Flourishing and Single in the Church

Often times, when we talk about church growth or planting a common marker of health is when families, especially young families start to attend and make the church their own. This is a good thing and pastoring a small church with some amazing families, I get the inclination. But what of those single, both by choice or by circumstance? If the church is meant to be their family as well, how are we endeavoring to give them space for flourishing?

Part of the problem is expectation. In the church, there is an assumption that human completion is in pairing off. While this is a wonderful and biblical thing, it is not the only thing. So as a church maybe we stop assuming a single person needs to be married. Instead, we should be taking steps to integrate everyone into the life of the church regardless of relational status.

Next, do single people have a voice in the decisions of the church, in the progress of the life of the church? Give them a place and hear them. Let single people communicate what support they need and how you can best encourage them in the faith.

Then in our preaching, and discipleship, the ideal presented is following after Jesus, surrender all of our lives, married, single, whatever, to our Savior for his glory and our good. Are we up for this?

I know that at Reservoir we have a way to go before we are seen as a church for the flourishing of single people. But let’s lean into it and see what the Lord will do.

 

Glimpses of Rest

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” — Matthew 11:28-30 (CSB)

This week I had a change in schedule that took the biggest item of work off the task list. The thing that each week looms as the necessity to be accomplished and product to produce. It is my routine deadline and as the week progresses, if the task is not done I increasingly wrestle with anxiety and stress toward the goal of accomplishing it.

This week, however, someone else has taken on the weight of what usually drives my schedule and because of it I can’t help but think of rest.

I have had more freedom, without the deadline and the pressure, to look into other things and catch up on items that usually don’t get much attention. And if nothing was accomplished there was no burden, no weight to lift because the major task had been taken care of.

This has been for me a small glimpse into the rest we have in Christ. Here we have his key invitation, and it still stands for everyone everywhere. Weary and burdened, in need of rest, come. The work has been done, sin has been atoned for and there are no more spiritual or cosmic deadlines to pressure you. Relief. Security. Salvation.

Oh what joy we are given, what a gift it is to rest in Jesus. To know that his way is easy. Because of his humility we can find rest for our souls. More of this, please!

What are the things that are your glimpses of rest? The embrace of a comfortable bed? The licks of a pup? The refreshing cold water when you are parched? Laughter with friends around a fire? Enjoy it. And let it remind you of the rest you have in Christ. Let it give you a taste for what is still to come in him. Rest.

Reservoir Release

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring ​— ​what your life will be! For you are like vapor that appears for a little while, then vanishes. Instead, you should say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” — James 4:13-15 (CSB)

Every time someone asks what my “vision for the church” is I feel a little bit like a kindergartner being asked what he wants to be when he grows up. I can only hope my answer might be taken with a bit more seriousness or belief!

It is a fair question and one we get asked a lot as a replant of a twenty-two-year-old church. We endeavored to fix organization issues with a new book of church order, we established a new elder council, we changed the name of the church to match our new identity as a body, and we have unrelentingly preached the gospel as the whole counsel of God from his word. So what’s next? What does a little church of eighty souls look forward to, or labor toward?

Good question.

“If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that…”

I think I do have an answer and some sense of the Lord’s will for us. Paired with the healthy marks of the church, when we grow up, my hope is that Reservoir Church is a seeding and sending church. Small, agile and able to raise up, equip, and launch missionaries and new churches and revitalize older churches.

I think of it as “Release.” The healthy and useful reservoir is filled with clean water and in order for it to function as designed, it has to release what it has stored up. Communities don’t thrive if their reservoirs never give out water. I hope we see the church in the same way.

Of course, I recognize the desire to grow a crowd. To need bigger facilities and refine a brand… my flesh would love that. Healthy churches are supposed to grow all the books say. But for us, if there is a healthy branch available, we want to plant it in new soil so that we reflect a kingdom priority and we see people believe in Jesus.

If this Reservoir is meant for “release,” how do we get there? I think we cling to Jesus and focus our discipleship in three categories:

  • Evangelism
  • Vocational empowerment
  • Equipping

This good news of Jesus met us on its way to someone else, and we have been commissioned by Christ to proclaim repentance for the forgiveness of sin in his name to all nations. We don’t want to take this lightly and we don’t want to miss the opportunities in our neighborhoods. So to that end, we will train, teach and implore each of us to share Jesus at every opportunity. We have nothing if we don’t share the hope of salvation. And rather than hope the church will grow by adding dissatisfied believers from other churches, we want the few chairs we have to be filled by those meeting the real Jesus for the first time.

Evangelism is then paired with each individuals’ purpose, the place and vocation the Lord has put them in. We desire to stir the body of believers to recognize their work as a sacred instrument meant to bring the peace of God to our city. This is the church as a creative minority in this age. A linked minority working together for the renewal of all things.

Then in both categories and in all of life, we desire to equip the saints for the work of ministry. Discipling each other with a bent outward. Recognizing everyone in the church has a kingdom role to play and making sure they have the arrows they will need in their packs.

There are many details and attempts to come down the road. I still don’t know each step. But together, we will lean into “release” for the glory of Christ.

This is key, we are stricken with pastoral insufficiency by the grace of God. I am not a super leader or a valiant entrepreneur. We may need systems and areas of support I can’t see. It will take all of us. From elders to volunteers in the special needs ministry. From deacons to small group leaders and everyone in-between.

So are you in? Are you willing to prepare the Reservoir for release? Maybe you will be the one we send, maybe you will be the one to take someone else’s place when they go… all for the glory of Jesus.

We exist to know Jesus and make him known. Those rescued by Jesus reshaped into family for the renewal of others and all things. Let’s go!

A Rock In The Sock

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” Hebrews‬ ‭12:1‬ ‭ESV‬‬

This morning as I made the way down the street for my morning run I was pestered by something in my shoe. It began as a little itch, something I just ran through trying to take my mind off of it. Then it became more annoying so I adjusted my shoe a bit hoping for relief. Then it was unbearable so I put my finger in my sock to find a small rock, a pebble, working like sandpaper on my heel as I ran the race that was set before me.

Immediately the comparison to sin that lingers and stays so close became abundantly clear and painful even. I suppose I could have continued on with the rock in my sock but it would have ruined the run. It would have dominated the experience and detracted from the purpose. I may have hobbled along, but there would have been no joy, no undistracted exertion.

This friends is us when we live with the little rocks of sin. Those things that have become routine. The behaviors, the thinking, the attitudes. They usually just start as an itch but become something that tries to burrow into the skin and wreak havoc.

These are the things we are to lay aside, give up on, remove from the “socks” of our lives. So that we may run. Live the abundant life we are meant for.

But the encouragement doesn’t stop in Hebrews with just running. It is running while “looking to Jesus” we are encouraged toward. The founder and perfecter of our faith that took on a cross to clear every “rock,” remove every weight of sin that clings so closely. And because he did that, for the joy of claiming you, you are now free to remove those pesky rocks from your socks.

Christian, there is no rock of sin that can condemn you in Christ. You are covered, and made to wear his righteousness. Now in him you are also empowered to lay aside sin. Notice it, own it, repent of it, and turn away from it. Discard the rocks.

This is for me and I think the Lord gave me a pebble to illustrate with frustrating clarity the distraction of those tightly clinging sins I have been trying to run through.

May we live to surrender those lesser things to the finished work of Christ. May we run looking to him.