Welcome to Calvary Albuquerque.
We pursue the God who is passionately pursuing a lost world. We do this with one another through worship, by the Word, to the world.
Well, friend, if I've never had the pleasure of meeting you, my name is Neil Ortiz. And I serve as one of the pastors here at Calvary Albuquerque. And I love the church. In fact, I've been a member of this church for over 23 years. My entire adult life, my entire Christian life has been here. Not only do I love the church in general, but I have a very special affinity for this church. So it's my hope and prayer that as we spend time tonight, we're going to be reminded of a very fundamental truth that brings forth great power and great blessing as we all together make up this body here at Calvary.
And to begin my time with you all, I'd like to share a story that I love recounting every time I hear it, and every time I have the chance to share it. And so I'm going to take you all the way back 1982, to the NFL football team, the Chicago Bears. Now, in 1982 they had an incredibly talent-laden team that was severely underperforming. And the then-owner George Halas, the legendary George Halas knew that he needed to make a leadership change. And his selection of all those men that were available was the controversial and intense Mike Ditka.
Now, NFL Hall of Famer and then-linebacker for the Bears, Mike Singletary, recalls that when Ditka's name first surfaced as the one who was going to take over the team, he said, I heard guys all over the locker room saying who? Coach Ditka? Oh, we don't want that guy-- he's crazy. But Singletary goes on to say, but I knew when I heard that, that that's exactly what we needed. A visionary.
He goes on to say, when Ditka arrived, you knew change was there. You knew that you were going to be either in or out. You also knew that you didn't have to be the most talented guy, but you had to give everything that you had. Now, Ditka himself says of when he first took over control of the team, he says, we knew exactly the players that we wanted. We knew the kind of players we wanted. I wanted to know about their character. Not how fast they could run, not how high they could jump, not how much weight they could lift. But I wanted to know what they were all about. He says, those things, they're are all wonderful, but those have nothing to do with what makes a football player.
Now, when I hear that as a Christian man and as a pastor, I think to myself, this man gets it when it comes to what makes a team. Powerful, successful, triumphant. In fact, he gets it in ways that many Christians don't even get it. He wanted to know the man, the character. Now, defensive tackle Steve McMichael, then of the Bears, said, it was awesome. The first practice, he gets us all together and he says, boys, I've got some good news for you, and I've got some bad news for you. The good news is, you give me three years, we're going to the Super Bowl. The bad news is, half of you ain't going to be here to see it.
I love that. It's inspiring to me. It gets into my core. Men wanting to lead and wanting to win. You see, as the senior leader, Ditka brought in a specific culture that he knew wasn't going to be for everyone. He knew that either by attitude or aptitude, not everyone was going to remain with him. You see, he was calling the men of that team to follow him. To imitate him. He knew, for that team to be triumphant, they would need to follow his ways. And he was OK with the fact that players were going to change, based upon this new culture that he brought. You see, he knew he needed men with the same heart, with the same mind, with the same passion, and with the same goals.
Offensive tackle of that team, Jim Covert says, you know, there's a lot of guys from that first day that didn't make it, just because they weren't willing to pay the price. However, for those men that were willing to pay the price, after three full seasons together, they not only made it to the Super Bowl, they won the Super Bowl. And they are considered by many to be the single greatest team to ever play together as a unit for one season.
Now, why do I love that story? Well, in large part, because I respect and appreciate Coach Ditka's willingness to take points. To step up and to be the senior leader, the head coach, to take that team, to cast a vision for that team, to make decisions to chart a course for them, and then to be able to take responsibility for those decisions, and for all of those men-- all of his people.
Now, you see, like a sports team such as the Bears, and more specifically for our purposes here, our church, Calvary, is unapologetically led by a head coach that we call our senior pastor. You see, we operate, all of us, with this understanding that God is the team owner. He's the purchaser and owner of this, His church. And that God is higher, he's appointed our head coach, our senior pastor to lead us.
You see, the rest of us, we're assistant coaches, or special teams players. We all play a part, but we're under the leadership of our senior pastor. In fact, we believe this so much, that it's one of our Calvary culture axioms. That axiom's titled "Follow the Leader." You see, we believe that God has given our senior pastor a vision and direction for ministry. And we are called the follow him, and to support that work. When that happens, we have a chance, we have the opportunity to really win some games for the Kingdom of God. To make a difference in this world, and not just be a Christian country club, or not just exist, but actually make a difference.
Specifically, friend, all of us here tonight are privileged to trust in God's leadership through the leadership of our senior pastor, Pastor Skip. This is very important. We can never lose sight of this. It's fundamental. It's foundational. And here's also some additional good news. Similar to Ditka's Bears, for this His church, for Calvary to work, to serve, and to produce as God intends, good news. Here goes. You and I, we don't have to be the most talented man or woman. But we do have to give everything that we have.
