VITAL INGREDIENTS OF CHURCH

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1 Thessalonians 1
1 Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you. 2 We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers.
3 We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. 7 And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.

8 The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia— your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, 9 for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead— Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.

I don;t know if anyone of you saw it but the BBC ran a great story this week which really made me laugh. Apparently al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsular has a an on line magazine for potential terrorists which included a recipe for explosives. In a stroke of genius in my opinion British Intelligence hacked their web site and replaced the list of ingredients for explosives with a list of ingredients for Cup Cakes! You can just imagine all these would be terrorist getting really frustrated because the mixture wouldn’t blow anything up but wondering why it tasted so yummy!

This week I had to read and reread that passage from 1 Thessalonians and the more I did that the more I started to think about that story about the terrorists and the cup cake ingredients. You see that passage was probably the very first part of the New Testament to be written and so in we have the very first description in history of the church. The more I read that description the more I began to think that the same thing has happened to the church as happened al-Qaeda’s recipe for explosives. The vital ingredients have been changed and its lost its power.

Just listen to Paul’s description of this church which at the time was probably only months old …

“our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.
you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.”
“you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead— Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.”
“The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia— your faith in God has become known everywhere.”
The Holy Spirit was powerfully at work in that church, making a deep impact on people when they heard God’s Word and filling them joy. As a result people were coming to faith and being genuinely transformed and unsurprisingly all of this was having an impact on the community around the church.

I don’t know about you but I rarely see that happening in churches in Scotland today and I wonder if its because we have got a bit confused about what the vital ingredients of a church are, the ingredients which give it the power to make that kind of impact on people’s lives?

I was talking to someone from another church a week or so again and they asked where our church building was, I said “we don’t have one” Then they asked when we meet on Sunday mornings and I said “we actually we don’t” I could see him getting more and more confused or maybe worried, he then asked if I wore a dog collar and I said no. “So are you really a church?” he asked.

I think that man was simply saying what so many other people inside and outside the church think. They think that vital ingredients of a church are a whole series of external, outward things
Having a church building
Having a church building with architecture of a certain type
Having events in a building at a certain time
Having professional Christians who dress in a certain way
Having a pipe organ
Having hymn books
Having a printed order of service
Not having a printed order of service

You know what? people might think those are the vital ingredients for being a church but the New Testament is silent on all of those issues. They just don’t matter. But whenever we make those outward things into our list of vital ingredients we do exactly what British Intelligence did to that terrorist recipe for explosives, we turn something that was designed to make a powerful impact into something that his harmless and “nice”.”

Which made me think, what are the vital ingredients of church? What are the ingredients that we need as Mosaic Edinburgh as start as a new church? What can we not do without? What is absolutely indispensable?

I think we can pin point at least three vital ingredients of church in this passage. We know Paul thought they were vital because he repeated them time and time again writing to different churches.

3 We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

When Paul described the church for the very first time in history he chooses to highlight three things, faith, love and hope. People have told me that you need all sorts of things to start a new church, a big budget, a building, a stomping worship group, a mission statement, a vision statement and purposes statement. Now some of those things would be really helpful if you are starting a new church but they are not indispensable. What is indispensable? what is vital? …. faith, hope and love.

Those of us who want to be involved in seeing Mosaic Edinburgh being born as a new expression of the Body of Christ need to be willing to
LIVE BY FAITH
BE KNOWN FOR LOVE
BE A VOICE OF HOPE
LIVE BY FAITH
We tend to think that faith is all about believing, its about believing the right things. There is no doubt that it is about believing the right things about Jesus and what he for us through his life, death and resurrection. But real authentic New Testament faith is about so much more.

if I am standing on a bridge with a bungee cord tied around my ankles, I might believe that that bungee rope could stop me smashing to the ground hundreds of feet below but unless I actually jumped I wouldn’t have faith in it in the sense that the New Testament describes faith. Real biblical faith means at times taking risks based on what we believe. It means jumping when only what we have faith in can save us from disaster.

I was speaking to someone this week who does work with leadership groups in churches. He tests leadership groups to see what their main value is and he told me that the number one value that has characterised every church leadership he has worked with so far has been “caution.”

