For 5 years I was the pastor of Trinity International Church in Strasbourg, France. I created this blog with those people in mind. In mid-November 2018 I will become the Senior Pastor of Word of Life Church in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. The focus of this blog will therefore shift, but I pray that people from the blogosphere will continue to find it helpful wherever they might be found.
The churches' websites includes recorded sermons for those who are interested. Click the links below to access them.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Together with Jesus

Our recent church retreat had as its theme: "Together with Jesus." The theme meant more than simply spending time with one another. A full version of the theme of our retreat would have been "together with Jesus we will welcome people from all nations, inviting them into a liberating and transformative relationship with Jesus Christ, discipling and equipping them to be good and faithful servants wherever God may send them." 

Welcoming people from all nations

The Lord has called us to be an international church. That means that we need to be intentionally welcoming people from the nations of the world. Most churches consider themselves to be friendly, but that is usually because the regular attenders all know one another. They think the church is friendly because that is where all their friends are!

It is more difficult to find a church that is truly welcoming to newcomers. Perhaps you have visited a church where the people seemed completely uninterested in the fact that you were there. It happens sometimes. It is rare to find a church that embraces people from different cultures, nationalities, or languages. But that is exactly what God has called us to do as a church.

How do we do that?

First, it has to be seen as an act of worship. One key response to the love God has poured into our lives is love for other people. It is an act of worship to walk across the room and greet someone.
Second, we must realize that it is no accident that has caused someone to cross our path. God wants to do something in their life! He has brought them here for a purpose and we want to help them find out what it is.

Third, welcoming others is a discipline. Think of it like exercise. Any exercise is difficult at first, but over time it becomes easier and our body actually begins to enjoy it. Just like exercise though, it is easy to find excuses not to do it.

In welcoming others we need to make sure that there are "open spaces" on our lego wall. Sometimes we place caps on our wall that prevent other legos from being attached. These caps may be the excuses we have for not welcoming others or habits of ignoring those with whom we do not have long-established relationships. We must realize that these caps limit our growth in our relationship with God.

Inviting them into a liberating and transformative relationship with Jesus
TICOS believes that it is important for people to discover a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. There is no greater act of love than introducing someone to Jesus. While many of the people who join us already have a relationship with Jesus, it is not uncommon for atheists, Muslims and Buddhists to come to our services. Whoever they are, we invite them to start or deepen their relationship with Jesus.

We also believe that this relationship liberates and transforms lives. We don't "accept Jesus" and consider that the pinnacle of the Christian life. It is the starting point. As followers of Christ, we are called continually to be changed into the image of Christ. We are supposed to grow. Like a young child, there may be spurts of incredible growth and other times where the growth is more subtle. If a child stops growing, there is something wrong!

One of my favorite questions is, "What has Jesus been teaching you lately?" As disciples of Jesus, we must be continually learning from him. The lessons that he teaches, when truly learned, are transformative. A healthy relationship with Jesus causes us to grow!

Discipling and equipping them to be good and faithful servants
Jesus called us to make disciples of all nations. We want to disciple people in the ways of Jesus. We believe that one of the signs of a healthy follower of Christ is service. Too often we see Christians who are self-centered. They have a "me and Jesus" mentality which is a sure sign of immaturity. Jesus himself provides the model: we are to serve one another. As a church, we want to be models of this servant lifestyle, and also call people to follow in the footsteps of Jesus to live a life of loving service.

Servants can be more effective if they have certain skills. As a result, we enjoy teaching people practical ministry skills. When it comes to practical things in the life of our church, we are happy to teach and train people. It is part of our calling!

Wherever God may send them.
Unlike almost any church you have ever been a part of, we recognize that many people will be a part of TICOS for a short time. It may be a matter of months or years, but they know that they will be moving on one day. And that can be hard.

Loving others makes us want to cling to them. We build a relationship with someone and watch them grow in their relationship with Jesus. We see them become skilled in ministry and then they tell us they are going to leave. We beg them to stay. We scour our connections looking for a job that would enable them to remain in Strasbourg.

A deeper love for others carries us to another level: love that insists that God's will is best. As an international church, we know that people will be leaving. We recognize and rejoice in the fact that God is going to use them somewhere else. It is part of being involved in God's end-time push to reach the nations of the world. When God calls someone to leave, love helps us pack their boxes!

Together with Jesus, we are a local church with a global impact!

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