Discipleship

Christlikeness as Vision

“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”

Paul meant this when he wrote it to the Corinthians church (1 Cor. 11:1). They needed an example because some guys with big ideas, and not a lot of humility, had come into the church and were inciting division and the focus on some strange things. It was an era of confusion of what the church was supposed to be, who had a seat at the table, and where they were all headed.

We think they listened. There was still more correction to come but the church seemed to follow the example, becoming imitators for the glory of Christ and their flourishing. We aren’t all that different, and there is hope.

How often we are faced with the distractions and desires to have a future defined by things other than Christlikeness.

As a church re-planter I have had to answer my share of questions of where we are headed as a church and what exactly my vision is. It isn’t my favorite question to answer and mostly because I think the modern church has been wrongly conditioned to require “vision.” Now don’t hear me wrong. Vision is important in the church. We should have a dream of what our culture as a body will translate into long term. I have even over the years shared some big dreams of being a church that equips leaders and plants a family of churches in San Diego County, but maybe it isn’t believable because the questions keep coming.

The better question I think in the church is ‘who are we becoming?’ That’s what Paul was trying to get the Corinthians to ponder and perhaps we should spend more time imitating Christ than fantasizing about timelines and building campaigns.

I appreciate the example of Eugene Peterson and countless pastors that have ministered in obscurity, inviting people to imitate them as they imitated Christ. In the work of Peterson it is clear it was the soul that mattered and it is either being formed into a cultural expression that is bound to time or in sanctification made cruciform like our Savior.

It isn’t sexy, but it is good. Christlikeness as vision. It is what I desire for my own life and the life of our church. God will work out the numbers and timing. We will work out our salvation. Shall we?

Worthwhile

Worthwhile: May 3, 2019

It has been a bit of a whirlwind week here in Escondido but there is still plenty to share as you plan your weekend reading. A heavy subject, a better vision, and perseverance.

But first: As a member of the North County Inland Pastors Prayer group, I had the privilege of helping to draft and sign the Poway Statement on violence. It is for pastors and ministry leaders to stand together against violent acts like the one we just experienced in our community. You can view the statement at PowayPastors.org.

Anti-semitism and violence motivated by difference should have no quarter in the church and I think Jesus is bringing us as a universal church to an important moment of repentance and clarity.

Now on to the worthwhile bits for this week.


Related to the evil of white supremacy we have an article from Joe Carter on the roots of views that very well could be held in our pews.

When I was working in radio at a Christian station, of all the conversations with listeners I had the one that is most memorable is when a lady called in to complain that our station would promote a concert of DC Talk. She was appalled that we supported “mixing the races.” She even went so far to suggest that when Scripture says believers should not be “unequally yoked” it meant ethnic groups shouldn’t intermingle (and certainly never marry). I was stunned and told her she was wrong. This article brought that back to mind as I reflect on the prevalence of such a view in the church.

Take up and read to keep yourself from the same error.


Next up, we all could use a better vision given the age we live in. Why not have a “Christ-flooded vision?”

Christy Britton invites us to it in her article from early April.

A better vision awaits all who have the courage to seek the gaze of our heavenly father. When our vision is obstructed by the distracting sights before us, we need to change our field of vision. We must fix our eyes on Christ, and as we gaze on him, he will dominate our field of vision and we will be strengthened by what we see.


Our unbelief will be transformed into belief as we behold him.

Give it a read and keep your eyes up!


And lastly, mostly for pastors and youngsters, but also for all of us. The Long Haul. Darryl Dash writes about his own choice to not stick with a church and ponders the benefits of faithful, long labor in the same place.

We can be so enticed by what’s next or “greener pastures” that we fail to experience the fruit of long obedience in the same direction. Think about it as you read for yourself.


Thanks for paying attention and reading along. Have a great weekend and keep looking to Jesus!

Discipleship

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!