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Working Our Assigned Field

Working Our Assigned Field

February 09, 2003 | Andrew Davis

sermon transcript


I think there's a few things as tragic as wasted time and a wasted of life. I don't want to waste my life, and I want to live for the glory of God. I want to do the good works that God has ordained that I should walk in them, and we're going to talk about that tonight. We are going to concentrate on what God is calling us to do, how we are to work. It's one thing to think individually, but how do you think as a church, corporately? What are we called to do? When I was called here as a pastor, I was excited and interested by the ministry possibilities there are in this area.  There's really almost no category of person that you could think about that we couldn't minister to. That's exciting, but it's daunting, too, isn't it?  The possibilities are limitless, isn't that right? They are limitless, but we are not limitless, so we want to concentrate and try to find out what God is calling us to do.

A quote that I heard recently, and I think it's so true, is that we tend to overestimate. We have a tendency to overestimate what God will do in one year and underestimate what He will do in 10 years. We're always thinking it's just going to be like that, and it isn't, and then we get discouraged and feel that nothing's going to happen, and that's not true either. I think it's somewhere in between. I think that the process is very much what God is about. He wants us to walk through these challenges. He wants us to live day after day, and to face the challenges and pray through them. Then as we are faithful, and as we follow the Spirit, and as we step out in faith, and that's what we're talking about tonight, our initiatives, ways that we're going to step out, build on, perhaps, what we're already doing, or moving into whole new areas that we're not doing at all. That as we keep living like that, mainly hearing from God, listening to Him, and then moving out with energy, and then looking back over 10 years, 20 years on what God has done, I think we're going to be staggered, it's going to be amazing. But we can be staggered right from the start,  and not start at all. I think for me, one of the key concepts has been that of the assigned field.

There is a picture of gleaners, the people in the field that are doing work in the harvest. Perhaps it reminds some of Ruth in the Book of Ruth as they're in the field gleaning. There's a verse  in  2 Corinthians 10:13.  The  key concept being that God intelligently assigns to individuals and to churches an assigned field. There is something given to us that we can accomplish. That makes sense, doesn't it? He's not giving the whole world to an individual. That's not for us. That would puff that individual up to think somehow, they didn't need the rest of the body. We really are dependent on one another and so, there's only a portion of the work assigned to each one of us. In the same way, there's only a portion of the work in the  our Triangle region in NC assigned to this church, alright? There are other good churches around here doing good work for God, and we're excited about that, and we should pray for others doing those kinds of works and be thrilled about that. But we have an assigned field. Now, I want to support that in Scripture. I want you to take a minute and look with me in Ephesians 2, something we've talked about before, and I'm going to couple it with something else that Paul says, just to establish this sense, scripturally, of an assigned field. In Ephesians 2:8-9, a very familiar verse, it says, "For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works so that no one can boast." Very famous, and basically, it implies that we are not saved or in this sense, I think, justified by our works. We cannot present works to God as a basis or ground for our justification. We know that. But the verse doesn't stop there. Of course, it continues with the passage. It says, "For we are God's workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance that we should walk in them.”  So in other words, I have the sense every day of somewhat like a railroad track of works and I'm supposed to run along those tracks. There are good works that God lays out every day for me to walk in them. My desire is to make the most of every opportunity, to redeem the time because “the days are evil,” it says in Ephesians 5. You have to go win those works, don't you? They don't just come to you. You have to go win them by the power of the Spirit, and by initiative, and by drive, and by energy, and they are not infinite. They are reasonably laid out for us by God. We can walk in them as two o'clock follows one o'clock and as three o'clock follows two. We can just walk in those good works. Then when we lay our head on the pillow at night, we can definitely have a sense, we have done the works that God gave us to do if the Spirit testifies in that way.

But we know, sadly, sometimes, we get diverted through sin and selfishness, and we lose our thread, and we don't do the good works that God had ordained. Praise God that verse eight and nine are there because it's not on the basis of those works we're coming to God, anyway.  So we are not basing our value before God by whether we did well or not today. That's such a trap and it's so terrible, you can never get out because you can never do enough. There's no enough. But I think there is enough when it comes to verse 10 because God has laid out good works for us to walk in. Could it be too much to extend that to a local church, that God has also, in the same way, ordained good works for a church to do, and that we should walk in those good works together, and that we should use our spiritual gifts together as a body, and walk in those good works to find out what they are?  I think so, I think that there is a field assigned to us.

Paul, in that 2 Corinthians passage says that the field reaches even to you because we came and preached to you, and that's how we know the field extends to you, that by providence, God has expanded that. We are here, we preach to you in Corinth, and you're part of our field. We're responsible for you because we came and preached to you. That's the logic he uses there. Look at Acts 20:24. It says a similar thing there. This is a wonderful section in which Paul is challenging the Ephesian elders,  a local church, and this is a charge that he gives to these same individuals. In verse 22, Acts 20:22-24, he says, "And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem." Just stop there for a minute. I want a feeling here in this local church of spirit compulsion. Wouldn't that be exciting? To have a sense that we are compelled by the Spirit to do this or to do that, and that we have that sense of ownership that together, like in Acts 13, when they were praying, worshipping the Lord, fasting and praying, they had a compelling sense from the Spirit to send out Paul and Barnabas on the first missionary journey. The church owned that together, and they sent them out, and they prayed for them, and they laid their hands on them and sent them out.

