WELCOME to Harvest Church – Series Kick Off…5.19.12

This weekend at Harvest we kicked off our newest series, WELCOME to Harvest Church. Over the next four weeks we will be taking a look at Harvest Church, our beliefs, theology, doctrine, and reason for planting the church. Here is the first weeks printed manuscript.

Parking Lot Talk…
Some of my favorite times in ministry as a youth pastor were the moments, sometimes hours, spent after our youth group meeting, talking with students and/or leaders. It was always a wide range of topics. From talking about that nights teaching topic, to issues happening within the church, to upcoming events or activities, even dreaming about crazy things like, ministry, space, and the future.

Sometimes the conversations would last a couple of minutes. And sometimes the conversations would last for a couple of hours. But whether they were short or long, these conversations were sweet and unforgettable.

No one could have predicted that some of those parking lot conversations would ever amount to anything other than good conversations. But beyond the deepening of friendships and the growth of students, something unexpected happened. A seed was planted.

I am so excited about this new topic. Tonight, we start a four part series I’m calling, WELCOME to Harvest Church. I’m excited about this series because over the next 4 weeks, we are going to look into what Harvest Church is all about. Why we started the church, what we believe, our theological foundations, our doctrinal positions, and what we believe God has called us to do as a church.

I’m excited because we’re going to talk about some important topics. These topics have both temporal and eternal implications. That means, what we look at has a place in the here and now as well as beyond this time and place.

And I’m excited because as a church, we will look at what makes us a church, not just an organization, but what makes us the children of God called by God to do an amazing work in his name!

A Seed is Dead Until It Lives…
So how many of you enjoy gardening? I do. I actually really enjoy it. You see, growing up in the city, there isn’t much space for lawns, vegetable gardens, flower beds, bushes, and trees. Sure we had parks and community playgrounds, but they weren;t always the safest places. And my backyard was a ten by fifteen foot slab of concrete. So I love everything about working in the dirt. From mowing, to raking, to planting, to the harvest, I enjoy the whole process of growing things. But it always amazes me how these little tiny seeds produce so much good stuff.

A seed is essentially an embryo, which stays dormant until the circumstances and environment surrounding it causes it to germinate, or sprout. Did you know that some seeds, in their dormant state must germinate within 2 weeks or the embryo dies. Other seeds, like certain kinds of lotus seeds, can stay dormant for thousands of years and still produce.

Like the Church in Acts…
A number of years ago, a seed was planted. Until just recently, that seed laid dormant. The seed was an idea, a question really. “What would it look like if we started a church?” You see, it was in the parking lot, late one night, when we asked that question. What would it be like if we started a church that looked more like the church in the book of Acts and lees like the church we see today?

You see, we fell in love with the church in the book of Acts because at that time, the church we see in Chapter 2 was the purest form of the church. I believed it’s what the church was meant to be.

If you have your Bibles, turn with me to the book of Acts. This past fall we looked closely at these verses, and I have no intent to re-preach that series. But I do want us to look at these verses to see what it is that we fell in love with.

Acts 2:42-45…
– The Fellowship of the Believers
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

In these verses, we see the beginning of God’s plan for the church. It was what the church was meant to be; a grouping of people devotedly following the way of Jesus, enjoying the fellowship of all things common, caring for others by meeting their needs, proclaiming the gospel message of the Christ, and worshipping the God of all creation. That is what the church is all about! That is what the church is called to be!

But we’ve come a long way from that picture of the church. The seed that God planted in our hearts that night in the parking lot was a seed for a church that would produce the kind fruit we see in the early chapters of the book of Acts.

The Purpose of Harvest Church…
You see, we want to be that church. A church not entangled with procedures and policies. A church not slaved to the way things have always been. A church not ensnared by a political agenda. But a church sure of what it believes and determined to speak truth. A church that desires to see peoples lives changed. A church who cares for those in need and does what it can to serve and care for them.

In those verse that we just read in Acts 2, we find five characteristics, five foundational building blocks that we believe the church is called to pursue and live out. These five purposes are what help to define for us what Harvest is all about. It’s what we strive to do and be. It’s the standard that we have adopted to as we consider the ministries we hope to see be established here are Harvest. And it’s what we’ll use to evaluate the effectiveness of our ministry in the future.

In Acts 2 the church,
Worships God as they come together to break bread and share in prayer, meeting together regularly, praising God and enjoying the fellowship of each other.
saw the value of discipleship in that they devoted themselves to the teachings of the apostle, having everything in common.
pursued ministry as they cared for those in need, using their gifts and resources they, sold their possessions and care to anyone who had a need.
enjoyed the fellowship as they met together to share meals and experience life together.
proclaimed the gospel message of Jesus Christ as God added to their numbers daily those He was saving.
Worship. Discipleship. Ministry. Fellowship. Evangelism. The first church obediently mastered these biblical principles, and God blessed them with amazing growth and ministry!

But that wasn’t a there and then kind of a thing. Today, God is still in the business of blessing his church with growth and ministry. For churches who recognize the biblical call to worship, discipleship, ministry, fellowship, and evangelism, he creates the opportunity to live as the church. We are joining God and those churches by adopting these five principles as the foundational building blocks for Harvest Church.

To help us remember these principles and why Harvest Church exists, we have fashioned a statement of purpose. And that statement of purpose is something we want you to know, so we print it, every weekend on the back of the bulletin. From time to time it will appear on the welcome announcement loop. You will find on the website, and eventually around our future build and meeting space.

– The purpose of Harvest Church is to REACH people with the Good New message of Jesus Christ, to TEACH them to become fully DEVOTED FOLLOWERS of Him, and to HONOR God as they SERVE others.
To reach people with the message of God’s love through his son Jesus…
To teach them…
To become fully devoted followers…
To honor God…
To serve others along the way…

This is why Harvest Church was started. This is who we desire to be. This is the church we want people to see.

The Dormant Seed That Sprouted…
It was about 8 years ago that the seed was planted. But the seed laid in the dirt dormant, waiting for the circumstances and the environment to change, providing the things it needed to cause it to sprout with life.

There have been many, many more conversations since that night in the parking lot. We have been split up to to pursue other ministries. At times we’ve struggled, we’ve dreamed, we’ve wondered, and we waited.

And when the time was right, God caused that seed to sprout. A little shoot of life began to poke its leafy head out of the dirt. With much prayer, that little sprout began to grow, taking shape and form. A church was beginning formed.

I want to close with this short story we see in Matthew 9. Jesus is traveling from town to town, healing the sick, teaching about the kingdom of God, and demonstrating for his followers what it means to follow him. Large crowds gather around him, to hear and see for themselves who this Jesus was and what he what up to.

From town to town it was the same, crowd after crowd. People hurting and in need, desperate for the one thing that would free them from the lives they lived, snared by their sin.

Matthew 9:36-38 says this,
36 When [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

When we finally gave in to what God was doing, this verse echoed in my heart. Harvest isn’t a response to the frustrations and bitternesses of past experiences of what church was. Harvest is a Church that find’s it’s calling in these verses. We desire to be the workers that God is sending into his harvest fields. That is why Harvest Church exists!

And over the next three week, it is my hope to introduce you to this church!

Let’s pray.

– jay

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