Monday, January 12, 2015

New Perspectives, New Seasons, New Priorities

It's funny how life can so easily enter into a new season. Before you know it, months have past by! That's how I feel today as I sit writing this blog. I've realized that we not only have we entered new seasons of life (planting a church, helping others plant churches, starting new mission initiatives in the Dominican Republic, raising pre-teen daughters while potty-training our 3-year-old, entering our 14th year of marriage, etc.), but we're also entering a new season of spiritual development.

I used to think ministry could be compartmentalized into a neat box. I'd think to myself, "if x leads to y result, then that will be true across every sphere of ministry". I used to be so focused on making programming better that life outside the church was an after-thought at best. But, priorities have shifted - BIG TIME!!! The church modeled after the New Testament doesn't revolve around attractional programming, religious routines, or even denominational ties.

Here's what I mean...

Since my last post on this blog, we planted a church about one mile from our home in Gibsonia, PA. There were a handful of people who partnered with us early on from previous churches, previous small groups, or previous encounters over the past decade. The common thread was a prevailing desire to be surrendered to the mission of God as "missionaries" within our context of everyday life. We didn't believe we needed to move away from the U.S., learn a new language, learn a new culture, etc. in order to live out the Great Commission of Jesus Christ. Instead, we believed God was leading us to stay where we already knew the language, knew the culture, knew the community, and knew God had a greater plan for us and our communities.

Those 6 households have now grown to 40 households in a matter of only fourteen months. Believers and unbelievers have entered this journey with us. Their stories are indescribable! There have been two weddings (another one will occur in March), and now 3 babies are on the way. It's unbelievable to see God working in the lives of these people via: worship gatherings where the Triune God is revealed and exalted through His Word; Community Groups where people are growing relationally and spiritually; Bible Studies where an estimated 20 people meet at restaurants throughout our region for breakfast (early in the mornings) to learn and be challenged to obey the voice of God. It's remarkable!

BUT, all this isn't happening through a method described at flashy conferences or popular books on church growth (not that these things are at all bad). It hasn't happened by purchasing a great facility. Rather, it's through a simple conviction of trusting the Holy Spirit to do what only He can do - change people from the inside out. Our priorities have to be His priorities since its His church. We are experiencing the greatness of God in ways only He can fashion. People are hungry for truth declared in a grace-filled manner. Isn't that what Jesus did (John 1:14)?

When Advance Community Church held its "grand opening" on September 21, 2014 @ 5:00pm, we knew we weren't looking for numeric growth where people only showed up on Sundays for an experience. As a missional church, we prayed for God to bring people who needed to hear the Gospel (because they were walking in darkness and needed to respond to the message of Jesus) and people who were desperate for a Christian life that transcended "church as usual" (because although they may have been saved by God, they lacked equipping in how to live for Kingdom purposes - Matthew 28:18-20, Philippians 3:12-21, Ephesians 4:11-16). Therefore, after a few weeks of vision-casting, we focused on the first 8 chapters of Romans where Paul lays out the Gospel in a clear and logical progression. That series was such a powerful glimpse into the mind and heart of God in how He loves His people.

Now, we are in the midst of a "practical response" to the Gospel as we are focusing on Ephesians 4-6 in a series called, "Resolutions". The central thrust of the series could be summed up by stating: "the Holy Spirit empowers Christians to actually change and live for the glory of God and His Kingdom while on Earth". The Apostle Paul argues the Holy Spirit works through godly friends, in our minds, in our marriages, within our homes, while at work, and throughout the spiritual realms. Amazing!

If you want to get a taste of where we've been in our worship gatherings, watch here.

John Piper's famous quote sums up how I feel during this season of so many priority shifts, "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him". May our lives be deeply marked by the satisfaction only He can give regardless of the season in which we find ourselves. Make space for holiness within the spirit of your mind for God's Spirit to bring about true change (Ephesians 4:23).