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Navy Seals for Jesus


In the past I've written many articles touching on the idea of consumerism in the church.Down with Consumerism was perhaps the main one; and that title should tell you exactly how I feel about the whole idea. The fact is, churches in Canada and the U.S. have become increasingly consumeristic. With the advent of the seeker-sensitive movement, mega-churches and social media, we have seen many shift the church's mission from that of preaching the gospel and advancing the kingdom of God to that of building a brand. The worship service becomes a worship experience offered to consumers. The pastor becomes a CEO of a growing company. Tactics from business and marketing are applied to grow the church. And the people of God begin to look more and more like the world. The same love of entertainment, same pursuit of ease, same performance mindset, same pride, same worldly ambition, becomes the culture of the church.

In the middle of all of this the church can lose her soul. We lose the focus on the simple call that God has given us as His disciples. We strive to be something great, when God told us that He "chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise" and "what is weak in the world to shame the strong" (1 Corinthians 1:27). It is in this culture of consumerism that the church must take a different path.

From the very beginning, this has been my desire for Redeemer. That this church would be remarkably counter-cultural. And not just counter the culture of the unbelieving world. But counter to the consumeristic Christian ethos of our day. And in order to do this we have done what every good reform movement must do – we went back to the Bible.

The great banner that we flew over our church from the beginning was Acts 2:42. "And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers." (Acts 2:42). This is what we are interested in doing. Not building a brand. Not scratching the itch of everybody's felt needs. No, we are devoted to these things. The very things that the church has been devoted to from the beginning. And this leads us to be a very simple church. We focus on preaching the Bible, we focus on building true Christian fellowship around the mission of the gospel, we focus on prayer, seeking to do so with faithfulness and fervency, and we focus on the worship of God, Sunday by Sunday, breaking bread in His presence.

It's not complicated. But it is challenging. This ethos can be a high-bar of entry. In a consumeristic world this kind of church is not what many people want. Take fellowship for example. Many want to blend into the back row and not be thrust into the fellowship. Many would like to keep aloof and keep their options open. But that's hard to do at a church like Redeemer – because the people pursue true community. We are set on strengthening the fellowship, and on reaching out with hospitality. So you will be known. You will be lovingly-pursued. Now, we should all agree that this kind of community is a good thing. And yet, is it not true that it goes against our selfish and sinful flesh? It does. We don't always want to be known, And we don't always want to know others. And yet, God has called His church to be this tight-knit community, shining brightly in the world with unity, with humility, and with love for one another. To pursue that will be difficult, but it will be a good kind of difficult, and it is worth devoting ourselves to.

Or consider prayer. I've heard Christians joke that if you want everyone to be really convicted just preach about prayer and evangelism. Well again, these two things are the one-two drum beat of Redeemer. Come to the prayer meeting. Come to street evangelism. Grow in your life of prayer. Grow in your boldness in sharing the good news of Jesus. I suspect that many pastors lay off of these topics because they know how challenging they are, and they don't want everyone to be discouraged. Being convicted and discouraged kind of ruins the whole consumeristic, entertain-me, sort of vibe. And so let's not talk about that, let's talk about you and your story and your felt-needs. But again, what does God call the church to be? Are we not to be His praying people? Are we not to be devoted to prayer? In practically every letter that Paul wrote he commands the church to pray! Pray for us (2 Thessalonians 3:1), Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17), Help us by prayer (2 Corinthians 1:11), Be constant in prayer (Romans 12:12). This is Christianity 101.

You know what else is Christianity 101? Evangelism. Preaching the gospel. Being devoted to the word and the spread of that word worldwide. Missions, both foreign and domestic are at the heart of what the church is here for. The Great Commission is our great task. And this task belongs to every member of the body of Christ. We are called to make disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:18-20). We are called to be ambassadors for Christ – bringing the world the message of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-20). We are His witnesses to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8). As John Piper has often said on this point: "When it comes to world missions, there are only three kinds of Christians: zealous goers, zealous senders, and disobedient." So again the bar is set high. We are on a mission as believers in this world. Are you on this mission with us? Because this is what we are doing, this is what we are here for. We are not trying to be a cozy country club. Our aim is to be more like a platoon of Navy Seals for Jesus. We are calling men and women and even children to get busy living for the Lord. We are calling you to get in the fight, get in on the action. Don't be a spectator. Don't be a passive consumer.

As Paul said to the Corinthians: Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58). The Christian life is not a life of ease – far from it. It is a life always abounding in the work of the Lord. The church is not the place where consumers go to be entertained, it's where soldiers go to get ammo. The Sunday sermon is not a self-help motivational speech, it's our marching orders and an encouragement on the eve of battle. Our fellowship is not that of a country-club social, it's more like Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring. We are like a band of brothers on mission to defeat the darkness.

And more than an analogy, that is exactly what the church is here for. We, though weak and foolish in the world's eyes, are here to do battle against the darkness. The church is not to be at ease in Zion. We are the people of God, the saints of light, and we are at war with the darkness. We are the church militant, and one day we will be the church triumphant. We are here to do battle, we are here to win, and we are playing for keeps. Jesus told us this very thing:

"And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. " (Matthew 16:18)

This is the true church that Christ is building. Not a group of self-interested consumers. Not a spirituality-based social group. No, Christ is building an assembly of saints, an army with banners, a people from every tribe, tongue and nation who have overcome the world. He is saving men and women and uniting them with His mission. Coming into the faith is like enlisting in the military. It is serious business.

And so we must ask: Is this what I came for? Am I ready to be a Navy Seal for Jesus? Or do I want to stay on the sidelines? My encouragement to you is to jump in. It's a narrow road, but it's the only road. To choose a life of ease and comfort and consumerism is to choose the broad path that leads to destruction. Every Christian is called to join the fight. Every Christian is called to lay down their lives. Every Christian is called to join with the church, that band of brothers and sisters in the great battle of the ages. And together we will overcome the world. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. (1 John 5:4). Do you believe it? 

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Wednesday, 24 April 2024