Summer Sermon Series

Dear Discover Church Family,

The United States is in a crisis. We have instant access to information…and misinformation. Advertising and opinions are thrust invasively in front of our eyes. These come through written text that can be published in a moment without the requirement of using resources to transfer ideas into print print with physical qualities. These come through images…still photos and moving pictures, typically in short form. These come through sound bytes, and often without context.
We often feel forced to make decisions and come to conclusions without considering the bigger picture. Our interaction and engagement with this information can draw us into a surreal picture of reality, in which we feel a surface connection with many people, while failing to acknowledge this is also creating a shallowness of connectedness with the few who are within arm’s reach.
In our current crisis, the influence of identity formation has largely been handed over to corporations that see people of all ages simply as a means to a profitable end. They grow their influence and power at the expense of the local community, sowing division where there was peace. A wedge is driven by marketing to the preferences and pleasures of different demographic groups, making the challenge ever more difficult for people of different generations and backgrounds to relate with one another. The Covid pandemic and the responses to it that disrupted normal rhythms of life had the effect of accelerating this process.
The opening sentence was missing three words, a prepositional phrase: the church in. Because the church in the United States is in a crisis. Last week I watched a news video titled An Uncivil War: An Evangelical Divide and I’ve been seeing a lot of concern from other pastors over “Christian nationalism.” In a casual poll of Evangelical pastors on a single biggest challenge facing the church, this was the one mentioned by the majority. 
Many Christians are migrating from churches they were a part of for many years not because of matters in which doctrine was compromised, but because of positions on masks. Because pastors were too political, or they weren’t being political enough. Many churches began streaming online, and as many churches were already struggling to be the expression of Christ-centered community as the Bible laid out for us, watching a sermon and a few songs on a screen at home didn’t feel all that different from going to a church service. 
While the impact that national politics are having on the church is evident, there are many other factors, and what the church is experiencing today is the fruit of seeds that have been planted for decades and even centuries. We can find books printed by U.S. presses as old as 100 years that prophetically recognize the things we are seeing today beginning to take root.
Throughout the history of humanity, the formation of identity has been nurtured primarily within family and local communities. As communities developed, collaboration would happen to help others in those communities into have the values and tools that were needed for their own survival and thriving as well as the community’s, as these were intertwined and instrumental in creating identity. When the church was established as a gathering of born again disciples in Jesus Christ, it would be become unlike any other social entity the earth has ever known, the only community in which a person’s identity is formed having been restored into an eternally life-giving relationship with the Creator of everything.
Where is this leading? 
This has been on my heart for some time, and these themes continue to emerge in what I read and in conversations with people in our church family. We are going to take an intentional detour from the book of Mark to explore the key points in Scripture from Genesis through Revelation about God’s love and intention for the people he has redeemed, who come together in Christ to form this thing we  call (the) “church.”Notice—the emphasis here is not the church…it is the coming together of the people Christ has redeemed.
This is about your identity: who you are in Christ and within the community he established to come into healing and wholeness, to know and experience and then represent the God of all creation in Christ, the hope of the world.
As we continue forward together, would you please pray Ephesians 6:10-20 for me and for Discover Church?

What’s Multicultural Church?

It’s the church.

This is a topic we’ll look more deeply at in Re:Discovering the Mission of God, but this question has come up recently, so I’m taking some time to cover it here.

In Re:Discovering the Mission of God, we are taking time to go through Scripture and challenge our assumptions. We all have many assumptions that are shaped by our culture, and we are on a mission to rebuild on Christ alone, looking to God’s word as God’s tool to sanctify us and bring us into greater Christlikeness. The things that were being addressed are issues that may emerge within our own hearts, lives, and churches, issues that there is always opportunity to receive forgiveness for when we confess our sin and receive forgiveness in Christ (1 John 1:8-10).

When the Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to write the letters that are in the canon of Scripture, a few of those letters were originally written to individuals, but most were written to saints gathered together as the witnessing community and the body of Christ…the church. Romans, Corinthians, Thessalonians, Colossians, Philippians, Ephesians, the names we routinely call these books are derived from the key cities in which the recipients lived. Many of us are familiar with the passage regarding the meat sacrificed to idols (1 Corinthians 8), the famous verse that there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female in Christ, but unity in Christ (Galatians 3:28), and various passages written to bring truth to lies of legalism.

