I am preaching at Drayton Christian Reformed Church this weekend for Good Friday and Easter Morning. I am pumped to be able to preach these very important worship services in the church I grew up in. Here are two snippets of the sermon I preached on Good Friday, and the one I will be preaching tomorrow:
For several months I regularly visited a person who served time in a medium security prison. Every time I visited him, it was always a lengthy ordeal. I had to go through security and a couple of barred doors, and finally, after waiting some more, we would be able to talk. We sat down between a very thick pane of Plexiglas. We picked up the old phone handles and talked. Each time we did, I was always struck by how clear I could see my own reflection in the Plexiglas. I could still see my friend on the other side, but the Plexiglass was so thick it served partly as a mirror. As he talked, my face would morph into his and my brain would have to refocus: ‘snap out of it, that’s not me in there.’ I mention this experience because sometimes we look at ourselves as a people still imprisoned in sin. Because we still struggle with it, we feel defined by it, or we get confused into thinking that we are still bound to it. But, my brothers and sisters, you have been crucified with Christ! We are no longer shackled up and imprisoned. Those in Christ are dubbed forgiven and washed clean by his blood. More than that, we have been taken out of prison and given the cloak of Christ’s righteousness. It’s so important that when we look at what Jesus did on the cross, that we no longer see ourselves as sinners, but as saved sinners! That’s why Good Friday is so good!
Were you there when they crucified my Lord? If you desire to follow Jesus, you have to be there, you must be there, you are called to be there. Jesus wants your old infected self to die with him. He hangs with arms wide open ready and willing and wanting to cover our shame. You remember the act of grace God showed Adam and Eve as they left the Garden of Eden? God covered their feelings of shame by slaughtering an animal and fashioning leather garments for them. That was a foreshadowing of what was to come in Christ. Jesus served as our sacrifice and his righteousness now fashions our insides...
... We focused on how we participate in the crucifixion on Good Friday. Today we focus on how we participate in the resurrection: Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” Colossians 3:3: “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Romans 6:4: “We were buried… in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” Romans 6:5: “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” Romans 6:8: “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” Ephesians 2:5: “Even when we were dead in our trespasses, [He] made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.”
Alive in Christ. Resurrection Life. Christians come awake because we are united with Christ in his resurrection. Our old self died with him, our new self rises with him. And that changes everything. Resurrection Life changes everything. Resurrection Life means denying yourself in order to let God’s desires to shine through you. Resurrection Life means giving instead of getting, assisting instead of accumulating, sacrificing instead of storing, generosity instead of gathering, people instead of possessions, salvation instead of self-indulgence. Resurrection Life means moving within the Holy Spirit’s motion in 2014 in order for the church to be known as the most caring, humble, generous, and life-giving institution on the planet!
The title of this blog is a question I am asked often. It makes perfectly good sense to ask the question. Churches are made up of people who meet together. Yes, that’s true. The worship service serves the goal to make and mature Jesus Followers. But getting to this point is not so simple and it takes time, especially when one parachutes into a new community like we are doing. So part of my work is to help people understand the strategy of planting a new church. The easiest answer to the question is, “Sometime early 2015.” This answer allows some flexibility as to when Resurrection Life Church would hold weekly worship services. Starting weekly worship services would actually be really easy. We can invite everyone we know to a Sunday morning worship gathering and hope for the best. We would work with that group of 20-40 and we could have a neat expression of church doing it that way. However, the reality is, if we desire to be self-sufficient which includes financial independence, then just opening up a worship service can have negative long-term effects. Lots of new churches start this way. Some are successful. Some are not. What often happens (and what does happen to most churches in North America) is that our church would have a hard time getting over the 70-100 membership hump. As one church planting coach puts it, most churches function with about 70-100 people. The pastor works more than full time on sermon preparation and pastoral care. The membership is maxed out with their time and energy. The budget is barely made. Growing beyond the 70-100 mark becomes so difficult because all the outreach energy used before the church meets weekly is now used up preparing sermons, songs, litanies, pastoral care, administration (too small to hire an office administrator), etc.
And so with all that being said, parachuting into a new community for the purpose of starting a new church takes a tremendous amount of patience. That’s why I think it’s important for me to communicate. It takes patience for all people involved in investing into this new church plant. We have moved beyond the ‘vision casting’ chapter, and we now reside in the ‘networking and gathering’ chapter. That means conversations with all sorts of people- people who know and follow the Lord already, churches who can connect us with more people, people who don’t know the Lord at all, and lukewarm adventurers who are seeking a different expression of church.
As I write all this, the point is not postpone meeting at all. Different expressions of meeting is the engine that leads up to weekly worship services with enough people with enough resources. Meetings like Bible studies, community grill outs, and children events are all ways that serve to feed into a leadership core, and eventually feed into weekly worship services. The most important element to this process is that people are growing up as followers of Jesus and understand the missionary vision set out for this church to be drawn to Jesus, challenged by his message, and released out as missionaries to southwest Wake County.