Slide 1: In John’s twelfth chapter, Jesus tells his disciples one more time who he is, “I am the Son of Man vs 23”, what God has called him to be, “to die as the Savior of the world and draw all men to himself vs 24” and who he is doing it for, “the people who hate their lives vs 25.” Those three things together have defined Jesus’ life and lifestyle on earth. Combined they form what Jesus call’s “his hour vs 27.” We know what that hour will be, don’t we? It is the hour, figuratively speaking, when Jesus is crucified on a cross. Everything, and I mean everything, that Jesus did was done for the express purpose of making sure that he ended up dying on the cross. The cross was his life goal. The cross was his focal point, it was his reason for living and being alive. Jesus tells us too in this passage that whoever intends to “serve me vs 26”, to be what we call a disciple of Christ, a believer, a Christian, must “follow me vs 26” We all know what he meant, we have grown up, many of us, hearing it repeated over and over again. Jesus said “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”
Today I am going to help you understand what Jesus meant when he said that each one of us here in this room needs to take up our cross daily. Many of us don’t carry any cross at all, much less do it every day. That is not your fault; It our fault as pastors and church leaders. We haven’t taught you in clear ways what Jesus meant. We haven’t shown you how Jesus figured it out for himself and how you can figure it out for yourself. We haven’t continued to remind you that once you do find your cross and start carrying it every day how in Jesus’ own words, Slide 2: “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12) Even greater things, even greater miracles, than Jesus did if we will just take the time to figure out what our cross is and then decide to carry it each and every day.
Slide 3:Today, as one of your pastors and leaders, I am going to change all of that. I am going to teach you how Jesus decided on his cross to carry. Then I am going to help you start a process to figure out what your personal cross looks like by getting you to ask yourself three simple questions. And then I am going to invite you to join with me, your pastoral team, the elders, the church council, and others in the church in the Fellowship Hall on Wednesday night for a vision meeting where we will ask ourselves as a church those same three questions. We will take time to discern together what cross we are to carry daily as whole body. And then we will pursue it with zeal together in the name of Christ. After today, if you decide not to carry your cross daily as a disciple of Jesus, it will not be my fault, it will be yours. I will do all I can to help you but I cannot carry it for you. That is something that each of us must do for ourselves.
Slide 4 So what are the three simple questions that can lead us to such greatness in the kingdom? They are …
Question 1: Who are we?
There are five things that I believe people who come to Neffsville Mennonite Church need and come here to receive.
i. They are that we all…
- Need to be loved by someone and to be able to love someone else back.
- Need a trusted friend; someone who will give them support and guidance through life’s ups and downs; someone who understands us.
- Need more than just to have a good idea; we want to do something with it, with other, for others.
- Need things done well and want to do things well; we believe that when we add our best to God’s best great things begin to happen.
- Need the things that they do to matter.
ii. Slide 5 These are the reasons why we focus our ministry on five core values.
- The Love of God
- Christ Centeredness
- Excellence (God’s Kingdom Greatness)
- Relevance & Vitality
iii. How are we going to go about doing those five things?
- By inviting people, including people and allowing as many people as desire to invest in creating a group of people who gathers together in a place where everyone experiences five core things.
- Friendship and counsel
- An integrated life and lifestyle
Slide 6 Question 2: Who is our neighbor?
Question 3: What is God calling us to do or become?
If we answer those three questions about ourselves personally and then about ourselves as a church we will be able to understand what our cross is to be. Knowing our cross that we are to carry, or the sweet spot as Susan Beaumont of Alban institute, or the BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) talked about by Jim Collins author of the book Good to Great, will provide for us a clarity of mission that will give us the strength to say yes to the things that we need to say yes to and no to the things that we say no to. Why? Because we will know what is our finish line. And we will be able to focus on that rather than being tossed to and fro by the winds of the world.
Some churches call all this a mission statement. But it is not really a mission statement. This is not about writing a “mission statement.” This is about going on a mission! It is about coming up with a clear and compelling unifying focal point of effort and catalyst for team spirit. It is the finish line, so we can know when we have achieved the goal.
Let me show you how it works using Jesus as an example.
Slide 7 I will talk about each circle
Slide 8 Let me summarize
Slide 9 The place that these three answers overlap is called the sweet spot. It is about coming knowing for ourselves the clear and compelling unifying focal point of effort and catalyst for team spirit. It is the finish line, so we can know when we have achieved the goal. It is what we will be able to be the best at. It is our purpose. The thing that we were uniquely created for. So what was Jesus’ sweet spot. Any ideas?
For Jesus, his sweet spot was the cross. Because of who he was, who his neighbor was and what God had called him to do and be, he clearly understood that Slide 11 “I need to come from heaven, be born of a virgin, live as a human for thirty-three years, travel as a rabbi for three explaining the heart of God and the kingdom to the lost in Israel and then he needed to go to Jerusalem, sacrifice myself for humanity through the hands of evil religious men, die and then on the third day be resurrected by God and ascend into heaven.” That was Jesus’ elevator speech. His thirty-second articulation of who he was, who his neighbor was what God was calling him to be and do. His sweet spot? Slide 12 The cross. Plain and simple. Only he could die on a cross as a sacrifice for all and it make a difference. It only worked because it was a perfect union of the answers to those three questions that we have been talking about for Jesus.
Nothing stood in his way and all of his life was directed towards the one goal of carrying his cross; it was the one sweet spot for his life. He carried it daily by daily doing what he needed to do to arrive at that hour, the hour of the cross, the hour of his glorification. He was so intent, so clear that that was his everything that his last words before he breathed his last breath on the cross were, Slide 13 “It is finished.” John 19:30
That is what we are talking about. That is what we are trying to come up with together. Not a mission statement but a statement of our mission; in clear, concise terms. We need to find our sweet spot as individuals and as a church or we are going to waffle around and never become everything that God wants us to be. O we will do good things and maybe a lot of good things. But we will never become great in the Kingdom of heaven and I want to be great in the kingdom of heaven by serving all with clarity and focus of purpose, aligning all my resources to a few, maybe just one great thing that God wants us to do that no one else in the world can do because we are the only ones in the world that can do it.
What we need to remember is that your cross, your sweet spot, will look different from mine because we will answer the questions differently. But that is great. You are to carry your cross not mine or even Jesus’. He already carried his. You don’t need to do it. But you do need to carry yours if you are going to be a disciple that Jesus is pleased with. That is sure.
And as a church we need to carry our cross. We need to figure out that one cross that only we can carry as a church because of how God has uniquely formed us. It will not look like other churches and that is great. God does not need another LCBC, Calvary, Akron Mennonite or any other church you might think that we should look like. They are not us and we are not them and our cross, our sweet spot is different whether we like it or not. So what must we do? We must gather together and discern together next Wednesday night and decide together what cross Christ is inviting us to carry together. If we do Slide 14 “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12)