What's Next for Oak Hills? (Part 5)
July 30, 2018 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
Part of thriving as a church is to be reminded of and united around the mission God calls us to. It’s easy to forget. It’s easy to get distracted. Oak Hills longs to know and make known the astonishing grace of God. I’ve been seeking to refresh our minds and energy around this mission God has called us to.
This mission means, first and foremost, that we will treasure Christ. We constantly need to recalibrate our hearts toward this mission through repentance, prayer, and availing ourselves of the ordinary means of grace.
In addition to the unchanging longing to treasure Christ, we have identified four other areas in which we can grow in order to be more faithful to our mission. I’m highlighting these four areas over these few weeks. I have already touched on cultivating a culture of invitation and improving our web presence. The third area reflects on the nature of the gospel.
Number 3: Expect Gospel Growth.
While he is commending and praying for the church at Colossae, the apostle Paul makes an important statement about the gospel. He says that they have heard of the hope laid up for them in heaven through the gospel. Then he describes the gospel in the next verse, “which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing--as it also does among you” (Col 1:6). Sometimes these passing, descriptive statements from Paul are the most insightful. The gospel has come to the church… through the preaching of Epaphras (v. 7). And the gospel bears fruit and grows. This is not an isolated, uncommon reality, but occurs “in the whole world.” The gospel bears fruit and grows.
Now, Paul does qualify the fruit and growth with the following statement, “since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth.” The gospel grows and bears fruit when we rightly receive it: hear and understand. This is another way to describe faith. When we receive the gospel by faith it will inevitable bear fruit and grow in us. The gospel is never stagnant. God has designed the gospel to transform.
What does this gospel growth look like? What can we expect? Let me identify at least three areas.
- Expect Growth in Yourself. Paul speaks a lot about the renewal of our inner man, whether using language of “new creation” or “putting off” and “putting on” or the “renewal of the mind.” I believe this is Paul’s application of Ezekiel’s prophecies of a new heart of flesh (see Ez. 36). If sin has distorted and distracted and killed our hearts and affections for the Lord, the gospel brings new life and desire and longing for the Lord. The gospel transforms us. Do you see the gospel bearing fruit and growing in your inner self?
- Expect Growth in Your Relationships. Paul also writes a lot about how the gospel transforms our relationships with one another. Ethnic, social, economic, and other statuses that separate are torn down in Christ. Quickly after writing about the renewal of the inner man, Paul speaks about putting off malice, slander, bitterness, and anger (Eph. 4 & Col. 3). Paul gives instructions for all sorts of relationships from every sphere of life (home, church, civic, and employment). Those who believe in the gospel will see fruit and growth in their relationships with others. Slower to anger. Quicker to forgive. Gentler and more patient. Do you see the gospel bearing fruit and growing in your relationships with others?
- Expect Growth in Your Church. God has plans for you and me. Paul says we are God’s workmanship, created for good works, which he has already prepared for us to do (Eph. 2:10). By his Spirit, God has gifted and equipped each of us for the common good of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:7). In Christ, God has knit us together so that we are “members one of another” (Rom. 12:5). If the gospel is transforming us as individuals and if the gospel is transforming our relationships, the gospel will be transforming our community. This includes the inviting, the welcoming, and the enfolding of new members. This includes hospitality and mercy ministry. God delights to use his church to draw others unto Christ. It’s his design. Do we see the gospel bearing fruit and growing in our church community?