Beginning our Rooted & Reaching sermon series reminds me of how God awakened me and helped me to engage more wholeheartedly in this mission over a decade ago. Still far from where I would like to be in living an effective and fruitful witness for Christ, I am eager to grow more rooted in him and see God use me to reach my relational world. I’m excited to do this together. Great things are certain to happen as we further align with his heart and his purposes.
All of us are on a journey of following Jesus, and the first thing we must realize is that it is a journey guided and fueled by grace. Our seed initially takes root in Christ by grace through faith. As we walk in him we become rooted and built up and established in him. (Eph. 2:8,9; Col. 2:6,7) God transforms our lives and shapes our desires and empowers our witness as we grow to know and love and follow him. Without grace, the concept of reaching our world can be a fearful and seemingly impossible demand at best and at worst, a guilt-inducing, nagging reminder that we don’t measure up. That’s where I found myself about twelve years ago.
Like many of you, I grew up in the church surrounded by godly influence and influencers from birth, my parents foremost. I believed and confessed Jesus as Lord when five-years old. I surrendered my whole life to him when baptized at age sixteen. It was a “no turning back” moment for me. I was “all in” and by God’s grace have remained so. While my heart desire from that day forward was to know Christ and live wholeheartedly for him, sharing my faith with non-believers remained obscure and difficult with a nagging sense that I ought to be better at it. I saw those who did it well, my best friend Dave being one of them, yet, I shied away, especially one-on-one with people. Most healthy churches make a big deal of our mission to reach the lost, including Trinity Church, and rightly so. It is our great commission by Jesus himself who said, “Go and make disciples.” Nevertheless, it took another friendship to be the catalyst that began to change my attitude and ability to actually do it.
In 2002, I became Trinity’s Worship Pastor and shortly thereafter developed a friendship with John and Tonya. New believers, musicians who joined Trinity’s worship team, they worshiped the Lord with a deep conviction and sincere emotion often expressed in tearful gratitude for the salvation they had received through Jesus Christ. Their hearts were broken for those who were lost without Christ and their lives dedicated to declaring his message. I wanted what they had. I began to wonder why I didn’t feel that way about God’s rescue of my soul and why I didn’t share the same burden for the lost. I knew that I should and thus began a season of soul-searching prayer. I asked God to open my eyes and heart to a deeper understanding of my redemption through Christ and give me the ability to wholeheartedly express that in worship. I asked him to break my heart for those who did not know and follow Christ. He answered both prayers and continues to do so today. Our Rooted & Reaching mission is yet another piece of the answer to that ongoing prayer.
The irony of my story is that it was in the process of becoming more rooted in Christ, specifically becoming more and more defined by the gospel, that I became more compassionate and confident and burdened to reach those who did not know or follow Christ. Encountering Jesus through the gospel initiated an emotional response that was fanned into flame by understanding the truth of my utter lost-ness without him, and his sacrificial love to rescue me. I began to see myself as an adopted child of God. Passion and love for Jesus produced compassion for others. This compassion was fueled by a growing understanding of the gospel of Jesus, and by his transforming work in my life.
What is this gospel? Simply put, it is the good news of Jesus Christ. We read about it in the Bible, the grand story of God’s plan to rescue the world gone wrong. We proclaim it every week in our songs of praise. Jesus gets the spotlight – who he is, what he accomplished through his birth, life, death and resurrection. We hear it in our sermons. Almost every sermon culminates with the ABC’s – when we admit that we fall short of the glory of God, sinners in need of a savior, and we believe that Jesus is the only savior, confessing that he is Lord, and we chose to follow him, we are saved. We hear it in the testimonies of our brothers and sisters in our small groups, seeing firsthand the powerful transforming work he is doing in those who believe. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes[.]” (Romans 1:16 ESV).
We are at the cusp of a new season for our church family. Trinity Church has a rich history of helping people to be rooted in Christ and calling them to reach the world. This has been a part of our purpose: to love God, love people, share the gospel and serve the world. Now we are making Rooted & Reaching our primary focus and rallying point, our mission. While I believe that God will do a work by his grace through us and we will see many people in our relational worlds come to faith in Christ, I believe that we will also be changed. My friend and fellow worshiper, Randall, said it well. “When the sanctuary is filled with people who are viscerally aware of the preciousness of their salvation, the walls will bulge to contain the exuberance of our praise.” Let it be so, Lord Jesus. For your glory alone!