It was a Spirit compulsion to send Paul and Barnabas. That was part of the good works of that local church.  I would love for our church to have a Spirit compulsion.  Paul had that, individually. I would like, individually, each of us to have that, and then corporately together. "And now," he says, “compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem." That's very practical, isn't it? I know where I'm going, I know what I'm doing. It's not ethereal. It's not a sense of way up there or spiritualized ministry. He said, "I'm going to a certain city because the Spirit has told me to go there." So there's a very specific sense of leadership here by the Spirit. "Compelled by the Spirit, I'm going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there." Stop there. That is true as well, isn't it? We don't know the future. It's exciting, but scary to follow God, isn't it? We don't know where it's going to lead. God doesn't tell us. In one sense, I'm glad He doesn't tell us. I've thought about that before. "Today, you will break a leg, sometime today." Suppose God told you that? What would you do? You wouldn't get out of bed. And then a piece of the ceiling falls and your leg's broken anyway. What can you do? But there's a sense in which I don't know what the future holds and God will not tell us everything, but we're going to move out, compelled by the Spirit, and we're going to go, even though we don't know where we're going, entirely. "Compelled by the Spirit, I'm going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city, the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me." Stop there. The journey that we're looking at ahead as a church is not going to be easy. We've had some struggles here in this church over the last few years, no question about it. Most of those struggles have been intramural. I don't think that's the way it should be. I think that churches should be places where you're built up and encouraged and strengthened, Hebrews 10, said that, "We're provoked or stimulated to do loving, good deeds, and we're encouraged, and the gifts are flowing, and we build each other up." I feel in my spirit that we're done with that.  I'm grateful for that. But does that mean it's now easy from here on out? Absolutely not. It's just the struggles, I think, will be out there.  As we're faithful to go out from the doors of this church, from these walls, and go minister in a mighty way, we're going to meet opposition.

Everyone who desires to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. We're going to have opposition. Does that prove we have misstepped? Should that cause us to doubt? Should it cause us to wonder? I would say the opposite. If no opposition ever happens, I'm going to say, "What are we doing? We're not engaging the enemy. We're no threat to the devil." Status quo is the devil's; we have to go take territory. I have to move out in a mighty way, so I'm not concerned about that, although I don't like pain anymore than anybody does. I'm sure the Apostle Paul struggled with the sense that prison and hardships would face him in every city. This is not a man speaking ignorantly. He knew what it was like to be in prison, knew what it was like to be beaten, but he had counted the cost and he was willing to pay that price. So he says, "Prison and hardships are facing me." Now in verse 24, "However, I consider my life worth nothing to me." That's so striking to me. I guess I have the sense that we are sheep for the slaughter. We are a vessel to be poured out fully so that when we're done, there's nothing left, just like Jesus. When He was dead, there was nothing left to give.

It's all resources, stewardship resources that are here, not to be accumulating here, but to be poured out,  and Paul had that attitude. "I consider my life worth nothing to me if only I may finish the race," look what he says, "If only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me." Stop there. That's what I'm talking about. Do you see it? There's a clear sense that Paul has that God has assigned him a task. Individually, I think we can have that, we can have a sense of mission, personally, a sense that God has assigned to me this task and I'm committed to do it. I want to live to accomplish that task. And I'm going to run the race and I'm going to finish the work, the task that Christ has given to me. Paul says, at the end of his life, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I've kept the faith." He did the work God assigned him to do. Wouldn't you love to be able to get to the end of your life and say that? "I finished the work God gave me to do." How Christ-like is that? In John 17, "Father, I brought you glory on earth by completing the work You gave me to do," alright? So also for us, we can, by the strength and the power of God, complete the work God has assigned to us if we work together.

We have to listen to Him and find out what it is, and we will be.  He says what the task is, the task of testifying to the Gospel of God's grace. The testifying to the Gospel and the Gospel of God's grace, as I spoke about this morning, praise God for His grace. We don't deserve it, you know that. We deserve wrath, and we got grace. That's what I want to testify to. I just want to testify to that. I want our church, too. But it's more complicated than that, isn't it? There's a lot of aspects to that. I want to see us do that.  I'm challenging us to work our assigned field. Now, you might say, "What is our assigned field?" That's the very thing that we have sought to determine as we're working together. There's our vision statement.  It says, "We exist to delight in, display and declare the glory of God, equipping His people to spread that delight to all nations through Jesus Christ." A great vision statement. We need to keep moving toward it, though we never completely achieve it.

I'd like to do is give you a sense of where we're at now as a church, an overview of our current ministries. There's going to be layers, like an onion. First, just a general look, and then we're going to get more detailed, then go on from there. Then again, we'll do the same with our ministry initiatives. In this analysis of our church  we divided our initiatives into inreach and outreach, broadly defined. Inreach would be the ministry of this church to church members. It's just a rough definition, the things we do to minister to each other. Is that a valid ministry? Oh, absolutely! It is a valid ministry for us to build each other up in the faith, and to encourage one another, and pray for each other, and support each other. Absolutely, a valid ministry. We do that in a variety of ways. Then secondly, there's outreach. This would be ministry that our church does to non-church members. Why do you make church member an important thing. We had to think through the fact that we do, sometimes, minister to Christians who are not church members here. We'll minister to other believers who are doing ministries. Southern Baptist missionaries that are not members here, we support them financially, and we do pray for them as well, so we're supporting them in their work. But we also are reaching out to non-church members who are just non-believers. It's just a broad definition of ministry within the walls, ministry without the walls. Why do I do that? Because I have a sense that churches can get heavy-laden on internal stuff and very rarely do much outside the walls. It's just so easy to just run the machinery in here as long as our needs are met, and we're happy, and the building looks nice and is comfortable, and things just run. The committees do their work and just year follows year. Have you noticed that before? It just runs. It's sometimes hard for us to get out of the walls and go out and do something in this big, wide world that God's given us. That's why we thought about inside /outside and what we can be doing. 

