Harold Bullock: Many years ago, my wife and I were privileged to start the congregation here, and it’s been fun over time to see God bring people to Christ, bring people, already believers, along and join us. It’s been also tremendous to see families develop, and the life pass on into another generation. It’s great the point that we’re at right now. We’re in a season of transition; this year I will be in process of transitioning out of the senior pastorate. I’ll still be a part of Hope, and hopefully by the end of June, another person will be leading as pastor. I’ll be helping out, so we’ve been looking at what kind of things are really important to us as a congregation. Hope has developed as actually a church, not just an audience. You guys, you’re the ones who have bought in; you’re the ones who make this thing go forward. It’s been a privilege to lead you. Leading is a lot more fun than dragging, and you have been ready to go.
We have been taking a look at the things that are very important, and for a few moments at the beginning of my message I’ve been sharing with you a few things about the pastor and the senior pastor and what he needs to do. Just a brief one this morning and then we’ll launch into the major message. What does a pastor do? We looked at his basic roles in church life last time. Here it is; according to the Scripture, he’s supposed to set the example in Christian living. He’s never perfect; he makes mistakes, so he also ought to set the example in clearing up messes he makes. We all get it wrong sometimes, but the pattern of life needs to be this person sets an example of what Christ is like. You can check the verses here, Titus 2:7-8; 1 Peter 5:3. TItus 2:7 says to set the believers an example in speech and conduct, and 1 Peter 5 talks about how we lead by example not by lording it over people. One translation says, “not acting like little tin gods.” Well, that’s a good summary; we don’t lord it over people. We lead by moving toward Christ fast and doing it in situations.
Secondly, they accurately teach how to live Scriptural Truth. The issue in the Scripture if you check Titus 2, verse 1, the issue in Scripture is truth, Scriptural truth, but the big issue is how to actually practically live it out. Titus 2:1 says, “...teach the things that are fitting for sound doctrine.” The command is not so much teach sound doctrine; you need to do that, but teach the behavior, the life that goes with it. Then there’s a long list over the next several verses of specific ways that a life reflects the Truth. We’ve tried to do that; they need to be able to do this. They deal well with oppositional people. You would never believe that church life has people who get crossways, would you? It happens. I heard a man, many years ago, talking to a group of church planters. He had started a church and started a movement, and his word to church planters was “If you don’t like conflict, don’t go into church planting.” I don’t like conflict, but what he’s saying is the absolute truth because I’ve planted a church. There are troublesome people along the way, and then we all make mistakes. A pastor has to have the courage, and these are very strong verses right here. A pastor has to have the courage to deal with oppositional people and to do it gently, not just pull out his baseball bat and whack them. You can check the verses.
He leads and oversees or pilots, like the pilot of a ship, pilots the church’s ministry for the welfare of the people. Churches are always going somewhere, either forward or down, and leadership has to look ahead and aggressively lead people in a direction that’s helpful. Church life tends to move slowly. You don’t just rocket off into a new direction, but you do have to lead people there. I once heard a...read a guy’s statement as he went to a new church. He was a pastor, been called to this new church, and at the start of his first message, he said, “I am your new pastor. You have called me to lead you where you don’t want to go. If I’m successful, you’ll hate me. If I’m not successful, you’ll despise me. Please pray for me.” Well, I’ve seen guys face those situations. We’ve not had that problem, but there’s still the need to move forward. This person has to actually aggressively lead. These are key actions that they do, and we’ll look at some more things about their qualifications the next time.
Right now, we are taking a look at things important to us as a church. We have entitled this series of messages, God Dreams, and have been taking a look at key parts of the things that God’s laid on our hearts. We do have a theme, a direction, in our life together, and God has led to this. There’s a long-term direction, and then there are certain things true about who we are. They’re true about God, too, much better. Far more things are true about God, but we get a piece of His action in the world. So in the series of messages, we’ve used the picture here as representing the kinds of things He’s calling us toward and the frame representing who we are.
You’re a unique individual. You’re an awful lot like a lot of other people, but you’re just different. So it is with churches. There are a lot of things about us that are like other churches, but there are things that are just different, as God has led us along. Those things represent the frame of the picture. Because the calling God gives us is in terms of who we are. His God Dream, as we are using it, is something that starts in the mind of God and then is given to us. So, we’ve been taking a look at this frame first, before we look at the actual picture. That’s not a picture of where we’re going. That may be a long way from here. We will have a definition of where we’re headed, but first we have been using this frame.
