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Slowed-Down Spirituality

January 16, 2022 • Pastor Chris Pappenfus

During the Church season of Epiphany, we celebrate and reflect on the manifestation of Jesus Christ to the entire world. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus isn’t a disembodied religious philosophy, but rather an incarnate intervention into human history with eternal significance. The “Called-Out” by God (the Ecclesia or Church) is to be recognized as followers of Jesus Christ, marked by a transformation in their individual and corporate lives regarded as discipleship. Author and Pastor Peter Scazzero offers seven marks of healthy discipleship (which were introduced in last week’s sermon). Healthy disciple-making churches help people, Be (in Christ Jesus) Before they Do (for Christ Jesus) Follow the Crucified (not the Americanized) Jesus Embrace God’s Gift of Limits Discover the Treasures Hidden in Grief and Loss Make Love the Measure of Spiritual Maturity Break the Power of the Past Lead out of Weakness and Vulnerability Each of these markers of Christ-centered discipleship can be recognized as recurring themes throughout the entirety of Scripture. Discipleship that helps people grow in the above markers inevitably results in a church culture that is in sharp contrast to the worldly or secular culture all around us. Culture is (simply put) “The way we do things around here.” Life transforming Christian discipleship is evidenced in a church culture that is reflective of Jesus. Any church that is indistinguishable from the prevailing secular culture is (in actuality) suffering from unhealthy or nonexistent discipleship. Jesus says in John 12:26, “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be.” Church culture can become complacent, inwardly focused, fearful, legalistic, and condemning (to name a few). When this happens, a Church Culture Revolution is necessary. While First Covenant Church is doing many things well, there is room for improvement. Some old habits need to be cast off. Our culture needs to change. In the weeks to come, we will explore what a church culture that deeply changes lives looks like, allowing the seven marks listed above to flourish in our community. We begin by exploring one of the most challenging cultural hurdles for Christians in America, embracing a culture of Slowed-Down Spirituality. In preparation for this Sunday, familiarize yourself with the following passages of Scripture: Proverbs 4:20-22, Psalm 1, Psalm 77:10-12, Exodus 14:14, Psalm 46:10, Luke 5:16, Ex. 20:8-11, Numbers 5:12-15, Mark 2:27, John 15:5, and Colossians 2:6-10a.

CCR: "Every Person in Full-time Ministry"

February 20, 2022 • Pastor Chris Pappenfus • Colossians 3:23–24

This week’s Church Culture Revolution challenge is "Every Person in Full-Time Ministry." When you read this you might immediately associate this challenge with being an employee of the church. However, a church culture that encourages life-transforming discipleship has a distinctively biblical understanding of “Sacred Call” which is linked to new life in Jesus Christ, not a special dispensation of God’s grace on a select few. A church culture that encourages every person in full-time ministry acknowledges that we all are workers, created in the image of a working God, whose labors have been made hard because of sin -- but restored to purpose and significance because of Jesus Christ. Do you have a theology of work? (Not atonement of works, suggesting you can somehow earn God’s grace and forgiveness.) A theology of work considers God’s intention and God’s design for people as it pertains to the labors they are given. You might think of your job as just a paycheck. Perhaps you work to enjoy your weekend or your retirement. People have shared with me that they were looking forward to retirement so then they could give attention to more “spiritual things.” While it is true that Jesus invited the twelve to leave their occupations in order to follow him, there were far more people who Jesus sent back into their everyday lives as witnesses for him. This is certainly the case as Christianity spread across the world. The greater biblical narrative would indicate that some of God’s greatest servants were women and men who had “real jobs.” The Apostle Paul writes in Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” A revolutionary church culture reminds us that we all work for Jesus.

CCR-"Passionate Marriages & Singleness

February 13, 2022 • Pastor Chris Pappenfus

A Church Culture Revolution is needed if, and when, people's involvement with the Church leaves them unchanged. Jesus established the Church as the Fellowship of those who have been called out from their families of origin and societal culture and called into a new life and new community found in Christ Jesus. A church culture resulting in changed lives is evidenced in both marriage and singleness that reflects the oneness we are to have with Jesus Christ. In short, Christian singleness looks and acts differently than our culture's expression of singleness - as does Christian marriage - meaning that married and single people both bear witness to God’s love for humanity. Jesus followers desiring to grow as emotionally healthy disciples must learn what it means to submit either their singleness or their marriage unto the LORD. The Apostle Paul has written to this reality in 1 Corinthians 7 and Ephesian 5. Join us this Sunday as we consider how a church culture that promotes both passionate marriages and singleness can impact and grow generations of healthy disciples.

CCR "Healthy Community"

February 6, 2022 • Pastor Chris Pappenfus • John 13:34–35

In our series "Church Culture Revolution," we are considering how our church culture is the result of our discipleship and how our discipleship is inevitably shaped by our culture. Simply put, Culture is the "way we do things around here.” For Christians, we are to practice and be enveloped within a distinct “Jesus Culture.” A church culture that encourages the kind of discipleship used by Jesus values several characteristics which are becoming increasingly contrary to our broader society. Thus far we have considered the impacts: Of a Slowed-Down Spirituality (January 16) Beneath the Surface Discipleship (January 23) And the necessity of Integrity in Leadership (January 30) That these may run in conflict with our broader society shouldn’t surprise us -- that is why Jesus' followers are called the Ecclesia; meaning the “called out ones,” or more commonly translated simply as “The Church.” Christ-followers, by their very identity, are culture revolutionaries, having been reborn in Christ Jesus and daily being transformed into his likeness through the power of the Holy Spirit. This Sunday we will consider a fourth distinguishing characteristic of a “Jesus-Culture,” which is "Healthy Community." To be clear (lest you mistake a healthy community for a health club or wellness center) “healthy” is defined by Jesus as our quality and capacity to love. Join us this Sunday as we consider Jesus’ own shaping of a culture -- which would encourage deep discipleship through communities practicing unconditional - transformative - love. As part of this Sunday’s celebration, we will partake in holy communion. In preparation please reflect on Jesus’ command given in John 13:34-35.