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Be The Church


[These are the notes from the pastoral devotional shared at Redeemer's 2023 Annual General Meeting]

I recently wrote a series of blog posts on the One Another's of Christian fellowship. In the series I aimed to equip us and inspire us to really be the church. Calling us to live a life worthy of the gospel, worthy of the calling to which we were called. This was practical instruction on the Christian life – especially as it relates to life together as a church.

Before that I had loosely written a number of articles regarding a philosophy of ministry – Growing, Foolishness, Preaching with Power, What are you Seeking, Build the Church and Down with Consumerism. There are a few threads that pull all of these together. One is the idea of growing God's way – or some thoughts against pragmatism and relying on man's methods. I have sought to communicate that it is God who gives the growth, we need to simply do what God calls us to do. Keep the main things the main things. Another thread throughout is this idea of being ministers not consumers. What are we seeking at church? Are we here because we like this music, this preaching, these people, etc.? Or are we here because this is our local church – we are committed to it rain or shine – we come not only to receive but to give and to serve.

In all of this I am trying to help us have a biblical vision of what it means to be the church – and specifically a local church.

I have noticed that the consumeristic mindset is rampant in churches – maybe especially in Kelowna. People hop from church to church. They go church shopping. They stop in, put down their tent pegs for a bit, but within a few months or a few years they are gone somewhere else. Now there are good reasons to leave a church, but there are also bad ones, or even just lame ones. And I would argue that a lot of the transience in Kelowna churches is fueled by consumerism. With worldliness in the church. As we've recently seen in our prayer meeting study on the Seven Churches from Revelation - churches often reflect the culture they are in. A city filled with idolatry has a church that is compromising and tolerant of false teaching. An opulent city has a church that is fat and sassy, that is materialistic and self-sufficient. You've heard the saying "we are what we eat", well perhaps often it is the case that "we are where we are". And what are we like here in Kelowna? Consumeristic. Opulent. Entertainment-driven. Chasing worldly pleasure. And let me ask, what do our churches mostly look like? Right...

But the church shouldn't follow the culture. When we read the list of one anothers we get a different picture. You can't sit on the sidelines or move around constantly and at the same time welcome one another, bear one another's burdens, outdo one another in showing honour. True Christian fellowship takes time and it takes commitment, and is at odds with the consumer mindset.

For a picture of biblical church life look with me at Romans 12:

3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honour.11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. (Romans 12:3-16)

This simply cannot be done on our own, and this cannot be done without time and commitment. But this is the picture of what God has created in His Church. We are one body with many members. We are called to love one another, outdo in showing honour, serve the Lord through serving one another. All of these things and more are utterly incompatible with consumerism, selfishness, and the current of our culture.

This is why I love our church and am excited about our future. We are not reinventing the wheel, we are not looking to marketing gurus and statisticians as to how to grow, we are not chasing cultural winds – no, we are making culture here. By the power of the Spirit we are becoming a more radiant bride. A church built upon the word of God, growing in unity, in humility, and most of all in love.

This is counter-cultural. It is different from the world. It is hard. It requires self-sacrifice, vulnerability, effort, relational work, gas money, higher grocery bills – but it is what makes us shine in this world. As our Lord Jesus taught us, 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."  (John 13:34-35)

This radical love for one another is what sets us apart as a shining light in this world. So let us continue to be the church. Let us build upon the one foundation and adorn the gospel with our good works of love. 

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Wednesday, 24 April 2024