LEAVE YOUR SUSPICION AND SKEPTICISM AT THE DOOR…IF ONLY FOR A MOMENT
We live in an age of suspicion and skepticism. Suspicion because trust is in short supply in a culture that trains us to question authority, with all the good and bad that entails. Skepticism because everything has been tried before, everything has been done–there is nothing new under the sun–and why should I sacrifice my time and energy for something that will fade away just like everything else?
Would-be leaders are pressed to answer: What is the goal of this? What is the intention of that? These questions by themselves are appropriate. I will confess, we at 1Foundation have not always done as good a job as we might have in clearly laying out our vision, hopes, and goals. But too often, these questions betray the driving spirits of suspicion and skepticism, and when done in that spirit, questions can tear down more easily than build up.
Trust is the currency of Christian leadership, and good questions are needed to keep any organization on track. But to properly lay out 1F’s vision and goals, I’m going to do something dangerous–I’m going to ask you to leave your suspicion and skepticism at the door.
Just for a moment! You can pick them back up on your way out. But for now, come inside and let me show you what we think we can achieve together, if we can work through the obstacles wisely and pursue God and His Kingdom above all else.
Just for a moment, come inside and dream with me.
THE PROBLEM, REVISITED
But first, let’s discuss the situation we are in today.
In a long post way back when, in a blog series I started and, erm, didn’t complete, I talked about how the very nature of society itself was changing as the developed world journeys deeper into a post-Christian culture.
I still hope to revisit that post in the future, but for now I want to address a potential criticism: Where in that post is talk about the Gospel, salvation, and the forgiveness of sins?
The Gospel of Christ is definitely our personal salvation from destruction and our redemption from sin through the blood of the Lamb. But what I was trying to highlight is that the “Christ-event”–the life, death, resurrection and ascension of King Jesus–is nothing less than the launching of New Creation (1 Corinthians 15:20-25, 2 Corinthians 5:17). Jesus Christ is birthing a new world (see Matthew 24:8, Romans 8:22), founded on an ethic of self-giving love, rather than selfish power.
This Gospel, then, is not about giving a privatized spiritual feeling of assurance, as important as that is. This Gospel is also not about escaping from this world to enjoy God in Heaven–though both damnation and Heaven are real, and it is good and right to say we are created to enjoy God forever.
This Gospel is about a Holy God reconciling a lost, broken world back to Himself through the elevation of His Son, Jesus Christ, who tramples the dark principalities and powers under his feet and restores broken human beings back to the glorious likeness of His Image. This Gospel prompts utter gratitude and utter loyalty. This Gospel demands that your self-understanding, your identity and purpose, your family, your career, your money, and every aspect of your life submit to the supremacy of Christ.
Such a Gospel, and such a God, drives us into the hurting places of the world in imitation and worship of our Savior. Such a Gospel, and such a God, does not exactly promise us success–it promises us His Presence.
Such a Gospel makes us aware that in Christ and by the Spirit, the Father has given us the greatest Gift He possibly could have–Himself, in his inexhaustible infinitude, so that we are assured that the joy of His Life will always swallow up suffering, pain, sacrifice, and death.
Such a Gospel makes us more than conquerors (Romans 8:37).
In the new post-Christian age, re-commitment to the centrality of this Gospel is needed now more than ever. We live in a culture that forms us to be consumers and spectators. We live in a culture that pushes us to look out for ourselves and our tribe. We live in a world where the ultimate god is the god of self-actualization: Me, meeting my needs and achieving my dreams, whatever they may be.
God is not rescuing some special people away from this broken world to Heaven, while leaving others to perish in corruption. God is bringing Heaven to Earth, to heal and bless the world with His presence, and He is inviting us to participate in this renewal by the power of the Cross.
From RPCNA Covenanter
A GOSPEL MOVEMENT
Throughout America and around the world, movements are rising up in response to the new post-Christian moment.
In New York City, Redeemer Presbyterian Church has initiated the Rise Campaign, part of a 10-year vision to raise the number of center-city New Yorkers attending Gospel-centered churches from 5% to 15%, which they believe is a tipping point of Gospel-influence that could transform the city. To meet that vision, they are partnering with other churches and ministries to plant and renew churches in every neighborhood of New York.
