Last night our church came together to celebrate what God has done in the life of our church over the previous year along with putting out the vision for what Cornerstone looks like in the year 2020. It was a great night, but it was a launching point for 2013. We still have one more night to go tonight, so if anyone happens to be reading this in Auburn and wants to come join the celebration there are still a few seats left. I didn’t get to take too many shots last night, but here are a few.
Today instead of going on the trip to Uganda with the team from last year, I got to see them off to the Atlanta airport. It was a sad goodbye for me personally since I’m staying behind, but I know God is going to work among these eight people pictured above over the next week in Uganda. This team is going to build on so many other teams that have already gone and come back, intent on sharing the love of Christ with others in a culture and context far different from the comfortable life we live in the western world.
You can see a little more about what the trips are like from my previous posts in the Uganda tag, and if you want to follow along with this particular team you can follow April Olive’s blog as she updates throughout the trip. I can’t wait to hear about their trip, it is quite an experienced group of travelers with a heart for the people of Uganda.
I spent this week with some of our staff at a conference in Atlanta. The past few days for me added to or confirmed with me part of an ongoing study I have about “what is the church?” I last posted about it here: What is the Church? 10 Things the Bible Says About the Church, but this week was focused on discipleship.
This group (3DM) we started to explore months ago doesn’t have a new program, or some new secret way to make disciples, they walked through how Jesus did this. That means this was really more like a workshop than a conference, and there wasn’t a step-by-step process by those Type-A’s can take away and say “this is how you do it.” That’s what made this different than the host of Christian conferences we all love to attend.
I’m not actually sure how to completely process everything presented to us over the last three days. It was a great starting point to learning how to create disciples, not how to create the church. If there was a quote for church staff and leaders that stuck with me, it was this.
Make disciples and it will build and create the church. Build a church and you aren’t necessarily creating disciples.
This is completely backwards from what our American church is. Our consumerist church of the 21st century is certainly a place where we can go on Sunday’s to consume a church product, but is it a place we create disciples as Jesus commanded us to do in Matthew 28? It turns church on its head because it is a scary place for church staff, and a freeing place for followers of Christ. I have heard it said countless times that church is not a building it is the people, but that’s a hard thing to live out when we place so much emphasis on doing church in that traditional church building.
That’s the raw unfiltered understanding of the last few days, it’s not anything ground breaking, but creating disciples is what we are called to do, building the church building is a place where we believers gather to worship on Sunday, not the place where we evangelize the unchurched.
We had our second large outdoor baptism celebration last Sunday, and it was an amazing time to see new life rise up. Scripture has a lot to say about believers baptism, the most common probably being Matthew 28:29-30, but this isn’t our only call to baptism, and it isn’t our only example of people stepping out in faith to be baptized. One of my favorite baptism stories in Scripture comes from Acts 8:26-40 when Phillip is explaining a passage from Isaiah 53:7-8 to the eunuch. Phillip “told him the good news about Jesus” and the eunuch’s response was an exclamation point, one where you can almost see him jumping up and down with joy saying:
See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized? (Acts 8.26)
This shows the joy of following the commands of Jesus in baptism, not as a salvation sacrament, but as a step of public faith in the death and resurrection of Christ that we now share (Romans 6:3-6). That is the joy to participate in the baptism of Christ, and it shows when you look at these faces from our celebration below. I love the expressions on their faces, the joy of Christ radiates through their experience. Each time I watch people raised up into a new life in Christ I recall my own baptism with Deborah in Birmingham, it was one of those events in my life I will not forget, and I’m guessing these folks won’t either.
The full set of images from the day will be posted on our Flickr page soon and I am going to upload several more to my Facebook gallery soon.
Anyone who has confessed to following the teachings of the Christ knows Sunday is just the day we come together to meet with other believers. Sunday isn’t the day the work of the church body takes place, that’s what happens when we engage people in our daily routine of life. Sometimes I think it’s easy to forget the work of the church body takes place during the rest of the week, especially when we have been so conditioned to the importance of Sunday being there for that one hour Sunday morning.
I am so privileged to get to work with staff and volunteers (group shot) that make their faith the work of everyday life. This photo above was just one of the countless meetings and conversations that takes place for the purpose of reaching others in our community and beyond. As I look at this photo from today, and recall the conversations that took place today to encourage and uplift each other, Hebrews 10:22-25 sort of jumps out at me.
let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
These verses, which is normally used by the church to remind us we should be IN “church” on Sunday morning. This section of Hebrews is actually three exhortations in the “full assurance of faith,” or a call to believers to (1) come together, (2) be strong, and (3) to challenge each other, considering how to challenge each other to love and good works (v.24-35). The purpose of this is to strengthen each other’s faith in preparation for Christ’s return.
I’m a visual kind of guy and in my mind, this photo is just one small modern day example of Hebrews 10:22-25, and it didn’t even take place on Sunday morning, but instead on a Monday afternoon.
