What is the Mission of Christ Fellowship?
“We are a community seeking to follow Jesus together by glorifying God through worship, prayer and good works serving both God and man in love and hope” I want to be as clear as I can. We, at Christ Fellowship are seeking something which reflects authentic New Testament Christianity. The leadership of this community is committed to living out a renewed Christianity. We aspire to be a community of Jesus followers that resemble what Jesus had in mind when he commissioned the apostles to begin planting churches. I believe that in a culture like ours, one so profoundly enmeshed in consumption, this task of renewal will require frequent reflection on whether what we are doing is staying true to Jesus' vision for his followers. Part of it will require the same question again and again - what is it costing me to follow Jesus? The absence of sacrifice suggests that we have slid into an inauthentic gospel. This is a hard word in our convenience driven, user friendly, hyper-sensitive, numbers driven church of 2016. I believe if we poke a few inches below the surface we will find it's not working. We are surrounded by a culture coming apart, yet it's a culture we have become quite comfortable residing in. But the N.T. church, when at its best and truest is subversive. The Kingdom of God goes against the grain. The Kingdom of God makes the status quo uncomfortable. The Kingdom of God ought to make us uncomfortable, because among other things its messy, its slow and it can't be simulated, codified, or turned into a slick scripted event, with a quotient that somehow leaves us at home in a culture driven by consumption, recreation and easy grace instead of the gospel's call to holiness. Jesus was always shaking things up. From day one of his movement, he went right at the power centers with a message decidedly user unfriendly. Once more, please don't be offended by redundancy - No sacrifice, no gospel. You simply can't wade into a culture as profoundly broken as ours without getting your hands dirty. And do I mean dirty. Nothing moves more slowly than broken human beings trying to learn how to be patient, loving and kind and to die to themselves. Many of us have experienced so little healthy formation that love feels like a foreign language, even though it is central to everything Jesus taught about how a holy life is to be lived. So how do you do it? There are three things corporate communities of Jesus followers must become skilled at doing. And it requires no special talents, no media expertise, no technique, and no marketing strategy. We must seek to tirelessly build communities that are bound together by commitment and conviction and that we will earnestly and without excuse set our sights on becoming worshipping communities, prayerful communities and communities which serve one another in love. This is very likely to make our communities small. But remember, the most brilliant man who ever lived, the most extraordinary teacher who ever spoke had only a little over a hundred followers after three years of day after day ministry. Now how are we trying to do that at Christ Fellowship? And by the way, we don't think we've cornered the market on the one sure way to do it. We try through a blend of classic liturgy and an open atmosphere of joyful participatory adoration of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to get there. Some Sunday's are off the charts, others are rather ordinary. But the aim is still the same - We must build open, participatory, heart-on-the-line adoration of the only worthy object of that kind of adoration, the One true God, who is Father, Son and Spirit. Without an atmosphere of open hearted worship, we lose that quality of honesty so critical for new creation life. This kind of corporate life is built one brick at a time. Regular and very often mundane acts of service train us to walk out the truth that “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Eph. 1:10) May I say it again - No sacrifice, no gospel. This is the pattern which Jesus calls every one of his followers to live out - So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. Gal. 6:10 All around us (as well as in our churches) are shattered plate glass windows which appear to be functioning people, but actually they have adapted to long term low grade misery. It is remarkable what you can get used to. But Jesus modeled the only hope for reaching through this kind of brokenness - roll up your sleeves and serve and love recklessly. This is how Jesus did it, this is how his disciples did it and this really is the only way to bring life-transforming hope, to the empty desperation which surrounds us. Not bigger T.V.. screens, or better lighting, or more excellently timed services - only get-down-in-the-mud and risk getting your heart-broken love has any prospect of bringing freedom to those held captive by addiction, pornography, broken family life, and the staggering loneliness which surrounds us. There's no escaping this. It's how the gospel has always worked. It's either new creation life or its religious appearances. Christianity is both a taught and a caught life. Not in the traditional class room, or the 10 weeks to a better marriage class, but up close and in your face. These are the sparks of iron sharpening iron, the aggravation of our human pettiness, the annoyance of our self centeredness. It's slow, even tedious. Its the way Jesus makes disciples. One bad habit at a time. Either you aim at the bulls eye, or you just fire in every direction hoping something will strike the center. But no one drifts into holiness. Peter made it quite explicit in 2 Peter 2:5 make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. This ‘making every effort’ includes growing in the knowledge of the Word, both factually and experientially, growing in faith, the assurance and commitment to spiritual truth, growth in character, our internal nature conformed to Christ , and the regular practice of spiritual disciplines, our external lifestyle of habitual obedience. Does that sound hard? William Law, a English pastor seeking to answer the question "Why do so many Christian fall short of the holiness and devotion to Christianity.? (Which by the way is epidemically the condition of the church in the west) Law's answer is striking: If you will stop here and ask yourself why you are not as serious as the early Christians were (about following Christ), your own heart will tell you that it is neither through ignorance or inability, but purely because you never throughly intended it. Does that seem too simple? Could it really be that vast numbers of Christians have settled for a chronically poor marriages, and weak anemic Christianity simply because they never thoroughly intended it to be any other way? I'm suggesting something even more grim - we the leadership of the church have helped to maintain the status quo, through our fear of losing what we have if we call our people on to the self-sacrifice necessary to actually make a difference. Scripture consistently presents a much more sacrificial life than Christians in the west are used to living as "normal" Christianity - Titus 2:11-14: 11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 1 2 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Yes it's right there in black and white - purify a people (that sounds pretty intense) for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Distinguished professor of the Social Sciences at Baylor University writes these words of Christianity triumph: Christianity did not grow because of miracle working in the marketplaces (although there may have been much of that going on), or because Constantine said it should, or even because the martyrs gave it such credibility. It grew because Christians constituted an intense community, able to generate the “invincible obstinacy” [against paganism] that so offended the younger Pliny but yielded immense religious rewards. And the primary means of its growth was through the united and motivated efforts of the growing numbers of Christian believers, who invited their friends, relatives, and neighbors to share the “good news.” . . . Dr. Stark continues: The Christian teaching that God loves those who love him was alien to pagan beliefs. [Ramsay] MacMullen has noted [in his 1981 book Paganism in the Roman Empire] that from the pagan perspective “what mattered was . . . the service that the deity could provide, since a god (as Aristotle had long taught) could feel no love in response to that offered.” Equally alien to paganism was the notion that because God loves humanity, Christians cannot please God unless they love one another. Indeed, as God demonstrates his love through sacrifice, humans must demonstrate their love through sacrifice on behalf of one another. Moreover, such responsibilities were to be extended beyond the bonds of family and tribe, indeed to “all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:2). These were revolutionary ideas. Not a people who have to be cajoled into serving. Not huge church staffs paid to take care of all the heavy lifting. The Apostolic church of the New Testament in 23 decades overwhelmed the mighty Roman empire through a network of small house fellowships who simply loved and served with such sacrifice that the Roman empire finally gave up. This is the gospel that will turn the weak church of America into a power house of salvation, deliverance and restoration. It's never been any other way. This is what this new work aspires to be. May God have mercy on us and may the Holy Spirit come in power.
