Over the past month and a half, we have been walking through who we are as a church, looking at our ethos. There are some inherent complexities to this process–just saying who you are doesn't necessarily mean or change anything. Declaring who we are a church does not necessarily make us that.
We need to remember that in this series–always–communally, declaration of identity is ineffective and possibly off-putting. Declaring identity can be wrong or offensive. Declaring belief can be wrong or offensive. The goal of this series is not simple declaration, but process.
We have talked through why we plant, what we believe, valuing real relationship, and focusing on walking towards Christ/spiritual reality. Today we will talk about valuing ownership. This is not a moment of these things being systematically tattooed on you somewhere without your consent. This is a moment of processing, struggling and internalizing.
We are acknowledging that identity is complex. We are acknowledging and even celebrating that we all have different experiences, that we are all in different places. And with those acknowledgements, we are walking in process together.
- Follow Jesus
- Focus on Scripture
- Value everyone's story
- Build real relationships
- Seek spiritual reality
- Encourage everyone to take personal ownership of faith, church, and community
- See that we are better together
- And do this again and again so that people can have an opportunity to walk to church
Today we come to ownership. As we walk into this attribute/topic, I want you to reminisce for a moment. Remember back to some of your early possessions or purchases.
When you were a kid, what is something that you remember buying with your own money?
With those stories of early ownership in your mind, I want you to remember some of the things you were taught about how to care for your things. Dig back to these moments that maybe were a part of shaping who you are today.
What were some early lessons you were taught on how to care for your things?
How well did you live out those lessons?
So there are kid ownership moments: Put your bike in the garage. Don’t leave your baseball glove in the grass. Don’t forget your backpack on the bus. Those are real moments where there may have been times of success and failure.
And then there are adult moments of ownership, times when something happens–something terrible or messy or expensive or offensive or unusual–and oh, boy, someone is going to have to do something about “that.” And the adult moment is when you look around the room and realize that there is no one else to pawn it off on, no one else to do it for you. You look around the room and you realize no one else is going to do it if you don’t do it. Or you look around the room and you are the only one in the room and you can’t just run away and hide.
These are adult moments–moments when something happens and you are the one responsible. Welcome to adulthood. The dog poops on the floor or the car breaks down or the toilet won’t flush or the door won’t open. I am not going to ask you to recall a specific moment when you found yourself in a “real adult moment,” but I am going to ask you how your tend to respond when you find yourself there.
In a moment when things are happening and you look around the room and realize, Wait! This is my responsibility and I have to do something. I need to step up. I can’t run and hide; I need to take action. How do you tend to respond?
How do you tend to respond when you face an overwhelming moment and then realize that you are (need to be) responsible?
One more question before we dive into some Biblical text. We are taking some extra time to build foundation today as we walk into a complex topic–being a church where people take ownership. Remembering our earlier conversations:
What are the results / consequences of people not taking responsibility for things they are responsible for, both long term and short term?
In Scripture there are a several well known shepherds: Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, the Old Testament prophet Amos. In fact the theme of shepherding is overwhelming in Scripture.
Jacob, on his deathbed, summarized his life. He declared that God had been his “shepherd all of his life to this day,” and sought the same blessing for the next generation:
Then he blessed Joseph and said, “May the God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked faithfully, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, the Angel who has delivered me from all harm—may he bless these boys. May they be called by my name and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac, and may they increase greatly on the earth.” (Genesis 48:15-16)
In Psalm 23, David addresses God’s care for him by seeing God as his shepherd:
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:1-4)
Moses before God, prayed for his successor so the Isrealites would not be like sheep without a shepherd:
Moses said to the Lord, “May the Lord, the God who gives breath to all living things, appoint someone over this community to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the Lord’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd.” (Numbers 27:15-17)
David when facing Goliath banked on his experiences he had from his time as a shepherd:
But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Samuel 17:34-36)
Isaiah uses the picture of a shepherd caring for lambs to illustrate how God cares for us, the vulnerable:
See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. (Isaiah 40:10-11)
Jesus told the parable of the good shepherd as He was illustrating God’s love for us:
“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.” (Matthew 18:10-14)
Jesus knew this theme. The disciples knew this theme. The Pharisees who were in audience with Jesus in John 10 knew this theme. And Jesus said:
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.” (John 10:11-13)
How do you know when you see a good shepherd?
As we process what it is to be part of a church that values ownership, we need to process that Jesus is the good shepherd and that we are called to be like Him.
Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. (1 John 2:6)
Jesus, at the last supper with His disciples, gave them a new command:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)
Jesus is the good shepherd. We are called to be Christlike. Looking back through those shepherd theme verses for a moment, feel the theme building:
In Genesis 48
- The shepherd is constant
- The shepherd is consistent
- The shepherd is in it for the long haul
In Psalm 23
- The shepherd is looking out for the sheep
- The shepherd is providing for the sheep
- The shepherd is constantly with the sheep
In 1 Samuel 17
- The shepherd protects
- The shepherd puts it all on the line for the sake of the sheep
In Isaiah 40
- The shepherd sees those that are in need
- The shepherd gives extra care for those in need
- The shepherd is gentle
In Matthew 18
- The shepherd cares for lost ones
- The shepherd does not give up
- The shepherd loves his/her sheep
Lastly, Jesus as the good shepherd in John 10
- The good shepherd is not a hired hand that when things get complicated, difficult, risky, he or she runs off, but the good shepherd takes responsibility
Today we have talked about early moments of ownership in your life and what you were taught about ownership as a child. We talked about moments when you realize that you are responsible and about the consequences of the absence of responsibility. We have talked about shepherding and what sets one apart as being a good one. And now we end with a moment of processing personal ownership.
When you are a guest at someone's house, you don’t necessarily scoop their litter box or make their bed or empty their dishwasher or trim their hedges or organize the cabinets. You might if you were asked, but it would feel strange to just do those things.
As followers of Christ, we are called to be like Christ. As followers of Christ, we have responsibility and ownership.
When it is your house, you do have the responsibility to scoop the litter box and make the bed and empty the dishwasher and trim the hedges and organize the cabinets.
In this series we have repeatedly revisited Paul’s illustration of the church being like a body (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12). In the Body of Christ, no part is expendable; no part is complete alone. We need each other. You are needed. To embody this, ownership is a key element.
Where are you called to be the good shepherd, not a hired hand?
What does it look like to be an owner in that environment?
What does it look like to be a hired hand in that environment?
Take It Deeper Questions
- Read John 10:11-13.
- What is something you have always wanted to own, but never have?
- What is something that others seem to want to own, but you wouldn’t want to own it?
- Why does a “hired hand” run away when things get difficult?
- Why doesn’t an “owner” run away when things get difficult?
- How is ownership gained? How is it lost?
- What does Christlike ownership in a church community look like? How do you know when you see it? How do you know when you have it?
Bible Reading Plan
- Ruth 2
- Ruth 3
- Ruth 4
- 1 Samuel 1
- 1 Samuel 2