Rev. Kyle Toffey’s Sermon: “Growing Church”

November 7, 2010,  Cheon Bok Gung, Yongsan Seoul Korea

Introduction by Rev. Michael Brazil:

Well unfortunately our senior pastor couple could not be here. But we think we have the next best thing; we have a most precious guest speaker today. I don’t think you’ve seen him in a while. What can we say about this amazing brother? He has been here for a few years and has really practiced what Jesus told us the first (greatest) commandment is. Anyone remember what the first commandment is? To love God with all your heart and all your soul, and all your mind, all your strength. This is what this brother has really striven to do here in Korea. I don’t think he needs much introduction, so I am going to ask you to join with me in welcoming up or most precious brother, our elder brother, Rev. Kyle Toffey.

[Applause]

Main Sermon by Rev. Toffey:

Thank you. Actually I think Rev. Michael Brazil has already said everything that needs to be said, and so we should end the service right now. [No, I don’t think so.] Oh, I’m not off the hook? Anyway, thank you very much. Today my topic is “Growing Church.” This is something that is very important to my wife and myself, and so I’m really grateful, actually, that Hyung-jin nim is not here today. [Laughter] That is because I want to talk to you, and this gives me an opportunity to do that.

When we look at the world, we realize that growth is a very natural thing. No one can stop the flowers from growing. Our bodies grow automatically. However, we see within mankind that we have our own portion of responsibility. In Divine Principle 101, the very core of that teaching is that we have a responsibility to grow ourselves. This is a precious, precious gift that God gives us: that we have to grow ourselves.

So why did God create you? Did you ever think of that? Why did God really create me? Or you? In strict divine principle terms we often say, “God wanted an object, an object to respond to.” But actually, in reality, God was really, really lonely and God wanted a companion—or lots of companions! What kind of companions do you want? What kind of friends do you want? What kind of people do you want to hang out with? What kind of spouse do you want as an eternal companion? Do you want somebody who is not smart, not intelligent, who is dull? No. You generally want to have a companion around you who is exciting, who is interesting, and who is intelligent! That is the kind of person you want to hang out with. Usually you want to hang out with someone who is even smarter than you are! Why? Because you can learn from them! It is fun to be around people who are greater in some sense than you are. Maybe they are musicians or artists or they are studying something in science that is totally beyond what you can comprehend. Those are fascinating people! Those are great companions, friends to have around. And so for that very reason God created you to be a companion to God—not just an object, but a companion.

There are deep ramifications of this, if we really think about it: that God created you to be a companion, and God wants you to be as good, or better, than He or She is. We often think that God is unlimited—“God is great! God is unlimited!” So do you know what that means? You are unlimited. You have incredible potential as God’s sons and daughters! Limitless, amazing potential, within each and every one of you! Each of you may be different in your abilities, your talents, your character, but God created you with that incredible, unlimited potential, to inspire God and be with Him, God.

So, our portion of responsibility as human beings, as God’s sons and daughters, is to perfect our character—grow our character—and truly become the sons and daughters of heaven, sons and daughters of God. Our purpose of life is…? [One person: Joy!] Oh, come on. She knows the answer! The purpose of life is…? [Audience: Joy!] Come on, I didn’t even hear that. What is the purpose of life? [Louder: Joy!] That is absolutely correct. I’m glad you got that right! So this is our destiny and our responsibility.

So, how are we going to perfect ourselves? Oh, my goodness. Is this a tough one or what? And this is actually a very deep and important question that we need to be thinking about. How do we perfect ourselves, and what does it really mean to be perfect? We are not talking about making menial mistakes, judgments here and there, but really the perfection that God is looking for is a perfection of heart, a perfection of love, and this is what is meant by perfecting our character. Luckily, we have the perpetual school of love! Let’s hear it for that! [Applause] Do you want to be part of the perpetual school of love? Do you want to be a graduate of that school? Absolutely! And what is that? God created our families to be that perpetual school of love.

It is really within the family environment that we can learn all realms of heart. As a baby, we come into the world and we are loved by our parents. As we grow up, we have brothers and sisters that we learn to fight with and struggle with and embrace, and love them too. And we grow up and then, later on in life, we get married and we have husband and wife. That is also sometimes a struggle—but it is in coming together with a common love for God that we can come together as husband and wife and learn a whole other level of love. And then, we not only get married, but we start having children. And instead of being in the position to just receive love, or to share love, all of a sudden you are holding this little baby who is completely dependant on you and your love. So we learn the heart of the parent, and ultimately the heart of the grandparent.