We do have to be a man or a woman of godly character. And, if we follow the leader, and we're all in, together we will continue to bear some crazy fruit for the Kingdom of God. Now, friend, if like me, this has been your church point of reference for all of your Christian life, I can tell you from having traveled the world for 10 years here at this church, I served as the missions pastor.
I know so many pastors who are friends of mine, from all around the country, and again all around the world. This place is not normal. It's not normal. It's crazy. It's awesome. In fact, just this year alone, 2016, we're going to have church, big outreaches in the largest football stadium in this state, and the largest baseball stadium in this state. Is that crazy or what?
I don't know about you, friend. I don't know about you, but there's a reason why I get excited about life and about serving God. Because when it comes to being in those environments, I'm not content to being in the stands. I want to be on the field, baby. I want to be playing. And all of you have that same opportunity-- if you're not already-- to get in on what God is doing. But it starts with following the leader.
We're going to do this by looking at a portrait from the first-century church as an example of this leadership dynamic. This team structure. And to do that, I'm going to ask that you joined me in 1 Corinthians 4, beginning in verse 14. 1 Corinthians 4. We're going to take it all away from verse 14 to verse 21. You see, as we begin reading this passage, we discover Paul as an example of a senior pastor. The-- definite article-- leader of the church in Corinth.
Now, by "senior," it is meant to indicate first in rank. In military terms, this is the man that's known to take points. Now, in military terms, this idea of taking point, to me, is powerful. It's beautiful. In fact, it's described as this-- "to assume the first and most exposed position in a combat formation. That is, the leading soldier of the unit advancing through hostile and unsecured territory."
By "senior pastor," we more specifically mean, that is the man that God has appointed to be the spiritual leader, the shepherd of His flock, that is to have the most responsibility and the most influence for the spiritual life of those in that local church. When you consider the magnitude and intensity, the reality of the spiritual battle that exists in our world today, and you consider the place, the opportunity, the responsibility of a senior pastor, you have to consider that this is someone who has stepped forward and dedicated their lives to agonize in prayer. And in obedience. In sacrifice. In study of God's word. And a willingness to come alongside us and teach us how to live in Christ.
Read with me, beginning in verse 14. Paul the Apostle says, "I do not write these things, oh Corinthians, to shame you. But as my beloved children, I warn you. For though you might have 10,000 instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers. For in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Therefore I urge you-- imitate me." It's another way of saying, I'm down with the responsibility. Follow me.
Now, Paul had a unique relationship to this Corinthian church. You see, it was on his second missionary journey that Paul brought the gospel to the city of Corinth. You see then that he established that church's existence as recorded in Acts 18:1-17. He makes reference to this by saying, "In Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel." Now, lest anyone there in that church think, or any of us who are reading this passage think that Paul was saying, hey, I'm all that you need. It's all me. I'm the one to look at exclusively-- he qualifies how it is that he brought the gospel to them.
He says first off, "In Jesus Christ." In other words, I am like you, a sinner saved by grace. It's only in the name of Christ, and it's only by the power of Christ, it's only by the call of Christ that I came to you. So I don't get credit for any of that. And he says, "I have begotten you through the gospel." Paul wanted to make them know and understand that it wasn't him that thought that he was the one who saved them. Nor were they to think that Paul was the one that saved us. You see, this church, by the time he writes this letter, is about five years old. And it's riddled with problems.
Now, the first four chapters, Paul addresses the primary problem this church was experiencing. And it was divisions. Factions. You see, there were a number of prominent leaders, influential leaders in the church. And instead of the people having the right perspective, they were beginning to polarize, and divide over whose team they were on. Well, I'm of Paul, some said. Well I'm of Apollo, others said. And Paul's writing to them and saying, guys hold on. You're getting it all wrong. You need to be focused on Christ. It's the gospel that is the power of God unto salvation. All I was, was the messenger.
Earlier on in this chapter he says, look, everything you and I have received, we all received it from God. So why do you act like you didn't receive it? Like you made it yourself? Like it's about you? Says you're getting it all wrong. And again, to clarify, it's in Christ Jesus that I had begotten you through the gospel.
You see, just like Paul, it's the same with us. When God uses us to share the gospel with somebody, it is akin to, let's say, a man who is the father, the paternal father of a child. All he brought to the table was the seed. But in every single other way, that life is a work of God. God is the one who fashioned that child in the womb, according to Scripture. It's God who brought forth that light. He was only a part of the process, by God's selection.
