Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. - Psalm 119:105

Pastors

Building a Church of Hope

By Dr. Richard J. Krejcir
This may sound strange, but this article was originally a funeral sermon. This is about the legacy we leave when we pass on, into heaven and God's wonders, rest, and rewards-how we live and then hand down hope by the way we lived and how we touched others. However, as I have done this sermon over the years, I could not help noticing and even be convicted by the Holy Spirit that this is also about building a successful church...

This may sound strange, but this article was originally a funeral sermon. This is about the legacy we leave when we pass on, into heaven and God's wonders, rest, and rewards-how we live and then hand down hope by the way we lived and how we touched others. However, as I have done this sermon over the years, I could not help noticing and even be convicted by the Holy Spirit that this is also about building a successful church with a legacy of hope that impacts His people in the world in which we live, the touch we leave that glorifies His Kingdom.

Read this sermon and ask yourself:

  • How is your church's legacy and call doing? How can you build it better?
  • How can you be a church of Hope for those who so desperately need it?

A funeral sermon to challenge your church to be an impact

We are here to celebrate the life of ___, Mother, Wife, Grandmother, Friend, Coworker, and Child of God. You are here in this place; you are evidence of ___ life and impact and how she has touched you. Her legacy resounds in and through you, her impact remains. Now she is in the eternity of heaven's peace, of God's resounding impact of love, hope, grace, and rest.

Questions:

  • How would people celebrate your church and impact?
  • How is your church's legacy now? How should it be?
  • What impact do you want to leave to your people, neighborhood, and world?
  • What impacts will your church leave to the new people there?
  • What impacts will your church leave that will resound into eternity?

1 Peter 5: 10-14 - a passage of Hope

"And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. (Now we are shown some personal greetings that show one's impact) With the help of Silas, whom I regard as a faithful brother, I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it. She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you her greetings, and so does my son Mark. Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.

To sum this up even more, Hebrews 4:11tels us to Make every effort to strive to enter to be diligent for God's rest.

____ lived to be enthusiastic and diligent for her family, and toward the end of her life, her faith too! She realized life and faith are not about earning one's salvation by works; rather they are by the call to receive our salvation by faith in Christ; thus, we receive His rest for a content life now, and also our eternal rewards and rest to come, all of which she now has received. This is something we all can have, and partake of these wonders both for now and for eternity to come. As you represent ____ legacy resounding, now ___ is resounding in the eternity of heaven.

Questions:

  • What does your church, you, the pastor(s) and leaders do now to show people how to live for Christ and to be enthusiastic and diligent for Christ's glory?
  • What does it mean to live a content life now? How does this help build the church's impact to be more resounding?

This is all about Hope!

Even now that ___ has physically left us, hope remains. Hope is essential! Do you have hope? Do you know what hope really is?

Hope is our forward outlook to be in Christ forever. This hope is what produces Joy for our lives here and now too. Heb. 11:1, "the substance of things hoped for". Christ is that substance! Christ is whom ­­­____ has embraced and who has embraced her forevermore.

Hope is our future in Christ, in glory, and in Heaven, that ___ is in now! When we keep focused on our circumstances, we will see little to no hope. We can only attain it by being in Christ, with our eyes focused upon Him. Christ is to be our anchor, our hope. Hope calls us to patience and confidence in adversity, even to endure suffering, as well as rejoice in those great joyful times we have heard explained that continue to echo, as Christ continues in His love for us (Rom. 5:1-5; 8: 18; 25). Hope must be the focus of our lives, and what we are to share with others (I John 3:3; 4:18)! Hope is the effect of obedience and trust in our Lord (Heb. 6:18.) If you have no hope, then you have no real vision or real purpose. We can have meaning because of our trust in the One who loves us. Jesus Christ loves you as ___ exemplified.

Hope is a call to continue in our lives, to respect ___ legacy as well as to be a person of prayer and faithfulness. In those ways, we can continue to be better used by our Lord. We are to remain firm in our stand of faith, both when life is joyful and when it is falling apart around us, so we can see hope for us who remain. The call Christ gives us is to be encouraged and to stand firm. When we persevere in our faith, we allow God to use us even more right where we are. Then, we learn and we grow further in Him, which helps us grow and be used more in the life of others as ____ has shown us.

This is circular. The more we endure, the more we grow. Then, the more we are used, the more we go through-and so forth. Hope empowers the spiral of our faith-building that draws us higher in God. When we are growing, we are ministering, too. As our faith grows, we are more likely to hear God's plan for us, see the needs of others, and find opportunities to be a better person and have a life more triumphant and victorious-a life that is happy and content, at peace with a real effectual purpose. This is the life that awaits you, if you do not already have it, as it was the life that ___ had. When we grow, then we inspire, and encourage others faster and better; we leave a lasting impact and a joyful, happy legacy that inspires others!

