I AM… Who are you?
September 13, 2020
-> If you are anywhere within the sound of my voice (whether it be in person, or at home online, or it is now Saturday night and you are watching on TV), hold up your hand in front of your face, and take a close look at your finger tips… have you ever taken time to see the complexity in your fingerprints?
-> Fingerprints identify you as you. Apparently, the exact design is unique to you. Which is why crime scene investigators try to lift fingerprints from a crime scene. It can point to who was there (when we had our theft last year, the police took stuff to be fingerprinted). It is why when you go to Disney, you have to put your index finger into a fingerprint reader to validate your pass every day (to make sure you aren’t giving your pass to someone else). It is how I can determine when my boys have been digging into some messy food in the fridge when they are not supposed to between meals (because they leave messy fingerprints behind on the fridge door / handle, and sometimes a wall nearby. Anyone else know what I mean?
-> Here is the truth this morning… your life is a giant fingerprint.
If you follow Jesus, your life is a giant fingerprint
-> Jesus has left a fingerprint on your life. You are the image of who Jesus is (or so we should be).
-> Everything we do (as followers of Christ) is because the fingerprint of the Gospel message (the good news about Jesus) has so impacted our lives. The Gospel message has left its fingerprint on our heart, on our words, on our thoughts, and on our actions. Our whole life is a giant fingerprint.
-> Next several weeks (all the way up to the first Sunday of advent) going to be talking about our direction and vision for this fall. We are talking about you and I intentionally allowing the fingerprints of the gospel message to go deep into our lives, and impact us in a way that we daily reflect more and more who Jesus is and what His message is about so that we can have these fingerprints make a mark on whomever we have a relationship with. And those fingerprints hopefully will take root in their lives, and the cycle continues.
-> We call this discipleship and disciple making. It is where we are intentionally heading in all of our ministries – the driving direction behind all we are doing starting this fall.
-> This is nothing new. In fact, it is just the next step in our vision and mission statement as a church:
VISION STATEMENT: Generations Following Jesus Together (who we want to be)
MISSION STATEMENT: Gather, Grow, Give, Go (how we get there)
-> Last year, we focused a lot around the “Gather” piece. We recognized the importance of being a community and gathering as a community together. The idea of family and belonging was important (and needs to continue to be). We have strived to build community in our Sunday morning services pre-COVID, at the Midweek Meal, through Mom’s and Tots, at Young @ Heart, with G2G groups, One to One groups, Youth, Warming Centre, etc… “Gather” is a particularly important part of our identity and function.
-> Many of these events were also for the purpose of growth – which is great. But as I have been praying these last few months and asking God for His heart for HMC, I have felt that this is the season where we need to take the next step. “Grow” needs to be more of a clear foundational driving force. We need to embrace the fact that the fingerprint of the Gospel is on our lives and it seeks to change us, develop us, grow us. And as we do, we seek to pass that fingerprint on to others so that they will change spiritually, develop, and grow as followers of Jesus who have had the fingerprint of the Gospel impact them.
-> As we press into this idea of “Grow” this year, there are a couple central questions we need to ask as we move along:
->What does “Grow” look like? Everyone has a different idea of what it looks like to be a disciple (follower of Jesus). What does it mean to have the fingerprint of the Gospel on your life? What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus who makes other followers? Is this just another catch phrase the church uses, or is their substance behind it?
->Also, how do we take someone who is not yet a follower of Jesus, or is not as deep as we are, allow the fingerprint of the Gospel to rub off on them, and help them grow spiritually to a point of maturity and reproduction? In other words, how do we “make followers of Jesus who make followers of Jesus who make followers of Jesus?”
-> The best place to figure out the answers to these questions is by following the example Jesus set for us by His life and ministry. So over the next several weeks (until Advent), we are going to each week unpack an “I AM” statement of Jesus where He reveals more of who He is. And we are going to look at how that impacts us (how His fingerprints can be made real in our lives), and how that shapes how we share that fingerprint with others.
-> But first, some background theory….
-> Why does this matter today? Why should we care about the “Grow” part? Why grow deeper in our faith? Why share the fingerprint of the Gospel on our lives with others?
-> Simply, because Scripture commands it. Jesus calls us to make disciples / followers of Him. And truthfully, if we are His followers, if the fingerprint of the Gospel is on our lives, that should be enough of a reason. Let me look at a few specific verses that back up what Jesus calls us to:
2 Cor 5:19-21 God has made a way for people to be made right with Him, for relationship to be restored. A way for people to receive mercy and forgiveness and freedom from their broken and sinful past and be given a new hope, a new future that is marked by wholeness. And He leaves a fingerprint on our lives (the message of reconciliation) so that we can share that fingerprint of the Gospel message with others and invite them as well to be made right with God through Christ.
