Sunday, August 20, 2017

[Matt's Messages] "Not in Vain"

“Not In Vain”
Gospel Roots (1892-2017)
August 20, 2017 :: 1 Corinthians 15:58

To celebrate our 125th anniversary, we are looking back at the foundational values and practices that have shaped our church family for a century and a quarter. The root system that has fed us and formed us for all of these many years.

We call them “gospel roots” because that’s we’re all about–knowing Jesus Christ and Him crucified. We sing the gospel in worship, we take the gospel to the lost in evangelism, we pray about the gospel, we find the gospel in God’s Word (“Where Stands It Written?”), we send missionaries to take the gospel around the world, and we point to the gospel in the caring fellowship of our church, as we love one another we show Jesus love to others.

We exist to glorify God by bringing people into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ through worship, instruction, fellowship, evangelism....and which one haven’t we talked about yet?


That’s our key word for today.

I want to encourage us to think about all of the acts of service that have made this church what it has been for the last 125 years of ministry.

Another word for “service” is “ministry.”

And today, I don’t want to talk so much about the ministry of the word or the ministry of prayer. We did that already this year.

Today, I want to talk more about the sacrificial acts of service that often go unnoticed and behind the scenes.

The work, the labor, the volunteering–serving in all of the more hidden areas of church ministry.

And of course, this is an appropriate day to do that following our sixth annual Good News Cruise, one of our biggest events of the year and one that requires a lot of volunteer labor.

How many people helped put on the Good News Cruise this year?

I don’t have any idea.

People taking pictures, people setting up tents, people serving hotdogs and chips, people taking out the trash, people gathering door prizes, writing a word of encouragement on a door prize, carrying a cooler from here to there, setting up a table, plugging in an extension cord.

Which of those were the important things?

They were all important!

As we said last week, the Good News Cruise is an “all hands on deck” kind of ministry, and it takes a big team to pull it off.

And there’s a cost to that!

We can give it away to our community because we give our time away to the Lord.

How many acts of service happened just this last week to put on the Good News Cruise?

I have no idea.

Now, multiply that times 125 years.

How many acts of service have been done to carry on the work of the ministry of Lanse Evangelical Free Church since 1892?

Only God knows!

But here’s what we do know:

It’s all worth it.

Each one of all of those acts of service whether they are known and counted by others or not are not done in vain.

God sees every one of them, values every one of them, and promises to use every single one of them for our good and for His glory.

That’s the message of 1 Corinthians chapter 15, verse 58. Have you found it? Pew Bible Page #1140.

It’s one of my all time favorite verses. It’s the one that I quote whenever I sign a copy of my book. I almost always write, “Stand Firm! 1 Corinthians 15:58, Matthew Mitchell.”

It’s been one of my key life verses, and it’s glorious.

1 Corinthians 15:58 is the very last verse of the Resurrection Chapter. The Corinthians had a bunch of questions about the Resurrection, and Paul takes up an entire chapter answering those questions and proclaiming the certainty and centrality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and our resurrection still to come.

"Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain."

Alright. I know you’re wondering what I’ve got here in the mystery box.

What artifact could we use to stand for all of the working and serving and giving and volunteering for the last 125 years?

Well, I could pull out this water bottle. It wasn’t just donated to the church by a generous vendor, but somebody took a picture of a classic car, somebody designed our Good News Cruise logo for the year, somebody uploaded the pictures to a label and printed it out, and somebody else wrapped it on the bottle. Our team did over 800 of these just this week.

How about this one. What is this? General Electric lightbulb. 60 watts. Here’s the kind we put up now. Only 13 watts, eco-friendly and supposed to last 10,000 hours.

This is one of the 300 watts ones that go up there in the ceiling.

Do you know what it takes to change one of those?

It’s work!

How many lightbulbs have been changed at Lanse Evangelical Free since 1892?

That’s something you don’t think about every week.

You only notice it when it doesn’t work, right?

Like our video projector system. When it’s working, you don’t think about it, but if the bulb goes out or other “technical difficulties” happen, everybody’s craning their neck to see what’s going on back there.

How many hours have gone into volunteering to run the tech stuff around here? The sound board, the video projection, keeping the computers running.

John Kristofits has been our IT department for like 19 years now! Thank you, John!

How about this? Anybody ever held on of these?

I stole this from the furnace room.

Anybody every painted anything here on our campus?  Raise your hand.

