started with idea of simplicity
	a.  Begins with Clarity - Having a commonly understood, simply stated 
	     purpose and process for spiritual growth and discipleship
	b.  Progression, growing - There are "steps" to take as you grow,
		- Need to have clear steps in the process
		- Knowing where to start and what comes next
		- Each step comes with an increase in growth and commitment.  
		- There needs to be a single ministry for each step of the process.
	c.  Alignment/Unity - Ministries, leaders, members on same page 
		- Teamwork, Bible word is "unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace"
		- All ministries and people need to be on the same page
	d.  Focus - Saying no to whatever does not fit
3.  Looks easy, but change is difficult 
	a.  What warning is on cigarette packages?  Yet people do not change.
	b.  Go to the doctor, says you need to eat right, lost weight, exercise.  Yet 
	     people do not change.
	c.  In an unhealthy, abusive relationship, Yet people do not change.
	d.  Even when something is unhealthy, it is still hard to change
		- Doctor it hurts when I do this
		- Then don't do that
		- Sometimes it is easier said than done
4.  When we are not giving God what he desires, we need to change
	a.  Well all want to give God what he desires right?
	b.  If we have mediocrity in ministry and programs, time to change
	c.  It may not be easy, but it is necessary
	d.  Will look at reasons to rise above mediocrity (Mal 1)

I.  Nothing we have is our own
	A.  Word used here is not sacrifice but "offering"  (Minchah)
		1.  Many things could be offered to God
			a.  Meat (usually a portion went to God, you ate the rest)
			b.  Grain, oil, wine, etc.
			c.  Many of them were free will offerings
		2.  The word "offering" is instructive
			a.  It is not a necessarily a "sacrifice" to appease God
			b.  It is not giving God something he needs
			c.  It is not always to atone for sin
	B.  Why bring an offering to God?  
		1.  Acts 17:25 - Does he "need" anything from us?
			a.  Does not live in temples we build
			b.  Not served by human hands as though he needs 
			     anything
		2.  Ps 24:1 - Isn't the earth the Lord's and everything in it?
			a.  Ps 50:10-12 - God says, All beasts of the forest, cattle on 
			    1000 hills, every bird, every that moves in the field is mine 
			b.  Hag 2:8 - God said the silver and gold is mine
			c.  It all belongs to God, he doesn't "need" anything from us
		3.  So why?  It is to remember and acknowledge the God who gives
			a.  Ps 50:14 - Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving
			b.  Heb 13:15 - Continually offer up a sacrifice of praise
			c.  It all belongs to God anyway 
		4.  Our role is to be stewards of what God created
			a.  Adam was created to be a steward of the garden
			b.  Israel was to be a steward of the covenant
			c.  We are stewards of the Gospel
	C.  Mt 25:14-30, Parable of the talents
		1.  The servants were stewards of what the master entrusted
		2.  We donít keep it for ourselves, but use it
		3.  Master will return to collect
			a.  Will not ask what did someone else do, what did your 
			     church do with what I entrusted to you?
			b.  Will ask what did YOU do?
	D.  Nothing we have is our own
		1.  We are managers, stewards, overseers, etc. of it
		2.  We don't want to be mediocre in what we offer to GodÖ

II.  God wants the best
	A.  God had instructed what was acceptable to him
		1.  Typically it was something unblemished
		2.  Or it was the first fruits of something
		3.  In our passage, the offerings were unacceptable to God
			a.  v.7 - They were despising God
				- Offering the blind, lame, sick
				- Evidently keeping the best for themselves
			b.  v.10 - God wished someone would shut the gates so they 
			     could stop coming to worship
			c.  v.10b - God will not accept the offering
	B.  Principle:  Something is not better than nothing
		1.  The people were staying busy, but that did not please God
			a.  Went through the motions of serving God
				- Kept having "church" every week
				- Checking off their to-do list
			b.  Priest's guilty of not calling people to higher standard
				- Everything okay as long as sacrifices were offered
				- As long as they fulfilled the action of sacrifice
			c.  At least they were giving "something" right?
				- Is a mediocrity better than nothing?
				- No, God will not accept mediocrity
			d.  God not just interested in what we give, but how we give
				- Needs to reflect honor to God
				- 2 Cor 9:6-7 - Does not specify what to give, but he 
				  does specify "how" to give - cheerfully
				- People were giving their very best in 2 Cor
				- No mediocrity in their stewardship
		2.  Mediocrity goes against the very nature of God
			a.  Some things contrary to our nature, don't mix
				- Ketchup doesn't go with ice cream
				- Mediocrity and God do not go together
			b.  Whatever God does is excellent - it is the best
				- When created the world, it was very good - excellent
				- When he made a covenant, it was excellent
				- Accomplished atonement, excellence, the very best
				- God always gives and does the best - God of 
				  excellence
		3.  No wonder God was offended and insulted by their gifts
			a.  Their gifts had nothing to do with an excellent God
			b.  Their gifts were inappropriate and insulting
			c.  v.11-12 - Sorry contrast between Jews and the Nations
				- His name was great among the nations 
				- But the Jews were profaning his name
	C.  ILL:  Like a thank you or appreciation gift
		1.  Thomas A Kempis - "A wise lover values not so much the gift of 
		      a lover as the love of the giver"
			a.  It is not just about the gift, but the person behind it
			b.  God so "loved" the world that he gave the very best
			c.  God desires our "love" to him - It is the greatest command
			d.  What we bring to God should be out of love
		2.  You don't give something used, worn out, left over, etc.
		3.  You get something that expresses your thanksgiving
		4.  God was very clear he wanted to best
			a.  He is MORE than worthy of the best
			b.  Not only is God the best, he gives the best
	D.  Since God is a God of excellence, our ministry for him should be 
	      excellent
		1.  Something is not better than nothing 
			a.  Whether it is time, talent, service, etc. only the best
			b.  Leftovers are not honoring to God
		2.  Mediocrity is not better than nothing - only the first and best
		3.  This series has been about excellence

