Belonging, Becoming, Believing

Belonging, Becoming, Believing

Michael Whitmer’s book, Don’t Stop Believing ( Why Living Like Jesus is Not Enough) helps us to pause and reflect on the relationship of Belonging, Becoming and Believing. For as long as I can remember being part of a Bible-believing church the order for newcomers has been clear. Believe then you can belong and then become what you are supposed to be.

In order to believe, we were instructed to pray a prayer – confessing our sin, accepting what Jesus did on our behalf and embracing a relationship with God. Belonging meant getting baptized so we could join the church so we could be held accountable for our spiritual growth. Becoming meant staying obedient, pure and resisting temptation.

Many postmodern churches think that belonging should be the first step in our relationship with the church. Being missional is considered most important and we should be embracing others rather than condemning them.

Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch illustrate by saying that conservatives love to build fences to show who is in and who is out while missional churches dig wells and invite all to come and partake. “Rather than seeing people as Christian or non-Christian, as in or out, we would see people by their degree of distance from the center, Christ. In this way, the missional-incarnational church sees people as Christian and not-yet-Christian. It acknowledges the contribution of not-yet-Christians to Christian community and values the contribution of all people.” (p.101)

Some people have gone further in saying it isn’t how close you are to Jesus but in which direction you’re headed. They want the church to feel like a safe, hospitable community where they can belong. The believe that faith is a pilgrimage which we are all on.

In this later framework, we belong first, become and then learn to believe. “Evangelism or mission… is no longer about persuading people to believe what I believe … It is about shared experiences and encounters. It is about walking the journey of life and faith together, each distinct to his or her own tradition and culture but with the possibility of encountering God and truth from one another.”

Conservatives tend to focus on believe, belong, become because they emphasize the impact of the fall and so define us as sinners who need to repent. Our condition is that of fallen sinners; our goal is to convert; our means is to find answers and discover truth; our ministry is to confidently declare the authoritative truth and our church tends to cater to people who believe like us.

Missional churches see our condition as that of created seekers on a spiritual journey who are asking questions, wondering about truth. Believers humbly invite others to participate in the journey and welcome community members to join the larger faith family as they explore. We would love to see all of us engaged with Jesus, bringing truth, grace and love to those around us. (This is our vision statement).

Each of us might have a clear preference for one or the other option but Whitmer sees both options as inadequate. The missional church is too permissive – allowing a wide diversity of beliefs as long as one is inclusive and tolerant. The conservative view is seen as stifling and oppressive when one has to believe all the right things before being accepted.

Whitmer sees the missional view as positive for those on their journey toward faith and the conservative view as strengthening for those who have embraced the faith and what it stands for. He summarizes his teaching as follows (p. 108)

“When we combine both models in the way we do church, we will gladly admit that Christian and non-Christian alike are on a journey, but we will emphasize the turning point of repentance and faith to get on track. We will clasp the clear, life-giving answer of Christianity in one hand and raise a hand for questions with the other. We will expect new Christians to grow in love and righteousness, and we will compassionately embrace those who struggle. We will limit membership in the body of Christ to those who believe but welcome and make room for those who do not.”

Where do you think Faith’s family falls in helping believe to belong, believe and become? Regardless of where you fall, realized that you are loved more than you can ask or imagine. Pastor Jack

Don’t Read This

Once again, don’t read this if you don’t want to know how bad things are in our city. Don’t read this if you don’t want to admit how hard things are just to be human in this environment. Don’t read this if you think you are the only one struggling with sexual temptation.

The British apologist C. S. Lewis, stated that “Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is…You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it not by lying down. A man who gives into the temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later.“

If you’ve ever stood on the deck of a BC ferry and walked into the wind there are times when you could almost be blown overboard. Those resting inside have little idea how challenging it is to stand or walk for those on the outside.

In my best dreams as a pastor I would like to imagine that all followers of Jesus are safe inside the ship and that the winds are wreaking their havoc on those who deliberately refuse to come inside and get away from all the images on television, in the theatres, on the computers, in the magazines, in the malls, in the bookstores, in their classrooms, in their workspaces, in their community centers, in their doctor’s offices, on the billboards, on their tablets, on their phones and in their own imaginations.

The carnage on our society is deadly. How can prayer impact the direction and consequences we are seeing unleashed around us as Romans 1 promised?

Huge percentages of youth, young adults, married men and women, and even seniors are confessing in groups designed for believers that they are enslaved by pornography, masturbation, sexual fantasies and addictions, pre-marital and extra-marital sexual encounters, inappropriate thoughts, attractions, lusts or desires.

An enemy is working hard to cripple the church from being an effective witness. How can we stand up under this onslaught? As someone said to me today, you can’t keep playing with this fire and not get burned. Are we facing a wildfire that has gotten out of control?

Last week we had three policemen join Cathy Peters in meeting with daycare workers from several of our daycares throughout Vancouver. We hosted this important event to highlight how child sex trafficking is rampant in our own communities. We’re going to share this same information with parents in the next little while but there is serious concern that parents won’t believe that their son or daughter could be at risk.

 

 

More on this in the next blogs.

It is said of Billy Graham, in memory of his passing, that he took sin seriously in guarding his own exposure to temptations or compromising situations, but he also took redemption seriously when it came to the sins of others. Perhaps as you ponder what is going on around you it might be a good time to take both of these things into consideration as we deal with ourselves and others. What is God asking of you as you work to become a wounded healer in our broken world?

To pray or not to pray

Thursday was set aside for 12 hours of prayer with different leaders hosting each hour. During an hour hosted by our intern Yosef he played a song with a short clip of a John Piper sermon. The message declared that no pain that we have ever experienced is without purpose or meaning. God is working in us deliberately an eternal weight of glory. That thought requires deep meditation.

A friend of mine is a pastor at a church which has a prayer meeting every night of the week with Friday as a loud and long one. I confessed that while our church has built a healthy multi-cultural community, our prayer times together are still weak. They are building their church on prayer with 20% growth every year and new believers every week.

Today was an effort to say that it is time to reaffirm that only the Spirit of God does the real work in transforming dead hearts, blind eyes, deaf ears and numb minds. In pastor Tim Keller’s book on Prayer his wife used a story to get him to realize the seriousness of prayer. Here is what she said,

“Imagine you were diagnosed with such a lethal condition that the doctor told you that you would die within hours unless you took a particular medicine – a pill every night before going to sleep. Imagine that you were told that you could never miss it or you would die. Would you forget? Would you not get around to it some nights? No – it would be so crucial that you would not forget, you would never miss. Well, if we don’t pray together to God, we’re not going to make it because of all we are facing. I’m certainly not. We have to pray, we can’t let it just slip our minds.”

Does that illustration speak to you? Do you really believe prayer is that essential? Maybe your response and mine shows a lot more about what is happening in our life than we realize.