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Preseason: Join a Team – Sermon Notes


Part Four: Join a Team
Pastor Paul McDonald                September 2-3, 2023

You have one job… Maybe you are familiar with a common Meme that has made the rounds of social media…These are picture jokes that center on the premise that You have one job, but look what you did… it’s a tribute to the people who had one single job to do, and they blew it.

You had one job…Cheese goes on the fish fillet not the bun.
You had one job…Great view but access is a problem.
You had one job…And unless you’re Jesus this is a fail.
You had one job…Have you ever been in an accident that resulted in your death…yes or no…Writing surveys might not be your thing.
You had one job…I said my name was Mark with a C…

You had one job, and sometimes we find a way to mess up even that.

If you are here today or joining us online and you have put your allegiance in Jesus Christ, you also have just one Job.

In a moment, I will share with you a passage from the Bible that highlights the ONE JOB that we all share if we are believers in Jesus. This is the one role that is ours to own. It’s the one thing that we should have a singular focus on. And as we will see, we have found countless ways of messing it up.

One thing I love about reading the New Testament is that we get a close-up look at the roles of the individuals in the early church. We see the gifts that each believer had and how God used those gifts to build his church.

We see how God used believers like Peter to preach the powerful sermon that launched the church. We see how God equipped followers like Aquila and Priscilla to disciple brand new converts to the faith. We see how God powerfully called the Apostle Paul to a role of church planting and encouragement. The New Testament gives us a front-row seat to watch the early church in action.

These people in the early church knew their one job. They knew the role they’d been given, the giftings they’d been equipped with, and the way that they were being used to build the church. They knew their one job because Jesus himself gave them the job and here it is:

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.Matthew 28:19-20

In previous weeks we have spent time looking at some encouragement from the Apostle Paul. He used an image of an athlete running after a prize to help us understand what it means to Go and make disciples of all nations. This is what he said:

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.

and we discovered together that the prize is not salvation or eternity with God, but the prize is being able to go and make disciples of all nations

And if we are to be like athletes running after this prize, running after this ONE JOB we are given, then we train, and we prepare, and if we are WISE, we make pre-decisions that help us reach the prize.

We are in week four of our sermon series called Pre-Season, and this has been our thesis:

SERIES THESIS: Wise people don’t just make GOOD decisions; they make PRE-DECISIONS.

Over the last few weeks, we have been looking at the hallmarks of the early church that we find in the book of Acts. So grab a Bible or your phone and find

Acts Chapter 2 starting with verse 41.

This is the 5th book in the New Testament. What we will find is a description of the first church that was experiencing all kinds of change and growth, and this early church can be an example for all churches, including this local church. Let’s look together at this passage that we find in Acts Chapter 2, starting with verse 41

Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. ACTS 2:41-47

As we look at this passage filled with distinguishing traits, it’s like a scouting report on the first church:


  • Devotion to teaching and fellowship
  • Inspiring stories of God at work
  • Generosity and humility
  • Gathered in large, public settings
  • Gathered in small, intimate settings
  • Enjoyed hospitality and good food
  • Growing in number

Over the last few weeks, we have looked at how the church gathered in large, public settings, because we are wise people, we pre-decided to attend a service, We looked at generosity and humility and we pre-decided to give faithfully, last week we looked at the first church and we pre-decided to invest and invite.

This week we will focus on Growing in number. What can we learn from a church that added 3000 people in one day? A church where the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. What can we learn about a church that knew their one job was to Go…so they went. They went and planted churches all over the Near East. On the move, quickly changing, quickly growing. They were a church that had a singular focus. They knew that they had one job. And because we are intentionally looking at the early church as a model for our own local church and as a model for those who have put their allegiance in Jesus, I want to make it abundantly clear that this local church also has just one job…It hasn’t changed…and Jesus makes it so very clear:

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. Matthew 28:19-20

That’s it…You have one job. It’s the job he gave to his early followers, and the job hasn’t changed for 2000 years.

But here’s an observation about this job…Ever since Jesus gave us the one job we have been vulnerable to making it more complicated. From the very first believers in the early church and down through the history we have been tempted to add obstacles to our one job.

  • We have one job… but sometimes we add man-made rules.
  • We have one job… but sometimes we add roadblocks.

If you’re a note-taker, write this down:

  • We have one job… but sometimes we turn preferences into policy.

Oftentimes, when we turn preferences into policy, it gets in the way of our ability to do our one job. Sometimes these are serious roadblocks, and other times they seem trivial.

  • There is a southern state that still has a law on the books that prohibits mustaches on churchgoing men.
  • In our own state, we have St. Cloud, where you aren’t allowed to eat hamburgers on a Sunday.
  • A town nearby has two 1st Lutheran churches because they couldn’t agree on the color of the carpet.

The truth is we sometimes really want our preferences to be turned into policy.