III.  Taking the steps toward excellence in ministry
	A.  We can discuss the possibilities in our Life Groups
		1.  Probably not any huge changes on the surface
			a.  Still worship, probably still have classes, life groups, etc.
			b.  May tweek and refocus some of our ministries
			c.  May add a ministry
		2.  The effect would be huge
			a.  Remember that the goal is Christ-formed lives
			b.  Each ministry will intentionally be part of the process of 
			     spiritual growth and discipleship
	B.  Will be doing an exercise in Life Groups to move toward excellence
		1. Clarity - Design a simple process  -  Not tweeking anything (yet).
			a.  Simply identifying what a process for discipleship would 
			     look like - Has to be intentional
			b.  Do no begin with existing programs
			c.  Describe what a disciple looks like.  "Disciples are:  
			     1)________ 2)_________ etc.
		2.  Progression, Movement, Growth - Removing congestion
			a.  Take the description of a disciple and describe it in terms 
			      of a process:  Eg:  People become maturing disciples by:  
			      1) _______  2) ________ etc.
			b. Order each step according to increasing levels of 
			     commitment
			c.  Place key ministries along the process.  One ministry for 
			     each step
			d.  If programs are left over:
				- Maybe it doesn't fit
				- May need to change the focus of the program
				- You still haven't changed anything just yet
		3.  Alignment
			a.  Each age specific ministry should be aligned to the same 
			     purpose in the same process
			b.  Each ministry leader needs to be involved as a team in 
			     the overall design of the ministry process
				- Meetings, retreats, etc. to pray and align
				- Harmonious purpose and goals
			c.  Before new leaders are recruited, need to be sure they 
			     understand the purpose and process
		4.  Focus - Learning to Say no for the sake of unity and 
		     effectiveness of God's mission
			a.  This is where real change is felt
			b.  Rejecting any program that does not fit
				- Potential ministries scrutinized on the basis of the 
				  simple purpose and process
				- Existing ministries either aligned or abandoned if it 
				  does not fit
			c.  If an existing ministry is to be abandoned
				- Probably not immediately all at once
				- There are emotions involved
				- Explaining the process consistently with a gradual 
				  phasing out may be a wiser course of action
			d.  Consistently explain the process as often as possible
				- The better people understand it, the more effective
	C.  I believe this will help focus our resources, plans and goals

Concl:
1.  This is a matter of stewardship, offering God the excellence he is worthy of
2.  Will discuss this in our life groups this evening

==============================
 
Small Group Questions: Beginning to be Simple

Summary:  Becoming simple in order to maximize focus and resources is really a matter of 
stewardship.  God is not only interested in what we give, but even more importantly how we give.  
Becoming simple is an attempt to focus in such a way that we give God our very best because he is worthy of our best.  

Open:   What was the nicest gift you have received?

1.  Explore:  Principles of Stewardship (Mal 1)
	a.  Why is giving something not better than giving nothing?
	b.  Why does mediocrity offend God?
	c.  How does simplicity help toward eliminating mediocrity in ministry?

2.  Apply:  Stewardship of our Resources.  Discuss each step below

	1. Clarity - The ability of the process to be communicated and understood by the people
     Note:  You are not tweaking or changing anything here.  You are simply identifying what a 
     process for discipleship would look like.  Do not begin with existing programs, simply identify.
		a.  Define or describe in measurable terms what a disciple looks like:  "Disciples 
		     in this congregation are 1)____________ 2) ____________ 3)____________ 
		     4)____________
		b.  Illustrate:  How might you illustrate this process graphically?

 	2.  Progression, Growth (Removing congestion) - The sequential steps in the process 
	     that cause people to move to greater areas of commitment
		a.  Take the description of a disciple (above) and describe it in terms of a 
		     process:  "People become maturing disciples by:  1) ____________  
		     2) ____________ 3) ____________ 4) ____________
		b. Order each step according to increasing levels of commitment - begin with the 
		     starting point and continue with a clear "next step"
		c.  Place one key ministry for each step along the process: 1) ____________ 
		      2) ____________ 3) ____________ 4) _____________
		d.  Illustrate:  How might you illustrate this process graphically?
		e.  Note:  If programs are "left over," don't try to force it in, simply leave them to 
		    the side for now

	3.  Alignment, Unity and Teamwork
		a.  Each age specific ministry should be aligned to the same process.  What 
		     might this look like?
		b.  Each ministry leader needs to be on the same page as part of a team in the 			     		     ministry process.  What might help achieve this?  Meetings, retreats, etc. to 
		     pray and align goals & plan
		c.  Before new leaders are recruited, be sure they understand the process
	
	4.  Focus - Learning to say no for the sake of excellence and unity
		a.  Phasing out of any program that does not fit & scrutiny of potential ministries
		b.  If an existing ministry does not fit, must proceed with wisdom
		c.  Consistently explain the process as often as possible
			- The better people understand it, the more effective

3.  Discussion - How do you see this process helping with new Christians, assimilation of new members, 
and raising up maturing disciples and leaders?  

4.  Prayer:  Spend time in prayer