Sermon:  Marks of a Faithful Church

Summary:  In our heritage, we have had the tendency to highlight aspects of the faithful church 
in terms of what made us distinct from other churches, institutional structures, individualism, 
and other such things that were shaped by historical, cultural and traditional forces.  The 
marks of a faithful church that Jesus highlights need to receive more emphasis, such as ministries 
of compassion, ministry among outsiders, attention to the least of these, and things of this nature.  

Know:  The marks of a faithful church have more to do with Christ like lifestyle and practice rather 
than the fine, hair splitting points of doctrine.

Feel:  The desire to act, live, and think as Christ did concerning mission.

Do:  Compare what Jesus highlights is a faithful church to what we have typically emphasized as 
marks of a faithful church and note similarities and differences.  Identify Christ's vision of the most 
important aspects of what makes a faithful church.  Consider what that would look like for the 
Leavenworth Church of Christ.  

Text:  Highlights from the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5-7)

Scripture Reading:  Mt 5:20

1.  What is the ideal man or woman?  According to an online article
	a.  The Ideal Man 
		a brilliant conversationalist.
		sensitive, kind, understanding and loving.
		very hard working man.
		help around the house by washing dishes, vacuuming the floors and taking care 
			of the garden. 
		a man of emotional and physical strength. 
		as smart as Einstein but look like Harrison Ford.
	b.  The Ideal Woman 
		always beautiful & cheerful. could marry a movie star but wants only you
		hair that never needs curlers or beauty shops. 
		never sick, just allergic to jewelry and fur coats.
		will insist that moving the furniture is good for her figure. 
		an expert in cooking, cleaning, fixing the car, painting and keeping quiet. 
		hobbies will be mowing the lawn and washing dishes. 
		hates credit cards. 
		favorite expression will be "What can I do for you dear?". 
		will think you are a genius and look like her favorite movie star. 
	c.  Amazed at answers may get with "ideal" man or woman
	d.  What about the "ideal church?"
		- It is not left up to our preferences
		- Jesus describes and models an ideal church
2.  Marks of a Faithful Church - Looking at Sermon on the Mount
	a.  Church and Kingdom are connected
	b.  Mt 4:23 - Jesus preached the Gospel of the Kingdom
	c.  Mt 5 - Sermon on the Mount an exposition of the Kingdom
	d.  In fact, first and last beatitude explicitly mentions the kingdom
3.  What does the Reign of God look like?
	a.  From this question, comes the question - What are we to look like?
	b.  We are to be defined by the character Jesus lays out here
4.  Will focus on the Beatitudes and expand on them from the rest of the sermon 

I.  Poor in Spirit and Persecuted
	A.  Poor in Spirit is not merely about humility.  Look at the words
		1.  Poverty - Nothing left, no resources, vulnerable and dependent
		2.  Poverty of Spirit -
			a.  Much deeper than physical poverty
			b.  I have no resources of myself, I am nothing
			c.  I depend completely on God and God alone
			d.  I don't fight, I have nothing that is my own, I have no pride
		3.  In Hebrew, "poor" also means afflicted, defenseless, 
		     marginalized, the nobodies
			a.  Mt 19:14 - Kingdom belongs to such as these
			b.  God gives special attention to these 
		4.  The persecuted
			a.  Included them, because poor in spirit easily persecuted
			b.  Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven along with poor in spirit
			c.  Isa 61:1 - God bring good news to the afflicted
	B.  Jesus expands on this
		1.  (6:19-20) - Kingdom people are giving/sharing people
		2.  (6:25-30) - Kingdom people are not anxious about needs
				but depends on God - Faith
		3.  10:1-23 - Jesus sends out the 12 for ministry
			a.  (v.8) - Freely received, freely give
			b.  (v.9) - No extra provisions
				- They minister not from vantage of physical wealth, 
				   pride, power, or privilege
				- They minister from vantage of poverty of spirit
				-  Like Jesus, they "identify" with the poor in Spirit
			c.  (v.11) - As sheep in the midst of wolves
				- Identify with the afflicted
		4.  Mt 18:10-14 - God concerned for the little ones, least of these
	C.  May seem strange that "Kingdom" belongs to poor and afflicted
		1.  But the king himself was poor and afflicted
			a.  Was rich, and became poor that we might be rich
			b.  He was afflicted and persecuted for our sakes
			c.  Poured himself out and became a slave
				- No pride, no pretensions
				- Just simple trust in God
			d.  He calls us to have the same attitude he did
		2.  Mother Teresa exemplifies this attitude:
			"The poor give us much more than we give them.  They're such 
			strong people, they never curse, never complain.  We don't have to 
			give them pity or sympathy.  We have so much to learn from them."
		3.  Perhaps this is some of the "poor in Spirit" attitude 
			a.  We engage not from a standpoint of superiority
			b.  We engage from a standpoint of poverty of spirit
	D.  How do you do this?
		1.  Jesus provided the example
		2.  Jesus didn't give handouts, he got involved
			a.  Jesus practiced solidarity with the afflicted
			b.  Jesus identified with them
		3.  I am convinced that this is one way to become poor in Spirit
			a.  If you have power, influence, money, hard to be poor in 
			     spirit if keep the poor at an arms distance
			b.  When identify with others as Christ did, it will transform 
		4.  **Get involved…

