Tag Archives: church

What is God doing amongst our Community of Believers?

10 Jun

I have been part of the Amblecote Christian Centre community from the age of three. During the many years I have spent involved in this community of believers God has been at work in a fundamental way.

Eight years ago there was a change in church leadership in terms of its structure and more traditional leadership style. The church community had previously relied and appointed one man as a pastor to oversee the church community, give direction and vision, preach sermons and many other duties involved in leading. However, the church leadership changed as God sought to challenge the way we thought concerning the purpose of his body. We no longer relied on one man; rather, we formed a leadership team to oversee the duties of the church fellowship. The mission and vision befitted God’s heart for our community and was ‘to equip believers to build the Kingdom of God on earth as it is heaven’. The whole community took up the mantle to be empowered to build God’s Kingdom as he looked to change the traditions to which we had become accustomed.

After a period of time God revealed in many ways our religiousness. He spoke to us clearly through scriptures such as Matthew 15:8, “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” God revealed to many in the congregation that though they performed good works, were actively involved in community projects, giving and charity, their hearts were still in bondage to the world. We talked and acted like ‘good Christians’ on the outside yet inwardly our affections for self prevailed. Many also struggled with issues of self righteousness and even penance (though not overtly), trying to atone their sins by good works, therefore feeling more acceptable to God.

The further God revealed our helplessness, vulnerability and inability to keep his commandments, the more he unveiled his son Jesus to us. We slowly came to realise that our efforts and good works were no match for the work Christ had accomplished at the cross. Our need to be in control of our destinies and assurance were triumphed by Christ’s faithfulness and his suffering at Calvary.  Chapter three of Philippians promenaded itself within our midst as we understood more clearly that all our righteousness was likened to filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6) and our pharisaic ways were now being considered garbage (Philippians 3:8) as we sought ‘to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.’ (Philippians 3:10-11). Our fundamentals had been shaken as God delighted in making the congregation’s foundation Christ rather than man.

As a church we embarked on a teaching series in the book of Romans as God captivated us with the truth of the gospel. The teaching could be summed up in four main categories:

1/ Individualism

Previously many had viewed the gospel and soteriology as individualistic. We believed God to be more concerned with saving individuals than vindicating his collective people. Failing to see Paul’s emphasis on community, we often risk endorsing a faith ‘that teaches our mutual interdependence into a religion of privatized piety’.[1]

Our understanding is now being transformed by the gospel that is much greater than my personal plan of salvation; the gospel affects society, politics, education, creation and us corporately as a community.

2/ Consumerism

Consumerism influences our society and culture tremendously. We pick and choose what we like when we like. Often this mentality influences how we approach Jesus and his word. As a community many would admit that our understanding of God was pick and mix, often selecting the scriptures and doctrines of Christianity we wanted to hear and discarded others that weren’t so pleasing, therefore giving us a warped view of the gospel.

Now, as we read scripture and walk together as a community we try to focus on centralising Christ and his word, ensuring we submit to the gospel holistically.

3/ Existentialism

Existentialism plays a huge role in our current world in which our individual existence thrives on feeling and experience to determine truth. God conversely challenged the church’s desire to determine truth through feeling and experience. Many of us looked for experiences of God on a Sunday morning but were duly disappointed when God ‘did not turn up’. Feeling and experience are important; however this became the sole focus.

God is currently helping us to ‘worship in spirit and truth’ (John 4:24), ensuring our understanding of the gospel is not shaped exclusively by experience and feeling but by God’s word and our faithfulness to it.

4/ Imperialism

Under previous models of leadership within the church, many believed that those in a leadership role were more superior and important, especially in terms of ministry. Many attended church on a Sunday morning and felt the position of the pastor was more important than the everyday congregational member’s role in society and working environment.

Through a change of leadership and understanding of the gospel we now seek not to construct an imperial, superior model of church membership, rather we endorse the gifting of all believers, and function to serve one another in building the Kingdom of God together under the headship of Christ who is impartial.

Conclusion

God has worked in many ways to bring the church community to the foot of the cross. We are being moulded into his image through his word. God uses many circumstances that are not always pleasant to bring us into submission to him. He is always gracious and merciful to us and we now understand more fully our ‘sonship’ and his loving ways of disciplining us as a father does his ‘son’.  God continues in Christ to bring us to the foundations of our faith, enlightening us to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. By no means are we perfect, however there is no doubt God is moving within the church community as he brings to completion the great work he started.

Bibliography

New American Standard Bible, Tennessee: Holman Bible Publishers, 1985.

Thompson, Michael B., The New Perspective on Paul, Cambridge: Grove Books Ltd, 2010.


[1] Thompson, ‘The New Perspective on Paul’, P.6