Questions:

  • How and why is Hope so essential to the building of a healthy church?
  • Do you, as a leader in your church, show and live this hope?
  • Do your people know what hope really is?
  • Why is it when church leadership keeps focused on problems and circumstances, little to no hope is seen? (We are not to ignore problems, but we are not to let them derail us from our purpose.)
  • How is Christ your church's anchor now? How can this be made stronger?
  • What would it mean to your people and neighbors if your church were more authentic and able to help people in their hurts?
  • How can you take God's call of Hope and show patience and confidence for adversity and suffering, as well as celebrate those great joyful times?
  • What does it mean that what you do in your church continues to echo, as Christ continues in His love for us?
  • Do you realize that if your people have no hope in your leadership and future, then they will not see any real vision or real purpose?
  • How can you show authentic confidence in Christ so others can see and have meaning by trusting in the One who loves?
  • What can you and your church do to better utilize prayer and faithfulness?
  • How does hope empower the spiral of your faith-building that draws your people higher to God?

A Living Hope!

___ lived a life that pointed to a Living hope. Hope is one of the main, running themes of 1 Peter and the rest of the Bible; another is a great life. "Hope" does not indicate wishing for something or just thinking positively; rather, it refers to the trust, confidence, and conviction we have that our living God keeps His promises and secures us in Him. It is the assurance-the fact-that when one accepts Christ as Savior as ___did, we know that Christ redeems us, blesses us, and He will care for us onward to and throughout eternity (1 Peter 1:1-13, 21; 3:15).

So what does this Hope do in us? It makes us joyful, thankful, and glad, and we can be joyful, thankful, and glad for the legacy ___ has left for us all. We can live a life that is worthy, that honors her, and we can honor and enjoy our inheritance in Christ and the love that we have received from her and from God, so it overflows to others around us. Subsequently, we can grow and endure through all things! Why? Because, we will face trials and distress, disappointments and unhappiness, as they are part of this world and life. There is no escape from them. We can either learn to grow, or we can withdraw and stagnate! Hope is our key to navigating this happy, and at times, harsh life for the better, so we too can leave a legacy one day, one that even resounds into eternity.

We are to love God as ___ has done, even though we cannot see Him or touch Him. This may go against common sense for some, but the reality of God's grace and impact can sometimes be hidden by our desires, circumstances, and feelings. This is the test of faith and trust; if we see no hope, we then must look to our Lord and ask Him for it. Then, when the hope is given, it can be tangible, felt, and seen. The reward of our faith far outweighs any endurance or struggle we face. The joy we have is real and significant; and this is what ___ lived and what she has now (John 20:29).

Questions:

  • How is your church being a living Hope? How can it be better for emerging people or people who feel the Church has failed them?
  • How do the confidence and conviction that we have in our living God impact the people in and outside of our church walls?
  • So what does this Hope do in you? How can you be more joyful, thankful, and glad? What would happen as a result?
  • How can you better honor and enjoy your inheritance in Christ and allow the love that you have received from God overflow to others around you?
  • What do your people need from you and the church leadership in order to grow spirituality and endure through all things?
  • Do you know that as a church leader, you can either learn to grow or withdraw and stagnate your church? How does this make you feel? How can it make you act?
  • How is Hope your key to navigating your church's people through the happy times and harsh times of life for good?
  • What does your church need to do better in order to leave a legacy, one that even resounds into eternity?

We can Depend on God's Grace!

Have you considered how kind God is with us even when we are in the depths of loss, stress, and despair, or how many of us feel being here at the funeral of a precious loved one? Do you know that God's hand is guiding you, and that He will restore you for your benefit and His glory? This passage in 1 Peter as what ___ life was all about-the great hope that is ours because Christ our Lord is our Great Hope!

There is no escape from death, suffering, or living in a fallen world; we will, at times, experience loss, pain, and despair. The incredible news is that Christ still cares, and even carries us through it. Jesus will lift us up out of whatever we are in now or will ever face! And in the meantime, He will give us the strength to endure and even to learn and grow from it. This process will make us better and more mature so we will be a better help to others and more insightful and character-driven than ever before. Our foundation is secure and our standing is firm when we are in Him; we can withstand anything this world throws at us when we are in Christ!

Peter's main mission was to be an encourager to the people who were in distress just as ___ has done for many of you here. How sweet the words of encouragement are to those struggling in life or who are in anguish, and how much more impacting those words are when we know that the person saying them is real and sincere!

