I know, I am endanger of letting this blog slip into the blog graveyard. As soon as I learned I was once again a church planter (back on April 26), it was as if life launched into warp speed. Nevertheless, there are great things to report.
Much of what I am doing right now is getting out into the eastern Lee County community (Alva, Buckingham, Fort Myers Shores, Lehigh Acres, East Fort Myers) and meeting people. As I go, I have been praying God would direct my steps and allow me to see where He has been working and where I need to go. This past month I have met several great people and see God at work amidst this area.
I have been meeting with a core group of people in Lehigh for about six weeks now. My family and I are really enjoying this season of forming new friendships, and seeking God together to catch His vision for this new church. We are gelling! I use that word purposely because a few in our group are unashamed Gaither fans (southern Gospel), and yet I had them listening to Shai Linne (hip hop music) after our meeting Sunday night. Good times!
Sunday morning I met with about ten adults and ten children before we worshiped with our church family at Grace. I asked, before we can identify what values this new church will embrace at our core, what are some of your personal core values? I asked each one, including the children, to tell me what first came to their mind.
Here’s what they said: God (3), Family (7), Church Community provided through in-home small groups (3), Bible (2), the Gospel (5). Obviously, there are some that overlap. Having this discussion will be helpful for us this summer as we begin to think through what this new church will hold to firmly.
So we began looking at Sent Living, the first core value listed on our website that was prepared for us by Timmy Brister, an elder at Grace, and a brother I have grown to love over the past year. Here is what we mean by Sent Living: “The local church is realistically a church of missionaries, sent by the Father to live actively participating in the mission of God which is to bring glory to Jesus Christ.”
Consider this, God is a missionary God, meaning He has been sending servants to accomplish His purposes from the beginning. He sent Adam to be fruitful and multiply. He sent Abraham to Canaan and established a covenant with him. He sent Moses to free the Jews from slavery. He sent Joshua, Isaiah, and many other prophets. Then in the New Testament we read, “There came a man sent from God, whose name was John” (John 1:6). John the Baptist was the last prophet to come and prepare the way for Jesus.
Jesus too was sent, and He makes this statement after His prophetic death, burial, and resurrection: “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (John 20:21). As Jesus was sent to proclaim and accomplish the Gospel, his followers are sent to proclaim and apply the Gospel in everyday living. God is a missionary God, the church is to be His missionary tool, filled with members who continue living, taking the posture of a missionary.
This is not new. To view the church as a body of Christ followers living each day as a mission from God to promote the Gospel is not a trendy postmodern fad. The church has understood this throughout history. However, it has become evident today in this postmodern era that most Christians, and most churches, seek to create and live in our Christian subculture and fail to have any effect in the culture we live. Many examples could be mentioned, but the truth is, none of us are without guilt of this tendency. It would be wise for churches, especially new churches, to seek ways to be held accountable to the commitment of missional living.
So here are some closing thoughts. Ed Stetzer said in his book Breaking the Missional Code, “The church is, and you are individually, God’s missionary to the world. Your church is God’s instrument to reach the world, and it includes reaching your community” (31). A key principle for any missionary is to know what people you are sent to live among. Your people are those you see everyday, at least for now, and as long as God allows you to live where you are.
The definition of a mission context does not exclude countries like America because we have many church buildings in our communities. “North America is not a missions context, because people are less Christian than they once were (although that is true), but because God “sent” us to North America. It is a mission field because God sent us here as missionaries” (5). This is an essential core value for any church. We should hold tightly the value that every Christian should take the posture of a missionary and live “Sent Lives.”
For my family and fellow missionaries in our core group, the days ahead will be hard and will be in vain without God. No thought becomes more clear and more perpetual than this thought moments after you decide at once to answer God’s call. Much prayer, including our many friends who read this, will be vital to the birth of this new church. Thanks for the many who continue to remind me we are not in this alone. We have benefited much from, but not limited to, the early encourage of many at Grace, McGregor, and Everglades Baptist Church. Please pray that this summer will be the season when God ignites within our small band of followers an amazing passion for those who have never known the Grace of God. God give us the desire to engage our community/cultural with Your Word and deeds.