Last week I introduced to you the concept of F.A.N.A.F.I.—Find a need and fill it.
It was an acronym created by Steve Gottry who had been a successful entrepreneur, lost nearly everything, but then rebuilt his business and life based upon this F.A.N.A.F.I.—Find a need and fill it concept.
To recap, Gottry explains the concept by first beginning with a dream, particularly dreaming big.
Gottry believes, “Dreaming big enables others to see a different future and alter their present to make it a reality.”
We then considered how Jesus was a dreamer and a visionary which both were summed up in what he called the Kingdom of God.
From there we discussed how and when this dream and vision would become a reality—when will God do all this—asking the question the Disciples asked—Is it here? Is it now?—with the answer being both yes and no.
The answer was both yes and no because though the restoration of the world through the coming Kingdom of God was to be a future reality, Jesus reminded his followers that the kingdom of God was already “within them”, and that it was their job now, their responsibility now, to let loose the Kingdom of God.
However, they were to do nothing until the Holy Spirit had come upon them in short time.
And that short time happened soon after Jesus’ ascension, which was the day of Pentecost.
The day of Pentecost marked for the Disciples the starting point for them to find a need and fill it—fill it with the Kingdom of God.
Today is Pentecost, the day we celebrate God sending the Holy Spirit into a room full of the first followers of Christ.
The book of Acts tells us that divided tongues, “as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability” (2:3-4).
Later, the apostle Paul spoke of the power of this Spirit in his letter to the Romans, writing to them, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now”, meaning something new was being born in the world, an innovation that the world had never seen, and would never see again—far more innovated than any technology we have even today.
The day of Pentecost was a game changer. It was life changing. It changed the course of history.
And at the center of this transformation was, and is, the Holy Spirit, a current of divine power that comes directly from God.
Paul says that “we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, grown inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.”
What he means is that we have already tasted the “first fruits” of the Spirit— the sure sense of God’s presence that comes to us in moments of prayer, in the uplift of worship services, in close bonds with other Christians, in acts of selfless service.
But…there’s always a but, right?
I could say, “However”, but we all know that’s just a fancy way of saying, “But…”
But, says Paul, we still “groan inwardly.”
And ain’t that the truth.
How many of us here have groaned this year over something difficult, challenging, scary, or heartbreaking?
How many of us have groaned this month… this week… even already today when we woke from our sleep and the new day began with a stark and painful reminder that, “Oh yeah. I’ve got that thing still going on, and still have to somehow deal with it, even though I don’t know how.”
We groan, inwardly. And sometimes, we groan outwardly.
But we know, as people of faith, that the reason we groan is because God’s work in us has not yet been completed.
We still “wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies,” knowing that the day is coming in which we will gain the resurrection body of Jesus, one in which there is no more pain or crying or illness or dying.
As people of faith, we groan, yes, but we know that sooner or later, in the here and now, or at the very least in the after and later, our groaning will be transformed into shouts of praise and songs of joy.
And that is what makes us not only people of faith, but people of hope.
That no matter what, we know that we are not lost nor are we forsaken. And so we wait.
But in our waiting, we are still to work and act because in our waiting the Holy Spirit who came to empower us and strengthen us and use us is still at work—God is still at work, making all things new, and renewing all things through hope.
Paul says, “in hope we were saved.”
Hope is a critically important part of this entire process, because when we hope we open our spiritual circuits to the high charge of the Holy Spirit, and we can patiently wait for God’s response in our world.
New Testament scholar N.T. Wright tells us, “Hope is built in to Christian experience from the start, and remains one of its central characteristics. We cannot expect present Christian living to be anything other than a matter of straining forward for what is yet to come, for what is unseen.”
Isn’t that what we all do—strain for that which we cannot see just yet?
We strain for the days of peace and calm.
We strain for the days of no stress, no worries, no demands of our person or our money.
We strain for when our bodies are not in pain or are no longer diseased.
We strain for when fear no longer imprisons us.
Paul reminds us that “hope that is seen is not hope”, meaning that if we could see the future, we wouldn’t have to hope for it!
“But”, Paul says, “if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”
Fortunately, as we patiently strain forward for what is coming, we receive the strength of the Holy Spirit that enables us; it empowers us, to hope. *******
At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit had clearly nailed the F.A.N.A.F.I. principle.
The need the Holy Spirit found was a world in need of hope because the world was groaning, just like we groan.
And to fill that need, the Holy Spirit created the church.
Hope is a game changer. Hope is a life changer.
And when the church erupted into the world it did both—and it did both well for a long time.
Problem was that when Christianity went from a start-up entrepreneurial venture to the dominant corporate paradigm, the basic F.A.N.A.F.I. principle went out the window.
The church got too full of itself.
The church forgot who it was and whose it was, and began to veer off the dreaming/visionary path God had set it on.
Judgement and persecution used to afflict the people of God, but eventually the people of God reversed the roles and said, “Be like us, be one of us, or else don’t be at all.”
In many circles, Christianity still seems to be vying for the rule of the empire, seeking the worldly power of kings and presidents instead of the power of the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, the first need we the church need to find is how do we recapture the vision and spirit of Pentecost, so that we can show the world what the church truly is all about, because truth be told, I could site to you article after article from theologians, authors, pastors, bloggers and even folks who wouldn’t claim to be any of these things, who all say: the church is dying, the church is irrelevant, the church fails, that people don’t trust the church.
That is the perception of the church today by many people—churched and unchurched.
And the only way that perception will ever be changed is when the Holy Spirit is once again let loose into the world, and the ones to let it loose is us.
If we, as a church, want to meet the needs of the world, and once again be relevant, vibrant and transformational then we must be those who are willing to listen to the needs of others, and then willingly do what we can to fill it.
Perhaps someone is in need of a loving community—we offer that.
Perhaps a parent is in need of a place where their child will be nurtured in such a way that they grow up as a kind, generous, and loving person—we offer that.
Perhaps a person plagued by the disease of alcoholism needs help finding sobriety—we offer that.
Perhaps a young adult has questions they want and need answered, but no one is willing to listen—we can listen.
The list of needful groans go on and on, but our way, the church’s way, God’s Holy Spirit way of filling those needs goes on and on too.
It’s time, now, to let that be known.
And it is up to us to do it because I don’t know if you’ve noticed—even though we offer hope… even though we offer a response and remedy to all the groaning in our world—our worship spaces aren’t exactly packed to the gills. Our Sunday School classes still have lots of seats. Our nursery and Jr. Church has fair numbers, but there’s still room for more.
The Kingdom of God was let loose on Pentecost, but Jesus also told his followers that long before it was let loose, it was already within them, and that it was their job, their responsibility to let it loose.
We are the church today, and today such is our job, and our responsibility.
I said it last week, and I will say it again this week…
Ultimately, the F.A.N.A.F.I. needs of the world won’t be met by doctrinal formulas or whatever “process” Christians tend to trumpet these days.
What the world really needs is hope— a vision of a different future that will alter their present –which is a present time of groaning.
But a vision of a different future cannot be shown unless we show it.
Jesus provided that vision and example in his life and ministry, and continues to call us to live it and to share it.
For when we do, we will truly be finding needs and filling them—filling them with God’s Holy Spirit.