So, here we have this church experiencing a lot of trouble. And God says, I love them so much, I'm going to send their dad to them to set things back in order. So God's correction involved starting with Paul approaching them in order to reestablish order in the church. Get in your mind a courtroom scene where things are getting a little haywire. They're going crazy. Emotions are flying. And what does the judge you have to do at some point, just to make sure everybody settles down and behaves? Slams the gavel, and says "order in the court!" This is God's way of slamming the gavel down pretty intensely, through the fired-up Paul, to say, order in the church.
You see, what we have here, after five years, is God reaffirming Paul as the senior leader of this church. He is again to be recognized as the one who has the final responsibility, and by God, the final answer, when it comes to how to address these issues. Now, he says earlier in that verse, you might have 10,000 instructors. All he's utilizing there is hyperbole. He's exaggerating.
But what he refers to there is the Greek word "paidagogos." What does that refer to? That is not a person in the life of a young child who has any biological connection to that child. But in that culture, an instructor as such, was one who was a slave, employed by a family for the exclusive purpose of being a moral guardian and mentor to a young child. They would even go so far as to teach them how to behave in public. So this paidagogos, this instructor, is one who didn't have any biological relationship to the child, but was simply a teacher of that child. He says, look, you might have 10,000 of those, but you only have one me. And that's a spiritual father.
Now in modern terms, we might put it this way. Now, a church, you might listen to a number of teachers on the radio. You might have on your device the podcast of a number of other teachers. You might read the books of a number of other teachers. They're all instructors, but you only have one father who's responsible for your spiritual care. So what is Paul doing here? He's simply pulling rank with the Corinthian church in order to, with intensity, assert his authority that he might compel obedience in them.
Now, I appeal to all of us with the same understanding and with the same intensity. Never forget that when it comes to this church, God used a man by the name of Skip Heitzig back in 1982 to bring the gospel to Albuquerque, and to establish this church. In this sense, as mentioned, he is our spiritual father. And we have an opportunity and a responsibility to follow him in Christ.
Now, this concept of authority and submission to authority, it is very, very important to God. In fact, it's a consistent and constant theme all the way from the beginning books of the Bible, through to the end books of the Bible. In fact, Scripture in total gives us about five types of authority that we are to submit to daily. The first would be the authority of government. And for lack of time, I'm simply going to give you some Scripture references to be able to go back and check what God has to say about us submitting to these five types of authority.
Again, the authority of government. You can find that in 1 Peter 2:13-17. You can also go to Romans 13:1-5. Next, we also see authority in business, or as some might say, in the workplace. For that you can go to Colossians 3:22-4:1. You can also go to 1 Peter 2:18-25.
Then we have societal authority. This might refer to teachers, coaches, or community leaders. And incidentally, those references in Colossians and 1 Peter that I just gave you for authority in the workplace, they apply to that same authority, as well.
Fourthly, there's authority in the family. To find that we can go to Colossians 3:18-21. We can also go to Ephesians 5:21, all the way to Ephesians 6:4. And then finally, Proverbs 6:20-21.
This now brings us to what the Scripture has to say with regard to authority in the church. Now, before we explain that further, we would do well to consider the fact that these five areas of authority, all of us are going to be judged according to either one, how we functioned as a leader representing Christ in any one of those contexts in which we find ourselves assuming a leadership responsibility. And then secondly, as a follower. How was it that we submitted to the authority that God told us He placed in our lives? Especially because He told us how to, and with what spirit, to submit to that authority?
Now, consider the fact that if you take a pack of dogs, every dog pack needs a leader. A leader dog. An alpha male, right? Those who study these animals will tell you that without a pack leader, and without parameters, that dog pack is confused, unstable, and in constant conflict. That, my friend, is an exact description of the church in Corinth at the time of this writing. So, just like every dog pack needs a leader dog, just like every team needs a head coach, and every military unit needs a commander-- and incidentally, those of you who've served in team sports, played in team sports, or served in the military, you tend to have an easier time understanding and appreciating this, don't you? You do. Because you know how it works.
So, just like these need leadership, every church also needs a primary shepherd. Somebody who's ultimately responsible-- a senior pastor. You don't have to turn there, but I simply want to point out that this is exactly why God, through Peter in 1 Peter 5, writes these words. He says, "To the elders who are among you I exhort with strong intensity, shepherd the flock of God, which is among you, serving as overseers not by compulsion, but do it willingly. Not for dishonest gain, but eagerly. Nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away. Likewise, you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive one to another, and be clothed with humility, for God resists the proud, but He gives grace to the humble."
In addition, the writer of Hebrews, in chapter 13, says in verse 7 and verse 17, these words. He says to us, the church, in verse 7, "Remember those who rule over you, who have responsibility to lead you, who've spoken the Word of God to you, whose faith follow." Considering the outcome of their conduct, listen to their mouths and watch their lives. And in verse 17, the writer goes on to say to us, the church, "Obey those who rule over you and be submissive. For they, your leadership, watches out for your souls as those who will give an account for such to God. Let them do so with joy and not with grief."