What are we talking about in terms of inreach? First of all, there's the Ministry of the Word, which we put first intentionally.  It's not an accident, in this case, I think, that the Ministry of the Word comes first because I believe and I've made the case from Scripture that the word primes the pump for everything.  We don't really know what we're to pray for, we don't know what corporate worship is, we don't know how to do anything if the Word doesn't instruct us, so it all starts there. We'll talk more about what we mean by that. This is just an overview. We do corporate worship. We minister together in corporate worship. We also do some discipleship ministries, and corporate prayer, and support ministries broadly defined, and comforting ministries and deacon ministries.  Then in terms of outreach, we see us ministering in local outreach, and what do we mean by that? We just mean evangelistically reaching out to the people that are pouring into this region that are living here, the unchurched, just generally, our neighbors, people who need to hear the Gospel. Then there's urban ministries — that we are aware of the fact that we are near an urban area and underprivileged area, and we see that as a responsibility. We want to reach out there.  We think about global missions. That is a ministry to the world, evangelistically. There's pro-life ministry, which I mentioned prominently in my sermon a few weeks ago. And there's prison ministry, which the Lord has brought here and a number of people here, specifically. A few have been very faithful and for many years. Student ministry, obviously, because we're so close to Duke and UNC and other colleges, and so there's a ministry there. Then finally, international ministry. Again, nothing significant to the ordering at all, but there they are.  This listing is suggestive, not exhaustive.  If you have a pet project and you really want to recruit to that project and someone says, "I really don't feel called to do that," I understand, that's okay, because there's so many other ways that people are ministering here in this church. Do you see what I'm saying? It's very broad and there's a lot of stuff that's going on here. For example, in the ministry of the word, we certainly have sermons, and we have Sunday school, which is a big endeavor, a great deal of workloads into Sunday school, there's ACTS, Adult Christian Training Seminars every Wednesday evening, which has been a big success and a big encouragement to me, but again, that takes a great deal of work and it's been wonderful. We have the one stamp programs like GAs and RAs, etcetera, and then other Bible studies. There are many Bible studies that meet throughout the week that just get together. We would call that ministry of the Word.

Then there's corporate worship, and there are people that make that their ministry. They really zero in on that. They present music to us, they have to practice those pieces, they do hand bells, for example, or a piano or organ or an instrument, or they sing in the choir, or they help children sing in choirs. These are forms of corporate worship. Then there's just the ministry we do to each other by really singing a hymn well. So keep that in mind. Shake off the lethargy and just sing it to God, you're just ministering to your brothers and sisters in Christ. There's more we can say about that, but moving on. Discipleship ministries, we really didn't want to define this too carefully because I think a brother talking to a brother or a sister to a sister or people to people in the hall can be discipleship. We can just challenge and exhort and encourage each other, and we shepherd one another, watch over one another in brotherly love, and that's going on more and more, mutual shepherding. But we also have an organized women's discipleship ministry called Heart-to-Heart, and that's been a big success.  We want to see our youth ministry and our college ministry as discipleship ministries. They really are. It's not a youth program. We're talking about discipleship, training up people to be faithful disciples to Christ. Then there are corporate prayer meetings, and this is what we're already doing. You may not know, but there is a corporate prayer time every Sunday morning at 9:00 AM in the parlor here. We'd like more people to come, we really would. We'd like all of you to come, but we would definitely move out of the parlor. There's no question about that. But corporate prayer is exciting, and we would like you to be part of it. I want you to know that there are some individuals that commit themselves to praying during the worship service every week. And I'm telling you, I've noticed a difference just in preaching, the difference that makes spiritually. It's hard to describe how it is if you don't have that sense of covering and anointing from the Lord. So those who have made that sacrifice, thank you. Others of you can do that. You may be called to do that ministry. There's also 6 o'clock prayer Wednesday night, and then occasional prayer meetings that have happened. There are support ministries. There are many committee ministries. Here you have the words, "many committees". It's so easy to just hunker down into a committee ministry, and that, "Hey, I'm on this or that or the other committee."  I think the committee ministries do phenomenally important things in support for the overall ministry, very much so, and they are important, alright? Then there's things like work days and other ways that support goes on in the church. Then there's comforting ministries, which are so valuable. Bereavement ministry and homebound, hospital visitation and ministry to the sick, and ministry to new parents, like having baby showers or giving gifts, or making meals for people, a lot of that done in the context of Sunday school, but it does go on. So again, there's comforting ministries that go on.

