Follow-up on “The Core”
I wanted to post some follow-up thoughts on our latest series called “The Core.” These thoughts came from our Sermon/Group Link material that was geared towards Life Groups processing this particular sermon series. I thought I would share with you some thoughts that take the sermons a little further and look at our core values from a slightly different angle. I also included some process questions to help you continue to reflect upon what we believe as a church and why.
In John 14:6 he says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Proclaiming the exclusivity of Christ in our culture today is not a popular idea. It is viewed by most outsiders (and even some insiders) as intolerant, judgmental, arrogant and lacking in grace. As a church, we must wrestle with how we can affirm the truth of Scripture maintaining relevance in the world around us and yet refusing to compromise the absurdity of the cross.
- How do you answer people that say you are intolerant for holding to Jesus as the only way to heaven?
- It is estimated that 1/3 of the people alive today have never even heard the name Jesus. How do you answer people that ask you about their eternal destiny?
- We all know plenty of nice people that are not followers of Christ. Some of them may even be extremely devout followers of other religions. How do you answer someone wondering about his or her eternal destiny?
I can fully affirm the Apostle Paul’s words to Timothy when he says in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” I can also say that I do not follow every word literally in the Bible. For instance, there is a New Testament teaching that is very plain put forth by Paul that no one in our church follows. It is found in 1 Corinthians 11:3-7: “Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is just as though her head were shaved. If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head.” We are left with the dilemma of navigating Scripture and applying it to our lives that are lived out in a far different culture than the traditions in biblical times.
- What is the difference between taking the Bible literally versus taking it seriously and authoritatively?
- How do you personally handle verses such as 1 Corinthians 11:3-7?
- Where do you draw the line when it comes to dismissing certain Scriptures based on cultural conditions and applying others authoritatively?
In our culture today, we try to produce movements using personalities, catchy programs and money. Francis Chan says, “Find the right creative team, musicians, and speakers, and you can grow any church. It doesn’t even have to be a Christian church…My point is that a growing energetic gathering is not necessarily evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work.” If you think about it, there has been a shift in our Christian culture that puts a premium on the big name speaker or band. There is also a culture of leaving worship services, conferences or chapels and talking about how we liked the sermon or the music. We rarely leave talking about what God did through His Spirit.
Chan goes on to say, “The “entertainment” model of church was largely adopted in the 1980s and ‘90s, and while it alleviated some of our boredom for a couple of hours a week, it filled our churches with self-focused consumers rather than self-sacrificing servants attuned to the Holy Spirit.” This quote speaks to us about our hearts being right before God. We must examine our hearts and get to the root of what we are really seeking when we worship God. Are we allowing God to use us however He chooses, or are we using God to advance our own agendas?
We talk a lot about God in church, but do we experience Him and His power on a regular basis? The Apostle Paul would say that is what being a disciple is about. 1 Corinthians 4:20 says, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.”
- Why do you think so many churches in our culture focus on being innovative rather than Spirit-led?
- Do you think it is possible for a church in America to operate outside of the consumer model that Francis Chan describes? What would this look like in practice?
- What ways have you seen yourself buy into the consumer model in church? How can you push back against this habit in your life?
- Would you say that your spiritual life is more about “talk” or “power”?
The idea of covenant can be found all through both the Old and New Testament. We normally think of this word in terms of marriage, but Scripture makes it clear that we should have this mentality with all of our close relationships. The Bible also assumes that you are going to be hurt by others when living in community, so it gives us advice on how to respond to these grievances. Paul says in Colossians, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:12–14
Our country reinforces hyper-individualism, and this makes any of these virtues listed by Paul an option rather than a obligation. While there are several great advantages that come with this freedom of invidivduality, there are also some dangers associated with it as well. If we do not like how someone has treated us, we can walk away from that relationship, organization or even church. In a sense, our society may be in great danger of losing the ability to cultivate deep, lasting relationships because we place such a premium on our individual freedoms.
- Why do you think Scripture puts such an emphasis on community as a part of the discipleship process?
- Do you think that you should view church membership as a covenant? Why or why not?
The Gospel in its simplest form is salvation. Scripture teaches us in Romans 6:5-14 that we are dead in our sins without the life of Christ inside of us, so the first part of the Gospel is the cleansing of sin through confession and acceptance of Christ. The second part of the Gospel establishes the Kingdom of God on earth as King Jesus reigns. This happens through a community of believers (The Church) that lives out the Gospel in ways similar to Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10. The third part of the Gospel is that it gives us hope that God is going to one day renew all creation upon his second coming.
The Apostle Paul stresses the urgency of sharing the Good News with the whole world in Romans 10:14-15. He says, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”” An essential part of the Gospel is sharing it with those who have not heard and figuring out where God is sending you as His messenger of reconciliation (see 2 Corinthians 5:18-19).
- How do you define the Gospel?
- What are some ways that you (through the power of the Holy Spirit) can help spread the Gospel based on Luke 4:16-19?
- What is the significance of the word “today” in both Luke 4:21 and Luke 19:9?
- Why do you think people took offense at Jesus’ words in Luke 4?
- If the Gospel is truly Good News, why do so many people oppose it and try to destroy believers in it?