Why? Because that would be unprofitable for the pastor? No, it doesn't say that. It says, "let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you." For me, for us. Interesting. So, at this point somebody might be thinking, all right, I got it. God's appointed the senior pastor, he's in charge. So, just like the people of Corinth, undoubtedly there's some people in this room here that are asking this question-- So how do pastors like Paul or Pastor Skip, how do they get a gig like that? How do they get a job like that? How do they get that responsibility?
I want you turn with me to Ephesians 4. We're going to find out how. You see, Scripture in many places tells us exactly how. And it's this way. "God Himself establishes each church and the leadership structure of each church. It is not the decision of any man. It is by appointment from God." You see, that's part of the issue in Corinth. There were some people were saying, hey, I see Paul, he comes in, he's got influence. He's got people listening to him, he can command and task. I want to get in on that. In fact, I'm better looking than Paul. My pipes? I speak better than Paul. I'm more charismatic than Paul. If Paul can do it, surely I can.
Not so fast. The Holy Spirit through Paul tells the church of Ephesus in chapter 4, beginning in verse 11, that "God Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, until we all come to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God to a perfect man. To the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ."
Now, to further aid us in appreciating this, I want you to hold that place at Ephesians 4-- you're already holding the place at 1 Corinthians 4, I understand that-- I want you to go one other place with me. 1 Corinthians 12. 1 Corinthians 12. We're going to begin looking in verse 4. To further underscore this, the Holy Spirit through Paul then tells the church in Corinth, later on in the same book that we're studying this evening, he says, "There are diversities of gifts." You see, God's intention for the church-- for us, today-- is to understand that His design for His church is unity in diversity, not unraveling in division. Unity in diversity, not unraveling in division.
Again, to begin this, he says there are diversities of gifts. God's given you an ability, and you an ability. He's given everybody a diverse ability to make up the entire working unit of His body. "Diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. There are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all and in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one." Why? So that everybody benefits for the profit of all.
Just as a side note, if I could. A servant of Christ-- and fortunately, I've had the privilege of knowing literally thousands of them, just within the context of this church over all of these years. A servant of the Lord that stands out as uniquely effective is one who knows the parts of the body that they have been given by God to play. And they accept that role, and they function in that role. In doing so, they're going to operate according to their gift, or giftings. They're going to do so by the power of the Holy Spirit. It's a sweet thing to see. When that happens, oh, it's a beautiful, beautiful thing.
Now, as you're still in 1 Corinthians 12, I want you to bounce over to verse 15 with me. He goes on to give a metaphor more specifically referring to the body of Christ, and body parts within the body of Christ. He says, look, how crazy would it be if the foot should say, well, "because I'm not a hand, I'm not of the body." Is it therefore not of the body? Of course not. It's a rhetorical question. "And if the ear should say, well, 'because I'm not an eye, I'm not a part of the body,' is it therefore not a part of the body?" Of course not. "If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? And if the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling?"
OK, this next verse, boom! Game changer. Absolute game changer. I'm telling you, if you don't know what your purpose in life is as God's son or daughter, it's just because you haven't discovered it yet. You have the opportunity to learn that and discover that. Why? I want you to read with me here. But now-- get this-- "God has set the members, each one of them, in the body exactly how He pleased." If you're an ear, man! Be happy that you're an ear! If you're the eye, love it! Own it! If you're the big toe on the left foot, thank God for that.
Now, when God births and grows a local church, you better believe that He births it and grows it to have all of the parts that it's going to need in order to be a complete and functioning body. And it's Him alone that chooses the leadership. I'm going to take this analogy a little bit further so that we understand, hopefully a little bit better. Now. His awesomeness, otherwise known as Cody Byrne-- Where's Cody? All right. So, Cody is one of our student ministries pastors. And a couple of weeks ago, he introduced me to this incredible app, Snapchat. OK?
And so together, he said, hey, come here, Neil, come on! I didn't know what he was going to do. And so we do a selfie together. And it was Face Swap. Can I just tell you? I've never looked so handsome in my life. Now I can tell you in all honesty, we looked like some funky dudes. It just wasn't right. We did Face Swap, and it just didn't work. I was grateful that that's not how God made us. Especially for you, Cody.
So just imagine if you take George Clooney's eyes, and you put them on Taylor Swift's face. That ain't going to work, friend. What about taking Taylor Swift's legs and putting them on Phil Robertson's body? Not going to work. What about Phil Robertson's beard on-- and I thought about this hard-- let's put that on the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton? Not going to work. You see, for each one of those people, God fashioned them to be exactly how they are. He gave them the eyes, and the nose, and the torso, and the legs, the facial hair, or lack thereof, and He trusted them to put it all together and just make it work. Well, when you start mixing body parts, it no longer works. You see why? Because God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.
