Shark Tank (Message for November 15th, 2015)

Scripture:  Hebrews 10:11-14; 19-25

Good morning sharks.   This morning I am offering you the opportunity to invest in the local chapter of a global enterprise.   Not only do we have locations all over the world, but we are a first response organization that has the connectional infrastructure to meet needs anywhere in the world, sometimes in the matter of hours.  We are involved in the lives of people from birth to death, and we focus on the area of behavior modification.   We are fully devoted to transformation.  We seek to be an entity that  positively transform the life of individuals.  We are deeply committed to community transformation and to permanently improving the communities in which we are based.    This enterprise the church, and I am offering you the opportunity to invest in the Edinburgh United Methodist Church.   My offer to you today is for 100% collective ownership in the ministries, missions, and life of the church.   I sincerely believe that we are uniquely positioned.   We are the right church, with the right facility, in the right location that we are uniquely suited to make disciples of Jesus Christ and transform our community by being a source of love and compassion.   However, this is only possible with your investment. 

            To help you make an informed decision, it is important to go into detail what you are investing in, how much you need to invest, and what your return on investment is.   As a church of Jesus Christ, we are stewards of the most incredible good news.   Humanity has always sought connection with God.   We have all been crafted by the great Creator and we are made to be in relationship with our creator.   However, our imperfections, our selfishness, and our sin keeps us away from God.   In more ancient times, priests were people who stood in the gap between God and people to try and offer the connection we all seek.  However, the bible tells us it never quite worked.  Hebrews 10:11 records, “Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties: again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sin. “   The good news of the gospels, the good news of the church, is that it is possible to take away sin.   The good news is that there is no condemnation, that we can let go of the guilt we feel, and that we can be reunited with our Creator.    We have the good news of Jesus.   Jesus demonstrated to us a better way to live; a way that centers our hearts and minds on our Creator and a way that helps us find great fulfillment by putting others first.   Not only did Jesus show us a better way to live but through his death and resurrection, he purchased our forgiveness, and cleansed us from the stains of our all pride, greed, and evil choices.  This is why Hebrews 10:14 reads “For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.”   But wait, there’s more!  The good news gets even better than this.   Not only are we given the model for a better way to live, not only are we given forgiveness for our sins, but through Jesus we are reunited with God our Creator.  The deep longing that all people feel in the very being, the longing to be connected with that which made us, and cares for us more than anything, is finally filled.  We can celebrate and live out verses like Hebrews 10:22 which reads “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings.”

            The church is meant to fully embody this good news, and we do this in two ways.   First, those who are invested in the church meet together regularly.   This is important, because it is a key to being a disciple.   I realize that disciple is a bit of a “churchy” word that may not have much context outside of some old hymns or creeds.   A disciples is simply someone who claims the good news of Jesus and seeks to have that good news be part of their present reality.   We meet together so that we can make ourselves and nurture ourselves to be better disciples.  In meeting together we worship God together, we lean on each other for support and understanding, and we teach one another.   As disciples we serve as examples to one another how to better follow the way of Christ, and when we are doing it right we even hold each other accountable to following that way.   We spur one another on towards more fully loving God and more fully loving others.   By meeting together we also encourage one another and push ourselves together to serving others out of love by doing good deeds.  

            This is the second way that the church is meant to fully embody the good news.   We embody the good news by living it out in the world, in our community.   The church demonstrates the good news by radically loving the community it is based in.   The church should love the world around it with the same sort of intense love that we experience from God, the same love that Jesus showed on the cross.  It should be a sacrificial love that is more focused on meeting the needs in the world around us and not just promoting a personal agenda.   The success of the church is not measured by how many people attended but by how many lives are changed.  The church embodies the good news by serving as the hand’s, the feet, the warm embrace, and the kind words of God.   In doing so, we truly can transform the world.  

