Due to the snowy weather, and out of a desire to clearly communicate with the body, we thought it might be best to post a general overview from Vision Night. This post does not include Monty’s report on finances or Jason’s report on our membership, nor does it include the Q&A. However, those things can be heard by downloading the recording of the Vision Night.
For several years, our church has focused on 2 Timothy 2:2 as an encouragement for discipleship and leadership multiplication. In just one verse, we see four “generations” of gospel believers/proclaimers:
- Faithful men
By God’s grace, we have embraced this calling for our local church and we have seen the Lord create encouraging fruit. We want to continue on that path, but also want to take a look at the verses that follow. In describing the work of ministry, Paul “borrows” from three illustrations:
- The Soldier
- The Athlete
- The Farmer
Obviously, all three of these roles work incredibly hard. But tonight we’re also going to consider three other things which they each do and how we should also be doing more than just working hard.
Throughout Scripture we see that soldiers engaged in “victory marches.” In fact, many times the Scriptures borrow from this illustration to describe Christ’s union with the church. Even today, soldiers are decorated and are honored in ceremonies as these events help to motivate and remind the soldier that their labors are fruitful.
Most athletes that are competing and training for a large scale event will prepare through smaller events. At these events, there are prizes and rewards and athletes celebrate their successes as motivation to continue training and working toward the larger goal.
Think of all the feasts and celebrations for farmers in Scripture! They celebrated planting the crop. They celebrated the first harvest. The celebrated the last harvest. Many of Israel’s feasts and celebrations centered around their “agricultural calendar.”
In the same way, it’s important for us as a church to celebrate. Sometimes there is a nervousness to celebrate things for fear that it will lead to arrogance or boasting. However, we are to boast…it’s just that we are to boast in the Lord! The following are some possible ways we are looking at encouraging the body to celebrate more:
- Ministry Head updates: We want to get you information about the things that God is doing in various ministries at Grace aside from our Grace Report that only goes out once a year.
- Video Testimonies: We did some of these previously and thought they went really well. However, after only a few, it seemed we ran out of testimonies. We know this is not the case! The things that God is doing in your life may seem normal, but we need to celebrate the grace of God in the midst of them. We’re looking to start getting the word out that we want to hear your stories!
- Family Meals: We’re looking at suspending Summer Studies for a year and simply getting together to enjoy a cookout, desserts, and any other kind of hangout.
- Communion Service. We want to respectfully and reverently look at how our Communion Service could be more of a feast…better illustrating the Marriage Supper of the Lamb…a true wedding reception! We’re looking at ways to make our communion service sober yet not necessarily somber.
- Vision Night desserts: Even the call to bring desserts to Vision Night was not just a way to try to pump up attendance, but was our desire to even take time to enjoy each other. As elders, we tell you that we love you often. You also need to know that we like you!
While getting rest on the battlefield may seem like an impossible task, it’s something the military takes quite seriously. Looking at a basic training manual, you will note that it mentions rest and sleep a lot. Soldiers are told to be proactive about finding sleep when possible, especially when they know they have a big assignment coming up.
Chip Kelly (head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles) has fit his players with special watches that monitor their sleep habits. He is not only tracking that his players get enough rest (and aren’t getting in trouble!) but is actually monitoring the type of rest they get. His system on the football field is built upon trying to wear the opponent down and exhaust them. The only way this works is if his own players have rested well.
Again, Scripture probably provides us the most material when it comes to resting and farming. Farmers were to take one day off a week, as a Sabbath rest. Not only that, but they were to give the land a Sabbath once every 7 years. This was a great test to their faith, as it means that not only did they not work the land for year 7, but the year 8 crop would not have prep work done either. However, the Lord took this need for rest very seriously, even causing Israel to be taken captive by the Babylonians, so that the land could finally get the rest the Israelites refused to let it have.
As a church, it is also important for us to see the need to rest. Resting does not mean complacency and certainly does not mean laziness. Think to when you know you have a big day coming up (either of work, or of a vacation). You will tell your family, “Get lots of sleep, we have a big day tomorrow.” A desire to emphasize rest this year is not a call to accomplish nothing. We’re actually wanting to be sure to do what we can to prepare ourselves for whatever God has in store.
Specifically, we want to emphasize rest this year in two ways:
- Prayer. We want to grow as a church in our understanding of Prayer and in our application of it. Immediately after Resurrection Sunday, we will begin a series on “Spiritual Warfare” from Ephesians 6. While Paul lists out our spiritual armor, he then commands two actions. First, we are to stand in the full assurance of the application of the gospel. Second, we are called to pray. Upon finishing that series, we will also jump back into John. John 17 is often called “Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer.” We will spend three weeks looking at how Jesus prayed for the disciples and how He prayed for you and me. On top of this, we want to continue with “Concerts of Prayer,” even developing a pattern for them so that they are easier to schedule and more available for the body.
- Sabbatical. It’s a joy to be able to offer the Bradshaw family an 8-week sabbatical in June and July. Jason has served at the church for over 10 years, and two weeks ago was the first Sunday he ever attended Grace and didn’t preach or lead music. He has served (and continues to serve) faithfully. In the midst of this service, it can be difficult to find time to assess and care for your own soul. We have contacted CrossPoint Ministries to help assist us in the Sabbatical process, to ensure we maximize the opportunity. CrossPoint emphasizes retreat (the need to really get away and create space), recalibration (they offer a number of ways to really assess the health of your own soul) and re-entry. The process of a sabbatical not only changes the person, but also changes the church. So CrossPoint helps both take advantage of what we learn in the process and grow to become more like Christ from it!
It’s essential that we follow the order put before us. Without rejoicing and resting, review can become overwhelming. If we do not rejoice, the review process can cause us to feel quite beat down and defeated. If we do not rest, the review process can create anxieties and increased stress as we believe everything rests on our performance. Therefore, with full assurance that God has been working in our midst, and will continue to work among us, then we look to refine and grow with confidence.
We are very thankful, even as we find ourselves in John 13-14 to be able to say we believe the body is growing in our love for one another. As we’ve grown in size, we’ve also grown in diversity. Different ages. Different economics. Different educations. The “Demographics” for our church are all over the map! We’re thankful for this!
This also gives us a wonderful opportunity to work through different convictions. While the Word of God does lay out specific commands for us, there are other areas that can be issue of personal conviction. These can be a tricky area for a church as convictions are more than opinions…there is a strong deal of emotion and passion attached. We believe God is glorified by a diversity of convictions in a body, often referred to as “Christian liberties.” (For instance: Can Christians fight in the military? Should parents vaccinate their children? Is it OK for a Christian to drink alcohol? Are tattoos permissible for a believer? etc) For Christian liberties to not become “a new law” it is actually essential that differing perspectives are allowed to flourish in one body. This is important because:
- It reminds us of the centrality of the gospel as given by the Word of God. We keep the main thing the main thing, and are not tempted to create a subculture or additional law apart from the Word of God.
- The world will know that we know Him by our love for one another, right? People showing love and honor to one another, even when we do not share particular convictions can be a great gospel testimony to a watching world.
As elders, we confess to you that we aren’t even sure what shape this conversation should take. We’d like to hear from others whether this is even a concern for them, or what areas they are curious about. Ultimately, we not looking at “Christian liberties” as an issue to “win someone over” to a particular side or not. We simply want to make sure we are loving one another faithfully!
We see our body showing a great deal of love to one another and growing in our love for one another. By God’s grace, we pray that may continue to increase!
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