And then there's deacon ministry, each deacon assigned to a portion of the church body for shepherding, that's going on, but that's going to be also part of our initiative because it's really just started. That's an overview of the way we minister to our church members.  How about how we minister currently to non-church members?  First of all, understand what we're talking about. As I understand it, we are the fourth fastest growing metro region in the nation. That means lots of people are moving in here, and I drive with them every day, and so do you.  There was a time when I was one of those new people making it difficult for others. I remember when this was a country road. But just people are pouring in here, and we have a piece of that work to do. It's too big for one church, but we are to be reaching out to the many people who are coming in here. How are we doing that now? One way is by visiting people who visit us. Sometimes it's really remarkable. We could have as many as 15 or 20 visitors on a given Sunday, and it's a big challenge to just go visit them and tell them that we're grateful that they came, talk to them, find out what their needs are. That ministry is labor-intensive. It goes on a Wednesday evenings right now, and many of you are involved and we could use more. Also in the past, we've targeted neighborhoods. We'd like to see that more, and we're going to talk about that in a moment. We've done a health fair. A number of you are involved in what we call para-church ministries. Bible Study Fellowship, for example, is a para-church ministry, and a number of you are involved in that. You invest time in that. BSF is a good example of that, and Christian Medical and Dental Society and other parachute ministries, reaching out to the many people who are flowing into this area. The second category is urban ministries. Our primary urban ministry right now is a tutoring ministry that goes on on Wednesday evenings, and also the Caring Center. Those are two ways that we reach out to this community. There are other ways as well.

In local outreach, we have a benevolence ministry, people that come to the door, and we've seen people come to Christ through that as we minister to those that come to the door. CEF is Child Evangelism Fellowship, and some of you have volunteered time with CEF. We're going to talk more about them in a moment. The Durham Rescue Mission,  a number of you give financially to the Durham Rescue Mission. Some have volunteered time or contributed foods or other things to Durham Rescue Mission.Those are a variety of ways that our church is reaching out to the urban area. 

Then there's global missions. Our church has been pretty faithful in short-term missions for many, many years. A few years ago, we saw a shift in which we were moving toward a really exciting, kind of cutting edge cross-cultural ministry, and that's been exciting and we want to see that grow, but short-term missions.There’s our Lottie Moon offering and Global Priority Fund. Our Lottie Moon offering's been going on for a while and the church has been very faithful financially to give. The global priority fund is newer, and the church also has been faithful to give a lot of money through that. Global Priority Fund is basically a pool of money that you would target, you would just say right on your check, Global Priority Fund, and it just goes into a pool of money that is then dispersed by representatives of the missions committee. It just kind of floats free of the budget and is available for short-term mission trips and a number of other missionary type things. Then the WMU continues to do their ministry and the perspectives classes that I've been involved in and a number of you have taken. Pro-life ministry, there's pregnancy support services and Life Chain and Sanctity of Life Sunday and perhaps a number of other ways that we minister to pro-life. Prison ministry- there's an ongoing Monday night Bible studies that's been going on for years and years. Jack Evan's been so faithful in that and a number of others who have partnered with him and have done some great work and leading those Bible studies, seeing people come to Christ, and also sponsoring prisoners out so that they can come and be involved in our church life as best they can, so they can be here worshipping with us on Sundays, and at other times in the week.

Then there's student ministry, all the variety of things that Scott does as minister of college in career and others, campus events, the fall fling, game nights, retreats, and then  a number of you are involved with some of the para-churches there, Campus Crusade for Christ, InterVarsity, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Navigators International Student, International ISI, There are many ways that our church could be involved there and service events. Then finally, international ministry. We've seen a great deal of growth in our international ministry over the last year or two, and that's been exciting. We have International Wives on Thursdays, the day of Refugee Ministry has been really wonderful, and we're all encouraged by that, the job that those who committed so much time have done, it's wonderful. Furniture distribution has been a great way we meet a lot of internationals. Sunday school classes, international Bible studies, these are just some of the ways that we're reaching internationals.

There are internal ministries inside that church, you've got the ministry of the word, you've got discipleship, you've got the deacon ministry and support ministries, you've got worship and prayer and comforting ministries, all of them tending toward that central goal, from Ephesians 4, of spiritual maturity, that we would grow up to maturity in Christ. As the church grows in maturity, the ministry of the word is going to get better. You're going to have better teachers teaching the word. You're going to just have people growing up. It's just going to be better. Same thing with worship, corporate worship is just going to be better as we're more spiritually mature. That's exciting. Those things just grow and they feed. It's the body ministering to the body and we grow up into the full measure of Christ. That's exciting.