Last week, we took a look at our mission. Our mission is what it is we’re trying to do. Mission answers the question, “What are you doing?” What? What we’re doing is inviting people to discover and experience God’s ways. His ways are always better than our ways. We tend not to know them, so we have to discover them. But having known them intellectually, we still need to experience them. That’s where the fun is. We’ve experienced God’s ways, those of us who walk with Him, and we’d love to see more people do that. It leads to life.
On this side of the frame is values. Values are the “why’s.” If the mission is the what, the red (the values) are the why’s. God’s not only interested in what we’re doing; He’s interested in why we’re doing it. Our motives need to align with Him and His ways, so we’ve been taking a look at the things that are really important to us as we make decisions in the congregation. We all have a value scale. There are things, to you, that are more important and are less important. There’s a picture of it right here. The things that are just not important, to someone else that might be rather important, but to you, they’re just not. Then, things that are just a little bit important, we get to them every now and then. Things that are pretty important, we notice those frequently. Things that are more important, they tend to bug us. We get out of joint over those.
Then, things that are most important, those we guard, protect, and make our decisions by. We all have this range; God actually has His scale. One of the things you discover as you grow is, “Yeah, that’s more important to Him than it is to me. I need to work on that.” His values are very healthy; our values, they exist. We get them out of our background. We get them out of experiences we have; we get them out of things we want, but we have a scale. It’d be fun for you to just think about your most important’s and how that compare to Jesus Christ’s. It’d be fun to read through a book of the Bible, like maybe Matthew or Luke, and find out what’s important to Him and compare that with yourself. Anyway, we all have the value scale.
We want, actually as human beings, we want to want noble things. We would like to have...we’d like to be this kind of person. We admire that so much in someone else. It could be punctuality; it could be thoughtfulness. It could be something else. We admire that; however, as we live our lives, we just never get around to whatever it is. We have values that we admire and then values that we actuate. Actual values or things that guide your decision making are operational values. You can...that’s a good term for them. They guide actual choices. You do what’s most important to you; I do, too. What’s most important to me often needs to be revised. In a given situation, you do what’s most important.
Organizations have values, too. As people lead organizations, they develop patterns of making choices, and the actual choices made depend on the real values, the operational values. We’ve been taking a look at ours. We’ve used the picture. There are three facets in real success. As you’re trying to move forward in the world and deal with life, you always have to deal with three things. God. You always have to deal with people, unless you’re at the South Pole. Then you may have two or three you have to deal with. You always have to deal with people, and you always have to deal with making progress, moving toward some kind of a goal, accomplishing something. For us in Hope, we deal with God this way; we want to please Him fully. That guides our decision making; it actually does. We talked about that last week. Then we love people wisely; the love is genuine, and we’re willing to sacrifice. It needs to be for what God says is good and not for what He says is foolish. We try to love people wisely.
The third facet, moving toward a goal, we actually have a third value that guides us. The question marks on this picture are what we’re going to talk about today. So, let’s move into it. As we move towards a goal, the third value that guides us is to steward opportunity faithfully. We please God fully, love people wisely, and then we want to steward opportunity faithfully. We don’t often use that word, steward. It means to manage or look after someone else’s affairs or property. You’re a steward, then you...someone else owns it, and you’re the one who manages it.
We want to manage opportunity faithfully. Opportunity is a set of circumstances that make it possible to do something. That something could turn out to be foolish. It could turn out to be really profitable. Opportunities come up, and God actually sends them to us. Faithfully means we stick to our duties and our promises. What we promise God and the duties He gives us--stay with those. Often in the middle of opportunity to really get what you want, you’re tempted to go outside of God’s boundaries. We don’t do that. We need to stay faithful; we need to stick with what He has said and His duties He’s assigned us.
Ephesians 5:15 says it this way: “So be careful how you live…” The implication is thinking about it and acting precisely. “...Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise…” Use good sense. “...Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.” The idea of evil days is that it’s just never a good time to do God’s will. Many, many times the opportunity comes when you’re dead tired or when you’ve already been up 22 hours or right in the middle of the refreshment you were going to get. Or, all kinds of situations arise; we make the most of it. It’s never going to be convenient, so you take what you have and you push into it to make the most of it.
To steward opportunity faithfully, there are four things that guide us. The first one is intentionality. As we’re trying to move into the future, as we’re trying to assess what kinds of things we need to do and not do, we do intentional things. “The discerning person sets his face toward wisdom , but the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth.” The future is full of possibilities. Yeah, but in the middle of all the possibilities, there are some things that are really helpful and really ought to be done. You have to be intentional about those things.
