If you could describe The Well in one word, what word would you use? And if you could describe your greatest dreams for The Well, what three words would you use?
Proverbs 29:18 says, Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law.
Those questions, along with the passage we just read were the foundation for something our elder team did back in 2019/2020. From November 2019 through February 2020 our elder team spent some considerable time dreaming together about The Well. During that time, we white boarded every word we could think of that described our current reality as well as our future hopes and dreams for the church.
We weren’t just aimlessly dreaming or therapeutically dreaming. We weren’t merely dreaming to dream or dreaming to escape the painful reality of life. We were dreaming on purpose. We were prayerfully dreaming with a desire to see this church grow spiritually and numerically.
There were many, many words that we white boarded during that season that we believed could be crafted into a purpose statement (vision, mission, values, and goals). We wanted to use that purpose statement to equip and empower every person in this church for future growth. Now, Covid19, political upheaval, racial/social protests, and a flood of family transitions (people moving or moving on or falling away from the church altogether) ruthlessly interrupted our plans for moving forward.
For just a little over two years, we went into survival mode. And to be completely honest, the last two years felt like an all-out battle for survival as we faced health concerns on a global scale, social unrest, financial crisis, and relational division such as I have never experienced before. It is as though the Lord in his sovereign mercy saw fit to test and to solidify what our elders put on paper back in 2019/2020.
As I said, there were a lot of words that we white boarded in that season as we tried to capture what we believed the Lord was up to in our midst. And out of all the words we wrote down, the one that seemed to capture everything was the word “Family”. The Well has always been a family of broken people from various backgrounds who are being formed by the message of the gospel.
That is the picture or the vision our elders caught as we prayed and dreamed together: We are a family of broken, diverse, gospel-formed people. But it’s not enough to merely diagnose who we are in this current reality; diagnosis of the current reality without a prescription for future growth/health is merely a death sentence. Proverbs 29:18 teaches us that a lack of vision is the reason that we spin our wheels aimlessly through life and end up in destruction.
Since we didn’t believe that God had called us to proclaim a death sentence over our church family, we asked the Lord what kind of church family he wanted us to be. We didn’t just aimlessly ask the Lord for some random new thing we could do to inspire growth. We asked the Lord to show us what kind of broken, diverse, gospel-formed family he was making us into.
We could have settled for the words broken, and diverse, and gospel formed. But we sensed that the Lord was up to something more specific and future oriented. That’s when we landed on the words: Transformed, Glorify, and Missional; we believed that the Lord was helping us to become a transformed family; a family who glorifies God; a family of missional disciples. Think about those three phrases…
#1: A TRANSFORMED FAMILY (ROMANS 12:1 – 2)
In Romans 12:1 – 2, the apostle Paul says, 1I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
These verses are a challenge to become a transformed family. But what is transformation? And how does transformation happen? And how do we keep on a transformed family?
Transformation begins with understanding the ongoing mercy of God; every breathe we take is an act of mercy from our Heavenly Father. God has withheld what we rightly deserve (a sinner’s death) because of the cross and the empty tomb of Jesus. So, God’s mercy is first; we must lay hold of God’s mercy.
The next step in transformation is understanding that we were created to worship; we were created to bow down, to pay ultimate attention, to give our complete allegiance to God as our Creator and our Redeemer. And the act of worship is far more than the Sunday morning experience; Sunday mornings are meant to be the overflow of how we live throughout the rest of the week. When we realize that every breathe, we take, is an extension of the mercy of God, then we will increasingly submit and surrender our lives to King Jesus as our Creator and Redeemer.
Every day is yet another opportunity to present our bodies (our entire lives) to God as living sacrifices because he gave his one and only Son as a living sacrifice for us. This daily act of submission and surrender in light of God’s mercy, will ultimately transform our lives (as our minds are continuously renewed) so that we are not conformed to the ways of the world around us. So, mercy is first and worship is second.
Lastly, after laying hold of God’s mercy and after realizing that we are called to worship God in submission and surrender, we must ask God what his desires, commands, correction, and promises are; this is what it means to discern what is the will of God (v. 2) (the will of God is his desires, commands, correction, and promises). We could sum this all up in one word: Obedience!
Transformation is all about laying hold of God’s mercy; it’s all about worshiping God through submission, and it’s all about obeying God’s will. Where are you experiencing the mercy of God right now? What areas is God calling you to submit to him in worship (finances, time management, servanthood, devotional life, etc.)? What will it look like for you to practice obedience moving forward? Those three questions asked and answered and acted upon regularly will produce more and more transformation in your life.
#2: A FAMILY WHO GLORIFIES GOD (1 CORINTHIANS 10:31 – 11:1)
In 1 Corinthians 10:31 – 11:1, the apostle Paul says, 31So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. 11:1Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.