I don't want you to miss the fact that God's glory and His power and His activity primes the pump. It's all coming from Him, from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. This is not something we're doing on our own and then presenting back up to God. It's something that He actually is working in us by His spirit and by His word. It kind of flows down through the cross.  But just imagine that all of those seven internal ministries are primed and energized and strengthened by the Holy Spirit, but then it must flow out, and it does flow out, but it must flow out more. That's what I'm saying. That's our goal tonight. We must see more outreach. We want to see more flowing out. And what do I mean by that? Take minute and look at John Chapter 7, and we're going to see what we mean by this. John 7:37, we're looking at Jesus at the Feast of Tabernacles, and He goes up there and He teaches, and finally, on the final day of the feast, John 7:37, it says, "On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, 'If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.'" The two verses must be taken together. If you are thirsty, you should come to Christ. And what will he do? He will satisfy you. Just like the woman at the well, a Samaritan woman, there's a well of water springing up within us that satisfies. I believe as we come for corporate worship, for example, we're coming thirsty and God satisfies us, Christ satisfies. If you're thirsty, you come to Christ and He meets your needs. That's so important, because as we go on in ministry and we get busy and we're serving, we're active, we're energetic, you can get dry and used up if you forget this verse. So if you're thirsty, if you're worn out, "Come to me and drink." So there's the water analogy already. We're drinking in Christ and meeting our own thirst, but then what happens? "Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture said, from within him, streams of living water will flow out."   I have to believe  He's meaning the Holy Spirit. By this, He meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive. Up to that time, the Spirit had not been given since Christ had not yet been glorified. This is streams of living water, and it's meant to just flow out, and it's meant to bear good fruit. There's lots of living analogies in Scripture, but one of them is water and fields and growth. I must tell you, I initially thought about big water wheel turning machinery, I said "That's such an industrial revolution, mechanical engineering way to look at it." Scripture is usually agricultural. We planted the seed, and Paul has watered it, but God gave the growth. Neither he who plants, or he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. So water is growth, it's life, it's fruitfulness. It's flowing out in an ever-increasing stream through seven conduits or channels of outreach: local outreach, urban ministry, global missions, pro-life ministry, prison ministry, student ministry, internationals, flowing out through that.

You may be flowing through one channel, that's your calling, and you may actually find yourself active in a variety of things depending on your abilities, your resources. You may have more time. You may be a retired person who can give more time to ministry. You may be just the kind of person whose work or whose life enables him or her to give more time than others. I don't know. But at any rate, it flows along these channels and it produces growth, it produces fruit. This is our assigned field. As things grow, we see growth to the kingdom of Heaven. The kingdom of Heaven is growing. The kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed, which you took and planted in your garden and then it grows and becomes so large, a bird could come and perch in its branches. God is all about growth. "I'm the vine, you're the branches. I'm here that you may bear much fruit. Apart from me, you can do nothing." So He wants growth, He wants increase, and as that growth happens, we're going to see the Kingdom of God grow, and God gets the glory. I love that John Piper expression. "God gets the glory, we get the joy." Isn't that wonderful? “God gets the glory, we get the joy.” And so as we're in a church like that, it's a wonderful place to be, it's exciting, and I'm excited.

Notice that there's also another source of kingdom growth and it's coming out of the center of our church. As we grow in spiritual maturity, the kingdom is growing too. And why? Because we're part of the kingdom, aren't we? So as we grow to be more and more like Jesus, the kingdom is growing and He gets glory for that too. All things tend to the glory of God.  Are you in here somewhere? Are you fitting in? Do you have a ministry? That's my question to you tonight. Every single church member, I'm going to ask you, where do you fit in here? What is your ministry? How is it tending toward the glory of God? How is tending to increase this river flowing from our church, a river of blessing to those around us? That's my question. 

Now we're going to get to the top 10 areas of initiative in the year 2003. This is what I'm proposing to the church, and this is what we're going to do, alright? I'm going to and the other ministers are going to keep these 10 in front of the church all year-long, and we're going to give you progress reports in all the 10 areas. That's a form of accountability, isn't it? For us and for you. It's very much like a financial budget in this regard. The budget and finance committee has done a great job in the year 2003 of keeping our needs in front of us so that we know where we're at. We voted that budget in financially, now let's see if we can make it. Let's just be faithful to give until we meet that goal. I'm challenging you even more severely than the budget and finance committee. I'm talking about time. Oh, that's precious, isn't it? It's so much easier to write a check or to give financially if you're wealthy, I think, and most of us, I think that's easier than giving that time. What I'm urging you to do is pray through your time, think about it.

We talked a long time about how we minister our own personal quiet times, our spouses, if we're husband or wife, we need to be faithful to that, our ministry outward from there to our families, our children, our ministry from there to our local church, and then to para-churches, and then on it goes. We've thought about these layers, and I can't get into all that tonight. You need to be faithful to each of these areas. We're not asking people to run themselves ragged, not at all. Frankly, I'd like to challenge you that are in family, especially young, growing families to do ministry with your families, do them together, so that's a part of your family outreach. But we can talk more about that another time. These are the 10 areas in which we're going to challenge the church, and what I'm proposing is that I'm going to keep these 10 in front of you in the bulletin, through sermons, just at church conferences, say how we're doing in each of the areas. Have we been faithful? Are we seeing growth? 

 We've got deacon family ministry, new member assimilation, we've got short-term global mission trips, targeted neighborhood outreach, international ministry team, great commission-giving, urban ministry growth, pro-life ministry, and men's mentoring ministry, these 10. Our desire was that we would have specific measurable goals that we could look back at the end and say that happened, or didn't, we can know. So we would reject a goal; however noble, like, we'd like the church to be more spiritual in the year 2003.  I have no way of knowing whether you all are more spiritual or not. I guess I have a sense of it, but we can't measure that. We're trying to find things that we can know whether they happen or not. That's our desire.  

