It was brilliant to be reunited at the Reaching the Unreached conference on Saturday with faithful ministers who share the same passion for Christ-centred ministry in areas of high social deprivation. Two of us from Holy Trinity West Bromwich took a red-eye train to London and came back massively encouraged by the day. Here’s my notes from session one; Duncan Forbes from New Life Church, Roehampton, on Christ-centred ministry.
RTU – ‘a movement of Christ-centred Churches reaching the socially deprived in grass roots ways.’
We can lose focus on Christ and focus on other things, even good things. Churches are to be focused on Jesus (Ephesians 1:19-23 and 2:19-22). The church is all about Christ. The cornerstone and centre of it all. (Ephesians 3:14-19) how wide, high, long, deep love of Christ. United in him and in the knowledge of him (Ephesians 4:13).
Parents begin parenting by focusing on Jesus but can go out of focus and make it about behaviour, which makes life easier, or on character or on looking good in public, rather than on Christ.
In the 1990s church was all about worship. There was something good about this, but it was more about what we do, rather than focusing on Christ. Nowadays, the buzz word might be missional. Again, it is about what we are doing rather than being about Jesus.
Revelation 2:1-7. The focus begins on Jesus, but it shifts to deeds and hard work for Jesus. The Ephesians are persevering and are doing lots of hard things. Are they the missional church, with suffering and good doctrine. Yet I hold this against you…you have shifted your focus from your first love, your love for Jesus. Your focus is on the deeds, not the Lord Jesus.
Mission is the growth of the church as it focuses on Christ…check out Duncan’s summary of what mission is.
God being glorified through
the believing community expanding,
as the church displays God’s glory
in word and deed
whilst it serves and protects
and spreads God’s rule broadly and deeply,
making disciples of all types of people.
Take note of what you say when you speak to people. Do you speak about what you do or who you are in Christ?
Luke 10:38-42 – anti- task focus. There is only one thing which is important, which cannot be taken away from Mary (she sat at Jesus’ feet and focused on him and his teaching).
We can focus on our sin, confession and sanctification. The focus is on how we are doing are Christians, how we are growing. We can focus on a system which changes us, the gospel focus on transformation,
Beyond Duck-tape workbook – get it, but remember that it is focused on change in us, get more holy, get more godly or grow the church. We focus on propositional truths about Jesus rather than on the person of Jesus, and all the truth about him. We need to speak to him, ask him to come to us and fill us with his Spirit, as well as knowing the truth.
Consumerist culture trains us to think “what do I want.” Someone says “I want longer worship” or “I want shorter worship.” or “I want hymns” or “I want songs.” etc etc. We end up not doing conflict resolution and so everyone individually demanding their own ends but no speaking about it. We should be asking “how do we work out what Jesus wants?” We are to make it about him, so we mature, and ask “in what ways can we know him better?” Rather than being blown about, here and there, we speak the truth (the bible) in love.
We get different people from different cultures to speak that word, so that we avoid cultural blind spots. We need all kinds of people have good access to the scriptures and good access to exegetical training so that we can speak the truth in love.
Say an Anglo-European sense of time (starts punctually) and a south-American sense of time (we start once everyone turns up). Then we do a biblical theology of time and share our perspectives and then ask “when do we meet and how do we do what Jesus is calling us to do?” Think about Jesus and Jarius’ daughter and Jesus delaying his arrival when Lazarus died. How do we work out time?
If we are going to be Christ-centred churches, then church should reflect the gospel and the truth.
Church reflects Christ’s death – 2 Cor 4:10 – we carry around the death of Jesus in our bodies.
We speak about how being beaten up, imprisoned, suffering for the gospel hurts us. Be open about our gospel related pains.
Church reflects Christ’s resurrection – 2 Cor 2:
If you have Jesus then you have all the resources you need. We might think things could be better with more material resources, funding or buildings. All we really need is to know his resurrection power.
Christ-centred churches will be seriously repentant. If you are a parent, you are the chief repenter in your family. If you are the church leader, then you are the chief repenter. Set the example.
We are sinners and the world knows it. We are also called to close fellowship. Recipe for disaster, unless we are seriously repentant.
The comfort of the gospel – Jesus’ blood covers it all. It’s a place where it is okay to have sinned as Jesus has it covered.
We are clothed with Christ’s righteousness. That makes a huge difference to the way we do church. A Christ-centred church focuses on Christ and his righteousness.
Best holiday ever. But living on top of each other means we were sinning against each other all the time. Told each other how we were sinning against each other and affirmed each other in the righteousness of Christ.
When we focus on Jesus we are freed up from looking good. Comparison between us and better looking churches or better looking people.
John 15. I am the vine and you are the branches. Abide in me and I will abide in you.
No storehouse of grace. We need to sit at his feet, feed on him, abide in him.
What are some of the practical changes we could make?
Spend more time with Jesus as we become more Christ-centred.
We’ll spend more time in confession and repentance.
We’ll ask Jesus to help us to do the good works he has called us to do. Let’s not assume this is too much or too difficult for you, but rather, how about asking Jesus to strengthen you with his power.
We don’t need to tell people what to do when their behaviour is out of order. Teach Jesus and let his holiness work in them. Then repentance will be genuine from the inside.
Revelation 1. Jesus is a man but he is so different, other, higher, than us. His eyes penetrate our souls, his mouth with words like a double edge sword. John who had been Jesus’ closest friend, was terrified, and Jesus puts his hands on John and assured him that he was loved.