Pastoral Priorities

I have been the pastor of Flower Mound Community Church since March 2002. This church has had many incarnations over the years. Through that time, Christ has shaped me as a pastor and honed my priorities. As the spiritual leader of the church it falls on me to set the atmosphere of the congregation, as such these are my priorities as pastor:

 

The Five-Fold Salvation Movement of God in Christ

The salvation story of God is a five-fold story. Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection, Outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and Immanent Return. Each piece is critical to the redemption wrought by our God. Different denominations tend to place greater value on different pieces of the story. For Roman Catholics, the crucifixion is central to all they do; they believe that the crucifixion of Christ is literally playing itself out all over again in each worship service. It is for this reason; the crucifix is an important symbol in Catholicism. In liberal protestant churches, the emphasis is that Christ is among us, so Advent and Christmas become a major focus of the worship year. In the Orthodox tradition, there is an emphasis on the Resurrection; this is seen artistically in the role of iconography in worship and spiritual devotion. The Charismatics and Pentecostals place great emphasis on the outpoured Spirit seen in an emphasis of glosslia (speaking in tongues) and other miracles evidences of the Spirit. To my knowledge, outside of TV evangelists and 7th Day Adventist, no group focuses on Jesus return and the final completion of the kingdom of God.

As a pastor, I believe each piece is critical to the entire movement of God. They build on one another; if one were to remove an aspect, then the whole plan of God comes undone. As such, we at FMCC stress the five-fold move of God in the worship year. Each movement is central to our formation in the image of Christ. When one digs further they will find that these movements correspond to the feasts of Israel in Leviticus 23. There are seven feasts in Israel and they are prophetic. The first four are spring feasts and they have been fulfilled, the final three are fall feasts and they have not been fulfilled. Passover is fulfilled in Jesus on the Cross, sacrificed as the Paschal Lamb of God. Pentecost, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, fulfilled the spring harvest feast of Shavuot. The final three feasts are Rosh Hashanah, the Feast of Trumpets (I Thessalonians 4:16), Yom Kippur (the day of Atonement-Judgment Day), and finally Tabernacles, the Fall harvest feast and the ingathering of Souls (Mark 13:26-27).

Freedom in Christ

We are told that the Son set us free so we are free indeed (John 8:36). I have been a Christian since 1991, one thing that is consistent is that there is no shortage of people who are more than happy to tell a person how they should live, how they should act, what they should do, and what they should not do as Christians. The unsolicited counsel covers everything from worship to the consumption of alcoholic beverages to parenting and marriage. The need to control another’s behavior is called this legalism. What I find is that folks such as these need to have a sense of control in their personal lives, and if they do not have it they seek to compensate by controlling others. Within the body of Christ, there are many things I do not like. There are many practices that I do not agree with, and there are many points of view that I consider to be wrong. I am not God, and the job of Holy Spirit is taken. We at FMCC have a very limited theological statement for the church, this is done on purpose. I want to give people room to move within a framework. Not everyone agrees on the nature of worship, not everyone agrees on the nature of communion or baptism, not everyone agrees on the role of the Holy Spirit in the church and the nature of spiritual gifts and offices, not everyone agrees on the role of women in ministry. I am not a Calvinist, but I do believe God is sovereign, meaning I trust God to address the differences in doctrine, theology, and practice in the church. My faith is not static, there are things that I held as sacrosanct, that I no longer affirm. My convictions have changed over 20 years of ministry, through it all there is Christ. God has given me the freedom to explore and grow and I desire to do the same for others.

Israel and the Jews

The book of Romans chapters 9, 10, and 11 address the fate of the Jewish people. The Jews are still God’s people. The established of the state of Israel in 1948 and the return of the Jewish people to their homeland is a fulfillment of prophetic scripture. The political nation state of Israel in not the same as the Israel of the Hebrew Scriptures, nevertheless it is an instrument that Christ will use to reveal the anti-Christ and usher in his kingdom. The history of the Church and the Jews is marred with gross persecution of the Jewish people. The words of God to Abraham still ring true, “I will bless those who bless you, and curse those who curse you.” Romans 1:16 tells the order of things, “First to the Jew and then to the Gentile.”

We affirm the Hebrew roots of the Scripture, to that end we try and find points of integration in practical ways: the fastening of a Christian plaque inscribed with the Greatest Commandment (Luke 10:27) as a continuation of the mezuzah, the celebration of Christ in the Passover, the Feast of Pentecost as the celebration of Shavuot and birth of the Church, and finally, the observance of Rosh Hashanah as the Trumpet of Gabriel and the Tabernacles as the vision of the millennial kingdom of Christ, and the final harvest of souls. On major moments in the church I will blow the shofar “the trumpet of God”. The shofar is a spiritual instrument and we honor it as such. Blowing the shofar reminds of the truth the Christ’s return will be preceded with the blast of an angelic one.

