A Rant.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the state of The Gathering and where we’re going and how we will get there.  I am incredibly encouraged by the spirit of the people who currently make up this Body and the excitement that is present about our future.

There is a focus on the Mission here that I have not seen over the past three years, a desire to seek God’s will and plan for us, and a hope to make a positive impact on our immediate community.  There is a unity like never before and, as a result, really much to celebrate about what God is doing.  We have developed some strong, healthy relationships/partnerships with some really great, missional sister churches in the area that I’m so excited about and grateful for.

We are getting somewhat serious about discipleship.  I think we are starting to understand that simply to gather together is not to be a church.  A church is made up of faithful, authentic followers of Christ who are committed to becoming more like Him every day and fulfilling His instructions that He gave us, including taking the Gospel to all nations.

But here’s the problem as I see it:  Though we are getting serious about taking the Gospel around the world, we are not yet serious about taking it around the block.

I am concerned because we are not yet focused on being a witness everywhere we go.  I am concerned that we are not looking for opportunities at every turn to tell people about the great news that there is hope in life, both here and for eternity, or living the kind of lives that make them hungry for something more.  We’re not there yet.

This is my prayer and my hope for us.  I am focused on my own life and my own weakness in this area and praying that God will ignite within me a hunger for taking the Gospel to the world and a repugnance for the complacency that too often defines who I am.

I look around at so many churches with an apparent focus on that which does not make a healthy church and find myself getting disgusted.  If I am honest, though, we’re all pretty disgusting.  We’re all too often focused on things that are more in keeping with kingdom-building (small “k”) rather than the Kingdom of God.  Isn’t it really just time to get over it?  Isn’t it time for us just to embrace what we believe and actually live it consistently? Isn’t it really just that simple?

When does the Truth of the Gospel define us?  I mean that in contrast to the way followers of Christ too often define the Gospel, giving off a false perception of who Christ is and what He really lived and taught while He was here; of what was and is important to Him?  Is it just me or is anybody else just sick to death of the weak, country-club, self-centered, homogenized, pasteurized, ego-centric, Westernized version of “church” that has dominated the landscape for far too long?  Is this really what we’ve become?  Is anyone else sick of the dualism that we, as Christ-followers, live – acting, thinking and speaking one way outside the walls of the church than we do inside, compartmentalizing our faith from the rest of our lives?  Just look at our Facebook posts.  How often are principles found in passages like Ephesians 5: 3-4 taken very seriously there?  Gosh, I probably shouldn’t have mentioned that…it’s so “old school,” isn’t it?  So yesterday.  We don’t worry about those kinds of things anymore.  Maybe that’s the problem.  Scripture hasn’t changed…we have.

So, my rant’s over…but my frustration isn’t.  I don’t want to sound too harsh or for it to be misunderstood that this is focused simply on others.  It’s focused on the collective us.  The Gathering has to decide to be different from the status quo.  We have to determine that we are going to be authentic and honest, focused on Jesus…period.  That’s why our slogan has simply become, “A church. Following Jesus.”  That simple. We just have to remember that “to follow” is “to become like”.  We can’t forget that.

Can I Get A Witness? – 1 John 4:13-17

I had the opportunity to talk with a young lady after worship yesterday who is dealing with a lot of spiritual issues.  In tears, she said to me that she felt lost.  I asked in what sense she meant that and she told me that it seemed she was adrift at sea without any direction.  Remembering that on another occasion she had told me she had trusted Christ, I asked her about her relationship with Him.  She said, “I thought I had trusted in Jesus, but there has been nothing in my life to give evidence of that.”

I remembered back to John’s teaching in chapter 3, verse 6 [see commentary here]: “No one who abides in Him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known Him.”  As we talked, she was right — there had been absolutely no transformation in her life since she “prayed a prayer.”  She still was unable and/or unwilling to give up the lifestyle choices she had made that were leading to destruction.

I suppose the good thing about this is that she continues to feel drawn at this point.  She still feels the tug of conviction, but she doesn’t have that ever-important element that John describes in the reading for today: the inner testifying of the Spirit of God that we are children of God.  The transforming work of love is carried out in our lives and we, then, “have confidence for the day of judgment…”.

I have great hope that she will truly come to trust in Christ because of the evidence that He is drawing her in to Himself, but when there is no transformation and no inner testimony of the Spirit that we are saved, there can be no justification.

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