What We Hope You Experience at Christ Community Church

May 19, 2015 5:43 pm

Maybe you have friends who are thinking about visiting with us at Christ Community Church. What should they expect to experience?

What can an imperfect people really offer? There’s only one answer: Christ’s perfect love though very imperfect hands.

CCC is a community of former enemies reconciled to God and one another through the Gospel of Jesus, and joined to one another through the power of the Spirit. Like all Christian communities/congregations we are a people made up of sinners who are called ‘saints’ by grace and long for the day when our lives actually match the name. We have a long way to go. We also have leaders – people the Bible calls ‘Pastors’, which is another word for ‘Shepherd’. That’s all well and good, but in this current situation all of our Shepherds are also Sheep. So that means we have very imperfect leaders too, all of whom also need all the help they can get.

We mention this all up front so we can set the bar pretty low for you if you’re thinking about visiting us, worshipping with us, or even joining with us in covenant commitment to be a member of this congregation. We’re a mess. We hope you know you are too.

That’s where grace comes in. We’re not much into soul toupees and, far from running from our shame, we confess it right up front because God magnifies his love and mercy in the lives of people who know they need this intervention. You may be looking for a perfect church with a perfect Pastor and perfect programs populated by people who’ve never screwed up, or, if we have, won’t ever do so again. That’s not us. We do have a Perfect Savior though, and we’d love you to know him, receive him, follow him, and worship him with us.

So if you were to show up, what would we hope you experience despite our fairly desperate condition? Well since we aren’t really very good at this just yet, let me use some names from Church history that were stellar in these matters, noting that we find their example inspiring and hopeful. We want their work, which was really the character of Jesus, reproduced in us and we want you to experience that when you’re with us.

Here goes:

Benedictine Welcome: St Benedict established an order of dedicated Christians who gave themselves to prayer and service, and one of their chief means of ministry was welcoming people to stay with them. They washed their feet, fed them, and gave them shelter. OK, we aren’t going to wash your feet, but we are going to give you coffee. If you need food, what we have is yours. If you need shelter we can work with you on that. In fact we literally shelter the homeless right here in the winter months, working alongside many other congregations with Room in the Inn. We promise you prayer, spiritual feeding on God’s word, and the shelter of friendship and community as well. We welcome you as we would welcome Jesus himself walking in the door. We welcome people whatever the background may be, economically, ethnically, nationally: doesn’t matter! C’mon! You’re going to be respected, and you’re free to be here with all of your doubts and questions too. We welcome these and we welcome you.

Franciscan Mercy: Perhaps you’ve heard about St Francis. He was deeply devoted to the poor, and joyously so! If you’re part of us you’ll find out pretty fast that we do our best to care for the poor among us and practice radical generosity so we can support the hands and feet of Jesus moving through this area to serve the needy. This means we are in the world and for the world, rebuking its injustice and idols not by saying we’re better, but by serving in love, seeking the peace of our city, and standing arm in arm with Christian and non-Christian alike for the flourishing of what is truly human and the abolition of what is destructive.

Calvinistic Theology: We’re Presbyterians, part of a family churches that in many ways took shape through the labors of John Calvin and John Knox during the Reformation, rooted in the ancient Church of all ages. This means we take the Grace of God in the Gospel to be our greatest treasure, to be guarded at all times and shared with all people. We hold that Scripture is God’s word and our supreme judge; that the sacraments are vital and not just a symbol; that the Church is central to God’s strategy to love and convert the world; that love for one’s neighbor is essential; and that the work of the Spirit to be expected. We see children as church members, citizens of the Kingdom of God, and baptize them in infancy so that from their first days they begin their journey of faith as visibly part of God’s people.

Wesleyan Zeal: John Wesley, together with George Whitefield and other courageous servants of Christ in their day, was a man of astonishing devotion to the work of God in the world. He was deeply passionate about this, constantly seeking open doors for service and mission. There was nothing half-hearted about John Wesley, and we love that about him. He went everywhere to preach and preached everywhere he went. He cared for the poor, and made massive innovations in the methodology of how the Church offered Christ to the world, summoning Christians to move beyond the walls of worship and meet people where they were. He treasured deep community and discipleship, and his followers devoted themselves to social justice, in their time laboring for years to end slavery.

Pentecostal Passion: No, we don’t speak in tongues in the service, or wave our hands about as we sing – well not very often anyway, and you’re free to do so if you’d like – but we do live by and in the Spirit. Apart from the Spirit we couldn’t even be Christians, and apart from the Spirit’s power we’d never see the growth of love and mercy in our lives, or have the power necessary to bear faithful witness to Jesus through our weaknesses. Without the Spirit, all our works would be fruitless, and all our preaching and teaching would run down our shirts and collect in a puddle on the floor. Through the Spirit that same preaching and teaching pierces even the toughest heart, protects the weakest faith, nourishes the hungry soul, and awakens the sleepiest of believers.

Anglican Piety and Catholic Unity: Prayer isn’t something merely personal, it is also deeply communal and rooted in the life of Jesus. You’ll hear us walking through a year to the rhythm of a different calendar, noting seasons like Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost, while marking major Feast Days like Transfiguration or Fast Days like Ash Wednesday. This way of praying connects us to the wider church and to the story of Jesus’ life as told by the Gospels. Our worship year isn’t built on the Pastor’s personal preferences but on the message of Jesus’ life and ministry recorded in the Gospels, that big story shaping our story down to this day. We are part of the ancient Church, centuries deep and continents wide. We cherish this universality, which is what it means to be truly Catholic people.

Lutheran Boldness: Martin Luther was a bold man, risking it all for the sake of the Faith. He taught as faithfully as he could that Scripture was the supreme judge of all things and that we are right with God, not on the basis of anything we’d done or could ever do, but exclusively on the basis of Christ’s death and resurrection. We’re very bold in our announcement about this (and yes, I personally get quite worked up over it at times). You can expect to hear messages from the Bible that direct us to the Bible; messages that open up the Bible and open our hearts and minds to its truth as well. You should expect to hear it clearly and boldly and lovingly and winsomely presented, summoning all to faith in the Savior.

Orthodox Beauty: You may not be all that familiar with the ancient Christian Churches of the East, but one of their great gifts to all is their theology of beauty, wonder, and mystery. One of their significant leaders has written, “God is not so much the subject of our study as the cause of our wonder.” The Orthodox major on the visible as a tangible witness to the invisible. They remind us that hen we encounter a beautiful sonnet, symphony, or song; when we ponder a great painting or sculpture, or architectural achievement; when we savor a lovingly prepared meal, watch an eagle in flight, or consider the stars above us, something deep inside of us responds to the depth of love this artistry conveys. The creation’s beauty testifies to God and likewise artistic creators show God’s beauty in amazing ways through their works, and we treasure that testimony here.

I can sum this up in one word: Love. We hope you encounter God’s perfect love made known through his imperfect people.

That’s what we are after and we hope that’s what you experience. At the end of the day we want you to know Christ’s love and God’s personal presence; we want you to hear the Gospel clearly presented, and we want you to leave hungry for more. I hope to offer you a cup of coffee soon. In his Name.

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