Building a Church that Points to and Honors Christ PIV

Incarnational Churches Go to People 

Following Christ means just that: we follow His character and teachings. We also follow Him so He takes us where the people and needs are and where we can meet Him there. This may require the deliberate rearrangement of our traditional thinking, so our lives apprehend the application He has for us. This may mean planting a church where it needs to be, making ministry and relationship happen where the people and needs are. I learned many years ago from the founder of Young Life, Jim Rayburn (who was a Calvinist and a Presbyterian pastor) that we must go and not wait until they show up. Because our thinking in the Reformed Church as well as many Evangelical churches tends to be to wait for them to come to us, which is seen also as the template for the mainline churches. Well, people will not come; we have to go to them and live our lives well enough that they will want to come to us to meet Christ and worship Him. We have to see people as separated from God, who can’t or won’t see Him because of the clouds of hurt and culture, and of course, sin. They need an example more than they need answers; they need hope and love more than they need a tract or a onetime program, and they need to see it as consistent. Because in God’s sight, every person is important; everyone is a gift, made in His image, and we are to display that image of what each one can be. 

The question is: are you willing to rearrange your life so that you can be with people who matter to Jesus? And who are they? Jesus says they are our neighbors! 

Incarnational churches do not have programs that only cater to those who come; they go to others too. We can’t be a “come and see” organization; we have to be a movement that also “goes and tells.” We can have the goal, hope, and mindset to make our church totally focused on Christ and His Way. It is how we lead, how we treat others, and how and where we go that represent the ways of Christ. People see the church by how they see Christians in action. How they see God is how He is displayed and deployed in the life of believers. Thus, our template, vision, and goal as a local church are by the teaching and example of Christ. Period. We are called to love and to continue to do so to build our church for Christ’s glory no matter what the circumstances or oppositions. In so doing, we show hospitality to both those we know and those we do not know.

 

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Building a Church that Points to and Honors Christ PIII

Incarnational Churches are Impacted by Christ 

Christ’s Incarnation was about His building a crossing for us by His cross, so the unsaved may become Christians, and then we are to build a crossing for others so they can know Him too. We do this in our personal lives; as leaders, we bring our growing, impacted relationship with Him into leadership as a servant, which is what “servant leadership” is all about. Then we model this so it becomes a contagious practice collectively for the body of believers with a since of deep and profound love and gratitude for our Lord, and then seeing others as His children too. Thus, as we practice church, we bring Christ to others as Christ was brought to us in birth (Eph. 3:14-21). 

This is an aspect of servant leadership, where God calls us to a higher level of excellence, one of love—so that our call, vision, ability, and integrity are all translated into functionality for a healthy, vibrant, triumphant church. In “Incarnational Leadership,” we will lead the way Christ led; in the incarnation is at church, we treat and go to others the way Christ did. Then we commit to lead, but not in the ways of the world, or in the way of others who are biblically ignorant who may manage our churches, or of those whose eyes are on worldly wants. So, we are the influencers and not partakers of our neighbourhoods and world.  

What does this look like? The Epistle to the Hebrews’ closing chapter shows us this call with an exhortation to be incarnational in our love. The word “incarnational” is not there, but the concept is. In fact, love is one of the main themes of Hebrews as well as many of Paul’s Epistles and of course, was the pinnacle of Christ’s work and teachings. We are to love fueled from our hope and faith, all of which make a triad of primary virtues from which all Fruit and character flow. This is what being “impacted” means. We are in full contact in and by Christ, fully engaged in Him so we can build our faith that helps us bridge our interpersonal relationships. We do this as people who love the Lord and, as a collective of Christians, show others that we are true and genuine followers. We show others our love, caring for people because we are being dependent upon Christ and His precepts in order to be real and effectual in Kingdom values and the modelling of His ways to the world (Phil. 2:6-8).

 

Building a Church that Points to and Honors Christ PII

Incarnational Churches First and Foremost Display Christ 

How well is Christ displayed and deployed in you and your church?  

Our call is to live for Christ, and we do this when we live in Christ, reaching for others through Christ,. But first, we have to take a serious, self-introspective examination to see how well we display Christ. If not, we will get it wrong and misrepresent Christ and His call. Yet, pastors and Christian leaders think they are doing well by their efforts, pointing to the mega church stars, programs, and/or resources. Yet, in reality we are not; our people are not being connected, not growing, and not being fed and led in a deep, more impacting relationship with Christ as Lord.  And thus, they do not see others as important and rarely will go to them. We forget that we have a heritage, call, and purpose, that our Head is Christ, and our model and template for who and what we are and do is found in Him; this is found in the incarnation (Phil. 4:10-23). 

