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FBC’s Fifteenth Anniversary 2018
Church Distinctives and Dreams
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Everything was perfect–awesome beauty, totally sinless. Then the crown of God’s creation rebelled–people sinned. God could have wiped them out, but He put a plan into place. The first Gospel, Genesis 3:15, the serpent would bite–but Christ would crush the head of the enemy. And through the seed of the woman would come a Redeemer. God Himself would come to pay the price for our sins once for all.
But sin got worse–sin corrupted everything and everyone, so God destroyed the world with a flood. Then God told people to multiply and fill the earth. People defied God again and remained together. So God created languages and most likely different races, ultimately creating various nations. Next God’s loving and missionary heart caused Him to call one man, Abraham, who’d become a nation to reach the nations in order to dispense the knowledge which would lead to faith.
They went to Egypt for food and safety, ended up becoming slaves, but they grew into a great number, were delivered by Moses, given their constitution—the Law. Then they took the land back under Joshua, becoming a nation. But they failed to follow the Lord again during the time of the judges, followed by failure and promise under the monarchy with Saul, then David then Solomon.
At Solomon’s death in 931, the nation divided into Israel in the north, finally being taken captive by the Assyrians in 722BC–and the south, finally taken captive by Babylon starting in 605BC. They returned 70 years later, loving God’s Law, hating idolatry and looking forward to the promised coming Messiah. And 400 years of silence led to Christ arriving and changing everything.
He lived a perfect life, intentionally and willingly died as our substitute on the cross, taking all the punishment for the sins of His children upon Himself, rose from the dead after telling us He would build His Church. That Church was born/begun on Pentecost in Acts 2. Now instead of one nation and one race reaching the nations, it was people from every nation and every race functioning as one body, seeking to proclaim the good news.
The Triune God provided salvation for you. The Father chooses, Christ accomplished and the Spirit applies salvation so you are not only made right with God, but you are also born again, internally transformed to function as a part of a family, called the local church–like FBC. And all of you who know Christ this morning are part of this incredible journey to enjoy Christ in worship, represent Christ in ministry to each other, to proclaim Christ to the world with the gospel at FBC.
You didn’t know it, but you’ve been on a wagon train journey at FBC. The West was built by people traveling in wagons. They faced a lot of dangers, impossible routes over cliffs and across rivers, through mountains and deserts. They lacked food and a proper diet. They faced disease and sickness without proper medicine. They faced wild animals harsh weather. Those who traveled were not stereotypical. Not everyone was poor looking for land–many were looking for a new life. But being a part of a wagon train was a long journey.
We have been on our train for fifteen years. It’s been a great journey–more fun, more sweet, more memorable, more blessing and more impact for Christ than I ever thought possible. And we’re getting close to finding our permanent tent, a ministry firebase behind enemy lines–the new building will be the final stop before Heaven. The land is purchased, the city is approving our plans, and dirt is going to be moved–hopefully next year in 2019. We actually might move in 2020.
As we remember fifteen years of God’s goodness and grace, and face a major transition, it is a good time to look back and look ahead. As we get closer to our last stop before home, today we take some time to prepare, to dream, to reflect, to examine ourselves, and be encouraged. Today will not be an exegesis of a single text, but a review of passages and principles which have guided us in the past and those which will direct us in the future.
When you finally arrive at a building, there are some dangers–you might forget the church is a body, not a building, Christians not concrete. You might forget God expects you to function in service with your gifts and through relationships. You might forget this world is not our home. You might forget there’re additional responsibilities in the maintenance of a facility and land.
You might forget that the work of equipping and evangelism never stops. That rest is for Heaven, not now. You might even start to believe this is no longer a lay-run church. That pastors will run the church from their church offices. That someone will be available to you onsite 24/7, to help you plant a new lawn while you talk about your problems.
You might think you’re going to take ourselves more seriously now and the Lord and His Word less seriously. But none of that will happen. We take the Lord seriously and not ourselves. And the distinct convictions which made this the most wonderful church will remain the same. The beginning conviction, the cause of FBC, the first principle which gave birth to this church, the main issue which began FBC was unique–it was that this church would be . . .
#1 SHEPHERDED by a TEAM of qualified, functioning elders in humility
Why? We only want the leadership of Chris, as the Head of this church. And His headship is best determined by a plurality of men who function in unanimity. First Peter 5:1, “I exhort the elders [almost always in the plural] among you, …2 shepherd the flock of God among you, … voluntarily … with eagerness … proving to be examples to the flock.”
The local church is to be shepherded and led by a team of men who seek to determine the one will of Christ for this local church. There is not one pastor here, but a team of pastors, some supported financially–others do the work for free. Each function according to their gifts, working together to determine the one will of Christ for His Church.