That leads me to some breaking news. Here's the breaking news. Friend, you don't get to choose where you go to church. I don't get to choose where I go to church. You know what that means? That means that there's some people hearing this message that week in and week out are sitting in the wrong sanctuary. Might even be some of you tonight. You see, they've-- they said, look, the way God made that one, it's just not working for me. So I'm going to make a swap. I'm going to change things up.
So, what if my thumb tonight says, you know what, Neil? All those people looking at you on the screen and up on stage, they're seeing your face and they're listening to the sounds that your tongue is uttering. And all I've done is turn pages for you. I don't think anybody's even noticed me, until you pointed me out just now. So you know what? I'm going to make a swap. I'm going to be a tongue. I like it. It's warm in there. It's a protected environment, plus it's more prominent than my thumb.
Can I tell you, that's exactly how so many people in the body of Christ look and live every day? Like a whiny thumb-sucker, complaining. Complaining about the role God's given them to perform in the church.
Now, let's go back to Paul in 1 Corinthians 4. What are the first words he uttered in that passage? He says, brethren, "I do not write these things to shame you but to warn you." I want you to consider that up until this point here, in these first four chapters, he makes these references to the Corinthians. He says that you're acting like babies in Christ. Not very flattering. He says you guys are acting carnal when you should be acting spiritual. You're being foolish. You're weak. You're base. Grow up.
He's giving them an admonition. An admonition is a critical word with the aim, not of humiliation, but of provoking change. In other words, get your thumbs out of your mouths and grow up. So, when God calls each of us to be the member of a body, a local church, He does so to a specific church, just like these people in Corinth. What that means is that he's also called us to get behind the vision that He's given to that church. And effectually, in some way, shape, or form, be the arms and legs of that senior leader, as Paul was to the Corinthians.
You see, it's not an accident that you're connected to whom you're connected to, within this church. It is no accident that you've been placed under the leadership that the Lord has placed you spiritually. But when we make changes, we betray a truth that the Bible tells us. And that is that the body of Christ was made up in the image of Christ Himself. He is the head. But when we just say, you know what? I'm kind of done with that. It's not really working for me. I'm going to go down the street. In effect, what you're doing is you're attempting to remake the church in your own image, because you're not content with the image that God has made it in Christ.
Friend, that doesn't mean it's always going to be easy. That doesn't mean you're always going to like the smell of the person next to you, or the laugh of the person behind you, or the voice of the person to your left. No looking. [LAUGHS] You heard them too? That's what you're thinking during worship. Listen. You stay put. Be where God's placed you. So rather, this is God's intention.
And I'm just going to reference back to Ephesians 4, beginning in verse 15, "speaking the truth in love, God's intention is that we may grow up in all things into Him who is the head, Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, it ends up causing growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love."
So, when everyone is aware of the organizational structure of the local church, and they discover their part, their role in it, God's work can be beautifully choreographed through a coordinated body. Don't you like to see a graceful body in motion? That only happens when every part is doing its part. Look at it this way, friend. The more we are one, the more God gets done. And that's how He intends it. So, God establishes Paul here as the senior pastor.
I want to now turn our attention to Timothy. And I want to consider him as a faithful assistant to the senior pastor. Now, I've served here as an assistant pastor for over 16 years. But I want you to know, friend, all of us are to be assistants to Pastor Skip as he leads this church. All of us, in one way, shape, or form. Verse 17, Paul goes on to say-- again, 1 Corinthians 4-- "For this reason I have sent Timothy to you." Now hey, that could be a little bit of a mind-bender there. Why? What did he just say in the previous verse? "I urge you, imitate me."
And to do that, we would expect for him to now write, look, as soon as I can, I'm booking it over there, and I'm going to be there with you, and I'm going to show you how it's done. But he doesn't say that. He says, follow me, and to follow me, I'm sending him. How could he do that? Why would he do that? Because Paul had done his job. He had faithfully reproduced himself as a follower of Christ, in this man Timothy. And he said, Timothy is a beloved and faithful son. Anything I would tell you, anything I would model for you, boom. He's got it.
The verse goes on to say, "For this reason I've sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ." "In Christ" is the qualifier. Paul modeled his life after Christ. Paul transferred that to Timothy as a man in Christ. And the goal wasn't to reproduce little Pauls. It was to reproduce Christ. And he says, "as I teach everywhere in every church." He was a consistent man.