First, in quarterly corporate prayer, our initiative challenge for the church is that we would gather the church family together to seek God in prayer one Friday evening per quarter. That means four times this year, and this hopefully will continue on next year. But four times this year, we will meet on a Friday evening, probably from 7:00-9:00 to pray, and that's what we would do, we would pray. We've done this before, but now we're going to do it regularly, and we're going to pray for these things, we're going to pray for other issues in the church, we're going to pray for mission, we're going to pray for each other, we're going to seek the Lord, and we're going to challenge people to come to those things. People who have gone to those have testified how quickly those hours go. It's remarkable how the Lord moves. It's stunning, really. And before you know it, it's like, how could it possibly be, 9 o'clock already. We believe that we need to hear first from God. Just like the ministry, the Word and the others, we put this one first on purpose. The others are not ordered, they're not, but this one comes first because we want to hear from God. We want to go off in the directions He wants us to go. So that's our first initiative that we would meet together once a quarter for a concerted prayer. 

Secondly, Deacon Family Ministry, the initiative is to provide increased pastoral care and attention to the needs of all church members to the Deacon Family Ministry plan. Now, in one sense, this is already happening, but another sense, this is the year when this is going to get implemented. It's going to be very labor-intensive for those of you who are deacons. You already know how hard it is to make those calls. But it's not ultimately a burden. I think it's a joy to be in touch with the church. What it means is that each one of you who's a church member has a deacon assigned to you, who's praying for you, who's calling you, and whom you can call if an emergency comes up. Basically, it's another layer of under-shepherding that we feel is set out in Scripture and also in our by-laws, and we're excited to have this going on. The ministerial staff will say we cannot do it on our own. So very much this is an exciting thing. We're going to see the Deacon Family Ministry plan take off in the year 2003.

Third, new member assimilation, the initiative is to assimilate new members from 2002 and 2003 into the life of the church through the year-long assimilation process led by the member assimilation team, previously known as new member committee. Now, what is that? We're going to talk more about it in a minute, but they have worked out a whole year-long process whereby new members can be assimilated into the life of the church. Someone told me today, and I think it's probably true, that 100 people join our church in the year 2002. 100 people. You can see the incredible power and influence that those 100 people could have if they're well-assimilated into the life of the church and start using their gifts. We think that we've done this somewhat but not the way we need to. This is a big job.  

 Number four, short-term global mission trips. These trips were already planned, but what I'm urging the church to do is embrace them, to embrace them financially, to embrace them in prayer, for people who have the gift of encouragement to come up and say, "I want you to know how glad I am that you're going on the mission trip. I want you to know I'm going to be praying for you faithfully. I care about it." There's an involvement. So that like in Acts 13, when the church at Antioch gather around Paul and Barnabas and then sent them off, these folks aren't just, "Oh, what's going on with that?" No, they are our ministers and missionaries going out from our church to the Shandong province, and also to Haiti. These are coming up, they're on the books, we're going to do them by God's grace with his help, but I like to see the church, and that will involve a variety of things we'll talk more about in a moment. 

Now, fifthly, targeted neighborhood outreach initiative is to reach out as a church body to specific neighborhoods in Durham with targeted canvassing leading to home evangelistic Bible studies. We've done this in the past. We're committing to do it to probably two neighborhoods, and we haven't chosen the neighborhood yet, we're going to do that under the leadership of God. So what it means is we'd be going from door-to-door probably during daylight hours, when Daylight Saving Time changes. We'll try to get a local house to host a four-week evangelistic Bible study, and we'll seek to reach out to some of those people that are pouring into our areas. That's targeted neighborhood outreach. 

Number six, international ministry team. The initiative is to develop an international ministry team that will effectively coordinate the ministries of FPC to internationals living here in the triangle. What is the new thing here? Well, it's the team, the fact that they're going to be meeting regularly, the fact they're going to be making decisions together, the fact that there's going to be a structure.

This has already been attempted and started in the year 2002 and with good results, but we'd like to see it grow and develop.  I can't tell you how many ministry opportunities we have for internationals. We have a lot,  so we need a team of people who are going to  be praying through, just thinking about this all the time, praying through what we can do to minister specifically internationals, and how we can take some of the burden, for example, of the furniture ministry and other things. Brevard and other visionaries that have started some great ministries, find out what we're called to do. The team is the new thing there and we're going to be working on that. 

Number seven, Great Commission-giving. Our initiative is to identify and increase Great Commission-giving percentage, especially through the global priority fund. I set a challenge before the church that 50 cents on a dollar would go to great commission ministries, that of all the money we take in, half would go to Great Commission. First of all, someone will say, "Well, what are they?" In the year 2003, we're going to pray through finding out what they are so that we can clearly define what we mean by Great Commission ministry.  One could argue that getting new carpet for the sanctuary is a great commission ministry. I would argue against it. I think it may be definitely needed and we need to do it, but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about some other things. We're going to seek over the year 2003 first to identify what it is and what we're already doing to, as best we can, assign a number, 24%, 28%, 31%, who knows, and then just start to see that number grow over the years. That's the targeted goal that we have for that, and also to see the Global Priority Fund really take off and be used by you folks. 

Number eight, urban ministry growth. The initiative is to mobilize people to lead and serve in our urban tutoring ministry, and possibly with ChildEvangelism Fellowship. John Blake is going to be coming this Wednesday night to talk more about the ministry of CEF. We said the word possibly because we don't know what God's going to be doing and how we're going to partner with a para-church group like that. Should this event one of our top 10 initiatives? I don't know. But I do know this, CEF, unlike perhaps a lot of para-church groups, specifically tries to funnel kids back into local churches, so that a partnership with them could ultimately serve our church in terms of growing and being part of us reaching a field that's assigned to us.  That's why we're going to pray through that and see how God leads Child Evangelism Fellowship.