When Paul says this, he envisions the church in Corinth becoming a family who glorifies God in everything. But what does it mean to glorify God? And how do we grow in this area?
The word “glory” or “glorify” means “weighty attention” or “to give weighty attention”. In essence, we are called to give attention to God as the weightiest or foremost object of affection in our lives. To glorify God means to give God the seat of ultimate attention and honor. We give God the glory every time we take ourselves off the throne of our hearts and recognize Him as the true King who should occupy that throne.
Paul makes it very clear that we are to do this with everything in our lives; even things as small as eating and drinking, but especially things involving how we relate to other people. When Paul says that we are to give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God and that he tries to please everyone while not seeking his own advantage but instead seeking the salvation of others (v. 10:32), he is simply saying that we glorify God when we seek what is best for others around us and especially when we seek their salvation.
The last thing Paul says is that the church should imitate his life as he labors to imitate the life of Christ. Imitating the life of Jesus is the key to becoming a family who glorifies God in everything we think, say, desire, and do. Jesus came into this world out of a heart of obedience to his Father and love for sinners.
Jesus did not come to destroy people. He came to give his life as a ransom for sinners and to leave the tomb empty and to give us the hope of eternity in Heaven. His life was completely selfless and focused on giving the gift of eternal life to his enemies so that they could become family.
Where do you need to grow in your ability to imitate Jesus (time management, finances, relationships, communion with God, recreation, entertainment, work life, servanthood, etc.)? How could you better imitate Jesus in some of these areas of your life? Imitating Jesus is how we become a family who glorifies God.
#3: A FAMILY OF MISSIONAL DISCIPLES (MATTHEW 28:18 – 20 AND ACTS 1:8)
In Matthew 28:18 – 20, Jesus said, “18…All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” and in Acts 1:8, Jesus also said, “8you 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.”
I think it’s easy to see that Jesus envisioned his church becoming a family of missional disciples. But what does it mean to be a missional disciple? And how do we become missional disciples? I spoke about this in great detail in the first message of this series, but a few comments seem to be appropriate here.
First of all, the way that I often describe the word “missional” is to describe it like a coin with two sides called evangelism and discipleship. If you ignore either side of the coin, then you are not missional. God’s mission has always been about salvation of the lost through evangelism and then building up believers through discipleship. When we participate in God’s mission, we evangelize the lost and we disciple believers.
Evangelism, according to the two passages I just referenced, happens when you and I intentionally share the gospel of the crucified, risen, and returning Christ in concert with the reality of man’s sin and need for a Savior. We are called to be evangelists, witnesses to the gospel, in every relational sphere of our lives.
Discipleship, according to the Matthew 28 passage, happens after a new believer has been baptized and at that point is being taught to obey all of the words of God contained in His Word. Teaching and training believers to obey all of God’s Word is the responsibility of every believer, not just pastors. Every believer should be engaged in the work of teaching and training other believers to obey the Word of God.
We must remember that evangelism and discipleship is hard work that requires intentionality and sacrifice and an unwavering trust in God’s promise to not only empower us for the work but to also be with us throughout every step of the work as well. Becoming a family of missional disciples means that every one of us gets to work in the glorious calling of sharing the gospel and teaching the Word to other believers.
Lastly, the church is not designed to be a social club or a cruise ship for spectators to be entertained. The church is meant to be a missionary empowering, equipping, and sending agency. Every Sunday, we want to equip you with ways that you can be on mission as you seek to evangelize the lost and disciple other believers.
Small groups, men’s and women’s Bible studies, Sunday Gatherings, serving teams, outreach events, and community groups are all ways that we seek to train you as disciples for the work of evangelism and discipleship. The question is: What do you need to do to grow as a missional disciple who practices evangelism and discipleship? Where do you need to become more intentional and sacrificial?
In conclusion I want to remind us that a lack of vision will inevitably lead to spiritual death. This why words like transformation, glorify, and missional are so important to describing the family we want to become. Jesus gave his life on a bloody cross and he left the tomb empty three days later and he gave us the promise of Heaven so that we could be transformed; so that we could live in ways that glorify God; so that we could participate in his mission to evangelize the lost and help other believers grow.
This is the family we want to become (our vision): A transformed family of missional disciples who glorify God. I believe this will happen as we continue to kneel at the foot of a bloody cross, in the doorway of an empty tomb, in light of the promise of heaven. The more we grow as worshippers of Jesus and the more we learn to imitate Jesus and the more we share the gospel of Jesus, the more we will become a transformed family, a God glorifying family, a missional family. Amen!
1 Unless otherwise specified, all Bible references in this paper are to the English Standard Version Bible, The New Classic Reference Edition (ESV) (Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, 2001).