Peter also offers the assurance that the Gospel is real and is relevant. It is for us now, no matter who we are, where we are, what we have done, or what we will face; Jesus Christ loves us and has a plan for us. God is not afar off, unapproachable, detached, antagonistic, or petty. He is here; He is with you now in your loss. His love is real and He is totally concerned for you. We are a people who are not alone or distanced from God or from others. You are in a family and a community of love; we are together. The only time we are not is when we cut ourselves off from others; however, we can never cut ourselves off from God's love!

Jesus is our Promise, Strength, and Validation! God called us to eternal glory; we are to humble ourselves, whatever comes into our lives-loss, strife, adversity, goodness, or riches. We are to accept God's hand. The God of all grace means that God is a God who blesses us. Thus, we can have firm faith and confidence in Him for whatever we face. He is the ultimate Hope who will come again, in His time, and He will lift us out of our situation (Isa. 44:6; Jonah 4:2; John 14:27; 20:19; Rom. 5:1-2; Gal. 1:3; Eph. 1:2)!

God has a plan and purpose for us all-that means you too (Rom. 8:1, 28-30; 2 Cor. 4:17; 2 Tim. 2:10)! Consequently, we have an ultimate Hope beyond any hope we can see and feel! The only barrier to this hope is our discouragement, our feelings that result from a lack of faith and spiritual maturity; this impacts all that we are and do in life!

We who have received Him are In Christ. He has freed us from sin into a great life now because of how He suffered for us, and our union in Him, as He dwells in us and represents us before the Father. All that we are, have, or could have comes from Christ. This translates into how we are to treat others as ___has treated you. Christ is represented by His representatives and ___ was a precious one (Rom. 6:3-11; 8:9-11, 17; 1 Cor. 6:15-17; 2 Cor. 1:5; 13:3-6; Gal. 3:26-29; 5:24; Phil. 3:10; Col. 1:24; 3:3-4, 11-15)!

Questions:

  • How do you know that God's hand is guiding your church now?
  • What can you do to humbly ask Christ to restore you for your benefit and His glory?
  • Christ our Lord is our Great Hope. How can you know this more and feel Him more?
  • Jesus will lift you up and out of whatever you are in now or will ever face. How can this give you the momentum to persevere?
  • People need encouragers; people whose lives are in hopelessness, anguish, distress, dysfunction, or confusion (all of us) need your church; so what are you going to do?
  • How can you communicate the assurance that the Gospel is real and is relevant to generations who feel betrayed and disconnected from organized religion?
  • How do you show your people that Jesus is our Promise, Strength, and Validation? How can you improve on this?
  • What are you going to do to humble yourselves through whatever comes into your lives as a church and as leaders?
  • God has a plan and purpose for you and your people. What are you going to do to bring this on?

To God be the glory and to nothing else!

It may not seem that we are in the loop with God's plans and purpose at times, but we can take comfort in that He is indeed in control. He only desires that we exercise simple faith and trust in Him. We can praise Him for His glory, even when we are sad. The key is to keep our focus on who Christ is. He loves and cares for us.

___ lived her life realizing her dependence upon God. We are still to be proactive, but dependent on God who removes our frustration, prevents disillusionment, and keeps us centered on what is important in life, which is Christ. We can depend on God's grace because God will provide a way out-in His time (Job 1-2 ; Psalm 31:9, 15; 62; 103; 119:50; Isa. 26:3; 41:10; Jer. 27:11; Luke 10:20; Rom 8:28-29; 35-37; 12; John 14:1; 1 Cor. 10:31; Phil. 1:6; James 1:2-3; 1 Pet 4:12-19; Rev. 21:4)!

___ lived a life as a Christian rooted in the call to be solid in the foundation of our Lord! If we desire to be close to Christ, walk in the Spirit, be spiritually mature and effective, and to be all that God wants us to be, then we will build our lives on what our Lord has done, just as ___did. This means being right with Christ and right in our being. It is good to have correct thinking in who God is, be in personal study of His Word, in prayer and devotions, and know His principles so to be more in life, better in life-living in and with Hope.

We have true grace in Christ; this leads us to trust God in all things! A great life such as ___ lived is about who we are in Christ, what He has done, and our response to Him that is rooted not just in our actions but also in the core of self-who we really are. Because our core values come from our inner most thoughts and desires, they are a result of what God has planted in us and how we cultivated it, then how we see ourselves, our world, and most importantly, our God. This translates into how others see us!

One of the clearest evidences of being a mature person and Christian is an increased awareness and knowledge for the need to be in Christ so that our focus is no longer on just ourselves. This is the essence of what was shared to us by these testimonials of ___ life. When we have an increased awareness of others that goes beyond self, then we have real love; we are humble and we have a life of impact like the one we are celebrating today.

