Over a period of years, our thoughts and dreams have revolved around what Church can be beyond a Sunday. Imagine moving past Sundays of segregated worship into mission being about living life together.
And ‘together’ is built into God’s plan. One of the first things God notices about his creation of humanity is that it is not good for anyone to be alone.
A village is a community of people who know one another, live together, and who work together for the success of the village. For us, our Village is also working for the good of the Kingdom.
For many people Church has become about sitting, singing and sermons. We believe that Church can be and is so much more than this. We encourage everyone to be involved in worship, life and mission not just on a Sunday, but every day, whether they are 3 or 93.
We believe that God wants more in worship than our voices, that worship is handmade and heart made. It requires something of us. God wants us to transition worship from facing the front to facing the world.
Most Christian cultures make a much bigger deal out of Christmas than Easter. It is easier to celebrate a birth than a tortured death and resurrection. Easter is a solemn celebration; we cannot celebrate the victory over death without remembering the terrible road walked by Jesus to get to the cross. Babies being born on the other hand is wonderful, notwithstanding the pain and complexity of delivery. That new baby smell, miniature fingers and squishy faces, a creature so tiny and vulnerable. It is beautiful to watch families gather and embrace a new life, a life as yet unwritten, a life of hope and promise.
That is how Christmas starts, with hope and promise. We have hope of a salvation, we have the promise of a savior, and it is a moment of Joy.
Yet, even in this story of a mother and father with some shepherds gathered we see a glimpse of what is to come. Through the gifts of the wise men we are reminded of the fate of this tiny life. Christmas, ultimately, is about deliverance. God’s son, among us, to restore humanity, so we can be with him eternally.
We have a hope, a promise, a joy, and all are delivered through him.
This week we had the second conversation with a group of pastors from Churches of Christ about “church planting”. It was a brilliant opportunity to come back to the very basis of why we do what we do. To boldly ask the question: Why start churches at all? Churches have started for many reasons, some as trivial as people didn’t like the music.
The major function of the Church was to support the mission work of the Kingdom of God. And we have one mission, according to Jesus. We are to make disciples. (Matt 28:19)
Making a disciple doesn’t stop at conversion but continues as a lifelong process. We are being continually perfected. (Phil 1:6)
Jesus started his ministry by calling disciples. At the end he died on the cross, told his disciples to make disciples, and then sent the Spirit to help us make disciples. The Church is a place that helps train and equip, recharge and refocus disciples and ultimately be a place to gather together in worship of God. The point of the Church is not itself but to do the work of the Kingdom, to make disciples.
How are we reminding ourselves of this on a daily basis?
“It shouldn’t be surprising living in a consumer based culture, that many times people bring the same attitudes into church: It’s my way, my preferences, my desires that are important. If I don’t get my way, I’ll take my business elsewhere.
In watering down the Gospel we have taken what is all about Jesus and made it all about us. Jesus is a part of our lives when He should be our life. He is life. Following Him requires all our life. The disciples ate, drank, sweat and slept ministry from when Jesus called them, to the day they died. Jesus wasn’t a part of their lives. He was their life.
We all are guilty of putting things above Jesus. Whether its health, wealth, comfort, causes, dreams, hobbies or interests, we all come to Jesus with expectations of what He will do for us. We all have our passions and causes.”
Jesus didn’t come to take sides. Jesus came to take over.
Read more @ http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/were-called-make-disciples-not-converts
“The fact that there is a highway to hell and only a stairway to heaven says a lot about anticipated traffic numbers”
I have seen this phrase bandied about quite a lot recently and I know it is said lightly and tongue in cheek but I cannot help but wonder if the “fact” says a lot more about the Christian churches ability to share and spread the Gospel than anything else. After all we are one of the primary methods of shifting those numbers.
God chooses to partner with us.
We have a role to play. We cannot take full responsibility upon ourselves to save the world, but we must take some. If God has chosen to partner with us then he is expecting us to go…and as we go to make disciples. To be his witnesses in a world that is far from him. The Church has had 2000 odd years to do its mission and has at times neglected it stumbled through it or outright ignored it.
