The LORD has been teaching me a ton lately! Some of you know this and others do not, but through much prayer and labor I thought I was hitting a point in our church plant when I didn’t know what to do. I was regularly asking the LORD, “What am I doing wrong? Is this what church planting is really supposed to be like?” I just didn’t “feel” I was doing much of anything well. We are going on year 4 since our public launch and we still have no elders or deacons, our small groups have had trouble establishing solid leadership & our discipleship ministry outside of a few groups had pretty much become non-existent. Therefore, God laid on my heart to ask for more help, so I sought out a church planting coach. I particularly sought out one who thinks and acts differently than me.
I began meeting with pastor Kurt Hannah from Missio Dei Church in Cincinnati, OH this Fall. We began working through the state of the church, and radically what steps might need to be taken. One thing that became VERY clear was I needed to think more about the content of my preaching ministry. I needed more action steps for our people, and think through what the purposes of our series should be. For instance, he asked me, “what series are you doing next?” I said, “Advent”. And simply asked “Why? What are you going to do for Advent? John, don’t just do Advent to do it, but think about what you want people to get out of Advent. For instance John, if your people are struggling with a certain identity then preach on that.”
I then began talking to my former mentor and pastor Sean Cordell. I told him some things Kurt and I were discussing. I told him I felt our people are struggling with their missionary and discipleship identity. Sean gently told me those both flow from an identity as a worshiper of the One True God. Sean said, “I would encourage you to think through what it would look like to help cultivate a more worshipful environment.”
As I began dreaming about what our church needed for Advent God hit me hard in the face. I needed to make it clear what our identities are as a church of Jesus Christ. We looked at the identities Jesus embraced in His birth and how He wants those identities for His people. Jesus in His incarnation is a worshiper, learner, family member, servant, and missionary. But all of these identity flow from His identity as a worshiper.
Jesus as the Son of God loves to learn about His Father through the Holy Spirit. This is an eternal pursuit for Him (I Cor 2.11). As He learns more and more about His Father He grows in His affections for Him, which results in what? WORSHIP!
Jesus has always been a part of family—I mean, He is the SON OF GOD. He is a SON. He is a part of this eternal family. But He also is born into an earthly family. In His incarnation He embraced what it was like to have an earthly mother, father, brothers and sisters, cousins, uncles and aunts, and etc. We all know that families can be a joy, but they can also be a struggle. Jesus enters that to show us what it looks like to glorify God even in the midst of broken families. While He loves His earthly family they do not replace where He finds His greatest joy (Mark 3.31-35; Luke 2.41-52). What is the result of this? WORSHIP!
Jesus is the suffering servant. He embraces the notion that it is His role to submit to the Father’s will (Matt 26.39). Jesus says in Mark 10.45, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus’ life is a life of service. Everyone is serving something. To consistently serve something what does it require? WORSHIP!
Finally, Jesus has an identity as a missionary or witness. A missionary is simply someone who enjoys something and wants others to enjoy it with them. They are a witness of something amazing. The only one who has seen the Father is Jesus because He comes from the Father (John 6.46). As He sees the Father in all His glory He has one goal... to glorify the Father (John 17.4). Once again everyone is a “missionary”, but what fuels our missionary endeavors? WORSHIP! What we worship will determine what we are trying to convert people to.
All of these identities are found in the earliest NT church (Acts 2.42-47). As the Spirit of Christ comes and changes their affections they embrace a new identity in Christ (Acts 2.1-13; 42-47). So as I thought about setting vision for the lives of people in Refuge for 2016 I was led to believe this is what we needed most. We needed to embrace our identity as “worshipers”. Our identities as learners, family members, servants, and missionaries will grow as we embrace our God as our greatest source of joy and delight.
This is why we are going through the book of Ezra in the first 3 months of 2016. One of the main themes of Ezra is WORSHIP. It is a book about God keeping His promises to His people, and the result among His people is joy, thanksgiving and worship (Ezra 3.12-13; 6.19-22). But just like today, when we choose to worship God there will be opposition. We will face opposition from those who do not love God—the “outside” world—those who are not a part of the family. But there will also be internal opposition. Deep down in our bones we have competing affections. There are constantly various things in our lives buying for our affections. So as we begin 2016 we want to explore at Refuge how God has helped His people in the past, and how He can continue to help us today to fight for our joy in God.
- The Doxa Dude