The church is part of the gospel!

As I’ve grown older and a bit wiser, my love for the local church as grown. The people of God gathered are together a witness to the truth of the gospel.  Instrumental in my growing love and understanding of the church has been Bob Heppe.  Here are a few of his thoughts about the church: 

“The church is part of the gospel.” (John Stott) The kingdom of God is most fully and clearly expressed in the people He has redeemed, the community of the kingdom, who have been forgiven, cleansed, delivered from the powers of the kingdom of darkness and come under the liberating power of Christ.

We believe the church, as God’s new community, is the primary and best expression of the gospel, and so the locus and agent of God’s missionary purposes. It is the sign, instrument and foretaste of the gospel. 

We, therefore, should be seeking corporately to incarnate in our body the vision, values, and characteristics of the redeemed community of the King. These include:

  • encouraging one another in making Christ the centre of our devotion,
  • deep and intimate fellowship,
  • the radical sharing of our lives both spiritually and practically,
  • acceptance of others who are unlike us,
  • and sacrificial Christ-like love, both for the church community,
  • and for those outside our community.

The way we live together and enjoy and love one another is a first fruit of the new age of the Kingdom which we have entered, and a dynamic power that reaches into a world of fractured relationships and broken lives. The church should be the ideal extended family, and more.

The transformation we long for is intimately connected to the church. Created in the image of the triune community, humans can be restored only in community.

Thus God’s gospel purpose of restoration necessarily includes and requires the church, the only place in the world where Biblically functioning community can properly exist. It follows that discipleship and sanctification (the process of restoring the image of God in man) is inherently corporate and communal. 

Let’s Pray for Those Impacted by the Grenfell Fire

My friend, Philippa Robb, has written a helpful summary of how we can pray after the horrific fire just a mile from where we worship in Shepherd’s Bush. As Paul states in Romans 12, may we “weep with those who weep” and seek to “overcome evil with good”.  And in it all, may the name of the Lord be praised! 

Can we remember those who died in the very places they should have been at their safest.

Can we remember those who have lost family, friends and precious possessions. Many of those living in Grenfell House were from refugee or poor backgrounds who already were burdened with life’s big issues and now have the added burden of having to start again – some carrying immense grief in their hearts.

Can we pray for swift resolution for them – they need somewhere to live and they need to be given the option to stay in their community rather than being shifted to the outer reaches of far East London.

Can we remember the emergency services – the fire, police, doctors, nurses, social workers, support workers, religious leaders; that the Lord strengthens them all and provides them with deep wisdom as this situation unfolds.

Can we also pray for the newly-elected MP, for the local authority and for the landlord; that despite the difficult questions that will need to be answered and the heads that will inevitably roll, it is the community that benefits and not the skin that is saved at the community’s cost. That this tragedy is never repeated.

Can we pray for the organisations that have thrown open their doors to beleaguered residents. The churches, the mosques, the community centres and the Westway Sports Centre.

And finally, can we pray for the media and for calm. For calm on the streets; for the peace and the protection of London. We have so much to be thankful for. We have life. Let’s pray, let’s give thanks and let’s live each moment to the full.

A Simple Act of Kindness (A guest post)

(This post is by Joel Hylton, a good friend and elder at New City)

Yesterday, I performed a simple act of kindness toward a young woman, one which any of you would do. It turned into something more profound. Reflecting on what happened, I believe it was an answer to prayers, both my own prayers for repentance and the prayers of our tiny congregation on Sunday—for the people of Paris, the people of the Middle East, against a backlash, and that somehow our Father would bring his peace and show the love of Christ through us.Joel

Yesterday, I changed a young woman’s tire. As she drove home from her work, she felt something wrong but decided not to stop on the busy highway. By the time she pulled into our urban hamlet, her rim had almost completely sliced through her tire walls. She tried knocking at nearby houses and then saw me out walking.

Neatly dressed, a kind face, a pleasant smile, she asked me if I knew how to change a tire. In a few moments, the jack was on and the tire tool in my hand. As I worked, I noticed a cut almost parallel to her treads and thought that she must’ve driven over something.

