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Living Our Vision – Part 1

First Baptist Church https://fbcbartow.org

“Living Our Vision: 

A Challenge to Thrive in 2021 and Beyond”

Part 1 [on screen]

Rev. Matthew C. McCraw, EdD

First Baptist Church, Bartow, Florida

April 11, 2021

Introductory Comments:

According to the Federal Highway Administration, each year, over 38,700 vehicle crashes occur in fog, simply because people cannot see where they are going. If you don’t know where you are going, you may not only get lost, but things can get downright dangerous. [show foggy driving image on screen]

So, church, we must know where we are going. We must be able to see clearly. Why do we have a vision statement? Well, we have to know and see where we are going, don’t we?

Our vision is, “We exist to develop disciples who love God, love the Church, and love others.” [on screen]

Remember this from Proverbs 29:18 (KJV): “Where there is no vision, the people perish . . .” [on screen]

Proverbs 29:18 (CSB) – “Without revelation people run wild . . .” [on screen]

Vision helps give us direction. 

We have a vision statement so we know which direction to point the ship, at which target to aim, down which road we should drive, which decisions should be made, where our effort should go, where our finances should be spent, for what we should pray, and why we gather together as a church. 

Understanding our vision and living our vision is vitally important to who we are as a church. 

Today, we are going to begin a two-week series on how we can live out our vision as individuals and as a church. 

Before we go any further, let’s pray together.


In Matthew 28:18-20, we read these famous and powerful words:

“18 Jesus came near and said to them, ‘All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” [on screen]

Jesus has clearly commanded and commissioned His followers to make disciples. That is the challenge for us. 

As we commit to make disciples, we must first commit to being disciples. 

Our vision statement spells out what kind of disciples we are aiming to develop and to be. 

So, as we go through this sermon this morning, I want to challenge you to challenge yourself to commit to be the kind of disciple that we are seeking to develop. I’m going to ask you to actually make a commitment when this is done. 

In this commitment, we must thrive as disciples, not simply survive as church members. 

So, this morning, we’re going to look at three specific challenges:

First, . . .

I. Challenge yourself to love God. [on screen]

I dare say that most of us know that we are to love God. This is not one of those truths where someone would say, “Pastor, I’m going to need the chapter and verse to support what you’re saying.” However, I’ll still give you a chapter and verse. 

Some of you may remember this passage that the followers of God in the Old Testament days memorized. It’s called the shema. Deuteronomy 6:4-7 says, “4 Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. 6 These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. 7 Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” [on screen]

Jesus underscored this command in Matthew 22:37 when He said, “ . . . Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind . . .” on screen]

I could go on, but I think we all know that we should love God. 

Well, what are some ways that we love God? At First Baptist Church Bartow, we seek to love God in the following ways:

We love God through . . . [on screen]

1.  . . . biblical worship. [on screen]

We want you to be a part of the worship services. If you’re here in the room, you are on the right track; good job. 

We believe that there is a biblical command and a benefit to the individual Christian to gather with others in worship of the one true God. 

Also, for our extended church family, if you’re watching by video or listening by audio, we want you back. We feel like now is a good time for you to come regather with us in worship. Vaccines are available to all adults, we are still taking certain precautions, and we are ready to fully regather for worship. 

Not only are we supposed to gather, but the content of our worship should be biblically centered. We’re not trying to entertain people, we’re trying to worship the one true living God and we want you to be a part of it!

We love God through biblical worship!

Also, we love God by . . .

2.  . . . small group participation. [on screen]

There’s something unique and special about followers of Jesus gathering together in small groups for community, accountability, and growth. 

Small groups study God’s Word deeply, discuss spiritual growth, seek holiness together, and seek to fellowship with one another in Jesus’ name. 

We want you to be a part of a small group and we believe that it’s good for your spiritual growth to be a part of a small group. 

Perhaps now is the time that you challenge yourself to join a small group as you seek to fulfill God’s vision for your life. 

We also love God by . . . 

