Belong … Believe … Behave

I’ve enjoyed our recent preaching series called, “Why I Love The Church”. Each week has served as reminder to me of the beauty of God’s awesome church.

 

Come as you are

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One concept we looked at was creating a “Come as you are” culture in our church. That’s huge! As people who have received grace and mercy from God, our church should be the most loving, accepting and welcoming place in town!

This will have some huge implications for how we do church life together …

Think about our mission as a church. We want people to …

  1. Believe: We really do. We want them to believe in Jesus: John 3v16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son so that whoever believes him might not perish but have eternal life”
  2. Belong: We want people to belong to our church family: 1 Cor 12v27 – “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” 
  3. Behave: It’s not an ideal word, but it starts with a ‘B’. We want to help people become more like Jesus – we want every believer, as Eph 4v1 puts it, to “live a life worthy of the calling you have received”

But what order do we put these three words in?

This is more important and challenging than its ever been!

UK culture has changed a lot in the last ten years!

The gospel hasn’t changed, Jesus hasn’t changed, people haven’t changed, the Bible hasn’t changed, truth hasn’t changed … but culture has changed.

So we need to consider our approach!

If we went to another nation with a mission agency they would give us cross cultural training … I think we may now need cross cultural training to reach the UK!

Some churches do it this way: Behave … Believe … Belong

socialexclusionSo, if you’re the right sort of person: reasonably wealthy, with an outwardly moral lifestyle and a stable family, someone might invite you to church. If you come you might hear the gospel. And down the line, if you commit your life to Christ and get baptised, you might be allowed to belong to the church family.

The trouble is, we won’t see many come to know Jesus that way!

Other churches do it like this: Believe … Behave … Belong

Im-a-Mess-T-Shirt-Worn-Free-Tee-Black_1024x1024They reach out to anyone, regardless of their background, and recognise that we can’t expect people who are not yet Christians to live a Christian lifestyle.

And once people decide to follow Jesus discipleship begins. Once the big issues are sorted out in their lives they are ‘allowed’ to get baptised and ultimately to join the church.

This is better, but it’s less effective than it used to be, because people with messy lives are still going to struggle to connect.

We also run the danger of teaching people a set of Christian rules, instead of teaching them to follow Jesus!

But more and more churches are finding that to win people for Jesus today we need to order it like this: Belong … believe … behave.

This means helping people to find a place in our church family before they come to faith in Jesus. I’m not redefining church membership here, I’m simply saying is that we need to accept people, just as they are, and allow them to find a place in our church family before they come to faith. In today’s culture this is vital, because people need to know they are accepted, before they’re willing to listen to our message.

belong

When people know they are accepted, they are more willing to listen to our message.

People don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care!

Once people have received the gospel and opened their lives to Jesus, once they have believed in him, then their life begins to change. Not because we hot them with a set of rules, but because the Holy Spirit is at work to transform them; they begin to live a life worthy of the calling they have received, albeit with many trips and stumbles along the way … and we need to be okay with the trips and stumbles too.

But is this Biblical? Is it really okay?

I think this is exactly what Jesus modelled for us, for example:

  • When he met Zacchaeus (Luke 19v1-10)
  • When he met the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4v1-42)

Won’t we be misunderstood?

phariseesProbably – but until religious people are scandalised by the radical grace we show to those who are far from God … until pharisaical people are questioning the company we keep … until, like Jesus, we are accused of being a ‘friends of sinners’ …

we’re not really representing Jesus very well.

 

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Answering a difficult question that I didn’t see coming …

Our current Grace Church preaching series, “God’s Rescue Mission”, has often focussed on how we can share our faith, so a training day looking at “Answering the Big Objections to Christianity” seemed to make perfect sense – and what a great day it was!

Tom Price, David Bennet and Jo Vitale, all from Ravi Zacharias Ministries, served us so well, introducing as to the world of “Christian apologetics” – which means ‘giving answers to people who ask us about our Christian faith’. Lots of difficult questions were considered and many brilliant answers were found; certainly my brain was stretched and I know others were impacted too.

David’s joy-filled, personal testimony was especially moving. His story of transformation from being a church hating, gay rights campaigner through to personally encountering Jesus and beginning a relationship with a loving God is one you really don’t want to miss.

For those who were unable to attend in person you can hear the downloads for free through our church website.

Is Christianity outdated and irrelevant?

Are science and Christian faith incompatible?

What about war and genocide in the Bible?

If God is real why doesn’t he make himself more obvious?

Ravi Zacharias Ministries - Tom PriceAll this and more is available to listen to for free.

A difficult question

However, what I have been left reflecting on was not the answers given to the questions we raised, but rather my personal lack of a clear answer to the question that Tom Price posed to us during his talk in Chichester and Bognor on the Sunday morning.

Tom asked a deceptively simple question, but one I am still reflecting on and I would encourage you to reflect on too:

“What kind of relationship do you think God seeks with you?”

Tom described three possibilities that are each less than God wants for us. Sometimes as Christians we can act as though the relationship God seeks with us is this:

  1. God wants us to be GOOD: he wants us to live productive lives and use our talents and gifts well; a pragmatic, practical way to relate to God
  1. God wants us to BELIEVE in his existence: to adhere to a certain set of beliefs
  1. God wants us to develop the right FEELINGS towards him: to develop positive emotions towards God; thankfulness and joy.

Tom then said this:

“If you think that being a Christian is these three things, or a combination of these three things or one of these things, then there might be something more for you to discover about God – God may want a deeper way of connecting with you. Maybe God doesn’t just want these three things;

maybe God wants a friendship with you.

So I’m left with a lot to reflect on personally following the weekend. I went with some difficult questions I was seeking answers to, but I came away with a much deeper question to think about for myself.

If you have the time, we would love to hear your feedback and reflections on the weekend too.