A Second Reformation?

Summary

What would it look like around the world as people catch what it means to serve God in all areas of our lives?

What would it mean for our churches to experience a Second Reformation?

We explore the history of the first Reformation to uncover the striking similarities to our present situation–similarities which explain why we’re ripe for a Second Reformation.

By seeing the implications for our society, churches and personal lives this talk presents a kind of roadmap for leaning into what God is doing in our disruptive times.

Listen on YouTube or read the manuscript below.

[Note: Catholics are welcome in this conversation–we are exploring history to understand the present situation we all face. Historians may also point to other occasions that could be called second theological reformations, but this talk focuses on the social, political and technological dimensions that make our time particularly disruptive.]

Outline

Listen to this talk on the Theotech podcast (subscribe on Apple or Google podcasts). Subscribe to the TheoTech mailing list for expanded ideas from this talk. Support our work on Patreon.

Manuscript

Today, we’re discussing the possibility of a Second Reformation. What it would look like, why now, what it’s impact could be and what that means for you and me.

The First Reformation

But before we begin, let’s consider what happened in the First Reformation.

If you’re not familiar with the origin story, it goes a bit like this:

In 1515, Pope Leo X needed money to build St. Peter’s Basilica. He had a revenue stream through the sale of indulgences, which were said to absolve people from sin in exchange for money, regardless of contrition.

Johannes Tetzel, a Dominican preacher was commissioned to sell these indulgences in the region of Bishop Albrecht. He was an effective growth hacker, inventing a catchy slogan, “When the coin in the coffer rings/the soul from purgatory springs” that soon reached the ears of Martin Luther in the neighboring region of Frederick the Wise.

In 1517, disturbed by the sketchy theological basis for indulgences and by the manipulative religious extortion happening at the expense of his people, Luther posted his 95 Theses–written in Latin–to start a scholarly debate.

But this soon spun out of control into what we of the Internet age might call a “flame war”.

Why did it go viral?

Unbeknownst to Luther, someone translated the 95 Theses from Latin into German–the language of the people. Gutenberg’s printing press, invented about 77 years earlier was already widely in use, printing books for the wealthy. But Luther’s 95 Theses was a major breakout hit that demonstrated the scale of its disruptive potential. Within 2 weeks, pamphlets of Luther’s writing had spread throughout all of Germany.

Other Reformers from other regions joined the debate and started new threads surrounding the authority of the Pope, the Scriptures, the nature of salvation, and much more. The floodgates were opened, society was upended and there was no going back.

Five years after the 95 Theses were posted, Luther published a popular vernacular German translation of the New Testament and completed the whole Bible 12 years later. His translation was unique for its basis in the original Greek and Hebrew manuscripts and high quality German that commoners could understand. The result was an explosion in Biblical literacy among ordinary German speaking peoples and a unification of the language. It busted the privilege of the religious elite and gave the movement legs, which leaders would parlay into greater freedom.

Different Reform movements allied to secure religious freedom and in 1526, an initial imperial parliament gave each government within the Holy Roman Empire permission to decide which religion it wished to follow. But 3 years later, this freedom was rescinded and Lutheran teaching was condemned resulting in an April 20th “Letter of Protestation” by the German princes and delegates of the Imperial Free Cities. Incidentally, this letter received legal status as a formal complaint on April 25th–490 years ago, to the day.

This is where the word “Protestant” in “The Protestant Reformation” comes from.

And so we come to today.

History is messy, but I want to draw out a few observations from the First Reformation to get hints for what a second might look like.

My first observation is that the Reformation was initially about correcting an injustice in the church. The church was corrupted and having monopolized salvation and the Scriptures, it ended up selling the forgiveness of sins to enrich its hierarchy.

Second, the Reformation was effective because of translation and technology, which rapidly reached and connected diverse people into a greater movement. Without the translation of the 95 Theses into German and the printing press to affordably put these pamphlets in the hands of every person, no movement would have formed and the status quo along with its injustice would have prevailed.

Third, this movement was enabled by innovations in the arts and humanities and resulted in the prolific creation of new artifacts and institutions to carry it forward.

Beyond the numerous pamphlets, songs, cartoons, sermons and other creative works generated by the Reformation, Luther’s Bible stands out as the powerful artifact that reshaped all of Europe. It was made possible by the Christian humanist scholar Erasmus who published bible manuscripts in the original language. And it resulted in a unified German language as well as a pluralistic polity with new religious and political freedoms.

And perhaps an even bigger outcome? The emergence of vocational integration. Every person in every discipline had a contribution to make for the glory of God. The sacred/secular divide was broken.

So what might these observations mean for “A Second Reformation” in our day?

The Injustice in our Day

Let’s begin by talking about injustices we see in the church in America today.

Yes, there’s everything from abusive leadership to sex scandals to plagiarism to embezzlement. Jesus said there would be wolves in sheepskins who would not spare the flock.

But let’s talk systemically–institutional churches, the Christian market and the non-profit industrial complex. What injustices do you see?

[ Discuss examples from the audience ]

I want to highlight one systemic injustice I’ve noticed. Bear with me as I speak boldly, but generally–I’m not referring to any church in particular.

I think the injustice in our day maybe less in the use of money, but in the use of time. Churches waste people’s time. And by extension they devalue their labor.

The sacred secular divide enables church institutions to claim greater significance for the activities and needs of the church, which justifies extensive unpaid labor and time. Instead of activating and unleashing people to use their most valuable gifts to build up the Body and bless the world, churches pull people into church activities to serve the church community in cookie cutter roles.

Not only are people expected to volunteer, but much of their efforts are ineffective at producing change, which is at the heart of meaningful labor. When you work, you never want to work in vain. That’s what makes people quit their jobs.

When you volunteer at church, you go through the motions, but to very little effect and may try to resolve the cognitive dissonance by attributing it to a different spiritual economy or a different spiritual causality. In actuality, much of the action keeps people busy, distracts them, gives them something to do in order to involve them in church as an end in itself.

This is an injustice.

Instead of selling indulgences, churches try to be value-added resellers of meaning, purpose and relationship by claiming eternal significance when you participate in the activities and work of the church. But deep down, I think many people can tell it’s grasping at straws. They can seek their need for meaning and connection elsewhere.

Completing the Truncated Gospel

Strangely enough, this error flows from a misunderstanding of salvation–it flows from a truncated Gospel.

When you hear the word “salvation”, what do you think of? I think for the majority of Americans, it would mean a personal relationship with Jesus that ensures you go to heaven when you die because your sins are forgiven by believing he died for you and rose again from the dead. That’s not the Gospel–in the least it is incomplete.

