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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Andy Stanley » Andy Stanley - Memorial Day 2023

Andy Stanley - Memorial Day 2023

Andy Stanley - Memorial Day 2023
TOPICS: Influence, Generosity, Serving Others

Hey, wanna welcome all of those of you watching online from wherever you are in the world. For those of my friends up in North Carolina, over in Highlands and South Carolina and camp grounds all over the country, get all kind of cool email from people doing all kinds of stuff. For those of you who are driving, just keep your eyes on the road and listen. And it's so much fun because there's this growing network of people in our church network and people all over the world who are waking up to the reality that Christianity isn't primarily about what we believe, it's about what we do with what we believe. And the doers are the people that make a difference in the world. And we... or if this is your first time joining us online or maybe in one of our auditoriums or here with me in this room, you're surrounded by people who understand that following Jesus really does make a difference, as we've just experienced, if you just experienced that baptism story with us.

Now, no surprise, I love the local church. I love the church for lots of reasons. I'm a preacher's kid, so it was a big part of my life growing up. And preacher's kids, we see the best of church and we see the worst of church. And any preacher's kid who still loves the local church, God must be alive and well because we have seen it all. We've seen the underbelly. Preachers' kids, we're not impressed with the hype. Growing up I would hear people walk out and say, "I just felt the spirit of God tonight in the church". And I would be like, "No, the room was full". Take that same number of people, put 'em in a room four times as large, you wouldn't feel anything but empty. And again, it can get a little cynical, but I mean, we're not confused by what's real and by what not real. And again, you've seen the best and the worst. I'm speaking of the worst.

When I was in the eighth grade, I've told some of you this story. I was in the eighth grade, I'm sitting on about the sixth pew on a Wednesday night service, 'cause we had Wednesday night church at Baptist Church and my dad was on the stage. You know, in the Baptist church, they had the thrones up there. Remember the thrones? I don't know if you remember, there's like two big ones and two smaller ones for the education director and the music director. Anyway, we don't do that. And again, people are gonna look back one day and go, can you believe they put a TV in? You know, so things come and things go, we get it. So anyway, my dad's sitting on his throne, I mean his chair, anyway, and he's the senior pastor. This is just what we did, right? But they did.

And there's this guy there behind the pulpit and he didn't like my dad, there was some stuff going on in the church and he starts talking and he uses profanity. I know, I mean, we wouldn't even do that now. This is like 1970s. I was in the eighth grade and my dad walks up beside him, the guy's standing there and he says, and he says his name, I still remember his name. And he said, so-and-so, he said, "We're not gonna have that kind of language". And this guy looks up at my dad and says, "You better go sit down or you might get punched". I know! It was exciting. Everybody came to church, you know, it was like, "This is amazing, you know".

That's why we gave you popcorn this morning, it's like yeah. Anyway, my dad just stood and just stood there, stared him down and this guy turns around and boom, hits my dad in the jaw. I know, I'm eighth grade, next thing you know, I'm crying. I'm on the front. I don't know how it happened. They take the guy out. Anyway, so I've seen the, I mean the fact that I'm sane and love the local church, it's amazing, isn't it? Okay. But again, but the takeaway from, and again, you've got a bad church experience and maybe yours is worse. That's pretty bad one. But the takeaway for me is that, you know, there's some things worth fighting for and there's some things worth suffering for and the local church is one of those things.

The mission and the message of the local church is one of those things. In fact, in some ways, and some of you know my story, in some ways the church saved my life. And I don't mean that I needed some kind of intervention because I got in a lot of trouble. It wasn't intervention as much as it was prevention. I mean, I would say I can't imagine. But the truth is, I can imagine. I can imagine where I would be today without the influence of the local church and without the people from the church that invested in my life in high school and in college and in those young adult years. Without them and without that input, I know that I would be a mess. And specifically the church did four things for me personally. I just kind of wanna share. I mean, it's just kind of part of my story. These are the four things that saved me from myself and in some ways saved me from unnecessary regret.

