– Pastor Brandon’s article from the December 2017 Newsletter
“How’s the church doing?”
As the lead pastor of New Life Church, I get asked that question quite often. I regularly find myself at different social events catching up with friends, family members, and acquaintances—people who care about me and our fellowship—and they want to know how we’re doing. Sometimes, however, I’m not quite sure what kind of answers they’re looking for—what measures or standards are they thinking of when evaluating if we’re doing well. Are we asking about attendance or finances? Are we thinking about individuals within our body who may be doing well or experiencing suffering due to an illness, etc.? There are a number of pieces of information that might suffice as an answer to the question, and I see the way that I answer as an opportunity to help people think biblically about the church and its mission.
To truly answer a question like “How’s the church doing?,” we must have a clear sense of what the church is and what the church is supposed to be doing. The Bible teaches that the church is a group of God’s people. The most basic meaning of the word in the New Testament is “assembly”—a group of God’s people who have come together to walk with him. And so, God has called out a group of people who follow Jesus and assembled them into a community where they encourage, build up, and help one another along in their journey with God. Jesus tells his disciples to go and make disciples bringing them into relationship with God and teaching them to obey all that Jesus taught. This is what the church is at its core—people who follow Jesus helping others to follow Jesus.
One way that we have expressed this at New Life is that we exist to cultivate spiritual transformation in our lives and our community. What exactly does that mean? “Spiritual transformation” is all about the new life that God has for us in Christ. It is through Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross that we are brought into right relationship with God. We were once enemies of God because of our own wrongdoing, but now we have forgiveness and fellowship with God through faith in Christ. This new life is all about putting off the old self with its wrong desires, growing in relationship with God, and becoming more and more like him in his holiness and righteousness. We have been made new, and we are being transformed into his glorious image.
The phrase “in our lives and our community” is an acknowledgement of the scope of God’s transformative work. God loves me, and Christ gave himself for me. Transformation is deeply personal, and it begins with me. But, it doesn’t stop there. God is not simply concerned with my personal sin problem. He wants to save me from it, but he also invites me to participate in his plan to save the rest of humanity as well. He works through us to share his good news of life in Christ. Therefore, as I think about the ways that God wants to transform our community, I ask him about the part that I play in helping bring his goodness to my family, my church, my workplace, my city, my country, and my world.
Finally, the word “cultivate” highlights the nature of the role that we play in the transformation of others. We can help, we can nurture, we can teach and train, but we recognize that only God can cause someone to grow. Each individual is responsible for their own relationship with the Lord, and we can’t make anybody do anything. What we can do is care for others and walk alongside them to help them along the journey. I think we do this well by building genuine relationships with people, operating in the power of God’s Word and his Spirit, and serving others in love.
These are the measures we use to evaluate how we’re doing. I want to see God growing us, transforming us, making us more like him. If we’re cultivating these things within our fellowship, then we truly are doing well as God works through us for his glory.
– Pastor Brandon