We’ve been looking at the church this fall and seeking to take it more seriously. That’s happening in us. We’re seeing things we haven’t seen before. And the hope is that we’ll be a better church as a result.
A couple of weeks ago we looked at a couple of metaphors that describe what we are as a body. There’s no sufficient metaphor that does that. There’s nothing like the church and nothing can encapsulate all that it means.
We have a corporate identity that transforms us inside and out, and connects us closer together than even family or body parts.
How do you bring all that together practically and make it tangible and real? We think Partnership helps you to do that. What if at Hillside we could identify the people who see it and say they’re in. People that say, I choose this church, whatever church that is. But you say, I choose these leaders and this mission and this calling on my life.
We’re upgrading our approach to partnership and to partners. So, as promised, you’re going to be invited at the end of this series to take that step starting next week.
The next three weeks all I want to do is clarify what partnership is going to mean. We refer to three rhythms, Worship Together, Life Together, and Serve Together. We call them rhythms, practices, rituals, integrated into the regular makeup of our lives that helps fulfill the corporate vision of the church.
Eugene Peterson said we tend to suffer from a corporate arrhythmia. We’re being molded into a certain kind of person by the rhythms of the world that are shaping you. Tech is a huge one. It is shaping how you think and feel and look at the world. There are rhythms in place that shape you.
I’m reading a book now called Scarcity Brain that is describing some of that. What you’re doing is choosing rhythms that counter-form you from the rhythms of the world.
The first rhythm is Worship Together. It’s probably the largest one to address. When we say Worship Together, what do we mean? Worship encompasses all your life, but we’re talking specifically about corporate worship, what we’re doing right now. This is our coming together––our time in the week where we’re all trying to be together. We’re all physically present.
We started this series because there are a lot of people in our culture who are choosing not to meet together or choosing a digital alternative. We’ve learned that it’s impossible to do church without being present. One of our DTS professors talks about this billboard advertising for Blackberry:
That’s the message you’re hearing from culture every day. He’s saying that thanks to tech, physical proximity is irrelevant for personal relationships. That’s the message the world is sending, but that’s not how it works.
Here’s our word, “habit” or ritual or custom or rhythm. You put rhythms in your life to keep you sane and help transform you by the power of the Spirit.
This text is hoping you’ll make it to the end. William Lane Craig says there’s a relationship between peril and promise. We have the promise ahead of us, but there’s peril all along the way and we need each other to make it to the end.
I have six grandchildren. One is in Colorado. I have a digital relationship with that granddaughter. I have five grandkids here. Distance makes a difference. Online, distant relationships are low-friction relationships. They don’t demand as much of you. A digital relationship you can turn off anytime you want.
Some in our culture have developed the custom of not meeting together. In Hebrews, part of that was because persecution. The other issue they had, like every culture has, is that you just have other things you want to do.
When we were in Cuba, we got up and drove along the coast. Felt like we were driving for days driving into the backwoods of Cuba. We get into these mountains, walking through the jungle, and we find a group of believers with a little church. These people were really spread out, but they would come together to gather.
This couple walks 17 miles every weekend in the jungle to meet with a group of people and 17 miles back, just so they can have church. That’s a rhythm.
When we say worship together, we mean being here, the value of being present, and the impact it has on one another. But the other part of worshipping together is when we leave and are out in the world. You can’t stay here, you’ve got to go.
Yes, you’ve got to be here, but you’ve got to go for the mission. We can’t just live here with this great news. You need to be in your neighborhoods, jobs, and schools. Coming together and parting from each other are just as critical. We’re called together and sent out.
Barry Jones says in his book Dwell with God that it’s life with God, for the world.
Paul is writing to Timothy, who is a young pastor. He’s talking about one of our metaphors of the church as the house of God. It has buttresses and pillars that suggest permanence and immovability. When we gather together, it’s like a building that houses the truth of God.
We’re all confessing to the same thing when we gather together. It’s a mystery that is divinely revealed through Jesus. I wrote out this hymn in a different format to show how it flows.
Paul is picturing the church as the headquarters of this truth and reality. Christ came in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, and everything he did was supported by God and spiritual reality. It brought the physical and spiritual realities together and confirmed everything he did.
There are cosmic forces looking down on everything happening here. This text has to do with victory. When Christ ascended, he took the enemy’s power away. And there’s a picture of exaltation where he’s ruling on the throne.
Because we’re the headquarters, everything God is doing, he’s doing through the church. But it’s not just a story that we celebrate together. The story has to be shared. There is a missiological necessity by the Christ event. It’s got to be proclaimed. You’re not fulfilling the whole story if you only celebrate the story but never share it. We come together and then are sent out.
This whole idea of worshiping together has those two parts, coming together and being sent out.
We breathe in and breathe out. Both are necessary.
We’ve seen throughout the New Testament that the church needs to gather together.
They don’t call it Sunday in this passage, because that had to do with the worship of the sun. We meet on the first day of the week, because it celebrates the day of the resurrection. It’s a new beginning, a new week, a new day. We celebrate and announce every time we gather that a new era has begun and we enter into a new reality.