I know a lot of you have.

Thank you!

How about this one?

Here’s a story for you. I went 18 years as the pastor of this church without knowing where we kept the plunger!

Now, I’m glad to know where it is and (yes, I do know how to use it, I know very well where the one is at home), but I think it’s a wonderful testimony to the kind of servants that we have at this church that I went 18 years without having to know where this tool lives!

Thank you.

Thank you to everyone who knows where this lives and has used it for the church and for our Lord.

And let me say this to you.

It’s no fun to use this, but if you do it in faith, it is incredibly important ministry seen by the Lord, valued by the Lord, and promised by the Lord to be eternally worthwhile!

That’s the point of 1 Corinthians 15:58.

“Therefore, my dear brothers, [because of the resurrection] stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

Too often we think that the “the work of the Lord” is the work that some religious professionals do. Like me. Like professional pastors and professional missionaries.

And I hope that our work is the work of the Lord, too.

But 1 Corinthians 15:58 is not written to a group of pastors and missionaries.

To whom is it written?

“ dear brothers,”  This is written to the whole church family.

And it’s about every kind of work and labor we do for the Lord.

A couple of years ago we talked about how it applies to our work life in our daily vocations.

But I think the primary application is whatever you’re doing for the mission of the gospel and that includes all of your volunteer service to the local church and our shared gospel mission.

There are a lot of passages that I considered preaching on this Sunday, especially all of the ones about using your gifts in ministry. Romans 12 like Donnie preached on a couple of weeks ago. 1 Corinthians 12 with the body analogy. Ephesians 4. I got real close to preaching 1 Peter 4:10 and 11 which says, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms [it doesn’t look the same from one person to another]. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.”

Water bottles, lightbulbs, paintbrushes, plungers.

Vacuum cleaners, ladders, computers, carpet-cleaners, brooms, snow shovels, lawn-mowers, chain-saws, skid-steers, front-end loaders.

Did anybody notice the brush cleaned up across the street for the Good News Cruise.  Bob Gisewhite and Joey Matthew cleaned up a bunch one day and then Dave & Shane Michaels brought down their front-end loader and scooped it right out of there.

That’s ministry!

How many hours do our Facilities Team guys have in fixing stuff around here?

I think of all of the things I’ve called Charlie Weaver to do. Could fix my desk? Could you change the batteries in this? I can’t get my door open. There’s air coming in the cracks of my door.

And Lonnie, and Bryan, and Wally, and George, and Blair, and Art, and Alan.

And Cindy. And Anita. And Nesta. And Ruth.

And Vera. And Marilynn.

And we could go and on. I could go around this room and tell a story about just about every person here and something they did to serve the Lord, the work of the Lord at Lanse Free Church.

And I could go all day and not get the half of it!

One of the things I love about this sermon series is that I just get to brag on you. I get to brag on the Lord and brag on His people.

You folks live this out to a tee. We have a church full of servants.

They say there is an 80/20 rule for ministry. 80 percent of the ministry gets done by 20 percent of the people. But those numbers have never held true for this church in my experience.

This church is full of people who know how to give themselves to the work of the ministry.

And you know how to give.

Here’s another artifact that makes it all possible.

An offering plate.

How many times have we passed the plate over the last 125 years?

How many people have given, not just from their time and talents, but from their treasures?

And that’s enabled us to do so much ministry.

Thank you.

And speaking as the staff person whom you spend the most of those offerings on, I am very grateful and my family is very grateful for your generous giving. Thank you for giving to the Lord and His Church. We who serve you on the ministry staff here are very grateful for your ongoing generosity.

I know it’s a sacrifice. And I don’t take it lightly.

One of the things you’re giving and serving has enabled us to do is to sit in this very room.


The church is not a building, it’s a group of people.

But the church building is an important tool.

Our church has had 4 buildings in the last 125 years.

This is not the first one. It’s the second one. I don’t think there is a picture of the first one.

The first building was built in the first year of the church 1892.

Bea Johnson writes in our church history book, “Mr. Lansing Snyder donated an acre of ground to this little band of Swedish believers on which they could erect a building that would serve as a place to conduct their services. The tract of land was a wooded area, but by the spring and summer of 1892, the men had cleared land on which to construct a building” (pg. 5).

And I doubt that they used Husqvarna or Stihl saws!

