While thinking a little deeper about the mission and ministry of Sojourn, I read a quote yesterday from Alan Hirsch. Alan is a favorite author of mine. Here’s what he said about the church: the church does not have a mission as much as God’s mission has a church!
LOOKING BACK AT LAST WEEK
Last week we defined the church and looked at the four gifts God has given His bride that allows us to be the body of Christ. First, read the definition of the church below and ask yourself this question: Why is there an emphasis throughout the New Testament on the local church (versus the few passages that refer to the church universal)?
The local church is God’s anointed community that is uniquely designed to encourage our relationship with him, to care for one another and to serve our city and world. While the church is made up of all believers everywhere, it is manifested through local bodies. Sojourn is a local body.
In addition to defining the church last week, we looked at four core gifts that God gives the church while, at the same time, leaving each local church flexible on things like strategy. The four gifts he gave each local church are (1) its mission, (2) leadership under our head, Jesus; (3) the bible as our guide and (4) the Holy Spirit to each believer.
That is why the church can impact and change a city. That is why Jesus calls it his bride and says when you function as a true biblical NT church, expect unbelievable things to happen because I am behind it and the gates of hell will not be able to stop it!
WORTH PONDERING FURTHER: How do the gifts God gave the church also serve each INDIVIDUAL Christ-follower. How about your family? Why do you think God wanted us to minister together as a community rather then as individuals, each doing our own thing? Take a look at I Cor. 12 for help on this question.
REFLECTING THIS WEEK
So we have a mission, guidance, leadership and the Holy Spirit. Now, with those gifts in hand, what things does God want us to focus on? The bible says there are three primary things he wants us to zero in on, as we become a church after the heart of Jesus. And you know what—they are pretty straightforward!
1. Love God
2. Love each other
3. Love our broken world
THINK ABOUT THIS: Why do you think we make this so complicated? Why do you think we get distracted by all sorts of other stuff that is not what God wants us to focus on? Here is even a bigger question: What do you think would happen if a church really took these three mandates seriously?
LET’S GIVE SOME THOUGHT TO THESE THREE AREAS GOD WANTS US TO LOCK IN ON:
Read Matthew 22:37 (“Jesus replied, ‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.').
APPLICATION: It sounds like Jesus wants 100 percent of us. How are you doing in this area? What things keep you from loving God this way?
LOVE OTHERSRead John 13:34-35 ("A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.")
WORTH PONDERING: How do we do this? Notice that Jesus is saying, as we love one another at Sojourn, the world will connect the dots. What about the way we love each other, makes people consider who Jesus is?
Cultural barriers. (What about the American notions of independence or “making it on our own” can push against God’s design for the church?
The fear of intimacy
What are the risks in opening our lives and heart to others?
Remember what we said last week: God never nudges and encourages us in a direction that is not ultimately in our best interest because he loves us more then we know. Push through them and begin to experience what Jesus says will change our life and struggles and our witness in profound ways.
I like what John Ortberg said about loving each other: “This is why the experience of authentic community is so life giving. We are taking our place in fellowship with Life himself. When I am in isolation, I am lonely. When I am in community, I experience what might be called “fullness of heart”. The human heart is forever empty if it is closed in upon itself. In community—the divine community especially (taking about the church) a heart comes alive.”
Do you agree? Why or why not?
LOVE OUR WORLD
Here is the final focus point for the church. Loving our broken world. Is that hard for you or does it come easy?
Ultimately, the church is simply common men and woman with an uncommon calling.
WORTH PONDERING: Think of someone you really admire that has been used by God. What made them extraordinary? Remember that God calls the unworthy and the unqualified into His service. Chances are the person you are thinking about did not help change the world because they were different then us. They changed the world because they submitted themselves as weak and ordinary to a Potter who does extraordinary things with common, even broken, vessels.
The bible says, you are Christ’s workmanship: “For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”
APPLICATION: What plans do you think God is moving you toward? What hints is he giving you these days in terms of how he wants to use you? What scares you most about God’s plan for you? What excites you the most?
Next week as we celebrate our First Anniversary as a local church, we will tell stories of the unfolding work of God in our midst around the themes of loving God, lover one another, loving our world.
QUESTIONS: How does Sojourn express these three focal points? We simply say that Sojourn exists to Encounter God, Equip people and engage our city. I hope you agree that God has given us great families and individuals that make up our local body. That makes it such a joy to serve.
Have a great day and take a few moments this coming week to invite friends to Sojourn’s First Anniversary. I look forward to celebrating with you the greatness of our God next Sunday, the 7th of February.
Thanks for being the church!
JeffPhil 4: 4-7