What’s missing?

When Jesus began his ministry, he preached, “The Kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe the Gospel.” When Peter preached at Pentecost, he said, “Believe in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins and you will receive the promised Holy Spirit.” When Paul spoke of what happens when we die, he said, “If anyone is in Christ, he/she is new creation. The old has passed, the new has come.”

The Gospel was that God’s cosmic purpose to unite heaven and earth in Jesus Christ through the Church is being fulfilled. Jesus through his death on the Cross not only bore our sins, but also became the seed for the New Creation, which would be given as an inheritance to everyone in Him.

The apostles bore witness to his Resurrection inviting all people to repent and believe in him so they would become a new redeemed humanity that would inherit and rule this New Creation with Christ. In the present time, every believer receives the Holy Spirit as a downpayment in advance of this promise.

So, the hope of the Gospel wasn’t to go to heaven when you die. It was always, a New Creation ruled by a New Humanity redeemed by Jesus Christ–aka the Kingdom of God.

Do you see the difference?

When salvation is understood merely as forgiveness now and eternal life when you die, all work unrelated to these two things are demoted in significance. But when salvation is understood as God making all things new in Jesus Christ and giving it to redeemed people from every tribe, tongue and nation to rule, all work done in Jesus’ Name is significant and all people in Jesus Christ are indispensable.

Making disciples is no longer about making converts to our way of life–it’s getting people ready for the New Creation through the good works God has prepared for them to do today.

It is in a sense vocational integration.

So if the First Reformation broke the institutional church’s unjust monopoly on salvation and Scripture by making God’s Word available to people in their own language, then perhaps a Second Reformation will break the monopoly on what it means to serve God by unleashing God’s people in every vocation to be productive for God’s Kingdom throughout the world.

Why is the time ripe for A Second Reformation?

Now, what I am saying is not new. Vocational integration has been a movement for some time.

What makes our present time ripe for A Second Reformation?

I want to suggest three things: Technology, Politics and Translation.

The First Reformation started about 77 years after the invention of the printing press, which enabled mass communication.

The political situation was a highly fragmented, restive Holy Roman Empire. Local rulers saw in the Reformation an opportunity to press for greater freedom and oppose the hegemony of the empire.

And translation lit the fuse of Luther’s 95 Theses by pushing it out of academia and into the international political scene. It brought together diverse people from many nations into a continental movement that disrupted all of Europe.

Today, we have the Internet, which recently turned 30 years old. It amplifies mass communication to the extreme where everyone has access to overwhelming amounts of information for free and anyone can distribute their own ideas–as long as they can get attention.

We also have a highly divided political situation in America, which cuts through our churches. It’s exacerbated by the ways we’ve come to use the Internet and other countries have taken advantage to undermine the United States. Trust in general, feels scarce.

And advances in AI and automatic translation mean we’re approaching human quality for many major languages, driving down the cost and speed of translation and enabling diverse people to connect and collaborate even internationally in unprecedented ways.

Something disruptive is coming.

What will be the impact on the church?

So what does this mean for reforming the church?

Here are three ideas.

First, gatherings must shift from being a product to be consumed to a platform for productive vocational integration. This requires a change in the pastoral role and turns denominations from being clergy-oriented to focus on equipping and unleashing the saints. It also makes church gatherings “lightweight”.

Second, technology must be used for large-scale ongoing interaction and collaboration rather than just mass content distribution and consumption. This may even go beyond off-the-shelf collaboration software like Slack or WhatsApp and require churches to become innovative creators and early adopters of technology, not just consumers.

Third, church communities must embrace the unity in diversity that bears witness to the Kingdom of God. This means including and empowering people with disabilities and people who speak many languages because they are indispensable to our witness that Jesus is Lord.

Let’s dive into each of these ideas in turn.

From Product to Platform

The first idea is a paradigm shift from church as a product to church as a platform. What’s the difference?

A platform empowers others to build on top of it. A product satisfies a felt need.

For example, Amazon Web Services is a platform that equips startups to build products that meet customer needs like ordering a pizza through an Echo. Platforms like AWS have a brand, but customers don’t choose to subscribe to Netflix because they built on AWS.

Similarly, the church is a platform that equips saints to produce good works which satisfy God’s desires for them and for the world. God is the customer. The church gathered is not a product that meets the felt needs of those who attend. It is a place of shared discernment and pursuit of God’s will.

The Apostle Paul frequently used the analogy of building in reference to the Church where each person gets to build on the foundation of Christ and each person’s work will be tested at the return of Christ.

His description of worship gatherings in 1 Corinthians 14:26 seems to be an example of one way church services can be a platform for all members of the Body to exercise their gifts in an orderly way to build up the Body:

When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. (1 Corinthians 14:26)

There are other ways as well–steps to take that move from church as a product towards church as a platform.

Some churches have discussion groups on certain Sundays where people can think through Scripture together and benefit from the gifts and perspective of every member of the Body.

Some parachurch ministries form vocational integration and discernment groups for people in different industries and spheres of society to practice the implications of the gospel in their work.

And some events like hackathons, which can be extended to prayathons, preachathons and pitchathons, facilitate in an orderly way the sharing and exercise of every member’s gifts, ideas and contributions to build up the Body of Christ.

The common thread in these models is that every member of the Body of Christ is doing the work of the ministry together with their Spirit-given gifts.

This is how the Body is built up according to Paul in Ephesians 4:

[God] gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

In this picture, our church gatherings and institutions become like a spiritual infrastructure or spiritual skeleton, connecting people who are equipped and activated to build up the Body of Christ.

A New Role for Pastors?

Many pastors and laypeople are burnt out because they are not fulfilling their roles. Pastor teachers are not to do the work of the ministry, it is too much for them! They are to teach and equip the saints. And this goes far beyond preaching a sermon or visiting someone in the hospital.

Saints have work to do and that work happens outside where they gather on Sunday. Pastor teachers must help them make their strengths, their work, productive for the Kingdom of God. Pastor teachers must equip them to think theologically about their work, to discover how their work bears witness to the Gospel of the New Creation God will give us in Christ, and how to be motivated to carry out their work as unto God.

Pastor teachers must set an example for saints to not love money or worry about money, to find their identity in Christ instead of their work, to practice justice, righteousness and steadfast love, to be a courageous witness and a humble and generous leader, to find their place in God’s story, their role in the Body, how they build up the Body and to help them maximize their impact for God’s Kingdom.