First of all, the church informed my conscience. I'm so grateful for this because I went to a church where my dad preached, you know, very practical messages. We had a student ministry with very practical teaching. It informed my conscience. I was trying to think, 'cause I again, I avoided so many moral and ethical landmines because of the influence of local church. I know this is kind of, maybe seems elementary and simple and silly to you. But one of the things that I took away from those early years was I was taught that morally speaking, that I should treat women the way I would want someone to treat my sister. Because every woman and every girl and whoever I dated, they were probably somebody's sister. And I should treat women the way that I would want somebody to treat my sister. That simple idea informed my conscience as a young man and helped establish guardrails.

And again, just sensitized my conscience. Ethically, I was taught you never mistreat anyone for any reason. You never mistreat anyone for any reason. And again, having that ingrained in me as a young man growing up and as really, as a child, especially that one, that informed my conscience. It just kind of set my conscience in a direction. The second thing the church did is instilled in me a sense of purpose. It taught me that I was created on purpose for a purpose. And I'm not the purpose! I mean, to learn that so early. And again, it set the direction of my life. Many of you were taught the same thing. I was taught that God has a plan for my life and that I should pray that God would show me His plan for my life. And my parents reiterated it when we would pray at night. Let's pray that God would show you His plan for your life. And to this day, I still pray, God please show me Your will or Your plan for my life.

Now I'll be honest, there were seasons of my life growing up that I would have preferred God show someone else His plan for their life. 'Cause I pretty much had my plan all figured out and I wanted to do life my way. But the thing that kept bringing me back is that the church taught me, "No, God has a plan for you, Andy, and you don't want to miss it". The third thing that the church did for me, the church, and I don't know that this would've happened any other way, I can't even imagine how this would've happened any other way. It served as a window into God's activity in the world. As in the whole world, not just my world. The church exposed me to how big the world was and what God was doing in the world. That God had a plan, not just for me, but for the whole world.

An illustration of this, when I was 20 or 21, college age, Louie Giglio and I, we've known each other since the sixth grade, he's the pastor at Passion City Church. We were invited by a friend to go to Canada to a conference with a bunch of men. It was all men, missionaries from literally all over the world. And the gentleman that ran this organization and went to my dad's church and he just decided, we still don't know why, to invite Louie and invite me to Canada to this conference. And the reason it was in Canada is many of these men could not get permission to travel to the United States because of where they were doing ministry, so we had the conference in Canada and they were from countries I'd never even heard of, in some cases, and then some church planters and missionaries in Europe.

So we get to Canada, we're staying in dorms. It's this camp. And I mean, we were like, what are we even doing here? These guys are older, they're wiser. And the the gentleman that started the organization was from Australia, Ian North is his name. Some of you may remember Ian. And so Ian had that great Australian accent. So the second day of this gathering, they had a prayer meeting. We were all gonna pray together outside around picnic tables, we're kneeling down. And Ian kicked it off and he prayed. And you know, for us Americans, you know, anybody that has that South African accent or that Australian accent, they just sound smarter than us, don't they? They just sound so smart. You must be smarter than us. Anyway, and Ian is just this godly man. He's praying this prayer and we're all kneeling down, our eyes are closed. And then when he finished, the pastor from Burma, Uan La, Pastor Uan La, begins praying in his language. Couldn't understand a word of it.

And Louie, I remember this, we both looked up and looked at each other and it dawned on us that English is not God's first language. That English is not God's only language. That our God was as big as the world and He cared about the entire world. During that conference, we roomed with a guy, the pastor from Sudan named Naji Kenaji. Naji had been beaten for his faith. Naji would go on to be the oldest man in Sudan. He would outlive everybody. The mortality rate was severe for men especially in Sudan. He would go on to be like a sort of a legend as a pastor. But when we met him, he was our roommate. He had been beat, he had scars for his faith. And again, the church exposed me to God's activity in the world through the church. I, like some of you, I met people with far less stuff, but more joy, more gratitude, more faith.

The other thing the church did for me is it taught me how to be generous. Not how to give. We all give, everybody knows how to give. The church taught me early on how to be generous, from the very beginning. We got these little envelopes and my parents would give me a dollar for allowance, 10 dimes. I put one dime in that envelope, take it to church, put it in the offering plate, that I was trained to be generous. I was trained to tithe. And consequently, as an adult and throughout my life, it has never been difficult for me to be generous. It's never been difficult. And it's not because I'm a great person and it's not because I'm naturally generous.

