In October, I went to Parkesburg, PA to assist/attend the Full Gospel Assemblies Pennsylvania Regional Leadership Summit. Yes, that was a mouthful. Basically, it’s a group of pastors and church leaders convening to catch-up, encourage one another and discuss relevant issues that present themselves in individual local congregations. Although, this particular summit gathers people mostly from the East Coast, I believe the themes examined in the summit hold true for churches all across America.
I’m back in the wild west, and I’ve had a couple of weeks to let my thoughts, my notes and all that east coast sensibility from the summit simmer. If I were to unofficially summarize the content of that weekend, I’ll call it: “Staying Steadfast in Truth”.
We are being called to step out. We can’t lose heart. We can’t back down. We can’t stop fighting.
The gist of it is that we, as Christians, have to hold steadfast in a society that is changing faster than we can hold conferences to discuss how to deal with the ramifications of those changes. Human nature would tell you that it is a losing battle. However, the fight is not ours, it is God’s. We are being called to step out. We can’t lose heart. We can’t back down. We can’t stop fighting.
But how are we to endure? The answer is clear. We have to stay rooted in the Word of God. Or if we or the people we serve aren’t rooted yet, then we better get on it. Fast.
The growth The survival, of the American church depends on it. We literally (and quite frankly, legally) can’t afford to NOT preach and teach the Bible. At the cost of being labeled as too conservative, rigid and irrelevant, we must bravely preach the Word. The aim is not to please man. The aim is to please God and it is impossible to do so without Faith – Faith that comes from hearing His Word.
“But I’m not a pastor or even a church leader!”, I hear you say. (We’ll not even get into why that excuse is unacceptable. We’ll save that for another post.)
Instead, we’ll think about what this means for us, as individual disciples of Jesus.
Now, I don’t consider myself an ultra-conservative person (ha! who does?). Admittedly, in some aspects, my everyday practices are miles away from my conservative, strict, pastor’s kid upbringing. Some of the differences are generational. Some of it is geographical. Some of it comes from being a missionary/pastor’s kid. I had front-row seats to good ol’ cross-cultural Gospel preaching. I have seen Jesus draw people to Himself in the most unlikely places, in settings that would make a typical Western churchgoer squirm. I have witnessed Jesus reach out to the hungry, the hopeless, the outcast that will not be able to meet your typical church dress code. I have heard Jesus call out to me, in situations that will make my parents more than a tad upset. I can relate to the challenge of being a millennial Christian. I take iPhone photos of my Bible and my coffee – and I feel no shame.
Christians are defined by Christ.
I believe that as missionaries to the world we live in, there is a cultural and relational bridge to be crossed in order to bring the Gospel to the dying world. That’s what I believe that the Gospel is – a matter of life and death, not clothing or food or music genres. Christians are defined by Christ, not by ourselves.
But how does Christ define His disciples? John 8:31-32 says:
’Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (NKJV)
Note that Jesus is here talking to those who already consider themselves believers already. So when I read it, I hear Him talking to me, a person claiming to be His disciple. Am I His disciple indeed? Am I abiding in His Word? Is it the blueprint of my life? Is it the daily bread that sustains my being? Is it the lamp that lights my path? If I hesitate to answer yes to any of those questions then it really begs an examination of my reality. I say Jesus is my everything, but is His Word?
Truth sets people free, whoever, wherever and whenever. Truth is always relevant.
Christians are defined by Christ. We are sanctified by Truth, His Word is Truth. No amount of generational, geographical and cultural difference will make the Truth less powerful or relevant. That is why I will boldly celebrate congregations of all kinds – as long as they are anchored in Truth. Personally, I think the fight that many congregations have ongoing in order to compete with the world’s enticements is understandable but ultimately, energy wasted. It’s the wrong fight and it is weakening the Church’s resolve as a whole. I am all for “whatever it takes” when it comes to spreading the Good News, but not at the expense of the Good News itself. Truth does not need embellishment or flashy lights. Truth sets people free, whoever, wherever and whenever. Truth is always relevant. It is what binds us and holds us together in this fight. It defines every Christ-follower in every dark, deprived corner of the world – and of America, from the east coast all the way out to our wild, wild west.