Over the past few years God has been giving greater clarity to the values and vision here at Courts of Praise. This journey has taken us into times of prayer and seeking the Lord as to his purpose for us. There has been discussion and dialogue as we have sought to discover our values, our gifts, talents and the vision. We have sat around tables and shared our strengths and weaknesses as we have sought to apprehend God’s heart, while believing the Lord to fulfill his dreams through us. This morning I want us to share with you the values and vision Foursquare and of Courts of Praise. For some this will be a reminder and others you will hear it for the first time. I share this message to help us grow in health and maturity, personally and corporately.
The mission of the Foursquare church of Canada stands on the firm foundation of the Great Commission given by Jesus to his disciples in Matthew 28. The goal is not just to make converts, but to make disciples who not only believe, but live by the truths that Jesus is our Saviour, Healer, Baptizer with the Holy Spirit and Soon-coming King. With evangelism being an integral part of the foundation of the Foursquare church, the vision is to see an expanding network of healthy churches, which know God personally and share their faith openly.
The vision is of an expanding network of churches because new church plants have proven very effective in introducing people to Jesus and spreading his gospel. These churches need to be healthy because a healthy church is the best environment for a disciple’s growth. The pastors in the vision “serve” and “lead by example” because servant leadership is what Jesus taught and the lives of our leaders speak louder than their words. The believers in the vision are actively growing because being a follower of Jesus is a journey, not a destination. We seek to grow in our knowledge and likeness of him. Believers share their faith because they have captured the heart of Jesus for the lost and use their own story to introduce people to him. Our Canadian Foursquare values include being interdenominational in spirit, inclusive in leadership, dependent on the Holy Spirit’s power, balanced in doctrine and practice, relational in our methods and global in our reach. This is a brief introduction into the mission, vision and values we practice here in Canada is taken from the National Foursquare website.
One of the words that jumps off of the National Foursquare website is – health – and this speaks to me of a healthy church full of healthy people… It is my desire to help us all grow and mature “becoming a graceful, loving, accepting and forgiving community of believers from all nations that celebrate each other and who are committed to bringing souls into God’s kingdom.” Our motto here in Courts Of Praise is “Apprehending God’s Heart and Fulfilling His Dreams.” This saying carries with it values and vision that compliment our National and Biblical mandate. Over the past few years we have preached many messages to help us take hold of God’s heart and accomplish his dreams for us personally and corporately. The journey of this congregation carries on as we seek to hear God’s voice and bring honour and glory to him.
Renewing our Health
Over my years I have pastored in several different churches, different denominations and within the ministry of YWAM. In all these unique opportunities I have seen God and man labour together in fulfilling the Great Commission. I have had to pleasure to work alongside many pastors who had great vision and intentions as they sought to extend the Kingdom of God. Sometimes there has been success as we co-labored together; other times there has been struggle and challenges. I have always had the vision as a pastor of becoming an “excellent local church.” I long to see a congregation full of grace and love within its members who reach out to those who do not know Jesus personally. I believe an excellent local church is full of people from all sorts of backgrounds; rich and poor, multi cultural and with various gifts and strengths, which can be used for the glory of God. As we look at this concept of being a “healthy church”, I would like us to look at the truths and concepts found in Mark 4:1-9.
Mark 4: 1-9 The Parable of the Sower
Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. 2 He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: 3 “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times.” 9 Then Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Several things come to mind from this passage of Scripture that relate to the health of a believer.
- We need to be intentional about the seed or the Word of God.
A Christian father was approached by his small son who told him proudly, “I know what the Bible means!” His father smiled and replied, “What do you mean, you 'know' what the Bible means?” The son replied, “I do know!” “Okay,” said his father. “What does the Bible mean?” “That's easy, Daddy...” the young boy replied excitedly, “It stands for 'Basic Information Before Leaving Earth.'”
Healthy Christian spirituality necessitates being well versed in the Scriptures.
- We need to consider the soil in which the Word is planted.
In this parable the soil represents the inner life of an individual; in other words the heart.
Sometimes our hearts are hard like a path. Or maybe we have rocky or shallow hearts. Some have hearts that of full of weeds. Others have good hearts with good soil… We are told to “guard our heart, for it is the well spring of life” (Prov 4:23).
Jesus ends by saying we need to have ears that hear how these principles can affect us, negatively or positively, as individuals as well as a congregation. We want to sow and reap a harvest of righteousness. However, sometimes that means our hard hearts need to be broken or our rocky hearts need to be cleared or our thorny hearts need to be weeded. I hope that we desire to receive God’s Word within the good soil of our hearts allowing his health to make us whole.