“As soon as the land was cleared construction began. The building was 20 by 30 feet (600 square feet, smaller than our fellowship hall). The cost of the building materials was $100.00 and the moderator of the church, Alexander Gustafson, offered to construct the building for $27.00. The first meeting held in the new ‘edifice’ was on July 4, 1892.”

And Matt Modzel loves this little fact.

“Mr. Danielson offered to ‘landscape’ the new church plot–he planted rye on the yard with the condition that he could harvest the crop in the fall of the year–for two consecutive years the church lawn was a rye field.”

This church building was the second one from 1900, the turn of the century. They tore down the old building, and built the new one on the same location. 28 feet by 38 feet 400 hundred square feet larger. $300.

And like I said in June, the church spent more on missions that year than they did on the building!

Now, do you all know where that building was?  Over there Lanse proper, right? It’s now an apartment building.

And that’s not the one here.

This is. In 1930, they tore down that building and built this one.

It was during the Depression and nobody had jobs but they had lots of extra time, so they built the third building. $4,038, and they moved in on Thanksgiving day 1930.

In 1972, they put an addition on it. A number of you will remember that.

(The picture looks better in the history book.)

And then the church just grew and grew.

And in 1974, the church purchased the campus of the Cooper Township High School for $15,000. That’s why that road over there is called “COTOHISC.” It stands for “Cooper Township High School.”

And they broke ground on June 20, 1976.

And the church moved into this facility in November of 1977.

And I’ll bet we’ll hear some stories about all of that from you all in October.

Some of you were here doing the work, some of you were running around watching while others of you were doing the work. And many of us weren’t here yet.

In July of 1994, there was as mortgage burning ceremony when this building got paid off for good. There’s a picture of it in the church scrapbook.

How many dollars?

How many hours?

How much labor and hard work has gone into building and maintaining these excellent facilities?

Think about the Good News Cruise! Isn’t it wonderful that we have this beautiful campus with acres of land for people to park their cars and trucks and bikes and tractors on?!

You know what though?

I’ll bet that at many times it didn’t seem worth it.

It didn’t seem worth all of the trouble and all of the cost and all of time.

I’ll bet everybody here who has served this church in some ways have hit a wall from time to time.

You got to the point where you were wondering if it was worth it to come to Kids for Christ...again...on a Wednesday the Winter.

You wondered if anybody cared that you stayed after the family meal and meeting to wash dishes, put up the tables, vacuum the floor, take out the trash.

You wondered if made any difference if you showed up to be a greeter or to shovel the walk or lock up.

Yes, somebody had to do it or it wouldn’t have gotten done, but was it worth it for you to take that time?

Or yesterday, if the rain had come at 1pm instead of 6pm and we'd wrapped all of those water bottles and then NOBODY had showed up? Would it have been worth it?

Well, 1 Corinthians 15:58 says that is most definitely worth it. It’s not in vain.

Paul gives it to us in three simple steps.


Look again at our verse.

“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you.”

That’s a call to be perseverance.

The King James translate it, “Be ye stedfast, unmoveable...”

Stand firm. Don’t leave your post.

Don’t quit. Don’t give up.

Like we said yesterday, “Stay on the Smooth Route!”

Don’t take a detour.

Now, that doesn’t mean that you have to stay in whatever ministry you have for the rest of your life.

I love it how we share around the ministries here. Nobody is the church chairman forever. Nobody is the treasurer forever. Nobody is on the facilities team forever. Nobody has to teach Kids for Christ forever. Nobody is the historian forever. Nobody is even the pastor forever. I’m like the 26th pastor or something like that. And someday you’ll have another one if the Lord tarries.

This is not saying that we have to stay in the same ministry for our whole life.

It’s saying that we have to stay IN MINISTRY for our whole life.

Stand firm.

Stand on the gospel. Don’t swerve to the right or to the left.

Why? He says, “therefore” that’s because of the certainty and centrality of the resurrection. Because Jesus lives and so shall we, we are called to stand firm.

Do you need to hear that today?

Have you been thinking about bailing out?

Bailing out on Christ?

Bailing out on the church?

Bailing out on serving the Lord, doing the work of the Lord?

Don’t do it. Stand firm. Let nothing move you.


Work hard. Throw yourself into ministry. Look again.

“Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord...”

The King James says, “always abounding in the work of the Lord...”

That word “abounding” is a word that means “overflowing.”

It’s the root form of the word that I’ve illustrated before by pouring water all over this stage.

