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Partnering in the Gospel
Scripture: Philippians 1:3-11; 4:10-20
Track 1 of 4 in the Transforming Story: Getting the Message Out series
Running time: 40 minutes

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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.
Benjamin Matthews Speaker: Benjamin Matthews
Student of Muslim/Christian relations.

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The word koinonia is used for the names of churches, Bible studies, Clarence Jordan's farm, the Princeton Seminary Journal, and a conference center in Zambia. This Greek term is often translated "fellowship."

However, the word has a much more significant meaning than simply "being together" as in a meal at the church building. The word more literally means "having in common." 2 Corinthians 6:14 illustrates this well. "Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?" The implications are clear . . . to be in fellowship is to have something in common.

The word appears in 1 Corinthians 10:16 dealing with the Lord's Supper. The concept there is participation. When we share in the Lord's Supper, we actually participate in the blood and body of Christ. We have them in common with the Lord.

In Philemon 6, Paul prays that Philemon will actively share his faith. Here the idea is to witness to others so that the faith may be held in common. In 2 Corinthians 8 the reference is to sharing in an offering, in 1 Peter 4 as participating in Christ's suffering, in Galatians 6:6 for sharing good things with your teacher.

In short, to be in fellowship is to partner with someone through participating with them in a common experience.

In our text today, Paul talks about our partnership in the gospel (Philippians 1:5). The Philippian church was Paul's partner even while he was in prison. How did they partner with him? According to Philippians 4:14-16, they sent him aid. Apparently they took food and clothing and money to him while he was in Thessalonica.

Our question is "how do we partner in the gospel?" Could it be through the Lord's Supper? Through a small group? Through the offering? Through a ministry? Through a conversation? Through giving someone food? Through paying for a missionary? "Yes" is the appropriate answer to all these questions. We partner in the gospel when we do what it takes to see that the gospel goes forth effectively.

November 5, 2006 - Partnering in the Gospel

My wife and I have had the privilege of helping plant a church on the island of St. Croix, had an opportunity to witness to Buddhists outside of a Buddhist temple in Laos, have planted a church among the Chinese in Lebanon, New Hampshire, I've helped establish an orphanage in Mexico, and have never been in any of those places. We've done it through partnership. We've done it because we were privileged enough to be able to share with people who were in those places and doing those things. And we take a deep sense of satisfaction knowing that there are believers on every continent because of that. We don't take any undue pride in it, it wasn't our doing, it was God's business, but we had a chance to be a part of that and we find great satisfaction in that. We are currently partners in China, Afghanistan, although you can't know that because they're not allowed in there, and in Taiwan. Those are the three primary places that the giving that we do personally to missions outside and above what we give to the congregation as a part of our tithes and offerings, those are the places where our friends are currently working in the white fields to harvest and we feel like we have a partnership there. Our partner is on her way back to Af ... oh I can't tell you that ... back to central Asia. She'll be passing through New York in not too many more days and my daughter and son-in-law will meet her there and they will visit with her in Manhattan for part of her layover, and they'll take her back to the airport and for a year she will work in central Asia.

You do that too, by the way. I don't know if you realize that but you're a partner–you're a partner with Christians who are working in the fields of the gospel, advancing the gospel of Christ in places like Haiti, Africa, North Korea, Taiwan, New England, Quincy and you are because 17% of everything you give goes to that kind of work directly in addition to the indirect kinds of things that we do on an every-day basis. You are partners in the gospel. And, in fact, if you stop and thing about that for just a little bit, you are a partner of the work of literally thousands of people because our congregation and therefore, you, indirectly or directly support Central Christian College in Moberly and Lincoln Christian College and Seminary in Lincoln and they send out hundreds of students of every year into the fields of the world. We are partners in the gospel and that, I like to think, comes full circle at times. It is an amazing thing to me to watch how one act seems to lead to another act, which seems to lead to another act, which simply seems to form a variety of kinds of circles where influence happens. I think about the fact that a number of years ago I was teaching and a young man by the name of John Crozier showed up from Iowa. Missionary kid actually, born in South Africa, came to school in Lincoln. I had the opportunity to befriend him and have him as a student. He ended up overseas on the mission field. One particular dreary night in Warsaw I was up on the fifth floor of the building in what is known as the upper room. I was doing what I often do when I am traveling away from home–I was pouting and feeling homesick, wishing that this trip, as much as I like to make them, would just get over so I could go home. And I heard a knock on my door. Now, first of all, that is unusual because usually the only person who knows I'm there is my translator and I know when he's coming and secondly, that's just a little intimidating because I don't speak anything but English. So if somebody knocks on my door, chances are this is not going to be a comfortable experience. I go to the door, I open it up, and low and behold, guess who's standing there? My friend John Crozier. He'd heard I was in town. He found me, took me out for ice cream, the best thing you can do for a guy who's feeling bad. And I thought what a simple little circle of influence. He comes to Lincoln, Illinois. I have the opportunity to befriend him. He turns around and shows up on my door step when I most need him. He was a godsend to me that night. If you've never been homesick, you don't know how much that really means.

