So what do you do when your experience and observations of faith don't add up to what you see in Scripture, or what you hear about happening overseas, or on the “front lines” of ministry, or the stories involving “heroes” of the faith? We have found ourselves in that place at one time or another, which is what led us on the path of looking for something more. That path finally led us to living the Gospel (to the best of our ability) here in north St. Louis.
In answering the call to live by God's design, make disciples, and minister in broken places, our flesh has been challenged and our understanding stretched. We have come to the place where faith is necessary, where we are truly interdependent, where our reasonings and strength consistently prove to be insufficient. This is a good place to be. You can't accept a gospel of grace by striving to be good. You can't love if you are not humbled. You can't know an invisible God by memorizing His biography, but only by walking with Him, listening to His voice, and obeying.
While we know we don't know everything, we are sure that God has called us to this work, and that part of this work is rediscovering God's patterns for the church – this supernatural body present here on the earth. We've been trying to find ways to communicate this, and so we started writing books. Dr. Terry Goodwin, our executive director, has written three books. The first we've already covered. The second is called “Being the Church: Planting faith communities in a post-modern world.” While “Disciple Driven Church” is a book about history and a discussion of hurtful practices, “Being the Church” is a guide to what we can start doing. It is also a collection of stories and vision from living this out in a place that has long been abused and oppressed.
Below are some excerpts from the book. You can download it for free, or purchase a physical copy, in our online store.
There is a movement happening during our current age. Look around you. God is calling people out of the man made structure of religion that calls itself the church. The structured church organization maligns, labels and ridicules the movement. They don't see what God is doing. They call some of them the "Dones" and others are labeled as bitter or church haters. Don't be fooled by the name callers. This movement is a work of God. He is setting His children free from a religious system born out of pagan practices. He is returning them to their rightful place as stewards of His creation. It is in this position of God-given authority, working through God-given methods and power, that the church of God will once again transform the known world.
When the church functions by its design, it is the most powerful force on earth. It can correct every problem and thwart every kind of evil. The idea of a group of people laying down their lives for the common good of society may seem like fantasy. The truth is that even small groups of people throughout history have had huge impacts on society by living as Jesus did. The goal of every Christian should be to become more like Christ. You cannot do that if you do not follow God's design. Jesus knew this and communicated it in John 5:19 - "Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner."
I am a full believer in a simple Gospel of sola scriptura - sola fide - sola gracia. The truth I see in Scripture is that works are not required for our salvation. I also see the truth that our Salvation is not the only goal of the Gospel. There is a much bigger result desired by God. He designed the Gospel to produce His desired result. If we lose sight of the desired result, we will settle for a weaker, partial Gospel. God desires the Gospel to produce a royal priesthood zealous for good works. He desires the Gospel to produce a functioning body of believers that lives together by His design, set apart from the world and united by the Holy Spirit. This priesthood will fulfill the covenant of Adam as it is fruitful, multiplies, stewards and rules over God's creation.
In order to "Be the Church" we must be seeking the things of God. If we seek His ways we will find His ways. The hard part about finding God's ways is that He expects us to live his ways and obey His commands. Consecration is the process of setting ourselves apart from the things of the world and the ways of the world. One visible quality of the church should be that it lives differently than the rest of the world. It lives supernaturally. It does not live under the same priorities as the rest of the world. It does not seek the same things as the rest of the world. Its value system is God's value system. Jesus instructs His disciples to seek the Kingdom first. In order to "Be the Church" we must be set apart. The primary method that is outlined in scripture to accomplish this process is discipleship. If you go back to scripture you will see that we are never instructed to go and start churches. We are commanded to go and make disciples.
We didn't have to go start a church or grow a church. We had to Be the Church! We had to do for others what Jesus did for us. We had to give up everything and lay down our lives for others. What a great concept. Think of the greatness of this Gospel. As Jesus is proclaimed and people place their faith in Him, they will sell all they own, move to the desperate places and care for the oppressed. If you are the oppressed in this picture you will fully grasp the goodness of this news. Who else but God can compel people to do this?
We had no idea where we were supposed to do this thing God had called us to do. We began by seeking the Lord. We prayed and fasted and responded when God prompted us. It was a very strange experience when compared to how I had done things in the past. It was an exploration with God. In the end, God made it very clear where we were supposed to start. He prompted someone to give us a wood shop in the neighborhood He had been drawing us to for over a year. Once we were there, we continued to walk and pray and fast and listen. God had prepared a place for us to go and "Be the Church". I did not pick the place. In fact, I objected to His choice at first. I wanted to go somewhere else.
When we walk according to God's design we are powerful. We have the ability to change things. We can lift physical oppression through our own sacrifice and commitment. We can suffer and endure for others. We can intercede through prayer and fasting. We can use our spiritual gifts to bring to light the lies of the enemy. All of this is within our power.
Too often, we as Christians place our attention, time, resources, energy, dreams, gifts, and hopes on the growth of a church and doing things the church's way. When that is so, we face the danger that our focus will be on ourselves and we will use the community to grow our church instead of the church to bless our communities and show them how to follow God's ways. When we embrace God’s design to bless our communities and show them His ways, our focus will be outward rather than inward.
People are hungry for the supernatural things of God. They are leaving the institutional church by the thousands. God is preparing to receive this remnant by raising up groups of people that are dedicated to living by His design. The inner cities of America are prepared for revival and renewal. These places represent the worst of Satan's attacks on America. They are filled with neglect, racism, oppression and poverty. These places need God's people to come into them and live sacrificially for the sake of the residents that have suffered in them for generations.