How We are Growing as a Church in Mansfield

CHURCH RENEWAL SEASON OF PRAYER AND ENGAGEMENT

Fall 2017

For the past several years our church plant has grown – in numbers and in what it means to be a healthy and missional community. But as we’ve grown, we haven’t kept up with helping everyone grow together. This is why we have set out to embark on a church-wide season of renewal through prayer and intentional engagement.

We are asking, collectively, as a church: What does it mean, practically, to follow Jesus and be transformed by Him in our everyday life, as well as our life together as a church – His people in His world? Over the next few weeks, we want you to set aside some time to pray, consider, and discuss with your family and friends in the church how you can participate, engage, and grow in the life and ministry of Christ Church Mansfield.

lightstock_190452_medium_user_3970569As members of Christ Church Mansfield we take the following vows from our Book of Church Order:

  1. Do you acknowledge yourself to be a sinner in the sight of God, justly deserving His wrath, and without hope except for God’s sovereign love and mercy?
  2. Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and Savior of sinners, and do you receive and rest upon him alone for salvation as He is offered in the Gospel?
  3. Do you now resolve and promise, in humble reliance upon the grace of the Holy Spirit, that you will serve him with all that is in you, to forsake the world, to put to death your sinful nature, and to endeavor to live a godly life as a follower of Christ? 
  4. Do you promise to support the church in its worship and work to the best of your ability?
  5. Do you submit yourself to the government and discipline of the church, and promise to pursue and preserve its purity and peace?

As a follower of Christ, and member of His church by faith and this church by association, I/we agree to take the next steps in committing our lives to God’s glory, man’s joy, and the mission of His church here at Christ Church Mansfield in the following ways: 

  • Receive, believe, and live out the gospel and cultivate daily habits of spiritual growth by spending time with God through reading, studying, memorizing, applying scripture and praying. (Personal and Vibrant Faith)
  • Grow as a disciple and follower of Jesus by connecting with God and His people in worship, growing in relational community, serving others in ministry, and helping others do the same in discipleship.  (Church Philosophy of Ministry and Discipleship Process)
  • Practice living a generous life motivated by the gospel and give financial support to the mission of God in and through Christ Church Mansfield through our tithes and offerings, in ordinary and extraordinary ways. (Sustainable and Sacrificial Support for the Mission of CCM).

How do these three commitments fit with our Membership Vows and culture as a gospel-centered church?

We will explore each of these commitments in subsequent posts. For now, let’s look at the first commitment.

On Having a Personal and Vibrant Faith

First, living a life of worship in devotion to God, characterized by ongoing repentance and faith based on the person and work of Jesus Christ in the gospel is the direct result and implication of the gospel for our lives. We are not saved by our works in any way, nor do we strengthen God’s love and resolve toward us by anything we do. But our good works and spiritual disciplines are the appropriate fruit and expression of gratitude for the love and grace we have received from Him in Jesus Christ.  Our Membership Vows 1-2 speak to our commitment to the personal profession of faith and possession of a life of faith. 

On Being a Gospel-Centered Christian (Christ follower; Disciple)

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” – 1 Peter 2:9

The essence of the Christian faith and what it means to be and live as a Christian is that we worship God alone, in community with His people, giving of ourselves in service to others, and reaching others with the transforming power of the gospel.

Our lives are characterized not by perfection, but by repentance and faith; humility, trust, and godly ambition; a growing desire to bring God glory and honor in our lives, as well as our communities, seeing His name and kingdom spread throughout the world.

To believe, or “have faith” is to transfer our functional trust from our own efforts of finding life, mercy, and forgiveness, to the person and work of Jesus Christ alone. The default mode of the human heart is to “go our own way” and “take matters into our own hands.” Faith in Christ means we go His way, on His terms, and in His power – not ours.

We need to remember this and repent daily as a way of life.  To repent is to simply admit that we often desire, and in fact live, as masters of our own fate, choosing to worship someone or something (creature/creation) other than God (Creator). We seek and savor “forbidden fruit” in the forms of our own autonomy, power, control, comfort, or approval, establishing our own “law” and “rule of life” instead of trusting in the “Word of God” that satisfies more than any bread. We repent of all these things we do or leave undone, and all the ways we make ourselves the center of the universe instead of God.

But as we turn away from sin and all the ways we give in to it, we also turn towards Christ in faith, receiving His mercy, forgiveness, and life by the Holy Spirit to live in “newness” of life – constantly dying to sin and living unto righteousness. In light of what He has done, has given us, and continues to be for us, sin quickly loses its power and control in our lives.

The great Puritan, circuit riding Presbyterian minister, Robert Murray McCheyene perhaps said it best: “For every one look you take of your sin, take ten looks upon Christ!”

This is the Christian life in a nutshell – to be obsessed with Jesus and the significance of Him for our life.

