You Might Be
YOU MIGHT BE
You might be a redneck if….. You have probably heard a lot of those jokes. Most of them we can’t repeat here in church. There are many versions of this type of joke a lot of them focuse around where you are from or where you live. You have probably heard one these sayings. You know you are from___________ stick in the locality of your choosing. Well I happened to look up some sayings for Hampton Roads. Most of these sayings are not “you know you are from Hampton Roads” because a lot of folks around here are not from here. Instead it is “you know you live in Hampton Roads” So let’s see how it goes. You know you live in Hampton Roads when 1. You are amazed whenever any city within 50 miles of your house is mentioned in a textbook, national news, etc.2. You know Mount Trashmore is a real place. 3. Any eastbound trip you’ve ever made involves at least one tunnel.4. You’ve dated someone in the military.5. You don’t stop and look skyward when aircraft fly over. 6. You can name all the Interstate 64 spurs. 7. You don’t slow down in the tunnel. 8. You can say “Norfolk” without sounding obscene or incorrect. 9. You can leave town for years and return to find the same roads still under construction
Today is a different type of “you might be” sermon. Today’s verse about apostles, prophets, evangelists, the shepherds and the teachers” is essential to the unity and the health of the church. It is essential that we have new people rise up and step into these roles. It is essential because besides our attitude which we will talk about next week, the second biggest cause of division in the church or any organization is burnout. We become divided because the same people are filling the same leadership roles over and over again, and they get burned out. Eventually duty is not enough. We need both duty and passion. In what we do we need to sacrifice gladly. But if you sacrifice too much the doing it gladly part is hard to maintain. That is why in the Presbyterian Church we give every pastor four weeks off to start out with. And I am going to take that time. Because in taking vacation, in allowing the field of my heart to lie follow for a while, I am doing my job. Every organization should see the importance of Sabbath. Rest is essential to life. Rest is essential to love. The Lord raises up some into leadership and allows others to rest. This is the way it should be. But that is not the way it works in practice. 20% of the people do 80% of the work. That is the way it is in most churches. That is the way it is in most organization. But I see that is not the way it is going to be in this church. It is not going to be that way in this church anymore because today I am going to tell you something that is going to change your life. Today I want you to know that you might be an apostle, prophet, evangelist, or shepherd teacher. I have updated this language a bit to be more accessible to you. So let me say it again in today’s language. Today you might be a Founder, an insightful one, a Salesman, or a bullfighter. I want you to know that each comes with is strength and weakness
First, the Founder. Well first let’s say what a Founder is not. A Founder or an Apostle is not someone who is necessarily fabulous at public speaking. Paul admits that he was not a good public speaker ( 2 Corinthians 11:6). Indeed, we are told in Acts 20 Paul is teaching in Macedonia. It seems like they met for dinner and Paul taught till midnight, now that is a Pentecostal preacher right there. Apparently, he wasn’t very entertaining and a young man named Eutychus fell asleep while sitting in a window sill. He fell to the ground. The text says the man died. But Paul said life was still in him and either raised him from the dead or healed him. So Paul wasn’t the greatest speaker. So take comfort. Even if you are board in one of my sermons, even if I go over, you haven’t died, so I call that a success!!! Also, we are told that Paul faced many beating and physical ailments. So chances are this guy was a pretty scared and not attractive man. People were not drawn to him because of his natural charisma they were drawn to him for his spiritual charisma.
So that is what a Founder is not. Here are some natural qualities that might suggest you could walk in the spiritual gifting of being a Founder. You might be a Founder if you like to take risk and have a high level of ambition. When I was thinking about this I thought about the trailer for the new film The Founder, starring Michael Keaton. The film is based on the true story of Ray Kroc, the man who started the fast food chain McDonald’s. The trailer opens with Keaton narrating as Kroc, “ I know what you are thinking. How does a fifty two year old over the hill milk shake machine salesman build a fast food empire with 1,600 restaurants and an annual revenue of $700 million dollars. One word persistence.” You see in 1954 Kroc happened to hear about a restaurant in San Bernardino California with fast service and high quality. He went to see the MacDonald’s brothers to see what they had. But one store wasn’t enough for Ray Kroc he wanted to franchise the thing.