Then the work of the ministry will be effectively accomplished by the Body of Christ. Then our churches will be a platform that unleashes the gifts of every member to bear fruit for the Gospel in every sphere of society.

This function is desperately lacking in the institutional church today, but a Second Reformation might change that. I have heard from so many people that their motive for entering the pastorate was exactly to equip the saints and unleash them for the work of ministry, but the existing church systems, expectations and structures made it virtually impossible to change the status quo.

Which leads us to the next big idea of using technology to bust the status quo.

Busting the Status Quo with Tech

Whether the church changes or not, society is being disrupted by technology. The pace of innovation has increased to the point where breakthroughs are happening in the span of years rather than centuries. That makes it very hard to hold on to your traditions and survive.

Churches in America may have a Facebook page or a website. More affluent ones may even have an app. They use it to share announcements, accept donations and post videos.

What’s wrong with this picture?

It’s stuck in the age of the printing press!

Print was a one-way medium for mass communication. The Internet is a two-way medium for mass, group and private communication. Not only that, it gives us the capacity for real time feedback.

We have the capacity for massive many-way communication. We can now connect people to one another on a regular basis across the world for free.

Think about that.

Not only do we have access to feedback loops that we can learn from and adjust to, we can also help people directly engage with one another in order to do the work of the ministry God has called them to do.

We already see evidence of how technology is helping the church transition from product to platform.

Around the world, small groups of believers are growing exponentially while remaining connected to one another via group chats in WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and other apps. Removing the requirement of physical buildings for churches has resulted in a lightweight, networked infrastructure that enables people to gather on demand, collaborate and act on a fluid basis.

They share videos and pictures and texts of what God is doing throughout the day. They are passionate about hearing God’s will and obeying. They share requests for prayer and pray together in many languages via video conferencing.

What could happen if our category for church shifted from primarily a physical gathering place and 501c3 to instead emphasize the relational networks we’re connected to in-person and now through technology? Would it change when and where we gather? Would it change our liturgies? Would it change our business model? Would it change our expectations for pastors and staff?

I think so.

I think it could free up pastors to show up at many people’s places of work. It could result in flexible gathering times and locations to create space for people of various scheduling and geographical constraints. It could create a new expectation of personal relationship with church leaders and personal investment as co-laborers for the Kingdom. And from that could flow a new business model oriented around investing in God’s Kingdom throughout society and in the world rather than growing a church budget.

And now we get to one of the most important ways I think technology can disrupt the status quo.

The Community as the Witness

Earlier I mentioned that the First Reformation resulted in the prolific creation of new artifacts and institutions to carry it forward. And that this was well-represented by the Luther Bible and the early stages of denominationalism.

I expect a Second Reformation to also result in the prolific creation of new artifacts and institutions, only this time we may have YouTube videos instead of pamphlets, apps instead of books and networks instead of polities.

And if the First Reformation resulted in the Word of God being available in every language–which we’re still working on!–I think an enduring “artifact” of the Second Reformation might be the People of God united across many languages.

Here is what I mean.

As the internet reaches the ends of the earth, the truncated Gospel message can theoretically reach the ends of the earth also. Just buy enough Facebook ads so that people get exposed to a gospel presentation in a 15 second spot right? Translating the spot into every language will be easier and faster than translating the Bible and once everyone has a chance to believe, Jesus is going to return. Done!

I think we all know that this isn’t how it works.

It turns out that bearing witness to the New Creation inaugurated by the Resurrection of Jesus requires a community of diverse disciples who love one another as Jesus loved them. In such communities, people experience the power of the Gospel, not just the message.

Unfortunately, most churches around the world remain segregated by language, race and culture. Before, there were practical barriers to language diversity, but as technology enables us to bridge that, we’re running out of excuses.

The Apostle Paul explicitly rebukes Peter for rebuilding the wall of separation between Jews and Gentiles as out of step with the Gospel. He goes on to teach church integration across weighty cultural differences as the way we learn to imitate Christ’s attitude of self-denial and welcome in Romans 14 and 15.

Diversity is a Gospel issue.

Furthermore, against the backdrop of a rapidly diversifying and polarized society, our message will sound increasingly meaningless unless the language diversity of God’s Kingdom is reflected in our communities. As the Internet commoditizes our message, the reality of our integrated communities must be the witness that Jesus is Lord, that Jesus makes us one.

Project Pentecost

So in anticipation of a Second Reformation, I’d like to ask you to join something my company launched called Project Pentecost.

It’s a movement of people and churches who want to reflect the diversity of God’s Kingdom in their gatherings.

If you believe God’s Kingdom is incomplete without the Deaf, the blind and people of many languages, and if you want to do everything in your power to welcome them and unleash the gifts of every member of the Body of Christ, then Project Pentecost is for you.

In the short term, we’re campaigning together to make Pentecost a thing. We want Pentecost celebrations to be as big of a deal as Easter or Christmas. It’s the day Jesus poured out his Holy Spirit on the Church and opened the gospel to many languages.

What if this Pentecost tens, or hundreds or even thousands of churches create foretastes of God’s Kingdom by incorporating other languages in their celebrations?

Here are a few ways Project Pentecost can help with that:

We’re providing a video of people from many nations glorifying God in many languages that helps you feel connected to the global Body of Christ and catch God’s vision for unity in diversity.

We’re providing a series answering from Scripture the hard questions of:

And we’re providing an open-licensed worship song that has been translated into multiple languages that you can sing, perform and translate freely.

And after Pentecost, we plan to continue collecting and sharing the learnings and stories of how the Holy Spirit is uniting us across languages, cultures and abilities into the brilliant diversity of the mature, beautiful Bride of Christ.

If God wills, we may one day see a world where every church is accessible in any language and people from every tribe, tongue and nation glorify God together with one voice–a foretaste of the God’s Kingdom that people can experience today.

Join the movement at projectpentecost.com

Conclusion

So in conclusion, what would a Second Reformation mean for you and me?

The first of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses went like this:

When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent”, he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.

Perhaps that’s where we can start–with repentance.

It’s true, the sacred secular divide has devalued your work and vocations outside of the institutional church. The teaching of a truncated Gospel may have hindered your fruitfulness for God’s Kingdom. And our churches all struggle to welcome people different than us.

But instead of feeling bad or angry or acting out of guilt, what if we repented–what if we changed our minds?

What if we realized that our work and vocational integration isn’t just about us finding purpose–it’s about others? And it isn’t just about people like us. It’s about people from every tribe, tongue and nation–including people with disabilities–who are gifted by the Holy Spirit and have an indispensable contribution to make to the Kingdom of God.

