Finding Life in the Church
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1. Opening up

  • Review: Last week we discussed how the Holy Spirit empowers us to live out God’s purpose for our lives. This past week, was it helpful to think more about the Holy Spirit with you? How does knowing about the Holy Spirit encourage you?
  • Today: This week we want to see how the Holy Spirit doesn’t want us to be alone, but wants us to be part of the body of Christ. The Holy Spirit’s plan for you is to be a part of the church.
  • Pray: Ask the Holy Spirit to open your hearts and guide your time.

Transition: Let’s start by imagining a situation…

2. What is the Church?

  • Read together: Imagine that you and your family were traveling to a far-away foreign country. On your way there, you had a flight layover in a different country, and were forced to spend the night there. As you walked around you began to realize that this was a place that wasn’t necessarily friendly to Americans. In fact, this particular country didn’t agree with anything that America stood for and sometimes it was downright hostile towards Americans. But even though this particular city gave you a strange feeling, you began exploring it because you were hungry for dinner. And then it happened. When you finally stopped for some dinner, you all realized that you were missing a bag. And of all the bags to lose, this one had all of your passports and travel documents. If that were you, what would you do?
    • An Embassy: there are probably several good ideas you could come up with, but at some point, you would need to go to the Embassy. A U.S. Embassy is made-up of a group of Americans who live in a foreign land who are there to assist and help U.S. citizens who live in or travel to that country. Even though you were foreigners, as soon as you stepped into that Embassy, it would feel a bit like home. You would be greeted by American citizens and everything from the language used to the decorations around you, would remind you of home.
    • Now, with that in mind, let’s read Philippians 3:20.
  • Philippians 3:20 says “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Here’s the point: when you become a follower of Jesus, you instantly become a citizen of heaven (God’s kingdom). You’re still a citizen of the place you live, or your home country on earth, but your main citizenship is now in God’s kingdom. You belong to God and as a result the Bible often refers to you as a foreigner or an exile. Why? Because your main citizenship is in heaven and you aren’t there yet!
    • The church. Think back to our discussion about the U.S. Embassy. One way to think about the church is that it’s an embassy. How do you think the church is like an embassy?
      • Parents: highlight the fact that as God’s people, heaven is now our ultimate home. Even though we are still very much a part of this earth – loving our neighbors, caring about our world, and loving our city – we are first and foremost citizens of God’s kingdom. If that’s the case then the church gathered is like an embassy because it reminds us of our heavenly citizenship. It also is a place where we help each other live in a foreign land. And it’s a place where skeptics can come and get a glimpse of heaven – they can observe what it looks like when a group of people love God and each other.
    • Here’s the point: The church gathered is the place where God’s Kingdom is represented, where we confess allegiance to King Jesus, and where we help each other live in a place that isn’t our home. And that means the church isn’t a building, it’s the people of God who believe in Jesus.

TransitionSo what exactly happens when the church gathers?

3. What does the Church do?

  • Question: What are some things the church does when we gather together?
    • You can probably think of several answers. Let’s highlight a few:
  • 1) The church worships God.
    • Question: why do you think this is first?
    • Answer: God deserves our worship. Think about the greatest sights you’ve ever witnessed in nature, or the most impressive machines or technology, or the greatest sports accomplishments – all of it pales in comparison to God. He is greater than all of it, so he deserves to be sung about, spoken to with praise, and magnified for all to see. And, he made us to delight in him. When we really worship him, our hearts begin to sing with joy and happiness. It’s what we were made for. And we’re made to do it together.
  • 2) The church nourishes souls by proclaiming the Gospel.
    • Imagine that someone stopped eating for several days. Eventually their body would begin to breakdown. Their malnourishment would lead to sickness, weakness, and worse. We know that about our bodies, but we don’t think about it when it comes to our souls. But even more than our bodies, our souls need to be “fed.” If our souls are malnourished then our lives will show it in many different forms of brokenness and sadness. So here’s the beauty of the church: when we gather together and proclaim the Good News of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection, our souls get fed. We really, really need to feed on God’s Word and it’s central message: the greatness of Jesus and His work for us.
      • Question: If this is the case, what should you look for when you’re looking for a church to belong to?
      • Answer: a church that preaches the true Gospel of Jesus Christ, all the time!
    • 3) The church loves one another.
      • Shortly before Jesus went to the cross, this is what he told his disciples: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Jesus’s words are very clear: the way the world will be able to recognize that you are my followers is that you really, actually love each other! Jesus wants us to love all people (our neighbors) but that starts with loving his people.
      • Question: What are some different ways people in the church could show love for each other?
      • Answer: brainstorm together. The list could include: asking about each other, getting to know others in the church, trying to meet new and different people in the church, caring about someone’s highs and lows in life, praying for each other, providing food or resources or money someone faces a hardship, walking with someone through a really hard time in life, and so on!
    • 4) The church equips the saints.
      • Paul uses this phrase in Ephesians 4. He said that people in the church have all sorts of different gifts and different callings, and a very important part of what the church does is to prepare people to be disciples in all of life. How should you be a follower of Jesus at school, in the workplace (when you have a job), in your neighborhood, in your home, when you’re on your screen and no one is around? The church is here to help you think about that, and to prepare you to love God and love people in all those different places.

Transition: thinking about equipping us for ministry, brings us to the last point. The church’s mission…

4. What is the Church’s mission?

  • Read Ephesians 4:11-12: “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”
    • Here is the verse we just mentioned. Paul wants us to understand that Jesus gave the church these different kinds of people to equip the saints for the work of ministry. Now Paul already said in Ephesians 2, that the apostles and prophets were part of the foundation of the church. The church’s foundation is not being built-up anymore, so we don’t have prophets and apostles anymore. But we do have “evangelists, shepherds, and teachers,” which are several names to describe pastors and church elders. Paul says their job is to equip or prepare Christians (saints) for the work of the ministry. So what does that mean?
      • All Christians are involved in the work of ministry. Sometimes people describe a pastor or missionary as being in full-time ministry, but we’re all involved in ministry. All Christians – wherever they are and whatever calling they have – are there to do the work of the ministry.
      • So what is our ministry?
  • If you can think back to our discussion about following Jesus, we already answered this question. What does it mean to follow Jesus?
    • Love God and love neighbor. That’s it! That’s your calling and that’s the church’s calling. And Jesus added a little more detail. We love our neighbor by caring about their needs and sharing the Gospel. This is how he said it:
      • Matthew 28:19-20: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
      • That is the mission of the church. And that’s your mission.
    • Question: Do you think it’s easier to do a job together or with a group of people, all helping each other?
      • It should be obvious to us that it would be easier to accomplish the mission together, with other Christians, but we don’t always live that way. Parents, if you can share a personal story of making this realization, it would be helpful. If not, you can share the following: When I (Jordan) went to college, I thought I could do the mission of the church without the help of others, without being involved with a church or a strong group of Christians. What I found out, is that it’s really hard to reach people all by yourself. But in time, God taught me that if I was connected to the church, that together we could build up the body of Christ, by caring for each other and reaching new people with the Gospel. So learn from my mistakes – even after you grow up and leave home, keep on staying connected to the church. Look for a good church that preaches the Gospel all the time, and God will use it to help you follow Jesus and join his mission in the world.

Transition: we’ve talked about a lot, so let’s remember the big picture…

5. The BIG Picture GOAL: The church needs you and you need the church. God told Adam in the garden, people were not made to live alone. Especially as followers of Jesus, we need each other to find true life and to share it with the world.

6. For next time…

  • Pray: Each day ask the Holy Spirit to help you think of someone you could bless in the church.