On Sundays, we head out of our homes and come gather here. Let’s not ever drive onto this campus without imagining and realizing that it’s a testimony to the whole world. Worship isn’t just when you get here and start singing. It starts when you figure out how to get your family in a car on Sunday and miraculously get here. It’s an act of worship. There’s a reason you’re doing all of that and it’s bigger than you. You come here because you recognize that he’s the rightful Lord and King. When we gather, we rehearse that story, by singing, or taking communion, or baptism. We’re about to have Christmas Eve. We know that story as thoroughly as any other, but we gather again because we need to remember that story. We listen to God’s Word. When we pray or have a moment of silence, it orients us to that reality. It tells the story that he is Lord.
We see what’s most important, we see where our thinking or our lives are a little off. Sometimes we’re challenged with things that need to change.
This phrase, the first day of the week, is only used three other times, in Acts 20, 1 Corinthians, and Revelation.
This day was so transforming, the first day of the week, and it reorients us around hope. It’s a day of reckoning. I reckon my whole life according to that story.
Here, Paul is talking about giving. We don’t talk about giving a whole lot. But one of the things about orienting your lives around the Lord is a day of reckoning around our value system. What is God’s? Financial resources is one of those. That’s how we sustain each other in here.
On the first day of the week, this is a day we should reckon our values with what God has blessed us with. This is what that means for a partner. Last week, you were here and encouraged to support our missions. When you give of your resources here, you support the mission we’re trying to accomplish. The resources here get used for people. But the part we don’t like to hear about is operations and upkeep. Paul describes this as not muzzling the ox, the one churning the wheat and corn. It has to stay strong to produce. It’s a fine trade in Paul’s mind to trade financial resources to make it work. We better feed the ox.
Proverbs 14:4 says where there are no oxen the mange is clean, but abundant crops come through the strength of the ox.
If you don’t have an ox, you won’t have to clean up crap, but you also won’t have anything produced.
We have a general fund and building fund. We just want to be a well-resourced church. We have enough people in here to be well-resourced. We all have to have a share in that. We had to spend over $100,000 in the last 90 days on A/C equipment. We’re having to spend $40,000 on sound equipment that is breaking just to try and keep it alive. Our elders approve a lighting package to keep the lighting going.
Some of the resources I give have to keep the lights on. $400,000 to get the lighting project underway and then it takes months to get it going. We’ve been having so many problems with the lights, we never know when the lights will turn off or if they’ll come back on. One person gave half of that last week, so we only have to find $200,000.
Let me tell you two things about giving in my life. A regular portion of my income comes out every month. It’s the first thing I do with the money God gave me. That’s just a routine. That’s not sacrifice. That’s regular, ingrained, custom, rhythmic worship. I don’t wonder if it’s going to happen every month.
The second one is extra, sacrificial giving. Sometimes it really hurts, but not always. There are other funds, I give to other things that don’t even have to do with feeding the ox. This is just more of wanting to be in on other projects, saying I’ll be in on that lighting project or missions project, for example.
I was in the sanctuary after service on the week we were adopting more girls from India, and someone comes up with a sheet that has the 30th and final girl on it we were trying to get sponsored.
That’s how I look at secondary giving. When we gather together, we reckon our resources together.
Another thing we do is reimagine reality. What is really there? There’s too much pain and hostility in the world. We all need to be reminded and reimagine reality. All will be made right one day and we can live in anticipation of that.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer says that the church bears witness to the end of all things. He says it lives from the end, acts from the end, and bear the message from the end.
Hope, every Sunday, will get down just as little deeper in your bones so you can survive the next 7 days. You can go out of here tenaciously despite your doubts.
After Tim Keller passed away, I read his biography. He was a voracious reader and smarter than most people. He would read while he was walking and he would remember everything he read.
Ever single piece of fiction he would read, he read the end of the story first, because he loved going back and seeing how the story developed to that end. There’s something to knowing the end so you can handle the middle.
That’s breathing in. Coming together present and reckoning our lives to God.
Then there’s breathing out, where we leave. This is the exhale. You breathe the story in, discern who you need to be in that story, and breathe it out, energized by the challenge and the mission.
These churches in Revelation don’t just meet secretly. They’re lights in the world on lamp stands. There are other people who need to hear the story. You are shaped here by this story and made capable to enter the world. Being together is fuel for the mission.
We’re going to celebrate Christmas soon. Jesus could have stayed in heaven, just like we could stay where it’s safe in our churches. But he came to us just like we are being sent out into the world.
It’s God’s divine plan. We don’t gather to escape the world in Jesus’ name. We gather so that we have the strength to engage it.
Our involvement should draw us together. If you spend six days out there, you should be itching to get in here. What you deal with out there drives you here, and what you hear in here drives us back out.
There’s something about our gathering together that is unique in the world. Look what he says in the same passage. Just as he was sent, so are we. We are against the world, for the world.
Breathe in and breathe out.
I know sometimes you run ragged to get here. Sometimes on the way, you think to yourselves I should have stayed home today. I think it too. But I know I need to see those people and sing those songs, and hear that word, and hear that story. When you leave here, you don’t just say that you’ve checked that spiritual box for the week. No, you’re sent out on mission into the world.
I want to give you a practice that will help you. When you get in your car and drive here in the mess and aren’t even happy with the people in your car, tell God, I’m going there to breathe in and because I understand the value of being there. When you go home, do the same thing. Tell God, I’m about to get out on mission. Dialogue with him about it in some way. Breathe in and breathe out.