What if we realized that God is using our vocations to fulfill the Scriptures?

What if we understood what repentance meant in our field, just as John the Baptist specifically explained to soldiers, tax collectors and others in Luke 3?

What if our personal ambitions were eclipsed by Jesus’ heart’s desire?

Jesus Christ is returning for a beautiful holy bride, consisting of people from every tribe, tongue and nation who are made into one new humanity through union with him. She’s going to reign in the New Creation with him when she finally matures to reach his full stature. She’s clothed in bright, pure linen, which are the righteous deeds of the saints–those good works which God has prepared in advance for each saint to do in the cosmic project of building up the Body of Christ.

As that Body, we must work together, equipping, unleashing and activating each other to fulfill God’s call so we can be complete and ready for the New Creation at Christ’s return.

Let’s get to work. Soli Deo Gloria.

Listen to this talk on the Theotech podcast (subscribe on Apple or Google podcasts). Subscribe to the TheoTech mailing list for expanded ideas from this talk. Support our work on Patreon.

Discussion Questions

  1. How is God using your vocation(s) to fulfill the Scriptures?
  2. How can the church serve as a platform to support and unleash you to use your most valuable gifts to bear fruit for the Gospel in every sphere of society?
  3. How is God calling you to create and to be that platform to activate and unleash others?

Why church small groups discussions fail

Have you experienced this?

Awkward silence lingers until the small group leader tentatively asks another question. Everyone stares at their toes. Someone offers a nervous answer. The leader tries to parley it into a discussion, but no one really opens up.

OR

One person babbles endlessly about their ideas or problems while everyone else smiles and nods politely. They want to move on, but the master conversationalist is too oblivious to make space for others.

OR

Smiles and hugs aside, everyone is putting up a front and trying to look good in front of the group. Conversations are surface level and the discussion is perfunctory (e.g. filling in the blanks in a handout with the obvious right answers).

OR

Everyone is nice to each other and loves talking about football, work, relationships, etc. But when it comes time to talk about God or the Bible, the mood shifts from a lighthearted gathering of friends to a serious high-pressure environment where everyone must bare their soul to experience enlightenment and transformation.


I cherry-picked these scenarios, but there’s many ways you can get that uncomfortable vibe when a small group discussion isn’t thriving.

In the back of your mind, you may be asking:

“Why am I here? This is a waste of time…”

Here’s one idea for how to change that:

Focus on discovering and unleashing each other’s gifts.

We’re individually supposed to fan our gifts into flame (2 Timothy 1:6). So why not help each other do this in our small groups?

We’re supposed to spur each other on to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24). So why don’t we make that the main goal of our small groups?

If you’ve felt bored, disappointed or maybe even guilty over letting your gifts languish and not using them fully for God’s Kingdom, don’t you think other people might feel the same way too?

What would it look like if the goal of your small group were to activate each other’s gifts and release them into the world?

I think it’d look like Paul’s description of how the Body grows up in Ephesians 4. It might even look like the seeds of a second Reformation.

So, what God-given gifts will you fan into flame?

And when you’re in a small group, how will you help fan into flame the gifts of others?

PS, I started this post over 5 years ago, so I’m not singling out any particular church. As part of a New Year commitment to write more regularly, I decided to polish the draft and ship it in 2019 🙂

A Letter to the Church from a Technologist

Letter from a technologist to the churchDear Church,

We love you, but sometimes we feel like you don’t get us. We’re builders, explorers, inventors. We love making awesome things and sharing them with the world. We love seeing the future and making it real for others to experience.

We love creating the impossible.

We love wowing people with that magical moment when what we build exactly meets their needs. That moment when dreams come true. We don’t mind working hard, putting in long hours, trying and failing and trying again, because we crave the reward of seeing our ideas come to life and benefitting lots of people.

We love talking and working with others who share our pleasure.

We don’t mind helping adults learn how to use their iPhones, getting the projector working, or making a beautiful website–it’s just that we can do so much more.

We’re just like everybody else. We want to connect our faith with our passion. We want to use our gifts to advance the gospel, to advance the Kingdom of God. We want to do what we love for a cause that matters.

It’s hard to find this in the secular workplace and it’s really hard to do this alone.

Can the Church be the place? Can it be the place where we develop our technical gifts? Can it give us the opportunities to cast a vision, experiment, try and fail and try again to build things for the Gospel? Can it bring together the community we crave?

Will the Church help us to help her?

We love you Church, that’s why we want to give you the best we have to offer: our creativity, our skill, our inventiveness, our focus, our drive, our curiosity.

We want the Church to lead the change curve, to out-create, out-invent, out-innovate the world, contributing to the state of the art for the sake of the Gospel. We want to contribute our unique gifts to creating amazing foretastes of God’s Kingdom for others to enjoy.

Dear Church, will you help us do this–for the glory of Christ and the salvation of the nations?

Love,

Your Technologist Brothers and Sisters


Translated into Bahasa Indonesia:

Kepada Gereja,

Kami mengasihi Anda, tetapi terkadang kami merasa bahwa Anda tidak mengerti kami. Kami adalah pembangun, penjelajah, penemu. Kami suka membuat hal-hal yang menakjubkan dan membagikannya kepada dunia. Kami suka melihat masa depan dan membuatnya menjadi kenyataan untuk dialami oleh orang lain.

Kami suka menciptakan yang mustahil.

Kami suka membuat orang kagum dengan menggunakan saat yang ajaib di mana hal yang kami buat memenuhi kebutuhan mereka dengan tepat. Saat di mana mimpi menjadi kenyataan. Kami tidak keberatan untuk bekerja keras, memakai banyak waktu, mencoba dan gagal dan mencoba lagi, karena kami ingin melihat ide kami menjadi nyata dan membantu banyak orang.

Kami suka berbicara dan bekerja dengan orang-orang lain yang memiliki kesukaan yang sama.

Kami tidak keberatan membantu orang dewasa belajar bagaimana cara menggunakan iPhone mereka, cara menggunakan proyektor, ataupun cara membuat situs web yang indah – hanya saja kami dapat melakukan jauh lebih banyak dari itu.

Kami sebetulnya sama seperti orang lain. Kami mau menghubungkan iman kami dengan kegemaran kami. Kami ingin menggunakan karunia kami untuk memajukan Injil dan Kerajaan Allah. Kami ingin melakukan hal yang kami sukai demi tujuan yang bermakna.