In light of the gospel, we are:

  • …creatures made in the image of God, ruined by sin, redeemed by the person and work of Jesus Christ, and actively hopeful about the ultimate renewal of all things. 
  • …. works in progress, holding on to grace for dear life, and bringing others along for the journey.
  • …worse off than we think but also more loved and accepted than we ever dared hope. Therefore, we are to be loving and serving others because we’ve been loved and served by another Who is greater – Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Practically this looks like several things:

  • Read, study, memorize, and apply the Bible. Pray and respond to God in repentance, and believe the Gospel (always and ongoing). (Here’s a good summary article to help!)
  • Love and serve others as you have the opportunity. Seek out these opportunities!  
  • Share with others what you have – Jesus, hope, faith, resources, etc.
  • Publicly professing my faith in baptism and/or confirming my faith in receiving communion.
  • Potentially joining the church as a Member.

Personal and Discussion Questions

  1. Where are you on your spiritual journey:
    • Have you trusted Christ with your life?
    • Have you confessed and repented of your sin as well as your “good works” that keep God at a distance from your life?
    • Are you growing in what it means to be a disciple/follower of Jesus Christ
  2. What helps you keep Christ at the center of your life?
  3. What new practice could help you to refocus your life on Christ?
  4. Who can you share your responses with and ask them to help you grow in having a personal and vibrant, growing faith in Christ?

 

Prayer

“O Lord Jesus, I thank and praise YOU for the life that You have given to me by Your wonderful grace and love. May I grow day by day to be more like You, full of compassion and kindness, grace and truth. Saturate my heart with Your love so that I may love You more with every fiber of my being. Thank you, Holy Spirit, for making to be more like Christ in all of life. Help me to reflect Your truth, beauty, and goodness, in thought, word, and deed. I ask that I may devote my time and heart to reflect on all You are and all You have done for me – so that You are magnified more and more in  and through my life.” Amen

Additional Resources

Daily Bible Study and Devotional reading: He Reads Truth and She Reads Truth

Daily Prayer and Devotional material: Heavenward by Scotty Smith

You Are What You Love by James K.A. Smith (book)

Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren (book)

Knowing God by J.I. Packer (book)

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Tim Keller on Denominational Renewal

Well,

It’s actually Tim Keller commenting on Greg Thompson’s talk from the 2008 PCA Denominational Renewal conference, and I think it is well worth the time linking and encouraging you all to read.

Click here for the full article.  Here’s a sampling:

As I read this terrific piece, however, it made me think about how we actually will have to do denominational renewal. The PCA is the great and tense place that it is because it is perhaps the only Presbyterian denomination that hasn’t purged or lost one or two of its historic wings. George Marsden says that Reformed churches have always had what he called ‘doctrinalist’, ‘pietist,’ and ‘cultural-transformationist’ wings. Weirdly, they all grow out of aspects of Reformed theology. Historically, they’ve produced some major splits–Old Side (doctrinalist) from New Side (pietist) in the 18th century, Old School (doctrinalist/pietist) from New School (reformist) in the 19th century. The OPC, though a doctrinalist church, grew and then shed a pietist wing (New Life Churches.) The CRC, though basically a cultural-transformationist denomination, had a doctrinalist split off (the URC.) In God’s providence, the PCA has significant numbers in all three wings.

Contemporary or Contextual – What would Keller do?

timkeller.jpgWell, Tim Keller’s new book is almost out – The Reason for God (Hey honey, if you’re thinking of any last minute Valentine’s gift ideas, this might be a good one.) – and low and behold there is quite a buzz swarming over the internet (here, here, here, here and here). Not only that, but Keller made it into a Newsweek piece. (I especially like the line about him being compared to your favorite “dim sum” place in Manhattan).

Here is a comment made by Ed Stetzer after visiting Redeemer Church in New York (Tim Keller’s church) regarding an interesting, and important thing to remember whenever we talk about “contextualization”:

“I was most impressed with how, well, non-“hip” the service was. (The giveaway was the note in the program reminding you to not applaud.)

The “band” was four men in suits who played wind instruments accompanied by an organ.

Yet, most of the crowd was young and engaged… a reminder that contemporary is not always contextual.”

The Reason for GodI think that statement is worth pondering some, don’t you guys? When did I, or we, ever begin to equate contextual with contemporary? I think that Stetzer nails it, and sees beyond the “transferable practices” of some successful church strategy’s, to the transferable principle of making the Gospel truth relevant and understandable for your context.

At the end of the Newsweek piece on Keller, the author makes another interesting comment. After picking up on some the anomalies that make Tim Keller a bit “odd” for the typical perceptions of pastors, she states that New York is a good place for someone as idiosyncratic as Keller, and she muses whether, “he—or his vision—will ever be at home anywhere else.”

I think that the writer of the article has expressed an important aspect of ministry and calling, but particularly for future and would-be church planters. When you consider whatever ministry it is that you think God is calling you to, ask yourself, “Would you or your vision be at home anywhere else?” A great question, and one to ponder before heading out into planting a church. If you don’t have a sense of what God can do and wants to do through His church under your charge for a specific city/town/area, then maybe you’re not really ready to minister.

Just something I’m thinking about. What are your thoughts?

