Friday, September 10, 2010

Touching Base! Part 97

What are You Looking for in a Church?
12 Sep 10

(This article can also we found on our website at
under the tab called "Blog")

This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.

What do you value in a church? Many value authenticity. Being authentic in our relationships speaks to our need as individuals to connect with people. Studies show that significant human contact is good for one’s overall health, wholeness and happiness. For many, the lack of authenticity is a major turn off in any context but especially in the Church. Being inauthentic is where people go through the motions, smiles are as fake as the designer shoes, greeting card theology passes for spiritual meat, doubt and suffering are embarrassments. When this kind of culture is allowed to define a church, church can become a real downer.

Authenticity does not only apply to the horizontal plane but also to the vertical plane of life. Authenticity is also linked with His presence! It’s where people really connect with God. It’s where God really shows up, where we do not just talk about Him, but experience Him! Authenticity! It's where people truly grow in intimacy with God. I have listed some characteristics of a church where God authentically shows up, does His work and changes lives.

It is ...
  • A place that sees people, not just attending and pretending, but being the church 24/7
  • A place where lives are deeply challenged by the Word of God and where life change is the expectation
  • A place where human leadership is not deified, but where God's leadership is exalted.
  • A place where outrageous acts of service happen to bless those who have less
  • A place where people are committed to the hard work of relational Wholeness
  • A place where prayer is not just talked about but upheld and Prioritized
  • A place that is known by the community because when God is at work - you can't hide it or contain it.
  • A place where the most unlovable person, the most wretched person is loved, discipled and embraced.
  • A place where Christ's death and resurrection are proclaimed and people, through repentance and faith, are made new in Christ - their lives are changed both now and forever.
  • What might you add?
In Ephesians 4:3 Paul is telling the Ephesians to guard the unity of the Spirit. V.1 makes it clear that living in such a way is partly what it means to live a life that is worthy. However, if you read this text in context and read Eph. 2:21, 22 we see two other motivations to guard the unity. Unity in diversity (Jews living with Gentiles) is a reflection of the very character and nature of God (v.2:18, note God in Trinity working together in the act of salvation) and it is a place in which He desires to dwell. Let's think about the second motivation. Paul makes it very clear that God dwells in the context of unity, where diverse people come together because of their common bond in Christ. Check out Psalm 133.

So the question is, what can I do about nurturing unity in the body of Christ? Whether at Bethel Sunday mornings or in a small group or another ministry context, unity is crucial if we seek to experience the manifest presence of God. Authenticity is linked with His presence.

Let me give you two answers to that question.

1. We need to guard the unity (v.3)

The verb guard suggests difficulty and a resolute determination, ongoing determination to overcome. Literally it reads "being eager to maintain”. In other words, it’s not easy! Notice what else Paul says about our behaviour in v2. And v.1 makes it clear that Paul is describing partly what it means to live a life that is worthy.

Some questions to consider:

What context do you find yourself in that you need to guard the unity?
What makes it so difficult right now?
Who makes it most difficult, right now?
Are you just going to live with those unhealthy undercurrents?
Are you just hoping it will go away?

What is true corporately, is true individually. How many Christ followers are spiritually dwarfed because they have so many relational troubles with other Christ followers?

2. In guarding, I need to ask three questions:

Am I allowing the enemy a foothold? (Eph 4:27)

Notice “foothold” is connected with residual anger, but this is only an example of how we can give the enemy a foothold.

Foothold - meaning “any portion or space marked off”, a space, a place that is accommodating, welcoming.

Am I grieving God the Holy Spirit? (Eph 4:30)

Read v.29-32 and notice how opposite this behaviour is to what Paul describes in 4:2,3.
Grieve - to be sad, sorrowful, distressed

Do you ever think of God as weeping?
Do you ever think of God as having a heart broken?
Look at Christ and you will see a God that weeps!
Read the OT and you will read of a God that weeps!
God is sad because He has made the church for so much more, to rise so much higher, to be so much greater but the Bride has settle for so little.

Do you remember a time in your life when you grieved God? Talk about what that did to your walk with God and with others.

Am I walking in the fullness of the Holy Spirit? (Eph 5:15-18)

Remember Eph 1:14: the Holy Spirit is deposited into our lives when we move from hearing to believing. Each Christian has all the Spirit, but the command here is that the Spirit have all of him/her on an ongoing basis. We are to be aware of those other things that can intoxicate, those other cheap substitutes, and instead be filled with the Spirit. Don't reduce His influence or block Him out. You have all of Him, be sure He has all of you.

As a group pray that your group, Bethel Church and the Church throughout Kingston would be a place where God's Spirit dwells. Pray that people would take responsibility to guard the unity so that God's Spirit would be released and honoured, not grieved and shunned.


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