In Austin, the Austin Stone Community Church has recognized that Christian discipleship faces unique challenges in the American context, and has created a model of multiplying missional communities to demonstrate and declare the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
In Dallas, the Initiative Network has united churches from different ethnic and denominational backgrounds together to demonstrate unity, pursue mission together, and form young adults facing the temptations of this age into good Christian character through worship and prayer. This young ministry has shown particular effectiveness in encouraging millenials to pursue ministry and in pushing diverse churches to think of themselves as missionaries in their God-given local contexts.
In London, the organization Gather confronts a new religious landscape, where immigrants from Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean are bringing their own Christian flavors and traditions into conversation with historic Protestant and Catholic Christianity in the UK. Gather seeks to unite members from these different streams of Christianity for the sake of mission, worship, and the cultural renewal of Britain.
In his new book, A Disrupting Gospel, Mac Pier documents the rise of Gospel movements in major cities around the world in the last 30 years. He holds out the promise and hope that the centrality of the Gospel can still transform lives and renew entire cultures.
These movements show us that love for the Gospel can unite the people of God from different backgrounds and respond to the new cultural moment we find ourselves in.
Sunrise over Buffalo Bayou, Houston, Texas–from the City of Houston website
Which brings us back to the inviting, dreaming, planning part of this whole post. 1Foundation is not a new church. We are an organization that seeks to equip Christian communities for the mission and worship of Jesus Christ.
In other words, we want to help spark and launch a Gospel-centered movement in the Greater Houston Area.
We want to partner with churches, youth groups, bible studies, campus ministries, and anyone else who loves Jesus to work for Gospel-centrality and Gospel-renewal. We want to unite folks from different racial, ethnic, and denominational backgrounds for the sake of mission and worship. We want to connect ministers, priests, and lay leaders from different contexts to faithfully work through differences, disagreeing where necessary and moving toward harmony where possible, to demonstrate to the world through our Christian unity that God the Father has sent the Son for the purpose of reconciliation (see John 17:21).
I think I have to say it again, because it’s worth repeating–1Foundation is not a new church, and we are not trying to replace the necessity or functions of the church. There are important questions of doctrine, discipline, worship, and spiritual authority that we do not, cannot, and should not address. We believe it is important that every believer is a member of a Gospel-centered church that exercises authority, worships in spirit and truth, and fosters disciples. In fact, we hope that our work will drive believers deeper into the specific mission of their home churches, and that we can connect new believers with churches where they can serve and mature.
That said, we believe 1Foundation has a valid role to play in connecting, uniting, coaching, equipping, and catalyzing Christians and churches from diverse contexts to pursue mission and worship together, to advance the Kingdom of God, and to seek cultural renewal in Houston. We hope to quiet the suspicions and skepticism that too often keep us from stepping out in faith together, evangelizing and serving together, and sharing our gifts together to build one another up in faith.
We hope by constantly speaking about and urging one another to live out the full truth of the Gospel, we can renew love for the Gospel in churches all around the Greater Houston Area.
We hope we can inspire a new generation of ministers, priests, and lay leaders to rise up for the glory of God’s Name. We hope we can connect this new generation with training, resources, and career opportunities, so that they can fulfill their high calling faithfully.
We hope we can be a forum where churches, pastors, and theologians from different church traditions can address ancient differences with scholarship, study, and prayer.
We hope we can persuade churches to pay fresh attention to the need for and problems with discipleship in the American context, and to creatively brainstorm ways to encourage believers to pursue personal growth in Christ in 21st century Houston.
We hope we can provide churches and parents resources for the instruction of the new generations that will be born here. To face the problems of a post-Christian culture, which is already forming our character and our children’s character in new, unexpected, and harmful ways, we must unite under the banner of Christ.
We hope that the power of the Gospel will cut people to the heart, so that faith will spring to life in dead hearts, will awaken in sleepy hearts, and will light aflame in searching hearts.