Any of you who know me well know I don’t post too often about kids stuff, but today was a banner day for the future of our kids at Cornerstone Church. I have been to a lot of churches over the last 40 years, and I have visited churches who have very little evidence of kids in the building. While I’m not a “kids person” per se, this is a sure sign of a church with a hard future ahead of it, and the Church body itself needs it’s kids.
Over the last 3-4 weeks our kids staff, shown above, along with a host of other people, implemented a plan they had worked on tirelessly over the summer months. Meeting after meeting to go over every painstaking detail transformed the hallways, classrooms, and worship space for every little soul from new borns to our youth, and for kids who haven’t even been born yet. Think about the transformation in terms of a franchise. We love franchises all over the country because they are consistent, stable, and we know what we are going to get when we go into the building. We want our kids at every site to have the same worship experience no matter where they are, to have a consistent, stable, feeding on the word of God, while being surrounded by a community of believers.
In a very fragile time in history for the Church in our culture, this makes me excited for the future of the Church body. Investing in our kids is investing in the future of God’s Church. I’m thankful for these five ladies, and all the other people who worked so hard to make today happen, especially for the kids who have never walked into one of our children’s areas at Cornerstone Church. The future of Cornerstone Church, and the Church body as a whole, is in the hands of these woman above, but it’s also in the hands of every single individual who follows the teachings of Jesus. When you give to a child, you have given it to Christ himself.
As with all things, change is inevitable. Change is actually the one thing that actually stays constant, and this week we began an extensive remodeling process that would bring the vision of Cornerstone Church together. After more than a year of planning, in February 2012, Cornerstone opened its first off-site location, called our Cornerstone Church at Lee-Scott site. The leadership of the church envisioned a multi-site church, a single church with multiple locations, one where the worship experience, the DNA of the church, would be the same no matter which site you visited. To accomplish this, among many other things, it was decided we needed to remodel the kids area to match all other sites, present and future, which brings me to this post.
Back in 2005, a few years before Deb and I arrived, our local church started to execute plans for a new building. As you can imagine there were so many different aspects of planning and visioning that went on among the staff and executive council at the time, and one of those areas was what we call Kidztown (our children’s area). A vision was put together by the then youth and children’s director for what type of environment would greet the kids visually when they came into the Kidztown area. This vision included a fun themed design of murals with different shops and stores for each room.
Once the theme had been envisioned the hunt was on for an artist who could make this vision come to life. Cornerstone Church decided to hire a local artist, Cindy Massey, to make this vision come alive on the walls of the kids area, and she did. The amazing part of the story is how God works through the church body because after she finished painting the walls of this new church building her family started coming to Cornerstone, and they were some of the pioneers who started the new Lee-Scott site! For about seven years now the kids have walked through the halls of her artistic work, which covered just about every inch of wall and window space we had.
So, here, to honor the work of an artist we hired to cover the walls of the church with beautiful murals, I present a small sampling of that work. Please keep in mind, this is one artists rendition of another artists work (kinda weird), so, along with the thousands and thousands of kids who graced these halls, this is what I will remember about her work. I know Cornerstone appreciates and values the work she did, and I’m glad I can showcase a bit of that here. Thanks Cindy!
Over the past several years of seminary work I have had the privilege of studying the church. There are a lot of different answers to that question (just look how many different churches there are in this country). Yesterday was our first open-air outdoor worship service at our Cornerstone Lee-Scott site. Not because we all wanted to sit in the sun and fry, but because they were refinishing the hard wood floors in the basketball gym where we worship, but it ended up being a fantastic service, and a great reminder to all of us what exactly we mean when we say we are “going to church.” Today our churches can be places that become so internalized with our own events and “church life” we don’t even realize we have stopped living out Matthew 28:16-20. So yesterday, as we sat out in the heat, we got a good reminder that church is not a building, or a gym, or a place to “go,” but a people we serve with.
I think those in my generation and older are still quite set that we “go to church” at a church building, and that was just never the case with the New Testament Church. Our site pastor, Josh Agerton, gave a very appropriate message on this very topic, to discuss what misconceptions we bring to the word “ekklesia.” This word, ekklesia, meaning local church, was established by Christ Himself (Matt. 16:18), and then we see it in action for the first time in Acts 1:12 when Matthias was chosen to replace Judas.
I love that our particular church is willing to do things like worship in a gym, or outside on a hot day, to better reach our community for Christ. Our culture today tends to the Bible with tradition, and personal preference, to create these glorious buildings we can go hide in from cradle to grave in some cases. Clearly, God’s plan is that born again Christians be a part of a local church. Nowhere in the New Testament, after the institution of the local church was established, do you find believers serving God outside the authority or rule of the local church.
So what are a few things the bible says about the church? This top ten list below is no where near a complete and total list, nor is it compiled into any specific symmetry, but it does show what the Bible says about the Church. Notice there are a TON of things the Bible doesn’t say the church should that we have made it out to be (but that is a whole different post).
10 Things the Bible Says About the Church
- The Bible is the Sole Authority
There is no only authority for the New Testament church other than that of Scripture for the faith and practice of a True New Testament Church. (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21; John 5:39 and many others).