The church taught me the practice and the habit of generosity. The church taught me to live open-handed. My first job was at Winn-Dixie. I cleaned the meat department in Winn-Dixie over in Tucker, Georgia, some of you know where that is. And Tucker, not Winn-Dixie, I don't think it's there anymore, a long time ago. But I cleaned the meat department and made $2.92 an hour. And I was there till late, after the store closed, you gotta clean the meat department, I won't go into that. Just that I didn't eat hamburger the whole time I worked anyway, anyway, not because of Winn Dixie, just, anyway, lot goes into that. Get it. Okay.

So anyway, so here I'm making my $2.92 an hour and I'm just, I mean, it never dawned on me not to tithe. In fact, I remember the first time I ever gave a hundred dollars away. I was in Sunday night church 'cause we were at church all the time, you know, Baptist, which is great. And I'm so grateful, denominations get a knock, but I'm telling you, the churches I grew up in, so grateful. So it's Sunday night service and every once in a while, my dad, at the end of the service, would have somebody come up and say, "Hey, this person has a special need if you want to help". And usually it's like, hey, yeah, yeah, yeah. Can we just, you know, get outta here. You know, I'm typical, you know, college student at the time.

So he brings this girl up, I remember her name was Teri Bailey, I still remember her name. And Teri's two or three years older than me, she's at nursing school. My dad says, "This is Teri and she's gotta pay tuition" and da da da, tells the story. And I'm sitting there listening like, yeah, yeah, yeah, okay. And all of a sudden from nowhere, I get this thought, "You should give her a hundred dollars". And I thought, "Where did that come from"? Probably the devil, you know, tempting me, wanted me to give my, I'm not, I don't even know who this is, and I'm in college, too, a hundred dollars and I cannot get this outta my head. And then the next thought was, most of you aren't even gonna understand this. The next thought was, my checkbook is actually in my car. It's rectangle. I can't explain what a checkbook is.

But anyway, some of you remember what a checkbook is, and I never even took my checkbook. And I'm sitting there thinking, and I'm wrestling, sort of wrestling with my conscience, wrestling with God, wrestling with this thought like a hundred dollars. I mean, that's a fortune, right? I got up and went out to the car and I'm thinking, by the time I get in there, she's gonna be gone. I bring my checkbook in, she's still there. Teri Bailey, wrote a check for a hundred dollars. I just remember, and you know what? She needed it and I had it. This is the way it works. The church taught me what I have attempted to teach all of you for 20 something years, that you give first, you save second and you live on the rest. This is how it works. You give, honor God with your stuff, give, save, live, give, save, live, God's kingdom, your kingdom, you know, live on the rest.

This is a pattern, a habit for me. The church taught me this. They just, it became part of my conscience and I'm so grateful. It has never dawned on me that I had the right or the privilege to live on a hundred percent of my income. Just never thought that way. Just again, kept my hands wide open. So the bottom line is simply this. I mean, that's just my story. Some of you have similar stories. The church taught me that following Jesus really will make my life better. And following Jesus, I can say all these years later, has made me better at life. It's made me a better person. Now, I didn't have that language back then. About five or six years ago, we were rebranding some things around here. And I thought to myself, you know, I should have an elevator pitch for my faith. I'd never thought about that.

Now, if somebody asked me, "Andy, why are you a Christian"? I'm telling you, I can razzle dazzle you with evidence for the resurrection to the point where you'll either fall on your knees and repent or flee, okay? I mean, I'm full of information and arguments, but I needed an elevator pitch. "Andy, why are you a Christian"? And that's when I came up with this phrase because this really is why I follow Jesus, because following Jesus has made my life better, as selfish as that sounds. And it's made me better at life because it's made me less selfish and less about me. So all that to say I love the church. I mean with all of its faults and failures and with all the inconsistencies and things that come and go and people that do crazy things.

