A Plea for Gospel Community
"Where there is no vision the people perish..." Proverbs 29:18 KJV
This past Sunday was a significant day in the history of our church. Significant in the fact that I had the pleasure to share with the entire church my vision for the future of Ocean Park at the church-wide Covenant Community Class. I was overjoyed that we filled the Fellowship Hall for this special event that I believe will determine the life and health of our church. Why would a four week class be so significant to the life of the church? The answer is found in Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision the people perish...” (KJV). Thom Rainer the CEO of Lifeway estimates that there are “100,000 churches in America are showing signs of decline toward death.” He studied a wide variety of churches that had closed their doors and determined that most of them died because they had lost their vision. These churches that once burned brightly with a clear vision have gradually lost their purpose and vision. Consequently, this has caused the church to gradually grow complacent, divided, and lethargic in their vision, unity, and passions. Sunday was my call to arms for the people of Ocean Park. It is my passionate plea that we join together as the people of God with a clear and distinct vision of why we exist as a congregation. Therefore, the deacons and I have formulated the mission statement of Ocean Park to be....
“We exist to worship and glorify God, by proclaiming the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for the equipping of the saints and reaching the lost.”
Our ultimate purpose as a church, is to worship and glorify God (Psalm 86:8-9; Isaiah 43:7). According to the Baptist Catechism, the chief end of man is to worship and glorify God by enjoying him forever. That is why we were created as human beings and why we were created as a church (Eph 3:10). But by what means can we accomplish this purpose? Through the proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ in our worship and personal conduct (Romans 1:16). The gospel is the glue that unites people who would not otherwise associate into one body, one spiritual house, one family in order to magnify the beauty and value of the gospel. It is not the preacher’s job solely to proclaim the gospel but the entire Covenant Community living together and loving one another that will show the world that the gospel is precious (John 13:35). Finally, what will be the result of this vision? First, the saints (a.k.a. believers) will be strengthened and equipped to be more like Christ (Eph 4:11-13) and secondly, the lost will be reached with the gospel (Matt 28:19-20). If we are to fulfill this vision we must begin to change how we view membership. In fact, I am making a concerted effort to remove the phrase ‘church membership’ and replace it with ‘covenant community’. The term member has accumulated far too much baggage over the years from social clubs, shopping clubs, websites, and gyms. We have almost become numb to the radical call of Christ to follow him by replacing his call to “come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23) with a bi-monthly appearance at church accompanied by a ‘letter’ in the church office. This thinking has caused churches to drift in a sea of aimlessness. This simply cannot be. We must be a covenant community centered around the gospel, sharing doctrinal distinctions, and a sincere commitment to living out the gospel together. It is my prayer that Ocean Park would join together to love and live out the gospel, so that the name of Jesus Christ is glorified and the gospel magnified in Jax Beach and throughout the world. See you next Sunday at 9:30 for the second session of the Covenant Community Class.
P.S. If you missed the first session of the Covenant Community Class and want to know how you can make it up. We will be having a makeup session in the choir room on July 6th @ 9:30 a.m. Please join us!