The Church I Dream About

I often tell people that I share a similar story to that of Samuel. I was only a few weeks old the first time I came to church. If the doors were open… my family was there. Much like Samuel, I was raised in the church. It’s impossible for me to think back on my childhood and not be bombarded with memories of sitting in the second row of pews on the left had side of the sanctuary. I remember Pastor Greening, preaching all the stories of the “Saints of old”. He had a rule of thumb he followed, “preach in a way that 10-year-old would understand and you’ll catch everyone else older as well.” I loved listening to his messages. They were always a balanced mixture of stories of Biblical heroes of the faith and modern day heroes we called missionaries.

The first Bible verse I learned was John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” The second verse was Matthew 28:19-20 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” From a very young age I learned how simple it all was; God loved us so much he sent us Jesus and now we’re supposed to take him to the ends of the earth. I knew Satan was real and this message we carried was the most powerful message on this planet and with it we could defeat Him. We (the church) were God’s army behind enemy lines. We were to never forget that our enemy roamed this earth and controlled just about everything we could see.

In the seventh grade, I read the book Through the Gates of Splendor by Elizabeth Elliot and knew from that day on my goal in life was to be one of those missionaries tromping through the Amazon basin delivering this message of hope to a broken world. This goal led me to stay in the best possible shape. I played three sports all through school. I enlisted in the Army National Guard at age seventeen. I went to Bible college and traveled on mission trips to nine countries including the jungles of Papua New Guinea. Through God’s sovereign hand he led me out of the jungles and into the local church. I’ve served in churches with a weekly attendances of about eighty as well as in churches with several thousand on any given Sunday.

I have to be honest though, after 20 years of ministry, I now find myself wishing it was all as simple as when I was a kid, “God loves us so much he sent us Jesus and now we’re going to take him to the ends of the earth.” I’m not really sure how I ended up where I am, but I’ve seem to have found myself where most pastors my age have found themselves; spending a lot more time “doing church” than “doing the work of the church.” The pastors I grew up with led the charge up each hill. They were front and center as we stormed the gates of Hell. Most pastors today seem to be more of referees for the righteous than they are leaders on a battlefield. Too many churches seem to be sitting in the rear, no longer waiting to be called to the front. If there’s one thing I’ve learn in the Army it’s that an Army sitting idle gets into trouble. They become self-centered. They fight and bicker with each other. They snipe at one another and find ways to discourage instead of locking arms and moving as one.

I find myself thinking like when I was kid… daydreaming about an “Army of God” behind enemy lines. I think up stories in my head about men and women carrying this powerful message of hope with them everywhere they go in their backpacks, briefcases, and suitcases. What would that church look like? What would it look like today to have a church, the whole church, focused on making disciples of all the nations? What if everyone was sold out to the mission given to us by God Himself. The church I dream about is an army sold out to this mission. They’re selflessly abandoned to the the task of making disciples of all the nations. They teach these things diligently to their children and are committed to raising up a younger generation of Spiritual champions. They care for one another, love one another, and sacrifice for one another. This church is known for locking arms and storming the gates of Hell. They’ve committed all they have to this mission. A 10% tithe is the floor to their giving not the ceiling. Their worship is uninhibited and unbridled. They’re the movers and the shakers of their community and their immense compassion for the broken is noticed by all. Their leaders, lead from the front and everyone carries his or her share of the load. They love mercy and seek justice.

This is the kind of church I dream about.

Pop the Bubble You Live In

This is a message I preached a few weeks back aimed at challenging our church body to “Pop the Bubble You Live In”.

Everyone of us in America lives in a nice little bubble. We love our bubble. We protect our life in the bubble. We only associate with people in our bubble. Life is good in the bubble! However, if we want to make an eternal impact on this world, the first step to this is Popping that bubble.

Hope this challenges you half as much as it challenged me.

Communion this Easter

Here’s another great post from my good friend Craig.

Wrath of God

This year I am going to take Easter communion in a different mindset. You would think that, with nearly a half a century of faith and studying my Bible, I would have gotten things figured out by now. Well, it still has not happened. Growing in the knowledge of God is not so much learning “new” things as it is connecting the dots. Like one of those child drawings that has many dots with numbers by them. You cannot see the picture until the dots are connected. As I connect the dots, the reality of our God transforms from being many truths to one continuous thought.

