The following message addresses our identity as a church community and is very helpful to help you understand where we come from, in terms of philosophy of ministry. The message was brought to our community after our first year. It helped us develop our core values and transformational process.
Date: July 6, 2008. Text: Hebrews 12: 1-3 (see Bible texts below).
By: Arnold leGrand: Member of the NDIC Leadership Team and Professional Fitness Trainer.
“The dream to start an English language church was born in Peter’s heart a number of years ago. Under Peter’s leadership, NDIC has been functioning as a church community for a little over a year now. We had our Grand Opening in September last year and we’ll celebrate our official 1 year anniversary this coming September.
But what is NDIC? What is our identity? Why do people come to NDIC? What type of community are we?
Peter touched on this a few weeks ago when he taught the first message from Acts, called “the Spirit is in the House”. He touched on the points that we are English speaking, and that we seek to be Spirit led in everything. Starting with the children’s programs and following that through to our worship, teaching, life groups, and leadership. This is the understanding, the acceptance, that we are Spirit led. But as a leadership group, we wanted something more specific, a scripture, or a picture that could really define us.
We seek to be a church community that involves everybody. We want to be able to laugh and have fun. We want to be actively involved in each others’ lives and the greater community of Almere, as well as learn to be more internationally aware. To become global citizens. In short, to be active members of God’s kingdom. These you could call our outward characteristics, what people see. Kind of like people noticing the color of your hair or your beautiful smile. We were seeking to define the character of our community.
This is all part of a discovery process. A heart search. The quest for what makes us “US”. You all know what I mean. We see from our looks that we physically reflect our parents or other family members. But what shapes our characters as we grow up? Some of its genetics and some of it is shaped by the environment we grow up in.
When we translate that to an infant church community, we can ask the same questions. We know the basics: called by God to reflect His likeness to the world. To grow in the fruit of the Spirit. But how do get to know who we really are. What can we tell about ourselves with the people who visit us?
We believed that God could give us a specific identity that could underline and influence everything about NDIC. It should influence how we approach every service, be the driving influence behind the teaching programs that we develop and offer, and be the lens through which we focus our ministry goals.
The concept started with the goal to create an education track. Peter wanted to develop a model that fits the Christian education process that we undergo as we grow in Christ and would specifically focus on the courses that we could offer. We quickly came to the realization that such a model is limited in several ways:
First of all it’s one dimensional in the sense. It creates a perception that once you’ve completed a course (for instance the ALPHA Course) you graduate to some higher level of maturity. It doesn’t take into account that life is cyclical, that some things have to be learned over and over again, that some things we never understand. That perhaps the Christian life is more about relationship than a striving to advance. Think of it like it being more like a marriage than an education.
Secondly, just putting our ministry and teaching programs into some sort of logical format didn’t give us an overriding sense of who we hope to be as a community. Ultimately we were looking for more of an image to mold ourselves around. A complete picture, not just an educational flow chart or diagram. The Bible is full of such images. Think of Psalm 1 and the picture of the Godly man being like a well – watered tree. Jesus’ teachings are full of word pictures: The Kingdom of Heaven is like “… “. And who could forget Paul’s depiction of the Body of Christ in I Corinthians 12 when he draws comparisons to how our human bodies function when healthy.
And then Peter invited me to share my first message last fall… I know my delivery skills were not too impressive that first time. I don’t think that message was anything to get too excited about either. I spoke about living in transition and compared life to running a marathon. And the words from Hebrews 12 just wouldn’t leave my mind!
Hebrews 12 starts with the word ‘Therefore’, so before we can even talk about Hebrews 12, we need to look at why ‘therefore’ is there for! ‘Therefore’ calls us to remember everything the apostle has been teaching about in chapters 10 and 11. There he has defined what faith is, and listed a glorious biography of Old Testament saints who lived by faith but never fully realized the promise of the Messiah. Christians living in the New Testament have the privilege of living in that reality, and ‘THEREFORE ‘are called to press on!
Hebrews 11.35 – 12.3
The image of running the race. The powerful perspective of running while all those glorious saints of millennia gone by cheer us on. The realization that they cannot claim their prize unless we finish strong.
Who watched the Dutch team in the EK football championships the past weeks? How could you miss the excitement, the boisterous support, the energy that the nation of Holland put forward trying to WILL their team to victory. And then all for naught. The picture in Hebrews 11-12 isn’t like that. These fans have also run the race – but haven’t yet claimed the prize. That’s why they surround us and encourage to keep running. And when we complete the tasks for which we’ve been created, the text implies that they too share in our victory – the glory of life in and with and through Jesus Christ.
So as I pondered this text over the past months, 4 words seemed to jump of the page from these verses. They seemed to exemplify the Christian journey in so many ways, and yet it also seemed to be very logical. Both multi-dimensional and comprehensive at the same time. And the fact that it pictured runners in a race gave me as a runner and trainer energy:
AWARENESS ENDURANCE PERSPECTIVE SACRIFICE
Let’s have a look at these words from a runner’s perspective.
