THIS is an exciting time here at Midtown Church!
I want to thank everyone who has thoughtfully read ‘Letters To The Church’. I pray it has helped you to apply Scripture more specifically in your life as a church body part. I thank those who attended our 1st listening session 2 Wednesday’s ago and all who gracefully shared thoughts and ideas for corporate changes.
If you are a Covenant Member or want to be, THIS Sunday & THIS Wednesday night are Big! We are clarifying the Biblical Vision for Christ’s Body, THIS body! How we go forward as a church will only be as Biblical as the level of Biblical living each of us does as individuals. We are only as strong as the weakest link! Chan’s book points us to Scripture that describes the identities we CAN grow into as ‘Body Parts’. We are here to become ‘Functioning Body Parts’… HEALTHY Parts!
Our Membership Covenant: the message is on line if you were not here. Everyone should listen to that. Today: More of God’s vision for this Body: The Biblical Identity of Every Body Part.
Chan has taken the Biblical truth about the local church and laid it out so it gives us guidance on how the Scripture envisions Jesus Christ’s Body. I am going to focus on the middle section of the book which addresses the core identity of local church members as it is described in Scripture. There is a series of identities described by these chapter titles. Chan shows how it is normal for each and every member of the Body of Christ is to be described in these ways, identities we grow in to by God’s Spirit working in us. If we are going to be as Biblical as we can as a church, then EACH of us must embrace these identities. We are all called to be GANG MEMBERS, we are all to be SERVANTS, we are all to be SHEPHERDS and we are all meant to eventually be CRUCIFIED!
We believe, based on Scripture, that the ONLY thing that makes people Members of Jesus Christ’s Body gathered together locally is their individual confession of Biblical Salvation and subsequent eternal life. This is an explicit and complete surrender of your entire life to Jesus Christ’s Lordship. We believe that all who have surrendered their lives then begin and continue throughout the remainder of this life to pursue Biblical Christ Discipleship. Biblical Salvation makes you part of The Body, Biblical Discipleship makes you a healthy, growing part of the body you belong to (YOUR Local Church). The Biblically given identity of healthy, growing members a local Body of Christ is perfectly communicate by Chan in four terms: Gang / Servant / Shepherd / Crucified
Gang Member (Undivided)
The metaphor Francis Chan uses in chapter 5 of his book ‘Letters to The Church’. It is a helpful twist on understanding how Scripture describes being part of the ‘Body of Christ’.
You join a Gang because you believe the Gang is the only place you belong. You join a Gang because there is no other choice. But it takes a ‘Whole-Hearted’ commitment…It demands ‘Undivided Loyalty’… You don’t go hang with another gang every now and then. You don’t give some of your business profits to another gang, even if they are doing some ‘Really Great’ Things’. You are ‘Undivided’ in your loyalty to the gang, just as Christs calls us to be as members of HIS body!
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.
- A description of what be each of us becomes as God makes us part of His Body
- The reasons why we give our lives to Christ are the same as how we live our life In Christ
- A oneness of love is about how we value our body parts, how we value THIS body
- Unity: John 17 ‘The Ultimate Apologetic’ Our unity proves Christ is God
- The practice of putting others first flows from a heart of unity and undivided loyalty
- We are only as united as our level of humility towards each other
- We are to imitate our Lord and Master in His selfless relational practices
- Undivided unity is a ‘Mindset’, an identity as a fully attached part of THIS body
What is the difference between serving and being a ‘servant’? One does stuff, the other IS something. It is a matter of God given identity. This is who we are supposed to be, IN CHRIST!
Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”
- The rest of the world is set up so that success is getting served
- Successful economic, social, political and health choices result in being served
- Not in the Gang…I mean Body of Christ… this is going to be opposite
- Jesus measures success by your level of servanthood
- Servanthood is more than serving (we serve to get attention & dissuade guilt)
The most narcissistic person in the world can serve others, but it take humility to truly BE a Servant. (serving is humiliating). True humility is found not in words or even public actions (public actions can be opportunities to perform). Rather humility is found in what is done day in and day out to serve Christ and HIS mission. BEING a servant means you will go unrecognized, serving Christ’s Body week after week, year after year. Consistent practice serving Christ’s Body transforms us into Servants.