Thoughtless actions usually lead to a mess. I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed that or not. It’s words well chosen that tend to lead to peace. Whenever you just pop off emotionally to someone, it tends not to go well. If you’re making a cake, some of you have a gift of baking and you just sort of know what to do. For most of us, if we don’t follow directions, we just start making it up ourselves. It doesn’t go that well. When I was 14, I spent overnight with a friend whose parents left early the next morning. We got up and made breakfast for ourselves. We wanted to make gravy. I had never made gravy before. We checked, and where I grew up, you made gravy with lard. There was not lard, so we used butter. The gravy was very interesting; it tasted almost like gravy. If you held your head back, you didn’t have to swallow; it would just slide down. It was guess work; it wasn’t intelligent intention. Don’t act thoughtlessly; understand what the Lord’s will is. You understand what God wants and you intentionally move in that direction.
To create something good, we have to be intentional. That means that we think and plan and act with purpose toward specific goals. We set goals. We’re doing this intentionally. In church life, if things are not intentional they usually go weird or just deteriorate. Intentional action is very important to us. We deliberately choose events and programs that advance our mission. We’re trying to do this thing. We want to figure out how to get there. We rigorously evaluate our goals, and we’ll alter our methods. We’ve changed things many, many, many times. In the early days, we said besides God the one thing that would be true about us is we would change what we needed to to be effective. Everything else might change, but that would not. That’s helped us through the years. We clearly communicate the goals and expectations that we’re aiming for. A lot of thought goes into what we’re doing. A lot of thought goes into...whenever we present you with an opportunity, we’re presenting you with something that’s not just an activity to take up your time. That’s not the purpose. We’re presenting you with something that will actually...might actually be of help to you. We work on this.
To steward opportunity faithfully, we guide by intentionality; we also guide by integrity. We act with integrity. “Therefore, having put away falsehood…” the New Testament says, “...let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor…” Then again in Proverbs, “To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.” God really is looking for hearts that will just do what’s right and what’s just to people. Right before God and just toward people...so these concerns guide us as we try to make decisions as a church. Over the years, we have operated this way. We don’t lie; we speak the truth. Integrity means we live the honest, open life to which God calls us. So as you’re around us, you’ll discover that there’s a lot of coherence between what we say and what we do. We’re not perfect, but there’s a high level of coherence here. We don’t schmooze people. We don’t just try to flatter or draw people forward by deception. We don’t do that.
We also...we operate within boundaries; this is a part of integrity. Boundaries of the Bible--if Scripture prohibits it, we don’t do it. We operate within its boundaries, but also the boundaries of the law...local, state, federal...how people are dealt with and how we deal with finances, how we operate. We want to be a positive force in our community, but we stay within the bounds of the law. We report on finances quarterly. Some of you’ve seen those...to let people know where we’re at and how things have happened. Then, we have a third party, an outside firm that comes in annually and does a review of all our financials so that everything is above board.
Because we want to do integrity, we make decisions in line with reality. We do operate by faith, but we also have to deal with the reality God puts us in. So, we make decisions by reality, and if we make a mistake, we admit it. Very often, it’s easy to make a mistake and just sort of whistle along and pretend that you never made one, but we admit it. Last year we missed...we made a mistake on financial projections because of things that were changing in our congregation. About mid-year, we admitted it, and as leaders, took responsibility for making everything work out right. And, you rose to the challenge to help move things forward. We deal with reality, and we communicate. Whenever we communicate about things, we communicate appropriately, but truthfully, with clarity and accuracy.
We also operate with intelligent safeguards. I don’t know about you, but I have a human nature. My human nature means I can make mistakes. Human nature means that we can all get in positions where we do wrong. So as we conduct church life, we have safeguards set in place--financially, relationally, morally. We operate with integrity. We also operate with excellence. We’re going to be faithful stewards; if we’re going to really stick with the duties God has given us and manage the way He wishes then excellence is a part of that.
Colossians 3:23-24 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart…” This is actually written to slaves; at the time, many Christians were slaves, and he’s addressing slaves. He says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart…” If you’re a slave, you can work at stuff just resenting what’s happening in life and the people you have to serve. This is a very different attitude. Work at it with all your heart; put your heart into it. “...as working for…” Who? The master? No. “...the Lord, not for man...It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” So for us as a church as we tackle projects as we try to do things, we work toward excellence. We realize that whatever we’re doing, we’re doing it for Christ. It might be a cleanup day; it may be trying to work on group life. We want to give Him an excellent gift; since this is done for Him, we’d really like to present something to Him that is nice, that’s excellent.