The incarnation simply means God came to be one of us, as a man. He was fully man while at the same time remained fully God. This is why He could identify with our plight in life and also take our place in punishment. He lived a normal human existence for over 30 years; He experienced all that we experienced, including all the emotions, relationships, and temptations. He was and is amongst us.  

What is being incarnational? It is found in the truth of how Christ came, lived, and how He lives in us. Christ came to us, and in so doing, we are to go to others in His Name. He is the cause of our being a Christian; collectively as a Church, He is our Redeemer Who, for necessity, had to come save us. Jesus Christ is God, Who was one of us, living in this world and in its sin. Yet, He remained sinless. He did not concede to worldly ways or the temptations at hand; thereby, He enabled us to be saved so that we would not be lost forever. This all comes down to what the Church is to do, which is the cause for which we celebrate, and that is Worship and discipleship that is a place to go to and as a movement on the go to others. This is what we celebrate this holiday season as the Christmas miracle. The incarnation is the miracle that truly happened for our salvation. The incarnation must also be to us an application in how we relate to God and to others as well. 

Christ’s incarnation means we become what He will have us be so we are living out the Gospel as our lives are touching other’s lives, even at church. We are transformed by being rooted in the life of our Lord! Therefore as He takes us, we take Him with us to others. 

Yet, from our research and experience, this is rarely practiced effectively. We forget His sacrifice and replace it with our pride, agenda, and trends, thinking we are doing the right thing. It is ironic that a lot of churches will do a lot with marketing and promotion but little to build one’s faith and the marketing of one’s self to display the goods of our lives in Him. What our label is as a local Christian church can be totally different from what is inside of us personally and on our campus.

Building a Church that Points to and Honors Christ PI

Learning from Who Christ is and what He has done to be a Church in Love  

Ephesians 3 and Hebrews 13 

What is your church up to?  

We, as followers of Christ wo worship, fellowship, and serve in His local church must realize we are the containers of His grace, both as individuals and as a communal assembly. This means we are also the display cases of His presence, love, and principles for one another in the church as well as to others outside of the church. This comes about from our faithfulness and fruitfulness; we must do a better job at this. When we do live in and for and through Christ, something extraordinary happens. Our churches become beacons of His grace, lighthouses of collective abundance by our love and care, and we even go to people in need. People feel loved and part of something real, impacting, and effectual.

Unfortunately, we tend to miss the mark on what Christ would have us do concerning how we relate to and treat one another in His Body, His Church. And, many who come to our places of worship see little evidence of this abundance of faith and fruit in action; neither do they see us coming to them (Mark 3:1-6; 1 Cor. 15:20; 2 Cor. 5:20; Gal. 5:19-23; Heb. 10:38; James 2:12-13; 2 John 1:6; Rev 2:1-3:22). 

Being an “incarnational church” means we have a grasp on who Christ is and who we are in Him. This is the foundation of being a Christian. Who is He? What did He do for me? What is my role and purpose? How do I relate and treat my fellow believer and neighbor? These themes stand out as we celebrate Christmas, because Christmas is the celebration of what the incarnation is, that is, that Christ, being fully God Who created the universe and Who always existed, chose to come down to us, to be one of us. In so knowing, we can be doing by practicing the incarnation in the lives and places of others. Therefore, we as a church are the people of God living out the Gospel in other’s and our cultural climate just as Jesus, who dwelled and moved among us, did.

Got Intimacy with Christ?

Do you long for intimacy with Christ as Lord and love of your life?

Christ gave us grace from His love to make Him our home of faith and motivation in life. Then, He prepares an eternal home for us too. The question is, as Christians, do we give back our worship, praise, gratitude, and devotion to Him? Are we at home with Him as our main inspiration, impulse, and comfort in this life, not just in the life to come (John 14:23)? 

We can be assured He cares and loves us beyond description; but, do we love Him back?

God has a purpose for this world and for our lives and it is all about communion in and with Him. We must find a way to increase our awareness and love for Christ in our daily lives so our lives mean something more than just “what I want” and “what I can get.” It must be Christ-focused, for this is what Heaven is all about too! 

