Great to Good: Being a Great Church That Bears Good Fruit
Topic: Great Commission Passage: Matthew 22:35–40, Matthew 28:18–20
Great to Good
Grace Community Church
Sept 11, 2022
Great to Good: Being a great church that bears good fruit
A little over two decades ago Jim Collins wrote a book called Good to Great. Good to Great. It had a tag that said, Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t. It was a book about why some companies go from good to great and others don’t.
With apologies to Jim Collins, I’m calling the series we’re kicking off this morning, Great to Good. Not good to great, great to good. The tag line is: Being a Great Church that Bears Good Fruit.
Pray (pray for families and those affected by 9/11 21 years ago.
The story is told of Abraham Lincoln attending a church service with a friend. As they left, the friend asked Lincoln what he thought of the sermon. He said it was carefully prepared and well delivered. So you thought it was a great message, the friend asked. Lincoln answered, “No, I thought it failed.” Why? “Because he did not ask of us something great.”
I want to ask something great of us this morning. Us individually and us as a church.
What makes a great church great?
But let’s start with a question: what makes a great church great? Should a church even be trying to be great? It’s ok to be faithful. It’s ok to be fruitful. Those are terms we are comfortable with, cause we see them in the Bible, but great? That just sounds like pride.
So it’s an important question: what makes a great church great?
One of the good-to-great companies Collin’s examined in his book was Circuit City. Of all the good-to-great companies Collins studied, Circuit City was maybe the greatest with by far the highest stock market return over a 15 year period. Ironically, a few years later Circuit City declared bankruptcy. They went from good-to-great…to dead!
We’ve seen the same thing happen in churches. At one point the Mars Hill Church in Seattle was one of the most influential, talked about churches in the country with 15000 members attending each week and another 100K people listening to Mark Driscoll’s messages online. It seemed by all metrics to be a great church until it all fell apart. Today Mars Hill doesn’t even exist.
We’ve seen the same shaking happen with denominations and worship movements and mega-church pastors that once seemed great and now are rocked with scandals.
My point isn’t that mega-churches and large movements are bad. For every mega-church that gets rocked with scandal, there are many that are faithfully serving Jesus and doing a great work. The reason they aren’t in the news is because, as one person put it, planes that land safely never make the news.
Nevertheless it’s clear being big and famous doesn’t make a church or ministry great.
That’s true on the other side of the ledger as well. Being small and obscure doesn’t make a church great either. Small churches can be just as unhealthy as large churches and sometimes more so.
Greatness isn’t a matter of size or fame or budget or even – to some degree – results.
So what makes a great church great? And should a church try to be a great church?
Here’s why I believe the answer to that question is yes: Jesus asked of the church something great. To be precise, he commanded of the church something great. The great commandment and the great commission.
The great commandment is found in Matt. 22 beginning in verse 35.
35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matt. 22:35-40
Technically it’s two commandments but Jesus inseparably intertwines them because we can’t love God without loving each other and we can’t love each other without loving God first. Jesus said, all the Law and Prophets hang on these two commandments.
The great commission is found in Matt. 28 beginning in verse 18.
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matt. 28:18-20
Jesus commanded and commissioned us to do three great things: love God, love each other, and love the world. The church that does these things is a great church.
But here’s why the title is Great to Good. Collins used the word “good” to mean ok, and great to mean better. But in the Bible good speaks of moral excellence. To God, something is only great if it’s good. And that’s what’s so easy for us to get wrong.
Charles Spurgeon put it well: many wishing to be great have failed to be good.
In Christianity Today’s podcast, The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, many of those interviewed talk about the toxic and abusive environment in the leadership team, of the many sincere and caring people who left hurt and broken by how badly they were treated. But the vast majority of people ignored it because the ministry results were so great! Mark Driscoll likened it to a bus driving forward: You either get on the bus or you get run over by the bus. Those are the options; but the bus ain’t gonna stop. Driscoll bragged that there was a pile of dead bodies behind the bus.