We exchanged names, then spellings. She told me that her name is of Pakistani origin and that she’s second generation. After a moment, I told her that I hoped that she would not suffer from ill-will after the Paris attacks. She said that she’d already asked her mother, who wears a head scarf, to avoid going out alone. A few years back her uncle had been stabbed to death. When they caught his killer, he said that he was targeting Muslims. In the last few days, a fellow employee shocked her by asking if she supports the Paris atrocities. As I finished, I told her how sorry I was and that we had prayed against this kind of hate and reprisal at church on Sunday.

Then she said she didn’t understand how this tire could’ve gone flat. A mechanic had just checked them three days before. We looked together at the old tire, examining the wall and then the tread for defects until we came back to the cut I’d seen before. It was clean around the edges and as long as my index finger. While driving, she’d heard nothing to indicate she’d run over anything large enough to make that cut. She parks in a large unguarded garage when she goes to work at 4:30 am. It dawned on us at about the same time that most likely someone had slashed her tire—only days after the Paris attack—because she’s brown skinned and Muslim.

She was surprisingly calm. I was probably more visibly upset than she was. I chose not to say that she could’ve died on that highway, that the tire could’ve blown in 70+ mile per hour traffic. I was so moved that I asked her if she’d like for me to pray for her and her family. She said “yes” without hesitation. Out loud, I prayed my anger and sadness, my plea for safety and justice and peace and for repentance on the part of her attacker. We were both silent for a moment. Then she insisted on giving me a box of chocolates a co-worker had just given her that day.

I wanted to hug her as we said goodbye. I want even more for someone to protect her and her family. I want someone to love and protect my family when I am not there to do so. I want the end of hate.

How could someone slice the tire of this innocent young woman? How could they conscience the fact that she could’ve died on the freeway, ignoring the odd feel in the car until it was too late?

How do we as Christians help bring the peace of God to this fallen world, to call people to repent of hatred—any hatred and judgment? As I write, I am remembering an incident one morning about a week ago. Three women were walking a crowd of children toward me on their way to school. I became angry when it was obvious they were choosing to ignore me, with no effort to make room for me on the broad sidewalk. I grumbled after they passed. I don’t know if they heard me, but I quickly realized that they probably would’ve received it as racist. They were wearing head-scarves. I prayed then that God would break my angry and self-justified heart.

Yesterday, on a side-street, examining the sliced tire of an innocent young woman, He proved himself faithful.

(You can find Joel on Twitter at @HyltonJoel)

Change….

This is a guest post from my father, Jim Hatch, who lives in St. Louis, MO, USA.

Change. Is that good or bad? What’s your default attitude toward change? Are you comfortable with change, at least theoretically? How does your church view change? What’s the Scripture’s view?

Change Road SignObviously, the Bible is clear that our God Jehovah does not change. The one constant in our universe is the Lord and his ways. That is clear.

But beyond that? Think about it.

Creation. Out of nothing, the universe. Change.

Regeneration. From darkness light. Change.

Adoption. From enemy to son or daughter. Change.

Sanctification. Growth, progress is grace. Change.

Glorification. The old now new — forever. Change.

I wonder if our typical conservative view of change may need some major tweaking in view of the incredible amount of change we see in the Scripture and in the plan of God. Perhaps like Paul we and our institutions need more often to “become all things to all people” (1 Cor. 9:22). Should perhaps the basic values of our ministries and congregations include a change orientation that leads us to re-envisioning ourselves and our institutions more regularly? If so, the leaders we select should also be so committed…to change.

I’m reminded of the Anglican rector in the UK who said, “Wherever St. Paul went, there was a revolution. Wherever I go, they serve tea.”

Seems to me most conservatives and most of our churches view change negatively. The state of many churches and the needs of our broken world make me wonder if we don’t need to see our attitude toward change….change.

DadJim Hatch recruits church planters for Mission to North America; email him at jhatch@pcanet.org for questions or comments.

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