And indeed, we see Paul’s passion for not just starting one church but many churches. One article I read suggested he established 14-20 churches himself. Which is pretty good if you know anything about how hard it is to start anything like a business or a church. We also have to assume that those churches started other churches and that families Paul witnessed to might have started churches. A Fonder is defined not just by the willingness to take risk but also by ambition. They are sent to found things. They are sent to establish things. They are persistent. They are not easily discouraged and they encourage others to believe that crazy things are possible.
As I think of these characteristics a mentor of mine named Richard comes to mind. Richard taught one of the only evangelism classes that my seminary had to offer, which I think suggests a problem in itself. And Richard if you are listening today I do not mean this as an insult. Richard is an engaging guy but not in the way I am. He is a tall man. But he is very soft spoken. He doesn’t really preach with high energy like I do. But he just has this presence. This presence that takes all the anxiety out of your life. And you sort of want to follow him. I mean I love my dad, I really do, he is a great guy. But whenever I am around Richard I want Richard to be my dad. I can’t explain it, I just wish this man in his late sixties or seventies was my dad. Richard didn’t have it easy raising a family or making it through his education. But it never seemed to upset him. Not a lot seemed to phase him.
And Richard, unlike a lot of Presbyterian ministers I have met, has been involved in planting a few churches. One, Swift Creek Presbyterian, stands out in my mind. This is one might call a cold plant. It didn’t start naturally. What Richard did is he did his research, along with his team, found the best place to plant a church, prayed about it, then he sent out a mass mailing to a couple of thousand people, knowing he would get a one percent response rate, and thus on his first Sunday maybe 200 people would show up to the school they were in. And indeed, two hundred people did show up. And over the next two Sunday’s that dwindled down by about half but they retained about half of those people. And that church is still a vibrant church today.
First of all, they would be a pretty high pressure first Sunday. I mean I am not sure I would preach well under that pressure. I know my first Sunday here before the vote I was nervous and you sensed that. Who does that? Who just mails a bunch of people out of the blue and starts a church out of nowhere? Richard does. A Founder does.
Richard is also an interim minister. He goes in after a permanent pastor leaves and helps churches prepare for a new minister and deal with old problems so the new guy or gal doesn’t have to. Now interim ministry is really hard, that is why we have a training for it. But it is essential to the life of a church. And perhaps you haven’t met many interim ministers who you would consider to be up to par. I haven’t either. But I got to admit I am a bit of a Richard Haney groupy. Richard would interim at churches in the Richmond area and I would follow him around. And I will admit I may have fallen asleep in one or two of his sermons, Richard if you are listening I am sorry. But you know I saw him preach recently when I was visiting Richmond a couple of months ago. And something had changed. His preaching style hadn’t changed. I had changed. I had come to see the deeper spiritual things he spoke of. The things that were not about his style. The Spirit beneath his words. And I saw his gifts. He also works for the Presbyterian Outreach Foundation. He has gone all around the world. He has a particular heart for China as I remember. If Richard doesn’t have an apostolic or founding function than I don’t know who does.
But of course, gifts can be abused. And the movie The Founder shows that abuse. In franchising MacDonald’s Ray Croc basically tricked the MacDonald’s brothers and took ownership of their idea and the profits that came from it. Ambition can be a great thing. But we need to boast in the Lord and not in ourselves.
Second, is the prophet what I call the Insightful ones. Let us first be clear, what a prophet or insightful ones are not. An insightful one is not someone who speaks word for word, “thus says the Lord.” That was prophets did in the Old Testament and those folks are not around anymore. This New Testament gift is primarily defined by insight. People with this gift see things in ways that make people think, “I never thought of it that way.” They are disruptive because they break people out of previous molds and open them to new possibilities. Particularly, insightful ones, are used by the Lord to have insight into others. We have insight into others in two basic ways.
- By listening to the abundance of People’s hearts
- By the Lord giving us insight into people’s hearts.
Insight is given for two reasons.
- To encourage people
- To convict people.
