A couple of weeks ago I preached at Christ the King Presbyterian Church downtown Raleigh. I was assigned Exodus 26. Go ahead and read it. Try to get through it without yawning. If you want to hear the sermon, check it out here (scroll down to the title “He Tabernacled Among Us”). In Exodus 26, God gives Moses the technical and mathematical instructions to make the tabernacle. After spending a significant amount of time focusing on the tabernacle itself, we concluded the sermon focusing on how the Holy Spirit has tabernacled himself into the church.
Among other things, I said this:
A missiologist from the 60’s named Gibson Winters once said, “An introverted church is an apostate body, for it denies the essential quality of Church- the testimony of reconciliation in the world.”
If we are the Body of Jesus and tabernacled by the Holy Spirit, than we do so with the testimony of reconciliation. That is the primary reason why we went into church planting. Church planting is so important because it continues to prove to be the most effective method of evangelism. Even within the culture of the Bible Belt, there are those who need to hear the testimony of reconciliation by those following the Resurrected Mercy Seat. I am thrilled to experience how Christ the King [Church] is fulfilling this mission. God is using this congregation to live, speak, and serve as the very presence of Christ in downtown Raleigh. Christ the King has places to go, people to meet, lives to save, justice to act, prisoners to free, and people to disciple. You are the very presence of Christ because you have been tabernacled. You follow the very presence of Christ because he is alive and well. Eugune Peterson translates John 1:14 this way: The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood. You’ve moved, and the Spirit continues to move you as you follow the Resurrected Mercy Seat.
Christ the King has emphasized how important it is for their members to be the real presence of Christ in their neighborhood.
This is a round about way to say that we have moved into our neighborhood. We have moved into the middle of southwest Wake County into a home just off a major thoroughfare with easy access for people from Holly Springs, Apex, Cary, Raleigh, and Fuquay-Varina. We were hoping God would open the door for us to move into this location. It took some time, patience, and prayer. We are thrilled with finally being able to be physically present into the area we feel called. We move believing that the Lord has called us as ambassadors of the Word in flesh and blood in our new neighborhood. The past month has been a bit confusing, disorientating, and busy, busy, busy. We loved where we lived. It served us well as we set up shop in North Carolina. But now we have moved into the neighborhood.
Remember, when you are in the neighborhood, please stop by and stay a while!
Earlier this past week a new friend treated me to lunch and asked the question: what would Resurrection Life Church look like in ten years? I was going to respond with an email just to him, but then I thought I would blog about it so others can listen in on what a ten-year vision looks like for Resurrection Life Church.
We start with the vision statement: a family of God drawn to Jesus, challenged by his message, and released as missionaries to southwest Wake County. I’ll break it down in parts, but I’ll do so going backwards through the vision statement:
... Released to southwest Wake County.
- In ten years, members of Resurrection Life Church will self-identity as Kingdom Minded Missionaries. The core leadership has been trained to train and equip their members to learn and discern how as Christian their primary identity is ‘missionary’ and that their primary role is to make disciples. As missionaries, members understand that their faith intersect all of life. Kingdom Minded Missionaries think “Christ is always and everywhere my King” which enables them to live under the authority of Jesus as students, as single or married, as parents, or as employees. Kingdom Minded Missionaries means members think of themselves as citizens in a counter-cultural Kingdom where the Fruit of the Spirit grow in their hearts everyday.
- Because this community is constantly releasing their members out into this world, the leadership will think through how to do that. That means that Resurrection Life will be participating and supporting church planting all the while collaborating with other like-minded churches to fulfill the goal of releasing Kingdom Minded Missionaries.
- Because this community is constantly releasing their members, programming will have to empower and equip members to do that.
- In ten years, Resurrection Life will have
Launched one other church,
Regular small groups within neighborhoods teaching others the fundamentals of Christianity,
Dedicated prayer for protection, power, and courage,
Dedicated time to commission members during weekly gatherings,Supported missionaries around the globe.
...Challenged by Jesus... - In ten years, members of Resurrection Life Church know that they are called to daily deny themselves in order to follow Jesus. Idols lurk around every corner and clutter our thoughts and inner throne. A community challenged by Jesus allows the Holy Spirit to speak into their daily struggles. This will remain a broken community because they are people, however, it is a community willing to be challenged by God’s Word.
- Every program, every meeting, and every gathering furthers the goal make disciples.
- The worship gathering will weekly challenge folks to deny themselves in ways that will free them. The whole worship service will revolved around the vision- be drawn to Jesus, to be challenged through his Word, and to be equipped to be released (see last blog). This process will weekly remind us that we have resurrection life today that frees us to be Kingdom Minded Missionaries in every sphere of life.
- In ten years, Resurrection Life will have
Robust discipleship multiplication training that helps members learn to deny themselves in order to learn how to rise with Jesus,
Challenging sermons that connect faith and life,
Kingdom Minded Missionaries who know how to challenge the temptations and idols in the hearts of others.
A weekly celebration of the Lord’s Supper that gives us strength, joy, and hope for the week ahead.