Our course in life is to learn to love and become loving. This is Divine Principle in action.

Our life is a process of growth. We start out as a child, and we go through life and learn the realms of love. Our body may physically grow up by itself and reach perfection at some point—I’m close to it [laughter]—but taking care of our spirit is really our responsibility: growing myself. We know also from Divine Principle that there are some very natural elements that we need in order to grow our spirit. We need true love. We need an environment of love. These things are spiritual elements that we can receive. But also, to really grow, we have to do what? We have to become loving and giving people in action. That feeds our spirit.

You know when you do something good for somebody, how does that make you feel? It makes you feel good. It not only makes you feel good, sometimes it energizes you, too, right? You can do something even when you are completely tired—and you have done something extra-ordinary for somebody—and all of a sudden you are not so tired! Why? Because your physical body is blessing your spiritual self with energy and love, and it energizes you. The key point is that my growth as a person is my responsibility. There is nobody who can fulfill my portion of responsibility but me. God can’t do this for us. The messiah can’t do this for us. There is no leader who can do that for us. That is my portion of responsibility: to become a loving and giving person, to perfect my character.

What is really nice is that this process of growing is very exciting. People who are growing are excited, enthusiastic, and energetic! People who are growing have happiness and a joy. We need to be growing people.

So how do we grow? There are a number of ways that we need to grow ourselves spiritually. We need to understand truth, and educate ourselves to the truth. We also need to train ourselves, not just physically, but also through doing our conditions and so forth, strengthening our spirit as well. But also, what is extremely important is that we learn to be loving people. Love is not a feeling; it is an action. It is an action word: to love others. To love yourself is an action. There is a definition that I learned many years ago that I really liked. It was very practical for me. And that was: “Love is investing in the growth of another person.” So what does that mean? For me to love my wife is for me to make sure my wife is growing as an individual. For me to love my children means to make sure that they are growing individuals. When they are small and young, sometimes they have many wants, but for them, as a parent, sometimes you have to say, “Well, no.” Because you love them and it is not good for them, necessarily, to have everything that they want.

Love is investing in the growth of another person. And how do you do this? Through encouraging other people, supporting others with your words, deeds, thoughts, actions, prayers. It is by investing your heart in each other. This also actually goes for even loving yourself, investing in your own spiritual growth.

The purpose of our physical life—now, we have only a limited amount of time here on the earth. I know when you are young, when you are twenty-five or younger, you have no concept that life is a limited time, usually. But as you grow up, you realize how precious each and every moment is that we have. Hyung-jin nim is always telling us the importance of seeing ourselves from God’s viewpoint, and seeing each other from God’s viewpoint. So it is really important for us, especially as a community, to reach out and love each other.

So what is a church? We are here at this most beautiful place—what is a church? Is a church a building? Is it a temple? Is it a place? No, it is people. It is a congregation of people that have come together with a common purpose, common goal of becoming growing people, loving and giving people. That is our common goal: to become loving and giving people, reflect God’s love, and make the world a better place. You know, “the church” was never originally intended. We know that. It was not part of God’s original ideal. It was not part of God’s original plan. It only came into place when Adam and Eve fell—it was a misuse of love and we as people went away from God. So God didn’t originally intend to have churches around.

We are so blessed to be alive at this time in human history. Aren’t we? Yeah. Because we are the ones who have this incredible truth of our True Parents, the divine principle, and we have True Parents that can really bring us together as brothers and sisters. Mankind can now truly become one family that was originally intended from Adam and Eve. Besides having our family as a school of love, we also have this institution or this place of “church” that is our school of love. This is a place where we come together to learn how to love each other and to love God. A growing church, just like a growing person is a church that is excited, enthusiastic, energetic, happy and joyful, where the people in the church feel like they are growing and the church itself is growing. It will be an energetic and wonderful place. And that is our hope here today and my topic: Growing Church.

We have been given so much, haven’t we? Not only has God spent that 14 billion years to create the universe, create the physical and spiritual realms, God has given us life, love and truth. We have been given so much. And since the fall of man, God has been reaching out to mankind, trying to change us and help us grow. So in that process there have been many saints and sages who have shed their blood, sweat and tears for the sake of today. Those are people who maybe didn’t see the fruit of their labors, but they were still on that path of investing in the growth of humanity after we had fallen into such disrepair. But also, 2000 years ago, Jesus died on the cross for my salvation, for us. Jesus was not supposed to die on the cross; he was supposed to give love; he was supposed to give forgiveness; he was supposed to give new life—but he died on the cross for my sake. And now we see how our True Parents have gone the way of the cross over and over and over again, dying over and over again.