Excellence means we do the best we can with the resources we have available in order to honor God. We do the best we can; there are people who can draw far better than I can. My family would testify to that, but if I end up in a situation where I need to make a drawing for moving things forward, I’d be very smart to delegate it if I could. But if I have to do it, it needs to be the best drawing that Harold can do. It won’t be as good as some other people, but it needs to be the best I can. So as a church, we have certain abilities; we have certain things we do extremely well. We have some things that are easy for us; other things are a challenge. Whatever it is we’re working on, we want to do the best we can with the resources available.
If someone gave us $20 million for a project, we could probably do a lot of things with that. If we have 20 bucks for the project, we’re going to have to be very creative. But given the resources we have, we want to do the best we can. Resources involve your gifting, your time available; they involve the money available. They involve the emotional energy that we have. What we’re not aiming for is perfection. We want to do something perfect for Christ! When we get to heaven, we will do that. This side of heaven...excellent...we want to do the best we can, and then come back the next time and do even better if we can given what we’ve learned. We go the extra mile to reach excellence. We’ll put in extra effort.
We also recognize that how something is done is very important. It’s as important as what’s being done. We act accordingly. We don’t burn people in the process of achieving goals. We don’t do that because when you burn people to produce the magnificent thing, you dishonor God. Our number two value is we love people wisely. We don’t love things and use people. We love people and use things, so how it’s done is important. We’re willing to call people to go above and beyond, but we don’t use them. Our second core value is very important. We love people wisely.
We also evaluate to make improvements for the next time. First time..I have sheet rocked houses...I’ve done tape and bedding out of necessity. I started when I did my first room...I started in a closet for two reasons. One, it was small, and two, nobody would see it. By the time I got finished with the closet, I was doing a little bit better than I used to. So I went to the next most un-viewed place, and I learned more. I got better and better, and finally, I did a decent job. We do better the next time as we learn, so this is a part of who we are. We evaluate to make improvements.
We also, to steward faithfully, we act with effectiveness. We want to actually accomplish some things. The Lord Jesus said, talking to the Father, “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.” Actually, accomplishment is a part of the way God does things. Accomplishment is important, but we want to be effective. I love this out of the The Living Bible, Proverbs 13:19, “It’s pleasant to see plans develop…” You plan something; it starts happening. “...That is why fools refuse to give them up even when they are wrong.” Ohhh, have you ever done that? Have you ever thrown good money after bad? Have you ever just worked and worked and worked because you just really wanted to see it happen, and it just turned out to be really dumb? Along the way to realizing it’s dumb, it might be good to stop, revise, and do what’s more effective. Proverbs warns us.
Effectiveness means that we regularly evaluate our goals and methods, and we update them where we need to. So, we set goals, and we achieve them. We plan, but whenever we plan, we’re thinking about being effective not just this month or this quarter. We also look further into the future and see what the impact’s going to be. Sometimes short-term plans lead to long-term problems, so we’re concerned about that. We’ll change, adopt, adapt programs. We’ll stop programs if we need to or methods or procedures. If they’re not working, we’ll stop them. As we’ve gone through the years, we’ve had no programs that are sacred cows. God is sacred, and what’s important to God is sacred. How we do things, sometimes it’s effective for awhile, and then circumstances change. It’s no longer effective. As a friend of mine once said, “Sacred cows make great hamburger.” We just don’t have programs that are sacred cows.
These four things are really important to us as we move into the future. They describe...they give us major indicators on how we’re going to steward opportunity faithfully. As your a part of Hope, you’ll recognize that we do things intentionally, and we act with integrity. We aim for excellence, and then we aim for effectiveness. We’re willing to keep modifying in order to be...to make progress in all those areas. Let me put the chart up again for you, this diagram. I think we have it; if we don’t have it, I didn’t send it to them. You have the three-dimensional diagram...God, people, and then the question marks. The question marks are steward opportunity faithfully. May God grant us power, insight, wisdom, direction, and the energy to go after the opportunities and to do it faithfully.
Next week, we’ll be addressing another part of the frame. We’re going to take a look at strategy. God actually wants you to come to know Him, and you do that as you yield your life to Jesus Christ. He moves into your life, and then things begin happening between you and Him. He wants you to grow in those things, also. If you’re a child, you just grow automatically; you don’t have to work on it. You just eat, sleep, get up, run around, and you grow. Spiritually though, growth has to be intentional. You actually have to do some things, and the Bible talks about these things. He wants you to grow and develop as His child, and He wants you to grow to spiritual maturity. At Hope we have a strategy that you can utilize to grow. There are things you can participate in that will actually be of a genuine help to you, and you’ll grow in your understanding and your experience of God and His ways of living. Next week, we’re going to take a look at our strategy. I’d invite you to join us and look at the opportunities to grow.