When we consider the context of these passages, it wasn’t necessarily individual sin being addressed, but sins that were emerging as normative within churches, patterns of thought and belief that were affecting the church’s witness of the Gospel and rootedness in Christ. Many of these issues could have been easily avoided by doing one simple thing: planting separate churches for Jews and Gentiles. But ever since the Holy Spirit confirmed to Peter that the Holy Spirit had come upon Gentile in Cornelius’ home (Acts 10-11), the only language that distinguishes any church from another relates to geographic location, such as those addressed by Christ in Revelation 2-3.

If we look at Scripture alone, multicultural would be to church as tall is to giraffe. It goes without saying. So why talk about it now? As the Gospel goes forth into every tribe and nation, there are many cities, towns, and villages, in which there is a single culture. Throughout the world, in places as diverse as some rural Wisconsin farming communities and villages in the shadow of Mt. Kilimanjaro, multicultural church would simply be foolishness. Our church family doesn’t congregate in one of those places. We are the ekklesia in a community that is home to people with many different backgrounds. Some are even from unreached people groups, having never had the opportunity to hear and understand the Gospel of Christ.

To reach these people, the leaders in our church need to grapple with the reality of culture. In Re:Discovering the Mission of God, after we look to Scripture to inform our understanding of the church, giving it permission to challenge our preconceptions, we will also grapple with how to best communicate the Gospel within our multicultural context.

Putting off the comforts and values of one’s culture so others may be reached is not just the call of an overseas missionary, but it is a lifestyle all Christians are called to as we look to Christ, the Son of God. In Philippians 2 we read that Christ emptied himself and came incarnate into a family displaced from their home due to political oppression, grew up in a foreign country and then the backwoods of Israel, living in such perfect obedience to the Father that he gave himself up on a cross for our behalf. Because of this, we are called to do nothing from self-focus but considering others more important than ourselves.

In 1 Peter 4:13 we are encouraged to rejoice if we share in Christ’s suffering. If we have this opportunity before us to be the church…(multicultural)…the church of this community…it’s not going to amount to suffering. That doesn’t mean it won’t be hard. In fact, it has to be hard. Because putting others first is difficult. Dying to self is meant to be difficult. If we desire the harvest, we choose what is difficult. This doesn’t mean choosing what is joyless or burdensome. It means that in the struggle, we find a greater intimacy with Christ, and we discover that’s worth more than what we lost. 

A few people have brought up questions about why some things are being done a different way, or being moved around. Some people heard the reasons when they were shared with the congregation, some didn’t. Likewise, some are confused on why these questions are coming up, because they understood that these things are in line with why the church called a new pastor. All of that is OK! This is a reminder that even within the same culture, communication can take on such nuance that individuals can leave with different understanding of what was said. That’s why it’s so important to dedicate ourselves to understanding our mission, vision, and values, which are all focused and flowing from Christ.

To expound on this: just as we can have difficulty communicating and understanding each other, it was the same in the First Century church. In Colossians 2:6-10 we get a sense of what can bring confusion, and then how to overcome it: “So then, just as you have received Christ Jesus as LORD, continue to live in him, being rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with gratitude. Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elements of the world, rather than Christ. For the entire fullness of God’s nature dwells bodily in Christ, and you have been filled by him, who is the head over every ruler and authority.’

What brings confusion? Philosophies, traditions, and deceit that are from the world. What bring unity and clarity? Being rooted and built up in Christ, overflowing with gratitude, being filled with Christ’s Spirit. 

It’s easy to become myopic and forget that the things we are doing as a church are small and active steps toward setting aside the things that draw our focus away from Christ, toward finding unity in Christ. God doesn’t need us, and He doesn’t need our church. But we want to be with Him, as close to Christ in his suffering as we may be. 

We need to be ready to receive—radically welcome!—those who aren’t like us. You’ll see over the next few weeks and months how moving a particular thing creates space for employing effective methods of teaching Christ and his Kingdom, for more healing ministry, helping us to be more conscientious toward those in our community who we want so desperately to know and enjoy Christ.

It’s not the responsibility of every person in the church to grapple through the questions regarding culture, and it’s not good to continue using sermon and teaching time to try and cover these things. But Re:Discovering the Mission of God is about engaging with the word of God, praying together, learning together, and listening to one another because these are the steps toward laying off other traditions and philosophies and finding unity in Christ. It’s a path to leadership that requires faith.