So, Timothy was proof of Paul's successful leadership. He had been reproduced. He was a faithful son in the faith. Now, just real quickly here, and don't turn to any passages, because I simply want to develop a point for you all. Earlier on in this same chapter, in verse 2, it says, "Moreover, it is required in stewards that one be found faithful." What is a steward? A steward is one who manages another's property, another's affairs, another's agenda, another's abilities. Now, I want you to consider that, and in your mind's eye go to Matthew 25 and Luke 12. And in those chapters we have what's called "The Parable of the Talents."
And most of us are familiar with "The Parable of the Talents," right? There were three people. And the master gave five talents to one, in the form of currency; two talents to another; and one to the third guy. And we're told that the one who received five, took them and multiplied them, and created five more, reproduced five more. The second, who had the two, reproduced two more, as well. They now had four. But the one that was given one, he said, hey look, master, I know you're a harsh guy. I didn't want to lose what you gave me so I just buried it. And I did nothing with it. But here it is. It's back for you.
Those first two that reproduced what was given to them, we're told that they received the marvelous declaration of, well done, good and faithful servant. You were entrusted with little. Now you'll be ruler over much. But what did that third one receive? They received this condemnation. "You wicked, lazy, and unprofitable servant." And then he said to the workers, take the one that I gave him that he did nothing with, and give it to the others who reproduced. So, what's the point? Faithfulness is measured by reproduction.
For the last couple of years, I've had the privilege of serving Pastor Skip and this church as what he titled the Executive Pastoral Administrator. Now, that is simply a technical way to say that I'm responsible for all pastoral ministry in this church. What that means is that if any of our pastors do a great job, you need to rush right over to them, pat them on the back, tell them how awesome they are, and tell them thank you for what they've done. And then make a beeline to Pastor Skip and tell him exactly how great they did. But it also means that if anything appears to go wrong, or actually goes wrong with pastoral ministry, you need to go to that pastor the maybe fumbled the ball. And if things don't get worked out there, it comes to my desk. That's what that means.
Now I can tell you, time and time again, in leading our pastors, our team of pastors, I remind them that my responsibility and opportunity is to give them as much ability as I can to understand the heart and mind of Pastor Skip. Not my agenda, but the agenda God has given this church through our senior pastor. Now, one of the beautiful things about God's leaders is that these are people that don't take ministry, they make ministry.
You see, Paul made an awesome ministry opportunity for Timothy by being able to go as his representative to Corinth, and serve the Lord by serving the Corinthian church. You see, Paul could have been selfish and said, hey I'll do it. I like that. I like traveling, let's go. But he said, you know what? I'll Defer
I've had people come up to me over the last couple of years and say, hey Neil, when we have baptisms, I see that you're not in the water much. You don't like it? You afraid of water? No. Friend, I had, prior to a couple years ago, 14 solid years of always being in the water. And now that we have some of our younger and newer pastors, I want them to be in the water. I want them to have beauty of being able to baptize people. I want to be able to transfer that to them and, in a sense, make ministry for them.
More amazingly, Pastor Skip is able to lead this church that has about 150 paid staff. That's crazy for a church. Consider not only do we have about 150 paid staff, we have anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 servants, volunteers in this church who serve the functions of this church, this campus, and our other campus at Nob Hill and in Santa Fe. In addition to that, there's many of you that consider this your home church, but you serve out in the community, either in another ministry or as an incredible shining light at your workplace, amongst your family, in your neighborhood, wherever it might be.
Why? I'm so thankful that in 1982 a young ma'am of the name of Skip Heitzig came to Albuquerque. And it was through his faithfulness someone like me got saved and has been able to model my Christian life after him for 23 years. I am absolutely stoked by that. And I'm grateful for that. Almost brings me to tears right now.
If I can give you any secret to the opportunities I've had to serve the Lord, it's been simply this. Whether it was the first time I served the ministry, right over there at that door, as an usher-greeter at the 11:15 service on Sundays. I was the biggest-grinning bulletin-passing-outer and seat-identifier for people that you ever saw. Because I'm thinking, man, these people are going to get to hear the truth! If they're not saved, they'll have a chance to get saved. This is awesome! Right there, that door.
Whether it was that as my first ministry-- incidentally, my first ministry leader is still the ministry leader of that ministry, Dom Garcia. Leader of ushers and greeters. Ha, crazy!
Whether it was that, or working in the bookstore, or managing the bookstore, or being asked by Pastor Skip to come on the pastoral staff and direct the school of ministry, and then be missions pastor, and just other things. I can tell you, I've never campaigned for any one of those opportunities. Not a one. Not a one. And it's only by God's grace, I can tell you, that whether he had me serving as a bookstore clerk, or a big old grinning usher-greeter, I was just stoked to do anything for the Lord. I encourage you to do the same.