The NIV says, “give yourselves fully”

In other words, pour yourself out in the work of the Lord.

Don’t hold back. Don’t play it close to the chest.

Yes, that will mean sacrifices.

That’s what this means. Pouring yourself out in the work of the Lord has a cost to it.

Whenever you give something, whether it is time, talents, or treasures, you aren’t holding that thing back. You are giving it. And that costs something.

But the Bibles says that’s a good thing. That’s exactly what you should do.

“Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord.”

Don’t do it because somebody twists your arm.

I love it that there is very little arm-twisting in this church family.

Every once in a while, I’ve had to call in a favor or two [!], but we don’t twist arms.

But do open yourself up to being used by the Lord in service.

Pouring yourself out in the work.

The Greek word for “work” here in is “ergo” from which we get our “ergonomics” the shape of our work. It means “work, deed, action, task, undertaking.”

It’s those things we do for the church, for the mission of the church.

Maybe here on our campus or maybe out there in the world.

What ministries do you have?

What “ergos” are you involved in?

I know that I’ve missed some. I’ve tried to think of a whole bunch of ministries at this church, ways that people have served, but there are just too many for me to come up with them all.

In your bulletin, we used to call the Church Family News, the “Opportunities for Ministry.” Remember that?

The bulletin says we need workers for Kids for Christ at Family Bible Night. Heather Dobo needs you! There is a meeting this Wednesday at 8pm. Is that your ministry?

We need folks to join the Prayer Room Ministry, the Greeter Ministry, the Coffee Ministry, Children’s Ministry, MOPPETS. We have lots of places for people use their gifts and to serve.

Are you giving yourself fully to the work of the Lord?

Stand Firm. Serve Hard!

Because #3. IT’S WORTH IT!

Last phrase.

“Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

That’s a different word that is translated “labor.”

It’s the word “kopos,” and it indicates the hardness of work.

Toil, sorrow, work tinged with grief and sadness.

One dictionary says that “kopos” is “intense labour united with trouble and toil.”

Have you ever served on a ministry team like that?

Sometimes it’s a lot of “kopos.”

It’s not always fun.

It’s not always appreciated.

But it’s always worth it.

“...because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

Now, for the Corinthians, they were wondering if they died and the Lord didn’t return, did they miss it? Did they miss the kingdom?

And did all of their hard work for the kingdom go to waste?

What if we die?

And so many of our Lanse Free Church people have died.

How many have died since 1892?

We have no founders left.

We were re-founded in the late 60's. Only a handful of them are left with us.

How many have we had to say goodbye to in the last 5 years?

Ann Kyler
Ann Neidrick
Lloyd & Dora Hampton
Brenda Plisco
Beatrice Johnson
Blair Murray

What about them? What about their labors in the Lord?

Are they in vain?

No way!  Because of the resurrection!

Because Jesus is alive again and because He has promised that we will be, too!

Because of the resurrection, we KNOW, we KNOW that our labors in the Lord are not in vain.

Do you KNOW that?

I love the implication of this.

It means that we can literally die doing ministry and nothing can stop us from seeing the return on our investment.

I mean, what’s the worst that can happen to us?  We can die, right?

We can have our heads cut off for doing the work of the Lord.

We can be shot for doing the work of the Lord.

So what?!

Is that the worst that Satan can do?

I’m coming back to life.

Kill me, I’m coming back.

So I can stand firm.

And I can through myself into ministry.

Because I cannot lose.

That’s what this verse teaches.

We cannot lose.

Now, that only applies to our work done “in the Lord.”

If you are not “in the Lord” then you yourself will not live a blessed resurrection.

Your work, your strivings will achieve nothing more than whatever you can grasp in this life.

If you are “outside of the Lord,” then I fear for you and I invite you to come in by faith to His salvation and His service.

And even for Christians, the things we do that are not “of” or “for” the Lord are spurious at best and sinful at worst.

We need to be asking ourselves about everything we do, why do we do it. Do we do it for the glory of God?

Missionary statesmen C.T. Studd wrote a little poem that has been quoted many times in the last hundred years.

It says, “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.”

Of course, he means only one short life in this fallen world.

Because there is a second life coming in the resurrection and what we do now will reverberate into eternity.

What we do now, for Christ will last.

Stand Firm!
Serve Hard!

“...because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain."


Previous Messages in This Series: