[Part V in a series on Abiding in Christ]
Through prayer and conversation, Trinity Church leadership has boldly chosen the following central ministry focus for our next chapter together: empowering believers to reach their world for Christ. Our central ministry focus is the main thing that we must all do if we are to be successful as a church, bringing glory to God. While this purpose of the church has been in our documents and teaching at Trinity, for most of us it has not been central. As a community of Christ-followers longing to glorify God, by loving God, loving people, sharing the gospel and serving the world, we believe that by sharpening this focus, we are better aligning ourselves with Christ’s purpose for us, which will bring greater glory to God.
Our main question and discussion as a pastoral staff has been, “How do we do this?” Yet shouldn’t we first consider, “How does God want us to do this?” This is the main thrust of Jesus’ words to his disciples in the upper room. We must remember, remaining deeply connected to the Vine is the source of all success (fruit). Everything flows from our relationship with Christ. Apart from him we can do nothing. “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 ESV). Abiding in Him is made possible through the presence of God, The Holy Spirit, abiding in us. He is our Helper to do God’s will and work in and through us. When we realize this, our commission to make disciples produces joy and freedom. Failure to recognize this produces fear and guilt, and quite frankly, we miss the heart of Jesus who spoke these things so that our joy may be full.
I used to be paralyzed with guilt and fear whenever the topic of witnessing or evangelism came up until I realized that it was the Lord’s work that mattered most and not my own. At that point the pressure was off and I began to relax and move. Now, by God’s grace, and with much yet to learn, I have been useful to the Lord for the purpose of witness and I delight in encouraging faith in others. If you are like me, I hope I might encourage you to relax. You have a Helper. After being with his disciples every day for three years, Jesus says, “It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7 ESV). It must have been shocking for them to hear that. What could be more advantageous than being with Jesus?
Christ’s disciples were the leaders he chose and trained to carry on his ministry. The advantage is theirs because the Holy Spirit would help them accomplish their mission: to bear witness about Jesus and continue his works. Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12 ESV). He also says, “And you also will bear witness [about me], because you have been with me from the beginning.” (John 15:27 ESV). Acts 1:8 says that the Holy Spirit would empower them to be Christ’s witnesses. The chain of witnesses, disciples making disciples, continued on from that day, and somewhere along the way, you and I heard the gospel of Christ because of those who witnessed to us. Upon hearing and believing we have been saved by grace through faith, and are now his disciples too. While we are not the original apostles (eye witnesses), we have the same mission of carrying forth the word and works of Jesus, and the same Helper to guarantee success. What a joy and privilege for us to join with Christ in this foundational purpose of the church. These are exciting times as we trust the Lord to direct our hearts, words and actions into making his central ministry focus, our own.