I love the local church, but the church isn't just good for me. And the church isn't just good for you. And the church isn't just good for us. The church is good for the community. The church is good for the world. In fact, the church, this is why it's so important, the church is actually God's agent. This is why God created the church. This is why Jesus launched the church. The church is God's agent of transformation, personally, it's my story, it's some of your story. Culturally, we've seen that happen when the church is hitting on all cylinders or hitting on all batteries, I don't think the all cylinders thing is gonna last that long. But anyway, when the church, you know, when the church is doing what the church is designed to do and it's God's agent of transformation globally.

I love what Crawford Lorrits says in this regard, He says this, he says, "The church, it represents the destination. The church represents the destination at which culture needs to or should arrive". In other words, what he's saying is this, that when we get it right, relationally, with us and when we are one-anothering the way we should one another, and when we're one-anothering the people outside the church the way we should one-another people and when we live open-handed and transparent and when we ask forgiveness and when we repent. In other words, when we are following Jesus, what we represent is what the entire culture should be drawn to and what ultimately what the culture should become.

So for the sake of this generation and really more for the sake of the next generation, the church has gotta be healthy. The church has to continue to be outward facing. The church has to continue to be, or begin to be, more authentic and relevant. And for the last 27 years, depending on how long you've been around, we have worked so hard to maintain an outward-facing church. And that is not easy because the gravitational pull of the church is toward the people who are here. The gravitational pull of the church is always towards self and selfishness, just like the gravitational pull of your heart and my heart. But you and we have been successful in maintaining an outward-focused church. And the church in general must remain outward focused.

And one of the things that we're trying to do as a group of local churches all over the country is to influence the rest of the church to say, "Don't turn inward, don't get selfish. Don't get about me and my fore and no more because that's not the church". The church must be on mission and the church must be on message. It must be on the mission of Jesus. "Make disciples of all nations," make followers of all nations. And it must be on message. And the message is this, "For God so loved the whole world," that He moved in the world's direction. "I bring you good news of great joy for all people," the angel said.

That's the message of the church and that's the message of Christianity. And as you can tell, I am more passionate about this than ever because our potential as a group of churches is greater than ever and I want us to lead in that way. And I want us to lead the way because so many churches and so many pastors look to us for leadership. You kind of break the rules that need to be broken from time to time. And other churches get the courage to follow along. And we don't get it perfect, of course we don't. But God has raised us up in this generation for whatever reason, to be a light to other churches and church leaders in order to stay outward focused because we believe the message of Jesus is for all people, all generations, for all time, regardless of what people are experiencing, regardless of what they fear, regardless of how they've been treated.

So I want us to keep doing that. Now, most of you're like me, you love our country, you love the United States of America. You live here. I love our country. I'm so patriotic and I'm absolutely convinced the best thing for our country is a healthy, vibrant, outward-facing church. The health of our nation actually mirrors the health and the influence of the church. And the reason I say that with confidence is this, the church, the message of the church, provides the strongest argument. I would even say the only argument, but that may be pushing it too far. But the message of the church provides the strongest argument for dignity of the individual and human rights. Human rights to us is intuitive, but it's not really intuitive.

It feels intuitive because you were taught that and you were taught that because the message of Jesus and the message of the church still casts its shadow over our nation and over our culture, even though not everybody in our nation and in our culture are Jesus followers. But it was Jesus and His followers. It was Jesus and His followers, the church, that insisted that everyone is an image bearer. It was Jesus and the church leaders that insisted that everyone you've looked at across the kitchen table or across a coffee table or anywhere at work, you are eyeball to eyeball with an image bearer of God. And they have dignity, regardless of who they are, regardless of what they look like, regardless of what they've done.

That is the message of the church. That is not the message of chemistry, biology, naturalism, it doesn't exist. And the fabricated arguments for why we should treat people with dignity, they have no actual foundation. And from time to time somebody will say, "Well you know, I just know that's the right thing". No, you were taught that that was the right thing. Because once upon a time the world did not see people that way and the world did not see people who did not look like them the same way. Even in this country, people have not always thought that way. It's the long shadow of the teaching of Jesus, the long shadow of the church that has created that sense of justice and mercy and compassion for people who aren't like us and don't even like us and at times we have a hard time liking.

