This is Football Week. Last Sunday the Pro Bowl was played in Orlando and next Sunday Super Bowl 54 will be played in Miami's Hard Rock Stadium.
It reminds me of the not-to-be-forgotten statement from Vince Lombardi.
Even though his only previous head-coaching experience was at a high school in New Jersey, Vincent Thomas Lombardi was hired as coach and general manager of the Green Bay Packers in January 1959.
The Packers were 1-10-1 in 1958 and hadn’t had a winning record in 11 years but improved to 7-5 in Lombardi’s first year and he was named NFL Coach of the Year. The following year (1960), they narrowly lost the NFL Championship Game.
Lombardi walked into training camp the summer of 1961. "Gentlemen," he said, holding a pigskin in his right hand, "this is a football." It was back to Basics!
Lombardi was coaching three dozen pro athletes who, just months prior, had come within minutes of winning the top prize their sport had to offer. But he started with the basics: blocking and& tackling. They opened their game playbook and started from page one.
That season, the Packers won the NFL Championship Game and went on to win four more titles in the next six years, giving Lombardi a total of five titles in his nine seasons in Green Bay, including Super Bowls I and II.
Vince Lombardi became a legend in the NFL and, by the way, the winning team of next Sunday's Super Bowl will receive the Vince Lombardi trophy.
"This is a football!"
Sometimes, it's necessary to go back to the basics. Let's think about the basics when it comes to the Church.
As a pastor, I love the church! And you should too.
Why? Because it's the greatest institution the world has ever seen and never makes a mistake?
No! We are all very aware that it made up of people - who are frail and inadequate and make Plenty of mistakes, often painful ones. It would never have survived the past 2000 years if it was merely of human origin.
No, I love the Church because Jesus Christ loves her and was willing to give His life for her (Ephesians 5:25-27). We are His precious bride.
So the Church is pretty important and you and I get to be part of it. Isn't that cramazing (crazy and amazing)!
As a result it is essential that we understand what we as a church are supposed to be.
Let's start off with what the Church is Not.
1. The Church is not about a Building.
It is wonderful to have a building, especially here in Hawaii where real estate is so expensive, but if the building disappeared tomorrow, it wouldn't stop the church from being what it is supposed to be.
2. The Church is not about a Service.
It is wonderful to experience the presence of God as we join together but the Church is much more than just a service.
3. The Church is not about a Denomination.
I am thankful for our Fellowship, the Assemblies of God. It is a worldwide movement that helps us make a difference literally all around the globe. But the church is bigger than one denomination.
4. The Church is not about a Social Center.
It is a pleasant place to gather with old friends and meet new ones. Fellowship is vital but if we are only a Social Center, we have missed out on the heart of the Church.
5. The Church is not about an Entertainment Center.
Hopefully everything we experience at a Sunday gathering is meaningful and valuable for our lives and Christian growth. Some churches have taken it ever farther with smoke and lights and more. But if it is only about Entertainment, we have definitely missed the heart and purpose of the Church.
6. The Church is not about an Educational Center.
The Word of God is faithfully taught here and we will continue to do so. Teaching and discipleship are absolutely essential, but they are not the total purpose of the Church.
All these are valuable aspects, but none give the total picture of the Church.
So what Is the Church?
Let's use some familiar word pictures.
1. The Church is a Body.
Jesus Christ is the Head of the church and, though imperfect and inadequate, we are His Body. And everyone has a vital function to do (1 Corinthians 12:12, 18; Romans 12:6-8). We all have Spiritual Gifts essential to the work and ministry of the Body. I encourage you to identify your gifts and use them for the benefit of the Body. (Click here for an example of a free spiritual gifts inventory assessment to get you started; there are many others available online.)
2. The Church is an Organism.
It is more than an organization with flow charts and pie charts, though those can be helpful. The Church is a dynamic, vibrant and growing organism.
An Organism is Alive, just as the Church is Alive.
An Organism Reproduces itself, just as a living, dynamic church will proclaim the Good News of Salvation and see people brought to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.
An Organism Grows. We must grow spiritually as well as numerically. Death occurs when an organism is weakened from within and is no longer able to reproduce itself, to multiply and grow. May we grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).
3. The Church is a Community.
God has called His people to live and serve Together. The Church Universal is called to identify itself Locally as a community of believers in a specific place. The Local church is the Invisible church made Visible. We are the Ekklesia, the "Called Out" ones. We have been Called Out of the world to be part of the People of God. Check out Luke's picture of the church, his "selfie", in Acts 2:42-47.
4. The Church is a Fellowship.
The idea in Acts 2:42-47 is the Greek word Koinonia. It refers to an open, honest and transparent sharing of lives. It has to do with Partnership: Communion, sharing, intimacy. Because of sin, man is prone to Hide.
Think about Adam and Eve in the Garden (Genesis 3). Before sin entered their lives, they were Free! They were literally naked and not ashamed. Their lives and bodies were covered by the glory of God. But Sin radically changed all that. It stole their freedom and brought isolation, separation, division. They tried to hide from God and from each other. They deceived God and blamed one another.
But because of what Jesus Christ accomplished on the Cross - paying the penalty for sin and taking our place of judgment - we do not need to hide any longer. You do not need to wear a mask, to hide your true self and pretend to be someone or something you're not. You are Free to be who you are in Christ!
It is now safe to come out of Hiding, to take off your mask and be Free. Let the church Ohana embrace you and bring the healing of Jesus Christ to you.
James 5:16 instructs us, "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." It is in the context of openness, honesty, authenticity, and confession that healing takes place.
Too many people build about themselves an impregnable wall. They live in isolation and refuse to share in the abundant life that unites believers and makes them one in the Body of Christ. What a tragedy!
Why don’t we understand? Jesus took all our sin and shame and put it on the cross. Death could not hold Him and He rose again. But our sin and shame remains nailed to the cross!
Live in Freedom! Join together with others in the Body of Christ!
Be the Church!