How on earth did that happen? …… How did the church which is called to follow Jesus in having a radical and risky faith end up being characterised by “caution” So many churches I know are risk adverse. The terrible truth is that there are so many churches and Christians today who are actually doing nothing that really requires any faith in God at all because they only attempt what they know they can easily achieve.

Mosaic folks, if we want to start a new church we need to be attempting things for God which will never happen if God doesn’t step in and save us from humiliating failure. We need to start living by faith and attempt things we know we can only achieve with God’s power!

KNOWN FOR LOVE

You ever wondered how the first Christians spread so quickly when if you joined them you might end up as a lion snack? How they were able to make such an impact when they didn’t have buildings and could have big evangelistic “Billy Graham” type meetings? How a persecuted and despised minority changed the most powerful empire in the world without a big bank account or an army?

I think we find a big part of the answer to those questions in something that a leader in the Early Church called Tertullian wrote. He was talking about the money the church had and said that it was

” … not spent on feasts, and drinking-bouts, and eating-houses, but to support and bury poor people, to supply the wants of boys and girls destitute of means and parents, and of old persons confined now to the house; such, too, as have suffered shipwreck; and if there happen to be any in the mines or banished to the islands or shut up in the prisons, for nothing but their fidelity to the cause of God’s Church, they become the nurslings of their confession. But it is mainly the deeds of a love so noble that lead many to put a brand upon us. See, they say, how they love one another, for they themselves are animated by mutual hatred. See, they say about us, how they are ready even to die for one another, …”

Tertullian said that the Church of his generation cared for people no one else did and so in an age that was often cruel and heartless Christians became known for love. Love was the magnetic force that drew people to the early church and its still the main thing that draws people to church today. Why did presidents, princesses and prime ministers want to be seen with Mother Teresea? Because she was known for love and love makes an impact on the human heart nothing else can. Love draws people and changes people.

If we want to start a new church in Edinburgh which will make an impact in Edinburgh then we had better start living in a way which earns us a community and as individuals a reputation for being loving. And remember we talk about love as the church we are not talking about some airy fairy, vague emotion which makes us feel good. Christian love gets its hands dirty, Christian love always expresses itself in servanthood and sacrifice. Christian love is blood stained. Christian love gets you crucified at times.

VOICE OF HOPE

In the book of Ephesians Paul talks about people who are “without hope and without God in the world.” I think that is description of so many people in our city right now.

So many people around us live hopeless, meaningless lives, they have lost the hope that they can change, they have lost the hope that life can have purpose, they have no hope that they can escape from the past, they have no hope they break an addiction. Yet we know that Paul was right, this hopelessness comes from being without God.

Any life which has God cut from it will in some ways be devoid of hope. We know that God brings hope but so many people around us who are looking for are ignorant of that fact. We could spend hours sharing stories of how God has brought hope into our lives. God wants to spread that message of hope we have experienced and he wants to use our voices to do it.

Peter spelled it out, as the church we are to be a voice of hope … “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” 1 peter 3;15

Do you see what Peter is describing? He is saying that when we live by faith and become known for love, our lives will provoke questions from people we encounter? They will want to know where we have the hope to live differently and without ramming it down their throats we need to be willing to point them to what God has done in Jesus Christ as the only really source of hope in our lives and for their lives.

CONCLUSION

Mosaic folks, what will take to see our vision become a reality? For a church to be born in and through us. What does it take to start a new church? it will take us being willing to

LIVE BY FAITH
BE KNOWN FOR LOVE
BE A VOICE OF HOPE

Folk from Clermiston what will it take to sustain this church? To keep it going past this generation? It will take you being willing to

LIVE BY FAITH
BE KNOWN FOR LOVE
BE A VOICE OF HOPE

Faith, hope and love are the vital ingredients that give the church the power to be the church God intended to it to be and our world needs it to be.

Erwin McManus wrote

“Faith, hope and love are more than simply poetic words. they are more than spiritual abstracts or religous jargon. Faith, hope and love are the fuel that ignited the first century church. They are the very essence of apostolic ethos. They are the promise that the church of Jesus Christ is unstoppable and that the very gates of hell will not prevail against her”

So its over to you.
What are you going to do this week because you live by faith, what will you attempt that can only be done with God’s power?
What are you going to do to be known for love where you live and work?
Who will you have the courage to be a voice of hope to?

Grunge car Grunge car in front of a brick wall with copy space

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