Even so, I am aware that there are potential pitfalls inherent with the Messianic movement, the foremost the teaching on the need to be Torah observant even though Galatians 3   has made it clear that the Law was given to lead us to Christ and has no binding on those who have come to him though faith.

Righteousness, Holiness, Repentance, Faithfulness, and Obedience

In the American body of Christ, there is message that rings loud and clear. “God wants us/you to be successful, happy, healthy, and wealthy.” Various Scriptures are used to proof text this position. When I look at the totality of Scripture, I do not believe that the God in the Bible is at all interested in our health, our wealth, our worldly success, or our happiness. Those items may come as an off-shoot of grace, but if they do not come it is not a reflection on God’s commentary on our faith.

The God of the Bible is interested in righteousness— right relationship with God, right relationship with our brothers and sisters in the faith, and right relationship with our eternal destiny. All of those things are wrought in, though, and for Christ. It is imputed in us through his shed blood on the cross. While we cannot make righteousness we most certainly can willfully work in the other direction, which leads us to the next of God’s desires, holiness.

To be holy in Scripture is to be ‘set-apart’. God wanted the nation of Israel to be his special possession, set-apart from the world, to be an instrument of his divine revelation to the world. After the resurrection, the task of being set-apart, peculiar, a special possession of Divine revelation, was given to the church. Like righteousness, holiness is something Christ bequeaths to us.

In Matthew 4:17 Jesus begin his ministry with, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” Literally, “Turn around in your thinking, for the rule and reign of God in the world and in your life right now.” Repentance is the key that unlocks the kingdom. Anything we associate with Christ: eternal life, healing, deliverance, justification, transformation, and ministry, repentance unlocks the door. Repentance is a mental, spiritual, and emotional posture that proactively recognizes we have willfully lived a life contrary to what God has for us. We have broken God’s heart, we have hurt other people, and we have hurt ourselves. If we tell God that we are sorry and we ask him to forgive us, he will. From there we extend that divine forgiveness to other people and ourselves. The people of God are trying to open the door to all the benefits of life with God, without using this key.

The two other items I believe God desires from his people are faithfulness and obedience. Like repentance these involve the ongoing submission of our wills to Christ’s will. God does not ask his servants to be rock stars, he asks them to be faithful and obedient. I believe one reason why these two attributes have fallen on hard times in the church is because there is nothing sexy or sensational about them, and they are difficult. Faithfulness and obedience involve a deliberate decision and they kill our selfish nature. As the Son of God, Jesus was a celebrity, the world has never seen anything like him. That is not what the Father asked of him. The Father asked him to remain faithful and obedient to his call, even though it meant death on a cross (Philippians 2:5-11). This is what the Father desires from us. We cannot do these things in our own strength. We chose to allow Christ’s will to strengthen our will, if we rest in the power of the Holy Spirit we will be found faithful and obedient.

The Historical Witness of the Church

The Lord Jesus Christ has chosen to offer his invitation of eternal life though the church. The church is the visible expression of Christ on the earth and it consists of the redeemed people of God. The church has had this task since the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. In this third millennium of the church there is an alarming trend which assumes that all that has gone before is wrong or irrelevant. We stand on the shoulders of the saints that have gone before. It is immature to jettison the faithful witness and worship of the church because it is old or traditional or not appealing to the younger folks. The result s of such behavior is an a-historical church which is unmoored and easily deceived.

The Full Expression of the Bride of Christ

            The day of Pentecost provides us with a glimpse into the type of redemptive community God desires. When one considers the prophecy about the outpouring of the Holy Spring in Joel 2:28-32 and the various peoples group present at the Feast of Shavuot it becomes clear that God is doing something new. The nation of Israel was the expression of revelation to world, the church has now taken on that task. As such, the Joel prophecy tells us that ministry to God and for God will no longer be bound by age, gender, or class. The nations represented at Pentecost show us that God is no longer limiting his redemption to Jews, but has now decided to bring in the gentiles (all the other nations of the world). A church that embodies the fullness of the bride will have men and women, aged and youthful, white and blue collar, and different ethnicities and nationalities involved in ministry and leadership based on gifting not human made constructs and categories. To pull this off the church must be willing to stand on Christ, allow for difference, and extend each other lots of grace.

Love

I have saved the most important item for last. The words of Dion Warwick and Burt Bacharach are as true today as they were in the 1960’s, “What the world needs no is love, sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.” Divine Love created the world. Divine Love was in our midst. Divine Love died for us, lives for us, and reigns for us. If God is love then his people should be loving. A church that is not pregnant with God’s love is not a church at all. If there is anything the children of God need be it is loving. The words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 undergird us in a deep truth. No matter what spiritual success or gifting’s come our way if that are not imbued with the love of God they will fail and fall short. When everything is done away with, and Christ is all in all, love will remain.

These are my priorities as a pastor. I do my utmost to ensure that the are woven into the fabric that is Flower Mound Community Church.