- Believers are Instructed Not to Forsake Meeting Together
If a believer is not part of a local church, whatever form that takes today, is in disobedience to God’s word. Scripture clearly teaches we are to meet or “assemble” with each other periodically. When the church meets, we should be there to support it (Hebrews 10:24-25).
- Believers are to be Under the Leadership of the Pastor and Church
This is so difficult for us today, especially in the U.S.A. where we are told we are our own authority in everything we do. We are supposed submit to the authority of the church, and be lead by it’s leadership (Acts 20:28; 13:2).
- The New Testament Church is Only Made Up of Saved Individuals
This is clearly indicated in Scripture as well. The church body is not made up of secular people as with any other civil club, members are believers, that’s it (Acts 2:41, 47).
- The New Testament Church Has Only Two Ordinances
The Lord’s Supper and Baptism, which are not sacraments, are the only two ordinances called for in Scripture (Acts 2:41-42). We have a lot of other traditions and things that take place in the church, but these are the only two ordinances Scriptures calls for.
- All Believers are Placed in the Local Church upon their Baptism (Acts 1:15; 2:47)
- Believers are to Learn Doctrine in the Local Church
For those of us who love to learn Scripture, here we go, but our culture today is moving more and more towards an anti-intellectualism, which is no more Biblical than forsaking the widows and orphans. This also means the local church is supposed to TEACH doctrine as well (Eph. 4:11-16; 1 Corinthians 12; 2 Timothy 4:1-4; Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 5:25; Acts 20:28).
- A Believer’s Responsibility to Missions as part of a Local Church
A believer ought to be a part of supporting missions through their local church. The clear New Testament example is that it was the local church which sent forth missionaries. No church has the authority to delegate this responsibility to anyone else which would include mission boards, conventions, or any agency outside the local congregation (Acts 15:3, 20:38, 21:5, Rom. 15:24, 1 Cor. 16:6,11, 2 Cor. 1:16, Titus 3:13, 3 John 6).
- If One Member Suffers All Suffer With Them
The local church is the support center of people to surround the believer in good times and in bad (1 Corinthians 12:26).
- Believers are Given the Responsibility and Privilege of Supporting the Local Church Financially
There are probably more ways to get out of this than there are ways to count, but Scripture clearly says we are to financially support our local church, and it says this clearly and unequivocally that we are to give money to our local church, even Abraham did this. (1 Cor. 16:1-2, 2 Cor. 8-9)
The shot above was one I took while the band was warming up for worship this morning. I never get tired of being around the worship band and their practices. It is just as much a part of worship to me as when the official worship time begins. This church location, our second site, has been meeting in a basketball gym since February, and I love how it forces us to look at church from a new perspective again.
One of the songs we sung today, a modern hymn called How Deep the Father’s Love For Us by Kings Kaleidoscope on their album Sin, which was original written by Stuart Townend many years ago, has become one of my favorites because of the amazing lyrics and how it was written. It was released almost 2 years ago at this point but every time I read this poem, or listen to it being sung, it just hits home why we believe what we believe.
As mere created beings we can’t possibly fathom how deep God loves us, but the part that always rests with me is when the writer says “I hear my mocking voice, call out among the scoffers.” What an incredible thought to process and ponder. You can listen to the song from a link at the top of this post, but the rest of it goes like this:
How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure
How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory
Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers
It was my sin that left Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished
I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom
I guess everyone has different stretching points in words and in music that makes them emotionally tied to one work over another. This one for me brings out the beauty and sadness in sacrifice for someone who finally gets it. I love that we can worship a God this great, through these words, and do it with a basketball goal above our heads.
It may not look like it at first glance, but this is part of the hard work that goes into following Christ wholeheartedly, what we call, Leading People to Know and Serve Jesus. I have learned an amazing amount about how the church body functions since I went on staff in late 2008. One of the incredible things about being on staff is the behind the scenes look you get at the visioning and planning process the church body goes through, continually. To see God actively working, guiding his people through the process of being the church, is a great privilege. Today was one of those rare monthly staff meetings where almost everyone on staff was in the room. There are almost as many people behind me in the photo above as there are in front of me, and still we had a few people who couldn’t be there today.
One thing that never stops amazing me is how hard everyone works, not just at my church, but at most all the churches I have come into contact with over the years. There are so many people who make the church body what it is. Countless volunteers who have sacrificed time, and money, to be the hands and feet of Christ. Of the many topics discussed today, one was how to tell the stories of these volunteers and other people who’s lives have been changed by Christ’s work through his church, like some of our seniors going to Uganda last week instead of going somewhere like Panama City Beach for a party.
I’m not really sure why this particular post came to be tonight, this just happened to be what was on my mind as I recalled events from my day. I do know this type of planning and these type of stories, go on endlessly, because God is at work in His people endlessly. If you haven’t been in church for a while, there is no better time than now. Sunday is less than 7 days away, and you aren’t reading this by accident any more than I wrote this by accident. Don’t just keep looking around for that perfect church, there isn’t one. Christ, who built the church out of imperfect people, can change your life forever, and he can use us imperfect people of the church to do it.