Your Church is Too Small: Reframing Our Work Day
We have been waking through a series called Your Church it Too Small, and our concern is not necessarily about church growth, although what we are proposing would mean that a church will grow. But it is not through new programs, it is not from a new ministry, it is from THE ministry, THE central call of Christ to go in to ALL the world and make disciples baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them everything that Jesus has taught us.
Or as Paul, the early church leader wrote ..
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
But here is the thing....when Paul writes that WE are ambassadors of Christ, he is saying something very important!!
He is throwing a very wide net!!
He is saying, as he does elsewhere, that ministry is not confined to what happens in this building. And the work of evangelism of inviting others into the gospel story, of inviting people in the Church community, is something done by the ENTIRE church community, and that if we call ourselves the church, and are not living as ambassadors, are not living with the great commission in mind, we are not actually the church.
Christianity has it beginning on the margins of society. It was born out of Judaism under the world power of the Roman Empire in the petri dish of the Middle East. It was spurned and rejected by the prominent spiritual leaders of the day. It was a target for annihilation from both Jewish and Roman powers.
out of Judaism under the world power of the Roman Empire in
the petri dish of the Middle East. It was spurned and rejected by
the prominent spiritual leaders of the day. It was a target for annihilation
from both Jewish and Roman powers.
However, under the rule of Constantine, Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. This began the age of Christendom where there were Christianized civilizations. This changed how the culture viewed Christianity, but it also changed how the church functioned. It gave rise to professionalism and nominalism. Professionalism developed as people began to see the church as having two primary classes: the professional ministers, and everyone else. The professional ministers were expected to minister, and everyone else’s job was to just show up and watch the professionals. Nominalism is being Christian in name only.
this developed what we call Christendom!! Where Christianity was the rule of law, imposed on everyone!! A powerful force often used to oppress.
Where Christianity was the understood system that held everything together.
With the enlightenment movement of the 17th and 18th Centuries we saw a shift from God as centre of all creation to man as centre- and so meaning and purpose are ours to create and identity is not given it is created, and with that come not only as a result but as a necessity individualism, materialism and consumerism.
“Given its emphasis on man as the center of life,
the Enlightenment was the source of modern-day
individualism, materialism, and consumerism.” (p. 28)
The reign of Christendom is over, the Judeo-Christian ethic is not the acceptable norm, pray and bible reading in schools, no more. That is the current reality.
Or what some call our cultural moment. The very idea being that culture shifts, it always has, and the one we find ourselves in right now on the whole is antagonistic to Christianity.
The current reality is this......
I. THE GOSPEL IS UNWANTED
Um, that is the nice way to put it!
The Gospel is despised, reviled,
Strong antagonism to Christianity
And this is a good thing, it is a frightening thing and it is a good thing.
a. this is frightening
It is frightening because in our lifetimes we have never witnesses, experienced maybe first hand the hatred and vilification of our faith. In most cased without conversation, or real interaction, just assumption and dismissal.
Some of you maybe have followed the story out of UC Berkley, the (bastion of morality in California) that has unfolded over the last few weeks surrounding a vote to denounce a federal bill proposing a clear definition of sex; mainly that sex is determined at birth.
A student senator at the University of California, Berkeley, who was kicked out of her own party and is being pressured to resign or face a recall because of her religious views, says she won’t back down.
Isabella Chow, a daughter of Malaysian-Cambodian immigrants and a junior double majoring in business administration and music, told Fox News she abstained from a largely symbolic student vote Oct. 31 because she did not fully agree with certain clauses, not the majority of the pro-LGBTQ+ bills, which passed from the support of 18 of the 20 senators (another being absent). She was labeled “homophobic” and “transphobic” and within two days felt like the whole campus was against her.
Being very careful to show grace and love and acceptance…she wrote these words to the Student Senate ...
May we all articulate ourselves like this when we engage with the world around us; show this level of love and grace, AND acceptance.....
