Tag: Christianity (page 1 of 7)

Defining Gospel Centered Missional Community (GCMC)

community

For the last few years a few and my friends and I have been talking about community. The focus is on what it would look like to live in authentic community with other Christians. It is a topic that has consumed large parts of our conversations and time. During that time, we have all written down our ideas and meshed them into a conglomerate of processes. My friend and co-host of The (G)odd Show, Thomas Hogan, has been the most intentional about collecting these ideas.

In my last post I talked about being committed to building and helping others build lasting Gospel Centered Community (GCC). In order to provide a clearer picture of what that means, it is important to define that for you. So, what do I mean when I talk about Gospel Centered Community? Unfortunately, I have not taken a lot of time to write the definition. But, lucky for all of us, Thomas was good enough to write out our ideas so they are easily coherent. Here is what I mean when I say GCC or GCMC:

Gospel Centered Missional Community

We teach a purpose toward ministry called, “Gospel Centered Community” (GCC) and a method of ministry called, “Gospel Centered Missional Community” (GCMC).

The easiest way to define such a life encompassing idea is to define each word’s ideas and modes. And, the easiest way to execute this purpose is by understanding GCC as Jesus moving your heart to intentionally live toward others. And if GCC is an intent to live toward others, GCMC is the missional outworking of that intent, focused on making disciples who make disciples. In the below paragraphs, first I will define the purpose of each word and then under that, provide the practical outworking of that word as a method.

Gospel

By Gospel we mean the life altering invitation by God to come home. The cross of Jesus Christ is the extension of this invitation. He has made the way for us to be close to God, to not feel ashamed or rejected, to be clean and whole without any hindrance or condemnation.

The Gospel invites us into God’s family and we should be decorating the invitation for others. By growing into maturity, through being a disciple and discipling others, we extend that invitation through our commission and emulate Christ’s work on the Earth.

Centered

By Centered we mean complete balance in your life. Balance between Heaven and Earth, between friends, family and ourselves, and between hurts and all joy. Our lives should be experienced, not buried in a landslide of religious duty or distracted by every wind of philosophy. We must find the center of our souls. That center is found in a loving, growing, and forward relationship with Jesus Christ. It is only from a place of spiritual identity and openness that balance is maintained.

In a Centered life our efforts and actions reflect simplicity. We best experience centeredness by living at peace with others, as best we can, and revealing the love of God through unity. In areas where being right and relationship come into conflict, we should seek relationship first and being right through developing our faith.

Missional

By Missional we mean that we exist for the benefit of those around us. We have abandon self-centeredness and embrace the mission of God to reach and heal the lost and hurting. By focusing on the greatest commandment, the great commission and the new commandment we fully encompass God’s heart for the world.

In a Missional community we create opportunities for others to interact with God’s love by meeting real needs in the real world. Christ is teaching us to love each other, so we can love God and love our neighbor. We best express that love by tangible manifestations in our neighborhoods. In doing so, our neighbors are able to see Christ pursuing them without compulsion or prerequisites.

Community

By Community we mean a place and a people who are truly “your own.” We are not meant to find balance or experience the grace and power of God alone; we need each other. There is no version of community that doesn’t begin with deep-rooted love and end in freedom. In community we are free and with our people we can explore the richness of love from the Father without fear or restriction.

In Community we find our greatest purpose. Community spurs us on when we become weak and tired; in turn we use our gifts, talents, and abilities to interact in the work of the gospel. By experiencing the ebb and flow of conflict, grace, forgiveness and reconciliation of “body-life” we see the clearest picture of Christ among us.

Scriptural References: Acts 4:32, Acts 20:32, 1 Corinthians 5:13, Philippians 2:1-4, James 3:17-18 & Colossians 1:6-7.