Caring for those God entrust to you every way you need to, with your entire life. This is not just for Christian leaders, it is for each and every one who has surrendered their life to Jesus Christ as Lord! We are all to care for each other AS HIS BODY, THE LOCAL CHURCH!
After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter,“Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him. Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.” “Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said. A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.”
- The only thing that matters to Jesus is whether or not Peter loves HIM
- Peter is like: ‘Yes Lord’, then ‘Yes Lord’ then you are God, you know!
- ‘Feed my lambs’ is special care for baby body members to grow into the flock
- ‘Take care of my sheep’ is about watching over them where they are (local Ch)
- ‘Feed my sheep’ is about helping them grow to be more
- This is often thought of to be only for the leaders of churches (Peter 1st Pope)
- This is for the same audience as Matthew 28: It’s for everyone who loves Christ
- When we have become servants then we are ready to be ‘Care Givers’
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again.
- We are to be ‘little Christs’, so we are to eventually be ‘little Good Shepherds’
- He is going to be bringing other sheep in on a regular basis but unity remains
- He lay down His life, we lay ours down to be like Him…
- And being like Him means we join the ranks of ‘the crucified’
A Lifestyle of laying down your life for people at a local church: THGIS is where you do it, where followers of Christ have always done it! I have this as my goal, this is to be the goal of EVERY follower of Christ!
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
- Paul was not the 1st or the last to go to this place
- This is not just for ‘super christians’ this the normative
- This is the goal…we are not going to lower the bar
- To be HIS church we all need to agree and act in way that imitate this lifestyle
- This is going back to why we joined the Gang in the 1st place
First: As members of Jesus Christ’s Body Our surrender to Christ’s Lordship creates a bond as tight as a street GANG. UNDIVIDED unity that flows from each member living selflessly, imitating Christ. As a healthy, growing part of this Gang / Local Church we serve others. Through this we actually become SERVANTS in our attitude, actions and identity. As practicing servants of the local church we grow to care for other body parts and we start to become SHEPHERDS. Not only are we doing for others, but more and more will God entrusts the care & growth of others to each of us! Finally: When We are a seasoned shepherds we begin to think, feel and act as ‘a good shepherd’ (following Christ’s example) you are identified as one who lays down yourself constantly for others. Whatever it takes, in a sense being CRUCIFIED with Our Christ. If this is our pattern of living then God will truly be glorified and we will fulfill the Biblical Vision for Jesus Christ’s Church.
Standards which shape BIBLICAL church culture
- Healthy, growing members of Christ’s Body live as gang / local church members
- Healthy, growing members of Christ’s Body live as servants of the local church
- Healthy, growing members of Christ’s Body live as Shepherds in their church
If you are a follower of Jesus the normative state for you to be in is one of spiritual growth. This doesn’t happen by chance. We believe Biblical Christ discipleship is the lifestyle of EVERY member of Christ’s Body known as Midtown Church.
We want to have a conversation about where this church can grow and or change to be more biblical. But we must put the horse before the cart…as in we must operate in the proper order and that is for us all to get on the same page about what is most important to a Biblical Church Culture.
We are only as united as a body if each member is undivided. The Body Metaphor in Scripture is used because it can only be understood one way: being part of Jesus Christ’s Body is an exclusive relationship with a particular group of believers at a particular time.. Each body part is only part of one body, Biblical Christianity has always and will always be about collective ‘Body Life’.
You cannot be a Servant on your terms, a true servant serves how and when and in ways dictated by their Master. Biblical Christianity calls us to imitate our Master Jesus Christ in His Servanthood, not doing some service projects.
Each of us who confesses they love Jesus as Peter did are called to care for sheep. A Shepherd must grow into the identity. You learn to care about sheep by caring for sheep (on the job training only). Wether you care for a few or for many, there is no alternate biblical Christian Identity.
As an undivided member of THIS Gang, we become servants in heart, and deed. As we serve our Master He will grow us into the identity of a shepherd, caring for the body above our own self interests. When we do that as a lifestyle we are ‘crucified with Christ’.
GANG MEMBER: How are YOU going to reorder your life to get to being undivided here at Midtown?
SERVANT: How are you going to specifically practice ‘Being’ a servant in the coming months?
SHEPHERD: What is your plan for your ‘on the job training’ to learn how to care for other sheep here at Midtown this year?