Some of you have shown up here at Autumn Ridge wearing Hawaiian shirts and sandals with socks…and some of you declare that to be a church fashion crime…probably not a preference we want to make a policy.

The early church also was prone to turning preferences into policy. Creating complications and roadblocks that stood in the way of people who were turning to God. A church that was growing quickly was faced with obstacles that threatened to slow its growth. In the early church

  • There were those whose teaching forbid marriage.
  • There were those whose teaching required abstinence from certain foods.
  • And there where those that insisted that circumcision was a requirement to be a true Christian.

It’s this last roadblock that I want to look at today because it gives us a roadmap on how the early church decisively dealt with an issue that threatened growth. The proposed requirement to be circumcised to be a follower of Jesus was a preference seeking to be policy. We will discover together:

  • The origin of the preference.
  • How the preference caused problems.
  • And how the early church resolved the problem.

Over the last month, we have been challenged to pre-decide aspects of our life together in this local church. Pre-decide because that’s what wise people do when we are running after the prize--when we know what our job is.

And if we take seriously the job description that Jesus has given us to make disciples of all nations, we will stop at nothing, short of sin, to do the job.

So this week, let’s focus on this:

Wise people pre-decide to ruthlessly remove roadblocks so they can do their one job.

Just as the early church was faced with these roadblocks, the church today is as well. A little later, I am going to identify one of the roadblocks that is facing this local church. One of the roadblocks that is making it difficult to do our one job. And because wise people pre-decide to ruthlessly remove roadblocks so they can do their one job, I will offer up some practical solutions and next steps.

But first, let’s take a look at the roadmap the early church demonstrated for solving the kinds of problems that keep people from turning to God. The kinds of problems that threaten growth in the local church by looking at a real example from the 1st-century church and a guy we know as the Apostle Paul. A little background on Paul will be helpful as I share this example. And this is where we will start:

  • Paul was a persecutor of Christians.
  • Paul hunted down and arrested Christians.
  • Paul participated in the murder of Christians.
  • Paul despised Christians….and then he became one.

And that’s a great event in history and a great story, and I encourage you to read more about it in the book of Acts chapter nine.

After his encounter with the risen Jesus, Paul went on to be the great church planter of the early church. As we come to know more about Paul, we will see that he was all about ruthlessly removing roadblocks so he could do his one job.

You see, Paul knew that he had one job. He completely understood the charge Jesus gave us.

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. Matthew 28:19-20

And so, in town after town, Paul led teams as they went about doing their one job. Town after town across the Near East, they established churches, raised up leaders, instructed, encouraged, and cared for the new believers.

And so the movement got moving. The early church continued to grow. Believers in these churches knew what the prize was, and they ran after it. And new believers were being added to the church daily, and it started with Jews in Jerusalem but quickly spread to non-Jews in faraway places. They were doing their one job, and thousands of new believers were being added to the church.

And one of those places was the town of Antioch. Located in modern Turkey, some 300 miles from Jerusalem. Filled with both Jews and non-Jews, known as Gentiles, the early church was exploding as new converts joined the local churches.

But trouble was looming on the horizon. Turn with me again in your Bibles or phones to the book of Acts. We will jump ahead to chapter 15, verses 1 and 2.

The early church was headed for a roadblock in doing their one job, and here’s how it appeared. New teachers had arrived in the city. They were Jewish in background, and they started to teach about a preference they had.

This is what we see happening as we read in ACTS chapter 15, starting in verse 1

Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.”  Acts 15:1-2

Remember, they had one Job: Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…and then they added… you’re also going to need to be circumcised or you will not be saved. From their Jewish perspective, they were teaching that in order to give your allegiance to Jesus, in order to spend eternity with him, you first had to adhere to all the customs of the Jewish faith, including being circumcised.

They had one job… but they added something, they turned preferences into policy.

And this didn’t sit well with Paul or his friend and co-worker, Barnabas. Paul had become a bit of a specialist in relating to the non-Jewish population, referred to as Gentiles. Paul had come to refer to himself as the Apostle to the Gentiles.

And in the book of Romans, Paul points to a divine appointment to do the work that he was doing among the non-Jewish people.

But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, Romans 1:15-16a.

It was this divine appointment that drove Paul to confront this false teaching. These new teachers who were arriving in Antioch are stepping into his area of expertise and throwing up a roadblock for the very people that Paul had such a heart for. Paul knew that this new and false teaching was going to be a problem. He had years of evidence of how God was powerfully moving in the lives of the Gentiles.

Our passage continues:

Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them.

There was a confrontation in the local church. There were two factions. It was serious enough that Paul thought it necessary to resolve the issue quickly and decisively. To definitively state: we have one job, and we will ruthlessly remove any roadblocks.

So, this is what was decided.

This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.

