A Strategic Future is ahead for Rome First. By location, tradition and disposition we are ready to serve creatively in a rapidly changing culture. Never in her illustrious history is Rome First more needed than at the present hour. And I am convinced you will rise to the occasion. The “DNA” of Rome First contains strong “markers” for Missional and Social engagement. If you look back in the history of Rome First, you see an amazing record of forward looking Faith that is demonstrated in so many varied ministries and missions that are still vital in the community today. These forward looking Ventures of Faith that, at their inception, required a measure of “corporate” Faith. A “corporate” Faith that allowed the Body of Believers called Rome First, to look and see what others could not see, to listen and hear what others could not hear, to understand the future by remembering the past.
Looking back sometimes gives us an opportunity to learn. One day the disciples were complaining that they didn't have anything to eat. They forgot to bring bread, we're told in Mark 8, so there was only one loaf in the boat. (Keep in mind that this is after Jesus has miraculously fed the multitudes.) Jesus knew what they were thinking, so in verses 17-19, he said: Why are you so worried about having no food? Won't you ever learn or understand? Are your hearts too hard to take it in? You have eyes-can't you see? You have ears-can't you hear? Don't you remember anything at all? What about the five thousand men I fed with five loaves of bread? How many baskets of leftovers did you pick up afterward?
Can’t you imagine they were a little sheepish in their response: "Twelve."
Jesus continued in verse 20, "And when I fed the four thousand with seven loaves, how many large baskets of left overs did you pick up?" "Seven." "Don't you understand even yet?"
One other thing that happens when we look back is that we learn how to deal with our pride. It's not a case of "we deserve the things we have." Instead, we remember the people who came before, who laid the groundwork for us. On a personal level, we also realize the places where we used to be, and how-if it weren't for God-we might still be there. Just remember, as it's long been said, that the past is a good guidepost, but it's not meant to be a hitching post. We're not supposed to get stuck there.
So, now is the time to roll up our sleeves, for us to remain focused on our priorities. That includes knowing God, but it also includes going out and making disciples. The church isn't here just so we can build or acquire buildings, and get together every so often and have a good time. We're here to bring people closer to Jesus. The great majority of people come to church initially because they're invited, not because of some program or advertising. It's our job, then, as members of the Body of Christ, to inspire them to come.
It's also our job to stay focused on unity. In Ephesians 4:3, Paul urged us, "Always keep yourselves united in the Holy Spirit, and bind yourselves together with peace." We're all on the same team. If you ask any coach, they'll tell you the same thing: If you want to win, there's nothing more important than unity. Remember, though, that unity isn't just a one-time thing. It has to be a daily decision. Just like making disciples. That's not something you do once, and then it's over. As for knowing God and lifting up Jesus, that's a constant process, too. Altogether, though, those daily decisions lead us to a glorious future.
During the 2000 Olympics, the U.S. team was the one to beat in the women's 4x400 meter relay. They were considered a sure bet to win, but they didn't. Even though they were the best and the fastest, when it came to the final pass of the baton, they couldn't pull it off. One of the women dropped it. You've got to know that there's no way you can win when you drop the baton. You can have all the promise in the world, but if you don't take what you've been given and pass it on to the next person in line, you're sure to lose.
In the grand scheme of things, all this isn't about your life. And it's not about mine, either. It's about passing the baton from one generation to the next. We can do that by being godly role models. People need to see others who are committed to Jesus, who are serving and not thinking of themselves. They need to see people who extend grace and forgiveness and love, who will help them out in their time of need. We have the opportunity to do that on both an individual level and a corporate one.
We need to make sure that we offer people limitless possibilities. It's unbelievable what God can do, and our faith can help open the doors for others, too. Are we the kind of people who hear the dreams people share, and encourage them on, no matter how big those dreams are? Or are we the kind to dampen enthusiasm and fill others with doubt? We can bless or we can curse; we can build up or we can tear down.
As we look ahead to a still uncertain future, there are things of which we can be certain. We can be certain that God loves us and that he'll never leave us. We can be certain that forgiveness is always there for the asking. We can also be certain that, as we humble ourselves before God, he will lift us up. It says so right there in James 4:10.
I dare you, then, to pray with confidence. I dare you to let God give you a new passion, to let it bum within you, for where he's leading you. The poorest person is not the person without a dollar, but the person without a dream.
And if your dream is for a transformed life, one in which your spirit overflows with the goodness of God, you're going to get there. You're going to know the taste of that living water that satisfies your thirst like nothing else.
OUR MISSION – Love God, Love People, Serve the World
OUR VISION – Serving Rome by Loving and Welcoming all as Partners in Transformation
I will see you here at Rome First in Worship and in small groups. I will see you in the community as we seek to Serve Rome by Loving and Welcoming All as Partners in Transformation.