Healthy things Grow
Health can be described as the condition of being sound in body, soul, or spirit especially in the context of freedom from physical disease or pain. It is sometime we all value to some degree or another – the general well being of our bodies. None of us desire to be in poor health but to enjoy good health – a flourishing condition of comfort and contentment. We take care of our bodies by exercising and we make sure we eat right and take our vitamins and get plenty of rest. As well seek to care for our soulish realm by watching over our emotions, by staying sharp in our intellect and making righteous choices. As well as believers we seek to keep our spirits in tune with God through various spiritual disciplines.
To some degree the same could be same for the local church. As members of Courts of Praise it is our desire to be part of a healthy Christian community. Church growth has been a huge pursuit of the North American church over the last fifty years or so. Books have been written and authors have lectured us on – how to grow your church. I have come to the conclusion that all the church growth principles that we put into practice are of little significance unless we foundationally embrace “health”. In the context of the Parable of the Sower, we must receive the Word of God in the good soil of our hearts. Christian health and discipleship is quite simple but can be a lot of hard work, just like the farmer sowing seed and reaping a harvest.
Vision and Values
As I think about health as related to the church, they are several things that come to mind.
There are key areas of church life that must be foundational in belief and genuine in practice as we seek to fulfill God’s dreams.
- We sow into vision.
Here is a good definition of vision – “Vision is hope with a blueprint.” In other words the vision must be written out. “We are becoming a graceful, loving, accepting and forgiving community of believers from all nations that celebrate each other and who are committed to bringing souls into God’s kingdom.”
To make the vision of a church become a reality we need to en-vision the future together.
We need the super-vision of the leadership and we need the pro-vision of God.
Church health or growth will rise or fall on the unity of vision.
- We plant seeds of vision looking to reap a harvest of new believers.
New believers are so refreshing in their passion and pursuit of Jesus. This is essential for a healthy growing relationship with God. Enthusiasm is contagious when it is genuine and not forced or hyped up. Our passionate pursuit of Jesus is value based. In other words, how we treat one another is how we treat Jesus; by loving and accepting and forgiving, by pursuing unity in community and celebrating one another, Jesus is honoured and glorified.
- We plant seeds of leadership affirming the vision and values.
Servant leadership is what Jesus taught and the lives of our leaders speak louder than their words. I am reminded of having the right people doing the right thing at the right time with the right attitude. In order to do this we must serve in agreement to our vision and values. Leaders lead out of their strengths – in other words – out of their natural and spiritual giftings. Gift oriented ministry is essential for healthy church growth.
I began by sharing the vision and values of Foursquare Canada and then Courts Of Praise. The key thought I have brought forth is simply this, the vision will only be as successful as we are healthy. In light of Parable of the Sower, we must intentionally sow seed and lots of it in order to reap a harvest. However, in order to enjoy growth and health we need to take a look at the soil. Remember Mark 4; as the farmer was sowing seed, some fell on the path, some on rocky soil, and some among the thorns. Other seed fell on good soil and it grew and produced a harvest of great proportions. Jesus goes onto warn the disciples that Satan comes to steal the word, or that persecution causes some to fall away and that the worries of life and the pursuit of wealth choke out God’s word.
As we think about the vision and values of Courts Of Praise, I hope that we have the richness of this last soil that Jesus spoke of. I hope that we are soft and tender towards God and each other. I trust that we will allow God to make our hearts fertile and fruitful for his kingdom. In such a soil the seed “brings forth fruit”. The general lesson held forth in this parable of the sower is, that however faithful the preacher, and how pure the message, the effect of the preaching of the word depends upon the state of the hearer’s heart.
Now let us get practical. One of the best ways to grow in health and vision and values is to join small group here at Courts Of Praise. The on-going commitment to God and each other is best experienced in the form of small groups. Healthy churches will grow as small groups of believers gather to care for each other. At Courts Of Praise we have Care Groups where “people care for people in relationship and community”. God desires that the body of Christ would naturally care for itself and build itself up in love. The vision for this ministry is that through the CARE Group every person in the body:
· Would feel and know Christ’s care and love for them.
· Might have the opportunity to receive and enjoy caring, guidance and shepherding through the group - accountability.
· Would have the opportunity to enjoy and participate in relationship with each other.
· Lastly, that the group would seek to extend the Words and Works of Jesus through felt-need evangelism.