3.  . . . living godly lives. [on screen]

We want you to live consistently as a follower of Jesus seven days a week. We want you to glorify God in all that you do: at home, at work, at school, in your relationships, in the restaurant, in the store, in the woods, in all that you do. 

You may need to recommit yourself to loving God by living a godly life.

Next, we can love God by . . .

4.  . . . finding our satisfaction in Him. [on screen]

One of the ways that you demonstrate your love for God is by finding your satisfaction in Him. 

It’s just like with your spouse or your other family members. You show that you love them, in part, by letting them know that you love them just the way that they are, for who they are. 

Well, the difference between our family members and God, is that God is perfect, holy, and glorious! He is worthy of all our love and devotion. He is the only one who can truly satisfy! Let us love Him by finding our satisfaction in Him!

Second, . . . 

II. Challenge yourself to love the Church. [on screen]

There is something special about the church. God designed the church to be a community of believers who are carrying out His mission in the world. 

God wants us to love the idea of the church and to love the church itself.

Remember, Jesus said to His followers in John 15:12: “This is my command: Love one another as I have loved you.” [on screen]

As we love each other, as the church, we build the church up to be a greater force to support one another and carry out God’s mission. Remember what Paul said in Ephesians 4:16 (which we just studied a few weeks ago), “16 From him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building itself up in love by the proper working of each individual part.” [on screen]

Paul’s talking about the church here. The church is knit together by Jesus and we build each other up in love by doing our part in the church. 

Well, how can we love the church? Here are just a few ways:

We love the Church through . . . [on screen]

1.  . . . sacrificial devotion. [on screen]

We are disciples who love the church when we give up our own preferences and our own good and we devote ourselves to the body of Jesus Christ, the church. 

We give up and we give in, in a good and glorious way. We give up on our preferences and we give in to the good of others.

Think about how beautiful it would be if all of us sacrificially devoted ourselves to one another and to the body of Christ!

Next, we love the church through . . . 

2.  . . . unifying accountability. [on screen]

We commit ourselves to holding up a standard of holiness for one another and helping each other achieve that holiness. 

Imagine if you would, two new military recruits at boot camp. They are required by their drill sergeant to look a certain way in their uniforms. They could help each other by holding up a photo of how the uniform is supposed to look and then helping each other make sure that they match the uniform in the photo. 

Unifying accountability says that we are all trying to seek holiness and we will help each other see what holiness looks like and help each other attain holiness. 

Next, we love the church through . . . 

3.  . . . committed membership. [on screen]

Listen, church, church membership should mean something. We believe that if you commit to this church, you should be committed to this church. 

You should be committed through attending, praying, serving, giving, and more. 

You can love the church by being a committed church member. 

Third, . . .

III. Challenge yourself to love others. [on screen]

We are to love the church uniquely, but we are also to love others as well.

Jesus said in Matthew 22:39 that the second greatest command was, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” [on screen]

You might ask, well what does love look like?

The apostle Paul described what love looks like in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7: “4 Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not arrogant, 5 is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not irritable, and does not keep a record of wrongs. 6 Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” [on screen]

So we are to love others. 

There is such a need for love in our world that I truly believe if we love others they will want more of what we have. 

Challenge yourself to be a disciple by loving others in these ways:

We love others through . . . [on screen]

1.  . . . practical love. [on screen]

Showing love may mean just taking care of a need, like the Good Samaritan did. He loved the man who was robbed and beaten by taking care of his needs. 

Loving others through meeting practical needs is a wonderful way to love. 

Also, we love others through . . .

2.  . . . everyday evangelism. [on screen]

Every day, everywhere we go, we should seek to love others by sharing with them the greatest message of hope and love that the world has ever received: the Gospel of Jesus Christ! 

You can show the greatest love to others by sharing the message of Jesus with them. 

We can also love others through . . .

3.  . . . worldwide missions. [on screen]

There are people dying and going to Hell, not only in the greater Bartow area, but all over the world. Many of those people in certain parts of the world don’t even have access to the Gospel; there is no one to tell them about Jesus. 

