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“The Church Thrives by Focusing on Others.”

First Baptist Church https://fbcbartow.org

Have you noticed that sometimes when people are on their cellphones, they have no idea what is happening outside of them? They can miss what someone is saying to them, they can crash into someone who is walking near them, and they can even walk out into traffic. Sometimes people are not focused on what’s outside of them.

So also, sometimes churches are not thriving because they are not focused outwardly. They are so focused on budgets, music styles, scheduling ministry times, and having great fellowships that they have no idea how God can use them to change lives and change their community with the power of the Gospel.

We’re continuing our series called, “How Does the Church Thrive?” Today’s sermon is entitled, “The Church Thrives by Focusing on Others.”

Pray with me now as we seek to hear from God.


Thus far, we’ve spoken about focusing on God and focusing on unity.

Today, we’re going to talk specifically about reaching outwardly.

There are three actions we must take as we focus on others. Let’s see what we can do to be used by God to focus on others.

First, . . .

I. We must focus upward.

As we seek to be more focused on others, let us first look upward to God and His Word regarding how we are to reach out to focus on others.

Do you remember what Jesus said in Matthew 28:19-20? Jesus said, “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.”

Jesus didn’t say “Stay, therefore,” or “Sit, therefore.” Jesus said, “Go, therefore!”

Action is required when we focus on others. We are not to be passive; we must be intentional, purposeful, and active.

When we look upward to what Jesus would have us do in focusing on others, He says to go, make disciples, baptize, and teach others.

Also, when we look upward we see the command to love others, don’t we?

In Matthew 22:37-39 we read, “37 He said to him, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the greatest and most important command. 39 The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

A look at God’s ways for us will clearly reveal that when we look upward we see that we must focus on and love God, then we are to focus on and love others.

Of course, these elements are in our vision statement. We exist to develop disciples who love God, love the church, and love others.

Someone asked, “Is Pastor Matt going to show us how to do this?” Church, it’s not complicated. I’ve been trying to show all of us how to do this for five years now.

Here’s the formula: we are to look upward to God and His ways, love Him, become more like Jesus in our own lives, love others, and teach them to become more like Jesus as well.

That’s how we achieve our vision statement. That’s how we become a thriving church!

One of the final things Jesus said before He left the earth was found in Acts 1:8. Jesus said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

When we look upward to God, what do we find? We find power! God’s Spirit comes upon us and we have power to be witnesses for Jesus!

We can be witnesses for Jesus all over the world! Not just in our area but to the ends of the earth!

So before we focus on others we must recognize the power that is inside us through God’s Holy Spirit.

When we focus upward we find the commission to go, when we focus upward we find the command to love, and when we focus upward we find the promise of power.

First, we must focus upward.

Second, . . .

II. We must filter inward.

In Jesus, we are new creations. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!”

So, in Jesus, we are changed. We are different.

However, there are still temptations inside us and we still sometimes willingly allow sin to come into our lives. Because of this reality, we need to clean up our attitudes and clean up our selfishness in order to be prepared to focus on others and have an outward reach.

Have you ever gone on a long road trip and you have to get your car ready for the trip? Perhaps you check the oil and windshield washer fluid. Perhaps you check the air pressure in the tires. In my family, we like to clean out any trash and clutter, as well as vacuum the carpets. Of course, it will all get dirty again, but we like to clean up the inside before we go somewhere.

Church, if we’re going to go anywhere as a thriving church, we need to be sure that our hearts are right. We need to clean up the inside.

If we have bad attitudes or selfishness in our hearts, God will not use us to be a thriving church.

Listen, church: the biggest potential obstacle to you blessing others is yourself. The biggest potential obstacle to me blessing others is myself. We need to take care of the inside in order to be able to reach those on the outside.

When it comes to reaching others, some churches will say things like, “If the community wants to come to our church they can show up on their own and accept the way that we are.” Or, churches may say, “I don’t see any reason that we need to change, it’s been working for us for fifty years.”

These statements are not the kind of statements that thriving churches make. These statements are the kind of statements that carnal and dying churches make.

Thriving churches echo the words of the apostle Paul who said in 1 Corinthians 9:22 “I have become all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some.”

We should be willing to do whatever it takes to reach others. Of course, we shouldn’t do anything sinful or worldly but whatever God is calling us to do, we should do that to reach others.

