Just being the Church

One of the misunderstandings people have had about our “new” vision is that it’s socially driven. The confusion was the result of using terms like multi-ethnic and diverse. People equate multi-ethnic with multiculturalism. Not a few have experienced sensitivity training at their workplaces which seems to be all about not offending anyone and not so much about creating community. Multiculturalism has led to quotas, busing, and unfair hiring practices where ethnicity was the determining factor for employment (or entrance into school) and not qualifications. This has led to a reverse discrimination within our culture and increased racial resentment.  It’s come to point that any offense is referred to as a “micro-aggression.” People are afraid to say anything in fear of making a  verbal mistake and being labeled a bigot of some form.

Our vision is far from a forced and contrived social agenda. The culture does not set the vision for the Church. God does. Jesus is the Head of the church (Colossians 1:8) The “head” gives direction to the body. It also sends signals from the brain to the rest of body to act.  Jesus is that for the church. He gives us direction and sends signals to the church concerning its next steps towards God’s vision.

The vision statement and the four practices that are an expression of our vision are theologically driven, not socially driven. They come from God himself. Jesus’ ministry was directed by the same vision and expressed through the same practices. They are simply the church being the church. They are the norm for the church. They are long held beliefs and practices that the church has done historically. They are not new or strange.

Let’s look at them one by one:

Gospel Centered: “We are saved by grace and to be shaped by grace

 “The Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news.”    Mark 1:15

“And the Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in the whole world…and then the end will come.”  Matthew 24:14

The word “gospel” means “good news.” The Gospel was Jesus’ core message.

What is the Gospel?  The Gospel is this:  Jesus came to give us the good news that God has come in human flesh to sacrifice himself on the cross to pay for our sins so we could be in a right relationship with him, receive the Holy Spirit and participate in His divine nature that would in turn save the rest of our lives. God’s redemption is complete. He saves our core, the self, and then spends the rest of our lives saving every piece of us until we experience the “fullness of Christ.”(Ephesians 4:13)

Look at both verses above. What they tell us is, the gospel was the core of Jesus ministry AND it will be the core of His ministry until the end of the world. In fact, the Gospel going into all the world will key the final end. It won’t happen until we take the Gospel to every single place and person on earth. That’s how central and vital the Gospel is to Jesus’ ministry.

After Jesus’ ascension he turned the Gospel ministry over to us and told us to “go into all the world and preach the Gospel.” (Mar 16:15) The core message of the church then is the Gospel. This Gospel not only “gets people in the door” but it is the very thing that will lead to the transformation of our entire lives. This salvation begins at our core, the self, which God saves when we put our faith in Jesus in response to the Gospel message. It continues through the power of the Holy Spirit whom God has given to us as a “guarantee” of our salvation. (Ephesians 1:14) We are saved!  But God does not end there. He wants us to experience the fruit of our salvation.

The Gospel is referred to as yeast. (Luke 13:20-21) If you know anything about yeast, yeast is invasive. Allow it to do its work and it’ll leaven the entire loaf. That’s what God will do and is doing in the lives of every believer. If you let him, he will work into your life the redemption he worked out for you on the cross. Just as he saved you, the self (Others say “your soul”) he is saving every inch of you: your mind, body, will, motives, drives, wounds, dysfunctional patterns passed down generationally, unhealthy patterns of your own making, behaviors, psyche, relational patterns, moral and ethical core, etc. You name it and he is going to redeem it so you will live a better and happier life!

That’s the Gospel Jesus preached and demonstrated. He not only preached a message and saved people’s souls. He also fed people. He healed people. He counseled people and offered forgiveness (grace). He restored the dead to loved ones. He listened to wounded and hurting people. He broke bread with the secular, people who lived far from God. It says over and over he had “compassion” on people. He offered hope. Gave faith. Showed love. That’s the whole Gospel for the whole person.

That’s our vision. Simply to continue the work of Jesus. He started it. It is up to us, equipped with His message and empowered by His Spirit, to finish it.  And according to Matthew 24:14 we will!

Well that’s our vision. I’ll blog on the other statements which express our practices that express our vision in a future post. My fingers got tired on this one…..

 

Pastor Richard