In fact, those who work to undermine the influence of the church and to diminish the influence and the importance of the church, you should be careful what you wish for because you will not like what you end up with. There's a recent study that just came out. You should look this up. It's amazing. It's in fact, some of you're gonna look it up because you're not gonna believe this is even true. Christian philanthropy, check this out. Christian philanthropy accounted for 70% of all American philanthropy in 2022. 70%. In other words, the money given by individuals and the money given by foundations, Christian foundations and organizations, 70%. Does anybody want that to go away? Suddenly our nation is more selfish without the church, that our nation is more self-centered without the church.

And then this next statistic is really even more remarkable to me. In fact, this amounts to about $300 plus billion given away to and by the church. Christians, this is more astounding to me. Christians out-gave the US government. Christians out-gave the US government in addressing global poverty in 2022. That's a big deal. That's the power of the church. That's because there is an "Others first" ethic built into the teaching of Jesus. And our nation is a poorer, poorer nation, morally and ethically, if that ever goes away. The point is what you are doing and your involvement in local church, whether in our community or any community in the world, is a big, big deal. And you need to lean in to ensure that your local church is strong financially and that your local church is on mission, outward facing and making a difference in your community.

The other statistic is this, of the top healthiest and largest, the 50 largest and healthiest charities in the US, 40 of the 50 are faith-based. I love what Philip Yancey he says, I've read this to you before, it's from his book "Vanishing Grace," it's an older book. But this, I don't know, there's so much literature around this topic and I've pulled quotes from time to time from other authors, but he just hits it. He just goes right to the point that I'm trying to make. He says this, "Those who condemn the church for its blind spots" and does the church have blind spots? Of course it does.

Let me tell you what else the church does, I'll come back to that in a minute. The church has blind spots, but the church has a self-corrective mechanism built in. And do you know what the self-correcting mechanism that's built into the church? The teaching of Jesus. But anyway, we're gonna, in about a month and a half, we're gonna come back to that and explore that fully. "Those who condemn the church for its blind spots do so by gospel principles". In other words, he says, anytime somebody takes a shot at the church, the basis of what they're accusing the church of is rooted in what the church unleashed in the world because of the teachings of Jesus. "For its blind spots, they do so by gospel principles, arguing for the very moral values that the gospel originally set loose in the world".

Well Philip, can you give us an example? He's like, "Yeah, I'll give you a bunch of examples". "Human rights, civil rights, women's rights, minority rights, gay rights, disability rights, animal rights, the success of these modern movements," they're all modern movements because once upon a time nobody cared. Because why care? "The success of these modern movements reflects a widespread empathy for the oppressed that has no precedent". For those of you who love history, you know this, "That has no precedent in the ancient world". In fact, it was the opposite. "Classical philosophers considered mercy and pity to be character defects". To be, if I can use the ancient word, womanly and weakly and emotional.

Why would I be compassionate towards someone who doesn't have anything to do with me and I can't get anything from them? Why would I be generous to someone? Why would I give my hard-earned resources or money to someone that can never do anything for me in return? That's ridiculous. Anybody that would do that is weak. Pity. Pity is weak. All of these things that we consider virtues, we think we consider them virtues because it's innate, because it's inherent, because it's just part of being a human being. He says no and history says no. These were learned, they are a part of that long shadow cast by the teaching of Jesus and of the church. "Character defects, contrary to justice". Get this, not until Jesus, this is why you're so important and why the church is so important. "Not until Jesus did that attitude change".

Look up here. It was not religion that changed it, it was the church, not religion in general that shaped and reshaped ancient culture for the better. What was not self-evident, that's so self-evident to us, became self-evident because of the teaching of Jesus and the church. The intrinsic value of the individual was taught, it was caught because of the teaching of Jesus. It became self-evident because of the influence of the church. Now here's the thing, you know this. Government, super important. We gotta have government. But do you know what government can do? All government does, within the context of what we're talking about, all government can do, and this isn't a problem to be fixed, this is the nature of government. Government can tell us how low we can go before we go to jail.