Take it to the top. Remove the roadblock. Get a ruling so they can get back to their one job. So off they went, traveling the 300 miles back to the home base of Jerusalem to have a meeting with the bigwigs.

When they arrived in Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the leaders there, and they were able to give a full report of their work among the Gentiles.

And the Jewish religious leaders were there as well and they were able to reiterate their position. “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.”

Skip forward to verse 10 and another leader in the church, Peter, puts in his 2 cents worth by challenging these roadblocks. He says:

Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

After all of the give-and-take, after all of the discussion, James, the leader of the Jerusalem church, makes this pronouncement:

“It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.” Acts 15:19

And the matter was settled. It would no longer be taught or understood that this would be a hoop to jump through. And the local church in Antioch could get back to doing their ONE JOB.

And I would argue that this passage remains one of the pivotal passages in the Bible to maintain the proper perspective for the local church when it comes time to do our one job. To run after the prize. To make disciples of all nations.

Details and circumstances change over time. Today we may not call them Gentiles, we can simply say people. We should not make it difficult for people who are far from God but want to turn to Him.

In fact, we should make it easy. Our lens for ministry in the local church should be what we can do to make it easier for people who may be far from God to take a step toward God.

But for every generation of the local church, there are new challenges that need to be overcome. New preferences that have been turned into policy. New roadblocks that are making it difficult for people who are turning to God

So how about today? How about this culture? How about this local church? What are the roadblocks? What is making it difficult for people who are turning to God? I think we can find many examples in churches today.

One roadblock that I think has plagued the church from the beginning and is still happening today, is the idea that a person somehow needs to clean up their act BEFORE they walk through the doors of a church. Before they will feel welcomed, they need to get their life straightened up. At Autumn Ridge, we recognize that this is still a message that some people feel some churches send. So one of our values is this:

Belong before you believe: You don’t have to think like we think or act like we act to be accepted here.

When we got serious enough about this that we included it as one of our values, we took a step toward ruthlessly removing roadblocks so that we can do the job were are called to do. Has it made a difference? You bet it has, we continue to hear from people who are walking through our doors broken up and busted by life and feel loved and accepted and not judged.

Remember the scouting report on that early church?

  • Devotion to teaching and fellowship
  • Inspiring stories of God at work
  • Generosity and humility
  • Gathered in large, public settings
  • Gathered in small, intimate settings
  • Enjoyed hospitality and good food
  • Growing in number

That early church was growing in number and so is Autumn Ridge. We have a significant challenge facing us. It’s not 3000 in one day, but we join with the early church in our need to be flexible and pivot in response to the challenges we face as we continue to grow.

And the single specific roadblock that I want to raise today is our need for additional people to join our team of volunteers. I think, much like the early church calling a meeting with the leaders of the Jerusalem church, we can follow through today with a solution that can ruthlessly remove the roadblock.

Let’s start with the good news.

I’m guessing you may know this, if you are watching our lobby on a Sunday morning, I think you will notice this. We have been seeing a huge influx of newer, younger families and younger singles streaming through our doors. That is amazing news. It’s amazing because current church trends across the nation show a steady decline in church engagement with the younger generation. But week after week, they are showing up in growing numbers.

We are struggling as a local church right now to keep up with our rate of growth. Now to be clear, this is a great problem to have as a church.

I think we can follow the example of the early church: when they were faced with the practical issue of whether keeping the Jewish law, including circumcision, was a requirement for faith in Jesus. And their wise pastor James said, “Look folks, let’s not make it hard, in fact, let’s do what we can to make it easy for people.” Let’s make it easy. So, here’s the question:

At Autumn Ridge Church, what can we do to make it easy for people who are turning to God?

Even as I say this, I suspect that there are some in the room right now who are feeling some feels that aren’t the best. Maybe you have experienced a challenge like this before, and it feels a little bit like control or hype from a pastor.

Do you remember the four-quadrant model that we have been sharing?

This is our trust and expectations model. We believe all relationships can be plotted on this model, including your relationship with this church.

  • We have a line for trust. Low trust on this end and high trust on this end.
  • We have a line for expectations. Low expectations on this end and high expectations on this end.

Here’s the deal, if you are on this side of the trust line with this local church, I want you to take a deep breath and sit back and relax. We don’t want anything from you at all. No expectations. Just come, enjoy community, worship, and over time our prayer is that your trust will grow.

But if you are on this side of the trust line, our encouragement is to give us permission today to count on you to help make it easier for people who are turning to God.

Let’s take a look together at what we are facing during this season at Autumn Ridge.