Faith is action based upon the word of God. Faith is never inactive. It prepares. It anticipates. Faith prepares the soil for harvest. In Ecclesiastes 3 we read that there is an occasion for everything, and a time for every activity under heaven, including “a time to plant and a time to uproot…a time to tear down and a time to build.” If we do not uproot, if we don’t tear down, we can’t expect to be built up again. We must allow the truth to wound our pride, to tear us, so we can be healed, bound up, and revived, and experience a renewal of the LORD’s presence in our midst (Hosea 6:1-3). Then we may dream together of being the church in this city that shows Christ is for all who live in this city.

Faith Over Fear in 2022

The Two Dog Analogy

Have you ever heard the analogy of the two dogs? My guess is that most of us have heard this in some form or another. Many, like me, have probably heard a version of it in a sermon before. It’s made its way into pop culture. The illustration made its way into the Disney movie Tomorrowland, family-friendly fare starring George Clooney and Hugh Laurie and based on the area of Disneyland sharing the same name.

This story is simple: if you have two dogs, the dog you feed more to will win in a fight. This anecdote has been attributed to Native Americans, though the first time it surfaced seems to have actually been in a book by Billy Graham. There are many things we could contrast with one another using this picture, and the challenge for us today is whether we would feed faith or feed fear.

A Faith Venture in a Tumultuous Time

The years 2020-2021 were years in which we experienced a lot of upheaval. Regardless of what the motivating factors may have been, governments began making decisions that affected every system that is a part of our everyday experience. In a country founded on religious freedom, many churches were banned from meeting together in person, a clear violation of living as an ecclesia, a soma, a people called together in Christ (Hebrews 10:25). There were restrictions on human connection, on travel, on the ways we participate in the economy. In many places, people were restricted to their homes. Children were sent out from schools to learn at home. We began to dress, speak, and relate in ways we never had before. To add to everything else, this all happened during a presidential election season, and so our natural pull toward politicizing things went into overdrive.

In addition to everything else, our human response to a scary new sickness brought previously unknown disruption to the global economy that has been growing for over a half century. The United States and our brand of capitalism was the leading force in that global economy, and so while many of us have anticipated and longed for a return to something normal, the effects continue to drag on.

If there is any word to capture the global mood of 2020-2021, that word may be fear. Whether fearful of the virus or fearful of the human responses to it, we’ve all had to deal with changes that have had a devastating effect on us.

It’s in the midst of this that we have come together in a faith venture.

The Language of Faith, the Language of Fear

“Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.
For by it our ancestors won God’s approval.”
Hebrews 11:1-2

“Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God — God remains in him and he in God. And we have come to know and believe the love God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him. In this, love is made complete with us so that we may have confidence on the day of judgment, because as he is, so also are we in this world.
There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears is not complete in love.
We love because he first loved us.”
James 4:15-20

Jesus defines the greatest love as giving up our life for a friend (John 15:13). This is the love that we know in Christ.

The voice of faith, then, says this: “Lord, lead me to give of myself that you may be glorified. Make me so complete in your love that I require nothing else to satisfy me.” When we are made complete in this type of love, we do not fear what we may lose, because we have come to consider all things loss for the sake of knowing Christ (Philippians 3:8).

Fear of losing those things outside of Christ that comfort and complete us, or sometimes are idolatrous to us, keep us from venturing out in faith. Just as in the life of Paul, we aspire to be wholly satisfied in Christ, because it was through Christ all things were created, and to Christ all things are owed. The voice of fear is the voice that speaks out the things we require, the things we cannot lose, that would keep us from giving up our desires and comforts for the other.

Faith Over Fear

Faith acknowledges that there may be loss, but that the reward will be greater than the loss. Do we have faith that God is building His Kingdom? Do we have faith that God’s love is for the lost, the broken, and the hurting, within our church and outside of it?

Even as we are redeemed in Christ, our hearts can easily deceive us (Jeremiah 17:9-10). Yesterday I shared a prayer that when I find my actions inconsistent with faith and wholeness in Christ, I pray something along these lines: “LORD, please show me the lie that I am believing and lead me to truth.” The freedom we gain from truth is not a one-time event. It is ongoing. It is a tragic irony that this verse has been taken from its context—“If you continue in my word, you are really my disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free,” (John 8:31-32).