II.  Mourners/Peacemakers/Hungry for Righteousness
	A.  May seem strange to tie the three together
		-  I am not sure you can be any of these without the others
	B.  Look at how these tie together
		1.  Blessedness of mourning.  How?
			a.  Maybe because --
				- God takes notice of the downcast & will help
				- Shows you have a heart and can feel
				- Combination of both of these?
			b.  Also because - Reflects the heart of God
				- People mourned because Kingdom not come
				- There was sickness, oppression, injustice, 
				   wickedness, evil still present in the world
				- These make God mourn - Not what he intended
				- We also mourn, showing we have heart of God
			c.  This mourning is a godly mourning
				- Kingdom is here, but not fully consummated
				- Look at the mess in our world.
				- So we pray, "Your Kingdom Come"
			d.  Hard to mourn if you are comfortable and disengaged
				- Jesus was not disengaged, he saw first hand
				- He mourned and wept over Jerusalem Mt 23:37
				- Mourning a sign that he was Engaged
				- Kingdom people are engaged
		2.  Blessedness of peacemaking
			a.  Old Testament Concept - "Shalom"
				- More than a cessation of hostilities - Not "cold war"
				- Means "well being" in every way, inside and out
			b.  Peacemakers contribute toward wellness
				- Inwardly, in relationships, in public life, etc.
				- Involves physical and spiritual well being
			c.  Goes hand in hand with….
		3.  Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness
			a.  Righteousness is talking about "right doing"
			b.  (5:20) - It must exceed that of Pharisees.  HOW?
				- Do we need to be better at counting grains in tithe?  
				   Better at interpreting the law exactly?  Fast more 
				   than they do?
				-  Context - Righteousness is about treating others 
				    right, Pharisees didn't do this
				- Righteousness in the sense of "justice" being "just" 
				- God requires us to do justice and kindness Mic 6:8
			c.  Jesus defines it further in his sermon
				- 5:21f - Don't insult, be angry with, but reconcile with 
				  your brother
				- 5:27f - Be faithful in marriage from your heart
				- 5:33f - Be a person of your word
				- 5:45f - Love your enemy, serve your enemy
				- 6:1f - Give, pray, fast with pure motives
			d.  (6:31-33) - Seek first His Reign and Righteousness
				- All around people afflicted, exploited, poor, hurting
				- We mourn as Jesus did and we act
				- We hunger for his righteousness, not own comfort 
				- Because of this, the Reign of God is a bright spot
	C.  ILL:  Joyce Dazell from Highland Church in Abilene & husband David
		1.  Passionate about homeless, people in need, who became stuck
			a.  In a sense, she "mourned" rather than turn a blind eye
			b.  She felt called to action
		2.  Felt called to minister to them - Began "Faithworks"
			a.  Elders at Highland full supported them
			b.  Provided housing, career training, professional clothing
			c.  80% of graduates find work within a year
		3.  Here is what a couple have said
			a.  Dale Cotton - "Faithworks served my every need.  The clothing 
			     close provided clothes for my internship & work experiences, 
			     and I gained more than a few points from the good food."
			b.  Vera Solis - "Interning at the arrangement has given me confidence 
			     in what I want to do.  It made me feel like I'm worth something and I'm 
			c.  City officials in Abilene - Praised Faith Works as doing a better job 
			     than social service agencies
		4.  Those involved in this ministry felt a partial sense of satisfaction
			- Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, 
			   for they shall be filled.
	D.  Another mark of the church - Cares about people
		1.  In what ways can we be engaged with the people around us?
		2.  If we hunger and thirst for God's righteousness/justice - God will 
		     provide us the opportunity to be filled.