Number nine, pro-life ministry, to heighten awareness and involvement for the pro-life movement. 

Number 10, men's mentoring ministry. The initiative is to organize a men's mentoring retreat in the fall with a view towards starting a men's mentoring ministry probably in the year 2004. Basically, we're just looking at a retreat right now. We're looking at some men to step forward and organize a retreat to start thinking about men's mentoring. 

To flesh out these ministries, let’s define these things a little more carefully. On a quarterly corporate prayer, we're looking for people to publicize it, for people to come, to pray. I think the ministerial staff will be organizing and facilitating it, but definitely we'll want people to bring in request to take this on as a ministry and to increase the fervent prayer life of FPC. We'll need people to look after certain logistical issues like child care and security for the prayer meetings, and they would take that on as a ministry.  Number two, deacon family ministry. Basically, the deacons are going to be working first at determining who genuinely composes the current church family. That's work on our church role.  We have well over 700 people who say they are members of the church. Many of them, I don't know. Now, for me, I've been here for four and a half years, and I feel that I've reached the level in my ministry here where I can say, if I don't know you yet, and there's no physical reason why you're not coming, there's a problem spiritually. We're going to be looking at that. We're going to be working on the church role and trying to figure out who the church really is. Who wants to walk in the covenant that we say that we want to walk in? Who wants to be faithful in church attendance and doing those things? So that we can understand, so that we can better minister to one another. It's really hard to minister to people who are never here. In no way does this have anything to do with homebound folks, we want to minister better to those. I want to minister better to people who can't get to church physically, definitely. The church is supposed to do that, and we want to see ourselves doing that.

Number three, new member assimilation. They have worked out a process by which new members are going to be assimilated in. Some of you sitting here are new members, and that's exciting. I'm glad you're here tonight. The membership assimilation team makes contact with new members at four appointed times after they have joined FPC; a one-month phone call concerning Sunday school participation, developing friendships, a three-month month call concerning ministry involvement and matters previously discussed, a six-month visit to assess the level of integration and review the five expectations of church membership to see how things are going in that area, a one-year letter celebrating anniversary of membership including the team's work of assimilation. At that point they just kind of pass off full responsibility to the deacons. So the deacons then would just continue with the family ministry plan, shepherding these folks, and also to the ministerial staff as we oversee the entire church. Let me tell you something, if the Lord brought 100 new members into the church in year 2002, that's 400 contacts over the course of the year that have to be made. The new member assimilation team needs volunteers. Do you see why that would actually be one of the most strategic ministries here, to prime the pump and get people active and involved? You could even replace yourself. We can say, "Alright, I'm on the new member ministry team until I can get a new member to take my place. That group is very burdened right now. There's a lot of work to be done. That would be an area that you might challenge yourself and say, "I think I can do that. I'd like to be involved in that ministry."

 We’ve noted in our church bulletins about short-term global missions trips. See how the Lord would have you be involved. You'd say, "Well, I'm not really called to go on a short-term mission trip." I want you to see it as your trip anyway. It's exciting that we live in the 21st century and we can reach unreached peoples who have never heard of Christ.  I think I just want the church to just get hotter and hotter for cross-cultural, cutting-edge church planning ministry. We are blessed to be able to send some people on a plane over to minister with other church members who are already there, who can facilitate our direct contact to people who have never heard of Jesus Christ. That is exciting. We should get around that. We should pray for these people, ten people praying for each one going, and see what God will do. Read through those things and see how you want to be involved. 

Targeted neighborhood outreach. This is periodic. This is not our ongoing visitation of people who visit our church. These are specific targeted outreaches that we're probably going to do in the summer. In that case, we're going to look for teams to go out, teams of probably three people going door-to-door with a questionnaire. This has been an effective tool in the past, and the goal is to get people into four-week evangelistic Bible studies and eventually to see them come to Christ. That's an approach that we have that we're seeing. We've seen fruit before and we want to see God do great things. 

International ministry team. It could be that God is calling you to work with internationals right here. Many of these folks have never heard of Christ. Many of these folks have never seen the inside of an American home. Many of these folks are just waiting to be evangelized, and we can reach out,  it's a marvelous ministry, but there's a lot of challenges to that.  We need laborers for that harvest field. We just need laborers. We need people willing to do furniture ministry, people willing to lead home Bible studies. Let me tell you something, if you're gifted as a teacher, you can't do a more exciting ministry than a Bible study with interested internationals who are going to be there for two years and then go back to their home country. Don't you feel immediately the strategic impact of that ministry, to be able to see some of those folks come to Christ? I think that's wonderful. The international ministry team would coordinate that. You wouldn't necessarily have to be on the team, but you could go to a team member and say, "I want to help, put me to work," and then they will say, "We strategically need this right now, can you do this?" That's international ministry team. 