First, insightful ones, and I would consider myself in this category, gain insight by listening to the abundance of people’s hearts. Luke 6:45 says, “ the good person out of the treasure of his heart produces good. And the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Translation, generally you can tell what is in people’s heart by listening to what they say. I don’t mean hearing what people say. Because we know there is a difference between hearing and listening. Even Jesus says just because people heard his teaching doesn’t mean they were listening.
I am not naturally a good listener. I am more an insight teacher. I had to learn to be a shepherd. I had to learn to listen to people deeply. You do this by getting yourself outside your own head. Empty your mind of thoughts. Focus exclusively on what the other person is saying. Let those words echo through your mind. Let them filter through your Spirit. And listen for what rises to the top. Paraphrase back to the person what you have listened to not what you have heard. And then see. Don’t think. See where their words point. If your inner dialogue is “well I think this person” that is the wrong path. If your inner dialogue is “I see this person” that is the right path. What deeper insights can you see? To follow up say, “so what I hear you saying, it seems like, I see that you are passionate about, it looks like you are looking for.” I mean I am a pretty deep thinker. You can tell that. But because of that I used to live inside myself. It took a while for me to step outside myself and to listen to others. And when I do I can take what I listen to and see the deeper patterns. Patterns in people, patterns in the scriptures, and patterns in God. And I make plans accordingly.
For example, about three Sunday’s ago I preached on how worship strengthens us spiritually. Putting a good amount of time in pastoral care I have met with Shirley Bouche and Norma Popp. Deeply listening to them, and knowing what I was preaching on, I saw that together they represented two important parts to worship, reverence (Shirley), and rejoicing (Norma). Because of that I saw that they could add to what I wanted to say through their testimony. And indeed, wasn’t it sort of awesome? And strange and unexpected things started to happen. Stephanie Lawerence mentioned to me afterwards that Norma reminds her and Jessica of their mima so they started crying. Also I had no way of knowing that Margie couldn’t be with us that Sunday. And we all love her playing it evokes reverence in us. But because she had to go see her brother the choir did a song “I have decided to follow Jesus” with recorded music. And strangely that fit in too. We planned all these things independently of each other. And some things we could not have predicted or planned.But it all came together perfectly. It did so because I listened deeply and I saw something. So I decided to take a risk and step into what I saw God doing. And bam!!!!! And I have to admit it is not the easiest thing to do. But it is super fun. Some people are better than others at it but we can all develop the skill of listening to the abundance of the heart.
And then there is the gift the Lord gives us of having insight into others without asking them questions. Often when we are granted insight into others what we receive will seem very normal to most people. That’s because most of what we are thinking about are not complicated thoughts. The things that are deep on our hearts are simple but they are profound. You might perceive that someone feels rejection because of what their father did to them. Very general. But to the person it was meant for it speaks to their heart. Insight into others is meant for that person not for everyone around them. That’s why they are generally vague so you don’t totally embarrass the person. They are a word from God for that person meant to encourage them or convict them.
I know for a fact that there are a couple of you here today who have experienced people giving you words like this. You just don’t talk about it much because you don’t want people to think you are crazy. There are others here today who might have this gift. You get weird impressions about people and sometimes you want to speak it out. But you don’t speak them because that would be crazy. Well I am already crazy. So I will give you an example of what it is like.
Out of all the spiritual gifts we know the most about the gift of insight or prophecy. Paul gives us a description of it in 1 Corinthians 14. So several years ago, with a Bible study I was leading, I thought, well it is in the Bible, so I am going to teach it, and see if it works. So I told the group that we were going to pray and write down the first thoughts that came to our mind. We were going to see if the Lord would give us insight into each other. Now right before someone on a scooter had ran into a car nearby, so that was on my mind. But as I prayed my mind kept on that motor scooter. I got the idea that some one had been in a motorcycle accident and the phrase, “you are beautiful to me despite the scars,” came to mind. I will just be straight with you I didn’t go to a biker church. And I don’t think anyone would guess that any of the seven or so people in that group road motorcycles. I felt a little crazy saying it but I gave the word. And no one responded. So I decided to drop it. Some other people shared some things that were encouraging as well, insight doesn’t have to be super accurate, though the best words are. But at the end of our time, about thirty minutes later, an Indian woman spoke up. She was nervous to admit it, because she didn’t know how I knew. But she was from India. And in India everyone rides around on scooters. And there are no traffic laws so you get into lots of accidents. And this woman had been in many accidents. And she had received many scars from those accidents. And she had always been ashamed of those scars. And I was OMG that just happened!!!! That was awesome. And super encouraging. Maybe I could have guessed some of that. But all of it?
