Pull Up a Chair

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I want to invite you to join us this missions week. Why should you care? First, the Bible. Mission begins on page one in the Bible, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Gen 1:28). This call is to fill the earth with images and representatives of God who would expand God’s presence to the ends of the earth. Second, our hearts. I find that my heart ever shrinks inward with a propensity to only care about myself and my own. Yet the smaller my heart grows the more frustrated and angry it grows! Yet when I look outward at the greatness of our God and His work in the world, my heart grows bigger and more grateful. Thirdly God’s call together.  We can accomplish God’s purposes better together than alone, and we have sent out 31 missionary units as Wellspring and over 700 missionary units in the Alliance. So we care about missions because we care about the Bible, our hearts, and God’s call together. Then how do we care? 

Tonight (Wednesday) we will pray around the world. At 7 PM, we will gather to hear, see, and pray for most of our 31 international workers as they share with us their latest prayer requests and needs from around the world. Each of them have deep roots at Wellspring, and we are proud of their work around the world. On Saturday, we can eat around the world at our International Potluck, sharing food and hearing in person from many of our international workers on a panel discussion. On Sunday we will learn about the Alliance around the world from Dr. John Stumbo, the president of the Alliance, our family of 2000 churches in the US.  

So pull up a chair and join us. You never know who you’re sitting next to here at Wellspring. It may be the family of a major house church leader in China, the founder of an international church in Shanghai, the former leaders of an influential seminary in West Africa, the dean of the graduate school at Wheaton, the mother of the next Jim Eliot, the grandson of Hudson Taylor, or the founder of VeggieTales. Or you might end up next to me (for which I apologize in advance). But pull up a chair, and let’s grow our hearts to embrace God’s heart for God’s world this week. 

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Alliance World Tour: The Fruit of Faithfulness

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John Stumbo

Join us for an around the world tour of what God has been doing through our family of churches by President John Stumbo. We will hear how seeds of the gospel that have been planted around the world have sprouted. We will see how Alliance missionaries have not only been sent out, but we will see how thriving national churches have been established that are sending out workers.

 

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Mission from Nehemiah (Nehemiah 1-4)

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Jeff Edwards

This morning we will connect Nehemiah’s mission to our mission today. Nehemiah started at the beginning with prayer….4 months of it!  Nehemiah used the abilities God gave him. Nehemiah trusted in God’s promises. Nehemiah fought for the well-being of others. The story of Nehemiah challenges us in these four areas.

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Mission in All Spheres

Mission In All Spheres

Is missions simply an imposition of one culture on another? Colossians reminds us that Christ holds all things together (1:17), reconciles all things (1:20), and hides all treasures of wisdom and knowledge in himself (2:3). Mission, then, is not a cultural imposition but a translation of the riches of Christ to another culture. We begin this week a new series on our value on mission, that we are all called to God’s mission to redeem all things. And in Col 3:18–4:6, our mission is expressed as we receive and release God’s grace in our family, work, and world.

First, we receive and release God’s grace in our family (Col 3:18–21). Missions to the nation begins in our family. The call for wives to submit and children to obey is an affront to our embrace of self-sufficiency. Yet submission is a posture that lays down self-sufficiency to receive God’s grace through others. That is why wives submit as is fitting in the Lord and children obey their parents “for this pleases the Lord” (Col 3:19, 20). We also release God’s grace in our family; as husbands love their wives and parents raise their children, they are conduits and instruments of God’s grace and Christ’s reconciling power in their lives.  Our families should be small outposts where we receive and release God’s grace in our relationships.

Also we receive and release God’s grace in our work (Col 3:22–4:1). While these verses address slaves and masters, its principles apply in our work situation. As we work for people, we submit and obey not as people pleasers but for the Lord, “knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward” (3:24). We receive God’s grace in our work, regardless of whether those that we work for recognize us! And we also release God’s grace as we treat others “justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven” (4:1).

Finally we receive and release God’s grace in the world (Col 4:2–6). We receive that grace in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving (4:2) and release that grace also through prayer (4:3-4), our life (4:5), and our words (4:6). In these ways we receive and release God’s grace in the world around us.

