The Wonder of the Church: Part 4 – Pondering on Vision
25. The God-Focus
1 Cor 2:13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.
Eph 2:10 we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Starting Point: In the previous study, referring to this one, I said I want, as so often happens, to go backwards and consider most simply a couple of key elements of the life of the church which, I suspect, any talk of vision should include. A while back I had cause to think through some of this to help a struggling colleague who needed help in focusing on what church was all about and I found I summarised what I suggested in two suggestions. First, make the ‘Spiritual’ the keystone of your direction, the starting point and then, second, make ‘building people’ your second priority.
The God Focus: But does this mean? (We have said something of this in the very early studies but it does require reiterating in greater detail). It means first and foremost ‘church’ is all about God. That may appear so obvious we miss it and I am certain in much modern church life it is missed. I have already picked up on this in various ways in earlier studies but let me ask you a question. If your church has a website or maybe a Facebook page, would any wandering investigator who came across either of those be struck by the God-centredness of them or would they, like one church Facebook page I know, think they have simply come across a nice social group and no more. A church website, if it fails to point visitors to God (as well as explaining who they are, when they meet and where they can be found) has forgotten their reason for existing. Facebook pages, I suggest are ideal places to drop nuggets of Biblical truth and testimonies. But the impression I get sometimes is that we are often ashamed to mention what we believe and what has happened to us.
Unbelief, which I believe is so common throughout the modern church, is often exhibited by refusal to talk about God and appear ‘spiritual’. I had an example of this a while back when a church I know was holding a Christmas Bazaar. Christmas, the time that celebrates Immanuel, God with us! This year that church decided to set aside a small corner of the lounge next to the hall that was being used for the main Bazaar and it was being suggested that some spiritual posters be put up to create the right atmosphere and in that little area, one or two people would be there to answer people’s question who might come and stop and talk. “You mean to pray over people?” asked one of the volunteers. “Oh no,” said the woman organiser, “people don’t want to be prayed over.” Well actually our experience tells yes they do, but we might leave that to a later study. Now to be fair that wasn’t the attitude of all of the church but it does demonstrate unbelief.
Relationship, Expression and Ministry: Because this is so fundamental, I think I need to go into basics-mode here. God reveals Himself to us as the supreme Father, the Creator of all things – God! But He also reveals Himself as the Son, begotten (brought out of) of the Father, the one who came to earth to reveal the Father’s love, give his life as a ransom for many, be raised from the dead and ascend back into heaven where he is now seated at his Father’s right hand ruling over all things, ruling in the midst of his enemies until they have all been put under his feet and he hands the kingdom back to the Father. (If you are not sure on all these things then I recommend an earlier series, “Focus on Christ”). But He also reveals Himself as the Holy Spirit, the executive arm of the Godhead, if you like, God expressed to us in daily experience, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Jesus, yes the Holy Spirit. Now all three of these expressions, I suggest, should be known and understood by any and every church member who has been around longer than a few months.
But how do we express relationship with this multi-revealed Godhead. Well commonly we pray addressing ‘Father’ or ‘Lord Jesus’ (personally I dislike ‘God’ because it is like addressing me as ‘man’) but when it comes to power or revelation experience we refer to the Holy Spirit, often asking the Lord, perhaps, to “let your Spirit fill me with grace and wisdom” or whatever else it may be. How many churches, despite the history of the last hundred years, still never move in the dimension of the Spirit? We’ll talk more about this in a later study or three! How many Pentecostal or Charismatic churches never allow the Spirit space to guide, inspire, bring revelation or healing and release?
The Obedience Factor: So great has this cloud of unbelief come in many churches (there are notable exceptions of churches and streams in the Western churches) that I believe we have to almost make a point of emphasizing this in our vision expressions. One such exceptional stream I know and highly respect declares, “we have made worship our highest priority, believing that it is God’s desire that we become, first, worshippers of God.” This may appeal to young worship-orientated Christians but it does not emphasize the word that comes up so many times in the New Testament, “obey”. I know this particular stream would wholeheartedly affirm ‘obedience’ but, I suggest, in the light of many church trends it needs speaking out more clearly. The apostle John was really strong on this in his letter (note every chapter!): ”If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth,” (1 Jn 1:6), and “Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person,” (1 Jn 2:4) and “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth,” (1 Jn 3:18) and “whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister,” (1 Jn 4:20,21) and “this is love for God: to keep his commands,” (1 Jn 5:3) perhaps echoing the truth of his master’s words, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching,” (Jn 14:23) also echoed in the Synoptics, for example, “go and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Mt 28:19,20)
And So? Time and space runs out so we will continue this in the next study, but for the moment, let’s take this reminder from this study, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment,” said Jesus (Mt 22:37,38) This, in vision terms, perhaps we should be declaring as, “we are seeking to create a growing community of God’s people, who know and love Him and express their love in obedience to His word and His Spirit.” We shouldn’t ever take that for granted and so need to be regularly declaring it in grace.