Drawn to Jesus - In short, if Kingdom Minded Missionaries are being weekly sent, then other rich, young, rulers from southwest Wake County will also be drawn to Jesus. But there is no one target. Kingdom Minded Missionaries will learn how to contextualize their faith in order to show the love of Jesus to all types of people. Kingdom Minded Missionaries will show a type of sacrificial love that draws neighbors or coworkers to want that type of life., resurrection life.
- In ten years, Resurrection Life will have:
Refreshing, reforming, and moving weekly worship experience,
Emphasized the importance of local living, getting to know your neighbors,
Prayed regularly that God puts people in our lives for the purpose of extending God’s grace,
Innovative faith-forming children’s programming,
Kingdom Minded Missionaries who love Jesus and show his love,
Programs for needs that arise in our community.
A Family of God
- Southwest Wake County is made up of a lot of commuters. People are coming and going all over the place. They are working here and there and everywhere throughout the triangle area. A need is clearly evident for these commuters to find a local community that fills in the innate desire for human-to-human contact. In ten years, my prayer is that members of Resurrection Life love one another deeply. A family that lifts one another up, encourages one another, serves one another, and prays for one another. This family is tied together by Jesus’ blood, and so the Resurrection Life will reflect the type of diversity that exists in Jesus’ body. This family cuts through generational, sociological, racial, economical, and ethnic divides because it is a reflection of the biblical vision of the family of God.
- In ten years, Resurrection Life will have:
Grown to large weekly Gatherings,
Diverse, trained, and wise leadership,
Collaborative relationships with other churches that unite together to show the world the church’s unity,
Mentored each teen in such a way that they will be equipped with transformational faith as they graduate from high school.
Baptized many new Christians.
At the end of the day, this vision of what could be is 100% dependent on the Holy Spirit. It was not Peter’s Pentecost sermon that was so amazing. No, the Holy Spirit descended upon the church and gave it life, breathe, and fire! I will daily work towards the goal of seeing a community routinely drawn, challenged, and released, but in that process I have to routinely deny myself. So now for a parting question: do you think all Christians should self-identify as Kingdom Minded Missionaries? If you are a Christian, what does that look like for you today? In ten years? If you are not a Christian, I believe that the real Jesus wants you to be drawn to him too. Be drawn. Be challenged.
Summer is just around the corner, but my mind is on the fall. From now until October 5, I will be planning with others what a preview worship service could look like. I am calling these services hybrid worship services because they will be a mixture of worship, vision casting, and leadership development. They will be the space were core team members go and grow both spiritually and numerically in order to gather eventually weekly.
Planning up to this event has prompted me to give some shape to this event. We have enough musicians willing to help us out to sing songs, and we hope to begin practicing in August. Singing songs is not the core of what makes Resurrection Life church’s worship. So I have to wrestle more concretely with how vision meets the nuts and bolts of worship. What kind of songs do we sing? Where do they fall into a worship service? What kind of order do we want, and how does it line up with historically Reformed/Presbyterian orders to worship? Do we want a Praise Team or a Lament Team? What will the ‘feel’ be, and how will it fill in a niche that is not currently around? How does worship fall in line and push us into mission and discipleship?
In planning for hybrid worship services, I am using the vision of the church as the overarching guide to answer some of these questions. Our vision is a family of God drawn to Jesus, challenged by his message, and released as missionaries. The verbs drawn, challenged, and released will provide the skeletal structure. It’s this skeletal structure that is important to get right in order to answer some of questions about style and feel. I have to admit, it is fun to think about. Putting it together and being true to the vision over the long haul is more difficult.
I keep hearing from church planters and from books I have read about planting a church that a typical plant will loose its missional and missionary zeal shortly after it meets on a weekly basis. The plant moves from reaching out (more out of a motivation to survive), to maintaining the weekly ministry that needs to happen. The temptation, then, is for church plants to forget its original purpose. It moves from striving to survive to maintenance (and in small church plants, that maintenance also feels like survival...).
That’s why I organized the whole worship service around the three verbs of the vision statement. We are drawn to Jesus similar to how Jewish families would make the pilgrim to the temple singing songs of ascent. We sing because we are drawn to Jesus as our Savior and King. We are challenged, however, every time we meet with Jesus. We sit as his feet, and as such, we meet a Jesus who asks us to give us our all. That includes our sin. That includes listening to his voice through the Word. We are then released with a renewed sense of resurrection life. We go believing Jesus saves and that the Holy Spirit is the Great Evangelist. But we go being the Body of Jesus, and as such we are released as missionaries with this challenging message.
There is much more to write on this subject, but that will have to wait for another time. For now, I work with this renewed enthusiasm for how the Holy Spirit continues to give shape, affirm, and confirm this process. As I end, allow me to ask one question for reflection: are you simply drawn to Jesus? If so, remember the challenge Jesus gives us. He is more than just an attractive historical figure. He calls us to go beyond being drawn to him as a leader, or rabbi, or revolutionary, or spiritual teacher. He calls us to listen and believe in his message so that we participate in the movement he started by being released out as missionaries too.