Now, what's God's expectation of us? It's this. Our opportunity is to be understood and appreciated as being that of Timothy's, which was to pass on from his leader the things he learned, so that others might receive them. And then, guess what they do with it. They passed it on, too. You see, years later, Paul wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:2, "and the things which you've heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." And so on and so forth, and all the way from the first century and the genesis of the church, to 2016 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, it hasn't stopped.
Why? Because leaders were men enough and women enough to take point. And those that they were responsible were woman enough or men enough to follow. To learn to pass it on, and we receive it today.
Now, again, friend, we have the opportunity, the responsibility to follow the leader. Again, we believe that God has given our senior pastor a vision and direction for ministry. And we are called to follow him and support that work. Now, that doesn't always happen without bumps in the road friend. [LAUGHS] You see, there were many years where every-- dare I say-- hate email that came into the church, or every questionable piece of physical mail that came into the church with some kind of complaint came to my desk. And so I know firsthand that not everybody always flows and gets along.
But here's what I want to say, friend. I've discovered that for many grievances about church life and how church life works, many of those, if not all, they hinge on a very essential fulcrum. What happens from that point forward depends upon a very critical pivot point. Or, in military terms, a part of the battleground that is known as the center of gravity.
And it's this-- and some of you personally know this. That when you've come and said, Neil, why did we paint the ceiling black? Why did we choose this color? How come the stage carpet's black? How come we invested in these screens up here? And some people ask just because they want to know. Others are not happy. Here's what I address first. Friend, do you trust God's leadership through your leadership here at this church? Do you trust Pastor Skip? Because ultimately that's what it comes down to.
And if I could just say this, on behalf of Pastor Skip and every other human being on Earth-- the best of men are men at best. I'll just tell you right now, so you're not shocked when it happens. We are human, and we get it wrong sometimes. Oops. We don't mean to. We don't mean to. Hey, we're swinging for the fences every week at this place. Sometimes you strike out. Be nice. Don't hate. Assume the best. Be reminded that love believes the best.
So I want to bring it to a close here. And in considering that Timothy was sent by Paul to advance the vision that God had given to Paul to lead the church, I'm going ask us this question. How do we advance our leader's vision? How are we representing our senior pastor's vision for this church? You see, let me just tell you. I'm fully aware that the way in which I serve here, and the place in which I serve, it comes with so many awesome privileges. But I can tell you, it comes with a lot of work. A lot of battle. A lot of vulnerability. But one of the things that makes it so worth it, is there's those times when I'm able to sit with Pastor Skip, either just one-on-one, or maybe with a small group, and watch him. And listen to him. Watch him do things that are awesome, or say things that are fabulous that most people won't get to hear.
And just a couple weeks ago, we were praying. Just a small group of five of us. And Pastor Skip said, Lord, we don't want to impose a vision on your church, because you've given us one. Enabler us to fulfill it. Love it! That man is listening to the Lord as best he can. So guess what. There are going to be times where God might specifically select to give Pastor Skip some information that he's not going to let you in on. And that's going to leave you wondering, why we do that? Why in the world did he say that? Why in the world did he go pray at that rally last week?
Side note. He says if Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton asked him to pray at their rally, he's there. Anywhere I can go in that setting to invoke the name of Jesus Christ and to pray His blessing upon this country, I'm in! I'm in! I'm in. So, if you want to add to the slew of emails we got this week about that, please, I hope that answer suffices. If not, I'll be here after service, ready for battle in the Lord and in love.
But I'm going to leave us with this. Do we advance our leader's vision enthusiastically? You see, when either Pastor Skip alone, or whether it's us as a team of pastors making prayerful, thoughtful decisions, when we decide to cut something or bring something in, and people ask you, do you know why the church did that? What kind of angle do you put on it? Is it enthusiastically? I hope it is, because that is something that honors God by faith, even when you don't understand it. Because it is possible that God has spoken to password Skip things that he'll withhold from me and from you. But I trust him as a man, because I trust God's leadership through him.
Friend, we have an exceptional senior pastor. Lest anybody think that guys like that are a dime a dozen, you're absolutely, freakishly mistaken. Or, do we advance the vision reluctantly? Perhaps even insubordinately? I've even known some to do it cursing or complaining under their breath. Not a good decision. Not profitable for them.
Or do we do it apologetically? You know, I can't help but think of a very bad example from the Old Testament. A man by the name of Absalom. Absalom was the son of King David. Good looking guy-- charismatic, amazing. He didn't really like how his dad was running things, and he saw opportunity. And we read in 2 Samuel 15:4-6, it says, "Moreover, Absalom would say to the people, 'Oh, that I were made judge in the land.'" If you had me as your senior pastor, things would be so much different. "'Everyone who has any suit or cause would come to me and I would give them justice.'" Not like my dad.
