February 6, 2008
On a personal note, today is a very exciting day in the Born household. Around noon, we will sign the adoption papers for Maria. Exactly a year ago I wrote these words:
The real issue of life, the bottom line for the Christ-follower, is the answer to this question. Do I trust God or not? This is the question of faith. … Do I trust in God’s faithfulness when I’m feeling something else, or to put it in the words of a friend, “When it’s not working for me?” Well, this is what I have found out regarding faith as I walk through the unknown future with my daughter, Maria, whom my wife and I hope to adopt. Right now I face a terrible loss – it’s a date on the calendar for next week, the day I am to give her away to her great-aunt. … The knowledge of this possibility came to us in November. Julie and I decided to make this a matter of prayer and have devoted Wednesday afternoons to fasting and praying for this situation. This decision to devote ourselves to prayer has changed everything – it gives us the right perspective and it takes us to the humble position of our knees, together, as we confess our utter dependence upon our heavenly father. This unites our hearts with one another and opens our eyes to the bigger picture of God’s sovereignty – this is bigger than us and really isn’t ultimately about us. Prayer makes us hopeful, not in getting our way, but with the felt presence of God working in and through us as we place our trust in Him.
Is it just chance that we get to sign the papers for Maria’s adoption at the same time that we have devoted to prayer for the past year? Is it a coincidence that we go to court to finalize the adoption next week? I see God’s hand in it. I am flooded by a sense of his pleasure. He has proved his faithfulness time and again, and I walk away with a determined confidence in his timing and sovereignty. (Even now as we have been on the list waiting since September for our next children to adopt.) I echo the words to an old hymn, “Jesus, Jesus, how I trust him; How I’ve proved him o’er and o’er; Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus, o for grace to trust him more.” I’d like to live my life spotlighting the proof of God’s faithfulness. Certainly that proof will come through times of terrible loss as well. But this time is a time of wonderful gain – I gain a daughter for life – Maria Joy Born. Billy was chatting about his ‘deep thoughts’ before bedtime with Julie the other night. He said, “Mommy, this means that I’ll get to see Maria when she’s 6 like me.” She is so beautiful – I just can’t imagine what she will look like as a young lady. For now, I will devote my time to cultivating her inner-beauty and thriving in the fact that I am her Daddy and will remain so forever.
Now I move to my reflections on our Trinity Philosophy of Ministry. The third affirmation is stated as follows:
3. Our goal is holistic personal transformation, the lifelong process of becoming Christ-followers who increasingly manifest Christ-likeness and honor Christ as Lord in every area of their lives.
- Because we believe that God’s intention for Christ-followers is “likeness to Christ, for the glory of God and the good of others,” we are concerned that Christians grow, not only in right understanding (orthodoxy), but also in right character (orthokardia) and conduct (orthopraxy).
- Service and suffering [an undeveloped point thus far].
I see two areas that I must consider with regards to worship ministries. First, are the members of worship ministries actively involved in becoming transformed – are we growing in right understanding, character and conduct? Second, are we encouraging and fostering that growth in our congregation? Then I will speak separately about sub-point b) regarding service and suffering.
- The people who serve in worship ministries – I believe that the best way to ensure that people in worship ministries are growing is for them to first of all be deeply connected to and committed to this church family – not only in service, but also in Bible-study and accountability. I want our personnel who serve to be committed to their own growth by being regular attendees of our worship gatherings – in other words, they don’t just attend when they are scheduled. There is accountability in this as well as a shared journey as we experience our corporate worship together – the teaching of the Word, and the moving of the Spirit as we experience God’s transforming presence. Second, I need to realize that Worship Ministries may be a connecting point for people to this church family, and even more so to the redeeming work of the Gospel in their lives. All Worship Ministries teams need to be intentional about creating connecting points and then leading those who connect to a deeper connection to this church family by moving them towards that which was stated above. Practically speaking, this means that all of our artistic and technical teams are seeking to engage those outside the family of God, as well as serving those who are inside. This intentional ministry needs to be done with prayer and with my knowledge and support in choosing appropriate means to do this.
- Fostering growth in our congregation – Those of us who plan and lead worship services must acknowledge personally and publicly that we expect God to be actively present in our worship gatherings. We must be devoted to prayer toward that end – for fruit to result from our time gathered together as a church. Are we convinced that when we encounter God’s presence we should be transformed? Are we just information junkies, walking away saying what great preaching or great worship, or do we walk away overwhelmed with our need to realign our lives with God’s will because we have met with him there? A proper understanding (orthodoxy) produces proper character (orthokardia) and practice (orthopraxis). We as worship leaders need to come to be changed – transformed, as 2 Corinthians 3 states, to “ever increasing glory.” And we need to encourage those we lead to come with the same mindset. “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2Cor. 3:18, NIV)
- Service and suffering – Regarding sub-point b), the process of transformation is rarely comfortable. This is an area where I confess a great misunderstanding, a blind spot, in my own life. I would go so far as to label it sin – I am more and more convinced that it is the sin of quenching the Spirit of the Living God, of trying to manage and arrange my own life my own way and not allowing the oft-terrifying transformation process of the Holy Spirit to take me away from comfort into tremendous sacrifice, yes, and even suffering for the sake of Christ and the growth of his Kingdom. The result of this quenching of the Spirit is a bland Christianity that while appearing different on the outside (we go to church, we talk Christianese, etc.), is in reality no different than the secular world (it lacks the Spirit’s power as evidenced by transformation). Our family relationships, our character in business, our money, the way we use our time and talents, the manifestation of our sexuality, the purposeful use of our possessions, our demonstration of love for the poor, the orphan and the widow – all of these practices need to be transformed as evidence of the heart transformation that Jesus brings. Like James says, “But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. ” (James 2:18-19, NIV) James has much to say about the character and practice that the life of faith in Jesus Christ should produce. But he opens his letter with this statement.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. ” (James 1:2-5, NIV)
Trinity Church needs to be a worshiping community that embraces suffering as God’s way of producing his character in us. We don’t run away from it. Neither do we foolishly run toward it, but we do expect it, accept it, and walk through it well together. We need to be fiercely devoted to prayer for one another. In addition, we need to be a worshiping community that encourages brave and courageous acts of faith that include tremendous sacrifice. While foreign missions is a very valid calling and example of this, we need to also encourage it at home in our own community. We don’t have to go somewhere else in order to do this. God will at times call all of us to tremendous risk right where we live. Our worship services should regularly acknowledge and embrace those who are going through “various trials,” but also highlight this process that God has ordained to produce maturity and to make us complete. Again, I see the need to publicly highlight more examples of God’s transforming work in the lives of the Trinity Church family. These should become some of our songs of praise and part of the sermons we preach. We need to spotlight the good stuff that he is doing as we are becoming a people defined by Christ and the gospel as evidenced by <i>holistic personal transformation.</i> In so doing, we will not only encourage and build up those who have faith in Christ Jesus, we will also connect with those who do not, as we ultimately spotlight Him.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Rom. 12:1-2, NIV)