5 things that need to die in order to become more fully alive
The mission of the church in one word is simple: go.
100% of the church’s energy is about this mission: go.
But this is church counterculture. For too long 95% of the church’s energy has been preparing for what happens inside the church building, not what happens outside the church building.
The church is the church when it goes.
While poor purposes cause us to wander, it is possible for life to be repurposed.
There is no single greater letter in Scripture than the apostle Paul’s letter to Romans. There may not be a greater letter written given its ability to change lives. It was Romans that was responsible for the conversion of St. Augustine to Christianity. It was Romans that was responsible for the transformation of Martin Luther. It was Romans that was responsible for the turnaround of John Wesley.
Preparing to communicate Romans to the beautiful community that chooses to allow me to be their pastor, I have been reflecting on how to approach Romans. Here are my conclusions with three weeks to go before the first sermon from Romans:
1) I now see that one does not master Romans; one is mastered by Romans. This letter is not just to be read; this letter will read you.
2) One cannot rush through Romans anymore than one can rush a feast. Romans is to be eaten, bite by bite, taking time to savor the savory aromas and nuances of thengospel meal that is Romans. Martin Lloyd-Jones, arguably the greatest expositor of the last century, preached for 13 years from Romans. I have been studying Romans for two years to get ready for this series. This slow marination process has convinced me Romans is to great to rush.
3) I intend to do all I can to get Romans into the bones, brain cells, muscles and bloodstream of the beautiful community I get to pastor. Karl Barth is associated with Romans more than any person other than Paul. He believed that the church had blended faith and culture to the detriment of faith. Romans challenges that blending and calls for a faith formed more and more by scripture and less and less by culture. I am approaching this document as if the only goal is to come under the influence of Romans so as to be genuinely full of the faith that Paul so comprehsively outlines.
I have been getting ready to teach and preach Romans for the benefit of Upper Room Community Church, the beautiful community I get to pastor. To help me get ready for a November 12 “first sermon” date, I have been exegeting the text of Romans so as to communicate its meaning for the benefit of others in the church. Here is what I found over and over as I read and exegeted Romans:
I was often myself so overcome by the power of the Word that I was brought to tears, to joy, to prayer, to praise. Characteristic for me, I found myself standing for long moments staring out a window, not seeing anything in front of me because the focus of my own gaze was a scene in Romans that had suddenly come alive. I was seeing Paul writing some word to some specific person. Sometimes the object of my focus was my own soul and interior life as a pregnant Word in Romans birthed a fresh awareness about the condition of my own life.
This first-century document written by the apostle Paul to the church in Rome is so powerful! I am not the first to realize this, but I am now among the fortunate to see this. The Word of God is so powerful, so honest, so alive! The more I read it the more it reads me. The more I study it the more grace I receive. The more I look into it, the more I find the Presence of Living God. The longer I read it, the more I find myself standing and staring out a window.