MEMBERSHIP 101: GIFTS & SERVICE

INTRO :
We’re halfway into our membership series, having spent the first two weeks talking about our commitment to PRAYER and to PRESENCE. Today we reflect on GIFTS and SERVICE and how the Church can see that she has all she needs when members and friends are willing–and–vulnerable to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

As a reminder, we are being challenged to act upon the very commitments we have made to be faithful to Christ through the Church by our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service and our witness.”
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WORSHIP GUIDE QUESTIONS & COMMENTARY
WHY DOES THE CHURCH NEED ME?
Your offerings of your time, your talents, and your treasures are what God is using to bring salvation and change to our world. In just the immediate, local world around us, there are countless people who don’t know Christ and can be introduced to Him through your willingness to share all of your life with them. When we give of our whole lives, we give God. As Christians, we understand our role in this world as stewards. A steward is someone who is given charge over something belonging to another, with the task of caring for it and nurturing along its growth or purpose. Therefore, the world and God’s plans for it are ours to participate in, with God, for it’s care and growth.

We understand God’s intentions to be that the Holy Spirit would dwell within the people God has created and is now calling unto Himself. Having received the Holy Spirit, we are then the body of Christ—the Church—challenged with the task of being the corporate representatives of God in the world. The Church is Christ’s body, working for the redemption of the world. What I want is for each of us today to understand that you play an incredible part in the mission and ministry of what God is doing. The Church needs you because God has chosen you to carry out this task. We carry it out in our prayers, our presence, and today we learn that we carry out the task of God’s mission and ministry through our gifts and our service.

Redeeming the world takes the full participation of God’s chosen people—the chosen being those who call upon the name of the Lord and are saved. It is God’s people who recognize that full participation includes our gifts and our service. Our gifts can range from using our networks and connections in order to provide for a need at the church, to supporting a financial campaign to further our ministry in the community. Our service includes things like opening doors for the parents who drop off kids at The Children’s Place school, serving the mobile food bank, or leading a Sunday school class for our children or adults. Look at it this way: our gifts are the well from which we draw water and our service is taking that water to the thirsty. Gifts and Service are the bottom line items in our ministries and are crucial to our task.

Listen to the apostle Paul, from 1 Corinthians 12:
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. (12:12-20 ESV)

This is precisely why God needs you, because once we say yes to Jesus, we are saying “yes” to God’s redemption plan and choosing to draw from our gifts and take them to the world through our service.

WHAT KIND OF GIFTS & SERVICE ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?
In regards to gifts and service, I want to make it clear by giving you 3 T’s: TIME, TALENTS, AND TREASURES.

TIME: Your time is one of the most valuable gifts you can provide the body of Christ. As we talked about last week, the vow of presence, the commitment to be here in worship and to be here for ministry is life-changing. Presence contributes to our own transformation and then helps us take transformation to others through ministry. Just by showing up, you facilitate change and create an environment that allows God to use us. Therefore, when you offer your time, you are showing to yourself and to the world that God is a priority and that what God is doing is important.

TALENTS: The skills and traits that you have as an individual or a family are a wealth of knowledge and know-how. When we come together to offer these things to God, there is very little we can’t accomplish as a faith community. Our service makes things possible, yielding fruit and results that encourage us and inspire others. The application of our talents, no matter what kind they are, strengthen our faith and strengthen the influence of the Church in the world. When you give of your talents, you are in fact offering YOU. And so, we need YOU and all YOU have to offer. God has gifted you, therefore honor God with your talents.

TREASURES: The gift of our resources is what leads to an abundance of possibilities. Of the 3 Ts, it is our treasures, our resources, our finances and our networks that are most precious to us. But if we choose to use these things only to our own benefit, we cut off the flow of life-changing possibilities that come to both us and others. What do I mean…?

I mean that in our sacrificing, we better ourselves and others. When we give of this last T, our treasures, we prove that God and His mission–to–the–world is of the highest importance. The Churchy word for this is TITHE. But the tithe is not meant to make the Church grand, for she is meant to be humble; the tithe is not meant to be hoarded, for our mission is to be generous; and the tithe is most certainly not meant to fatten the pastor, for our job is to serve and to be grateful. The tithe is meant to provide the Church with all she needs to accomplish God’s will.

Therefore, in 2015, we must be ready to engage the many different ways God desires to bless our community. And that will only come when we define our ministries and then give of our TIME, TALENTS, and TREASURES, which are our gifts and service in membership.

THE 3 Ts ARE IMPORTANT BECAUSE…
…through each expression we can test ourselves to be sure that we have kept God above everything else. When our time, talents, or treasures aren’t pointed toward God, it becomes obvious. One who gives of their whole self sees God more clearly because they have removed the distractions that come through using their 3 T’s for selfish means.

This kind of faith and practice provides us with the knowledge and assurance in our hearts that God truly is all we need.

Giving of your 3 T’s releases us from the control our time, our talents, and our treasures have over us. Ultimately, we must be sure that we aren’t elevating our 3 T’s to an unhealthy place, where they become idols, standing between us and a relationship with God that gives life.

And so we must rightly remember Jesus’ words when he says in Matthew 6, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (6:19-21 ESV) Let your 3 T’s be invested in God’s kingdom.

In closing…
…remember that as we take our vows as members, we commit to be faithful in our GIFTS and SERVICE. Let both change and transform you by having a healthy practice of giving of your TIME, TALENTS, and TREASURES. Hold nothing back from God and let Him use all that has been given and entrusted to you for the sake of bringing good news to the world. Amen.
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