            There are two ways in which I am asking you to invest in this endeavor.    The first is with your participation.  As I mentioned, your investment gives you complete collective ownership of the church.  You do not belong to a church, you ARE the church, I am the church, we ARE the church together.  Following Jesus is not a spectator sport.  Either you are in the game or you are not really playing.   In the United Methodist church all members are asked to invest with the prayers, their presence, their gifts, their service and their witness.   To be invested in the church, you do need to lift one another up in prayer.  To be invested in the church, you do need to be present.    Being a Christian is not like being part of a club. There is much more to it than just paying membership dues.  The process of discipleship requires us to invest in one another and we can only do that if we are present-in body, mind, and soul.   To be invested in the church, you need to serve.   If we are to embody the good news by loving the world and meeting needs in our community then we have to actually do the work.   Every single one of us can serve in some way.   Some of us can serve by doing the important work of supporting the church through being on teams and committees.  Others of us can serve the church by being volunteers that serve in the name of Christ.  From youth group, to the food pantry, to visiting the sick and infirmed in nursing homes all of us can find our niche to love the world around us.   We can invest ourselves into making the good news of Jesus known.  To be invested in the church, you need to support it with your witness.    Being a disciples of Jesus Christ, is by definition, a life changing experience.  If we have fully accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior we have had a personal encounter with the divine, and that must change us.   We know the good news, and as we seek to live it out, we must not keep it a secret.   The world is desperate for the good news.  They are desperate to know that there is true forgiveness, that there is freedom from guilt, and that there is a God who is full of second chances.   We do a great disservice to others and to ourselves if we keep that good news a secret.   The first way that I challenge you to be invested in the church, is to invested with your life; to be involved with the work, the ministry, and the mission of the church.  

            The second way we invest in the church is financially.   I am fully aware that no one likes to talk about money, and that we all get weird about money.   We need our finances to cover our basic needs of food, shelter, and healthcare.   Beyond that though, we spend our money on the things that our important to us.   I ask you to invest financially in the church, because I sincerely believe that the good news of Jesus is important enough to spend money on.    In order for the church to make disciples, and nurture disciples, and transform the world it is a fact of reality that money is needed.   We should invest in the mission of the church as a whole, not just our personal projects or areas of interest.   Imagine with me, how wonderful it would be if we were all fully invested in our church and it was well funded.  If we did this we would be better positioned to meet needs in the world.   If we were financially invested to this level, then that means if one of you feels a calling by God to serve others in a new way then we could just do it.  If you see a vision for a way that we can better love others and share good news, then we would not have to wring our hands asking how are we going to pay for it because we have already invested financially.   I have no doubt that if we collectively take ownership in the church and invest in it financially, then the Holy Spirit will give us the opportunity to put that investment to good use.  

            In all discussions of investment, there is the question “What is my return on investment?”   It is true, that the church may not be a sound financial investment.  No one ever got physically rich by investing in the true church.  However, Jesus himself said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven . . .For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”   I believe that the return of investment when we invest in the church is far greater than any momentary gain.   When we invest in the church, there are two returns of investment that we gain.  

            The first is personal.   When we invest our lives into the good news of Jesus, and become disciples then we find the benefits simply do not have a price tag.   We gain a confidence in what we hope for, a peace beyond understanding, a joy that is unspeakable, and a sense of purpose that is all consuming.   We are empowered by the Holy Spirit so that we can accomplish things that are far greater than we could ever do on our own.  We experience God being glorified and we see the love of Christ radiate out of our lives.  When we invest in the good news, the foundations of our very lives are shifted.   We become more and more like Jesus himself, we are more able to love God with our entire being and love our neighbor as ourselves.  As we progress towards this sanctification, I can assure you that you the worries of this world grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace. 

            The second return of investment is in community transformation.  When we invest in the good news and take the love God into our community, then it will make a difference.  God does not need us to change God’s creation, but how amazing that not only does God want us, God trusts us enough that God is relying on us.   Transforming our community is a worthwhile investment because ultimately that is why we are here.    I sincerely believe that God, in God’s perfection, does not mistake.  If our church is in Edinburgh, Indiana then there is a reason for that.   There are very specific ways that God wants to use us, to transform our community.  We must do this.   Tim Johnson, pastor of Pfrimmer’s chapel, puts it bluntly like this:   "God is not going to bless your church until your church blesses the community it is part of.”   Fulfilling the mission of transforming the community is its own return of investment.

            This church is still here, because God has a plan for us.   We have this amazing building, because God has a use for it.   You are here, because you are part of those plans:  If you invest in it.   Here is where I want to see your investment grow into.  Imagine us as a community of believers, of committed disciples who are spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Imagine if we had invested so thoroughly that 50% or more of all the money we collect is put right back into serving, loving, and blessing the community.   We do not just spend money to keep our doors open, but we spend our money to fulfill the mission of making and nurturing disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.   That is what I am asking you to invest in this morning.   So what do you say sharks?  Are you in?   Are you going to join me in investing in the good news?