If you have an interest in continuing to this discussion or developing GCMC where you are, I (or Thomas) would love to talk with you about it. You can contact me by clicking the below link:

Let’s talk about GCMC!

photo: Trinity Church

The President, Jesus and Our Allegiance

I am concerned about us. Not as a country. America will keep trucking along its progressive path as it always has. I am concerned about us as a church, as a body under the headship of Jesus. We are becoming increasingly divided. Of course division within the Church is not a new thing. I am fully aware of the many splits and the reasons for them, throughout our church history. I am familiar with why so many denominations exist. However, none of that changes the amount of distance this past political season has added to the divide.

Christian or Patriot

For over a year, leading up to the election this past November, I have seen and heard so many people equate being patriotic with being a “good” Christian. In fact, it is not simply the view that Christianity is the same as patriotism; it is carelessly viewed as a political issue on the same level as gun rights. Here is a couple examples of some memes that list Christianity among other political or social issues…

Allegiance

Christianity shows up right in the middle of a list involving patriotism and guns. Here is another one…

Allegiance

Again, Christian shows up right in the middle of an obviously politically charged list of issues. And it is presented in a blatantly divisive and excluding way. Not only is it polarizing, it suggests that a Christian cannot possibly hold liberal views. The inference is that a Christian has to be a gun-loving, conservative who runs around saying ‘merica. It rejects the possibility of any other view and alienates entire parts of the body of Christ. To be fair, there are many Christians who would view themselves as liberals that also contribute to this division and alienation. Unfortunately, it is the conservative side (typically White Evangelicals) who are often more verbal about the supposed marriage between American nationalism, or patriotism, and Christianity.

I did look for memes that expressed a liberal view of Christianity as American, but they almost do not exist. The best I could do was this one, that suggests conservatism is not consistent with Christianity.

Allegiance

Allegiance to Christ

My issue has nothing to do with whom you support as the president; support whomever you feel aligns best with your values. Moreover, if you are a Christian, God commands us to pray for the president regardless of your political leaning. Nevertheless, the truth is, Christianity is not synonymous with American patriotism. You can be a Christian fully apart from being an American. The reverse is also true. Still, the depth of your love for your country is not a measure for being a good Christian. Somehow, that continues to grow as the qualifier.

My concern is it seems many on both sides have forgotten the others are Christian. Maybe it is less of having forgot,and more of a rejection of the possibility. And why? Because they have different political views? With increasing frequency it seems as if Christians believe their commitment to a political candidate, or in this case a president, is allowed to trump ( see what I did there?) their commitment to fellow Christians. As Christians, when our allegiance to a political party, candidate, or president eclipses our allegiance to other believers, then by proxy it also eclipses our allegiance to Christ. The Apostle John says the same thing in 1 John 4:20. He said, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” When that happens, we need consider what we believe about unity and our allegiances.

Biblical Unity

So what does the Bible have to say about our allegiance and unity? A lot. The first commandment (Exodus 30:3) points specifically to our allegiance to God. It is clear that we should set nothing before God. From that foundation, the rest of the bible points toward full devotion to God and absolute unity among His people, both through Christ. In fact, the New Commandment Jesus gave to His disciples, and us, was to love each other so that the world would know we are His (John 13:34-35). The whole chapter of John 15 consist of Jesus explaining the importance of remaining in Him (commitment and allegiance). He goes on to describe how much the world will hate us because of Him and how unity, through loving each other, keeps us connected to Him.

In the end, following Christ requires that we be good citizens, but does not direct us to be patriots. Our real allegiance is not to the President, a flag, or even a country. Our real allegiance is to Jesus and His bride. We have to understand that His desire is unity among his body, not unity with the world. So support the President, pledge the flag, be patriotic for your country, but know it is just a shadow of what our allegiance to Jesus and His body should look like.

Are We Allowed to Doubt God?

doubtThe Dialogue of Doubt

We doubt. We question. We struggle to trust. It began in the Garden. The serpent led Eve to doubt God. Perhaps doubt existed before the fall because it is what led to it. Doubt is part of our nature. Maybe it is part of free will; our ability to choose what we believe and who we trust? Even God is not immune to our doubt.