So what? Mission is not simply for the spiritual elite, but we are all called to God’s mission to redeem all things. As a result we can receive and release God’s grace in all of these spheres step by step. So may we do so together.

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The Power of Boring Repetition

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Two weeks ago I asked the question, “Is the vision of Wellspring an ‘elusive dream’?” We are fighting the gravitational pull of a majority culture way of doing church. Similarly in marriage one partner’s consistent insistence on their own way may prevail but will lead to resentment or conflict. These differences must be negotiated with neither compromise (everyone giving up a little to find a happy medium) nor taking turns (we’ll do it your way today and mine tomorrow) but agreement — agreeing on and developing a third way, our way. Similarly at Wellspring we must create our third way, our culture together. The key? Boring repetition.  

James K. A. Smith notes: 

There is no formation without repetition. Virtue formation takes practice, and there is no practice that isn’t repetitive. We willingly embrace repetition as a good in all kinds of other sectors of our life— to hone our golf swing, our piano prowess, and our mathematical abilities, for example. If the sovereign Lord has created us as creatures of habit, why should we think repetition is inimical to our spiritual growth.*

And what forms us? Boring and repetitive rituals. And for boring and repetitive rituals, we have to show up, day in and day out, week in and week out. Daniel Darling talks about how boring church services changed his life.** We are often looking for dynamic and creative and different, but we are most deeply formed by the ordinary and mundane.

The biggest challenge to boring repetition is our desire for the dynamic and different. Church used to compete with three channels on television and watching the grass grow. Today church competes with three thousand channels on television, 644 million websites, and a partridge in a pear tree! Yet people are lonelier than ever because shared commitment to boring repetition creates community; individual consumption of personal preference destroys community. And I fear that community is destroyed by personal preferences. 

Yet a commitment to boring repetition will move the needle in creating culture at Wellspring. 

I want us to pay attention to the type of culture that we are creating at Wellspring. A year ago we spent considerable time discerning the values that we are called to at Wellspring: 

        • God’s Word: we live according to the Word of God
        • Prayer: we seek God’s face and see God’s hand at work
        • Community: we can be real and belong together in Christ
        • Diversity: we love and honor one another in our differences
        • Discipleship: we are transformed as we follow Jesus
        • Mission: we are all sent on God’s mission to redeem all things

As these values are translated into concrete practices, this will create a current of culture, a whirlpool, that can pull others into the unique work that God is calling us toward at Wellspring.

And culture is created together. In a family one person who opts out of an activity — whether a game night, a movie, a meal, or a vacation — irrevocably changes the dynamic of the entire gathering. Similarly in a church when an individual opts out of a home group, a prayer gathering, or a meeting, then the dynamic for everyone else changes. 

But when people opt in with enthusiasm, then the current rises. Let us consider little ways to step in to God’s calling for us at Wellspring, and let us do it together. Instead of reading through the Bible by ourselves, let us share with another how God’s Word is giving insight in the challenges of our lives. Instead of praying alone, let us gather together to pray through to see breakthrough of the power of God together.  Instead of wallowing in a feeling of isolation, let us invite someone else to belong. This is what the writer of Hebrews had in mind: 

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 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. (Hebrews 10:24–25)

What is one way that you can step into this?  

 


James K. A. Smith, You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Brazos, 2016), 82.

** Daniel Darling, “Boring Church Services Changed My Life,”   https://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/2017/february-web-exclusives/boring-church-services-changed-my-life.html?utm_source=buildingchurchleaders&utm_medium=Newsletter&utm_term=22379819&utm_content=628910993&utm_campaign=email.  

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Obedience Today According to the Word of God (Joshua 5:1-15)

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Each generation has to follow God afresh. The marks of a vibrant faith in one generation become a legalistic straitjacket in the next. Avoiding movies and alcohol used to demonstrate holy separation from the corruption of the world; watching movies and drinking alcohol can now be seen as missional outreach to the world. So how do we properly discern the contours of obedience afresh? As the LORD rolls away the reproach of our past and redeems us to fulfill his promises for our future, we submit to the One who leads by His presence. In Joshua 5 the people of God are circumcised, moving past the rebellion of a past generation, and celebrate the Passover, redeemed for his promises, so that they might follow God afresh in a new generation.

