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We spend just enough time “at church” to be religious, but nowhere near enough time to be family.

Read the rest of my new article here.

On Sunday, we installed the first deacons of Austin City Life, 5 months after they completed training! Church planting! We introduced them as lead servants in our church who have demonstrated a commitment to the character, theology, and service of deacon. It was a sweet time to reflect on the gospel growth in our church, and to celebrate our deacons commitment.

As I introduced each person, I asked them the following question: “Do you pledge, by God’s grace, to serve this church with the character, faith, and service fitting of a deacon? If so, say ‘I do’”. This question simulateously called each person to sober commitment and to God’s all-sufficient grace in serving the church. I am thrilled to have such fine deacons dedicated to the good of our church, the good of the city, and the glory of God!

Here are the Deacon Resources we used and developed along the way. The newest contribution is the manuscript and outline of what I said during the installment. Hope it helps.

What do we do if people in our church don’t want to be the church? How do we encourage people to enter into Christian community?

1. Preach, teach, disciple, and counsel a strong gospel of grace that is community focused. Demonstrate the centrality of one anothering, hospitality, and fellowship from the Bible, while also consistently deconstructing defective notions of church. Constantly expose sub/un-biblical notions of church. You can do this in any kind of church gathering.

2. Show them what they are missing by integrating a testimony time into your public gatherings. We have a City Group spotlight every other Sunday during which people share something from their experience of Gospel, Community, or Mission in their City Group.

3. Make it an issue of obedience and an issue of grace. Demonstrate from the Scriptures that community is something commanded by Christ. Explain what community is and what it isn’t. Illustrate community of grace stories and community of legalism and convenience stories.

Extend grace to people who have been terribly discipled into thinking that church is optional. Re-disciple them in the gospel by uncovering heart issues/idolatries of “fear of man”, selfishness, hidden sins, and so on.

4. Create “stepping stones” for genuine community through things like intro class, social events, partner’s class, post-gathering lunches, etc. In a culture like ours, churches don’t have instant credibility. We need to create ways for people to know us, evaluate us, and question us.

5. Some people just need an invitation. Some folks would never show up to someone’s home uninvited, but once they are invited community becomes more natural. Invite others into your home and into community.

Many people in America approach “church” as a community of convenience. The Bible, however, holds out a very different concept of church, a community of grace. The community of convenience stands in the way of a community of grace. Consider some of the differences:

Community of Grace

Community of Convenience

  • Assumes Imperfection
  • Begins with Forbearance
  • Moves to Forgiveness
  • Characterized by Grace & Love
  • Assumes Perfection
  • Begins with Consumerism
  • Moves to another “Church”
  • Characterized by Convenience & Selfishness

Community of Convenience

The community of convenience assumes perfection. It confuses the church with a product or service, demanding perfect customer service from the community. This person approaches “church” as something that exists to service their personal, familial, and spiritual needs, not as a community love and serve. The COC begins with consumerism and expects to be served. It believes that the church exists for their spiritual, relational convenience. People who approach church as a COC get upset, angry, and gripe when they don’t get their spiritual or personal needs serviced. When conflict emerges the COC simply withdraws or moves on. If the spiritual customer doesn’t receive his service, get his needs met, or get the precise theological package they are looking for, they criticize the leadership, complain to others about the community, and often move down the street to another church to get their needs serviced. No wonder people aren’t “going to church.”

Community of Grace

A community of grace, however, assumes imperfection. It understands that the church is people, people who are broken, imperfect, sinful, people who will complain and hurt one another. A COG begins with forbearance, “bearing with one another in love.” It is others-oriented. It puts up with others that are different, embraces inconvenience. When conflict arises, the COG responds very differently. The COG doesn’t remain at a place of forbearance but moves to forgiveness. The COG doesn’t hold grudges but extends genuine forgiveness towards those who have hurt them.

The COG is characterized by love and grace, but the COC is characterized by selfishness and consumerism. The Church is not a community of conveniences. It does not exist for you to get served. The church is a community of grace that exists to serve one another, to bear with one another, to forgive one another, to love one another! The church is not a perfect product or service with a money back guarantee; it is a community of imperfect people clinging to a perfect Christ who are being perfected by grace.