We do have a senior pastor at FBC, and he is a layman who shepherds our seniors. Often people attend FBC and expect me to be the man in charge. That may have been true at your previous church, but not here. FBC is overseen and shepherded by a plurality of elders, who together seek to determine Christ’s headship for this local church.
The Bible dogmatically teaches that men lead the church and men lead their homes. Our elders do not even try to agree with each other–they study God’s Word, pray and seek to determine what Christ wants, since He is the Head of the Church. And they shepherd this family as fathers over many different kinds of children–mature, young, old, weak, strong, Spirit-filled, in the flesh, wheat and tares.
True elders love the Lord and love His people, and shepherd people and shepherd through other shepherds who faithfully care for others in this church. That is why it is essential for you to belong to a ministry or to a community group. That is where you are shepherded. The ministry of truly godly leaders is not to do the ministry, but to equip others to do the work of ministry. You have a job to do.
#2 Everyone PARTICIPATES
Ephesians 4:11 to 12, “He gave some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.” The pastors and elders of this church are not to do all the ministry of FBC. They equip you to do the work of ministry. Equip is the Greek word used to mend the hole in the net, to fix the broken bone, to supply the army with supplies so they can fight the good fight.
The gifted equippers dedicate their lives to fix the holes in our church, to mend the holes in your life, to supply you with what you need in order for you to do the work of ministry. Christ did the ministry, now the body of Christ does the ministry. FBC is not the church to come sit, soak and sour, but to serve, sacrifice and shine.
FBC is not a family where you come merely to consume, but to contribute. FBC is not a church for observation, but participation. FBC is not a body where you are a spectator, but a player. In a healthy church, the laity, the non-paid, the body of Christ, the members of the church do the ministry. The pastors are supported in order to equip you so that you will serve, teach, share the Gospel, help others with their marriage, train children, set up, take down, greet people, disciple, visit, shepherd and care for each other.
This is not the church where one pastor comes to visit you in your crisis. This is the church where the twenty people you’re closest to care for you daily in your crisis. This will never change–why? This is God’s will for every church. This is Biblical, not optional. This is God’s Word, God’s design. All other approaches are wrong. This is God’s plan for every Christian. The Bible is not age-graded, or based on sex. Once you are part of the family, you contribute to the family–high schooler, young mom, to senior.
FBC is committed to equipping you with the best food–the only food. FBC is committed to expositional preaching where you only get the author’s intended meaning. That is where we draw out the one correct meaning of every text–what Christ meant to say so you will grow more like Christ.
This church is also passionate about teaching you the truth in the most gracious way–truth and grace. John 1 says Jesus was full of grace and truth, and we want to be as well. Truth and love–no compromise on truth on any issue. No burping and moving on, no skipping the hard stuff, no wimping out over the controversial, but taught in the most gracious possible way, like Christ.
FBC desires to elevate truth, because Christ is the Truth. The Bible is His Word. The Bible is what Christ would say and do, so we value His Word over all preferences, programs, choices, externals, dress, freedoms–principle always over preference. If it’s Bible, it matters a lot to us–it means everything. If’s it’s not Bible, it matters little.
But why so passionate about the Word? So that you can know God and grow to be like Christ, then able to do the work of ministry. Every single attender of FBC is to grow into a participant. If you come to FBC already wounded, or unhealthy from another church, please come and sit for a season—learn, be loved, grow healthy. But eventually, every single attender is expected to serve, because that is what God designed. Every healthy church expects you to get out of ICU, get out of bed, take off the bib and put on the apron.
As each of you do, God promises you in Ephesians 4:16b, “According to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” When each of us participate in the body, God sovereignly causes this church to grow to be more like Christ and grow more in biblical love.
God is so committed to you faithfully serving, the Spirit gifted you to serve. When you were born again, God gave you unique superpowers in order to show off His Son to others in the church as you serve. First Peter 4:10 and 11, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11 Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
Each believer is gifted to serve. Raising children is not exercising your spiritual gift. Being godly at work is not a spiritual gift. Giftedness is only seen when manifested in the church in service. This is what causes the world to see Christ in our midst, when we all participate in the way God designed. This is how God designed His Church. It is the only biblical view.
This will never stop when we get to the new building, but only increase—everyone participates. Can you imagine being on a wagon train, but you served no one but your own family? But something else will never change.
#3 OBEDIENCE to the Scripture is an expectation
Genuine salvation results in believers who obey the Scripture. It is all over the New Testament. Peter, in his opening salutation, points out in 1 Peter 1:1 and 2, “Peter… to those … who are chosen 2 …to obey Jesus Christ.” Those who are chosen obey Christ. The Lord expresses an expectation that all believers will obey in Luke 6:46, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”
Part of the new heart given in authentic salvation is a Christian who desires to obey. Romans 6:17, “Thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed.” FBC is not tough, legalistic, demanding, or harsh to expect obedience from its genuinely saved members. We are merely being truthful, biblical, honest and genuine.
