(March 6, 2017) Tim Edwards brings a timely, challenging kingdom word…
Church – and the kingdom – is not about me; it’s about God and all of us together. 2017 is the beginning of a new season, a new chapter, a new day and I personally can’t wait to see where God takes us all on the journey.
Every Christian shares a clear purpose that is given to all who love and obey God. As Christians who who are aiming to live a Christ-like life, we all have the same purpose as recorded in Matthew 22 and 28…
- The great commandment – asking us to ‘love God and love one another’
- The great commission – asking us to ‘go’, to take that love out to the people, into life, and offer everyone the opportunity to connect to God
- Loving God, people and life summarises our shared purpose as Christians.
After purpose, we need vision
Purpose is the same for all Christians but vision is specifically related to what God is highlighting for a particular person or group – in this case, our churches.
Purpose is continual and unchanging but vision is seasonal and achievable! So the three-fold question we have to ask ourselves is, ‘What is the vision of my church? What is God allowing us to see? What is he pointing our focus toward?’
Indeed this is a question for every church as we all move further into 2017!
An initial thought I shared with my own church on my recent induction evening was this: ‘The one word which has certainly impacted me greatly since I first walked in the doors here – is restoration.’
You’ll have worked it out that it so happens my church already has a vision which revolves around restoration and already demonstrates restoration in so many ways!
And so I expanded the challenge (as I would encourage any church to do) – ‘Let me remind you of, or introduce you to the concept of the second step! Because I think the time is here for us as a church to take the second step of restoration.’
Why is a second step important?
Because Christians and churches can’t go to the next level without taking the second step! There is always a second step, a bit more, a stretch, a leap, another bite of the cherry.
The Bible tells us in Romans 10 that when it comes to our connection to God we need to both believe and confess. Then a bit further on we read in James 2 that faith and action need to work together to see things done. Jesus himself, when asked what the greatest commandment was, said ‘Love God and love people.’
We have two steps to follow: The first and second steps! And we need to note that our next level is always determined by our second step!
So what might that second step look like for a vision that is focused on restoration? I think there could be three parts to it:
- Restoring Hearts
- Restoring Hope
- Restoring Health
1) Restoring hearts
I see a hunger to develop deeper and stronger relationships with God; for individuals to relate to God in a new and fresh way and I am reminded of Ezekiel 36:26-27 which says, ‘I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you says the Lord.’
2) Restoring hope
I see purpose, meaning, passion and energy returning to individuals as hope is restored in this second step of restoration. Let’s remember that hope is described in Hebrews 6:19 as ‘an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.’
3) Restoring health
I see the restoration of physical, emotional and spiritual health as part of this second step and as that happens I believe we will see a new depth and strength in relationships being restored both inside and outside the church as we engage with other churches and community organisations, businesses and governments throughout our city, state, nation and world.
So, let’s be bold, let’s take that second step!
It could lead to a few tricky moments but let’s do it
- Anybody who has ever had children and watched them learn to walk knows about the second step. The first one comes as a surprise to everybody including the child! But the second one is really hard until they get the hang of it.
- What about trying to put together that pre-packaged furniture or build the kids’ Lego according to the instructions with Step One, Step Two and the next? Even notice that step two is always so much harder than step one?
- What about dancing? Now believe it or not in my younger days I could actually dance! Not brilliantly I admit but competently! I have even danced in Rock Eisteddfods as a student and professional theatrical shows as a singer who had to move a bit! And always the second step is harder!
Why is this so?
Because the second step builds on the first one and that means you have get the first one right to be able to attempt the second! Whether you are walking, building furniture or dancing you must be able to do step one at least some of the time before attempting step two – that’s why step two is always harder!
But should difficulty put us off having a go at the second step? No, never – life is difficult at times and that is how we learn and grow.
It is interesting to note as well that the second step isn’t always received with the excitement as the first step is. Everyone is excited when you take the first step but that excitement drops off when you take the next and the next – you start to be left alone a little more. Be ready for that and you’ll be fine.
As it happens, my church has already taken the first step and has done amazing work in the area of Restoration – both inside the church and outside of the church. There is no doubt about that, but I believe the time for step two is coming.
The Second Step
By the way, to take a step is described in my thesaurus as: ‘To grow, increase, gain, develop, multiply, sprout, bud, bloom, blossom, flower, mature, grow up, spring up, be fruitful, climb, rise, take-off, ascend, flourish, thrive, gain ground, advance, accelerate, boom, surge, enlarge and expand.’
Awesome! Who wouldn’t want that? The second step is about –
- Moving forwards.
So let’s move forward without fear because God says he will be with us every step of the way – ‘If the Lord delights in a man’s way he makes his steps firm; though he stumble he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand’ (Psalm 37:23).
God will be with us as we take the second step! It will be a step in the right direction, it will be about learning and growth and it will change our perspective.
Luke gave us great second step examples!
Luke 5 – Remember the fishermen with Jesus who needed to learn trust – their second step was a step of obedience that led to a miracle. These guys had been fishing all night, they were exhausted and they were washing their nets! But here stands Jesus quietly saying go out again – so what does Peter do? He doesn’t argue or complain, he says because you have told me to, I will.
Luke 5 – And what about the men who wanted their paralysed friend to be healed and couldn’t get him to Jesus with their first step only, so they took the second step and lowered him into the room through a hole in the roof! Love in action!
Luke 10 – The Good Samaritan exhibited such extraordinary selflessness and generosity by taking the second step. Step 1 – he saw the hurt man and took pity on him, and Step 2 – he went over to him, helped him by bandaging him, putting him on his own donkey, transporting him to a motel, paying for a room and telling the owner that he was coming back in a few days to pay more money if there were any other costs associated with the care of the hurt man. Awesome!
Remember, we can’t go to the next level without taking the second step
So, let’s pray and talk and think, as we prepare to take our second step of restoration!
There’s a story that summarises what I am saying above…
Some readers may have heard it before but I believe it will be of encouragement to everyone who contemplates the second step. It involves a women’s Bible study group who were working through various parts of scripture when they found themselves confused with Malachi three.
The third verse says about God that ‘He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.’ The ladies wanted to know what this actually meant to them as Christians and sent one of their number to a local silversmith.
The explanation she came back with amazed the others –
- The silversmith never takes his eye off the silver
- He always puts the silver in the hottest part of the flame to remove the impurities
- And how does he know when it is ready? When he can see his own image reflecting in the silver!
That’s our caring God! With his eye always on us he will help us take the second step, removing impurities and hindrances as we journey forward! We too can be the image of Christ in our community, to the world.
So – be bold!
Tim Edwards is the new senior pastor of Moolap and Barrabool Baptist Church, Geelong. Adapted from his February induction service at the church’s Highton campus. Link: firstname.lastname@example.org / www.barraboolhills.com.au