To paraphrase Spurgeon: driving towards greatness, they failed to be good. It’s easy to do. I’m sure I’ve done it. Maybe you have too. Great to good is my way of reminding us that for a church to be great it has to be good. And good in God’s eyes is always motivated by love. Jesus asks something great of us: love God, love each other, and love the world.
Let’s answer Jesus with a loud “yes, I’m willing! We’re willing! Do your great work in us and through us!” Let’s have the heart of Isaiah: “here am I Lord, use me!”
- Let’s believe Jesus will empower us to do what he asks us to do!
The key word is believe. Knowing we need God’s power isn’t the same thing as believing God has poured His power out on us! Let’s believe Jesus will empower us to do what he asks us to do
One of my favorite passages in the Bible is John 15 where Jesus says, “apart from me you can do nothing.” He didn’t say that to discourage us from doing great things, he said that to encourage us to stay in close union with him so that we can do great things and bear good fruit for the glory of God! Believe it!
Here’s how it works: Jesus said the greatest commandment is for us to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. But we can only love God because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). Romans 5 tells us that after God showed His love for us in that while we were sinners Christ died for us, He then poured out His love in us through the Holy Spirit. God showed His love to us, then He shed His love in us!
So yeah, we totally need the power of the Spirit to do what Jesus asks of us, but we have the Spirit and we have His power, so let’s believe it! Paul warns Timothy not to follow those who have a form of godliness but deny its power. It’s easy to fall into form without faith.
Form without faith doesn’t expect God to move, doesn’t expect God to save the lost, doesn’t expect God to transform lives, doesn’t expect God to deliver the drug addict, or heal the broken person, or convict the hardened heart.
I’ve been listening to a song by Katie Nichols called In Jesus’ Name (God of Possible).
I pray for your healing, that circumstances would change
I pray that the fear inside would flee in Jesus' name
I pray that a breakthrough would happen today
I pray miracles over your life in Jesus' name
In Jesus' name
I speak the nam? no grave could ever hold
H? is greater, He is stronger
He's the God of possible
Let’s believe that God wants to use us to do His great work in people’s lives. That’s only going to happen when we pray, pray fervently, and pray believing.
- You are a vital part of us!
The church is a team effort. Eph. 4 says the church builds itself up in love as each part does its part. Hebrews 10 tells us to stir up one another to love and good works. Every one of us plays a vital part. Sometimes you’re being built up, sometimes you’re the one God uses to build someone else up.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a not-to-great place and God used someone to stir me up to love and good works. A great church is a two way street (actually a multi-lane highway) where ministry is going in all directions from everyone. You’re a vital part of us!
Jesus asks something great of us: love God, love one another, and love those who don’t yet know him. The mission of the church – the great commandment and the great commission – is the only eternal thing going on in the world. Everything else is a Circuit City – it might seem great for a time, but it won’t last forever.
Helping someone come to faith in Jesus, encouraging a brother or sister in their faith when they don’t feel they can go on, sowing seeds of God’s word into young hearts, praying with a discouraged friend, serving the church’s mission in any number of ways, sharing new ideas for ministry.
We may not have a lot to give, but God views small things as great things when given from a heart of devotion and love. Don’t discount what you have to give because it doesn’t seem “big” to you.
I was thinking this week: the most impactful thing in my high school years was the small church we attended. The seeds that were imparted in me then changed the trajectory of my life and I’m a different person then I would have been without them.
There were many who impacted me. Certainly the pastor Diego Flores, God rest his soul. There was Fred and Errol and Dave and Conny and others. But the two who had the most impact on me were Tom and Sherry Terry. Tom was the youth group leader. It was a small youth group – often only four or five people attending. Tom was a quiet, unassuming man but he sowed the love of Jesus in my life and to this day I owe him a debt of thanks.
How is God using you? How might God want to use you? Maybe sharing Jesus with a co-worker or inviting a friend to church. Maybe leading a ministry or serving behind the scenes. Your warm greeting of a visitor might make all the difference in their experience of grace here at Grace. Don’t discount what you have. You are a vital part of us!