Our hearts need to be right. We need to filter our inward selves to be sure that we have a Christlike attitude and Christlike motivation.

Think for a moment: what is your attitude like when it comes to reaching others? Are you willing to change some things? Are you willing to give up your preferences? Are you willing to give up time, money, and energy to accomplish the mission of God?

Filter the inward and see how God will use you.

Finally, . . .

III. We must focus outward.

One of the greatest opening lines from any book I’ve ever read is from The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. The opening line is this, “It’s not about you.”

I love that!

Pastor Rick Warren understands that if we are to thrive in this life, we must understand that life is not about us.

As we read earlier, Jesus said the greatest act we can do is to love God and the second greatest act we can do is to love others.

We must focus upward and we must focus outward.

The apostle Peter addressed this idea of us loving others, even when it comes to defending our faith and being prepared to share our faith with others.

Peter said in 1 Peter 3:15-16 “15 . . . but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, ready at any time to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. 16 Yet do this with gentleness and reverence, keeping a clear conscience, so that when you are accused, those who disparage your good conduct in Christ will be put to shame.”

In the way that we live our lives and even in the way we give an answer for our faith, we are to do so with gentleness and respect. We are to do so in a way that we keep a clear conscience.

Think about that for a second. In your conduct and speech towards others, are you marked with gentleness and respect? Do you keep a clear conscience in the way you interact with others?

Do you give anyone a reason to ask about the hope that is in you?

Listen to how Jesus spoke about how His followers are to live.

Jesus said in Matthew 5:13-16 “13 You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. 14 You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”

Are you the salt of the earth? Are you the light of the world?

Do you live in such a way that others see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven?

Wouldn’t it be miraculous if our church had such an outward focus that everyone living in our community and the surrounding area would know that First Baptist Church Bartow loves God and they love people?

Wouldn’t it be incredible if a lost person could say, “I don’t agree with everything those folks at First Baptist believe but I know that they love Jesus and I know that they love me?”

Here’s the reality, church: some people in our community have said those statements to me. Some people who have joined our church have said those statements to me. However, we’re just scratching the surface of all that God can do through us. We are just getting a small taste of what it means to thrive as a church.

I don’t know about you but I want more than just a taste! I want to feast on God’s blessings in us and through us!

I don’t simply want a Hersey’s kiss, I want the entire chocolate cake. I don’t simply want a piece of beef jerky, I want the porterhouse steak. I don’t simply want a sip of Coke Zero, I want the 44 oz in the styrofoam cup!

Don’t give me some of God’s thriving in me, give me all of it! If we want God to fully and powerfully thrive in us, we must be outwardly focused!

Here’s our bottom line for today:

Bottom Line: In order for the church to thrive it must move outside.

We must not be exclusively focused on ourselves. We must focus on others, as Jesus commanded us to do. We must turn our gaze upward and outward to love God and love others.

You know, I was thinking about something this week: does the outside world even hear from the church of Jesus Christ? Then it came to me: sometimes the only time the outside world hears from the church is when we are protesting something that others are doing. They don’t hear that we love them. They don’t hear that God loves them. They don’t hear that God has new life in store for them. Often, they only hear that we are against them. May God have mercy on us.

May we be a church that moves outside of our comfortable walls to reach others with the most powerful force in all the world: the love of God found in Jesus Christ our Lord!

Challenge yourself to live out this truth in the following ways:

Weekly Challenge #1 – Identify three ways that you can focus on others.

What are some steps you can take to focus on others? Perhaps you can show kindness to the clerk who helps you in the store or the server who helps you in the restaurant.

Maybe you can join us for prayer walking, or spend some time praying for others on your own.

Maybe you can meet a physical need for someone who doesn’t know the love of Jesus.

Maybe you can set aside your preferences to defer to someone else who needs to see generosity and selflessness on display.

Weekly Challenge #2 – Identify one other whom you will pray for this week.

Perhaps you want to pray for the “one” whom you invited for Invite Your One next week.

Maybe there’s an ornery neighbor that could use your prayer. Maybe you’ve been an ornery neighbor and you need to pray that God will help you reconcile that relationship.

Maybe you want to pray that God will do whatever it takes to reach someone who you know doesn’t know Jesus. Be careful if you pray that prayer because perhaps God wants to do something in your life to reach that person.

Identify one “other” for whom you will pray.

(Gospel presentation)

(closing prayer)

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