In Joshua 5:1–9, the LORD rolls away the reproach of our past. We prepare to enter the Promised Land not by our plotting and planning but by spiritual preparation. This new generation has to be circumcised physically to prepare to step in. Their father’s generation’s disobedience was seen in their failure to obey the voice of the Lord as well as not circumcising their children. Yet this is not simply a meaningless ritual, but it pictures how God has “rolled away the reproach of Egypt” (5:9). No longer would the people of God be defined by the shame and reproach of Egypt from their past, but this circumcision physically demonstrates that that past is behind them. Similarly the LORD rolls away the reproach of our past; that past does not define us anymore!

The LORD not only rolls away the reproach of our past but redeems us to fulfill his promises for our future (Josh 5:10–12). After this circumcision, they celebrate the Passover; God redeems his people. Redemption is how God buys a people for himself with blood, and each Passover the people of God are reminded whose they are — a redeemed people.  But what are they redeemed for? Passover marks the beginning of a new season, a new year, for the people of God (cf. Exod 12:2). The first Passover marked the beginning of their Exodus from Egypt; this Passover marks the beginning of their entrance into the Promised Land, marked by eating the fruit of the land of Canaan (Josh 5:11-12). God redeems his people to fulfill his promises for their future.

Since the LORD does all of this, we  submit to the One who leads by his presence (Josh 5:13–15). Circumcision and Passover prepare the people of God to meet the commander of the army of the LORD; Joshua encounters a man with a drawn sword. God does not come to bless their plans, but God’s people must align themselves to His plans. The posture of Joshua’s leadership is facedown worship before the LORD on holy ground. Just as Moses’ leadership began on holy ground at the burning bush, so Joshua’s leadership begins on holy ground at the banks of the Jordan. As God rolls away the reproach of our past and redeems us to fulfill his promises for the future, we encounter and submit to the One who leads by his presence.

The LORD is inviting us to follow Him afresh, calling for obedience today according to the Word of God. As a church, God is calling us to follow Him afresh. The contours of that obedience may look different from a previous generation, but it is important that we obey him today according to the Word of God.

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An Elusive Dream?

 

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Is the vision of Wellspring an “elusive dream”? When Wellspring began, we did not want to be a bouquet of cultures, flowering in beauty on its first day but soon wilting. Instead we wanted to graft together different cultures and expressions of the body of Christ to reach the diversity of our area more effectively together. However sociologist Korie Edwards suggests that “for interracial churches to stay interracial, racial minorities must be willing to sacrifice their preferences, or they must have already sufficiently acculturated into and accepted the dominant culture.”* In other words, interracial churches are more like a salad bowl of different vegetables (= cultures) drowned in ranch dressing.  As a result she wonders whether truly interracial churches are an “elusive dream.” But is there an alternative? 

After three years I do sense the inevitable gravitational pull toward a majority culture way of doing church, usually seen in an assumed “right” way of doing things instead of “one” way of doing things. Whether it is in how we do offering, length of worship services, expectations of leaders, or way that we pray, I feel a gravitational pull in one direction. But how do we move forward toward more of a graft than a wilting flower bouquet?

To prevent our vision from simply being an “elusive dream,” we must build culture together. Stephen Warner suggests that for interracial churches, ritual has the power to build bridges and transcend differences across ethnic divides — whether in the way that we worship, the gatherings that we attend, the practices that we do over and over and over.** And we need to do things over and over and over…together. I want to think about this. But what are we doing, together, that is forming a culture?  How do we work against the individualistic drift in our own thinking?  In my next pastor’s corner, I will begin to spell out how we might walk forward in this together.  Until then, I invite you to consider that question. 

 


* Korie Edwards, The Elusive Dream: The Power of Race in Interracial Churches (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008)

** Stephen Warner, “Religion, Boundaries, and Bridges,” Sociology of Religion 58 (1997): 217–238

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