Have you been noticing a difference at NSCBC lately? You might answer, “Sure, there are more new people and it’s getting harder to find a parking place.” Yes, you’re right, but there is something more fundamental happening. You may remember the sermon series about three years ago on The Sermon on the Mount, when Interim Pastor Rich showed us how Christ was bringing a new emphasis on the need for the heart to change. How there was more than just keeping the law as they knew it. How anger is as bad as murder, and lust as bad as adultery. He emphasized how Christ calls us to humility; dependence; love; mourning for the sin in our lives and the sin in our culture; and-oh yes-holiness. Did you notice in November how Pastor Bobby showed us how Ruth and Boaz’s behavior was the result of their hearts for God? As God worked through Boaz to accept and care for Ruth, both of their hearts were changed. Yes, they followed the law, but it was driven by a deepening internal love for God.
Let’s go beyond following a code of conduct to experiencing God’s indwelling, transforming power in our hearts. From that heart change, we’ll have a change in behavior. Hearts and lives that are inwardly changed and controlled by God will result in love, joy, peace, and having a lack of anger, greed, pride, and hypocrisy. This is what Christ was teaching concerning the greatest commandments to love God and to love your neighbor (Matthew 5-6; 22:37-38). It is also what Paul teaches about living by the Spirit and having the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26). We are not to just do good, but God changes the priorities and motives behind what we do. We see this throughout Scripture with the rich young ruler (Mark 10) and outcasts like the woman at the well (John 4) and the prostitute that poured oil on Jesus’ feet (Luke 7). God wants us to be different in our love and service to others. Do people see us as they saw Jesus – loving and approachable, not condemning? People will be drawn to Jesus if we show that we are broken, just as they are, and that what is different is God in us. Others need to see that we are being transformed and are trying to walk moment by moment in dependence on Him, living lives of service – and they can have the same joy if they call on Him.
As you wonder where NSCBC is going, imagine a church where people are not ashamed of their faults and weaknesses. Imagine people reaching out to others inside and outside the church with love. Imagine people seeking to be more like Jesus. Let’s be a transformational church where there are more and more broken people coming, drawn here by seeing something different in each of us – not just in our outward morals (although they must be pure), but also having a love and motivation from Christ deep down in our hearts. We have said before that we want to be like a hospital. But, how can we be a hospital if we’re afraid of sick people? Instead, we need to desire to see people come with their weaknesses and be changed by God, and then rejoice with them for what God has done in their lives. We want God’s transformation in lives to be a testimony to all those observing: children, youth, and adults. This often slow process will not be comfortable for some. In fact, it will be scary as we learn together to be in close fellowship with fellow learners. But seeing the changes will ignite a passion to boldly reach out more. Notice that Christ included on his team Matthew who was suspected of being a cheat, Thomas who was skeptical about things beyond the physical, and Judas who was known to not have a pure heart. Christ patiently taught his disciples and did not give up on them when they failed or questioned. And most of them became amazing witnesses for Him.
Let’s also be a more missional church. We can learn how to live out our faith day by day in this world’s culture, being the image of Christ for people to see and be drawn to. Let’s intentionally seek out and capitalize on opportunities to meet the needs of people that we encounter and develop relationships with them so we can understand their heart and share Christ in a way they will understand. Then we hope they will comprehend what He can do for them and accept Him as Lord of their lives. In other words, we want to understand the people God has called us to reach – in our neighborhood, in school, at work, or wherever we meet them – and we want to find ways to reach out and connect with them so we will be able to share how the Gospel is the answer to their unique needs.
Let’s draw people into our fellowship by being a loving, caring, supportive community that is Christ- and Gospel-centered. We don’t want to be “seeker sensitive” – where spectators come and leave and just enjoy the service – nor do we want to be a sanctuary from the world – a safe zone where we hide from its influence. We won’t have written or unwritten rules and standards at the door, reflecting what kind of people are welcome, although we do want the Biblical standard for life and belief to be clearly taught and exemplified along with the Gospel of love and grace through Christ. And this Gospel is not just a code of conduct, but a God-changed heart from which we seek to live in accordance with Scripture.
Do you want to seek God’s transforming power and become part of His mission on the North Shore? If so, let’s wholeheartedly join together to actively serve in His name. Let’s grow to be a more transformational and missional church!
Howard Botterill, Elder