III.  Gentle/Meek and Merciful
	A.  (Ps 37:7-11) - Cease from anger forsake wrath
		1.  It will only make things worse
		2.  The humble will inherit the land
		3.  Wait for the Lord, and he will prosper you
	B.  Examples from the sermon
		1.  (5:38-42) - Does this mean to be a doormat?  How offensive
			a.  Can only do what Jesus says with clear sense of identity
				- Can't take anything from me, it is God's
				- Even if you kill my body, you can't touch or hurt me
				- Nothing can separate me from my Lord, not even 
				  death.  I'm safe in his hands
			b.  With this kind of faith, this instruction is not a threat
		2.  (5:43-44) -Love enemies pray for persecutors - Do good to them
		3.  (Mt 7:1-5) - Don't be condemning of others
			a.  Jesus didn't say take log out so you can "see" the speck
			b.  Jesus said so you can "help"
			c.  There is a difference between judging and helping
			d.  Mt 13:24-30 - Out job not to pull out tares, not weeders
				- Mt 13:33 - We are to be leaven, not weeders
				- We engage and we help
	C.  ILL:  A couple of real life examples
		1.  My uncle to this day will not set foot in a church
			a.  He knows people in the church
			b.  They are mean, judgmental, condemning, self-righteous
			c.  God into religious arguments, debates, etc.
			d.  He has had business dealings with them, they are crooks, 
			     dishonest, they cheat, tell half truths
		2.  A lady in Vermont - Had no use for the church at first
			a.  She was a feminist, agnostic, and combative
			b.  Some Christians befriended her on a city softball team
			c.  Combative about Christianity, questioned everything
			d.  She became a Christian and is sold out for God.  Why?
				- Brethren were authentic and genuine with her
				- They didn't look down on her or condemn her
				- They were gracious to her even when she was not
				- They were gentle & merciful, not combative
	D.  Kingdom people are gracious and gentle

V.  Pure in Heart
	A.  This gets down to our motivation
	B.  What needs to be the motivation?
		1.  (5:14-16) - To glorify God, not self
		2.  (7:21) - Not for a show, saying "Lord, Lord"
		3.  7:24 - Active and obedient for pure motives
	C.  ILL:  My uncle used to instruct us to always help out others
		1.  You help them, someday when you need help, they will help you
		2.  If you don't, someday you will need them and they may not help
		3.  Lk 6:35 - But Jesus said to do good and expect nothing back
		4.  Do good because it is good
	D.  Kingdom people are genuine in their love for God and others
1.  Marks: Sharing/Faith/Engaged/Caring/Gracious/Gentle/Genuine/Love
	a.  In your family relationships, with your brethren, with co-workers, 
	      friends, strangers, etc.
	b.  The Kingdom of God reflects these traits
	c.  He invites you into his kingdom (invitation)
2.  Since this is an exposition on the kingdom, and church is connected to kingdom, these 
     characteristics should get pride of place over organizational structures
	a.  This is quite a different emphasis than many of our books on "What is 
	     the Church of Christ?" have covered.
	b.  I know we want to be faithful and not neglect the weightier matters
	c.  Perhaps this is a new way for you to conceive of the Kingdom
3.  How can we reflect the characteristics of God's kingdom among us?


Small Group Questions:  Marks of a Faithful Church

Summary:  In our heritage, we have had the tendency to highlight aspects of the faithful church 
in terms of what made us distinct from other churches, institutional structures, individualism, and 
other such things that were shaped by historical, cultural and traditional forces.  The marks of a f
aithful church that Jesus highlights need to receive more emphasis, such as ministries of 
compassion, ministry among outsiders, attention to the least of these, and things of this nature.  

- In going to a restaurant, what is the top two or three qualities that are important to you for you to 
go there? 

Explore:  (Matt 5:1-12, 20)

1.  As Jesus begins to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom, what does he begin with?  In your own 
words, sum of the qualities of the kingdom that Jesus begins his sermon with.

2.  How did Jesus reflect these qualities in his own life?

3.  Jesus said that in order to be in the Kingdom, our righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees.  
Knowing that the Pharisees were champions in the religious practices (such as tithing, study of the 
law, fasting, prayer times, etc.), how could that be possible?  What clues does the context give as to 
how our righteousness needs to exceed that of the Pharisees?

4.  Looking throughout the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5-7), list as many characteristics as you can as to 
the marks of a faithful church.

5.  How does this list compare and contrast to other lists of what constitutes a faithful or sound church?  
What are the similarities?  What are the differences?


6.  Using the Sermon on the Mount as a basis, identify some of the strengths of our congregation.   
Identify some of the weaknesses in our congregation.

7.  Dream:  After seeing the picture of the Church as Jesus describes in the Sermon on the Mount, 
what are some additional things that you would like to see as part of our "strengths" in years to come?

8.  What would it take to get there?  What is God's role?  What is our role?  What is your role personally?