Monday, June 22, 2009
Mission is the central purpose of the church in the world.
All believers are witnesses to the good news of Jesus Christ.
Worship is about the whole of life rather than just meetings.
The gospel drives us out of our cosy, safe ghettos.
Gospel ministry is contemporary, daring and biblical.
It is better to take gospel initiatives that fail than to fail to take gospel initiatives.
The Priority of People
Church exists wherever believers are covenanted together under the authority of the Word of God.
Effective gospel ministry is long-term, low-key and relational.
Involvement in society is best done with other Christians.
Leaders provide an environment in which people can flourish.
Church activity is people-centred rather than programme-centred.
People are essential to a gospel ministry while buildings are not.
The Priority of Community
The church is an extended family.
A Christian community is a persuasive apologetic for the gospel.
People need to understand what is happening in Christian meetings.
Local churches grow by starting new churches.
All church structures and activities should be evaluated by the imperative of the gospel.
(Borrowed from The Gospel-Centred Church by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis)
The Priority of Partnering
We partner across artificial boundaries with like-minded believers to do kingdom work.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
I must confess that Rome moves me to tears at times.
A couple weeks ago Brian and I took the Metro across town to the birthday party of our new friends' daughter. Coming out into the street, we drank in the gorgeous early evening air. I said, "Let's go for a passagiata!" (the Italians' customary evening walk). Now there's a benefit of being empty-nesters: impromptu change of plans just to seize the moment! Yet we had celebrated the first year of a cherubic little girl's life -- a few days after celebrating our own little girl's college grad in Ohio -- and our hearts were warmed by the blessing of children.
Anyway, we pondered where to go for our evening stroll. The challenge in Rome this half of the year is to avoid the hordes of tourists. I exclaimed, "Let's go up on Aventine Hill!" -- a spot that new friends from Agape had shown us. Yes, let's, and watch the sunset from there. So off we went, climbing up the road away from the Circus Maximus. There's a park filled with orange trees, next to an ancient cloister. The park looks directly over the Tiber River, and there's a sort of platform with a marble wall on which to lean, or if you dare, to sit. And from here is one of Rome's incomparable panoramic vistas.
When we approached we discovered quite a number of Romans already "waiting"-- and not one tourist -- only locals out on their passagiata too. Here they were, gathered as if summoned on a sultry Tuesday evening to admire the sunset! To my right, an old gentleman at the wall played the poet and philosopher as he eloquently described how a sunset should give pause for reflection on one's day, as one's life. To my left, a young woman and her sweetheart leaned while she was sketching the event with rapid strokes on a scrap of writing paper. "Ahh, just look", everyone murmured to each other. The sun was descending behind St. Peter's dome, behind Janiculum Hill's row of umbrella pines, casting a pink hue over all the ancient Roman architecture. I said to the artist, "Bravissima!" (You're very good!). She smiled and didn't stop.
Finally the show was over, and with sighs of satisfaction, the small crowd broke up. Can you imagine what romantic souls these are who seek out a vantage point on a work night just to witness such a routine occurrence? To ooh and aah such a "common" spectacle? It makes me appreciate the Romans: they are definitively Romantic! As we left to head down the hill, I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was the artist. She held out her completed sketch. "Oh no, I said, I couldn't accept that." She insisted, with an broad smile. Tears came to my eyes. Such exuberant generosity! Me, a total stranger -- she joyfully gave me a beautiful gift for the sheer pleasure of sharing a moment not to forget.
"It is more blessed to give than to receive," Jesus said. I felt so grateful to God: for the exquisite sunset over Rome, for the spontaneous gesture of generosity, for this sign from my Maker that he loves me and has me just where I belong. It moves me to tears.
This also makes me cry...
We had been invited to our landlords' book signing in a local shop in town. Our landlords are both published authors, and they have been very kind in inviting us to cultural events in which they're involved. We are blessed indeed to be on such a congenial basis with them. On our way, we passed by the Pope's home church (no, it's not actually St. Peter's, in case you're asked this bit of trivia!), which is San Giovanni di Laterano. It is one of the most ancient. Across, are the famous "Scala Sacra" or Holy Stairs, known and revered by Catholic pigrims all over the world.
According to legend, these were the very steps at Pontius Pilate's palace which Jesus Himself climbed up to stand before Pilate. The story goes that Helena, Constantine's mother, brought them back from the Holy Land in the 4th century. The door to the stairs was open, and pilgrims were filing in. They are required to penitently mount the stairs on their knees.
Now, it must have been the cumulative effect of having seen innumerable expressions of religious devotion in the very center of it all, Rome. But the sight of these people streaming in and out -- sincerely believing that the act they were performing somehow made them more acceptable to God -- brought grief to my spirit. I began to sob over the burdens people carried up those ancient steps: sickness, sin, sorrow, fear of Hell... believing what they were taught -- that those burdens would be lifted and removed at the top of the stairs.
Yet Jesus said neither this mountain nor that place made any difference, rather, "true worshippers worshipped the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and His worshippers must worship in spirit and truth." (John 4) The Word of God tells us "You have not come to a mountain that can be touched... Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe..." (Ch. 12).
It's another reason Rome sometimes makes me weep.