How has God been revealing Himself to you lately? What have you read in His Word that has challenged, encouraged, or ministered to you this past week? Who are the Christian brothers and sisters that you have talked or prayed with recently? These are important questions and ones I hope you are able to answer. Our Saviour Evangelical Free Church is exactly what our name suggests. We are a church. A church is not a building. A church is a group of people who God has called, redeemed, and given His Holy Spirit to who have joined and covenanted together to pursue holiness, carry burdens, and celebrate joys. I love our church because I believe we are serious about doing this in one another’s lives. I also know that because we have not yet been perfected, we have room for growth in this area. As a church, we will be working on this for as long as God preserves us and gives us grace to move forward. We will grow as worshippers of God and followers of Christ, together.
Last Sunday, I encouraged our church toward something that will help us grow as a community of Christian disciples. To give God glory, support one another, and unite us as a church I challenged us to develop a culture of spiritually significant conversations. That may sound lofty, but it is actually very basic. Simply put, it is a challenge to focus our time together as a church on being exactly that, a church. I assume you have many conversations throughout your week. You talk business with coworkers, finances with your spouse, lawn care with your neighbor, sports with your brother, news with your sister, school work with your children, if your younger, you try to explain technology to your parents, or some combination of those things.
These types of conversations are good and often beneficial, but they are also the same types of conversations we tend to have together as a church family. There is, hopefully, nothing inherently wrong or sinful about the conversations we have together, but are they the best conversations? When we talk with a Christian brother or sister is it different than when we talk with someone who does not know Christ? Should it be different? Of course, we should be consistent in our character and witness at all times, but several portions of God’s Word are clear that we should approach our relationships with other Christians with a different attitude, purpose, and they should have a different quality. This is what Paul writes to the Ephesian Christians in Ephesians 4:17-29:
Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. 25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. 29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Ephesians 3-5 is a great passage of Scripture encouraging the church to be the church. Paul’s idea in the section above is that Christians should recognize God’s grace and mercy in their lives, seeing the truth that He is a holy God who has redeemed them. Now, it has become their great joy to worship God by striving for holiness and living not under condemnation and oppression, but living under grace. So, it is only natural then, that one of the responses to the free gift of grace from the Triune God is to live as a community of people who seek to glorify God by joining with others who have been given new life to encourage, strengthen, and challenge each other to fuller life and greater awareness of God’s supremacy.
This is why I want to challenge us to develop and increasing culture of spiritually significant conversations. Our relationships together as a church are not like those with your coworkers, neighbors, or even your immediate family members (provided those people do not know Christ), they are unique. I hope that many people you know in other parts of your life come to know Jesus in a powerful way and they are saved and begin to follow Him. I hope they join our fellowship. I welcome their presence among us. If and when that happens, I hope they will join us and notice immediately that our relationships are different; that our life together has an unmistakably significant spiritual emphasis.
As I close, you may be wondering what a culture of spiritually significant conversations looks like, practically. Let me suggest that we begin by asking the kind of questions and having conversations around the first things I asked you in this letter. It is not wrong to talk about world events, sports, good deals at the mall, or your children’s activity schedule, but let us be careful to ensure that is not the center of our conversations. Those things should hang on the periphery. Especially when we gather for worship together on Sunday mornings or small groups throughout the week, let’s concentrate on spiritually significant conversations. Ask someone how they see God moving in their life. Remember a prayer request and praise God for an answer or join them in persistence in bringing that need before Him again. Share something that recently challenged you in your Bible reading.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, for God’s glory and our good, may we not settle for mundane relationships, but may we faithfully live out Hebrews 10:24-25: And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
I love you and I love to be your pastor,