February 2, 2020

Vision: What Does It Look Like To Be the Church?

Speaker:
Passage: Acts 2:42-47, Eph 4:1-16

We are finishing a short series on the Church at Hope Fellowship. It is good to remember why, what, and how we are called to live as Christ followers, and why we gather as a church, what we— collectively, are called to, and how that should manifest in our church body and community. We don’t believe we have a unique understanding on what church should look like. In fact, what you’ll hear me say is this— I believe gospel-centered churches should, in large part, look the same!

In defining our purpose, mission, and vision, we seek to provide our church body a common language by which we maintain a clear focus on our Savior, the mission He has called us to, and the people we are called to be. 

Churches have used many descriptors and terms to define their operating values as a local church body. We are using the terms Purpose, Mission, and Vision.

Our purpose statement describes the Biblical-Theological purpose, the why, for God’s created image bearers: We exist to Behold, Delight in, and Display the glory of God.

Our mission statement is based on the great commission of Christ, and the overarching theme of the Bible to bear witness to the redeeming working of God: We have been sent into the world to give witness to the glory of King Jesus by proclaiming the gospel and making disciples of all nations.

This morning, we seek to outline a biblical vision of the church. A vision statement describes what an organization looks like as they carry out their purpose and mission. Purpose is why. Mission is what. Vision is how, or more descriptively put— what that looks like. Think—what would people see as we walk in our purpose and carry out our mission? 

I want to be clear, we aren’t looking to create a church based on our desires, what we want the church to look like. We want a big church, small church, old church, young church, hymn singing or praise chorus, with a quilting club, an archery team, a gym, and a ferris wheel! I’m not saying any one of those things are necessarily bad— except maybe the ferris wheel! But we stray from the God-given vision of the church if that is what we base our identity on. We would become insular, and our hobbies become the attraction, not the gospel.

We want to paint a vision of the church that our Lord Jesus has called us to, based on whom He has called us to be. It is a matter of being, which leads to doing! Who you are is reflected in what you do! And our identity has been changed, and is different from the world, for we have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of Light! And now, as the redeemed covenant people of God, our actions flow from our renewed mind, and changed heart. 

Thus, the main question we seek to answer today is this: what does it look like to be the church?— and we look to Scripture to describe that for us!

There are many passages that describe the church, what it does, how it operates, and what it looks like. We are going to look at 2 passages today. Acts 2, Ephesians 4, and as the question, what does it look like to BE the Church?

Would you stand as we read our first passage in Acts chapter 2:42-47

Acts 2:42–47

[42] And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. [43] And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. [44] And all who believed were together and had all things in common. [45] And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. [46] And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, [47] praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (ESV)

[pray]

According to Acts 2, what does it look like to BE the church?

I want to make the following observations. They were:

Devoted learners - Apostles teaching

Devoted to each other  - to the fellowship, attending temple, meeting in homes

Devoted to remembering the gospel - communion

Devoted to communion with God - prayers

The Result:

Was awe, wonders and signs through apostles. First, awe: reverence and worship of a powerful God! We ought to have a sense of awe as we recognize He is the God of the universe! Wonders: We, at Hope, wouldn’t say these signs have ceased, but they do appear less frequent. The proclaimed gospel word came with visible power which gave credence and authority to the message. These signs seemed to be carried out in large part through the apostles, though not solely. We don’t make the sign gifts the center of authenticating the Spirit or work of God. Why? Because Paul tells us not to! 1 Corinthians 12-13 aptly corrects this view. Not everyone is a prophet, or has the gift of tongues or miracles. Everyone is afforded varying gifts according to the will of God. If wonders and signs aren’t the required marking of a faithful church body, what is?

Love for each other — they were devoted to each other, caring for each other’s need. Selling their possessions and giving, sharing the burdens of those within the body. They hosted each other, ate together, shared life together (44-45). 

Glad and Generous hearts (46). Do you have a glad and generous heart when you share your provision, your resources? Hospitality. Does it lead you to the …

Worship of God (47) Do you worship Him in your provision and finance?

Favor with all people - When we are glad and generous, trusting of the Lord for provision, we share that provision. We share the fruit of the gospel in our lives. 

Growth in disciples  “the Lord added to their number daily.” Being the church is the best growth strategy! You attract people to what you attract them with!

I want to make a point - it wasn’t their outreach strategy that grew the church, it was their culture! When the church lives and acts according to what is being produced in their heart and mind, they are naturally compelling. Why? Because God’s love has been poured into our heart, and that same love flows through us to each other, and to the world! 

When I first felt called to church plant, the overriding question was: What are you going to do different than the church down the street?” Their intent was to ask — what is my strategy for attracting and retaining people to the church? What’s the lure?

In a Gospel Coalition article, Steve McAlpine, wrote“What we attract people with is what we attract them to!” 

If we attract people because of we want to be a small church, or big church, or have a social program, or we have Awanas, or specialized groups, then we aren’t attracting people to Jesus, but their preferences.

So they asked, What am I going to do differently? My response was— “Hopefully, nothing!” Hopefully, we look like every other gospel-preaching, Spirit dwelt church, that’s attractive because we are living out the vision set before us in the Bible!

Our culture at Hope is a result of who we are as a gospel people. Friends, our strategy is to BE the church! We are gospel bought people living out the gospel of the Kingdom of Christ! It will lead to awe, reverence, worship of God, love for each other, love for the lost, glad and generous hearts, favor with God, favor with people, and thus, the growth of our church community.

Next, turn to Ephesians 4:1–7, 11-16. 