Hal ini sulit ditemukan di tempat kerja sekuler dan sangat sulit untuk dilakukan sendiri.

Dapatkah Gereja menjadi tempat untuk itu? Dapatkah Gereja menjadi tempat untuk mengembangkan karunia teknis kami? Dapatkah Gereja memberi kesempatan bagi kami untuk membuat gambaran, bereksperimen, mencoba dan gagal dan mencoba lagi untuk membangun sesuatu demi memberitakan Injil? Dapatkah Gereja membuat komunitas yang kami ingini?

Akankah Gereja membantu kami untuk membantunya?

Kami mengasihi Anda, Gereja, dan karena itulah kami ingin memberikan yang terbaik yang kami miliki kepada Anda: Kreativitas kami, kemampuan kami, daya temu kami, fokus kami, semangat kami, rasa ingin tahu kami.

Kami ingin Gereja untuk memimpin gerakan perubahan, untuk mengalahkan dunia dalam mencipta, menemukan, dan berinovasi, serta memberikan sumbangsih kepada perkembangan jaman demi kepentingan Injil. Kami ingin menyumbangkan karunia kami yang unik untuk memberikan gambaran lebih awal tentang Kerajaan Allah yang luar biasa yang dapat dinikmati oleh semua orang.

Gereja terkasih, maukah Anda membantu kami untuk mewujudkan hal ini–demi kemuliaan Allah dan keselamatan bagi bangsa-bangsa?

Dengan penuh kasih,
Saudara-saudari Anda yang ahli teknologi

What is our place in God’s story?

If you haven’t had time to read the entire Bible (or want a refresher), you might like my attempted highlight reel of the story from Genesis to Revelation beginning in this section: Where we came from. By remembering where we came from and where we are going, we can better understand who we are and what we are to do in the present.

This sermon was delivered on January 24, 2015 to Indonesian Presbyterian Church Seattle where I serve as an elder.

Introduction

I’ve been with this community from day one. From the days of the Indonesian Christian student fellowship Ekklesia to the present time. My dad was a leader of that fellowship when I was born.

young_father_and_son_laptopI was the cute little toddler who crawled under the chairs of Larson Hall at University Presbyterian Church. All the ladies loved me and loved pinching my chubby cheeks and hearing me giggle.

I was the little the boy who squeaked along to Christmas carols on his quarter size violin, while everyone approvingly smiled despite the ugliness of the sound.

I was the elementary school student who recited bible verses from memory and won the award for being the most competitive Sunday School kid.

We moved locations a few times.

For me, the most memorable building was in Laurelhurst at what is now Seattle Community Church. There was a large tree in front where I would climb with my friends. We would make lego guns and run around the lawn shooting at each other, dreaming up stories of epic space battles or commando missions.

I didn’t know it at the time, but we shared the building with the up-and-coming Mars Hill Church. I think the adults were worried for our safety when they saw muscular tattooed folks wandering around the building. They always complained about the noise coming from the other services.

wpc_original_sketchEventually we left that building and came to where we are today: Wedgwood Presbyterian Church.

To be honest, my fondest memory is probably having all you can eat hot pot downstairs on cold autumn days.

More seriously, it was during our time here that I began to grow up, helping to craft the 2020 vision for our church, starting the Aletheia youth fellowship to serve those who outgrew the Sunday School and leading worship. I remember spending hours agonizing over what songs to sing, making beautiful powerpoint presentations and writing up meaningful things to share for the English service we started.

It was a lot of hard work, but I believed it was worth it since the Scriptures say:

“Therefore my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, because in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
(1 Corinthians 15:58)

Like many of you, I poured my heart and soul into this church and community.

But then some very painful things happened.

I began to realize how much of a stranger I felt like at my own church.

People were always expecting me to welcome new students coming from Indonesia since they assumed I was the “host”. But it always felt awkward—in some ways these guests were more at home at my Indonesian church than I was because it was the closest thing they had to home here in America.

I remember how hard we tried to integrate the American-born and Indonesian-born youth at our church by doing joint events and outings, but always feeling like an outsider.

One time all the young people agreed to eat dinner at a particular restaurant after church so I drove there to join them, but when I arrived no one else was there. It turns out that they changed their plans and went somewhere else without telling me. I was the outsider.

As a church we are at a crossroads. We have a difficult choice to make.

Who is an insider and who is an outsider?
Will non-Indonesians be insiders in this church?
Will my generation be insiders?
Will the children be insiders?
Will the poor be insiders?

Will the church simply be a comfortable place where people hang out with people like them and fulfill their religious observances?

Or will it be something more?

What does it even mean to be an insider? Who are we?

I do not intend to answer all of these questions.

Instead I want to zoom out and retell our story.
The big one.
The gospel.

Think of this as a highlight reel of the Bible. Talk to me afterwards if you want to know verse references.

Where we came from

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. He made an amazing universe to display his glory, chose a special planet in which he created life, chose a special creature named Man whom he created in his own image, breathed life into Man and gave him the privilege and responsibility of cultivating the earth, multiplying and filling it with the glory of God.

He planted a beautiful garden and put Man and Woman in the garden with only one rule: they were not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. However, a crafty serpent came one day and deceived the woman by urging her to disbelieve and disobey God for her own apparent gain.

She took the fruit ate it and gave some to her husband. Their eyes were opened, they realized they were naked, and tried to hide themselves from God. As judgment, God exiled them from the garden of Eden and cursed them. But he did not leave them without hope. He gave them animal skins to cover their nakedness and promised the woman that her offspring would one day crush the head of the serpent that deceived her.

Human history continued to unfold with Man going from bad to worse until God finally wiped the earth clean through a worldwide flood. He chose Noah, saving him and his family, to be the fresh start for humanity. They begin to repopulate the earth, but instead of filling the whole earth as commanded by God, their descendants decide to stay together and build a city and tower to make a name for themselves. So God confused their languages, dividing them into many nations and dispersed them throughout the earth.

After many generations, God calls one particular man named Abraham to be the father of a special nation through whom He would bless all the families of the earth. God calls him out of his homeland and promises to give him the beautiful land of Canaan and descendants as innumerable as the stars in the sky or the dust of the earth. Abraham believed God’s promise and God counted it to him as righteousness.

This promise is repeated to his son Isaac and his son Jacob (later renamed Israel). Unfortunately, Jacob’s family ends up in Egypt because of a severe famine in Canaan. After several generations, the people of Israel are enslaved by the Egyptians, but God remembers his promise to Abraham and chooses Moses to deliver Israel and return them to the promised land. Through many spectacular deeds God rescued the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and led them towards Canaan.