Nowhere does she lay judgment, nowhere does she spew hatred. But the very fact that she obtains (not votes against) she is labelled “homophobic, transphobic, bigot”
In an interview Chow said.....“No matter how much I tried to say, ‘I can love you and still disagree with you,’ people still interpret my disagreement with being a bigot and a hater,” she lamented
She was accused of
“Those who were upset with Chow accused her of “shrouding hate in ‘love’”
She has been dragged through the mud and given no platform to respond to the hate that is being thrown at her, for being a Christian; and all that is assumed because of it.
She says this.....
“I realize that behind all the hurtful words and anger spewed at me are wounded hearts and traumatic narratives that only God can redeem,” Chow said. “Through all this, I pray that the Lord would use my story to spark a greater dialogue that would cause the church to more deeply wrestle with how we can more deeply love our LGBTQ+ neighbors.”
“As a Christian, I believe that God redeems and he uses all situations for the good of those who love Him,” she told Campus Reform. “There is so much happening, and even though it's been a really, really rough week for me, I know that God is working and I know that he is using this to strengthen the church, to awaken the church in a sense.”
That is what Jesus meant when he said that to follow him would mean turning on family, turning on friends, turning on your culture.
That is what Jesus meant when he said that:
18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.
Now the easy road for Isabella Chow would have been to vote yes. No one would know. No hatred invoked, no one throwing horrific slander at her.
That is the lure and invitation of Nominal Christianity.
She but she hints at something important...
And that is why the new reality is...
b. this is good
the new reality means a wake up for the church!
We are not citizens of Christendom, We are citizens of the Kingdom of God, and members of the body of Christ, his ecclesia, his church.....
And here is the thing.....the church dies under Christendom. The Kingdom of God starves and atrophies under Christendom!!
But when the church is pushed back upon, when the church is told to be quiet and is persecuted for its beliefs is when is stands strongest and grows mature; and I would say and scripture would say…is pruned.
“The church thrives on the margins of society. Living on the margins has a way of helping people prioritize what really matters to them, especially if it has
of helping people prioritize what really matters to them, especially if it has
the potential to cost them something. When Christianity is marginalized, being a Christian comes with a cost. Those who claim to be followers of
religion of the Roman Empire. This began the age of Christendom where
being a Christian comes with a cost. Those who claim to be followers of
Christ must then be committed. In this way, the church is stronger when it is on the margins.”
is on the margins.
We lament the suffering of the underground church in places like China and we are burdened in prayer (hopefully for the health and safety of the saints) but interestingly those who lead the churches in countries where Christianity it illegal are not praying that Christianity would become legal. They are definitely not praying that Christendom would reign.
Because they know what history has taught us ....that the church in its truest sense does not grow in comfort.
1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
What Peter describes in this text, the church he is writing to, is a church in exile. Pushed back from the cities, being tested daily for what they claim they believe, none of this outside the understanding or will of God.
That although this is going on, we are mindful that the resurrection gives us hope in the midst of trial, that what is truly ours, or eternal inheritance is secure and safe.
And because of that we can withstand the trials of life, as it tests our genuineness.
So a church pushed to the margins, persecuted, no longer the rule of the land...
So for those of you who long for church the way it used to be…you are getting it!
And it means that your faith, my faith, our acid test of what we believe and how deep it reaches in us, is not played out in this building on Sunday!
If we think we are living the life Christ invited us into as his loved ones, reconciled and invites to invite others to be reconcilled, just be being here, we are living a very limited sad version of what Christ has called us to, that i not shaming, that i an invitation to something better, more beautiful, eternal, imperishable and unfading!!
Your faith, your obedience to Christ takes place out there!
One mission with God is to push up against death and and to shine light in darkness.
This is where vocation comes in. This is where we talk about calling and living mission-ally!
When we say vocation, we do not just mean job.
It means more than that!!
When we say vocation we are talking about a strong feeling toward a certain type of work
VOCATION - a summons to a particular course of action
a summons or strong inclination to a particular state or course of action especially
occupation, hobbies, the direction of our lives as a whole
Now the word itself has been hijacked. Somewhere along the the lines of professions and regular folk, there has been an understanding that there is vocation that is sacred and there is vocation that is secular.
That is not a Christian concept, that is a concept of Christendom.
