Odds 'n' Ends
I'm a little late in mentioning it, but the final FOCUS service of this year was outstanding. Did you miss it? If you did, you really missed out on the foundational hallmarks of the life of any church. Chris Wilcoxson and Guy Kaminski led us in a great time of reverent, awestruck worship. Then we dedicated BCC's latest baby boom. We watched our children recite a passage from Romans 8 in sign language (our Macy was the littlest one :-). We baptized a few folks. And we celebrated communion. This, folks, is the life of the church, from generation to generation and from covenant to confession -- all in one place at one time. More than a few eyes were misty that night.
In all, and as a conclusion to this portion of our corporate midweek study of Romans, I think it was a great service -- monumental even in its simplicity -- and a great, understated way of marking the transition of healing and growth in our church.
Dedicating babies and baptizing grown-ups. That is the testimony of a growing, healthy church.
I especially liked the testimonies read for each person baptized. Getting to hear some very dramatic stories -- for instance, the married couple getting baptized together and the young man with a painful past whose conversion was as incredible a tale of repentance as I've heard in a long, long time -- in such a dramatic moment was an awesome way of shouting the redemption of Jesus as His death, burial, and resurrection is re-created in the passing through the baptismal waters.
Let me just say that every week I am increasingly proud of being a part of Bellevue Community Church, and last Wednesday was one of BCC's proudest moments. The glory of God and the power of Jesus to save were all over that service.
Also last Wednesday, the last of the initial interviews with the nominees for elder were conducted. The next step will, I think, be follow-up interviews with the elder board, and I am told the three incoming members will likely be voted on before the end of this month.
I am seeing new faces all the time. Let us not forget that BCC will continue to receive guests and visitors who have no idea about our "past." And let us remember that we have an exciting mission and privilege to bring the grace of God to folks who are attracted to our church simply because it seems like a safe place to bring your hurts. Maybe one of the good things to come out of this transition will be our increasing ability to faciliate the healing of those with troubled pasts of their own. That might be one practical way to "count it all joy."
Dirk Plantinga has changed the name of his BCC blog.
Some other links you might find click-worthy:
Dan Edelen concludes his "Being the Body" series today. All the installments are linked in the final post.
At Jesus Creed, Scot McKnight uses the recent Ted Haggard scandal to talk about the need in our church culture today for an "environment of honesty".
Les Newsom on "the worst sin in the Bible".
Mark Driscoll talks about church attire. The key question, I think, is "If God is our Father and the church is our family, should we view going to church services as a formal event or a family event?" But he asks some other good ones too.
Yesterday morning in our Conexus group, we continued telling our "Jesus stories" (what you might call our "testimonies"). This has been the most profound and powerful experience of our short time together.
I am convinced that every believer has a story. Or, if you don't have one, you will have one eventually. It is remarkable, but not surprising, how much pain, grief, suffering, doubt, depression, and trouble every single person in our not-exactly-small group has gone through in their journey to and with Jesus Christ. And as I sit in with the Studio 215 crowd on Monday nights, I see that the younger generation is not lacking for these sorts of stories either. The experience of pain and grief and fear is universal.
Here's the incarnational connection I want to make. God, in the messiest and bloodiest way necessary, conformed to the image of man in giving us Jesus Christ. He emptied Himself of His full divine rights to share in our pain, grief, and trouble, that we might share in His Sonship. He conformed to the experience of our anguish that we might be conformed to the image of His glory. And that is what our troubled lives ought to really work in us. Why do we suffer? I am not so arrogant as to assume I really know, but I do know the Bible says our pain and our grief are ways God conforms us to His will and to the image of Jesus. He shared our pain so that our pain might bring us closer to Him.
So the trick here is not to be stingy with our stories. We should not be ashamed of them. But provided there is, as Professor McKnight is urging, an environment of honesty -- provided our churches can somehow approximate a redemptive community that brings grace and mercy -- we should be free to share our sins and struggles. The real glory is not merely that Jesus helps us in our stories, but that our stories are part of His Story, the great big story of redemption God is telling in the world throughout history. That is part of what makes all of our separate Christian testimonies into the living testimony of the Church, the Body of Christ.