I see those kinds of influences all the time. I don't have any trouble envisioning that kind of thing happening here all the time. I have this notion that the possibility exists that when Keith Ehresman came here and he lived with the Weisenborns that he might have had some influence from them, who turned around then as the youth minister in this church and influenced their children and grandchildren, who, in turn, turn around and influence his children. And the circle just keeps growing. I've seen it so often. My Greek teacher in college was a man by the name of Dexter Williams. Hadn't seen him in years. His grandson showed up in my class. He's now getting ready to go to Russia and the circle of influence continues.

It's an amazing thing to me to realize that we have the opportunity to step into this process of seeing the gospel advance in the world and actually have a partnership with having that happen. I don't suppose you noticed, but just in case, I'll call it to your attention. This was a pretty young group we had up here this morning. Josh Farlow, for the ones on the stage, is the old guy and he's like a sophomore in college or something. And then there were a couple of old people over there in the band, but the rest of them were just kids. And you've got to wonder, who influenced those people, their families and their friends, to bring them to Christ and how many will they then influence for another generation of Christians and who will those people influence? And you just begin to wonder how big that circle gets when people take seriously the call to be partners in this process we call the gospel.

I want you to come to Philippians, chapter 1, our text this morning. We're actually going to look at two texts in Philippians. I want you to see what Paul talks about when he talks about partnering for the sake of the gospel. Philippians, chapter 1. As you know, the Philippian church was a very very important church in the life of Paul. It's the first church established on European soil. It's the first place that Paul preached the gospel after he left Asia. He did it down by a riverside to a woman who was a seller of purple from Thyatira. He ended up in a Roman prison and had an opportunity to reach the prison guard. I don't know how many others he might have influenced, but out of that experience came a church, and that church became highly influential, not only in Asia and Europe, but in Paul's personal life. Listen for the language of personal relationship. Listen for the language of his partnering with them and their sense of involvement in this ministry of his. Listen to chapter 1, verse 3:  "I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now." Do you hear it? I pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel. He was the one who converted them and yet they were his partners. It's a great word, by the way. It's the word that's written about on the front of your devotional guide this week. The word if koinonia for fellowship, partnership, contribution, communion, have things in common. They were partners from the very first day. Verse 6 says, he's "confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it out to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It's right for me to feel this way about all of you since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God's grace with me." There's that word again, by the word, same word, partner. They partner with him in God's grace. "God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. This is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ--to the glory and praise of God."

Now come to the end of the book. Let's just look at the bookend of this in chapter 4, because there he returns to his partnership language. He's got a lot of other stuff that he doesn't, the rest of chapters 1, 2 and 3, but when you get to chapter 4, we're back to being partners. Chapter 4, verse 10, "I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I'm not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need and I know what it is to have plenty. I've learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in poverty. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Yet, it was good of you to share [there's our word], to share, [to partner] in my troubles. Morever, as your Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need. Not that I'm looking for the gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account. I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen."

