Press On, Christ Church, Press On!
Dear Members of Christ Church,
A little over a month ago we joyfully celebrated our one year anniversary as a church plant. On that joyful occasion we reflected upon God's faithfulness to us, and the tremendous opportunity that our Heavenly Father has given us to establish a biblically healthy congregation that glorifies God, loves one another, and possess a heart for unchurched friends and neighbors. It was a wonderful milestone in the life of our young congregation and we give all praise and glory to God.
It has recently dawned upon me, however, how crucial it is that we do not see the initial encouragements to our church plant as a reason to “coast” (pun intended!). The first three years of a church planting work are incredibly important for laying a strong and lasting foundation of sound doctrine, faithful ministry, strong leadership, deep relationships, godly piety (personal, family, corporate), and a culture of loving evangelistic outreach. In order to see these things happen there must be an increasingly committed church membership. As your pastor, brother, and friend, let me encourage you to think and pray about the following eight ways in which you and your family can help build a strong and enduring foundation at Christ Church Presbyterian.
1. Unyielding Commitment to Lord's Day Worship: For Christians, Sunday is the high day of the week–– the Christian Sabbath or Lord's Day (Ex. 20:8; Acts 20:7; Rev. 1:10). It's the day that our Lord Jesus was resurrected from the dead. Since Pentecost believers everywhere have been gathering on the “first day of the week” for God-centered worship and fellowship (1 Cor. 16:2; Acts 20:7). In Lord's Day worship God nourishes, strengthens, and comforts the faith of His covenant people through the reading and preaching of the Word and the right administration of the sacraments. Moreover, in worship we express our love and devotion to God for His extravagant grace in Christ.
But worship is more than just vertical in its emphases. It is also lateral in its impact as we encourage one another through our joyful and eager participation in the service. The Bible puts it this way: “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Col. 3:16). Here's the point: Our faithful attendance to public worship is not only necessary for the health of our own souls; it is also necessary for the spiritual health, accountability, and encouragement of our fellow church members. Have you ever thought of your church attendance in those terms? One of the most profound ways that you can love and spur on fellow believers / church members is to faithfully attend worship. And not just to attend, but to be intentional about your worship and your encouragement to others before and after the service. Dearest members of Christ Church, this important but often neglected aspect of morning and evening worship should not be underestimated. Your faithful attendance is not just for you (as important as that is), it’s also for your fellow church members. The writer to the Hebrews underscores this point when he writes: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Heb. 10:24-25).
2. Unyielding Commitment to Hospitality: If I have learned anything after more than a decade of pastoral ministry, it is that hospitality is essential to fostering a healthy congregation. There is no substitute for warm, loving hospitality in our church and in our homes–– especially in the early stages of a church plant. We want to be a welcoming congregation, always looking for opportunities to meet that first time visitor and make them feel welcome. Something special happens in our relationships when we invite one another into our homes with the express purpose of providing biblical encouragement and deepening God-glorifying relationships. Indeed, great and memorable fellowship takes place around the dinner table! God's Word exhorts Christians to “show hospitality to one another without grumbling” (I Pet. 4:9). A church body that keeps each other at arms-length and isn't intentional about getting involved in each other's lives will never enjoy true biblical unity and love. Christ Church, let's renew our commitment (or make a commitment) to biblical hospitality.
3. Unyielding Commitment to Tithes and Offering: From the very beginning Christ Church has received extraordinary financial support from about a dozen churches and several individuals. Of course, one day this external financial support will come to an end. In order for our church to one day be financially independent, therefore, it's important that we are all committed to biblical giving (II Cor. 9:6-8). Let us renew (or make) our commitment to consistent, faithful, and sacrificial giving for the health and extension of Christ's Kingdom here in Charleston and around the world (Mt. 28:18-20).
4. Unyielding Commitment to Personal and Family Piety: There are no short cuts to spiritual growth. In order to mature as Christian believers and as Christian families we must be devoted to spending time with God in His Word. Busyness and leisure activities are no excuse for unkempt spiritual lives. Let us follow the example of our Lord when "rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed" (Mark 1:35; cf. Ps 63). Even the eternal Son of God thought it important to “be still” and spend time in the presence of the Father (cf. Ps. 46:10). In addition to personal worship, may family worship be a regular part of our household activities during the week (Deut. 6:7-9). And may all of our personal and family worship flow from hearts full of profound gratitude for the grace that God has lavished upon us in Christ!
5. Unyielding Commitment to Service: From day one the core group has served Christ Church in myriad ways. I thank God for each of you who has committed to serving over this past year. As our numbers have increased and ministry expanded, however, we need more individuals who will be willing to serve. We need women who desire to serve our covenant children in the nursery and who are willing to host the monthly ladies Bible Study Fellowship. We need folks to join the weekly refreshments rotation and who are willing to set up and take down our signage on Sundays. There are many other avenues for service and these opportunities will only increase in the future. If our church plant is going to be firmly established in the future, our membership must have a heart devoted to service (I Cor. 16:15).
6. Unyielding Commitment to Midweek Meetings: Christ Church is committed to Word-centered discipleship. In addition to discipleship on the Lord's Day through the preaching of the Word (Acts 2:42), we offer an array of men's and women's Bible studies during the week. There is a weekly men's Bible study on Acts, a weekly MUSC (and early 20's) dinner and Bible study on Galatians, a weekly women's study on prayer, and a monthly women's fellowship and Bible study on Ephesians. In addition, we have a congregational prayer meeting on Sunday mornings at 9:30 a.m. Please join us if you are not already attending one or more of these discipleship and fellowship times (and are able to do so). During these midweek meetings, not only will you be encouraged in your walk with God, you will also deepen your relationships and accountability with others.
7. An Unyielding Commitment to Mission and Outreach: Before Jesus ascended into heaven He charged the Twelve to preach the gospel and “make disciples of all nations” (Mt. 28:18-20). As followers of Christ, we are called to spread the gospel across the street and around the world. Let us be committed to cultivating a culture of evangelism and mission at Christ Church, always praying and looking for opportunities to share the good news that Jesus is a friend for sinners.
8. Unyielding Commitment to Prayer: Perhaps this should have been mentioned first. Prayer must be the engine that drives our church–– a childlike dependence upon our sovereign heavenly Father in every step we take as a congregation. We are commanded to “pray without ceasing” (I Thess. 5:17). A faithful church is a praying church. Every time we pray we acknowledge our weakness and God's omnipotence. Therefore, in these early days of our church plant, let us be deeply committed to prayer. For a start, commit to our weekly prayer meeting on Sunday mornings.
In our first year of ministry as a church plant we have seen the Lord do some marvelous things. Let us not think, however, that it's time to coast. On the contrary, as we begin our second year, may we, the membership of Christ Church, by the grace of God, and because of deep gratitude to Christ, be unyieldingly committed to those areas mentioned above. May our reputation be like that of the Thessalonians who were known for their “work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” Indeed, may the gospel come to us “not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction” (I Thess. 1:3-4). Press on, Christ Church! By the grace of God, and by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, Press on!
Your Pastor, Servant, and Friend,