Their first major stop is Mount Sinai. This is where Moses first encountered the Lord in a burning bush only this time, it is a burning mountain. All the people tremble with fear when they hear the thunder and trumpet blasts as God tells them the Ten Commandments and they ask Moses to go up the mountain to speak with Him on their behalf. On the mountain, God gives Moses the Law: a covenant that promised blessing, land, riches, prosperity, peace and happiness as a reward for obedience and curses, suffering, loss, exile and death as the consequence of disobedience.

All the people agree to the terms of the covenant. God calls Moses up Mount Sinai once again to record the design for the Tabernacle where He would stay and the rules for the priests who would serve Him. And then God wrote with his own finger the Ten Commandments on two tablets of stone and gave it to Moses.

But in Moses’ absence, the Israelites grew impatient. In their boredom, they broke the covenant, created a golden calf idol, offered sacrifices to it and worshiped it as the god who delivered them out of Egypt. God sees this and is about to completely destroy them, but He relents when Moses desperately intercedes and asks God to remember his sworn promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Moses destroys the calf, disciplines the people and God graciously renews his covenant with the congregation. The people then follow the instructions for building the Tabernacle and the Aaronite priesthood is established to offer sacrifices to protect the people from the holiness of God lest they perish for their sins while He stayed with them. Even so, as the people journey to the promised land, they stubbornly distrust and disobey God resulting in judgment after judgment and 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.

Finally the old generation passed away and God chooses Joshua to succeed Moses and lead the Israelites into the promised land. Against intimidating foes and overwhelming odds, the Israelites invade and successfully take over Canaan because God fought for them. They settled in the land and enjoyed some of God’s good promise. But as new generations came and went, the people forgot the Lord and began worshiping other gods. They cycled back and forth between repentance when oppressed and rebellion when at peace.

Eventually, the people rejected God as their leader altogether and asked for a human king instead. Despite their treasonous request, God rebuked and warned them through his prophet Samuel and then graciously chose Saul to be the first king of Israel. Saul began well, rallying the Israelites to fight their Philistine oppressors, but his glory did not last. He quickly went astray and arrogantly disobeyed the Lord on multiple occasions while pretending to honor God. He got so bad that God regretted making him king and rejected him, seeking a man after his own heart to take his place.

That man was David, the son of Jesse of the tribe of Judah. Despite being a young, lowly shepherd boy, God chose him to be king and sent the prophet Samuel to secretly anoint him in the presence of his family. From that day forward the Spirit of God was with David and left Saul. However, he did not ascend the throne overnight.

First, a tormenting spirit was sent to afflict Saul and David was called upon to play music to ease the king’s mental disturbances. This won him favor with the king. Next David was sent by his father to the battlefront against the Philistines to bring food for his brothers. With Saul and his troops daily cowering in the face of the giant Goliath, David, with God’s anointing challenged and killed the mighty champion. This won him the praise of all of Israel and in similar fashion through trial after trial, God gradually exalted David from being a lowly shepherd boy to becoming an honored leader.

Saul perceived the threat to his power and tried to kill David multiple times, forcing David to become a fugitive. But eventually God fulfilled his promise to give David the throne and Saul ends up killing himself in a desperate battle against the Philistines.

After his kingdom was firmly established, David wanted to build a house for God because until that time, God’s dwelling place was a tent—the Tabernacle. Instead God promised David that he would make him a house—a royal dynasty from his own body that would reign forever over Israel. David is overwhelmed by this promise of an everlasting dynasty and can only worshipfully ask God to fulfill his word.

God later tells David that he chose his son Solomon to be king after him and to build the temple. So, David makes extraordinary preparations before his death to ensure Solomon has everything he needs for the work including the plans, labor, finances, materials and political support. When Solomon ascended the throne, God visited him and gave him unparalleled wisdom. He successfully built the glorious temple for God to dwell in and became exceptionally famous, wealthy and powerful.

However, later in life Solomon’s heart was led astray by his many wives who worshiped foreign gods and Israel turned away from keeping the commandments of God. After his reign, Israel split into two kingdoms with two lines of kings. Some feared God and obeyed him while others continued to lead Israel astray in worshiping false gods and behaving like the surrounding nations.

The injustice, idolatry and immorality in the land becomes so severe that God finally evicts Israel out of the promised land. The Assyrians invade, defeat and exile the northern kingdom of Israel and the Babylonians invade, defeat and exile the southern kingdom of Judah.

It is a dark time. The glory of God departs and the temple is destroyed. David’s descendant no longer sits on the throne. The Law of Moses has been broken and its severe consequences have been enacted. Abraham’s descendants are scattered to the ends of the earth and the land is no longer theirs. God’s promise seems nullified (though it actually was the fulfillment of the covenant curses).

But during this time of despair and sorrow, God sent his prophets to promise that he would gather the people of Israel from the four corners of the earth and bring them back to the land he promised to their forefathers. God promised a new covenant in which he would give his people a new heart to fear him and cause them to walk in his commandments. He promised a new covenant in which he would remember their sins no more.

And God began to make a name for himself among the nations so that even the idolatrous King Nebuchadnezzar of the powerful Babylonian Empire was humbled before the Lord’s awesome majesty.

During these days, God raised up prophets including Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel. Eventually the Babylonian Empire fell to the Medo-Persian Empire as prophesied by Daniel. To fulfill the word God spoke through Jeremiah, God stirred up the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to call the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple of the Lord.

The Jews return to the promised land in three waves over the span of almost 100 years, facing great opposition, discouragement, delays in the work and many distractions. During this season we read of leaders like Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther along with prophets like Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi. The temple and the city of Jerusalem are rebuilt, but the nation continues under the reign of foreign kings. The people of Israel finally put away their idols in order to worship the Lord alone and they begin to hope for the promised Messiah of whom it is written:

Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?

The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”

He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.”

I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
(Psalm 2 ESV)

In other words, the people began to hope for God’s chosen king, the Anointed One, the Messiah who would restore the kingdom of God and fulfill the promise of God’s global dominion. The people believed that when the Messiah came, they would finally be free from oppression, restored to the blessings of the promised land and exalted above all the nations.

Over 400 years after the time of the last Old Testament prophet Malachi, the prophet John appeared to prepare the way for the Lord, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Many people of Israel repented and were baptized. Some wondered if John was the Messiah, the Christ, but he confessed that he was not and testified that Jesus was the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”. John testified that he saw the Holy Spirit descend like a dove on Jesus when he baptized him and those present heard a voice from heaven saying, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Jesus was immediately led into the wilderness by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan for 40 days. Satan tempted him to prove that he was the Son of God by using his power to feed himself, to test if God was truly faithful by throwing himself off the top of the temple, and to worship Satan in order to get the kingdoms of the world.

