This time of the year is one of favorite times of the year in the life of our church. I love this time because I get the joy of studying some of our key values and working through them together. As I work through these things values I think, “Oh yeah, this is what we set out to do, and why we do it.” This annual series helps me go deeper into ours values. Therefore, my hope and prayer is this will happen for you.
So, for the next 6 weeks are going to take a break from the Gospel of John to explore the importance of the local church. We entitled this series, “Christ Local,” because we believe the local church is supposed to be a tangible expression of Christ in communities across the globe.
Many people today talk about “shopping local,” so our plea in this series is not to just shop local, but buy local. Committing to a local church is buying local. When we do this we are committing to a local expression of Christ in our community. We are asking people to commit to “Christ Local.”
Now even as I say that there is an immediate heartfelt uncomfortable posture in your heart. You see whenever you do a sermon series on the importance of the local church it will come with very mixed feelings for many of us. Local churches are like families. For those of you who came from good families are not frightened by marriage, kids, or etc. But those who have had negative family experiences may not have the same inclinations. So much like family dynamics some can have good church experiences and others bad church experiences. Friends, I begin by telling you a little about my own personal journey. I was raised by a Christian-feministic-hippie who wanted to raise her children in the context of the local church. I saw how Christians mistreated my mother for her radical beliefs, I have seen my sister deeply wounded by other Christians, and personally I have had many painful experiences with the local church. But despite all this you see a man before you today who still loves the local church. I have been hurt by her, but I still love her. It took years of study and experiences to stand before you today and say that. The great preacher Charles Spurgeon has a good on my conviction:
“Give yourself to the Church. You that are members of the Church have not found it perfect and I hope that you feel almost glad that you have not. If I had never joined a Church till I had found one that was perfect, I would never have joined one at all! And the moment I did join it, if I had found one, I should have spoiled it, for it would not have been a perfect Church after I had become a member of it. Still, imperfect as it is, it is the dearest place on earth to us…All who have first given themselves to the Lord, should, as speedily as possible, also give themselves to the Lord’s people. How else is there to be a Church on the earth? If it is right for anyone to refrain from membership in the Church, it is right for everyone, and then the testimony for God would be lost to the world!”—Charles Spurgeon
So, my friends my hope and prayer is this series will be a time of healing for some of you and for others I time of renewed affections. God has healed me of my many hurts in the local church over the years, so I long to see others healed as well. Even more today I believe the local church is absolutely VITAL to a healthy Christian life.
What we are going to do today is explore one major question when it comes to thinking through the importance of the local church. The one question is, “What is God’s vision for the local church?” We will answer this question by doing two things. First, we will focus in on Ephesians 2.11-22. Second, we want see how our churches new VISION STATEMENT aligns with God’s vision for the local church. Our main theme of today will simply be the unveiling of our new vision statement.
We desire to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all peoples for God’s glory and our joy.
Our statement opens with, “We desire...” This is not one desire of many, but our overarching desire. We believe this desire is the desire that governs all our desires. We see a desire to proclaim the Gospel for God’s glory and our joy. Therefore, let’s unpack the various parts of this overarching desire.
1. Gospel Proclamation.
Why do we desire to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Well, we know from Eph 2.17 that “…he came and preached peace.” Who came? Jesus Christ came. He came in human form and preached to us. He preached to those who are “far off,” which be those who grew up without a biblical background. And He preached to those who are “near,” which would be those who did grow up with a biblical background. He preached to both, and so should we. The Greek word for “preach” could also be translated “proclaim.” Preaching is not just for preachers or pastors, but for all of God’s people. Jesus Christ came and proclaimed peace. Therefore, as Christ followers we come into people’s live to proclaim peace—both the Christian and non-Christian.
But why did Jesus see a need to proclaim “peace”? Well, Ephesians 2.14-16 tells us there was a “dividing wall of hostility” between God and us. Jesus Christ came, preached peace, and accomplished peace through His finished work on the Cross. Now someone might be tempted to think, “Man, there is no hostility between God and the world.” Well friend to you I would say go and truly tell someone what Christians really believe and see how upset people get. They will think thoughts, “Who are you to tell me I am living wrong? How could a God hold anything against me? I am generally a good person. If there is a God He has not revealed enough to me.” Dear friends, the world is hostile toward God and all you have to do to reveal that is just really teach what the Bible says.
When we skip down to Ephesians 2.20 we see how God taught the world what a relationship with Him should look like. He taught us through two types of people—“apostles and prophets.” The text says. “…the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.” These apostles and prophets are the ones who wrote the Bible for us. The rest of Ephesians 2.20 tells us the cornerstone of their foundation is “Jesus Christ.” This is way of saying the foundation of the foundation is Jesus Christ. What we can conclude from this is the Bible’s primary agenda is the proclamation of Jesus Christ. If the apostles and prophets are writing what God wants and what they primarily write about is Jesus, then we can conclude God’s vision for the church is they would continue proclaiming Christ.
If this is God’s vision for the church, then it should be the vision of our church. Friends if any leader would attempt to build a “church” around something else than what the Bible centers its foundation then they cease to be a church. Leaders may be able to draw a big crowd through a charismatic personality or 10 principles for financial success, good parenting, a healthy marriage, but they are not building a church for God’s glory. The proclamation of Jesus Christ MUST be the primary foundation of every local church.
2. God’s Glory and Our Joy.
This is why God’s glory must be the aim of every local church. We strongly believe here at Refuge that pursuing God’s glory is not rigid, just do what you are told, joyless pursuit. No, when we pursue God’s glory the result for us is we get joy.
Ephesians 2.17-22—12 times in these 5 verses God is referenced. The vision God has for His people, for the building of His household, and the reason we do this whole church thing is God’s glory.
And here’s the thing here friends, whatever you glory in you find joy in, and whatever you find joy in you glory in. Glory and joy work together. I love my family, I post instagram photos with them in it. I love my wife, so my instagram and twitter account have her in profile picture. When you check me out, you check her out—we are one flesh. I hug and kiss family probably way too much. But these are just examples of saying I love them, I find so much joy in them, so I glory about them. I praise them. What we praise is what we find joy in. For us here at Refuge we believe our GREATEST joy is GOD. We have other joys like I just mentioned, but they cannot compare with the joy we have in God. In fact the joy we have in God makes those other joys all the more better. God helps me be a better husband, father, friend, citizen, or any other role I have. Paul ties this all really well together in Ephesians 1.13-14 [READ]. We are so thankful, full of joy in God after our salvation, that we live “to the praise of HIS glory.” Friends this is why say, “We desire to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all peoples for God’s glory and our joy.”