These people shared at the most practical level with Paul. After Philippians, you know, he left for Thessalonica where he was able to stay for about four weeks and then he was run out of town. But in that four-week period, this brand new church, these brand new Christians, these Philippians believers who had hardly been established at all in the gospel themselves sent to him things to meet his needs. I don't know whether that meant that they sent just money or if they sent food or clothing or what, but they heard that Paul was in Thessalonica and needed something, and so they came twice cross-country to that other city in order to help. And now, according to chapter 4, he's in prison. Years have passed. Because he's a preacher, he's gone to jail. Don't think about American jails. Think about those early first century jails where if nobody came to care for you, you starved to death. And they heard he was in prison, so what did they do? Again and again they renew their partnership with him and they continue to meet his needs. And this is what he says: your gifts were a fragrant aroma before...do you hear all of the sacrifice language in verse 18? Fragrant offerings, acceptable sacrifices, pleasing to God. Have you ever thought that as you laid your offering down in the tray, or you took a bag of groceries to somebody's home, or you took your coat off and gave it to a man on the street because he was cold, that at that moment, a fragrant offering appeared in heaven before God? That just as in the Old Testament when the priest would offer the sacrifices and the smoke would rise and it would appeal to God's sense of odor, that every time you give sacrificially before God as a partner in the advancing of the gospel there is this thing that happens in heaven itself where God smells the aroma of your sacrifice. This is such a marvelous opportunity for us to think about our own partnership in the gospel of Jesus.

Here is what I'm trying to tell you today and it's a simple little thing. Our partnership in the gospel advances the gospel in the world. Are you with me? When you and I partner with the gospel, the gospel advances. Now that's going to make a simple assumption: you want the gospel to advance. If the gospel is not important to you, if advancing the gospel is not important to you, then the rest of what I'm about to say is going to be utterly and totally meaningless. But for those of you who have a heart for the world, who want to see the gospel preached around the world, including in Adams County, this ought to matter. So some observations out of this text. For example, we give, we partner in the gospel. What we're talking about is our stewardship responsibility as believers. We give because, simply because it advances the gospel of Christ. Verses 12 through 14 of chapter 1 highlight the fact that these people gave financially and that giving advanced the gospel. It moved the gospel forward. It made Paul's ministry possible. Now there are places in the world where you can go and just settle down and get a job. There are places in world that you can go, as Paul did occasionally, just make tents. But there are some places in the world where you can't do that. And if we have any hope of the gospel advancing in those parts of the world, it's going to be simply because people like you and me choose to partner with people willing to go to make sure that the gospel gets preached. That's what happens in North Korea with Karen Kuo. If that were not so, she could not be there. But you make it possible for that to happen. You make it possible for the Dorces to minister in Haiti.

About a month ago Gail and I had the opportunity to be in the New Hampshire area for a number of reasons, not the least of which was to visit the new church plant that's going to happen in Boston. I don't know if you know a lot about that city on our east coast, but there are very very few churches of any kind that matter and even fewer Christian churches that are doing anything. And nothing in the Boston city itself, not from among us, and so we're about to plant a church in Fenway. It's a section not far from the park. I've seen the building where they're going to meet. I've seen the building that their offices are going to be in. They are going to plant five campus ministries on five major universities out of the 30 plus that are in the city, but Boston is expensive. We went to the back bay area to visit with the lead church planter, Hank, a former student. I feel just a little compelled to tell you this story for that reason alone. Hank and Julie have some kids, I forget, I lost count ... three, four, seven ... I don't know–little ones. They bought what I would call a brownstone although I'm not an architect so I don't know if that's technically what it is. It's a two-story brick house and they bought half of it. You climb up about eight kind of broken-down steps. It's a house back in the back bay area that's probably 80 or 100 years old. Let me just say it this way:  it needs a lot of work. The refrigerator has to sit in the living room because the kitchen is too small for it. If you open the oven door, you have to back into the living room in order to be able to pull anything out. The walls have been stripped of 100-year-old wallpaper and they look pretty tacky, just to be honest, but don't tell them I said so. They stole that house at the bargain price of $385,000. The work that goes on in Boston, in Manchester, in Concord, New Hampshire, in Rockingham, Massachusetts, none of that could happen, none of it could happen if it weren't for churches like us that partner with these people to make it possible for them to be there to advance the gospel of Jesus. You make it possible for the gospel to go into the world.
Not only that, we give not just to advance the gospel, well that's the primary reason. We give because it encourages those who spread the gospel. We give because people need to be supported while they're on the field. If you look at verses 3 through 5 and then you turn around and look at chapter 4, verse 10, what you hear is Paul's statement of how he rejoices in this partnership–how every time he received a gift from the church in Philippi, it caused his heart to soar. He prayed with great joy because he knew that he had partners who were with him and he wasn't sitting out there by himself trying to get this task done. It is the commitment of this congregation that we will never send anybody to the field that we do not adequately support. And congregation, that's us, our commitment when somebody comes from our congregation is to be their primary support. We do not give money to a lot of different places. We give a lot of money to a few different places and we're trying to raise up people from among us who will go and we can be literally their partners. One of those families that you have been familiar with over the years because they have been on the field longest from here are Chris and Kelly McMichael. They've been from here, in first the Philippines, that's where I first met Kelly. It was kind of a strange circle of influence sort of thing. I was at a missions conference in the Philippines and I ran into this pregnant lady names Kelly McMichael who, when I came to Quincy a few years later, found out this is her home church. What a delight to see that circle come around and have my life influenced by their ministry. Well, Chris and Kelly are home on furlough as they renegotiate where it is that they think God is going to use them. I'm not going to say a lot about them because I want you to hear directly from one of our own who has been supported by this church and I trust that he's going to tell us encouraged by that support. Otherwise it doesn't fit this part of the sermon. Would you come up here Chris?

