I am so excited for Ascent church. I believe God is going to use us to do amazing things. How cool is it that we get to play a small role in God’s big cosmic story? In this post we will be continuing our series outlining the vision frame that we believe will allow us to be an influential church for generations to come.
Today, we will be looking at the third and final value of Ascent church. Next week we will begin to look at our mission statement in greater detail.
Before you continue on with this post I would suggest that you read the others in our vision series by clicking here.
The above picture is our "vision frame" for more on this, check out the first post in this series. If you'd like to view a larger picture of the frame you can do so by clicking here.
As way of recap, let me start by quickly talking about the ground we’ve already covered in this series. In week one, we looked at our vision frame as a whole from a 30,000 foot level. The point of the first post was to introduce you to the overall vision and to show you how each side of the vision frame works together, and relies upon one another, for the future vision to become a reality.
In the second post I outlined both our measures (why we do) and our strategy (how we do). This post is the longest in the series so far and that is because we covered two sides of the vision frame at once. The two sides are so connected that we couldn't properly discuss one without the other.
For the last couple of weeks now we have been exploring the values of Ascent. These are the three characteristics of who we are as a church. Our measures and strategy answered the questions “Why are we doing this?” and “How are we doing this?”.
These are vital elements for understanding our vision, but equally vital is understanding “Who does this?” and that is the question our values answer.
The first value we discussed was “We laugh loud and smile big.” which describes the joy we must embrace as a people. If we truly believe we have been forgiven and can now follow Jesus while enjoying the presence of God forever, how could we not be the most joyful people around?
Last week we discussed perhaps the most important and most difficult of the three values, “We keep it simple.” I say that this may be the most difficult because we drift toward comfort and complexity naturally. However, it may be the most important because we have a limited pool of resources and we can’t do everything, so we must focus only on our thing.
That leads us to this week. We will be discussing the final value which is as follows: We embrace a lifestyle of worship. Why? Because every believer is a missionary and everyday matters.
Before we jump into our conversation on our third value I want to share all three of our values in bullet point form for those of you who skim these post instead of reading them (no judgement my friends!)
The best way for us to begin to grasp this value is to simply break apart the "because" statement that is attached. I will try to be brief as I have already used a lot of words up on my introduction. Oops! (Typical pastor)
Because every believer is a missionary
Do you believe this? Or do you think that there is a distinction between the “ordinary” Christ followers and the “super” Christ followers? If you believe there are things that only a “pastor” can do then odds are you don’t yet understand this value.
In the old testament there was a distinction between the lay people and the priest. There were things that only the priest were allowed to do. They were set apart and different from the rest of God’s people.
However, when the great high priest (Jesus) came He set a new world order and abolished the old priestly system. In fact, the Apostle Peter says something astonishing in 1 Peter.
you yourselves, as living stones, a spiritual house, are being built to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. -1 Peter 2:5 (CSB, Emphasis mine)
Now, that verse may not be astonishing to you, but that is only because you live 2,000 years after the resurrection of Jesus and the beginning of the movement we now call Christianity. To a Jewish man or woman this would be borderline heretical. They knew that only the priest had direct access to the presence of God and that the only way they could be made right with God was to go through a priest. Now Peter is telling them that they are the priest! There is no longer a distinction between the spiritual elite and the ordinary everyday person!
Many of us have experienced churches that still operate out of an old testament worldview in this sense. Meaning they believe that only the “Senior Pastor” is allowed to baptize people, oversee communion, or rightly interpret and preach the Bible.
We have been taught, not by words always, that the Pastor was the most qualified to make disciples and pray for the sick. This is tragic! In Jesus we all have equal access to the throne room of God. We are all sent on mission, not just the pastor.
In the New Testament we see that pastors are given a unique responsibility as they are the under-shepherd for God’s people in a local church, but they are not given a unique position of importance in God’s mission. We are all called to follow Jesus and be a disciple who makes disciples.
Every believer (including you) is a missionary! If we keep reading the verse above, it says the reason for this is so that we can offer a spiritual sacrifice. In Romans, Paul describes this as worship. We worship God with the way we live our lives. We pour our lives out for the mission of God.
And everyday matters
This is another misconception that I believe we will have to fight in northwest Oklahoma. There are many people who believe that Sunday morning is the only or primary time God moves. Leaders teach us that our greatest goal is to try to live a moral life the best we can in the upcoming week and invite our friends to church so that the pastor can “save” them.
This is a load of bologna. The church is not building, it is a people. Sunday morning is merely when the people of God can choose to gather. The mission of God is just as powerful and important on a Monday at 11:27 in the morning at a coffee shop. A Christian is not someone who can answer questions correctly on a theology test. This might cause some of you to choke on your coffee, but a Christian is not someone who prayed a prayer to “invite Jesus into their hearts.”
Before you burn me at the stake for committing baptist heresy, first go and find one verse in all the New Testament where someone “invited Jesus into their hearts”. It’s not in there! A Christian is someone who has said “I am going to follow Jesus.”
The faith we often hear about in churches today is not really faith. It’s a bunch of people who got scared about hell or wanted to make their parents happy so they raised their hand, repeated the right theological statements and got baptized. That is not Christianity my friends.
I am not saying we must work for our salvation. By no means! That is found only in Jesus. The gospel is good news that Jesus has done what we couldn’t! He paid for our salvation. But, friends if we really believe Jesus is who He says He is then we will follow Him where he asks us to go. We will re-center our lives around Him. We will follow him everyday, every hour, every minute that we exist. We will not be perfect and the good news is we don’t have to be. We live out of grace, knowing He has paid for the penalty we deserved to pay and we get to enjoy the treasure that only He deserves to enjoy.
If we understand this, we will take on the posture of the disciples; dropping our nets and imperfectly following Jesus in all of life as He molds us into who are called to be.
We will embrace a lifestyle of worship. Because every believer is a missionary and everyday matters.
Thank you for taking time to read this and the rest of our vision series. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below or by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org!