Churches that don’t expect obedience are soft, compromising and dishonest. They say they’re more loving, or see themselves as more gracious–but that’s a lie, because it’s actually God’s grace which desires obedience. You were saved by grace, not so you can sin more, but saved by grace so you can obey more.
Romans 6:22 (ESV), “Now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.” You were saved by grace in order to be set free from sin to obey God, grow and prove you’re saved. Obedience is not legalism–obedience is an expression of the love of God for His glory and your good. First John 5:3a, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.”
Obedience is following the manufacturer’s perfect design. Obedience is doing what the Father says is best. Now we can’t obey in our own strength, so we’re filled with His Spirit. Ephesians 5:18, dependently obedient–depending on Him and obeying His Word, relying on Him and obeying. We trust and obey.
“Lord, I can’t do this–please do this through me as I rely on you, your Word, your people, and in faith choose to exercise my will and step out in obedience to your Word.” Even when I don’t feel like it. Even when I don’t understand. Even when I don’t agree fully, I seek to trust the Lord with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding.
What are some biblical expectations of obedience? If Jesus were physically here and evaluated your life in this church, what would He say? Along with your heart intimacy cultivated with Him through Bible study and prayer–after first asking, “Is your heart given to me in worship?” He’d say–you not only serve the church diligently, you attend the church faithfully, give sacrificially, interconnect with others, intentionally bind yourself relationally in discipleship.
“You follow the example of the mature regularly and treat each other lovingly.” You won’t survive on a wagon train if you’re doing your own thing in isolation. And you are gonna die if you do not obey the Lord of the journey–the true wagon master. Are you truly obedient? The Bible commands every believer to faithfully attend the corporate gathering of the saints. Not merely Sunday school, or talking on the patio, but worshiping together.
Some only attend church three times in their lives–when they’re hatched, matched, then dispatched. In contrast to that, Hebrews 10:24 to 25 says, “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” Are you in the habit of forsaking the assembly? How often are you absent?
If this is your church, Jesus Christ expects you to be here–He wants you to be here faithfully, regularly. Yes, there is sickness, vacation, an anniversary . . . okay. But what does the Lord think about missing church for Disneyland, the beach, the zoo, this event, or the OC fair–missing Sunday corporate worship?
What does He think when you decide not to attend cause you’re too tired from Saturday night, or the kids are fussy. Listen, friends–my boys were awesome every day of the week . . . until Saturday night and Sunday morning. Then they turned into Beelzebub. Who is leading your home–Jesus or your children? If absence makes the heart grow fonder, then there are some FBC’ers who are really fond of their church, because they are absent and rarely here.
You know, continual, unrepentant, defiant sin leads to church discipline. Jesus is asking, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” If your job is in the way, then pray for a new job. Until then, start attending Sunday family nights this fall. One area FBC excels at obedience in caring for those who are interconnected. Many of you in community or ministry know of the care extended to them in a crisis–meals, visits, spiritual help, funerals, care in sickness, counseling and so much more.
Those who don’t interconnect eventually don’t remain. But those who do interconnect know a unique love and authentic compassion for each other. I will never forget the day when our formal, churchwide meal ministry was replaced by the spiritual compassion of our people to one another. A sweet lady came to me all upset. She said, “I wanted to help that family, but in 10 minutes they already have meals set up for two weeks from their community group.
Praise God for your heart to minister to each other in community. I am so thankful to be a part of a church that manifests Christ’s compassion. I’ve never seen or experienced compassion so authentic, and so Christ like.
As a church, FBC seeks to be obedient to the command to train men. Our next passage in 2 Timothy 2:1 and 2, “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”
We want our men to lead their homes like Christ, and lead our church like Christ, minister like Christ and discover their unique sovereign calling by discovering their God-designed purpose. Like Acts 13:36 (ESV), “David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers.”
FBC is committed to helping every believer discover their purpose in this generation so they can fill it out, then go home to Heaven. Our commitment to train has allowed us to send men out in order to be used of God in great ways for His glory. That will continue–TC grads we all train are serving the Lord in amazing ways.
Our Menifee church plant with Jake, Danny and Daniel. Josh went to Grace Community Church as their high school pastor. Josh serves as an elder in Hawaii. Patrick serves as a youth pastor at Christ Community, Covina. Many other men are serving in significant ways in other churches. Plus we’ve been privileged to invest in international pastors like Marco, Daniel, Aaron and Lojza.