Chris: When Chuck asked me to share a testimony of what you mean to us, three things come to mind automatically. It's a no-brainer. They just come to the top of your mind and it's the things that I want to share with you today. Yes, indeed, encouragement, you can let me stay up here. The first thing that comes to mind, and I think is most forefront in the situation is the financial partnership. Indeed, without the giving of this congregation, we could not be overseas. It's just plain and simple that we could not be there. When we get a statement from our home office every month, there's a list of all the people who give to keep our ministry going and Madison Park is there and a lot of individuals who are sitting here, their names are on that list every month. What an encouragement to know that it is possible for us to stay overseas. We don't have to worry about if we'll have money for groceries or paying for our fuel or paying for school for the boys. Any of those things we don't have to worry about because of the partnership that you have with us. Financial is a huge thing and we are encouraged by that.

The second thing that comes to mind that even more than financial partnership is the prayer support. Many of you know that difficult lives are lived overseas. It's not necessarily as easy as what we experience here in the states. Not a whole lot different in some ways but in other way, a huge difference. Some of the difficulties that we face are physical such as bad roads, such as corrupted government, such as language barriers, such as dealing with the needy day in and day out. Those are difficulties that we face in a physical realm, but there's also spiritual difficulties. Maybe a spiritual dryness, maybe a loneliness issue, maybe a sin issue in our group of workers or maybe within ourselves, maybe a struggle of some sort of spiritual warfare. And that's when I think that the prayer support of you guys is so important. I can't count the number of times when we're going through life and even though we're in a difficult circumstance, even though we're in a situation that's not so easy or going the way that we think they should go, I remember telling Kelly several times that I think somebody must be praying for us today because we find a comfort, we find a peace that's just unexplainable. And it reminds me that yes, we have a group of believers here at Madison Park who are praying for us on a regular basis. Since we've been back this year on our furlough we can't count the number of times somebody has come to us and said, you know we pray for you every night before we go to bed. And, wow, that just makes us melt, it makes tears come to our eyes as we think that why would you pray for us? What an encouragement that we have such a partnership with a group of people like you who are committed to prayer, who are committed to upholding us and encouraging us in such a way. Simply said, without your prayer support, it's no different than the financial support. Without it, we wouldn't be there because we wouldn't have the strength, we wouldn't have the encouragement, we wouldn't have the desire to continue on without your prayer support.

The third thing that comes to mind is just the encouragement that you are to us. Yes, through finances and yes, through prayer, but in a very direct way you encouragement to us. It was in the spring of 2005 Kelly (inaudible) . . . the hangar where we work, where we collect our mail, where we do all our business, she had some business to do and wanted to collect our mail. She went to the mailbox and there were the normal things such as electricity bills and phone bills and things like that, but there was also an envelope from Madison Park Christian Church. And I don't think I have to tell you that that was the first thing that got opened as Kelly walked down the hallway. And in that envelope was a stack of 4 x 6 cards that you had written sitting here in this worship center, cards that were words of encouragement, cards that were words telling us that you're praying for us daily. Kelly didn't make it halfway down the hall to where she had to put those cards away because she started crying and she didn't want to have people wonder what was going on in her life. What an encouragement you are to us as you send cards, as you send emails telling us that you're praying for us, telling us that you're behind us in the work that we're doing.