"And so it was," we read on, "whenever anyone came near to bow down to him, that he would put out his hand and take him, and kiss him." Oh, I'm so glad you're here. Coming to me. "And in this manner, Absalom acted toward all of Israel who came to the king for judgment." And this is the killer. "And so Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel." God had given the hearts of the men of Israel to David to lead. Absalom was a punk. Insubordinate. Stole the hearts of men.
So, we don't get to indulge in the last portion of our passage here, but let me just simply read. Paul goes on to say, now "There are some in your midst causing the problems. They're puffed up." They're full of air. They're boastful, proud, as though I were not coming. See, they were saying, aw, Paul. He won't come. He's afraid. We're large and in charge now. He says, oh, but I will come to you. And then he kind of puts in there, "if the Lord wills." He had made so many plans before that God changed, he just had to throw that in there in order to be legit. And he says, "and then when I come I'm going to know, not the words of those who are puffed up, but the power." The power. "For the Kingdom of God is not in word, but in power."
And he closes by saying, so, church, what do you want? "'What do you want? Shall I come to you with a rod, or in love and a spirit of gentleness?'" Friend, there's really only one choice. And that is to honor the Lord, and to trust God. And to trust God's leadership through the leadership he's placed in our lives.
And so I'm going to leave you with this final exhortation as the band comes out. And that is-- a very great liberating and encouraging perspective. We get to follow the leader. We get to stand behind a man who's taken point, who's entrusted by God to make decisions. A man who's willing to take responsibility for those decisions. That makes this a place of movement, a place of action for the Lord. We are privileged to trust in God's leadership through our God-appointed senior pastor. We're privileged to have such a wise leader who knows so much about the Scripture, and allows that truth to influence his thoughts, his life and his decisions in leading his family and this church.
For us, friend, it's a win-win at every turn. You see, by faith, trusting the Lord's leading through our leadership, we get to relax. Because God's either going to lead through him, or, at times when he's human, like we all are, even despite him, God's still in charge. You see, either God ordains things to run smoothly and in a way that we entirely agree with-- and boy, do we like those seasons, don't we? Those decisions are easy to accept. Or, or-- God in His goodness redeems the roughest roads that are fraught with disappointments and discomfort, fears or frustrations even when all of those seem to be produced by our leadership.
So we started off with Mike Ditka, right? 85, Super Bowl champion, Chicago Bears. We mentioned a few of their great Hall of Fame players, Mike Singletary being one of them. Let me ask you this. You ever heard of a guy named Jim Finks? He was the general manager of the team back then. How about a guy named Bill Tobin? Or Jim Parmer? Those two guys were the only two scouts for the 10 years prior to Ditka taking the team. They're the ones who selected all that talent. You see, it wasn't just about Ditka. It was about the team. The team. A team that was assembled with tremendously talented players that just needed the right leader to be a catalyst for triumph.
Let me close by giving us the example of his defensive coordinator, Buddy Ryan. Believed to be the most genius defensive coordinator the NFL's ever seen. You see, together they won a championship. Together they had a winning percentage of almost 70% with the playoff record of four and one, including the Super Bowl. But that next year they split up. Ryan went off to be a head coach for the Philadelphia Eagles. And so they separated.
As a head coach, Buddy Ryan, his winning percentage-- 487. Zero and three in the playoffs, no Super Bowl appearance. Ditka, as a head coach without buddy Ryan as his assistant, it dropped almost 10 percentage points, to 0.610 winning percentage. Two and five in the playoffs, no Super Bowl victories.
Friend, don't play plastic surgery with God's church. Learn your role. Love it. Submit to it, accept it, flourish in it. And I'm willing, if you're willing to join me, in believing that God has given our senior pastor a vision and direction for ministry. And we are called to follow him and support that work.
Let me pray. Father, may it be that we as a church are better for Your purposes. For being reminded of this truth. And Lord, together as a family, we just want to say thank You, thank You, thank You for being the chief shepherd of your church. And for leading us. Thank You for ordaining the likes of Paul the Apostle, and Pastor Skip Heitzig, to be leaders of Your church.
And as this church, we thank You for our senior pastor. We pray your blessing upon him and Lenya this week, that though they are again expending themselves mentoring married couples, that in the process You would refresh them, strengthen them, protect them. Revitalize them, God, and bring them back to us with greater power for Your glory. That this church might be edified, and that we faithfully can expand Your Kingdom. And anyone and everyone who agreed with me said, Amen.
What binds us together is devotion to worshiping our Heavenly Father, dedication to studying His Word, and determination to proclaim our eternal hope in Jesus Christ.
For more teachings from Calvary Albuquerque and Skip Heitzig, visit calvaryabq.org.