Remaining as we are and where we are does not require faith. Fear requires us to manage our loss, to maintain the familiar. Faith requires us to move into the unknown. But we know Christ. We know Christ is worthy of our whole life, and he is the one our faith is in (John 12:24-26).

Hebrews 11 gives us stories to illustrate what faith is. Faith tries. Faith requires movement. Faith does something at the risk of great loss…in fact, there is always loss of something. Faith is rewarded with the nearness of God.

That “dog” named fear isn’t going anywhere. It’s still going to be here, and its going to beg you to feed it. It will gobble up every self-thought that it is offered, and it will be strengthened. It will be fed by focusing attention on the things that may be lost.

Let’s nourish that “dog” named faith. Individually and together, faith will be nourished by meditating on Christ, abiding in prayer, and the word. Faith will be fed by putting on the truth and receiving the freedom it brings. It will be fed by acknowledging and seeking God in Trinity: Father, Son, Holy Spirit. Faith will be fed through exercising its muscle, by stepping out into something new, led by the truth and goodness in Christ, through the strength given us by the Holy Spirit.

For 2022, let’s believe for the best, that faith will triumph over fear, and Christ will be exalted in us and on the earth!

Re:Discovering the Mission of God

Here’s the tentative but mostly certain plan for ReDiscovering the Mission of God together. For anyone who would like more background for this, please email or call and ask; if you’ve missed a few Sundays, especially. This is an essential process of learning, praying, and growing, so we who are entrusted with leading will be one unified body under the Lordship of Jesus.

“Many are asking, ‘Who can show us anything good?”
Let the light of your face shine on us, LORD.
You have put more joy in my heart
than they have when their grain and new wine abound.”
Psalm 4:7

“Taste and see that the LORD is good.
How happy is the person who takes refuge in him!”
Psalm 34:8

The LORD is good! Our shared time with Him, of course, isn’t just limited to Sunday morning. When we experience the grace of God in fellowship with other Christians, Sunday mornings just aren’t enough. Especially if we are attempting to do a great thing for God, we respond by coming together with a posture of humility, a posture of inviting Christ to reveal what is hindering us, and to do what will make us into the people and the church He desires us to be. We are actively putting ourselves into a position of inviting the Holy Spirit to empower God’s truth to transform us, sanctify us, and lead us. It’s by, for, and because of Jesus that we exist and gather!

Jesus prayer is ours as well: “I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in me through their word. May they be one, as you, Father, are in me, and I am in you. May they also be in us, so that the world may believe you sent me.” John 17:20-21

See some of you tonight (Tuesday) at 6:30 or Sunday at 9:20!

If you can’t make either of those times but want to experience this together, a third weekday time may work, if there are at least 3 who would be dedicated to being there…we may do it in a different location, too!

ReDiscover the Mission of God: January-August

January: Prayer

We read that the early church spent great amounts of time together in prayer. Why hasn’t this been our norm? Are we praying like they prayed? Where did our modes and methods of prayer develop from? Are we praying like Jesus taught?
A person who isn’t abiding in Christ can expect to accomplish nothing. Abiding is prayer. If we cannot commit to prayer, and praying as Jesus has taught us, it’s a hard truth, but we are wasting our time.
There is no unity without praying together, putting aside the will of each individual and seeking the will of the LORD. If we don’t do this together, we cannot expect that our decisions will be to God’s glory.
There are many other voices who have spoken to us of prayer. The prayer-filled life is not only for elite Christians, but for every Christian, as something we do together and in our lives as individuals.

February: The Church and the Kingdom of God

The Kingdom of God is here. The Kingdom of God is the reign of Christ.
The church is the visible expression of a people brought into Jesus’ reign, a people gathered together into his salvation and his rule.
The church is also a body, in which every one has a part in glorifying Christ together on the earth.
We are all coming with different ideas of what the church is. It’s essential we have a shared understand of what the church is and what the Bible teaches us our mission is…and also recognize the things it’s been made into that miss the heart and mission of God.

March: The Gospel…

The Gospel is the good news of Christ’s victory.
What did Christ have victory over?
Is Christ’s victory something that only captures us at one moment in our lives, is it only for those who do not know Christ?
What is the relevancy of the Gospel to us today?