When our confidence is in our Lord, then our self-confidence becomes Christ-confidence. So, our confidence is humbleness, rooted and dependent on Christ who is working through us. The result is that we are not self-driven, but Christ-driven. Thus, we will be in total surrender to God's will as the driving force for our existence.

Spiritual maturity is essential!

We who are followers of Christ are not perfect. It is a question of spirituality that we are to submit as we are called because Christ did. Without a lifetime approach of submission to Him, we will reveal that our foundation for life is not spiritual maturity; hence our families and selves will be hindered in growth. We cannot be a caring community if we are not submissive and humble in our relationship to God and then to one another. This is the legacy of ___life; we mourn her loss yet celebrate her life and how she has touched each of you (Eph. 5:21; 1 Thess. 5:12)!

Questions:

  • How can you know, then show and tell that Christ is represented by His representatives?
  • How can you communicate to your people to take comfort in the fact that Christ is indeed in control? What would that do to your church collectively?
  • Why is it hard for church leaders to exercise simple faith and trust in Him? So what can you do now?
  • The key is to keep our focus on who Christ is; so what will you do now?
  • We can depend on God's grace because‚Ķ?
  • Can your people see clear evidence that your church's leadership is made up of mature Christians? If not, why not?
  • What can you do to learn more about and communicate that our confidence is in our Lord?

Benediction

God sometimes brings pressure against us to test us, to purge us, to purify us so that we become stronger and are more willing and able to be used to give Him glory. God's goal is not to personally attack and destroy us as a church or as people of faith; rather, He seeks to improve us and to make us our best for His glory. He wants to grow us like an oak, which grows its strongest under harsh conditions. We are to accept and grow from our experiences so we can build a better church for His glory. The other choice is to become bitter and harsh with His people, ending up as a burden to others and to ourselves, creating a church of strife and dysfunction or a small club and not a biblical church of Christ. Our Lord will bring us the solution to our problems on His time schedule and for our benefit.

Our Lord gave us the prime example; Jesus demonstrated the way. (Psalm 88:8-9; 119:50; Matt. 26:36-46) Will we not follow? These things do not come to us by chance; they come by knowing and following Christ (Proverbs 12:4; 28:20; 31:10)!

Remember that building a good church is a risk and may take years; still, He gives us the care, love, and His grace that we do not deserve. Submission to His Lordship to lead your church is a risk; there are dangers to it because people may take advantage of you, lead you, or ridicule you. However, this can only happen if you take your eyes off our Lord (Psalm 37:5; 55:22; Isa 41:10; John 14:1; Rom 8:28-29; 35-37; James 1:1-5; 3:12; 1 Pet. 4:12-19).

The point being made is this: we must heed God's call, His plan, purpose, and principles all associated as His vicars (priestly representatives) on earth. Why? We belong to God and our call is to trust in Him, not in traditions and/or what has come before, and certainly not fear that we have "never done it that way before." We are to seek Him and what is to come in life and in ministry, as we do in His second coming. This world is a mere shadow of things to come; we are bound for Heaven where glory awaits us. So how do we live now? How do you lead your church now? With our eyes upon Christ! We must live and do both our church's and our personal lives as we have declared who Christ is-by faith and lived out by deed. We are to think about Jesus, and ponder His precepts and call so He is our life and our all-in-all (James 1:12-18; Rev. 2:10).

Principal passages on Hope: Luke 12:15-21; John 16:33; Acts 14:22; 1 Cor. 4:8-13; 2 Cor. 4:7-18; 5:6-8; Rom. 15:13; Phil. 1:21-24; 1 Tim. 1:1; 2 Tim. 4:7-8; Heb. 6:18-19; 1 Pet 1:1-2.

Questions:

  • How has your church touched others? What can you do better, especially to the new emergent cultures and generations?
  • What does it mean to you that God has a plan and purpose for you?
  • Have you considered how kind God is with you that He will restore you for your benefit and His glory? Do you believe this? How so? Why not?
  • How is knowing that Christ is not just your Lord but also your Great Hope give you the strength to endure new things while building your church?
  • What does it mean to you that Christ is your foundation, hope, and conviction?
  • Do you believe that you can withstand anything this world throws at you when you are in Him? How so? Why not?
  • Real spiritual maturity is being submissive-the essential foundation for a healthy growing church. Why? What can you do to model this in your church?
  • How can your church be more centered upon Christ as Lord rather than on trends or personal ideas?
  • Why should we not go about ministry or our lives alone? How does collaboration with others help us produce better modeling of His character?
  • What needs to take place in your life for you to be more insightful, spiritually and socially mature, and character-driven as a church? What is in the way? What are you going to do about it?

He has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping. For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver. Psalm 66:9-10

© 2005 R. J. Krejcir Ph.D. Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org

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