Building a Church that Points to and Honors Christ PVI

Incarnational Churches are not led Astray 

Scripture in Hebrews, 2 Peter, and many other places clearly tell us do not be carried away, as in do not be led astray by false ideas, trends, or other things just because they are new. Lusting for something we may think is better, from a bad food to being charmed by a clever preacher, or teaching false doctrines and thinking, hey, that is their interpretation and it is OK, we will fail at being an effective church. We are just as responsible in listening to bad or false or junk teaching as the false teacher who speaks ill of God’s Word is for spreading them. False doctrines are rooted in speculative thinking and whims and not upon God’s clear Word; they kill our growing relationship with Christ and others and dissolve the incarnational approach to church life because they will leave us complacent so we do not reach forward and outward with the Gospel of Truth. What we will have is the emptiness of false ideas, meaningless rituals, and traditions that serve no purpose and do nothing to grow one’s communion with Christ or fellowship with one another. For it is by grace we are saved and we respond to God in and by faith. 

If we get too carried away with our ideas we will miss Christ, so we must be in His Word, be reflective, be in prayer to see what we are really doing and who are we serving (Psalm 31:16)? 

We must go to God’s Word—not to whims; the Bible means what it says and you can know who is false because false teachers will never use discernment or context or real word meanings. They will deceive, and not receive His Truth, thus your church will be resting on a crumbling foundation rather than the strength of Christ’s true Truth. He is our Altar and help; our truth for daily living comes from Him and nothing else—no ceremonies or special practices, for such things do no good and may even hurt us. Only by God’s special favor will we excel spirituality, in life, and in Church. For Christ suffered and paid our debt of sin so we can all live in Him and be there for one another (Lev. 7:11-18; 1 Cor. 10:18; Eph. 2:8-9; 2 Peter 2).

Building a Church that Points to and Honors Christ PV

Incarnational Churches show Brotherly Love and it is Real 

In what ways does brotherly love define you? How should it? Francis Schaeffer and others have told us over the centuries; men from Augustine, Kempis, and Aquinas as well as the Reformers have warned that the attitude and trends of the church tend to be the attitudes of the culture. We must heed this warning; for if we do not, this will be a very wrong outcome! We are called higher, to be incarnational so we can listen and put into practice what Christ teaches and gives to the lives of others. We are to be good, fruitful, and faithful as followers, first and foremost, before we can be so as followers and as leaders. We are to care for our souls and watch over and care for others too. This is Christian community and effective leadership in action—the practice and application of our faith in our lives first and then letting it pour over others. For we lead by venturing forward with our eyes upon Christ as Sovereign Lord. This is a responsibility; as we follow our Shepherd, we shepherd others. We do not dictate or lead from behind nor do we connive or manipulate out of our pride; rather, we are in front, forging ahead on His path, being the example, encourager, and teacher, cutting the way of His Way for others to see and follow. We make Him real and visible as we all come to the throne of grace. Let us be fruitful, practical, real, and faithful. If we are not, we will have enormous problems and strife instead of the love of Christ in and through our churches and us. 

As Christians who are receivers and partakers of the incarnation, we are to be in a tighter community together in Christ as Christ-followers. We are to be deep friends who are bonded as family, and take this practice unto others around us.  

The purpose of our doctrine and the study of His Word is not just for the knowledge, (which is very important), but our supreme goal should be what we do with that knowledge. This is the relationship that is growing in Christ, then outward to others around us. Remember: His shed blood paid for us! You have truly dedicated your right to yourself and church to Christ! We give Him our all! It is easy to die for a cause, but are you willing to live for Him in perfect obedience so your life is poured out, your strength is gone, and you must rely on His? Hebrews, chapter thirteen, reveals what happens when we follow the incarnation, placing it into application. This is about keeping our personal and mutual faith real and growing, which means the encouragement, support, and using of spiritual gifts, and everyone working as a team. This is the strength and prime purpose of the Church that comes from our growth and worship; without them, we will fail. Our relationship with the Lord must be transparent and not secretive (unless you live in a closed Muslim country) (Psalm 34:8; Rom. 1:8-17; Eph. 4:15-16)!

 

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.

 

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.

Be caught up with Christ!

Christ bears our stupidities. What are those for you and your church? 

How can you and your church do a better job at bringing out the best in your people, be a blessing, and not to seek self-gratification at the expense of others? 

The bottom line is this: God is in control of your church. His hand is intervening—in us, in time, in the situation—and in His timing. We will have the bad, and we will have our setbacks, trials, and our human frailties; but most important of all, we have the ultimate Good—we have Christ when we are in Christ! The application for us is what He seeks in us—the distinction of real, effectual faith that makes us able to lead and teach (if one is a Bible teacher). For a leader, it is discernment between good and false teaching, and/or good versus bad love, Fruit, and character, and/or a good versus a failing church.  

What do you think the honest reputation of your church and leadership in the pews and in your neighborhood is? 

One of the deficiencies and fickleness of character that we humans possess is the propensity of being shallow. We are like a charismatic speaker over being told the truth, a flashy dresser over something practical, and a celebrity over an intellectual or even a friend. We want a religion that does not convict or teach because we want to indulge ourselves with our desires and a pat on the back. We want our ears tickled and our problems solved; we want to feel good but we do not want to grow in faith or learn from adversity. We want comfort and not have to bother with the time and work that true spiritual formation takes. In the Gospels, Jesus walked away from the people who were flocking to Him to go after the pious, fraud leaders. 

The question we must ask, is how shallow am I? What about the people in my church? Where do I need conviction; in what areas do I need to grow? Then, we need to get up and follow Christ comforts us and assists us to do the same, to lead others out of their shallowness into the depths of His presence and Word. Jesus knows our thinking, motivations, will, and heart; this is something only God can know. Jesus has supernatural knowledge and will see through any pretentiousness and shallowness; He is not concerned with the fad and excitement, but rather how we are leading others in growing their faith. Jesus did not trust the people who were so eager because He knew they would be just as fleeting (1 Sam 16:7; Psalm 139; John 2:13-25; 4:29; Acts 1:24). 

What can be done to deepen one’s faith and life?  

What are the challenges indicated in this passage for us today? What is our true priority in how we do our church? Where is our focus, rational, and purpose? Is it all about God’s glory—or ours? Is it about what we want—or what He requires? What is the purpose of your church? 

Do not be caught up with the stimulation of trends, hype, and speculations; rather, be caught up with Christ. Do not ignore the veracity of God’s Word. His Word is explicit; He tells us what we need to know and that is that. It is a tragedy to chase what is meaningless and fleeting then miss His wonders and Truth! We have nothing to add to His Word and nothing about which to improve it; rather, it is we who need to be approved.