Christ brings us Heaven! He brings peace and a future to us who do not deserve it. Because of Him, we have hope and a future and most of all, we have Him both now and forevermore! What is better than that?! There is nothing that can be a greater motivator and comfort than knowing for certain who Christ is, what He has done, and what place He has for you and me! Now, let us live our lives as if that is true—because it is true. And, keep in mind these powerful passages as well as John 14 in mind, as love and obedience are connected in Him!

How to be a Capable Leader

There is no substitute to time spent in the face of our Lord! 

The capable leader for any church or ministry must be rooted in Christ first and foremost! Like a Bible student who is and grounded in the spiritual disciplines of the faith, whose drive is their passionate love relationship to the Lordship of Christ which give the knowledge base and empowerment for ministry. And what flows out of it is the desire to love God’s people, to herd them with love into the pastures of maturity. To lead where the leader has been before, and the people have not been. The mature Christian or leader must exhibit the maturity of the Christian life as the result of their growth and experience in the faith. An effective leader cannot be new to the faith. Even the Apostle Paul spent three years being discipled by Barnabas, and he received his call and was empowered directly from Christ Himself. I have seen too many immature Christians who lead by who they are in society, and not who they are in Christ.

A few years ago while on staff at a church, we received a family who came to faith at a crusade, and the father was the founder of a major fast food franchise. So in less than a year he was my boss, and the president and ruling Elder of the congregation. Now he was a great guy and very successful in business, but he did not know how to run a church. So he instinctually ran it like a business and his policies failed. He did not know how to lead in a church, which is more like a family and less like a business and much different than in a corporation, even though a lot of the principles are transferable. After several years he did become a good leader as he matured in the faith. But the church suffered during his learning curve needlessly.

There is no substitute to time spent in the face of our Lord, with a surrendered heart and a learning will. We must be willing to be humble no matter who we are and our experience.

I had to learn this lesson a few years back when I went from being on staff at a large and influential church to a small church in a small town. My first thought before accepting the call was that I was too good for it. But God wanted me there to teach me to walk closer to him, and not walk in the position that I held. So I did, and I experienced humbleness. Nobody knew me as the conference speaker or author or big position in a big church, but just a youth pastor in a small church. But this is where Christ wanted me, and I learned a lot. It prepared me for the road He had for me. And I’m glad I went there because I learned things in a broader context, that I could not have in a large “mega” church.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.

Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. (2 Timothy 2:15-16; 22-24)

This passage is a testimony to the importance of holiness, and to keep ourselves growing in our spiritual lives so that our emotional selves are impacted and grow too.

Spiritual maturity will lead into emotional maturity most of the time, unless there is some physiological or psychological problem, or deep stress that has never been resolved. It is imperative for the leader to be in control of their emotional health. If not, they need to step down and seek help both spiritually and psychologically. If the leader is given to fits of rage or is just overly emotional, they cannot set the example that Christ has. We are not to be Vulcan’s exhibiting pure logic and no emotions, absolutely not. God created us as emotional beings, but as with anything we must have control of the excess and the potential for rampage.

Building a Church that points to and honors ME!?

These next few blogs will be about learning from enigmatic, prideful, megalomaniac folks who have new trends and ideas, who are on the cutting edge, who seem to come across as relevant, impacting, inspiring, exciting and connecting… so we can move our church closer to ourselves and further away from Christ. Then I can say, look at ME! And to do that, I need to do? Look to myself! Look to others I like and who I would like to be like. Then I need to seek, what can I do to ignore the Bible and God’s Word, replace it with my ideas and the latest and greatest movement and claim I am great; I am His most vital servant and trendsetter?  

Me, me ,me, me, church is all about me, what I want, what I need, who can please me to make me look and feel good???  

Sounds good right? It should be, this is our sinful nature at work, that is what most pastors and churches are doing these days either by fault or by happenstance. Perhaps what you are doing, right? Think not?! Then drop to your knees! But…do you do this: How do I please myself, how do I get people to please me and to focus on me and my desires and how do I get my church people to bend to my will has their lord and master???  Seriously, is there even a hint of this in you or your church? I know it has been in me… placing the focus on the self and not on The Christ! If so, REPENT or get out of ministry! 

OR, or, or, we can do it right! Look to Christ! We can model, learn and seek Who Christ is and what He has done, His Lordship and live out and communicate this in love to be a Church in His Love to share His love….Building learner’s, builder’s, and appliers’ of His Word and Love!