A second time of encouragement that comes to mind was last January. I had written a letter to the elders of the church here, explaining a situation that we were finding ourselves in, a difficult situation that was far beyond anything we had experienced before. The letter explained our situation, and we decided to put together a conference call with the elders so we about 2:00 in the morning our time and in the afternoon here we had a conference call with the elders and we talked for a long long time about our situation. It became clear, however, that we weren't going to solve the issue over the telephone and it was about two days later that we received an email from Larry saying that a group of elders along with Chuck was going to come visit us where we were at and to discuss this issue at length. And Kelly and I just dropped to the floor in awe of the encouragement that was to us. That not only would they take the time to have a conference call and support us in our needs, but they would give of their time, their money, their efforts, their energies to come and visit us and to support us in our difficult circumstances. Even our colleagues that we work together with were in awe of that type of relationship that we had with our eldership. What an encouragement it is to have a group of leaders in this church who stand behind those who are overseas. In this instance, Kelly and I, what an encouragement that is to us. They responded to our time of feeling alone and our need for assistance, they responded to our need for direction when we felt like we were on our own. And indeed, they made the statement that no, we're not on our own. It's a partnership that we're involved in together.

The third thing that comes to mind in terms of encouragement from you guys is our partnership with you, you as individuals. Oftentimes when we go to the hangar we also find a copy of the Gospel Messenger there waiting for us. It's usually three or four months behind schedule just because of the mail delay, but it's encouragement for us to pick up that Gospel Messenger and to read the stories about people sharing their faith with others.  There's people in need within this congregation and you as individuals are meeting those needs. As I read about people coming to Christ, as I read about needs being met, as I hear about the hungering for discipleship in others who are willing to fulfill that hungering for growth, it encourages me that we're not in this alone. The fact of the matter is we are working together as a team. We may be overseas. You may be in Adams County, but we're working together in partnership in taking the gospel to the world. What an encouragement that is to us through your prayers, through your finances, through your encouragement. It sustains us to keep on going where we're at. And it encourages us that we're in this together. We are thankful, we are blessed to have a relationship with a church such as Madison Park and we say thank you.

Chuck: There's one other thing that Paul says in this text and that is we give because it binds us to Christ and it causes us to grow. When I look down here at verses 9 through 11 in chapter 1, I hear Paul's prayer about his partners. His prayer is that our love would abound more and more, that we would be able to discern what is best and be pure and blameless, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Christ to the glory and praise of God. There is something about giving that causes disciples to grow. And I have to confess to you that it is one of the most difficult topics that we deal with because lots of people don't want you to ever talk about money in a church. That's an issue. That's not my issue, that's yours. I don't have a choice but to talk about it because I've been given the scriptures to preach and it's here. But if you hearing about money is a problem, then it probably means you need to turn the mirror on that part of your life and find out why, because disciples want to grow. Being a disciple of Jesus means doing whatever I have to do to be more like Jesus and if that means I have to look at any area of my life, it doesn't matter what area it is, it means that I have to look at it, evaluate it, and ask myself, am I like Jesus in this part of my life? One of the reasons that giving causes us to grow is because it's an imitation of Jesus. We're going to look at Philippians chapter 2. I just thought I'd go ahead and forewarn you now. We're going to talk about it again because Philippians is about that. He did not think equality with God something to be held onto but he poured himself out, taking upon himself the form of a human being and became a slave and died. He gave of himself completely. We're going to turn around and do it again. We're going to come back to II Corinthians chapter 9 and we're going to concentrate on that last verse of those two chapters that talk about the Macedonian and Achaian churches giving to the Jerusalem churches in a time of need and the last sentence in Paul's paragraph is this: thanks be to God for his indescribable gift. God gave his son, he poured out his life. The question is, how can we do any less than to imitate that kind of life of giving and service and blessing other people. See, when you give, it not only imitates Jesus, but it invests you in the life of the body. See, one of the things that makes it possible for people to just walk away from a church is because they've got nothing invested. They've not poured themselves into it, either personally, in service, or in prayer, or financially. But you know, when you've poured yourself into a congregation and you have given yourself wholeheartedly to that congregation, you pray for that congregation to succeed and you do whatever you have to to make sure that that church succeeds because you've got way too much invested in it. We give and it causes us to grow because it challenges our priorities.

