In working with any group of people, the greatest challenge to achieving a common goal is generating cooperation. This is especially true in our American culture and society. These are our tendencies: (1) individually we tend to be extremely independent. (2) Individually we tend to be very self-centered. (3) Individually we tend to think of self importance. (3) Individually we tend to attribute bad motives to those who do not think "as I do." (4) Individually we tend to be very competitive. (5) Individually we tend to have great confidence in our personal conclusions. (6) Individually we tend to want to determine the direction rather than following in a direction.

In my understanding of scripture, God establishes our goal as the church. In my understanding of scripture, that goal is to encourage every person toward the fullness of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:13). Christians achieve spiritual maturity by traveling differing routes, differing development patterns, and differing learning patterns.

When Paul wrote his letter we call Romans to the Christian community in Rome, those Christians were extremely different. Part of them were converted from first century Judaism and part of them were converted from first century idolatry. Their differences were enormous. Their concepts of God were quite different. The way they saw life was quite different. Spiritual development occurred in their lives differently.

  1. Read with me as I read Romans 12:3-8.
    For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
    1. Were I to sum up Paul's message in this paragraph to Christians in Rome as they struggled with differences, I would do it in this way: "You are not in competition."
      1. "Whatever ability or gift you have, use it for the benefit of the entire church."
      2. "You are not in competition."
      3. "Look at yourselves in the same way you look at a human body."
      4. "You are not in competition."
      5. "Well developed eyesight, a strong stomach, and powerful hands do not achieve strength in the same way."
      6. "You are not in competition."
      7. "No matter how different you are, it is okay."
      8. "You are not in competition."
    2. We urgently need Paul to teach us the same lesson.
      1. We are not in competition.
      2. The car clinic is not in completion with CURE, the Discovery Dinner is not in competition with His Needs/Her Needs, the Inner City Ministry is not in competition with Kids for Christ, the Quilters are not in competition with 60 plus, Wings is not in competition with the Vacation Bible School, local outreach is not in competition with foreign missions, and the Jail Ministry is not in competition with the children's education program.
      3. We are not in competition.
      4. We function together as a body to help people move toward a mature, spiritual completeness in Christ.

  2. The lives of many of you are sources of personal encouragement to me.
    1. This morning I want to mention one person to illustrate my point, and I surely do not want to do anything to embarrass him.
      1. John Lindgren powerfully encourages me.
      2. I sincerely doubt "big John" has any idea of how much he encourages me.
    2. Let me share just a little bit about John as a person.
      1. I met John about four years ago when he was deeply troubled.
        1. He genuinely wanted to be a Christian.
        2. But he thought his past made it impossible for him to be a Christian.
        3. When John understood that the purpose of God's mercy and grace was to allow him to begin his life anew, John became a Christian.
      2. John grew up in an orphanage without parents.
        1. Because of that experience, he endured a lot of disadvantages.
        2. Initially, his Bible background would not allow him to have a good understanding of sermons or classes--he just did not understand.
        3. The fact that he could not understand caused John at lot of anxiety.
      3. So Buster Herren and John spent one-on-one time studying together every class period and on many Sunday nights.
        1. And John grew.
        2. And John became a serving, involved part of the body of Christ.
      4. And every time I see John, I am encouraged.
        1. And every time John walks up to me and says, "I have a question," I am encouraged.
        2. And every time I watch John as he is involved, I am encouraged.

  3. The road to maturing in Christ is not the same road for all of us.
    1. That is one of the reason we started the small group ministry.
      1. Not everyone learns by the same methods.
      2. Not everyone is encouraged by the same context.
      3. Not everyone is nurtured in the same forms.
    2. That is the reason that this ministry continues to function as LIFE groups.
      1. The "L" is for love; the "I" for involvement; the "F" for fellowship; and the "E" for evangelism.
      2. The objective of LIFE groups: to encourage people on their journey to the fullness of Christ.
    3. Deacons Blake Frost and Larry Roper want to share with you briefly a blessing and opportunity that LIFE groups provides them.
[This ends the prepared outline of David Chadwell.]

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 30 September 2001

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