As we allow the Lord His rightful place as Head of the Church we’re seeing a need for a lot of our lifestyle practices to be changed. For instance, in the past, one saw ‘church-people’ being recognized by the way they dressed on a Sunday and also because of the ‘church’ buildings they entered into for worship purposes. Today, we believe God is restoring a ‘lifestyle’ that will allow us, irrespective of the way we dress or the buildings we attend, to be seen as His church. This is seen by the way we worship Him, approach life and by the way we respond to difficult circumstances in the work place and in life.
As we allow the Holy Spirit opportunity to help us live lives that glorify Christ, we are learning new truths about church. God wants people to see his presence in us. The Bible tells us that God wants others to recognize us as ‘believers’ by who we are, and not by our religious practices that very seldom affect other people’s lives.
By being Kingdom-centered (i.e. ‘God and other people’ centered) we want our lifestyle and speech to make who we are so obvious to others that we won’t have to call attention to it. For instance, if you are a man, we know that we don’t have to go to the shopping mall to tell people that we are male, they can see it. It’s obvious. When we call attention to the obvious we are seen as behaving strange. Well, it should be exactly the same when we live out the Acts 2:42-47 blue print in our lives on a 24/7 basis. We’ll be seen as followers of Christ who make up His Church and as a result won’t have to continually call attention to the obvious. This was the case in Antioch where we are told that the early disciples were recognized as believers because of their lifestyles, and as a result, were later called ‘Christians’ by the unsaved community. Note, they didn’t call themselves Christians because if they did so, this would simply draw attention to the obvious. No, Scripture tells us “they were first called Christians in Antioch” (Acts 11:26). These people were sold out to Christ’s cause and as a result were recognized as Christians in everything they did and in everything they said (Philemon 1-7). As a leadership, we are desperate for God’s kingdom to be seen in each of our lives in exactly the same way.
This is why it’s our desire to continually refocus our attention back onto Christ and His original blue-print, an exciting blue-print that resulted in people being added to the local church daily. This is also why it’s so important for each one of us to be willing to let go of any incorrect concept of church that we might have been influenced with in the past. We need to allow God to enable us to become the exciting, community-changing people whom He always intended us to be from the beginning i.e. to become a people who have a lifestyle that others have always longed for, a lifestyle that reflects life, forgiveness, acceptance, community, hope and laughter.
In the past it has often been reasons such as the inadequate preaching of the Gospel, coupled together with an inconsistent Christ-centered lifestyle, and further frustrated by the absence of a basic doctrinal foundation, that has resulted in many people not being ‘fully born’ into the Kingdom. When this happens, we find some ‘Christians’ not willing to submit to the leading of the eldership, others who have a non-committal attitude in attending vital meetings of the church whether on a Sunday or mid-week, others who are ill-disciplined in their personal times with the Lord and still others who argue against tithing and financial support. Basically, these people are still independent in spirit with a limited understanding of the claims of the lordship of Christ on their lives. Over the years, it is believed by men such as Dr. Billy Graham that tens of thousands who have ‘responded’ to the Gospel, fall away because inadequate ‘spiritual birth procedures’ have been put into place. This happens when the new converts are not informed of the Holy Spirit coming into their lives at conversion; when they are not given instruction concerning baptism; and are not introduced to a local church family and community (life group) so that they can be cared for and discipled from day one.
Because we as a leaders desire God’s best for His church, we are NOT wanting to produce a mutant breed of genetically ‘in-house’ engineered ‘converts’. That is, a breed of people whose relationship with the Lord and with others is established on what we think, and not on what the Scriptures say. We don’t want to expose people to teachings that will result in them being left with a shallow and inadequate theological base and philosophy of church.
To the contrary, we are convinced that the real Gospel is not “Come to Jesus and get all your desires fulfilled” but rather “Jesus is Lord, so what are we all going to do about it?” We want the mystery and the majesty of our God to be lived out through the lives of each one of us coming together to form His church, in the city and the nations. As leaders, we want to do everything possible, with our God’s help, to assist each member in this church family to regain the capacity to live in the exciting manifest presence of our God with increasing intensity, every day.
Finally, two of the primary values we hold dear are our personal relationships with our God and Father, and our community relationships with each other as Christ’s church. We have come to realize that God lives in our friendships, not in our meetings. It is the love or lack of it between us i.e. the love God puts in our hearts for each other as His people, that will attract others to Him. People will always firstly be attracted to us and our values, and only thereafter, attracted to our God. People must first see something in us they desire, before we go offering them something synthetic which they see no worth asking for. The Bible says we are the ‘living stones’ that build up this thing called the church, and it is God’s love within us that acts as the cement that binds us together (1 Peter 2:4,5 and Ephesians 2:19-22).
God wants to build us together in such a way that His strength will be seen through our unity. But our enemy, the Devil, knows this truth and as a result wants to infiltrate our relationships, split us apart, divide us, create offence and cause the “living stones” to be detached one from the other. This is why we need to know who we are and why we are here so that we can become intentional about practically loving each other, speaking well of each other, as well as being patient and more accommodating with each other.
It has been said that there is no time like the present, so right now could be a great time to get alone with God, and as you do, re-establish your covenant with Him by making a fresh commitment on your part toward the other believers involved in your local church family.
A great starting point would be to firstly covenant with the Lord in your commitment to love the guys and girls in your church family. This can be done by faithfully attending both the Sunday and midweek community meetings, as well as our corporate monthly gathering times when all the congregations come together at one venue. Everything else on your social agenda should come second to these designated ‘church family times’ together, because our fellowship with each other will result in God’s blessings coming upon our individual and family members.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Will and his wife Pam have been in ministry for over 38 years and form a part of the leadership at Joshua Generation Church. Will is currently primarily involved in ministering across the greater global field of Four12 partnering churches. You can follow him on Facebook.
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