If the Lord permits, I think that I’ll spend a few weeks unpacking what it means for us, as followers of Christ and members of His body, to create and embrace a gospel culture. After all, you and I are gospel people!
Since our church family just completed a long journey through the Book of Acts, I’ll share with you a critical insight from the late Dr. Francis Schaeffer. Commenting on the believers whose lives and ministries we just studied, Dr. Schaeffer rightly observed: “One cannot explain the explosive dynamite, the dunamis, of the early church apart from the fact that they practiced two things simultaneously: orthodoxy of doctrine and orthodoxy of community in the midst of the visible church, a community which the world could see. By the grace of God, therefore, the church must be known simultaneously for its purity of doctrine and the reality of its community. Our churches have so often been only preaching points with very little emphasis on community, but exhibition of the love of God in practice is beautiful and must be there.”
I’m simply trying to point out that, though gospel culture starts with sound doctrine (preaching and teaching), sound doctrine is only the beginning. In order for the gospel of Jesus to truly permeate our experience of “life together” (community), the life of Christ must extend well beyond the Sunday morning sermon. It must color every dimension of our relationships with each other. A gospel-centered pulpit is a must-have, but it’s when the saints in the pews are giving real-life grace to one another that the church is enjoying a gospel culture. That’s when the Holy Spirit can make us a safe place, where we’re all able to admit our own brokenness and to grow together from there. And that’s where the real beauty begins.
First Baptist Paducah, are we a safe place?
I’m inviting each of you to help me answer that question in the days ahead. And, if we conclude that we’re not a safe place, my prayer is that we will do whatever it takes to remedy that, and to create the type of church community which we all need (and secretly crave).
Here’s the deal: we want Christ’s gospel to press in on us at every level! That means that we’re not just passively hearing it preached, but that we’re actively living it out!
So let’s start this miniseries by my offering a few goals for our family of faith …
1. We want each person to feel free to be themselves. We all have plenty of room to grow, and there’s no denying that, but we want everybody to feel loved right where they are.
2. We want to feel free to confess our sins. We want to be, for each other, such a grace-filled community that nobody feels looked down upon (or gossiped about) because they came clean about how they’re really doing.
3. We want to be able to express our needs without having to fear that we’ll be labeled, ridiculed, or marginalized simply because we have needs. (Humans have needs.)
4. We want our church to be a space where it’s perfectly O.K., for anyone and everyone, to be “under construction.” We’re not there yet, friends. We want the climate of our gatherings, and in fact that of all of our interactions, to be a climate of patience and hope. Hope in God. Hope in and for each other.
The Apostle Paul’s great love chapter includes a powerful reminder: Love … believes all things (1 Corinthians 13:7). If you ask me, that means that you and I are to major in giving each other the benefit of the doubt. Maybe, just maybe, that’s where the grace-fuse gets lit!
More next week …