That's what the government does in relationship to what we're talking about. All the government can do is tell you, here's how low you can go and if you go any lower, you go to jail. Media reminds us constantly of how low we've gone and how low we've sunk. So here's the question that points to our responsibility and our opportunity. Who challenges citizens of our nation or of any nation to live beyond the letter of the law? Who inspires us to exercise self-control, not for the benefit of ourselves, but to exercise self-control for the benefit of other people? Who, this is amazing. It's so simple. Who instructed us? Who instructs us to do the one thing that would change everything if everybody did it? Who instructed us and instructs us to do the one thing, just one thing, that would change everything within a month if everybody did it? To "Love your neighbor as yourself". Who stewards the message that takes the bar even higher? Love your neighbor as Christ loved you. Only the church.

So if you're a Jesus follower or maybe a Christian, there's a difference as we talk about or maybe a believer, whatever phrase you use, this is your challenge. This is our challenge. The challenge is that whether you like it or not, whether you want it or not, whether you've ever thought about it or not, this is the reality, that God in our generation has given us an opportunity and a responsibility that we are stewards of the church of our generation. The question is, what are you gonna do with it? What am I gonna do with it? What are we gonna do with it? And here's what's at stake or I should say here's who is at stake. I took this picture 2018, spring of 2018, 2019, I'm not sure. Lemme show you this picture. It's one of my favorite pictures. This is 614 high school seniors.

Now it's one thing to be around 600 high school students, but when you're around 600 something high school seniors on the other side of Christmas, in other words, they're kind of done. They got, I mean, they're gone. Their minds are in tech school or wherever they're going to school or college, university or trade school, doesn't matter. They have figured out what they're gonna do. 600 plus high school seniors. We took 'em from all of our local Atlanta area campuses to this retreat and they asked me to speak and we had just finished singing for about 45 minutes and I was a mess. And I was sitting way over here by that column over there on the right side, to your right. Sitting over there just watching these high school seniors with their hands in the air, just singing their hearts out, these amazing songs. And then I'm supposed to get up and speak.

So the stage, this little tiny stage, you can tell there's students all around. So I had to stall 'cause I had to get my, so I got my phone out, "Hey, let me take a picture". So I just took this picture in order to get my head back around what I was about to do. So if I ever walk out here with a phone, say, "Hey, I'm gonna take your picture". It's not because you're cute, okay? It's because I'm trying to recover from a baptism story or something. So anyway, so I take this picture and I love this picture because this is the future of the church. This is the future of our nation. This is the future. This is our hope. This is what matters right now. And we have to take this seriously because we are responsible for the church of this generation and the next generation. That's why we talk about it so often. That's why I love this picture.

Now, if you were here last week, or if you watched last week, I invited a bunch of you to engage in a meaningful way to ensure that the next generation, that this generation has a faith of their own, is able to maintain a deconstructable faith of their own. And hundreds of you, I was so proud of all of our churches, goodness, hundreds of you responded. And today I'm asking again. In fact, I asked our lead pastors several weeks ago, I said, "Hey, I wanna do back-to-back messages where I invite people to get involved because we have so much opportunity and we have so much responsibility and so many people are watching and we still have too many people that just show up and consume".

And you know what, we're gonna be here forever for you to just show up and consume. We're not gonna card you at the door or have some kind of membership requirements. We don't even have membership. But more of you need to step up and get involved in a meaningful way in your local church. And I mean, wherever you live, you need to find a local church. And for those of you who watch online, you consider us your church, we appreciate that. You need to find a local church and you're like, "Well, I can't find one I like". Pick one you don't like. Just get involved. Look, we don't want the local church to go away. So I'm one more time, I'm gonna ask you today, for everybody watching, to get involved in a meaningful way, either in terms of serving or with your money in a significant way to ensure, to ensure that we maximize our potential in our communities and maximize our influence in the big "C" Church.