I’m thankful for the men of our church who adore their wives and train their children–men who minister in our jail, reach out with an ice cream truck, shepherd portions of our flock, run tables, greet, usher, seek to church plant. We have men who set up and take down a mobile church, men who teach the Word of God.
There are men here who lead huge ministries like children’s, JR High, High School and College, and community groups–many of which are larger than the average church in the US. And along with those men, there are amazing Titus 2 women who sacrifice greatly to teach our children, disciple our students, minister to women, administrate, sign up, lead our women’s outreaches, and invest in missionary wives around the world–this hopefully will increase.
The commitment of FBC will be men disciple men, women discipling women, couples discipling couples. FBC will continue to seek to provide levels of investment. Outreach events for salvation, community groups for discipleship, Men of the Word, women’s classes and Saturday seminars for maturity, Training Center for ministry training, seminary training for future pastors, and . . .
FBC will not stop training both men and women–our heart is to be obedient to Christ who trained His men. FBC will continue to invest into marriages first, since healthy marriages make healthy homes and healthy homes make healthy churches. We will uphold the distinction of the sexes, the responsibilities of a husband’s headship and a wife’s submission.
Marriage conferences will continue every other year, if not more, along with parenting classes. We will continue to teach and not family first, nor kids first, but Christ first and truth first. We will teach biblical parenting, not blogical parenting. We will teach faith-based parenting, not fear-based. FBC will also be committed to train up the next generation. Our plan is to hand off the keys of this church to the spiritual leaders of the next generation–because that’s what Christ expects.
Our focus will be children, students and adults coming under the authority of the Word of God so that, we hope, FBC will continue to be healthy for decades to come before the Lord returns. FBC will continue to reach out to those around us to hear the only message of salvation, and transformation through the Gospel.
FBC will continue to proclaim the Gospel weekly from the pulpit, and will continue to train you to witness to the lost–this is what Christ commands. As well as give you additional opportunities to invite friends and family to events to hear the Gospel (Sunday nights), as well as continue to reach out to the community in a variety of ways, like the ice cream truck, holiday services and more.
Our mission is not to clean up the world, but proclaim the message that redeems and transforms. Our mission is to not apologize for the wrongs done to peoples in the past, but to give all hope of a present and future life in God’s grace and forgiveness. We are not here as a church to accomplish social justice, but to help every person know how to escape God’s just judgement via the Gospel. Our purpose is not to clean the fishbowl, but to become fishers of men.
Along with that, FBC will continue to be passionate about missions, doing church elsewhere, assisting the work of the local church and missionaries who are seeking to establish the church and training leaders for the international church–because Christ is passionate about His Church and the Gospel proclaimed to every nation. We desire to be obedient.
There is so much more to say–that’s what the pastor says when he runs out of material . . . so much more. But today there is more to say. Our hope is FBC will remain spiritually healthy. God takes care of the breadth of the ministry and we are responsible to take care of the depth of our ministry. FBC will continue to focus on the heart, not externals. We will continue to take the Lord and His word seriously, but not ourselves.
We want to make our new building biblical, right? Over the nursery door, we will have Scripture–this verse above the nursery. First Corinthians 15:51, “Behold, I tell you a mystery; they will not all sleep, but they will all be changed.” That’s a joke–I just violated authorial intent! I just undermined my entire sermon.
We hope the building will be a place of significant conferences. A place for emergencies in the community. A place for police to be honored—and more. When we arrive on site, please know, we have not arrived. It is just a base of operations to reach the region. The prayer for our church and our facility is direct. Ephesians 3:20 to 21, “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, 21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.”
TAKE THIS HOME in prayer–I have closing thoughts, but want your heads down and eyes closed.
1 Thank the Lord for what He has done–how He has blessed your life through this church. If you don’t know Christ, ask Him to open your heart–turn to Him in repentance and faith.
2 Your leaders think our church is special, but they don’t think they or this church is perfect. Please forgive your leaders and others for letting you down in some manner, for disappointing you. And let me affirm, Christ never will. Always remember your leaders never think they have arrived–they are always examining their hearts and open to correction. I pray you will be as well.
3 Repent over any area of responsibility you are not fulfilling. Are you attending the church faithfully, serving the church diligently, giving sacrificially, interconnecting with others relationally, following the example of mature regularly and treating each other lovingly?
4 It’s time for you to link with the church–get the weekly letter, become a member. Stop putting that off. Members are the true family of FBC. Plus get connected by joining a ministry or a community group now.
5 Get ready to minister to two additional families. When we move to the property, you will have to embrace two new families to help them to know us, understand us, learn how to interconnect and grow. Not one, but two each. Ephesians 3:20 to 21, “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, 21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.”
Come to Christ, and/or become like Christ.