Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Give, Gather, Glorify!

I'm all for simplification. So in this post I'm going to try to summarize what The Network Church is all about into three titles. Give, Gather, and Glorify. I know it sounds like it's coming from some guy with a headset leading a seminar, or any pastor who's hip enough to wear jeans, but there we go. It's three words, and they all start with the same letter. Let's move on.

Give: It's easy to look at many of the things that Jesus said and conclude that he was just being dramatic, or intentionally exaggerating. But I was once hit with a dangerous thought. What if we read Jesus without trying to clarify him all the time? You might be surprised how often we do this in the church.

When you read something like "sell all you have and give your possessions to the poor" for example, it's easy to write it off in the same way we write off signs for "worlds greatest cup of coffee." It just seems so ridiculous. But however you work out a verse like that, something in Jesus is unmistakable. Our lives are to be given up for the benefit of other people through love. That includes our time, energy, and finances. People always argue that it's impractical, and doesn't make sense. But Jesus was never trying to be practical, he was just trying to be love.

That's why The Network church  meets in houses in small groups, so that we don't have to buy, or build. We're sacrificing that infrastructure so that we're able to give more. That's why we have the goal of giving 100% of money collected for ministry for the benefit of others outside of our church. Because to give is what we're called for, so giving is what we shall do.

Gather: People draw a lot of different conclusions about the early church when they read the book of Acts. And usually they're good conclusions even though we tend to miss the fact that they had absolutely no concept of a 'Christian theology' or 'Christian religion' or even an 'official church.' But what they did understand completely was how to be together. They ate together, they sang together, they went to the temple together (as a side note ironically enough), they had communion together, they suffered together, they gave up fields, and homes, and money, and status for each other.

What we strive for in The Network Church is tight community on that level. We exist in smaller groups for this purpose. So that we can meet in each other's homes, eat together, watch movies, talk about new ideas freely, challenge each other, celebrate, laugh, mourn and live life in true friendship. And it is in groups with this kind of community that we can really learn together. Discuss scripture, let ideas challenge us, and let our convictions be known, celebrated, and maybe even challenged themselves.

Glorify: Something Jesus made perfectly clear in his life was that the way we love God is shown through the way we love other people. As a church it is our responsibility to ensure that our love for God is being expressed through practical compassion, justice, and relationships. But also through corporate worship within our smaller churches, but also together as the greater community which makes up the Network Church.

Whether the characters throughout the Bible were meeting God in the wilderness, praising him in the temple, seeing him on a mountain, worshiping him in the streets, gutters, cities, villages, farms, or homes this truth becomes very clear. God is the hero of the Bible. It's his book. And what this ultimately means is that everything in the life of the church begins with our love for God. It is our goal to reach a deep intimacy with the divine presence that created and sustains the universe. We strive to love God not for his blessings, his rewards, or his stuff. We strive to love God based on the personal relationships we experience with Him. The idea of 'Glorify' encompasses every way that we give glory, praise, and honor to the awesome presence of the King. The King of the Kingdom of God (There's a phrase you don't here often enough).

I hope that summarizes everything the church is about well enough. A group of people living life together, loving God, and expressing that love to the world around us.

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