Messages from Pastor Karen Jones

September 17, 2018

Why are we here? What is our purpose as a congregation? We have a great mission statement: Love God, Love People, Serve the World. How do we do that? How are we living that out? I think Part III of the article I have been sharing is helpful in reflecting on our mission and life together as the body of Christ gathered at First UMC Center. Karen

Part III of III: You Can’t Love Jesus Without Loving His Church By Jason Allen – from Being a Christian: How Jesus Redeems All of Life by Jason K. Allen. Copyright 2018, B&H Publishing Group.

SUM IS GREATER THAN ITS PARTS When local churches gather, the sum is greater than the parts—especially as it pertains to their collective worship, collective ministry and collective witness.

Collective Worship
In the New Testament, we see that local churches gathered in homes to sit under the teaching of the Word and to break bread together. As the church developed, we see the primacy of gathering for worship on the first day of the week—the day of Christ’s resurrection.

In fact, those who neglected gathering with God’s people received a stern warning. The author of Hebrews exhorted believers not to “neglect to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching” (Heb. 10:25).

Believers today would be wise to heed this advice and to join a church body for all the benefits of collective worship, as well as encouraging others to do the same.

Collective Ministry
When you became a believer, God granted you spiritual gifts for the edification of the local church. Reflect on the following passage:

And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, equipping the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. (Eph. 4:11–13)

Let me encourage you to dust off your spiritual gifts and employ them with great joy to edify fellow believers in the church, and to reach the lost for Christ.

Collective Witness
C.H. Spurgeon once said, “If I had never joined a church till I had found one that was perfect, I should never have joined one at all; and the moment I did join it, if I had found one, I should have spoiled it, for it would not have been a perfect church after I had become a member of it. Still, imperfect as it is, it is the dearest place on earth to us.”

It’s vital to understand that there is no perfect church. That’s because every local church is comprised of sinners—redeemed sinners. So don’t be a perennial church shopper. As my seminary professor Chip Stam often reminded the class, “The maturing believer is easily edified.”

God uses each of his children’s gifts in a unique way to fulfill the mission he has for the church as a whole. Make sure that you’re upholding your end of the bargain. After all, a lone-ranger Christian doesn’t make a good witness for Christ. Ultimately, Jesus has redeemed you to be a creature in community—a Christian living out the gospel in covenant with other Christians in a local church.

We’ll look more at our collective ministry and witness over the next few weeks. Karen

September 10, 2018

I love the Church! I particularly love the way it is expressed in the United Methodist tradition. So often, we take the church for granted. It has been passed down to us and so often we simply receive it and forget the sacrifice it took to get to the place we are in today. What are we willing to give/sacrifice so it will be here for future generations? Why is the church important? What does the church mean to you? Why do you support it with your prayers, presences, gifts, service and witness? Where might you be today without the church? (sobering thought!) So here is part II of the article I began sharing last week. This section reminds me that the church doesn’t belong to me. It is Jesus’. Karen

Part II: You Can’t Love Jesus Without Loving His Church By Jason Allen – from Being a Christian: How Jesus Redeems All of Life by Jason K. Allen. Copyright 2018, B&H Publishing Group.

THE NEW TESTAMENT & THE CHURCH
…when you survey the New Testament, you see it’s all about the church. In Matthew 16, Jesus declared, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it” (Matt. 16:18). Jesus fulfilled this promise through his own death, having shed his blood for the church (see Acts 20:28).

The book of Acts begins with the birth of the church through Peter’s preaching at Pentecost. The book continues as the church spreads throughout the Mediterranean region and beyond through the apostles’ preaching and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Furthermore, the New Testament epistles were all written to or about churches. In them, the authors explain what churches are to believe and teach, and how they ought to minister and organize themselves. At the end of the New Testament—the book of Revelation—the apostle John records Jesus’ seven letters to seven churches and punctuates the Bible’s conclusion with Jesus’ dramatic return for his bride, the church.
On the road to Damascus, Jesus likens the church to himself. Remember what he said to Saul? “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4).

Simply put, how one views, engages and treats Jesus’ church reflects how one views, engages and treats Jesus himself.

September 4, 2018

You Can’t Love Jesus Without Loving His Church By Jason Allen

I want to share an article with you that I read while vegging out this past week after my trip to the ER. It is too long to share in its entirety so I will share it over 3 weeks. Please make the time to prayerfully consider its message for you and for our church.

~Karen


Have you ever heard someone say, “I am into Jesus, but not the church”?… What I have come to understand more fully, is that Christianity is inextricably linked to the local church. In fact, the local church is the New Testament’s expression of Christianity. The New Testament depicts the Christian and the local church together, like hand in glove.

…. I consistently bump into two unhealthy extremes—both of which misestimate the role of the church. First, and most common, is spiritual individualism. This extreme so prioritizes a personal relationship with Christ that it forgets the role of the church altogether. To many evangelicals, conversion is a personal encounter with Christ and growth in Christ is, too. One is nourished spiritually through books, conferences, podcasts, para-church ministries and Bible studies.

The other extreme is an overly institutional approach to Christianity. In its most unhealthy form, this is seen in traditions…… that hold “no salvation outside the church,” and necessitates receiving the sacraments for salvation.  But some evangelicals operate just one tick away. This institutional error equates salvation with church membership and Christian growth with church activity.

Both of these extremes misunderstand the Christian life. Conversion is an individual experience that’s intended to become a congregational reality. It’s simply impossible to conceptualize New Testament Christianity apart from the local church.

THE CHURCH UNIVERSAL, THE CHURCH LOCAL
Another common misconception concerns the church universal and the church local. The church universal refers to all the redeemed in the history of the world. The church universal is often called the “invisible church” because we ultimately aren’t able to know who or how many comprise it.
And yet, almost every reference of “church” in the New Testament is about the local church. By local church, I mean a group of Christians who have covenanted together to gather regularly for worship and ministry.


Again, many today argue that church membership isn’t in the Bible. But the early church did keep a roll, at least in some form. We see the early church mentioning the number of additions and baptisms. We see them talking about both inclusion in and exclusion from the church. How could the New Testament authors report on these matters without some kind of a membership roll?
~Karen