The dots I have recently connected are communion and the wrath of God. Yes, that’s right, the wrath of God. It is impossible to comprehend what Jesus brought us without understanding the wrath of God. First of all, God’s nature is one of righteousness. Unlike humans who can choose to act righteous, God “is” righteous. Therefore, the payment for our sin has to be a righteous response, and that is his wrath. Jesus did not come to bring this wrath; the wrath was already on all of us. It is a good news, bad news thing. Jesus told Nicodemus (John 3:17) “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” That was the good news. The bad news is in the following verse, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already”. There was no reason for Jesus, when entering the world, to pass judgement on people who already stood condemned. God’s wrath is on each of us until we are saved through Jesus.

What is meant when we say we are saved by the death and resurrection of Jesus? If you ask a Christian what they have been saved from, and I have, you get a variety of answers but almost never the correct one. God came into the world to save us from himself. This truth is stated many places in the Bible, but none more clearly than Romans 5:9 “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath ..” This explains why John the Baptist said to the religious leaders, “who warned you to flee from the wrath to come” (Mathew 3:7)? When we say that Jesus came to save us from our sins, it is only indirectly true. He came to save us from the punishment for our sins. After all, aren’t we still sinners after we have been saved?

Now we need to connect the dots from God’s wrath to communion. Each gospel writer except John records Jesus, before his arrest, in the Mount of Olives asking his Father to “take this cup from me.” I always thought this was a metaphor for taking away the agony of being crucified. However, it is much more than that. Over 500 times in the Old Testament, the cup is used to describe the wrath of God. One example is Jeremiah 25:15. “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, said to me: ‘Take from my hand this cup filled with the wine of my wrath and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it.” We also see the use of the cup representing God’s wrath in the New Testament, especially in the book of Revelation. An example is Revelation 14:10 “they, too, will drink the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath.

When Jesus asked to have the cup removed, he was not asking his father to remove the pain and suffering of the crucifixion. He was asking his father to not pour out of his wrath on Him. It is no wonder Jesus sweat drops of blood. Jesus had to bear God’s wrath for our sins. I had been taught that Jesus took the sins of the world on his being and God removed his presence since he cannot look at sin. The problem with this teaching is that God does look at sin. The scriptures used, like Habakkuk 1:13, to imply differently are misinterpreted. Because God cannot tolerate sin indefinitely does not mean he cannot look at sin.

Hours before Jesus prayed that this cup (of God’s wrath) be taken from him; he gave his disciples the first communion. He took the cup and said “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you” (Luke 22:20). He then said, “do this in remembrance of me.” We were all once sinners destined to drink the cup of God’s wrath. We are now forgiven sinners who hold the cup that represents Christ blood.

This Easter, when I raise the communion cup, I will be praising him that it represents his blood and not his wrath.

 

Craig Hutchison

Communion of the Saints… A Global Communion

Ok, not going to lie to you – a couple of weeks ago we had the best idea ever! Remember THIS POST on communion a few days ago? This was my answer to my “communion dilemma” this past Sunday.

Question:Where do you fit communion time into a service that focuses on Global Missions?

Answer: At the end of the message… only this time, you have some of your Global Partners lead your time.

 

“Holy Crap, It’s Communion Sunday”

Communion

Photo Credit: spbpda via Compfight cc

 

Okay moment of transparency. If you’re a pastor you’re going to understand what I’m talking about here, but if you’re not, you might find this one slightly offensive. A few weeks ago we were planning our Sunday service… you know, trying to figure out the timing for worship songs, and the message, and things like that when all of a sudden I looked at the schedule realized it was communion weekend.

Maybe your church is not like ours, but we have communion once a month.

When I looked down and saw that the Sunday that I was preaching was communion I couldn’t help but say the first thing that came into my head,” Holy crap, it’s communion Sunday”. You can just guess how that went over in the room. Someone quickly chimed in “Holy Crap”??? Is that how we approach communion here? Everything I did to try to explain what I meant by my reaction fell to the waste side.