Speaking of the church, we've noticed that many people these days don't think too highly of her - for many, the church is about as trustworthy as the guy dealing the cards in Vegas: he smiles like he's your best friend, but at the end of the day it's all about the money, and the house always wins. Perhaps that's why more and more people are looking elsewhere for answers.
Commitments & ConfessionsWe think the Christian church can and must do better, and we believe it starts with us being up front about who we are and what we are about. This, then, is our baseline commitment: we desire to be brutally honest, even when it's hard, even when it makes us look less than stellar. We do this because we think most people would rather know the truth in advance, rather than finding out later. The purpose of this post is to tell you where we stand.
If we're going to be honest, we might as well start with a confession: we are human and we make mistakes; we don't have it all figured out, in fact, we're still pretty clueless about a lot of things. Worse than that, we are sinners who often do what we shouldn't (or don't do what we ought). So you need to know what you're getting into - if you hang around us long enough, we're probably going to tick you off or hurt your feelings or maybe even do you wrong.
You see, at the end of the day, we need the gospel we preach just as much as those we are preaching it to (probably even more). That's why the church we plant is going to be messy. But it will also be a place where messy, messed up people like us are welcome as they are. This leads to our second commitment: when we screw up, we will admit it publicly and do whatever we can to make it right.
And even as we make this pledge, we also offer a word of hope - Jesus Christ is alive and well and he is working in our hearts, not because we try harder, but because we continue to acknowledge our faults and trust him to rescue us from ourselves. We have a long way still to go, but we find our hearts changing (ask our wives).
What We Think About the ChurchWe think this great drama of change is not just a private thing; we believe it's meant to unfold corporately, in the presence of others, in this crazy community the Bible calls 'the church'. That means the church is a key part of what it means to be a follower of Christ, and this leads us to several core convictions about the nature and purpose of the church:
- First, we believe that every human being was designed for worship - the only place where we ever truly find meaning and fulfillment is in the triune God of Scripture, serving him rather than ourselves. Yet all have sinned by rejecting this relationship, and as a result we are estranged from God; we refuse to seek him because we have rebelled against his rule.
- Fortunately, God is a missional God – he graciously comes seeking us. His work through all of history culminates in Christ, Christ's work culminates in the cross and in the church, and the church's work culminates in worship and mission.
- For the church, mission exists because worship doesn't. This is our purpose – to form a community that draws others to God by embodying the restored relationship that comes through Christ. We in the church must worship well - not simply by singing his praises or preaching his word, but by repenting of our sins, serving one another selflessly, and offering this very hope of reconciliation to those who are still estranged.
- The true church then will not only be biblical and confessional, it must also be missional because true worship embraces mission. These are the kinds of churches we need more of – churches that reach the unchurched, churches that plant more churches, churches that make a difference in the communities in which we live.
What We Think About the GospelGiven this understanding of the church, what must sinners like ourselves do to be rescued? Several key concepts shape the content of our message:
- Getting right with God - We believe that every problem in society ultimately stems from a problem in humanity - we desire to do good, yet we are fallen; every one of us is fundamentally bent. We serve ourselves rather than God and neighbors. Our broken, dysfunctional lives are merely symptoms of deeper problems within.
The good news of the Gospel is that God himself has made a way to be reconciled - not by requiring us to change, but by calling us to believe that Jesus died, lives again, and he alone can save us. This is the heart of the gospel message: that God does not accept us because we clean ourselves up and finally get it right; he accepts us we when we place all our confidence in Christ, rather than in ourselves. God accepts us because Christ gets it right on our behalf.
All that God requires of us is that we acknowledge our condition, admit our inability to save ourselves, and call on Christ to rescue us. Jesus himself says it plainly: "repent and believe" (Mark 1:15). This is the only way to get right with God. We are justified by faith in Christ alone.
- Changing in ways that matter - God loves us too much simply to acquit us; he desires to change us in ways that matter. At the root of every sinful action there lies a heart problem: we desire to serve ourselves rather than God, we think we can find fulfillment by drinking from some other well besides him. Our actions towards God and others simply express the underlying attitude of the heart. So how do we change the wayward affections of our heart?
We never change simply by trying harder; instead, our hearts are transformed as we are united to Christ in faith. Just as Christ justifies us before the Father, so he also gives us a new heart that actually desires to please him. So the gospel that saves us is also the gospel that sanctifies us. We become more like Christ by seeing him more clearly, preaching that gospel to ourselves daily, renewing our faith in him. We are sanctified by faith in Christ alone.
- Worshipping in spirit and truth – just as Christ justifies and sanctifies us, so too he perfects our worship. We must never think we please God more by somehow “getting it right” in our form or practice; nor should we think less of those who “get it wrong” – Christ perfects the worship of all who are his.
This should lead us to think charitably towards those whose faith in Christ leads them to different conclusions in matters of worship. We worship by faith in Christ alone.
What the Gospel Looks Like in PracticeSo how do ideas like these work themselves out in practice? How does the rubber meet the road? (this is a great question you should ask of any church). A simple example might be helpful - what would Jesus say about smoking pot?
Take a few moments to follow that link. This is how the gospel plays out - it doesn't just point the finger of judgment at those who do bad things (like smoking pot, or whatever your favorite "vice" might be). No, the gospel also points the finger of judgment at all those who do good things, who seek to commend themselves to God on that basis.
The gospel says both things - my badness, your goodness - can be idols which cause us to hope in something other than Christ. And that has huge ramifications. It should make us sympathetic towards others. It should make us leery of ourselves. And it should stir a deep love for Christ within us - because his perfection makes up for own lack thereof - not just to get us into God's kingdom, but to keep us there, to perfect our own faith and practice.
Want to know more? Give us a call, and let's talk about it over a cup of coffee...