This is going to be a long, slow work. We will share our vision with church leaders and young adults first in the Indian community, and then in the wider Houston community. But we believe this is a good work blessed by the Lord. Remember–we are not promised success. We are asked to be faithful, and we are promised His presence.
The Greater Houston Area offers many challenges and opportunities for this work. By some estimates, Houston is the most ethnically diverse city in the nation. This presents challenges in uniting Christians and churches for common mission, but also incredible opportunities in showing how the Gospel can unite the nations under one Lord.
Houston is also the sex-trafficking capital of the United States, is a popular refugee resettlement destination, faces significant disparities in health according to race and income, and is America’s most economically segregated city. The state of Texas more generally is facing an education and foster care crisis.
In every area, churches should take the lead to demonstrate and declare the Gospel of Christ. 1Foundation will come in to aid, motivate, unite, and spur action by Christian communities to live out the Gospel.
So far, we have taken modest steps in this direction. We have monthly large groups where we invite Christians from different communities to come together to pray and worship together. We have launched missional communities across Houston, to encourage believers to realize that Christian community is incomplete without mission. We are developing videos, blog posts, and other web content. And we have begun monthly Service Projects to get people into a habit and practice of sacrificing their time and serving others out of love for God.
These are all modest, humble efforts undertaken in an attempt to be faithful amidst the challenges of this cultural moment. But we believe that these modest, faltering steps can lead to bigger things.
Imagine, vocational fellowship groups that meet occasionally throughout the Houston area to discuss the reigning idols in different professions, and how to live out the Gospel faithfully in different careers. What does it mean to be a Gospel-centered doctor? What does it mean to be a Gospel-centered lawyer? What does it mean to be a Gospel-centered teacher?
Imagine, book clubs and arts collectives and musical concerts, where Christian believers can invite their non-believing friends for fellowship and share the joys of Christian community with them.
Imagine, mental health and counseling services for believers in the Greater Houston Area.
Imagine, an annual event where invited churches come to discuss and plan how to partner for mission in the next year in the Greater Houston Area.
Imagine, structured, civil debates between leaders of different churches on the meaning of justification, baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and eschatology, to prompt fresh thought and the edification of believers.
Imagine, praise and worship training for new praise bands, to refresh spent worship leaders, train and encourage new worship leaders, and share best practices and methods while continually reminding everyone that the purpose of praise music is to worship God in spirit and truth.
Imagine, evangelism workshops for discussing Christ with Hindu, Muslim, and secular friends and neighbors, which dive deeply into their worldviews and beliefs so that Christians can share the Gospel confidently and sensitively.
Imagine, a church planting network that supports the building of new churches, and equips and prays for church planters in the Houston area.
Imagine, a pipeline of new ministers in the Greater Houston Area, connecting campus ministries around the nation back to churches in Houston.
These would not be “1F subsidiaries” or expansions of the “1F franchise.” There is not some master plan to build up the 1F media empire, if that were even possible. Instead, these would the organic fruits of connecting Christians with different gifts and interests together. These new efforts, institutions, and missions would be the overflowing of Christian love, undertaken for love of God and neighbor.
WE NEED YOU.
Here’s where you can pick your suspicion and skepticism back up again. And here’s also where we make our big ask:
We need help.
We don’t have all the answers, and we don’t even know if we are asking the right questions. But we believe that God has placed on our hearts a burden for mission and worship in the Indian community and, more ambitiously, the Greater Houston Area. We believe that by faithfully pursuing God, the Giver of all gifts, we will be renewed, strengthened, and equipped to serve the people of God in this time and place.
Our goal is not to get a big “Large Group attendance” or to get people to “come out for a 1F event.” Our goal is to activate servants and soldiers for Christ. In this post-Christian era, we want you to get off the sidelines and into the arena.
We want love for Christ to so overflow in your heart that you can’t help but sacrifice your time, talents, and treasure for service.
Even if you still have suspicions, and even if you still have skepticism, if any of the above was compelling or beautiful or true to you, then reach out to us. We need your ideas, we need your talents, and we need your help.
You can contact us in a variety of ways:
We look forward to hearing from you.
For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.
-1 Corinthians 3:11 (NRSV)