Now some of you may be thinking, “well that is an amazing story but why don’t we see more of that?” I have never experienced anything like that. Well I have never seen the inside of an aircraft carrier or nuclear submarine doesn’t mean that such things don’t exist. I think Paul gives us an idea of why most of us don’t experience genuine insight from the Lord into others in 1 Cor 14 where he says, “pursue love and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts.” Now I am guessing you have met folks who have earnestly desired the more spectacular spiritual gifts like prophecy, like insight, and they have spoken things to you they claim to be from God, but they have hurt or confused you. I mean that’s why we don’t believe in divine insight because most people are just speaking from their pride and souls and claiming the authority of God when they do. And that never ends well. But I have met people who legitimately do this and I have done it on occasion. But truthful, I haven’t done it all that much. And recently I realized why. It isn’t that I don’t believe in it or don’t desire it. It is that I haven’t pursued love to the degree that I can be trusted with it. To be trusted with this gift by the Lord you legitimately need to love others more than you love yourself. You have to crazy love folks who even annoy the heck out of you. Because can you imagine what damage you could do if you knew the secrets of people’s hearts? Most of hurt people enough with our words not knowing what is on their hearts. If your heart isn’t full of love, and gentleness, and self control, you could destroy people with this gift. You could decimate them and leave them scarred for the rest of their life. The tongue has the power to bring life and death and that is even more true with the gift of insight. And that is why we don’t see a lot of it. Because most of us don’t really love people enough. And my experience those who do have strong gift in this regard tend to be women, because women tend to be more attuned to their feelings, more attuned to love, than us men are, and we men need to step up in that regard. Women also need to step up in respecting men in their lives. But we will get to that in a few weeks.
And that is the danger of insightful ones. We have such insight into the scriptures, into the things of God, and into others, that we really can become self righteous and destructive. Paul tells us that insight isn’t just to encourage but to convict us of our sins. But there is a difference between conviction and just making people feel bad. A person may tell you the brutal truth in a brutal way. You may know it to be the truth but the shame stops you from coming into the light. But one with the gift of insight, with a heart filled with love, can speak the truth in love, they can restore people with a Spirit of gentleness. I am done making people feel bad. I am done feeling bad. I need to be restored. I know you need to be restored. And I speak a Word of hope to you today that you can be put back together again.
Next comes the evangelist, or the salesman. This is a person with what we might call, “the gift of gab”. They don’t have problems making friends or being the life of the party. They like to talk to strangers. In fact, sometimes they feel a weird leading to go and talk to strangers. They are basically the reverse of a Bible teacher. I am a teacher. I take the things of God and apply them to your life, to the world. A salesman takes the things of the world and applies them to the things of God.
For example, Norma Popp was telling me about a minister that went golfing with her husband. And during those golfing excursions he somehow led her husband into a deeper walk with the Lord. Now I had some golfers in my last church and I went golfing with them one time. I thought how hard could it be? I do mini golf. Well I had to repent in sackcloth and ashes. It is super hard. The golf swing is just not a natural way to move your body. You who play golf are further along in the fruit of patience than I am. I will give you that. I got like one good swing and I was like, “wow that was awesome. Let’s do that again.” And then I tried another fifty times and didn’t do it again. But even if I did love golf how in the world does one naturally lead people from talking about golf into a spiritual conversation. I mean when I go dancing I don’t say after a swing out, “hey that swing out reminds me of how far Jesus cast our sins from us. Like as far as the east is from the west he swung out our sins from us.” But you as a salesman have an innate ability to do this. I mean you may not always be that organized but you know how to connect with people and make them believe in something you believe in. If you have a deep interest in golf, sports, cars, dancing, fighting, sowing, skydiving, politics, hiking, clowns, guns, flowers, video games, crocheting, music, whatever it would be great if you and I could hang out. Let’s get some pancakes at IHOP, the International House of Prayer and Pancakes. I will teach you the Word and you will learn to love the Word. I will get some pancakes. And then you can take the Word into your interest and people will start coming to the Lord like crazy. It will be super exciting. People will get saved. And I will get some pancakes.
