I recently realized that I had never put into writing the DNA of Grace church. So what is DNA? It is the fundamental and distinctive characteristics or qualities of someone or something. In the end it is what is unchangeable. The following is what drove me to be involved in the planting of Grace Church.
The DNA of Grace Church
Biblically founded means the Word of God is the foundation for everything that happens. Grace-based obedience to the Word is taught and modeled and people are drawn to a commitment to know the Word. In essence, it means to teach the Apostles’ doctrine with diligence, compassion, and grace. The Apostles’ doctrine we are defining as that teaching which makes Christianity distinct from all world religions.
Cultural relevance actively incorporates elements of current culture (excluding sin) into the church. The goal is to create an environment which allows the unbeliever and believer to connect to the Gospel. The goal is to go as far as necessary to become all things to all people for the sake of the Gospel. This will always create tension.
The Kingdom of God is the rule of God through Jesus Christ. The kingdom of God is in us when God rules in our lives! The role of the Church is to constantly ask “How are we moving the Kingdom forward?” Our job is to lead people to long for the Kingdom now and in the future. In essence, when we are Kingdom-minded we know the King, we know our new identity in Him, and we keep our eyes on things above.
The Church has become a consumer’s organization. People come to church asking “What’s in it for me?” The Church in the world exists to be on mission for the sake of the lost and the glory of God. To accomplish that goal it must maintain an external focus. The purpose of discipleship is to produce fully devoted followers who have intense passion for the Gospel and a great desire to multiply. Making disciples is transforming ordinary people into passionate followers of Jesus who are externally focused.
Grace is the measure of how God treats us. When the woman was caught in adultery Jesus modeled grace, love, kindness, humility, respect, and forgiveness. This is how we are to treat each other, all people — even our enemies. Even in the midst of conflict we follow His lead and strive to behave like Jesus in love and kindness.
In modern Western Christianity we know very little about spiritual warfare. Most Christ-followers know that the Bible teaches the concept of the Devil. But herein lies the problem: it has been my experience that Satan, the master deceiver, adapts himself to the culture. What spiritual warfare looks like in America is different than what it looks like in Africa, Asia, or even Russia. I was in a remote Russian hotel several years ago by myself and had just fallen asleep after a full day of teaching in a Bible college. All of a sudden the bed started shaking and the covers flew up over my head. I had never experienced anything like this before! After I pried myself off of the ceiling (figuratively, not literally), I started immediately praying warfare prayers to no avail. As I reflect back on what happened that evening I realized that what I was encountering was a demonic stronghold. I was told that this was common in that region.
Here in America I believe that the goal of our enemy is to make us believe that the devil just doesn’t exist. That would be the ultimate deception! Because if we buy into that world view, then really he can sow lies that will reek havoc on us. If we cannot recognize where the bullets are coming from, then we have no way of defending ourselves.
I believe there are several strongholds that our enemy traps us in. Let me just name several of them: bitterness, rebellion, pride, sexual bondage, and for that matter addictive behavior of all kind. So how do I find victory over this warfare? I believe that Ephesians 6 tells us that it is through appropriating all of the armor that God has provided: things like identity in Christ, knowing how to use the Word, prayer, and faith. But in addition to that, to win this war it also takes humility, repentance, and a commitment to stay in the flock. In fact, the idea of the shield of faith has to do with the Roman shields that Roman soldiers would interlock together.
In the end it takes a radical commitment, holding back nothing from God!
I am by no means an expert on the end of the age. But the one thing that I believe we should be watching for is a form of peace in the Middle East. According to Daniel 9:24-27, a strong covenant will be made between a coming prince and Israel for a period of one week. This covenant will be broken in the midst. The terms of this covenant are not listed, but it is clear it will be a peace pact of some sort during the first 3 1/2 years of the 70th week of Daniel’s prophecy (Dan. 7:23-24; 8:23-25; Rev. 17:8-17). This covenant apparently allows Israel to reestablish temple worship. And it eventually leads to the main sign of the coming of Christ, namely the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel, Jesus, and Paul.
I have heard for many years Christians say that they are just leaving all this stuff up to God and not worrying about it. I see this as an excuse not to be diligent students of the Word of God. There are far more Scriptures regarding the Second Coming and the events that lead up to it than the First Coming. Jesus said to Israel had they known the Scripture they would know who He was (my paraphrase).
So when you see peace spring up in the Middle East just know that it will be followed by the events that usher in the end of the age. Bam! Oh, I had no one to proof this so forgive errors :)
There are seven feasts that Israel was to celebrate according to Leviticus 23. There were four in the Spring and three in the Fall. I believe they all point to a redemptive calendar for God’s people. First, let’s look at the feasts of the Spring. Jesus died on the Passover, was buried during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, was raised on the Feast of First Fruits, and sent the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. Are these just cosmic coincidences? I say absolutely not! This is clearly not a coincidence; this is the work of an Almighty God who plans a redemptive calendar.
If that is true, then what about the Fall feasts? So here is where you may call me weird. I believe that Jesus comes back for His church at the Feast of Trumpets. I believe that He comes in His second coming at the Day of Atonement (“they will look on Him whom they have pierced”). I believe He sets up His kingdom on earth at the Feast of Tabernacles.
I am not predicting a date, but a season! I think that is a safe place to land. Here is my conviction: If the first four feasts were perfectly fulfilled in Jesus, so will the last three! What do you think?
There is a troubling phenomenon going on in Christian culture. It is a public flogging of Christian leaders. Now granted, sometimes it is well deserved. That is not the source of my unrest. It is that Christians who have been told something or have read something now feel it their privilege to put someone on public trial. To pass on information that someone else is now providing is, by the strictest definition, gossip. It is one thing for those who have firsthand knowledge of a sin to deal with it in a loving an orderly manner. But if you do not have firsthand knowledge then it is best to let God be the judge.
Here is a thought: why don’t we pray for those we hear are struggling. I believe that
I Corinthians 13 teaches us to assume the best until we know differently. We may not have all the information.
Let’s meditate on this verse:
Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. 1 Corinthians 4:5 ESV
Disclaimer: I am neither championing nor condemning the most recent situation. I am just saying we should pray for each other.
There is a growing trend in our culture that is alarming and disturbing. It has to do with a commitment to spiritual progress. The average person who calls himself a Christ-follower is attending church about two times a month. Let me put that in perspective: if the average sermon lasts about 40 minutes, then that person is getting about 80 minutes of instruction, encouragement, and exortation monthly. Put that number in relationship to the amount of time that the average person spends watching television, seeing a movie, or just playng. I think it is safe to say that we out of balance. Have you ever driven down the freeway with a tire that has not been balanced? Do you see where I am heading?
No wonder there is a lack of Gospel-centeredness among those who claim Christ. Brothers and sisters, there is work to do in the Kingdom. So if this is causng you to feel a little uncomfortable, that is a good thing–probably a God-thing. The solution is to repent of our idolatry and return to our first love. Oh, and can I say that being a part of a small group is a crucial piece in the growth process. Being a fully devoted follower of Jesus means a life that seeks His Kingdom first! There, I said it!