Work as unto the lord
And what I want to do this mornijng with the time we have left is talk about vocation. What makes some thing a good vocation, a life giving vocation, and what is the framework to figure that out, in light of the current state of the world and our underdtood hope for the world.
So you know, just a small task!!
Paul makes it pretty clear that if we associate ourselves with Christ, there is no dividing up our lives in the secular and holy.
1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
The world would say divid up your life into the sacred and the secular, and keep the sacred far from the secular.
Paul says don’t conform!, be transformed, renewed and let that take over everything.
After all, the first ministry, the first work you have been given, the work you are called to is reconciliation.
20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
I Cor. 5:20
I want to pull 3 thoughts out of this idea of co-mission with Christ to bring the world to her creator. Although the current reality seems bleak for the church...
II. Our Response
II. THE GOSPEL IS AT WORK TO RESTORE OUR CITY
The entire story of Scripture, is that God is at work to bring his creation to himself.
The very fact that we have the scripture points to that.
When Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, God’s first response was not ..
“How could you? Why did you disobey”
What does he say......
8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”
Some of the saddest word in scripture! There is a longing in God’s voice, as humanity hides itself from it’s Creator, that he cries out, as he does throughout scripture:
Like a shepherd to a lost sheep, like a mother to a child, like a husband to a cheating wife, crying out to humanity…return to me!!
on the opposite side of the garden we have the entrance to a house, where a father waits for his prodigal son to come to his senses, to come home…and like a father awaiting his long lost Son, God the father waits, in angst over his creation, to come home.
And you and I are not only saved by that kind of love, we are saved to offer that kind of love; making our plea be reconciled to you God.
NOW if that is true. That that is the work God has invited us into, the greatest vocation we could have, planted deep within us, we will feel it, the more we dive into the love of Christ the more we swim in the the depth of his love, it is also true that we .........
III. WE ARE INVITED TO PARTICIPATE IN THE RESTORATION OF OUR CITY
this is important..
Our work is a participation in the work of God.
39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice,
Our work is a participation in the work of God.
If that is the case, our category of measuring whether our work or vocation is good is different than how most might measure good work.
Some might say good work is work with good pay.
Some might say work is good work is that with good hours.
Some might say good work is that which lines up best with how we were created.
Good work is that which brings glory to God and participates in his mission to reconcile creation to Himself.
Good work is that which brings glory to God and participates in his mission to reconcile creation to himself.
The more we ignore that the less enjoyment we will find in our occupation.
God is seeking to bring health to your work place; are you an agent of physical, emotional, spiritual health in your work place?
See when the backdrop of your vocation is linked with God’s desire to bring reconciliation, there is life breathed into wherever you find yourself.
God calls artists, businesspeople and educators into every sector of society to participate in his work as Creator and redeemer? Indeed, God calls farmers and electricians, carpenters and lawyers, doctors and, yes, even dentists—with their drills!—to be the means by which he brings about the peace of the city; and God calls theologians and teachers to provide religious leadership for congregations and to equip and empower all these people, in all walks of life, through word and sacrament to fulfill their God-given callings.
What a framework for Monday to Friday!!
Smith, Gordon T.. Called to Be Saints: An Invitation to Christian Maturity (pp. 94-95). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.
Hey God is calling gardeners and garbage truck drivers, accountants, and athletes, plumbers and preachers to do our work through the lens of of the Christ Event of 2000 years ago that is still calling out for the lost to be found.
Gordon Smith puts it this way in his book Called to Be Saints...
God who has created all things is now reconciling all things to his very self. And we are invited to join the program. This is vocation: to respond to God’s invitation to participate in this extraordinary work of creation and redemption.
IV. RESTORATIVE WORK ENHANCES ALL WORK
Personal Vocation leads to discontent
God will not call anyone to a vocation that seeks to destroy or violate his creation.
And therefore if we call our selves a Christ-follower but do work that is actually counter-productive to his purposes.... to bringing healing to our culture, our society, our city, families schools,
If we have jobs where we are able to and do cheat people, lie (because this is work) you could find yourself opposing God and you will be living in disconnect.
a. we will be discontent in our own work
And we will find that when our identity is caught up in what we do (which is bound to happen if we are not finding ourselves in the larger story of God is telling) we will never be satisfied.
