3 Contexts & 6 Convictions

As we seek to magnify Jesus Christ by making disciples who advance the mission of God among all people, Community Bible holds to six core convictions. These convictions are not arbitrary but are actually the convictions of the early church. Specifically, we see these things valued in Acts 2:42-47. When we assign one-word summaries of these convictions we arrive at:

  • Proclaim
  • Worship
  • Pray
  • Belong
  • Multiply
  • Serve

*You can get a fuller explanation of these convictions at the end of this blog.

The first step to realizing these convictions in our family of redeemed sinners is to identify them. As I’ve heard it said, “without goals, and plans to reach them, you are like a ship that has set sail with no destination”. Our goal is to have these six convictions move beyond being aspirations to being realized in our body. In other words, as we make disciples who advance God’s mission of making disciples, we believe we need to have these six convictions realized.

But how do we move beyond the aspirations of such convictions to actually seeing them realized? There’s a strategy for that. And at Community Bible, that strategy involves three ministry contexts.

The first of those contexts is our corporate gatherings. When we gather together for corporate gatherings there are a number of wonderful things that happen, including the proclamation of God’s Word and our congregational worship. Each week you can expect to hear expository preaching of God’s Word, which the Spirit uses to convict, encourage, teach, and correct us. With the proclamation of the Word, we learn more of what God desires of us, examine ourselves in light of God’s plan for us, and commit ourselves to move toward God in the power of the Spirit. In that way we are realizing our “proclaim” core conviction. 

Additionally, by singing songs that express what we believe about the gospel together, we are reminding ourselves of good theology. When I am singing these truths and I hear & see my brothers and sisters singing the same, it does a lot to encourage me that we are in this together. To be clear, worship is not limited to singing songs on Sunday mornings, but by coming together regularly to sing our worship to God we are (at least in part) realizing our “worship” core conviction.

Besides our singing together and the proclamation of the Word, we also dedicate time to pray together as a body during each corporate gathering. Each Sunday morning service includes multiple times of prayer (not to mention the Boiler Room prayer group that is praying during the first service each Sunday morning) but we also value prayer in other corporate gatherings, including our quarterly Community Gatherings (formerly known as member meetings). These gatherings often include an extended time of praying for one another, for our church, for leadership, for the lost, for our local, state, and national leaders, and for our ministry partners around the world, thus realizing our “pray” core conviction.

The first context that I’ve mentioned here is the corporate gathering context. In that context, we see the convictions “proclaim, worship, and pray” realized. The second context is groups.

In the groups context we move from large gatherings to smaller gatherings and we move from facing forward to facing one another. In the groups context we realize a few of our core convictions also.

One of the convictions that is most difficult to be realized in a large gathering context is “belong”. It is totally possible to be in the middle of several hundred people and yet feel all alone, like you don’t belong. However, in a group context where there are much fewer people present and those people are committed to knowing one another, you can more easily feel like you belong. Engaging with one another around the gospel and supporting one another is a beautiful experience, which happens within the Community Bible context through groups.

In addition to realizing the conviction of belong, we also see the conviction of “multiply” being realized in the groups context. The concept of multiplying really boils down to disciples of Jesus making other disciples who follow Jesus. Disciples make other disciples via relationship. As relationships are built within the context of a group, group leaders can build into the lives of others and group participants build into one another’s lives as well. So the multiplication of disciples is realized through intentional investment in Christ-following gospel-centered relationships.

Within groups there are three defined objectives: gospel application, mutual care, and prayer. So I find it helpful that even within groups people are realizing the “pray” conviction on a regular basis.

So what about “serve”?  Well, I’m glad you asked. The third ministry context is missional service and that’s where we realize our “serve” conviction. Being on mission — or serving — takes shape in two main categories: serve the church and serve the world. With the gifts that the Lord has deposited and the Spirit activates, we are called to serve the church. In other words, asking how we can leverage our gifts, time, and energy to serve other brothers and sisters. Maybe this looks like serving on the First Impressions team, or the technical team, or the worship team, or as a deacon, or as a Community Group leader, or in our Next Generation ministry. In all these (and many more) ways the Lord uses the church body to build one another up and bring Himself glory.

But then there are the lost… those who have not yet submitted to the lordship of Jesus… and we are called to love all our neighbors, not just our Christian or like-minded neighbors. So as a church we deploy people to serve the lost, for their good and the glory of God. This happens through Local Outreach and Global Outreach involvement and through our strategic partnerships with like-minded organizations. So there are many opportunities to serve at Community Bible and we want all disciples to be engaged in this context as we realize our “serve” conviction.

