By Pastor Phil Stanley January 7, 2024
Welcome to 2024 everyone! We made it through the trials and tribulations of 2023 and now have the action packed 2024 to look forward to. How many of you guys are expecting good things from this year? I’m a bit of an optimist and I’m always trying to see the next good thing that’s happening. I honestly believe we’re going to have an amazing year because I believe God is going to continue doing amazing things in our church and our community.
Last week Pastor Heather preached a message called “What’s Your Next?” and it was flat out awesome and really kind of launched us into 2024 with a challenge to find out what our next is.
For the next few weeks, I want to build off that and talk about who we are, what we believe, why we exist, what our motivation is, why we do what we do, why membership matters, and what we expect from our members.
How many remember the awkward stage of life where you were still figuring out who you are? Most folks start around the preteen timeframe but only the Lord knows when it’ll end. That answer is different for each person. Some of y’all might still be stuck in your awkward phase but that’s alright Jesus wants to help you.
Anybody else go through some phases? I remember going through several embarrassing phases but for the most part I think I avoided the worst of it.
I remember a couple of guys in our youth group that jumped from one identity to the next. One week they were skaters, the next week they were rappers, one week they were straight up weird and then by God’s grace they became contributing members of society. I think.
In the same way churches go through stages and phases as they grow and change.
If I asked each of you to write down a few words or even a sentence describing our church I think the most common result would be “Everyone is welcomed and loved.”
That’s become a motto for us and really has set the tone for our church culture.
There’s other things we can add to that of course. Y’all have heard me say it a bunch and I’m planning to keep saying it.
We are a multiethnic, multigenerational congregation that is committed to loving Jesus, each other and our neighbors as we rally under the one banner of King Jesus.
If you’ve paid attention to how much the church has changed in the past year, you’ll notice that we are indeed multiethnic and multigenerational. How wonderful is that?
Our church’s identity, and any church’s identity for that matter, is supposed to look like Psalm 117:
1 Praise the Lord, all you nations.
Praise him, all you people of the earth.
2 For his unfailing love for us is powerful;
the Lord’s faithfulness endures forever.
Praise the Lord!
Or Revelation 7:9:
After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.
One of the greatest lies the American church has bought into is that we are better off congregating with people who look, act, think, and have the same background as ourselves.
Dr. Derwin Gray said this:
Why is the church in America and throughout the world so segregated? It’s because we’ve let tribalism, ethnocentrism, individualism, consumerism, and classism create boundaries among God’s people. The Bible calls this sin.
He goes on to say:
Multiethnic local churches are built when we put down our preferences and pick up our crosses.
Sometimes we have to lay down our preferences to be our very best welcoming and loving selves.
We must live in humility to experience harmony.
Our DNA as a church can be found in 1st Peter chapter 4:
1 Peter 4:8-11 Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay.
10 God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. 11 Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.
This scriptures drips with the theme of love, hospitality, serving one another, and honoring God with our gifts.
That’s who we are to be. Our prayer for Cornerstone is the same as the Apostle Paul’s prayer for the church in Ephesus:
EPHESIANS 3:16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.
This is what we should want for each other here at Cornerstone. This is what draws people back to church after they’ve been hurt or fallen away from their faith. This is what causes people to question the way they’re living their lives. This paves the way for God to miraculously transform friends and family members by the power of His spirit.
When you finally get to experience a taste of how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. It’s life altering.
That’s what we want. To be able to welcome and love our neighbors so that they too can see how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.
One of the first things we taught here at Cornerstone was about our core values. They’re supposed to be the compass that sets your organization’s direction and I think we’ve done a pretty good job for the most part in making them central to the actions we take.
You’ll remember that we used Acts 2 as our model and the wonderful book by Alton Garrison called “A Spirit Empowered Church.”
He does an excellent job uncovering and describing the 5 core values every church should function under. Even if a lot of them do it under different names.
They are Connect, Grow, Serve, Go, and Worship.
Connect is about our relationship with God and with each other.
Grow is about becoming more like Jesus.
Serve is using the gifts God has given us for His glory.
Go is spreading the love of God with everyone.
Worship is giving God the glory and praise He deserves.
Like I said, this is based on Acts chapter two but today I want to look at how Paul instructed the Colossian Church to be like. Look at chapter 3 picking up with verse 12:
Colossians 3:12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.
16 Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. 17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.
13 Make allowances for each other’s faults; 15 For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. = Connect
16 Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. (one translation says ‘make you rich in the true wisdom) = Grow
Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. = Grow + Serve
16b Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. = Worship
17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. = Go + Serve
We don’t have to reinvent the wheel, we just have to commit to being like Jesus.
As I close today, I want to share something I posted on the church website this week. I wrote a short little post about 2024 and talked about some of what we experienced in 2023.
I looked back over the messages Heather and I preached this past year and it is so evident that God was teaching us to break off the limits. He had to teach us how to remove the barriers, allow Him to exceed our limited imaginations, and to have His will fulfilled.
We have seen God do so much the past year. We have seen salvations, baptisms, rededications, and new members join us.
We have fed the hungry, clothed those in need, helped the hurt find healing, comforted those who’ve mourned and celebrated the wins whenever we could!
We continued to grow as a church family and further strengthened our commitment to being a multiethnic, multigenerational congregation that rally under the one banner of King Jesus. We have celebrated our cultural standard of being a place where everyone is welcomed and loved.
This is who we are: authentic, loving, Christ following disciple makers that won’t settle for anything less than a move of God for our city.
I want all of you to be part of what God is doing. I love seeing God work in your lives.
I can’t help but to smile as I think of what God will do next in 2024. We have a building program underway, we have missions trips planned, we have more people in our community to love on and I believe God is only getting started in radically transforming Augusta for His glory. I look forward to being a part of it and I hope you are excited and encouraged too.
5 May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. 6 Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. – Romans 15:5-6