Jesus successfully fought back with the word of God and passed the test. God said that he was God’s beloved Son. God said that God would not be put to the test. God said that God alone was to be worshiped.

Israel constantly distrusted and disobeyed God, pursuing its own desires in its own ways, but Jesus refused to distrust or disobey God desiring solely that God’s will be done in God’s way.

Jesus refused to disobey God to satisfy his hunger.
Jesus refused to disobey God to satisfy his doubt.
Jesus refused to disobey God to satisfy his ambition.
His hunger, doubt and ambition would be satisfied only through obedient faith.
He believed the word of God and obeyed God flawlessly.

Do you want to be like Jesus?

After John was arrested for preaching the gospel, Jesus began preaching:

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15 ESV)

He called his disciples, taught, healed the sick, cast out demons, raised the dead, performed many miraculous signs, forgave sins, opposed false teaching, and step by step, made his way to the cross. He called it his hour of glorification when he would be rejected and killed by the elders, chief priests and scribes and after three days rise again. Jesus fulfilled everything that the Scriptures—the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms—said concerning him as the Messiah even down to his betrayal by Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve disciples who sold him for 30 silver coins as prophesied by Jeremiah (and Zechariah).

After many failed attempts, the Jewish leaders finally manage to arrest Jesus. They were envious of his popularity and charge him with blasphemy for claiming to be the Messiah, the Son of God. They hand him over to Pilate, the Roman governor of the region who had the authority to put people to death. Despite his attempts to have Jesus released on the grounds of his innocence, Pilate caves in to the pressure of the crowds who demand Jesus’ execution.

Jesus is flogged, mocked, spit upon and forced to carry his cross to Mount Calvary. There he is crucified for being the King of the Jews. While on the cross Jesus continues to fulfill the Scriptures with his dying breaths. He asks God to forgive his persecutors, believing that he was dying to pay for their treason against God. He cries out to God from Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” and then dies.

Jesus knew that the only way he could establish God’s global kingdom without condemning God’s rebellious people was by suffering God’s wrath on their behalf. Without his death everyone would be wiped out as in the days of Noah when God destroyed humanity for all its evil.

Jesus was buried and three days later rose from the dead. He physically appeared to his apostles and disciples and sent them as his witnesses to every nation on earth to warn them about the coming judgment, urge them to repent and believe in him for the forgiveness of sins, and to baptize those who believed and received the Holy Spirit as a foretaste of eternal life in the kingdom of God.

Friends, if you have not put your trust in Jesus, today is the day to do so. Save yourselves from God’s judgment and become a citizen of the Kingdom of God.

Who then is Jesus?

Jesus is the offspring promised to the first woman in Genesis who would crush the head of the serpent that deceived her and sent humanity into disaster.

Jesus is the descendant of Abraham through whom all the families of the earth would be blessed and in whom God would give Abraham descendants as many as the stars in the sky.

Jesus is the Lamb of God who fulfilled the Law of Moses and all the terms of the covenant by bearing the sins of the world, suffering the curse of the Law, and making atonement for sin by bearing the wrath of God on the cross. In exchange he gave his righteousness, the forgiveness of sins and eternal life to all who believe in him.

Jesus is the Son of David, the offspring to whom God promised to give an everlasting throne and all dominion. He is the King not only of the Jews, but the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, to whom God has entrusted all judgment and given all power and authority in heaven and on earth over every single nation.

Jesus is the new temple where people meet God.

Jesus is the leader who brings those who hope in him into the true promised land—a new heavens and new earth, a perfect city designed by God with everything glorious and good brought in for the enjoyment of His redeemed people and every evil, wicked, filthy thing cast out.

Take a moment to stand in awe of Jesus Christ and worship him.

Who then are we?

After Jesus rose from the dead, he told his followers:

“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:44-49 ESV)

They were Jesus’ witnesses and we are the people who believe their testimony. Jesus prayed for us saying:

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:20-24 ESV)

Who are we? We are people loved by the Father and given to the Son. Children of God through faith in Jesus. Disciples who abide in Christ and abide in his Word. The body of Christ, the new temple that the Holy Spirit is building to be a permanent dwelling place for God.

In the words of the apostle Peter:

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9 ESV)

We are God’s people, God’s priests, God’s nation, God’s possession, God proclaimers, God glorifiers.

Consider what this means for your life.

What does it mean to be God’s chosen people?
Have you experienced the vast contrast between darkness and his marvelous light?
What are the excellencies of God that you are to proclaim?
Who will you proclaim it to?

Where are we going?

Now that we have glimpsed who we are, let us go to Revelation to get a vision for where God is taking us. Where are we going?pnw_pathway

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:1-8 ESV)

There are only two places to go. Outside of Jesus Christ is the fire of second death. Inside of Jesus Christ is the beautiful holy city. God is taking those of us in Christ to His promised land: a new heavens and a new earth where we will dwell with him, see Jesus Christ face to face and enjoy him forever. We will reign with him and share in his infinite glory with ever increasing joy and brightness.

Where are we now? What time is it now?

By studying the arc of God’s story, we see that we live in the last days—the days between the first and second coming of Jesus Christ. We live in the days of the Acts of the Apostles as the Church progressively proclaims the gospel to the ends of the earth. We live in a time of proclamation by word and deed, a time to get the message that “God’s Kingdom is at Hand” to every language and nation on earth. Only after the gospel has been preached to all nations will the end come. Only then will every promise be fulfilled and our hope become reality.

Consider King Jesus’ commission to his disciples in Acts:

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:6-8 ESV)

I want you to consider this. If the apostles and disciples failed to fulfill their mission, there would be no Indonesian Presbyterian Church today. The gospel would have remained stuck in Jerusalem. No missionaries would have ever reached the rest of the Middle East, modern day Europe or Asia. No one would have come to America for the sake of the gospel.

We have been the beneficiaries of God’s faithfulness in sending generation after generation to the ends of the earth to proclaim the gospel so that we today could have faith in Jesus Christ and be saved. Therefore, we are under the same obligation to our King—we share a common responsibility to get the gospel to the nations that have not yet heard.

However we define who is inside and who is outside the church, the whole point is that Jesus wants the people inside to get the gospel to the people outside.