As we do you will see some images of our volunteer teams in action:

  1. Our kids ministry is busting at the seams…you can’t make it through our lobby without tripping on a toddler. We have a dedicated group of volunteers who love on our kids, and the opportunity in front of us today is that we need an additional 210 volunteers every month to continue to make it easier for those who are turning toward God.
  2. Our safety team is doing an amazing job of keeping us all safe. They stand ready to jump in and help wherever they are needed. The team is growing, but we need more of you to say yes to making it easier for those who are turning toward God.
  3. Our guest service teams - Ushers, Greeters, Connection Desk, and First-time tent are busy every time our doors are open. But there are a ton of open seats that need to be filled so we can make it easy for those who are turning to God.
  4. Small groups, which are a linchpin for a thriving community, are short volunteer leaders. This fall, everyone who wants to be in a group may not be able to be in a group. What would it look like for you to step in and make it easier for those who are turning to God?
  5. And I know some of you are in a season of business, so I would encourage you to check out Ridgefest, our annual on-campus outreach to our community. The good news is that we have 300 spots open for you to join in a one-day commitment to make it easier for those who are turning to God.
  6. Our Café team, hospital visitation, receptionists, groundskeepers, gardeners, custodians, bookstore, communion servers, music, and tech are all in need of additional volunteers. YOU could be part of a team that is making it easier for people who are turning to God.

That’s a lot…We know it’s a lot.

And if it still seems like I’m trying to get something FROM you instead of offering something FOR you, can I encourage you to chat with one of the many team members that you see serving around you? I know these people; I spend a ton of time with these people. They LOVE what they get to do, and I want that for you too.

And for those of you who are on a team, I just want to say, “Thank you.” Thank you for moving toward the messes and serving us so well. Thank you for making it easy for those who are turning towards God

Remember: Wise people pre-decide to ruthlessly remove roadblocks so they can do their one job.

Today we are going to give you a next step in your pre-decision. I want to sketch out some practical information and maybe anticipate some of your questions when it comes to joining a volunteer team at Autumn Ridge.

Here are some parameters for our serving teams:

  • First: We want to invite you to start a conversation
    • We want to answer all your questions about whatever role you might be considering.
  • Second: We believe in a test drive.
    • Try out a volunteer position for 6 weeks, and we will reach out to you to see how it’s going. Not a good fit? No big deal; let’s try something else.
  • Third: Serving isn’t a life sentence.
    • We invite you to serve for a season, and while you are invited to re-up, you can also switch it up.
  • And finally: Healthy balance
    • Serve with a regular schedule with time off in between
    • Serve one and attend one. We want to help you maintain a balance of attending worship and serving.

Pastor Rick thinks my job title ought to be changed to Pastor of Cool Stories…I like it. I do get to be in the front row along with people serving on teams to see life change happening right in front of us. So what I’m about to say is not hyperbole, I’m not making this up: These kinds of life-changing stories happen all of the time. We get the emails, we hear the stories.

  • Next week a woman is going to show up for the very first time in our church with some kids and a husband in tow. And her prayer is that her kids are going to love it here. That they will beg to come back to church. And she’s praying like crazy that God will answer her prayer that her husband will at least tolerate and agree to come back. People volunteering have been the answer to her prayer.
  • Next week someone is going to show up who is at the very end of their rope with an addiction, or loss of a job, or loss of a relationship. And their prayer is that this community will welcome and love them in a way they’ve never experienced. People volunteering have been the answer to their prayers.
  • Today in this auditorium, someone is wondering if the God of the universe could possibly be real and is it possible to know and be known by him. People like you can be the answer to prayer.
  • And here’s the thing, if it was your daughter showing up next week with your grandkids in tow. If it was your family member who’s walked away from church, and now they’re going to give it another shot. What would you want them to experience?

You would want it to be epic, right? You would want it to be clean, welcoming, organized, and amazing. But it’s not going to be any more amazing than we have amazing people to volunteer, and that’s why I’m inviting you to step up.

And I know you don’t have time. Nobody has time. You’re super busy, successful people. But I’m asking you to be open to a conversation about what it might look like to take a next step after a pre-decision.

I’m asking you to be open to a conversation about what it might look like to be like the church of Jerusalem, where we teach what Jesus teaches and we take care of people who can’t care for themselves. Because against all odds, the church changed the world once. And there’s still a great deal in our world that needs to be changed. And by God’s grace and with your help, we’re going to be a part of that change,

Because it IS grace. It’s ALL grace. It’s the grace we’ve been given showing up in the way we give to others. It’s pointing people not to the gift, but to the giver of the gift.

But pointing people to God starts with serving out of grace. And so, if that’s you today, if you’re one who needs to get off the sidelines and into the game and run the race set before you, I have two very simple next steps for you:

Next Steps:

  • First: Pre-decide to make it easier for those who are turning to God.
  • Second: Pre-decide to join a team, and that starts with a conversation.

Before you leave this space today, say yes to a conversation. Decide to simply scan that QR code on the armrest and commit to starting a conversation.

We serve because we’ve been served. We love because we’ve been loved. We remove roadblocks when we see them. And when we do, we point people to Jesus. Let’s pray.