What does it look like to BE the church? Paul tells us:

[1] I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, [2] with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, [3] eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. [4] There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—[5] one Lord, one faith, one baptism, [6] one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. [7] But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. …

[11] And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, [12] to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, [13] until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, [14] so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. [15] Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, [16] from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (ESV)

According to Ephesians 4, what does it look like to BE the church?

Walk in holiness — a manner worthy of the calling. 

Hebrews 12:14: Pursue peace with all, and holiness without which no one will see the Lord. 

1 Peter 2:9 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. 

He describes further what that looks like

in humility and gentleness, patience and love… Church, take on the character of Christ!

Unity of the Spirit, Bond of Peace. There is great emphasis on our unity together. We are to be of one accord, united by the gospel which we are called to live out, embody, and give away. 

How are we unified? Verse 4-6.

We have UNITY: in one body, by one Spirit, with one hope, one Lord, one Faith, one baptism, one God and Father- over all, through all, and in all. 

This is the reason for our unity.

Paul also describes what Exercising the Gifts of the Spirit look like. And we were given gifts according to the measure of Christ’s gift to us! These are gifts given sovereignly by God, in the measure He has determined! We are to rejoice in them, in what He has given to us and to others in the body! We rejoice when someone has a gift that we don’t have, or they have it to a greater measure than we do! We are not to be jealous, envying their recognition, but rejoicing in their gift.

One of those gifts is Leadership. We find this in verse 11: And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,

So, what does it look like to BE the church?

There is leadership in the church. There are pastors and elders and deacons and administrators. Why? To do what?

To equip the saints for the work of ministry— the building up the body of Christ. That resonates with the passage in Acts, does it not? To devote oneself to the teaching of Scripture. 

To what end? 

Unity of Faith and knowledge of the Son of God. This is consistent with our purpose statement: You were made to behold, delight, and display the glory of God. In beholding, we see God in His scripture, we come to know him, and delight in him. We have faith in His saving grace, and rejoice in the hope we have in Him!

To Mature manhood— measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. This also is included in our purpose, that we may display Him. We grow up into His character, take on His righteousness and attributes, and become mature adults in Christ. In so doing, we are firm in faith, and do not remain as children! We grow and learn the word of God. We begin with the milk of the gospel, but then graduate to vegetables and meat! This is why we talk about hard doctrines!

Speak truth in love. What you will experience in a gospel-filled church body will not always be “sunshine and lollipops!” Jesus came, full of grace and truth. We are growing into His likeness, and we also are to speak the truth in love. This is to help each other grow up into Him— Christ. And this is good. Sin brings death. It is like a cancer. Would it be loving of your doctor to withhold from you the knowledge that you have cancer that is killing you? Would it then, be loving of a member of the body of Christ, to withhold speaking truth to you, that there is a persisting sin that is causing your harm? Would it be more loving to ignore, or to lovingly speak the truth?

Listen, this is the salt we are called to be! It is good for flavor, and for healing wounds. And we are called to be salt in the world, to speak the truth — even to our neighbor, as Christ did the world! And we are to grow up in Him in every way Him, for…

He is our head. He is our King. He gives the commands, we carry them out. He is the One who knows for what and how we are to live, and why were created. And thus, what it means to be the church. And He commands us to…

build ourselves up in Love. That’s what we are to do as a church. We are the temple of God, and we are to build ourselves up by speaking the truth to each other, in the gospel—, and doing so, because we love one another. Can I give a few examples of what that might look like? We will work on this in our men’s leadership cohort.

We often believe that addressing a brother or sister in their wrongdoing is going to damage our relationship. If we approach in anger, without vetting our own heart, it likely will! But if we prayerfully ask God to reveal our own sin, to give us pure motives, and then go to them gently, in love, it actually has the effect of bringing two people closer together. Have you seen this? I have. And the times I’ve seen it push others away, I’ve learned that our relationship was not built on something lasting in the first place. 

How do we go to them in a gentle way we are called to rebuke?

I have found it extremely helpful to begin requests and statements with the word because. It puts my intention right in front of them, so there is no guessing or assuming why I am saying what I’m saying. What if your gentle rebuke looked like this:

Because I love you and want our relationship to grow, I want to address the way this came across… what you said…”

“Because the culture of this group is important, and you play an important role, can we talk about what it communicates when this happens?”

Listen, being the body means rubbing elbows, and being in close relationship with others. We will offend each other. We will sin against each other. Friends, because of Jesus, we are forgiven! What that means is when this happens, we have an opportunity to make peace with one another, to restore our relationship to unity, because we love one another! This is what being the body of Christ looks like! Love is an overarching theme in the Bible, for God is love, and his people are to love one another. A new commandment I give to you… love each other, love your neighbor, love your enemy.I want to offer the following as our overarching vision statement. It will likely be reworded by our elders when they are affirmed. But for now, I want to propose this, and ask that you take this statement and match it up against your vision for your life. What does your life look like? Does it look like this:

Our Vision Statement at Hope Fellowship: We are called as the Church to be fully devoted to God and one another, as disciples growing in His gospel. We are to walk in our identity as kingdom citizens, in holiness and unity, speaking the truth in love, exercising His gifts and leadership for the equipping and building of the body until we all reach the fullness of faith and knowledge of the Son of God. We are to be molded into His image and display His character to one another, in love, as salt and light to the world, and grow into the fullness of Christ who fills all in all. We thus behold, delight, and display the glory of God as we look to Christ and the day of His appearing.

[pray]

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