April: Culture…

A culture emerges every time come together on a consistent basis.
In time, culture becomes normal and assumed to those within it, and it leads to unwritten rules and expectations are formed. Outsiders only become insiders when they put on the culture of the group.
The Bible is greater than culture and was also written within particular cultures at certain points in time.
We need the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth, so we may understand how to effectively communicate the work of Christ to those within our reach who God has put here that they may reach out and find Him.
Understanding culture will help us to understand ourselves in the light of the Gospel as well as those who are yet to know Christ.

May: The Church and Culture

We need to understand the power of culture in our expression of the Gospel and how it is a hindrance or conduit of the Gospel. A healthy church culture will lead to multiplication of disciples, period.
We’ve revisited the basics: the Gospel, the church, and culture. Now let’s get specific: what does it look like for our church to engage this culture with the Gospel and make disciples?
We will take time to get out and know this community…not invite people to church, but ask them questions. These will help us to understand how to communicate the Gospel into the broken and needy places, to know those things we can do to radically welcome those who are lost, proclaim Christ and his kingdom to them, to their healing and being built up to serve Christ as well.

June: Spirit-Given Gifts to Serve

Ministry isn’t about us. God gives gifts to us that we may serve others with. We do a lot of stuff, but don’t we want to be doing the things that will bring glory to Christ’s Name?
Taking a test on paper doesn’t reveal the things of the Spirit. But others around you, with the Holy Spirit and discernment, can. Our gifts become evident in the course of serving. They don’t pigeon hole us into one thing, but they help others to know Christ and his love to a greater degree.
We’ll discuss spiritual gifts, and also look at the fruit of the Spirit, which is of greater importance. If we can identify spiritual gifts and callings, we will. If we can’t that’s OK…we can still serve and be on a process of discovery together. Some of the gifts aren’t absolutely static, anyway, while some are.
At this time, we’ll get personal.

July: Form (Ministry Teams)

We’ll work toward bringing things into a certain form, a new DNA with (Jesus) vision-focused, (Spirit-led) mission-faithful, (Biblical) values-saturated culture that will be effective within our community while oriented toward multiplication.
We’ll identify those who have the character, faith, calling, and life of the Spirit to lead forward—while also renewing/continuing some of the current roles and ministries to the extent they are discerned as supporting the mission, vision, and values.
We won’t do sign up sheets, but will have conversations and invitations. We anticipate that every person within the church will be invited to be part of a ministry team, that commitments and expectations will be clear, and they will be appropriate. Many people will continue in the same roles as now, when committed to listening & contributing ideas tried and true as well as ideas new, with context of unified team.
Teams will be built within the newly developed culture of the church. The leaders will be empowered with decision-making, and will be trained in leader their teams in a way that is empowering.
Board of Ministries-type group will still provide general oversight so ministries are coordinated and faithful to culture, and leaders continue to be trained & equipped, but it will not direct what happens on teams.

August: Engage

We’ll break out into specific ministry areas and focus growth in specific things: i.e., kids’ ministry may visit another Alliance church on a Sunday to get a feel for what they’re doing; they’ll read or have read Sticky Faith together; they’ll figure out roles, schedule, become familiar with the curriculum and how to use it to teach kids to be disciples of Jesus.
Leaders in those ministry areas will provide training for their teams, pray & envisioning together.
We will put our ministries into practice, with a plan for teams to have prayer & guided discussion on what these were like the first few times.
As the LORD leads, we may set down the fishing poles for a moment and cast the big fishing net into the sea.

September: Launch

Settle into our new form.
We won’t talk a lot about “change” but the culture will be such that the Board of Ministries-type team is intentionally coming to the LORD asking what He’s doing, for His correction if needed, ready to let go, grow, or send as He would lead.
The format will be different weekly, but mostly guided discussion and small group-based
There will be homework each week, including required & suggested reading
We may take some weeks off, and a schedule will be developed soon
Attendance will be kept, and regular attendance & completion of homework essential
Tuesday evening is preferential, but a make-up session will be offered Sunday mornings at 9:20 for those unable to attend on Tuesday evenings.
In August, LORD-willing, ministry teams will form and so it is right to anticipate that everyone will be invited to serve on a ministry team, or on multiple teams, beginning in July
Those teams will have descriptions and clear commitment expectations that are appropriate for associated ministry
There is no judgment on those who choose not to participate