Finally we have the shepherd teacher, or the bullfighter, as I would like to call it. While the Founder may set things up and run things from a sky high view, he or she can’t stay for two long. They have to let go or they will mess things up. The shepherd teacher is in the thick of it for the long run. You need both the ability to impart teaching to people in a way they understand and the ability to guide them to experience your teaching in their everyday life. This really requires a lot of leadership. And it is sort of like bullfighting.
I did an interview out in Western Colorado before I came here. And I talked with a pastor at the church who was a bullfighter. Now at first I thought, “wow they kill bulls out in Colorado.” But that wasn’t right. He was the guy who distracted the bull when the rider fell off, we would call him the rodeo clown, but they don’t like to be called that out there. I had a long conversation with him about leadership and pastoring. And he noted that pastoring was like bullfighting. You needed to have an inner confidence because if the bull senses you are afraid it will charge.
I see the key to being a good shepherd is being a good bullfighter. Because anyone who has been in a position of leadership knows there are bullies, there are wolves in sheep’s clothing, and even the best of us, given the wrong circumstances, can become such people if we lack self control and do not have a spiritual foundation, pastor’s included. The greatest thing that has held me back as a leader is fear of man. Like I have said before I need to care deeply about you, I need to love you all with all my heart, and I hope before my time here is done you know that I do without question. But I can’t care too much about what you think about me. I need to care about you just not what you think of me. There are people who have self confidence but don’t care about people. We call those people jerks. There are people who love people but don’t have confidence in themselves. We call those people pushovers. When I was called into my ministry I was a jerk. The Lord humbled me and then I became a pushover. Now the Lord is empowering me and I becoming something else. I am becoming a bullfighter. I may be small in stature but you know there is a fire in my heart and a presence around me that is greater than myself. You can be angry with me, disagree with me, even vote me down. This church is governed by more than just me. But don’t confuse my compassion for weakness. My gentleness is a sign that a great power rests within me. And I am not a man to be trifled with.
You might be a founder, an insightful one, a salesman, or a bullfighter. You might be an Apostle, prophet, evangelist, or shepherd teacher. And along with these things are a variety of gifts to strengthen this church. And maybe you think I will serve next year. I will get more involved next year. I will get to know the person sitting across from me better next Sunday. I will risk loving, I will risk giving my heart to the Lord or to another, another day. But you have to see we don’t have much time. One of the first couples I met when I came here was Bill and Charlotte Harris. They have such a beautiful story full of tragedy and triumph. Many of you do. Many of you have a testimony if you would just open your mouths and speak out of the abundance of your hearts. I will not tell Bill and Charlotte’s story. Many of you already know it. If you don’t take them out to lunch after this and learn and laugh with them. I love you guys. And whenever I think of you this prayer comes to mind, “ Life is short. And we do not have much time to gladden the hearts of those who journey with us. So let us be swift to love, and make haste to be kind. And the blessing of God, who made us, who loves us, and who travels with us, be with you know and forever.” I love these two because they are swift to love and they are swift to serve, because they know, they know, we do not have much time. As the scriptures say, “all flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flowers of the field, the grass withers and the flowers fade, but the Word of the Lord endures forever.” (1 Peter 1:24). After the service, and after the congregational meeting, I will be here. I will be here to lay hands on you so the gifts within you are fanned into flame. For today I speak forth a Word. I see that many of you have hid in the shadows. I break off your chains. And I call you into glorious light. I call you into the ministry for which the Lord has called you into. I call forth love to burn in your hearts, I call forth the gifts to be released into the body. We do not have much time. And a new time is coming and I call it forth. I call to you in the name of the Lord. You cannot hide from Him. You might just be any of these things I spoke of today. Don’t you want to find out? Don’t let fear hold you back from missing your blessing.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.