THE QUEST FOR “UNIVERSITY
Friday evening, I went to bed still asking the Lord what I should share today since nothing had, over the last week, settled very firmly into my heart. On the occasion of my last regular Sunday message as Senior Pastor, I’m sure there are a million things that could be appropriate, and a few hundred thousand of them I would like to say to encourage and bless you. But only one will make our time together today what the Lord would like it to be.
In an effort to set a tone for what I feel from the Lord today, let me share the following. When the Lord began to lead me in the direction that would one day become Hope Church, it was about this time of year, 26 years ago. I had one question that completely overshadowed all the rest… He answered me and Hope Church was born. From that day to this, my quest continues to be about that exact same question… “WHAT IS GOD SAYING?” I’m still addicted to that pursuit today, in spite of all the other voices that clamor for attention.
As mentioned at the outset, as I went to bed Friday night, I prayed again asking direction for this morning. As I write this, I’m still considering the thoughts firmly planted in my mind as I woke up today. In summary, they centered on our proper responses to both the “changing” and the “unchanging” aspects we should be focused on as a church.
In our particular case, one of those CHANGING REALITIES is that the Lord has raised up a tremendous team of young leaders who are extremely well equipped to lead us into the future. This is an absolute essential, because changes in leadership and methodology are absolutely essential if an enterprise is going to remain viable over time.
I want you to know how much my mind is at ease with what the Lord has provided for us in that regard…Several years ago He spoke to me about the timing for these changes and He has equipped us with what we need for the constantly changing world ahead of us. Personally, I am honored and absolutely thrilled that even though I feel it appropriate to “hand off” the lead role and make room for the next generation of leadership that I will still get to be a part of what God is going to accomplish through this special group of people known as Hope Church. To me, the future of this congregation looks very bright. Believe me when I say that there is able leadership emerging on every hand. With the amazing gifts I am seeing in the church, I wonder just how wide a net will the Lord ask us to spread?
We are so deeply blessed to have a man like Pastor Josh taking the helm! Having someone with 17 years of experience among us, whose gifting, character and love for the Lord and His church is so well known. It is nothing other than God’s blessing! It is a rare thing that a pastor gets to smoothly ascend to the Lead position of a church whose culture he had a major hand in developing but such is the case here! I’ll tell you what else is rare… Pastor Josh will be loyally surrounded by an amazingly gifted staff, a tremendous group of talented and supportive Trustees, an incredible group of volunteer leaders and a growing team of volunteers in every area of church ministry! Thankfully, even in the midst of significant change, these wonderful essentials are staying the same.
There’s another evidence of change from what’s called “normal church life” that I’m equally amazed and thrilled about! It’s the reverse of a longstanding trend in churches everywhere. Over the years the 80/20 law has been thought to be “just the way it is!” This is where 80% of the church being served and financed by the 20%. Scripture has never condoned a system where 20% are serving and giving to forward the ministry of the church while the 80% sit idly by as consumers. Due to the fact that so many of you have said “YES” to contributing your giftings, energies and finances we are starting to see what the early church leaders envisioned by the Spirit’s revelation as they wrote about the church.
This is such a welcome alternative to “church as usual” and appropriately reflects one of the essentials of the Kingdom of God (Ephesians 4:16). Once again, I have to say this kind of change is good and good for everyone!
This is a change that will have a massive effect going forward! I pray we will continue to encourage others (just like scripture says) to love and good works! This is all part of adopting a Kingdom culture. IT IS OUR HEART THAT WE WILL ALWAYS EMBRACE ANY CHANGE THAT MORE CLOSELY ADAPTS OUR CULTURE TO HIS!
While “changing “is an irrevocable principle for successfully negotiating the future, there are also aspects to our calling that are forever to be “unchanging!”
This brings me to the reason for my title today, it has to do with the absolute primacy of TRUTH. As I was lying in bed thinking about what the Lord was trickling into my mind, somehow the word,” university” emerged. My first thought was that the probability of finding “truth” (capital T) through the culture of a typical university today, is about as the same as inadvertently stumbling across a pristine herd of free-range unicorns!
But I was intrigued enough that after coffee and a breakfast shake, I looked it up. I found out that the origin of the term was from a compound of the Latin words “universes” and “veritas”. Apparently, the word that was formed was literally understood to communicate the concept of “SEEKING TRUTH TOGETHER.”
Of course, my mind went immediately to Jesus’ often quoted proclamation that He was “the way the truth and the life” and that no one could come to the Father except through Him.” (John 14:6) In the very next breath He also promised that “the Spirit of truth” would be “with” us as well as “in” us. (John 14:16-17)
I’ve heard my pastor, Pastor Price, say (a thousand times); “A CHURCH IS MEANT TO BE LIKE A TWO CYLINDER ENGINE…SPIRIT-TRUTH, SPIRIT-TRUTH.”
Then he would go on to say; “THE SPIRIT WITHOUT THE TRUTH …BLOWS UP AND THE TRUTH WITHOUT THE SPIRIT…DRIES UP.”
We can never really understand or effectively function with one while neglecting the other. They are meant to be embraced in tandem to maximize impact on our lives.
Trending toward thinking we are in a growing relationship with the Spirit of God while developing a tendency to neglect the Word of God is dangerous and a great deal like telling someone you love them and never paying attention to anything they have said!
Conversely the study of scripture without reliance on and a growing sense of affinity with the Spirit of God is likely to produce dry legalism.
SPIRIT AND TRUTH FLOW FROM THE SAME FOUNTAIN AND DESERVE EQUAL ATTENTION. The LACK OF ATTENTION TO ONE, WILL TEND TO RETARD THE APPRECIATION OF THE OTHER!
The other issue indicated in the original meaning of the word “university” (“Seeking Truth Together”) is of course
the concept of ‘together.” The practices described in the “seeking truth” section, as explained previously, will because of their “Author” contribute immensely toward the “together” component.
The cardinal virtue embodied in those who have a vital relationship with the Lord Jesus is love! It is worth noting that…LOVE IS A VIRTUE THAT CANNOT BE PRACTICED ALONE! Even a casual reading of New Testament scripture describes a church that mixes socially, prays for and serves each other as well as reaching out to the world around them.
One major threat to this essential aspect of the church is one that scripture addresses in the letter to believers who were scattered throughout the Roman Empire due to persecution. In the 10th chapter of Hebrews and the 25th verse the author strongly states that believers should not fail to meet together and to be even more diligent in view of the times.
As examples of practices that make it easy for people that love Jesus “rationalize” ignoring the rather forceful mandate of Hebrews 10:25 is found in people who only “attend” an “on-line church or subsist on podcasts, tune in to a TV broadcast or read books or articles from their favorite Christian author. I totally agree that variations of the so-called “cyber Church or other forms of mass distribution have a valid place in the marketplace and am thankful for them. However, they are not and never will be replacements for the personal relationships inherent to the concept of Church as the Bible portrays it.
I’ll be the first to say that I appreciate the “cross-pollination” and inspiration these venues afford, but in no way is it going to provide the benefit and accountability inherent in the kind of physical fellowship the Bible prescribes.
Seeking He (who is truth) …and doing so together… it should the quest of any group worthy to be called a church…may it ever be our practice and our passion!