Matthew 28:18-20 These are some of the last recorded words of Jesus. Jesus tells His disciples (followers – those who had been impacted by His personal fingerprint while on Earth) a message bookended with “All power is under my control – so go in my power, and I will be with you forever so don’t fear.” Then says “spread the fingerprint of the Gospel message that has impacted your life with others. Share with everyone what you have learned from me, and let that fingerprint impact their lives so that they too follow me like you are.”
Acts 1:8 My Holy Spirit is going to come on you, give you power, give you boldness, speak through you, guide you, and help you. And when He does, consider that your commissioning to go. Consider that your cue to go in the authority that I have that I am placing in you to share that message, that fingerprint of the Gospel with the whole world. Out of the message of what has happened in your lives, make them followers of me.
-> We are told to make disciples. We know that we are given a mission by Jesus to actively share His fingerprint with the local and global community. Obedience to the call of Jesus isn’t up for debate (or at least it shouldn’t be).
How does this shape us?
-> So how is HMC doing at this? Are we passionate about our faith? Are we growing in our faith? Are we looking to share the fingerprint of the Gospel in the life of someone else? Are we making followers of Christ? What do we hope someone looks like who is growing as a follower of Christ through the disciple making that happens through HMC? My mind naturally goes to the “Way of Jesus” model as created by the EMCC. In years past, we have not been overtly intentional in using this as a criteria for evaluating what we are doing as a church, but that needs to change. Moving ahead, it gives us a solid framework of what a growing and dedicated follower of Jesus looks like.
-> This is not a program. It is not some new fancy philosophy of ministry that is trendy. It is not something we do. It is who we are. It is a natural way of life that should impact everything we do, what we say, and who we are. It is a model that reflects the fingerprint of the Gospel message.
-> As I look at this model, a few character traits stand out to me:
1) They know and love God’s Word.
2) They have clear convictions on how God is calling them to live as followers of Jesus in their everyday life. Their faith isn’t just a Sunday thing, but an all-week lifestyle.
3) They have a growing dependency on prayer.
4) There is an eagerness to get involved, serving within the church community.
5) They know how to share faith and are wanting to do so.
6) The church family is their second family. They are connected with each other deeply.
7) The fruit of the Spirit is evident in their lives.
8) The work and leading of the Spirit is evident.
9) They have a spiritual mentor, and they are spiritually mentoring someone.
What does this mean for HMC?
-> The last few months especially, I have been feeling burdened about things that I long to see happen at HMC. I feel like we are doing a lot of excellent things, we have a great foundation, but at times it feels like we are spinning our wheels and stuck a bit in status quo rut. We want to be a church that is characterized by “Grow” but sometimes, like any church, we struggle.
-> For example, when is the last time that we have heard a testimony or report of someone being impacted by the fingerprint of the Gospel through the ministries of HMC and as a result, choosing faith in Jesus? When is the last time that we have heard about someone publicly identifying with the fingerprint of the Gospel on their lives by going through the waters of baptism? When have we heard stories about how you are growing in your faith and growing as a follower of Jesus? As a pastor that burdens me because I get excited thinking about the potential that is here at HMC! And I see so much potential for HMC sharing the fingerprint of the Gospel message all over Grey Bruce, and ultimately all over the world, coming from a place where we are growing in our faith because we are so greatly impacted by the fingerprint of the Gospel on our lives. I long for us to be driven by discipleship.
-> What this means is that all ministries of HMC will be planned, organized, and operated with your spiritual growth and the spiritual growth of our community in mind. We are unapologetic and unashamed that our goal is to share the fingerprint of the Gospel message that has impacted our lives because: If you follow Jesus, your life is a giant fingerprint. And you and I are called to let that fingerprint permeate our lives so deeply that we reflect that. And we are then called to share that. We call that discipleship. We call that “Grow”. And we need to be about making all our ministries here reflect that goal.
-> It also means that you will be hearing a lot about opportunities, and encouraged to take opportunities to own your own spiritual growth. It isn’t the job of the pastors to make you grow. You aren’t a growing disciple by virtue of just showing up in person, or tuning in online to our services once a week. Grow happens because you are impacted by the fingerprint of the Gospel message, it becomes personal to you, and it drives you to take ownership of your faith and pursue “Grow”. If we are going to be a church that is driven by “Grow” – by us being a disciple making church, it needs to start in us. We need to be deeply impacted by the fingerprint of the Gospel message on our lives.
-> You know what is a blessing about COVID? It has forced us to re-evaluate what we do as a church family. We can’t do programs and ministries like we used to (which by the way, staff are actively planning out a fall line up of opportunities that will be launched for October 5th – watch for details). But in this new normal, we are reminded that programs in themselves don’t make the church grow. We are reminded that gimmicks don’t make the church grow; neither do new philosophies, methods, and fads. Jesus is all that matters. It is about you living your faith, spreading the fingerprint of the Gospel message is what changes lives. It is you and I, practicing “Grow”, being disciples who make disciples that causes HMC to be vibrant, life giving, and grow.