It was a long, long time ago when I was very young and I first came to Grace Community Church in my late twenties. And this building was not here. The large education building was not here. The gym was not here. The children's educational building was not here. There was a chapel and a small nursery building behind the chapel, and that's all there was. And it was a vibrant church, excited, energetic, committed to Christ, ready to move ahead and see what God would do. It was a church that enjoyed the blessing of God up to that point. And we were all on a great adventure to see what was going to happen in the future.
When I had the opportunity to become pastor of this church, I'm very sure that the people who made that decision had no idea what they were getting. I'm very sure of that. In retrospect, we all have seen the hand of God in a wonderful way.
I think it was assumed because it was the passion of this church and the heart of this church and the desire of this church to reach out and see people come to Christ. That was their longing, that was their commitment as a church. I think it was assumed on the basis of that, that the church would grow. We had no idea that it would grow the way it did, but everybody wanted the church to grow. I don't think a church ever brings in a pastor without the assumption that this is going to be good for us, this is a new day for us, this is a new beginning. We're going to flourish. We're going to grow. More people are going to come. More people are going to come to know Christ. And that was the expectation. It was my expectation.
But at the very beginning, my thoughts were not about how can we make this church grow? How can we get more people in this building? How can we fill up the empty seats, the few that existed, if any, in the chapel? How can we draw people in? How can we make the church attractive? I never really had thoughts like that at all.
In fact, when I came to Grace Church, there was one prevailing thing that settled into my mind and it was a text of Scripture that deeply concerned me, found in Matthew chapter 18. I had been studying that before I ever came here. It was probably two years before I came to Grace Church, it was in 1969 that I came, it was probably two years or so, maybe three years before that, that I began to grapple with Matthew 18 verses 15 to 20. And I want you to turn to that passage in your Bible and I want to read it to you and just reading it will help you understand why it was such an important portion of Scripture to me even as a young minister.
Matthew 18, beginning at verse 15. "And if your brother sins, go and reprove him in private. If he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax gatherer. Truly I say to you, whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, there I am in the midst."...
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