On February 5th, I preached on the inheritance passages in Joshua 11-21 and asked the question "What if 'all of Berean' did the following four things?" Because I feel that these four things are foundational to our growth as a church moving forward, I wanted to take the chance to reiterate them and ask that each of us prayerfully consider our current involvement as well as what God might be calling us to do. Here are the four things I believe constitute base-line participation in the "inheritance of the saints":
1) Participation in Worship - Hebrews 10:24-25 admonishes us that meeting together for worship is an essential aspect of faithful discipleship. This is not about simply showing up and "watching a service" as though we are legalistically checking off boxes on an attendance sheet for heavenly merits. Rather, it is because our endurance and growth as believers is directly connected to being in regular fellowship for encouragement and exhortation in the faith. We have intentionally structured our Sunday morning to be an environment for that to happen. We begin by gathering all together from the diverse lives we lead Monday through Saturday to enter into the assembly of the heavenly places made possible by the death and resurrection of Christ (Hebrews 12:22-24). We offer up our prayers and praises to God, asking him to intervene in our lives and then we eagerly anticipate hearing from him in his word. Because his word requires a response from soft hearts, we then disperse into our growth groups to discuss with our brothers and sisters how we heard Him speak and to consider what he is asking of us. We then pray and ask that His Spirit would bring those responses to bear and that we would be faithful. If all Berean weekly engaged in this type of worship, think of what God could do!
2) Invest in fellowship - Each of us must make an individual commitment to follow Christ, but when we follow him, we automatically join the global family of God. Belonging to that family is as much what salvation means as our individual status with God changing. The NT speaks of each of us as being "gifts" to the body of Christ and so for others to grow, we must each make ourselves available and invest in the lives of others in our fellowship. In our context, our Growth Groups are a starting point for this, but we also encourage people to be involved in smaller groups of intimate, transparent relationships where God can use us to sharpen and spur one another on. Our 6/12 groups, which are just starting, as well as our Bible study groups, small groups and even ministry teams are all environments where these relationships can form. The emphasis is not on a particular structure or program, but rather on being in those sorts of relationships and being intentional to always be shepherding others and open to being shepherded ourselves. If all Berean intentionally loved and shepherded each other that way, imagine what God could do!
3) Serve in our gifting - To carry out the ministries that go on in the body to make possible the first two things, as well as to open our congregation to those in our neighborhoods and communities, requires that we be leading lives of sacrificial service. All of what we do in our lives is to be worshipful service (Rom. 12:1-2) carried out as priests before God (1 Peter 2:4-5) and ambassadors of reconciliation to those around us (2 Cor. 5:18-21). Thus, our oles in our families, our workplaces, our educational institutions, our community groups and organizations and our everyday economic activity should all be conceived of as service. Connected to item 2 above, we all are called to serve one another in informal and relational ways within the context of our local church. For most of us, this will also translate into formal service in a program of some kind to further the work of this body. Our desire is that each member serve in some capacity on a weekly basis. A couple of weeks ago we had a list in the bulletin of all the areas where there are opportunities to serve in that way. We do not desire to burden our people's schedules with an expectation to "be here every time the doors are open", but to commit to at least one thing that they can pour themselves in to. If all Berean were serving in this way in their lives and in our church, imagine what God could do!
4) Give faithfully - It is no secret that to accomplish anything in a fallen world requires financial resources. We are called to steward what God has given us (which is everything!) in obedience to His purposes for us. Every dollar (as well as every minute) will be accounted for someday. Again, this is not a legalistic "ought to" but it is necessary to the health and growth of us as disciples to guard our hearts from the toxin of boastful pride that glories in our possessions. It is also a demonstration of love for the church as well as a commitment to the mission of the gospel of Christ. If all Berean gave faithfully, regularly and sacrificially, imagine what God could do!
In putting these things forth in the message on February 5th and reiterating them here, I am not suggesting that none of us are doing these things already. Indeed, Berean has many people who are doing a good deal above and beyond this baseline. All of us, though, need to constantly evaluate our discipleship and whether we are heeding God's voice. Also, I do not claim to be able to say specifically what any one should do, but these four broad categories are biblically the types of things that characterize healthy spiritual growth and so I have attempted to provide insight into how those are given expression in our context. Finally, my heart is to encourage us to look beyond what we see in front of us and to envision the scope of the inheritance God has for us if we would just step out in faith to claim it. Imagine what God could do if we would let him!