I hate to even suggest that this is possible, but some of you know that I have a problem with covetousness and what I covet is really simple: a green 1993 BMW Z-3 with brown leather interior. I even know the man who owns it. And the rascal offered to sell it to me at just the time that we were doing our capital campaign for this building. I could have been driving a Z-3 if it weren't for this building. I tell you that, not because I want you to feel any better about me, I want you to understand that I'm telling you from my heart of hearts my priority is this church and the kingdom and advancing that kingdom. And if I never in my life drive a Z-3, I'll die happy if I know that this congregation and congregations like it around the world have advanced the gospel and people have come to know Christ. And I'm asking you, just as plainly as I know how, for you to evaluate your priorities about where you invest your resources. Is what you are doing advancing the gospel? Now if I show up with a green Z-3 in the parking lot someday, I don't want you to think I've taken money away from my offering. It just means that God has somehow found me a good person. I'm waiting for my children to finally get over their college debts and pay me back for all of those years.

We have a real opportunity to grow, my friends, personally and we have an opportunity for the congregation to move forward. If you were here six or eight months ago, you know we asked you to just try tithing for a month and several of you did. I have had a number of you talk to me about your anecdotes and the way that God has blessed you or challenged you and the difficulty or the joy, whatever it was, that came out of that experience. In addition to the anecdotes, let me just drop this on you. In that brief period when we were trying a tithe, I don't know how many weeks that involved, but in our last financial report, and somewhere in those few weeks–four, six, eight weeks–whatever it was that we counted those dollars, we were $32,000 over our ministry plan in offerings. Do you understand what that means? Do you understand what that translates into in the way of resources to carry out ministry here? Do you know how many people we turn away week after week after week in our benevolence program because we just don't have the funds to be able to help them? If everybody would give at that level all the time, do you understand the kinds of things that we could do to advance the gospel not only here but around the rest of the world and meet the needs of people in our own community? So we're going to ask you to try it again, January through March. Get through the holidays, although I know the credit card bill comes January 15–that's when you'll really feel it–January through March. Just see what happens, 12, 13 weeks of tithing, at least tithing your income. Now, if you're already a tither, give more, and see if it can't become a lifestyle where you begin to see not, I don't mean financial blessing. I mean when you begin to see welling up within you a sense of absolute deep abiding satisfaction that you have helped advance the gospel of Jesus here and around the world. I understand that not everybody, not everybody can give the way they might like to. I'm telling you, start somewhere. If you typically buy a can of Coke a week, put the 75 cents in the offering. If you typically smoke a pack a day, put the $3.50 a day in the offering. If you typically stop one day for lunch and you pay $7.00 at McDonald's for a 99-cent hamburger, fast through lunch and put it in the offering and just see if God does not begin to change your heart about the gospel of Jesus. That's what this is about. This is not about our finances. This is about us looking like Jesus, acting like Jesus, and advancing the gospel as partners with the Chris and Kellys of the world who are out there making a difference for Jesus. Your life will never be the same as you begin to recognize that something you have done has come back full circle to you and the circles of influence just keep happening in your life.

Sitting at this table is the primary circle, by the way. For God so loved the world he gave his only begotten son and that one son said to him who loves us and has loosed us from our sins by his own blood, God gave Jesus. Jesus gave his life and he gives to us an opportunity to have that life in us that we can turn right around and give praise back to God and the circle just goes on and on. This primary circle is one of the key images in all of scripture of partnership. It's a partnership. That's the word. The word literally means to have something in common. You know what we call this, don't you? We call it common-union. Mispronounced. You got it? Communion. It's to have this in common. It's for us and God to have life in common and we hold in our hands the body and the blood of Jesus and we hold that in common. This morning, please pay attention here, this morning we want to do this in common so we're going to ask that you just hold the bread and the cup in your hands while we sing. The men will come and pass it. You just hang on to it because we're going to come back together and we'll take this together as one wonderful group of partners in the gospel of Jesus. And then the baskets will be passed and you'll have something to put that empty cup in, but just hand onto it and together as a family, as a body let's share in common the communion with the blood of Jesus.