You can love others by being a part of worldwide missions. 

We can also love others through . . . 

4.  . . . selfless sacrifice. [on screen]

Here’s a question for you (you don’t have to answer it out loud): what do you see more in our culture: selfishness or selflessness?

If you want to be a disciple who loves others, learn how to selflessly sacrifice for others. 

Put your needs aside for a while and elevate the needs of others. Then you’ll be on the road to being a disciple of Jesus. 

Concluding Thoughts:

Here’s what I want to do. I want to draw this to a concluding challenge. I want to challenge you to do two things.

Before I do that, I want to say a few more words. You might wonder, “Pastor Matt, why are we doing this? Things are pretty good for us right now just the way things are.”

Listen, church: we don’t need things to be pretty good. We need to be disciples of Jesus who are empowered by the Holy Spirit and are sold out to the mission of God. 

If we expect to accomplish these things, we must inspect whether we are doing these things. We must raise the bar for ourselves and each other!

Let us keep pressing forward, as Paul said in Philippians 3:12-14: 12 Not that I have already reached the goal or am already perfect, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, 14 I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. [on screen]

Let’s remember this bottom line and let’s push ourselves to achieve it:

Bottom Line: Don’t just survive as a church member; thrive as a disciple[on screen]


Raise the expectations for yourself! Raise the expectations for our church!

Listen, church: by the power of God’s Spirit, we can do this! We can be something great!

Now, you might say, “Pastor Matt, this is not really where we want to go as a church.” I don’t think that’s the case, but if it is, that’s your decision. However, know this, I’m not going to stop talking about this. As long as I’m your pastor, we’re going to pursue discipleship for ourselves and for others. 

I’d like for you to challenge yourself over the next seven days in these ways:

Weekly Challenge: [on screen]

1. Pray and fast. [on screen]

Would you pray with me this week that God would do something great in our church?

Also, you may choose to fast. Remember, fasting is giving up food in order to focus more on the things of God. We give up something we need (food) to focus on something we need more (God). 

I’m planning on fasting for three days, from lunchtime on Thursday to lunchtime on Sunday. You may want to join me in that fast, or some other fasting plan.

Perhaps you can’t give up food because of your health. Maybe you can give up something else to focus on God more and to spend more concentrated time in prayer and reflection of God’s plan for you and our church.

Challenge yourself this week to do so. 

2. Write down your challenges. [on screen]

As you leave, take three cards, one of each color (we’ll have folks stationed at the exits). Take these cards and think and pray about how you will be a disciple who thrives and seeks to live out our vision statement. 

Here’s the part to pay attention to: don’t write your personal challenges down on the cards yet. We’ll do that together next Sunday. However, you may want to write them down elsewhere, think about it, pray about it more, rewrite them, or whatever.

However, think about them and be prepared to write them down next week. 

You might say, “Pastor, can you be more specific about what you’re talking about?” Sure, I can do that.

Here are some examples of what you might write down:

I will love God by . . . reading my Bible every day for a year. [on screen]

I will love God by . . . praying for fifteen minutes every evening. [on screen]

I will love God by . . .  attending worship service every Sunday when I’m in town this year. [on screen]

I will love the church by . . . increasing my giving from 10% to 20%. [on screen]

I will love the church by . . . laying aside my preferences in order to build unity. [on screen]

I will love the church by . . . serving the church in some capacity every week.  [on screen]

I will love others by . . . offering to pray for my neighbor once a month. [on screen]

I will love others by . . . seeking to become a friend to those that are unloved. [on screen]

I will love others by . . . seeking to brighten someone’s day, every day. [on screen]


As you leave, be sure to get three cards, one of each color.

If you’re a disciple, live as a disciple. 

If you’ve not been changed by Jesus; if you’re not a disciple of Jesus; if you’re not following Jesus, come to Him today. He’ll change you forever. 

(Gospel presentation)

(closing prayer)

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