“Men ought to have proven ministry gifts before attending seminary.”

This looks like an interesting questions (and ensuing discussion).  Check out the source here.  (Thanks to R. Scott Clark for the link).  Here are some eye-widening thoughts I found interesting and worth refelcting on:

“We all know, and some of us have experienced first hand, the problem of too many pastors for churches in the PCA.  Yet, there has been little to no talk about how to address the problem.  

 We must conclude one of 3 things:

a.)     God doesn’t know what he’s doing, because he’s called far more men than we need.b.)     The PCA is about to have a major revival, and explode in number of churches.c.)     We are judging far more men to be called than are actually called. I vote for c.”

 Also…

“The weight of presbytery’s approval should not be in favor of, “We’ll ordain you, unless you give us reason not to,”  but rather, “We need compelling reason.  Prove to us that you are called.”  That proof, of course, would come out of possessing Christian maturity, Biblical/theological acumen, pastoral heart, and, above all, the ABILITY TO PREACH.  Sorry to shout, but how many guys have we passed along who have little to no skill in this area in clear violation of the Biblical mandate.”  

I think I’ve already formulated my own thoughts on the matter, but want to wait and let any of you out there chime in:Are there way too many “called” men in the process of becoming pastors?  If so, what should we do about it? 

Scott Clark does it again

R. Scott ClarkI’m really enjoying the thoughts and posts of  R. Scott Clark lately.  I confess that I don’t know much about him (personally or academically), but some of his posts over at Heidelblog have been very helpful to me trying to navigate the theological talk regarding Federal Vision, but more so, helping to understand the differences and similarities between the Old and New Covenant.

His most recent post deals with the sing and the seal of covenant membership, and what really distinguishes the theology and praxis of Presbyterians, Baptists, and Federal Vision folk.

Read it here.

Francis Schaeffer Lecture Series – Emerging Church

Darrin PatrickHere is the content for the Covenant Seminary’s Francis Schaeffer Institute Lecture Series (that’s a mouthful, isn’t it?) on the Emerging Church. This was a series of talks given by Darrin Patrick, lead pastor of The Journey and V.President of the Acts 29 Network. Darrin is a guy who neither absolutely praises or bashes the Emerging Church movement. Instead, he gives a really good inside picture of it, while also standing somewhat outside of it and gives it a good critical assessment of its strengths and weaknesses. If you’re out there and you’re the least bit curious, or cautious, of anything that bears the label “emerging”, then listen to these lectures.

Audio Content (page – you can download the lectures individually)

Written Content (abridged notes from the talks)

CT Article on Gospel Coalition

The Gospel CoalitionColin Hansen has an article for CT about The Gospel Coalition.  Its a good excerpt, and worth reading to understand what I think is an exciting and important trend for the shaping of future ministry, particularly in the U.S.   Here are a couple of good quotes (from Keller, yes!), but do go read the rest of the article (click here).

“I want to see more churches and leaders joining hands across denominational and network lines to think out how to do effective mission based on the historic, classical understanding of the gospel as it has come down to us from the Reformation and through the Awakenings.”

“If we seek service rather than power, we may have significant cultural impact,” the statement says. “But if we seek power and social control, we will, ironically, be assimilated into the very idolatries of wealth, status, and power we seek to change.”-Tim Keller

More good thoughs on “missional” and denominations

There’s a great post over at ‘Conn’-versation regarding the shape of younger Christian leaders and the whole “missional” conversation. I appreciate the post because it has put words to my scattered thoughts, particularly in relation to missional conversations within reformed denominations. For anyone trying to live and move in both worlds, this can be more tricky, and require a bit more awareness and discernment with the things we say or do. Anyway, here’s a great quote to wet your appetite:

“The adjective Missional will likely have its day in the sun and end dried up in the field of other helpful, but not bygone categories, but the changing ecclesiology it sought to capture will remain until and if we experience the Southern Hemisphere shape of Christendom to come (spoken of by people like Philip Jenkins) expanding into the landscape of our Post-Christian West in a culturally transforming manner.”

Check out the whole post here.

(P.S. – I have yet to read Jenkins book, but have heard great things about it, and with this post, I will most likely end up reading real soon. Anyone have any thoughts on the book itself?)

Keller excerpt from The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World

The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern WorldThis is a quote from Tim Keller’s chapter in the upcoming book The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World, from Crossway publishing. It’s being compiled from the sessions of this past Desiring God conference, and just this quote alone is enough to guarantee that I’m buying and reading it. Excellent topic, great thinkers and men who love Jesus and His world – what more could you ask for!

Here’s the quote, but know that over at the Desiring God blog, you can read a larger excerpt from Keller’s chapter: On Gospel Humiliation

“…unless something comes into your life that breaks you of your self-righteousness and pride, you may say you believe the gospel of grace but, as we said above, the penny hasn’t dropped. You aren’t a sign of the gospel yourself. You don’t have the Jonah principle working in you. You aren’t a strength-out-of-weakness person. God will have to bring you low if he is going to use you in evangelism.”