The last time we did this, it was August of 2019. Can you remember back to where you were? We did not even have an online service. Times have really changed. The elders had been meeting for months and talking through “What is God calling our church to?” After that process, we put a new vision in front of the church, and this was the vision: Helping broken and vulnerable people find life in Christ. Vision is simply a picture of what could be fueled by what should be. And that is what this is, a picture. Little did we know that less than a year after we cast this vision, the world would fall apart, and a whole lot of brokenness and vulnerability would come out. As we pursued this vision, by God’s grace, he has done amazing things.
A few highlights:
- There was a Sunday where we let you know about an opportunity to give to people in Ukraine, and the invitation was to give that day before 4:00 PM. There was an outpouring of generosity. Over 400 bags of winter clothing and blankets were collected for the people of Ukraine.
- Over the past four years, we have had 234 people commenced from Re:Generation. Re:Generation is our 12-step recovery program centered around life in Christ, and 234 people commenced having completed the steps.
- Two weeks ago, 21 people were baptized after going public with their faith. Three on Saturday and 18 on Sunday morning, and we celebrated as they shared how Jesus had saved them.
All these numbers and statistics are cool, but I want to share a story.
“I was invited to GFC. I wasn’t in the best place in the world, but I was invited, and it took me a while to accept that invitation. Probably about a year. A coworker invited me, and you know, he just told me it was a great atmosphere and very open arms, and it was good for the kids too. It wasn’t long ago that I did struggle. I had a lot of struggles with addiction, and I lost my husband at a very young age. I had two little kids, so coming was difficult. I was still very upset. I didn’t understand why I was going through the trials and tribulations that I was. Ultimately, walking into the building? It was like a breath of fresh air. It’s like I knew I was meant to be here, and I really found the welcoming family that I was missing. I felt so accepted, and from that day forward, we’ve been here every Sunday. The kids absolutely enjoy the children’s programs. Broken people are loved too, and you can be who you are.”
The reason that the numbers matter when we talk about people who have commenced from Re:Gen or baptism or any other ministry, is because they represent people. And there are hundreds of people over the past four years, maybe some of you here today, that your life has been changed by what God did through Grace Fellowship Church. So, we celebrate that today.
But while God has worked in tremendous ways, we can’t rest on that. We can’t stop seeking to be faithful. With the mission he’s given us, if you’ve been here over the past two months, we’ve been looking at the seven letters that Jesus wrote to the churches in Revelation 2 and 3. Jesus writes to them and says, “I know your deeds and I commend you for these things and I critique you for these.” If Jesus wrote GFC a letter, what would he say? What would Jesus say to us? I asked our elders that question this past spring. I gave them the homework assignment. Each of them had to try to imagine that. I pulled those together and kind of synthesized them. I want to share with you my summary of what we felt like Jesus would say to Grace Fellowship Church right now.
“To the Church of Grace Fellowship. I commend your value of my word, your heart for your community, and your emphasis on my grace. Yet I have this against you. It is easy to drift into becoming stagnant. See yourselves as consumers, not participants in the mission. Don’t confuse knowing about me with knowing me and extending my grace to others.”
Now to be clear, this is not actually from Jesus. But we did feel like this is what the Spirit of God was impressing on our hearts for this season. As you look around right now, this moment, in our church, but even beyond to our local community, in our country, what do you see? Here is some of what I see when I look around. I see some people feeling stuck in their faith, going through the motions. No zeal, no heart. I see some people who are gripped with a chronic anxiety about the state of our country, and it is distracting them from joy and peace that God offers. I see kids and students trying to make sense of God and faith in a world that’s been turned completely upside down over the past few years. I see people with one foot out the door of evangelicalism. I see people leveled by broken bodies, broken relationships, and the choices of family members that they can’t do anything about. I see people walking deeply with Jesus. Struggling. But struggling well and seeking to know him. You know what all those people have in common? Christ. And if we’re going to be faithful to what God has called us to, we need to remind ourselves where we are going.
We are making small but significant changes to that vision statement: Helping people find life in Christ. We are changing a word. We are replacing the word find. Why? Because when we say we want to help people find life in Christ, it can feel like once we found it, so we’re good. We’re done. We have never taught that, but the statement itself leans that way. So we want to change that word to experience. Belief is important, but knowing God, knowing Christ. It’s about experiencing him. Relationally. Experiences takes us out of our heads. Jesus doesn’t want us just to accumulate facts. This word also pulls all of us under the same tent. Because we all need this, don’t we? The other change we are making is to remove a word. We are getting rid of the word helping. So now the statement is “Broken and vulnerable people experiencing life in Christ.” We are all broken. I feel broken and vulnerable. We all need life in Christ.
So, what does this mean for us as a community of faith? Listen to the full message here…