The path to hell is paved with good intentions. It is not enough to theologize and sit safe in our Church knowing the Gospel, we must act on the mission God has given us.
As we March toward Easter, the pancakes of shrove Tuesday have been eaten, the ashes of Wednesday have been worn. The soulful journey towards the joy and wonder of the Resurrection has begun. The season of Lent, the season of self-examination is upon us. We are rapidly approaching what is both a celebration and a somber memorial moment that is the death and resurrection of our Savior. Easter is nearly here.
As the shops fill with eggs and bunnies and many of us have way too much chocolate I am challenged by the idea of Lent. Giving something up to help focus on God. It seems like a great idea and yet it becomes so easy to become focused on the things you are giving up rather than the thing God gave up for you, his Son.
Lent is about internal reflection, spending a focused time remembering Jesus sacrifice and allowing it to change us. It isn’t just about giving up something like coffee or Facebook. ‘Rather it is about the focus that giving up those things allows us to have. This year, rather than giving something up to focus on God, I am taking something up. The practice of the Lord’s Prayer, in a reflective way. It’s only been a few weeks and already I can see the calmness and focus on God spreading to other areas of my life. I encourage you as we build toward the Easter season to try the same.
I love the literary depth and breadth of the Bible, and in particular the Psalms. I find that when things are going well, the day is sunny and all feels right with the world. Psalms 95 and 98 encapsulate the praise and joy I feel in my heart and act like an amplifier, increasing the state of praise. When things feel like they couldn’t get any worse I read Psalm 119 and remember that I am not alone in my suffering. The best, most uplifting, hope-filled times are when I sit with the Psalms and the Spirit in either good or bad circumstances and allow the peace that passes all understanding to fill me up.
There are times as a Christian, as a human, where things aren’t going as well as we would like, our expectations have been smashed by the world, or ourselves, or even we feel let down by God. Throughout the Psalms I take solace that this is a true part of life and that we don’t have to smile the entire time. We do have a joy and a hope that does sit with us in these times.
How does God bring out joy and hope in you?
Being in Churches of Christ, most of my faith walk I have done communion nearly every week for many years. It is a sacrament that has been repeated in my life often not just on a Sunday but also on special occasions. Communion was present at our wedding as an important symbol of the participation of God in our marriage. Each week I allow myself to be led by the Spirit in remembering, celebrating and immersing in the mystery of the Eucharist. Richard Rohr writes…
The Incarnation Mystery is being repeated and represented in the Eucharist. Here we have material reality, in the form of these universal foods of bread and wine, as the hiding place and the revelation place for God. We are reminded that God is always perfectly hidden and perfectly revealed in the material world. This is the Cosmic Christ presence.
If we deny that the spiritual can enter the material world, then we are in trouble, since we hope to be just that—spiritual and fully material human beings. We had best encounter Incarnation in one focused, dramatic moment, and then the particular truth has a chance of becoming a universal truth, and even my truth.
Through the practice of mindful repetition we have an opportunity to grow deeper in faith and remembrance, becoming one with Christ.
Today we are choosing to dedicate Kaitlyn to God. We want to make a declaration that as parents and as a community we will do our best to influence her life for the Kingdom of God. We will make time to remember the important things: being an example of God’s love; sharing stories of God’s glory; and growing together in faith. It is a marker for our family of something that has already begun, but is an important marker nonetheless.
I am beginning to understand more and more about how God loves us through being a father. There are moments when Kaity does something amazing and I am proud of her, I am reminded how much I love her. There are also moments when she does something bad, I am disappointed, but I don’t love her less. This is the kind of Love that God has for us.
I love worshipping God, sometimes even through music, or a church service. Occasionally when I’m at my most busy (like say moving house) I wonder if we get caught up too much in the service and lose our ability to actually worship God. We get so caught up in doing church that we stop being church. As we add more and more responsibility we have less and less ability to respond.
I have enjoyed a few moments this week of stopping. Stripping right back and worshipping not for the sake of a service or a sermon, but to be close to my creator.
As we continue to go through what the expression of church will be in the future it may be worth keeping this idea in the front of our minds.