TOWN HALL VISION TALK
From June 23, 2019 Meeting
What an honour it is to be able to address you as your lead pastor. I feel like I won the lottery with this job.
The elders and I are pulling in the same direction and doing it with much joy and affection. They are Godly, humble men who want nothing more than to see our Heavenly Father’s will be done here at ACC even as it is in heaven. I am so grateful for the wise choices you made to elect them into their positions of leadership.
The staff is gifted, hard-working, unified and a complete joy to serve with. There is a great sense of camaraderie amongst us and we are filled with both intensity and laughter.
And then there is you! What a gift you are to Jennifer and I. I love coming to work here. I love the thought of seeing you when we gather or bumping into you around town. I love being on mission with you. I love the way you are growing in your desire to be close to Jesus, to listen to Him, to trust Him and to obey Him. I love how you serve. You are coming to realize that you are more than volunteers; you are servants of the Living God. You have been called and gifted and appointed by Jesus Himself to serve alongside Him in reaching this world with His love.
I love being on this adventure together with you. And an adventure is what God has for us. It is an adventure that will be filled with much excitement and joy as well as danger and discouragement. He is asking us to step out of the boat, to feed the masses, to see captives set free.
He has a goal for Sylvan Lake. He wants to save a certain percentage of the people who live here. Care to guess what that percentage might be? ONE HUNDRED. The Bible tells us that God wants that none should perish. It says that Jesus gave Himself as a ransom to save all people. There are many who have fallen into the trap of the devil, who have been taken captive to do his will, but the reason Jesus came was to destroy the work of the devil. This is not a simple task, but He is big enough for the challenge and He is inviting brave people to join Him in His mission to save everyone. And for us, this most definitely includes the people of Sylvan Lake.
I believe that God is inviting us to step out on a new venture; one that will push us beyond ourselves in such a way that reliance on Him will become our new normal, our way of life. Venture can be defined as a risky or daring journey or undertaking. It can also be defined as daring to do something or go somewhere that may be dangerous or unpleasant.
Could God really ask us to do something like that? Doesn’t God just want us to be happy all the time? To be comfortable in our religion and safe in all our activities?
Someone once said that a ship is safe in the harbour, but that is not what ships are made for. I think we can be tempted to create our own little harbours of safety as well. It’s safe when we all come together on a Sunday. It’s safe when we give in a way that doesn’t cramp our style or our budgets. It’s safe when we don’t engage too deeply with our neighbours. It’s safe. Well, at least it’s an illusion of safety.
JFK said, “There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction.”
Mark Zuckerberg echoed this when he said, “The biggest risk is not taking any risk... In a world that is changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”
And Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, said, “There can be no great accomplishment without risk.”
I believe that the Christian life is a life of risk because risk requires faith and, the Bible tells us, without faith it is impossible to please God. Kingdom people are people of faith. Kingdom people are people of risk.
And I believe that this is exactly where God wants us to be. He is inviting us to step out in risk. To reach beyond what is comfortable. To achieve something great.
We are not the first ones in God’s Kingdom to be risk takers. Hebrews 11 is chockfull of risk takers.
· People leaving homes to go to places never heard of.
· People building an ark for a flood they had never seen.
· People engaging in battles against foes that were greater.
· People standing for Jesus no matter what the cost may be.
Some might call them risk takers. The author of Hebrews list them under the title of FAITH.
They trusted in the God who loved them, who called them His own. Who was not ashamed to be their King because of their faith in Him.
What kind of people take risks? Some might say crazy people…and there is some truth to that. But there is another kind that takes risks. People who are so fired up for the possible payoffs that they can’t help but take risks. People who know that without risk there is no reward. People who have a strong degree of confidence in the risk that is being taken.
Maybe the greatest example of risk for reward is found in Jesus Christ Himself. Hebrews said, “For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, scorning its shame.”
He knew that the only way to accomplish His purposes was through the bloody road of the cross. But He took it. Willingly. Courageously. Purposefully. And He did that because He had His eyes fixed on what was coming after…the redemption of all people…His eyes were fixed on you and I.
Now, an argument could be made that it was no risk at all, that Jesus, fully God, knew all along what the outcome would be. But He was also fully man, and in the garden He said to His disciples, “My heart is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” And when His tears fell like drops of blood, He wanted to change course. He wanted the cup removed. He wanted a safer road. But He sacrificed His own will for the will of the Father. It was the Father’s will that trumped all others. And it is our Father’s will today that still must trump all others.
He wants more people to be saved than there are today. He wants more prodigals to be welcomed home. More orphans to be adopted into His family. There are many people in Sylvan Lake who have no idea what unconditional love really is. They have no idea what freedom looks like. They have never experienced one second of their life where they were honestly free from guilt and shame. They have habits and addictions that they cannot break free from. And Jesus wants to save them all. He wants them all connected into a community of believers where they can be encouraged and grow. A community where they can serve with the gifts that God has given them. A community that will stand shoulder to shoulder with them to save their lost friends and families as well. We are going to have to take risks in order for this to happen.
We are going to have step way outside of our comfort zones and reach out the hand of friendship to our neighbours. We are going to have to open our homes and our hearts and our church to people that believe differently than us and act differently than us and talk differently than us.
And when those people want to come and fellowship with us, we are going to have to find a way to make room for them. Our current mode of operation doesn’t allow for that eventuality. We are sitting at a weekly attendance of around 575 people in a room capacity of only 650. We’ve got to create space. In a moment, some of the elders are going to talk about where we see God leading us in the future. For now, I want to share a bit of the plan we are hoping to execute in the next few months.
You may have heard that we are going to be starting a third service this fall. We are going to kick it off on August 18th. It will be at 6 o’clock on Sunday evenings. The preaching, the service style, the kids’ ministry will all be the same as the two morning services. There will be some added perks for the evening service though. There will be times of eating together. There will be a talk-back time after the service where you can ask me questions about the sermon or about faith. And there will be the added benefit of the relaxed atmosphere of an evening time slot. I am looking for 100 people who would commit to populating that service. Their goal would be to serve and pray and attend, to reach out to their neighbours and invite them to join.
Does this mean that those who attend 9 and 11 are off the hook? Not at all. We need every person at ACC to be attending and praying and serving, to be reaching out to their neighbours. We need to take risks. We need to grow, because I believe that is God’s vision for Sylvan Lake.
Thank you again for the opportunity to lead here. Thank you for trusting me. Thank you for praying for me. Jennifer and I take this responsibility very seriously and are convinced that God is doing great things amongst us and is going to do even greater things in the years to come.
I say all of this for the glory of God, for our great joy and for the hope of the world.