So today I’m going to ask you to also die for the sake of others. I’m going to ask you to die of embarrassment. Anybody know what “die of embarrassment” means? Does anyone not know? “To die of embarrassment.” You know, you get into a situation sometimes where you go up and meet someone—whom you did not ever meet before—you go up and you introduce yourself: “Hi. My name is Kyle. Really nice to meet you! What’s your name?” So many of us are embarrassed to do that kind of thing, aren’t we? We are so embarrassed to reach out to someone we don’t know and introduce ourselves. “I thought I was going to die!” That’s what we say in New York: “to die of embarrassment.” It’s putting myself down and putting somebody else in front of us.

It’s easy to say, “I love God.” It’s easy to say, “I love True Parents.” But you know, God is our ultimate parent. True Parents are our parents. So, how do you really love parents? How do we really inspire God? How do we inspire our parents? We inspire our parents by loving each other. When brothers and sisters take care of each other and love each other, that really inspires parents. Even the other day I got a message from one of my children saying, “Oh, I’ve been texting my sister,” and it just made me feel good, that my kids are talking to each other and taking care of each other! As my kids take care of each other, then I can feel good. I can feel happy.

So, as parents get their joy by watching their children take care of each other, it’s the same with God, the same with True Parents, and even the same with Hyung-jin nim and Yeon-ah nim as they see us in this congregation take care of each other.

So I want to ask a question. Whose church is this? [Our church.] “This is the church of our True Parents. This is the church of God!”—sure, that’s true, but actually Julian (who answered) is absolutely right: this is my church! This is my church! We need to feel a sense of ownership that this is my church. This is my responsibility and my place of worship. Just as we have a portion of responsibility for my personal growth, also each and every one of us here has the responsibility for the growth of this church and this community. This is my church. This is my community.

That is truly how we manifest the true love of God and the true word of God: how we treat each other, how we love each other. And how do you make this happen? How do you do this? It’s by dying to yourself. Each and every time you see someone you do not know, you go and introduce yourself! Love them, embrace them, and take care of them.

Actually the person next to you is very fascinating. They are created in the image of God, just like you are! So how many fascinating people we have here today! There are people here you don’t really know. Get to know them!

Here, especially, at the Cheon Bok Gung, we have an additional responsibility on our shoulders. This is God’s temple. This is an amazing place that is born out of the fruits of our True Parents, of the True Children, and many brothers and sisters around the world. Finally God has this very special temple.

I want you to envision two situations here. First, some guest comes into our church. They come in, they come up to the third floor, and they participate in the service. They hear good singing, hear a very nice sermon, and then, after the sermon, they go home. Now, the question is: are they going to come back?

As opposed to if someone as a stranger comes here—and it doesn’t matter whether this is a first-time guest, or a long-time, old church member that you do not know, or whether they are a second gen who is here to teach English or learn Korean; doesn’t matter—if someone is at the front door, as this person comes in and we greet them like our long lost brother or sister: “Hi! How are you? Welcome! Thank you for coming! We appreciate your coming! What’s your name? My name is Kyle! Really nice to meet you!” and we try to find out something about them, to get their name, and use that name while we are talking to them so we remember it for later; and if that person comes up here to the sanctuary and there is a feeling that these brothers and sisters here really love each other and that when they come in they are also embraced: “Welcome. Thank you for coming. Where are you from? Are you here just for the day, or did you move to Korea?”—whatever—make them feel embraced; and if they participate in a service where everybody is singing with enthusiasm—this is really important. When we have a service where people are really investing themselves in the songs, in the prayers and in all the activities of the service, it really adds to the energy and can envelope these people, and envelope each other too. It just creates an energy!

There is also the act of listening. Active listening, where we as an audience, as people out there, are supporting the speaker. Because when you are supported, then magic happens because there is give and take between the audience and the person who is speaking. There is an energy that is generated. When Hyung-jin nim is up here and he is talking and you are hanging on every word, you are really listening, you are really getting what he is saying, and that energizes him to give even more. So it’s a wonderful, wonderful cycle.

So, also we get their name, their number, their email; try to find out what their interests are, what their background is, what their situation might be… Bless them with your words! When we have Coffee Hour they find some very interesting people to talk with and that want to talk to them.

How different will these two experiences be, the one person that comes in and nobody pays attention to them, or that one person who comes and feels enveloped in the love of God, not just in the service, but in the fellowship? I think this person will probably come back, if they really feel enveloped in God’s love.