We will head to work bored, come home tired, and questioning.
Gordon Smith’s words are helpful again
Vocation flows from union with Christ; it is an integral dimension of living in Christ, abiding in Christ and identifying with Christ. And our only hope for navigating the complex world of vocation, work and career is to have a prior commitment to and practice of dynamic communion with Christ.
IV. Life-less work is an option
Personal vocation over God’s work will bring discontent for a Christian.
Because we will find ourselves butting up against his mission.
In when the apostles are getting themselves into trouble because they will not shut up about Jesus, (in a way very similar to Isabella Chow at Berkley) and they are being thrown in prison. The leaders are trying to figure out how to clear them out and snuff out these Christians who are shaking things up, and a man names Gamaliel, a leader steps up and says to these leaders....
38 So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice,
b. we will find joy and fulfillment in HIS work
When we tie what we are doing with his redemptive deisire for our community.
because here is the beauty of vocation when it comes to being co-workers in redemption
there are no generic people with Jesus. There are no simple pawns in the work God is doing.
Throughout scripture, we are reminded that the God of Creation is a personal God. He speaks to Adam and Eve, Abraham, Moses, he ultimately reveals himself through Jesus
Jesus interacted with different people differently. He didn’t approach everyone the same AND he did not require the same response from everyone.
It is the same when it comes to wherever God has placed you.
Teacher, actor, musicians, accountant, counsellor, athlete, police officer, realtor.... there is room and NEED for all of you in the reconciling work of the Gospel!
There is no space where the redeeming loving grace of Christ is not needed!
What would it look like if our joy and contentment in our job/work were not reliant on financial success or climbing a corporate ladder; recognition? But in living out faithfully our invitation to live out our holy vocation wherever we've been placed?
This will be very difficult/ impossible, if the work we are finding ourselves doing is working against the health of our world; Is destructive and against what God desires!
In the time of the prophet Isaiah, the people were asking God why they are worship is not pleasing to him? They are fasting and praying, but feel distant from his purpose.
6 “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? 8 Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
You want life and flourishing in your work, fight for justice and healing!
V. OUR CITY IS RESTORED ON WEEKDAYS
Be a part of what God is seeking for Coquitlam, the Tri-Cities, Maple Ridge, Vancouver, wherever you find yourself.
Living in God’s story, partnering with him for the reconciliation of our world.
This work does not and cannot take place in this building on Sundays....it is not on the professionals!! It is on those who have been called into the family of God, who are living and working in schools, law firms, counselling, mechanics, plumbers,
We gather here and in other forms as the ecclesia to spur each other on and to encourage, and to worship, but the work of the kingdom is done out side of thees walls, by.......you, the church on the move, ambassadors of Christ, crying, be reconciled to your God!
When we get this....These are the kinds of things that cause revivals in the church.
And historically when we get to the Great Revivals in the churches in England and the 13 Colonies in the 1700s, they came not because there was an influx of new people full of energy and the Spirit, but because nominal Christianity was challenged. Those who had taken up space on Sunday, were filled with purpose and desire to be so completely overtaken by the Gospel and mission of God, that it could not be contained.
there were Christianized civilizations. This changed how the culture viewed
Christianity, but it also changed how the church functioned. It gave rise
And historically when we get to the Great Revivals in the churches in England and the 13 Colonies in the 1700s, they came no because there was an influx of new people full of energy and the Spirt, but because nominal Christianity was challenged.
to professionalism and nominalism. Professionalism developed as people
Those who called themselves one with Christ and all the benefits that come with that, decided they were also one with his mission to reconcile the world to himself.
began to see the church as having two primary classes: the professional
For those who stand up for any truth beyond what our current moment holds to, it is a difficult time! For those who woudl suggest that life is nkt nece
9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
Some of you have maybe followed the story out of UC Berkley in San Fancisco,
ministers, and everyone else. The professional ministers were expected
to minister, and everyone else’s job was to just show up and watch the