Now here's the thing. I'm going to, you know, get on your nerves a little bit. Most Christians, most Christians, I hate to say this, are content to just consume, just get what I can. I'm too busy, not gonna go. Gonna drive by, drive by. No, they're waiting for me. So in fact, somebody said, I read it in a book, it's a great illustration, said local church oftentimes like that gas station on that deserted country road. And you've seen it a thousand times and you've never paid any attention until suddenly you needed it and you were glad they were open. We are always gonna be open. We're always gonna be here for our community and for the world. But some of you need to quit simply, quit being the drive by and stopping every once in a while and decide I'm gonna engage with my life and my family and my finances to make sure our expression of the local church is as strong as it can possibly be.

But most Christians, they just take what they can, give when the preacher pushes hard, or there's some special project, or not at all. Believe, but not follow. Just be a Christian, not a Jesus follower. And one of the challenges we have is the larger the church is, the easier it is to slip in and slip out and do nothing. And you look around and go, "Well, this place doesn't need me. And they don't need anything". No, if you're part of a body, you need to be an engaged part of the body. So here's the challenge. Ready? Don't be most Christians. You know better. You are better. So let's be better than that.

Everywhere you look, and I don't know if you, you don't read the same stuff I read, but everywhere, all the experts are telling us the church in America is dying. The church in America is dying. The church in America's going away. We're on the brink of becoming like the church in Canada, no offense to the Canadians, like the church in Europe, no offense to the Europeans. But you know what the pastors in Canada and Europe would tell us? I'll tell you what they would tell us because in January I'm on a panel with a pastor, one of the panel members is a pastor who's in our church network, from Canada and just a good friend, he's an amazing guy. And he would tell you if he were here because he told us from the panel, don't give up and don't give in and be involved, stay engaged.

Don't let happen in the United States of America what has happened in other parts of the world. Don't let the local church become so weak and so anemic that it doesn't matter anymore. Because if you lose it, it's virtually impossible to get it back. If you lose the influence you have, it's virtually impossible to get it back. So here's the thing, you're the church, not me. You are the church. It's not the building, you know that. People go "The church, the church, the church". I'm like, which person are you talking about? There's no such thing as the church. It's us, the church, it's the ecclesia, the congregation. You are your church, right? You're not just the church, you are our church. You are your church.

And I know you're busy, but we do what we do with busy people. We've built what we've built and expanded and impacted people all over the world with busy people. People who, as I said last week, don't have time, but people who made time. So here's the thing and I'm gonna push you hard. I'm not embarrassed 'cause I'm not asking you to do anything I haven't been doing. Perhaps it's time for you to make some time. To do for this generation what somebody did for you, or perhaps to do for this generation what you wish someone had done for you. It's time to commit to a plan for how you plan to support your local church financially.

And to those of you who've been carrying that load for quite a while, both in terms of giving and serving, I can't say thank you enough because you get it and you understand. And you know it's the little deposits over time, the little deposits over time, the little deposits over time that make all the difference in the life of a student, a child and in a community. And to those of you who just show up when it's convenient, get what you can take, move on, move on, keep going. You owe that group a huge debt of gratitude. And you know what? You're smart. You know that you do. But more importantly, you owe it to yourself and to your kids to join them, to ensure that our church, your church remains on mission and on message. On mission, making more disciples of Jesus, making sure this generation is discipled in to how to follow Jesus.

An on message that God so loved the world, He did something for the world. And the world needs to understand what has been done for them. So this is your opportunity, again to do for others what others have done for you. But maybe more importantly, this is your opportunity to do for others what maybe you wish someone had done for you and will continue to do for you whether you return the favor or not. Because here's the amazing thing, here's the promise, it's the the one thing I can promise. If you walk out the doors and only show up when it's convenient, we will always be here for you. And when you walk in the doors with a broken heart or broken child, broken marriage, we're gonna be here for you.

And we will never ask a single question about your membership or did you give or did you attend or did you serve? It's never gonna come up because we are committed to be in the hands of Jesus for the people in this community. And that means for you. The church is God's agent of transformation, personally. And maybe that's your story like it is mine 'cause He used it to transform my life. And if you have benefited from it. If you have benefited from it, perhaps it's time to give back to it. The church is your opportunity. This is amazing. The church is your opportunity to take part in the transformation that's happening in our world. And I don't want you to miss that opportunity.
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