I’ve had seasons of doubt. Long ones. I’ve questioned God. What was He doing? Why was I suffering, and why did He allow certain things to happen? Did He hear my prayers? And if He heard my prayers, why was He ignoring them? I’ve known many people who have walked through similar seasons. My friends, my wife, my family, pastors, and ministry leaders have all struggled with doubt. When we begin to doubt, we are quick to believe that our doubt is unbiblical. This leads to guilt and more doubt.

Part of this increase in doubt is prompted by the abundance of Christian clichés that are flung at us (and by us) in well-meaning moments. While some of these clichés may be biblically true, they are generally spoken when we don’t know what else to say about your struggle. And we find ourselves at a loss on how to speak to your doubt. Because we may doubt also.

Comments like “God has a plan,” “Everything happens for a reason,” “If God brings you to it, He’ll see you through it,” “When God closes one door, He opens another,” “Just give it to Jesus,” “God won’t give you more than you can handle,” and the list goes on. If you say these things, stop it. Seriously, some of these comments are not even supported by Scripture. All of these sayings only add to the anxiety and guilt of doubting a God that most of us already know to be a good God.

So, are we allowed to doubt God? I will remind you of the story of the disciple Thomas who told the other disciples that he would not believe that Jesus was alive unless he saw Him with his own eyes. He did see and he did believe. Be encouraged, Thomas spent three years with Jesus and still struggled with doubt. So the simple answer is, yes you can doubt and it will not disqualify you as a follower of Jesus.

Believer’s Doubt

But a better story, one that distinguishes between our different types of unbelief and doubt takes place in Mark 9. In this story a man comes to Jesus and asks Him to heal his demon-afflicted son after Jesus’ disciples are not able. The man tells Jesus that the affliction is so bad that the evil spirits routinely throw his son into water and fire in an attempt to destroy him. In coming to Jesus this father says, “But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” To which Jesus answered, “‘If you can! All things are possible for one who believes.” Then the father makes a declaration that screams to our soul and rips through the heart of the matter. He cries out, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

It is in this father’s cry to God where many of us hear our own. We find a brother who believes and knows that Jesus is the One who can meet our deepest needs. It is his belief that brings him to Jesus. In the same cry we see his doubt that his son can be healed, even though he believes Who Jesus is. Like many of us, he struggles with his knowledge of who Jesus is and the truth of his son’s affliction.

Belief is the Victor

Undoubtedly he witnessed Jesus and His disciples healing others. This firsthand, or potentially secondhand, knowledge of Jesus’ ability had sunk deep enough into his heart that he was drawn to Jesus. Standing in front of the One that heals, his belief in Jesus ran hard into the wall of truth that was his son’s life-long illness. Belief met unbelief – and belief was the victor.

His unbelief didn’t keep him from Jesus. His inability to know for sure if his son would receive relief did not keep the man from asking Jesus to heal his son. He still approached Jesus, still asked, and still hoped in Him. Not only did he trust Jesus to deal with his son’s affliction of evil spirits, he asked Jesus to deal with his own affliction of unbelief. Jesus obliged both requests.

Two things I want to clarify.

Asking Jesus to do something doesn’t warrant it being done. For reasons beyond all of us, the answer may be “no.” An answer of “no” does not change who He is. We don’t follow Jesus for the things He can do for us, we follow Him to be close to Him.

Our belief in God and our struggle with doubting His active participation in our life are two separate things. Our struggles and questions of circumstance-based doubt does not signal our rejection of who Jesus is or God’s goodness. We can fully rest in our knowledge of Who He is and still ask all of our where, when, how and why questions. We can still struggle with feelings of doubt and know He still is in control. Doubt in dire circumstance does not disqualify us from anything in His Kingdom, especially following Him. God knows our weakness. He knows our propensity to doubt and struggle with unbelief. He knows our heart.

I encourage you that while we all experience doubt and unbelief, we should, in the midst of our weakness say: “I believe; help my unbelief!”

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