Do you want a church of friends? Fine, but the point is to get the gospel to those who are not your friends.
Do you want a church of your ethnicity? Fine, but the point is to get the gospel to those of every ethnicity.
Do you want a church of your politics? Fine, but the point is to get the gospel of God’s power to those of every persuasion.
Do you want a church of your socioeconomic status? Fine, but the point is to get the gospel to everyone whether greater or lesser than you.

Not everyone will receive the gospel, but out of those who do there will be many outsiders whom God desires to bring inside his fold.

Before we act based purely on duty, we must remember that it was God’s Spirit that activated the believers, dispersed them and empowered their proclamation.

Only after the Holy Spirit is given to the Church on the day of Pentecost, is the gospel proclaimed. It begins with Jerusalem, spreads to Greek-speaking Jews and following persecution spreads to the Gentile nations as the Roman centurion Cornelius and his whole household receive the Holy Spirit and are baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

The Spirit of Jesus was fulfilling his mission of giving the entire world the opportunity to repent and believe for the forgiveness of their sins before He comes as the judge of the world to make things right and destroy Satan, sin and death once and for all. And the Spirit of Jesus was fulfilling his mission through the people He filled.

What is God is calling us to?

Brothers and sisters, I believe God is calling us to be filled with his Spirit first. Unless we are filled with the Spirit, whatever missional activities we pursue are in vain. As long as we are worldly instead of spiritual, we will only seek our comfort, self-interest, deceive one another, fight one another, hurt one another, use one another, play favorites with one another, ignore one another, and ultimately destroy one another.

But if the word of Christ dwells in us richly, if the Spirit of Christ fills us, we will love one another, we will tell the truth to one another, we will serve one another, we will lay down our lives for one another, we will fight for one another, we will teach one another, we will bear one another’s burdens, we will not show favoritism, we will not form cliques, we will not slander, we will not manipulate, but we will do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

Beloved church, my message for you is to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus. Repent of your sins and confess them to the Lord that forgiveness and times of refreshing may come. Your Shepherd loves you. He does not want you to perish or to suffer the loss of your reward, he wants you to flourish and thrive and to show you the riches of his glorious grace. He wants you to share in his glory and fulfill his good purpose for you. God is for you—he wants you to make it and that is why he will not let you stay as you are, he will not let you wallow in the status quo.

The Kingdom of God is at hand! It is glorious. It is full of justice, righteousness and steadfast love.

When the Holy Spirit reigns in your heart you will experience:
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility and self control. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Do you want that?
Do you want others to experience that from you?

Beloved today is the day. If you hear God calling, do not harden your hearts. Hear the Word of the Lord and repent of your sins and put your hope in the Lord. Ask him to fill you with His Spirit and ask the Spirit to direct your life.

If you confess Jesus Christ as Lord, then honor him by obeying him. And this is his commandment: that you love one another. As Christ has loved you, so you must love one another. And this love and the Spirit’s power will direct you individually and corporately on the mission that God has called this community to.

There is one Lord and his mission is for the gospel of his kingdom to be proclaimed to the ends of the earth. Where we fit in that picture is something that together we must ask the Spirit to lead us in as we search the Scriptures and our own lives. It will take time. But I urge you to take the first step today by submitting to the Lord:

“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:7-10 ESV)

Give him your heart—not as an act of devotion, but because you are desperate for him to make your heart right before God and to uproot the sins that cling to you so closely and to give you the fruit of his work in your life.

seattle_space_needle_sunsetAnd if the Lord wills, this can be our story. That in our time of pain, confusion, weakness and brokenness, the Holy Spirit came upon us with power and transformed us so that in a way uniquely suited to us, God made us His witnesses in Seattle, Indonesia and to the ends of the earth.

Closing Prayer

O Lord, we tremble before your awesome majesty. Who is a God like you? Holy, righteous, the creator, ruler and redeemer of all things. We tremble because we are not holy or righteous.

Despite the grace you pour out on us day after day, we forget you. We forget what your grace is for. We forget your extraordinary love for us in sending Jesus Christ to die in our place for our sins and to give to us everlasting life in a new creation without pain, suffering, sin or death. We forget that you never intended for the message of the cross to stop with us, but that you always meant for it to reach the ends of the earth so that you would be worshiped by every nation.

We are allured by worldliness. We love so many things more than we love you. We disobey you and do not give it a second thought. We seek our comfort and security instead of your kingdom and for your will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.

O Lord, forgive us. Forgive us and let times of refreshing come. Holy Spirit, please be merciful to us and convict us personally of our sins that we may confess them, repent of them and be restored to a life of joyful obedience and unshakable faith in Christ Jesus. O Lord, restore to us the joy of your salvation. Make us a people who know who we are in Christ. Make us a people who love one another as Christ as loved us and laid down his life for us.

Father, thank you for disciplining us in love. You always give us only the best. It is painful, but already we see glimpses of your grace working holiness in us. Complete the good work you have begun in us. Fill us with your Spirit and give us boldness as you send us out to live a life worthy of the gospel and to proclaim the hope of your kingdom clearly to those who need to hear.

Give us one heart, one mind, and one voice in accord with the heart, mind and voice of Jesus Christ our King so that we may welcome one another for your glory Father.

We humbly ask in Jesus’ Name,
Amen.

Link: A Theological Challenge to Second Generation North American Ethnic Asian Churches

Being part of an Indonesian American church, I found this article quite challenging:

A Theological Challenge to Second Generation North American Ethnic Asian Churches

The article uses some technical language, so let me give my hopefully simplified less technical summary:

When people first immigrate to North America and congregate to form ethnic churches, they do so out of necessity because of the language barrier. When they raise children those children speak English fluently. Yet when the church remains mostly centered on its cultural heritage (ethnocentric), it undermines its true identity, which is catholic (universal, including believers of all ethnicities) and apostolic (sent to proclaim God’s Kingdom and reflect what it is like today).

So the question is: Why should an ethnic church be segregated from the wider church when language is no longer a barrier (which it is not for the children of immigrants)?

The author believes that ethnic churches stay that way mostly to preserve language and culture, which over the long term is unsustainable. I would add the major consideration of keeping families together, but this is not addressed in the paper.

The author challenges churches to embrace their biblically defined identity. By doing so, they become a witness to the kingdom of God in which people from every culture and language worship God together.

I would want to extend the challenge of this paper to all churches and not just “second generation ethnic Asian churches in North America” given the possibility of using technology to help overcome the language barrier.

What if churches could be widely multilingual? Since God’s Kingdom is multilingual, does that mean they should be multilingual?