Great commission-giving, I think I've just described adequately.  Urban ministry growth. Every Wednesday night, Jessica Wagner and others do a tutoring ministry with local youth, with children in the urban ministry, we also seek to reach out to their parents. We'd like to see growth, we like specifically to see leaders, people who want to take charge of that ministry and say, "I want to think about that ministry, I want to plan it, I want to pray about it, I want to see how we can expand our church base, Wednesday night outreach, and even Sunday morning, reaching out to local folks." Also, child evangelism fellowship with John Blake coming on Wednesday night challenging our church to adopt a block right near us, right behind our church. They're challenging us to consider that we would take that on and do ministry CEF's way, and that's the key, that we would basically be seconded over to them and they would train us and they would show us how to do urban ministry, and we would do their programs. CEF is looking for those folks to be active in the local church, and we would be the church. I think it may be a strategic way for us to fulfill our field of obligation and ministering to the urban area. So pray about and think about doing that. 

Number nine, pro-life ministry.  It was hard for me to get a definitive initiative that I could really focus on and say "This is measurable." Heighten awareness and involvement for the pro-life movement, consistent corporate prayer on this issue, it's going to be part of every corporate prayer meeting we have. We're going to be praying about this. I'm going to be praying about it more from the pulpit. We're going to have ongoing Sunday morning emphasis once a year as we do. I'd like to challenge people to start writing more to the newspaper, challenge people to talk more to neighbors and friends about this, be willing to pay the price for being pro-life. Also, another para-church group, Pregnancy Support Services does excellent work in this area, and they always need volunteers, they always are looking to raise funds and do other things. It could be that God is calling you to zero in on that as your ministry and get involved with pregnancy support services.  Enlist members from First Baptist Church to be ready and available to give comfort, counsel and support to women in need. It's more than just the legislative side, it's just families willing to say, "Hey, you can live with us for a while, or whatever you need, we're here," for the church to come around, those folks that are just really in need, there's women who are in need, and minister them and provide literature and materials to help educate and inform FPC about pro-life issues.  We're really desiring to see, and it's a big, big issue, but we just want to have an ongoing, prayerful and active initiative presence in the issue of pro-life. 

Then finally, men's mentoring ministry. We're looking for men who will step forward and say, "I would like to help organize that retreat and start thinking about in an ongoing basis of men's organized discipleship ministry, men's mentoring ministry." 

What I'd like you to do is look back at the initiatives. I’m going to make a few comments overall. There are some of these things, as you can tell, that would be ongoing weekly or monthly ministries for somebody, and some that aren't.  Quarterly corporate prayer is not an ongoing ministry for anybody. We're going to have those meetings, we're just asking you to come once a quarter.  So that's different than, for example, being in the new member assimilation team, in which there would be pretty much weekly work for you to do.  So you would begin to pray through, "Where am I at?" The ones that I think that are going to be labor-intensive, the deacon family ministry is going to be labor-intensive for the deacons.  They're going to be working hard in the harvest field. We should pray for our deacons to be faithful in that work, and that they would step up and do those things that they've committed to do, and we will all receive benefit from that, definitely. The good thing about that is we're really urging the deacons to use the telephone a lot, to be strategic in that, so that they're not driving out. It used to be something called a “deacon widow,” where you just never saw your husband, he's just out doing deacon things all the time. We're not seeking that. We're asking people to just keep up with folks by phone and as they see people in the hall, to have a shepherding heart toward them and reach out, and to take initiative when people aren't showing up for church. That's key to oversee and say, "Hey, I haven't seen this person for a while, we want to reach out." For those deacons, that's going to be intensive, and for their wives as well. New member assimilation, just highlight that one. This is a way that you could, if you felt led to, you could get involved and have a tremendous impact on the future of the church. Remember what I said that we underestimate what God can do in 10 years? Well, if we see God bringing in 100 new members a year, or if we netted 100, it would just be incredible and really pretty overwhelming actually to where this church would be heading.  In the meantime, we'd like to see these folks ministered to, we'd like to see them using their gifts. People coming into a new church don't always know how they can get involved.  We can say, “Hey, these are things we're doing this year," and immediately they could be involved. Pray about being involved in the new member assimilation team. 

Number four, short-term mission will be very active for those going, but for the rest of us, just be praying and think how you use your gifts. Targeted neighborhood outreach, very much like the quarterly corporate prayer, it's going to be an intensive time briefly for a time in the summer.  It's not  ongoing, like we're going to be doing this all the time. These are concerted outreach. The international ministry team on the other hand would be an ongoing ministry where people are just giving of themselves in that area for a long time.  Now, you might say, "I can do this for six months. I want to try doing this for six months. I want to be involved in furniture ministry from now until Christmas." You could do that. Whatever, we're going to get creative, but that would be an ongoing ministry. Great Commission-giving is financial. It's a matter of challenges financially. It's not a matter of time.  Urban ministry growth, again, you'd circle that one, that's a way you can invest your time in a weekly basis. So we've got number three, new member assimilation, we've got number six, international ministry team, and number eight, urban ministry growth as ongoing weekly ministries that we're challenging the church to grow in this year. 

The others are more targeted bursts that would occur at various times in the year.  If you have any questions about that, I'm not going to hold the whole church hostage to a Q&A session right now, but come and talk to me. I'm urging you to begin praying through this. I think we have ample opportunity to talk about it perhaps at the church conference in a couple of weeks, we might have a Q&A time then, so that you can ask questions. If you feel God leading you to get involved in a certain area, tell ministry staff, tell your deacon, just get the information there. Or better yet, read about it and then show up at the meeting that's being held for that. 

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