Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Revitalizing CLBC: Part 3

This is part 3 of an ongoing series walking through the revitalizing process, thus far, of Cypress Lake Baptist Church. You can read Parts 1 here and Part 2 here.

Not long after coming to CLBC I realized that I needed help thinking through steps to take and areas to work on to refocus our church. I consulted several friends (and still do) and others who have been able to see churches in plateau or decline come back. There are several books out there with some helpful material in them, but often those are more practically driven than anything else. Practical issues are good and important, but only insomuch as they reflect the Biblical pattern.

One of the people I contacted was Joe Thorn. I had actually talked with Joe several years ago when I prayed through planting a church in Chicago. This time it was different, but I wanted to hear his story and what he focused on through his process of church planting. Our stories are different, but the goal of having a healthy church is the same. I'm sure we process and apply things differently, but the first item he talked about I loved. He shared the need to focus on Gospel Recovery and Centrality. It's interesting that he stated this because I was already focusing on this in many ways, but this helped me to clarify to others within our faith family that this would be a focus for us.

I came to CLBC in September 2010. I immediately began preaching through the book of James on Sunday mornings and evenings. By the end of November we had finished James and I decided it was time to focus on the person and work of Jesus Christ. This launched us into an exposition of Luke's gospel. I started that at the end of November 2010 and am still preaching through it today. I've taken breaks, but it has certainly been the primary text of preaching since I arrived. My goal here was, and still is, that we would know and love the person and work of Jesus. By this I mean that we would recover, or renew, or refocus, on what the Bible says about Jesus instead of what we often want to believe about Jesus. This has been really helpful for me and it appears for our church.

I'm a huge fan of expositional preaching as the primary form of preaching when the church gathers. However, as we were working through Luke's gospel I decided that we needed to really focus on the gospel message itself. This was partly due to my observation of our church, as well as other churches, and how easy it is to drift away from being centered on the gospel. What I found in our church is that we need to have a center on something other than preferences. Of course this center is Jesus, and we know Jesus through the declaration of God's Word, and specifically the gospel message. This was also sparked because I read Trevin Wax's book Counterfeit Gospels (which I recommend!).

I have recently realized that no matter where you are as a church you need to constantly be reminded of the gospel message of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus on behalf of sinners. I do not ever want our church to assume the gospel. I don't ever want to assume that everyone in my church fully understands the gospel. A recovery of the Biblical gospel is huge. God seems to have used my preaching through Luke's gospel, as well as a message series on the gospel, to help us recover the gospel message.

In that sermon series, however, I also wanted to show how the gospel should be applied beyond initial salvation. I wanted to show that the gospel was applicable everyday for believers as well as unbelievers. Knowing that there was noway I could cover every area that the gospel applies in (since it applies in each and every situation!), I decided to focus on how the gospel message creates the gospel community (the church) and that the gospel community belongs to Jesus Christ. From here we established that since it's Jesus' church He decides how the church ought to be.

We're not there yet. We have a long way to go. But again I think we'll always have a long way to go. We are a work in progress. But I have heard testimony after testimony within our faith family of men and women seeking to apply the gospel in their own lives, in relationships, at work, at home, and in the church. I believe it pleases God when His people seek to apply the Scriptures daily. I believe this is crucial for the revitalizing of any church. I must admit that while sermon series can be good and helpful, and for us I think it was, expositional preaching of God's Word has been the number one means that God has used thus far to strengthen His people and to draw in new ones to this flock.

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