In summary, there are three ministry contexts at Community Bible that are designed to realize our six core convictions as we seek to make disciples who advance God’s mission of making other disciples. To be involved in only one or two of those contexts means you are handicapping your growth as a disciple. We believe that being involved in all three contexts over time gives you the best opportunity to flourish as a disciple of Christ at Community Bible. There is certainly more to be said here, but this is a blog and not a novel so I’ll stop typing and listen to your comments.

If you have questions about how to become engaged in one or all of these ministry contexts I’m glad to help! Feel free to contact me at josh.sands@cbchurch.org with your thoughts and/or questions.

The Spirit Illuminates

I’m so excited about our new series titled “Holy Spirit”. If we are going to experience the fullness of God’s work in us as a family of redeemed sinners, it won’t happen apart from understanding and yielding to who the Spirit is and what the Spirit wants to do in each of us personally and our church corporately. The Holy Spirit makes Jesus real to us. The Holy Spirit awakens us to God and what He is doing all around us. The Spirit’s work is vast and vital.

In our message this coming Sunday, we are going to explore three elements of the Spirit’s work in our lives. But He does far more than just three things. I wanted to take just a few minutes to share with you one aspect of His work that we won’t be able to address this coming Sunday.

When I was a kid, I used to love catching lightening bugs (fireflies). How cool is a bug with a bulb on its backside? I recently read a fascinating story about the synchronous firefly, found only in a few places in the world. You can see this rare species with a short drive to the Allegheny National Park (Tennessee) or Congaree National Forest (South Carolina). These fireflies all light up at the same time. One spectator said it was like watching the Milky Way “flash on and then off”. Wouldn’t it be amazing to see the dark sky illuminated all at once by a hundred thousand fireflies showing of their glory in one spectacular mating ritual (that’s why they do it)?

To illuminate something is to “cast light on” or “make something brighter”. That’s what the Spirit does for us concerning the things of God. He enables us to see what we would not otherwise be able to see without His light.

Here’s what we often vastly underestimate about our capacity for God. We have no shot at understanding God or the gospel or what it means to follow Jesus apart from the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit. Paul speaks to this in 1 Corinthians 2:14:

“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”

The world – and we are all products of a worldly way of thinking as a natural person – has rejected the Spirit (John 14:17). Consequently, we cannot understand the things of God. Worldly wisdom rejects the wisdom of God revealed by the cross of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:18). This is a by-product of our fallen, sinful nature. In addition, the Enemy blinds us to the beauty of God (2 Corinthians 4:4).

Without the Spirit giving us light, trying to understand spiritual things is like asking a newborn to do calculus. It’s beyond our reach. What this means practically is that our pursuit of God – through spiritual disciplines, by faith, in community – is always a spiritual journey.

We, of course, use our mind when pursuing God. But pursuing God is not only a pursuit of the mind or heart. The Spirit must turn the light on for us. The gracious work of God is to enable us to “see” the Kingdom (John 3:3; Acts 16:14; Ephesians 1:18; Rom 2:29; 2 Cor 3:15-16). The work of the Spirit is to dispel darkness and point us to Jesus (2 Corinthians 4:6).

Where we see Jesus most clearly is in God’s Word. The Spirit opens our deaf ears and blinded eyes to see the truth about God revealed to us in the Word of God. Intellect alone will not make us believe in God and follow Jesus. The Spirit must bring His beauty, truth, power, and love into the light and enable us to see it.

What does this mean for us practically as we seek to deepen our relationship with Jesus? It means (at least) two things:

  1. Embrace the reality that your relationship with Jesus requires supernatural intervention. You and I cannot – in our own strength, mental capacity, intellect – rightly understand the things of God. God certainly uses means of grace (prayer, Bible study, biblical community, suffering, etc.) to grow us in godliness, but none of those means of grace can be rightly applied or engaged in apart from the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit. So, we need to ask the Spirit to work through whatever means of grace God provides to make us more like Jesus.
  2. Ask God to open your eyes when you seek Him in the Word. The psalmist prayed, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (Psalm 119:18). Every encounter with God in His Word should be preempted by a humble acknowledgement we are completely dependent upon God to rightly understand who He is in His Word. Ask the Spirit to show you God’s intended meaning for you that reaches far beyond the ink that forms the words impressed upon the pages of Scripture.

I’m praying we would all rightly discover more intimacy with God as the Spirit lights our path to show us the beauty and all-surpassing worth of Jesus.

Seeking the Spirit’s Illuminating Light Together,

Pastor Aaron