In the late-1990’s, I spent two years in the heart of downtown Los Angeles as part of a new ministry that was attempting to change the spirituality of Los Angeles and through that, the world. One of the pastors asked me why I chose to come there. I replied with the first (and most important) thought that came to mind: “I am here because I wanted to be a part of something that was attempting great things for God to change the world. I wanted to be a part of a church where something miraculous could happen.”
What I learned through that time in urban ministry – and later in a ministry to downtown Long Beach, Ca. – was that the context for God to do His miraculous works is when his followers actually live by faith, hope and love.
The foundation of the church is the teaching of biblical truth [1 Timothy 3:15]. The nature of the church is to be the visible expression of Jesus [1 Cor. 6:19;12:27]. The maturing of the church is through the equipping of the saints for ministry [Eph. 4:11-16]. The sanctification of the church is through obedience to God’s Word [John 17:17]. The protection of the church is by the spiritual armor of God [Eph. 6:10-18]. The mission of the church is to make disciples [Matt. 28:16-20]. And the message of the church is salvation [Rom. 10:8-10].
But the experience of a church environment should be one of faith, hope and love. When people come to church, they should be moved by the Holy Spirit expressed through a people that are living by an impossible faith, an extraordinary love and an enduring hope. What we discover in the pages of scripture is that when the Israelites in the Old Testament and followers of Jesus Christ in the New Testament lived in this way, God literally did the supernatural among them. They defeated their enemies. They turned from wickedness to righteousness. They saw people’s eternal destinies changed. Are we? If not, perhaps the next move is ours, not God’s.
If the church to take her rightful place as the salt and light of the world, the most courageous action she must be willing to take is to step outside of the box of small expectations and minimal sacrifice. The scripture says that God searches, “to and fro throughout the whole earth, to strengthen those who hearts are fully committed to him…” [2 Chron. 16:9]. God’s responsibility is to search and strengthen. Ours is to commit. There must be a sense in our churches that we are fully depending on God, must be delivered only by God and are attempting things that are only possible through God.
Too much of life is mundane. The experience of church should not be. What we should be calling people to should inspire them as much as it stretches and challenges them. Anything but bore them with such a low bar of expectations that they could literally walk over it on their way to a weekend brunch and the televised Sunday NBA basketball game.
If you are reading this, we invite you to join us on this journey of faith, hope and love as we follow our great God. Shouldn’t you expect nothing less from God and his people?
“We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” [1 Thess. 1:2,3]