How do we actually build a lasting Christian Community
“What determines our brotherhood is what that man is by reason of Christ. Our community with one another consists solely in what Christ has done to both of us. This is true not merely at the beginning, as though in the course of time something else were to be added to our community; it remains so for all the future and to all eternity. I have community with others and I shall continue to have it only through Jesus Christ. The more genuine and the deeper our community becomes, the more will everything else between us recede, the more clearly and purely will Jesus Christ and his work become the one and only thing that is vital between us. We have one another only through Christ, but through Christ we do have one another, wholly, for eternity.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community
Adam Clark's Definition of God
God is the eternal, independent, and self-existent Being; the Being whose purposes and actions spring from himself, without foreign motive or influence; he who is absolute in dominion; the most pure, the most simple, the most spiritual of all essences; infinitely perfect; and eternally self-sufficient, needing nothing that he has made; illimitable in his immensity, inconceivable in his mode of existence, and indescribable in his essence; known fully only by himself, because an infinite mind can only be fully comprehended by itself. In a word, a Being who, from his infinite wisdom, cannot err or be deceived, and from his infinite goodness, can do nothing but what is eternally just, and right, and kind. (Adam Clark)
RELATIONSHIPS: The Costliness of True Friendship
There is a reason why a high percentage of American’s are lonely. The National Science Foundation reported in its General Social Survey that unprecedented numbers of American’s are lonely. One study based on 1500 face to face interviews found that more than a quarter of the respondents had no one with whom they could talk about their personal troubles or triumphs. If family members are not counted, the number doubles to more than half of Americans who have no one outside their immediate family with whom they can share confidences. Why is this so? The answer to that question is no doubt a multi-layered one, one which would by itself occupy many articles and research data. But I want to make a simple observation from my own experience. Relationships are difficult, and generally speaking those relationships which can handle the weight of the deeper discussions of life are the most difficult of all.Yet it is this very business of relationships to which the follower of Jesus is persuasively called upon to give their most serious attention. Peter speaks to this in 1 Peter 1:22: Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. Pay attention to the weightiness of Peter’s words “sincere love for each other, deeply from the heart.” When I read those words I find them staggering - because it describes a quality of relationship that seems so rare, and if the Social Survey mentioned in the first paragraph is true it is rare for most of the adult population of the U.S. And I suspect it is also rare among Christian people.It is the challenge of trust, vulnerability and the necessary persistence over time which close friendship requires that makes it a work which many of us simply will not carve out sufficient time to make a reality. Os Guinness notes “Life fired at us point blank becomes the survival of the fastest. As a Kenyan saying goes, “Westerners have watches, Africans have time.” This is one of the great temptations of our era - the temptation to yield to the notion that there simply isn’t enough time to build these kinds of relationships. And it is not only the appearance that sufficient time isn’t available to take our relationships deeper - but there are numerous issues which close quarter relationships inevitably bring us face to face with - conflict, and the need to communicate about these inevitable frictions that emerge when we seek close friendship with one another. It’s much easier to simply keep your distance. Let things remain superficial and lighthearted.Yet scripture makes clear that there is something critical to our spiritual growth which is tied to our relationships - as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (Pro. 27:17) In the economy of God, the challenges which occur in our relationships are essential to brining about growth in our character and the quality of our love - growth which comes only in this way. It is therefore no exaggeration to say from the vantage point of Scripture that the quality of life in which we must grow is precisely in the area of relationships. According to John’s recollections it was among the last things Jesus said before he was arrested and then executed: John 13: 34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”This is one of the reasons why Christianity doesn’t have much appeal to lonely Americans, hungry for friendship. For when Westerners think about depth, Christianity is too often not the place where searching people turn for that substance. Yet, one of the most common images of the church in the New Testament is family, as though God intended for those who might have suffered with poor family life an opportunity to recapitulate the family experience with brothers and sisters who sincerely and from the depths of their hearts love one another. Could this have been what Jesus had in mind when he made love a cornerstone of what was to characterize his movement? A movement of friendships rooted in the Divine friendship?
A community following Christ together.
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