Hyung-jin nim and Yeon-ah nim cannot do all this on their own. Yes, this is their church, but it’s also my church. You make a difference. Each and every one of you can make and should make a difference. People come here because they need to be re-energized; they are lonely; they are looking for friends; they are looking for relationship. We need to think, “This is my church. This is my responsibility.”

“So that’s nice, ‘This is my church.’ What can I do? What am I supposed to be doing?” Well, you can start out by talking to each other! “Hi!” [To a member in the congregation] What’s your name? [Godwin] Godwin! How are you? [Good] Yay! [Rev. Toffey starts a round of applause.] We need to start introducing ourselves to each other, even though we may see each other sometimes here. [Our church needs] to become a place where God’s love really dwells. That often means that somehow we have to die to our old self; die of embarrassment. “I’m sorry, I have seen your face here, I’ve seen you here, but I don’t know your name. I don’t even know what country you are from!” Start talking to them! There are gems, all around here, of people that I do not know fully, and I feel bad that I’m going back to America and I really haven’t gotten to know everybody.

So, introduce yourself, die of embarrassment, actively sing and invest yourself in the service, actively listen to the sermon, actively participate in the service! Another thing you can do before and after the service is be a greeter. Greet people as they come in. Welcome them to your church! You want to feel a sense of pride for this place! This is not just a place where people come, this is my church! I want to make sure that each and every person that comes feels welcomed, and feels happy, and somehow wants to come back, because this is a place where they can get nourished.

I’m also going to ask you to volunteer. Volunteer! Become active in our church community! There are so many things that need to be done here that are not getting done. There are too few people doing too much work. There is usually the 80/20 principle, where 80 percent of the work is done by 20 percent of the people. And that’s not unusual in any kind of organization. But if we really feel that this is my church, this is my place of worship, “I really want to make God happy; I really want to inspire Hyung-jin nim, Yeon-ah nim and our ministry here,” how can I do that? I can volunteer, be a part of this community.

What kind of things can you do? You can be a greeter, an usher, so many different things. My particular favorite is the coffee ministry. You know, the coffee after we have service is not just having coffee! It’s a time where people go out there and we get to fellowship. It’s the other side of the coin of worship! You have worship on one side; you have fellowship on the other. We need to fellowship. We need to embrace each other. If somebody is standing around, looking lonely, looking uninterested, feeling like they don’t belong, go up and meet them! Die to your old self! Die of embarrassment and introduce yourself to that person at coffee hour. And you can volunteer to help with the coffee. So, when you are serving coffee, it’s not just serving coffee, but it’s greeting the people who are getting your coffee, getting the cookie, getting the juice.

We have phone trees that need to be manned, child care sometimes, set-up and clean-up at the service, internet broadcasting—anybody IT specialists out there? We need one. Or, just go up to the minister Michael Brazil and tell him, “I would like to volunteer. I would like to become active here in the church community. What can I do?” You might sing, you might be a dancer, you might be an artist, you might just like kids, you might be a student who can teach English, or be able to teach Korean to the foreigners. There are so many things that we can do! Actually, we are limitless. Why? Because we are created in the image of God.

This is really an amazing time that we have, because if we really invest ourselves into this church and we really feel, “This is my church,” and feel proud of this church, and really hope that this church can grow, what is the result? As individuals we will be growing people, and growing people are excited, energetic; they are enthusiastic, they are happy, they are joyful. Our families will be healthier, and our church will grow. If we can manifest that true love of God among each other, as brothers and sisters, right here in this congregation, this church will grow.

Just as no one can take your portion of responsibility away from you, we all have responsibility towards this church that no one can take away from us. In this way we can really, really love God actively! We can show our love for True Parents actively! We can show our love for each other in the way we love and embrace each other.

We have a goal of a 21,000-members congregation here. Twenty-one thousand. I firmly believe that it is not a problem, to get a congregation of 21,000 people here, because I have absolute faith that we have something so special in our church. We have God; we have True Parents; we have divine principle; we have an understanding of how we as individuals can grow to be happy and loving people.

Growing to 21,000 is not the problem, the real issue is: can we love each other? Can we create that environment, that when a person comes in, they feel sucked in by God’s love? That they feel embraced by God’s love? Thats our challenge. I don’t think we have to worry about the number 21,000. I do think we have to concern ourselves with the feeling of ownership that this is my church, this is my community, and loving each other as brothers and sisters actively, greeting each other as long lost brothers and sisters because that’s what we are.

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