AWARENESS: The desire to change your health because the pattern of living that you’re in isn’t good. The desire to accomplish something big. The awareness that a goal like running takes characteristics like endurance, perspective on the goal, and a willingness to endure pain – sacrifice.
ENDURANCE: Long races – 10 km, marathons, triathlons, the Tour de France – are built around endurance, ‘Uithoudingsvermogen’. It takes hours and weeks and months of diverse types of training to buildup endurance. To teach your body how to use energy and oxygen in an efficient method for such a challenge. To train your muscles to keep performing under such duress.
PERSPECTIVE: Such punishment is only possible when focus on the goal is maintained. And even when the body wants to give up under the strain of the training, or even the race itself; focus on the goal drives the athlete to the finish.
SACRIFICE: Everyone knows intrinsically that difficult accomplishments take sacrifice. Consider that the final months before you run a marathon call for a minimum of 8-10 hours / week of training! That’s just the running. Add in strength training and recovery training on a bicycle or in the pool and you start to realize what sacrifice looks like. Your family and friends need to partner with you in such an endeavor, or you may even lose them! And once you start the actual race, and you push your body through those kilometers, and the prospect of the last 10 are before you, you begin to experience the physical demands; the absolute emptying of everything your body has to give. Then you start to understand sacrifice!
Now we’ll look at some of the Spiritual concepts that we can draw from this scripture, and allow ourselves to appreciate the parallels that they have to our Christian journey.
And now from a spiritual perspective:
AWARENESS: By the prodding of the Spirit, I become aware of who God is and who I am as a human being. I start to realize that I am not who God created me to be. I become involved in a church community, hoping to find hope and a future with God at the centre. There’s the immediate awareness that I’ve made the greatest choice in my life. There’s the amazing awareness that with God on your side, who can be against you?
Some of us have been on the Christian walk longer, but the sense of awareness is still fitting. When we allow Him freedom, the Spirit prods the deep and hidden places in our lives. There comes awareness that to grow into the people who God created us to be, so much still has to change. What the Bible refers to as being changed from ‘glory to glory’.
ENDURANCE: Once I commit to this marathon, I realize quickly that there are no quick fixes. Things take time to heal and change. Sanctification is a process. I learn to relinquish my own power and start to depend on God and others to help me run this marathon. This is when I commit to the process of discipleship. Discipleship (the training of the soul) involves every part of the church. As a new Christian I commit to a long program of training to be able to endure the schemes of the evil one (“the sin that so easily entangles…”), and to be able to become the person that God created me to be. This involves the obviously (new) Christian, coaches and mentors, pastors and teachers, your friends, and the work of the Spirit.
Endurance is something that a mature Christian recognizes and strives to develop as well. Very simply, it’s allowing the Spirit to produce the fruit of the Spirit in our lives (Galatians 5.22) (See notes). Fruit is the evidence that our spiritual training is producing results.
PERSPECTIVE: The marathon is only even remotely possible with my eyes focused on the distant finish. When the commitment is the rest of your life, it’s only possible by keeping my eyes fixed on Jesus, through whom it’s all possible. He has lived this life with all of its stresses and tribulations, and also knows the joy of finishing strong. Ultimately of course the saving work of Jesus is the reason I have a life that’s worth living, the hope of eternity in relationship with Him. Keeping Jesus at the centre of every endeavor makes life possible and even bids the possibility of “living life to the full”.
It goes without saying that every Christian at every stage of life longs for a greater perspective of who Jesus is in every situation.
SACRIFICE: Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice. When you grow to realize the enormity of what that means for every person that has ever lived, indeed for returning the planet to the state that God initially created; the awareness leaves you with a growing desire to participate in every way you can at building God’s kingdom. You realize that everything you have is God’s. Every breath you take, your family, your job, your talents, the opportunities each day to live life to the full – are all gifts from God. Your only response is to give it ALL back to God, and to want to share it with others. Jesus said that when we give to those who need, we serve Him, that to follow Him is to take up your cross and follow Him. We follow him at home and abroad, because He has given us the Great Commission, (Matthew 28:18-20)
AWARENESS ENDURANCE PERSPECTIVE SACRIFICE
It’s our dream as NDIC leadership to see everyone in our community being actively involved in living out these characteristics. To be a dynamic, growing community, everyone needs to get on board. This isn’t meant to become some sort of guilt trip or manipulation exercise.
If you feel unsure of what this means for you, ask the Spirit to develop the sense of awareness in your life.
If you need new energy, ask God to develop endurance for this marathon, to see the fruit of the Spirit to really take root and grow.
Do you long to see Jesus more clearly in your daily challenges? It’s as simple as allowing Philippians 2 to shape your perspective. (Philippians 2.1-11) (See notes).
As leadership we hope to provide you with structured opportunities to grow. We want to create a dynamic environment with Jesus as our center. By continuing to develop our course offerings we want to give everyone the opportunity to grow. If you’re a person that loves kids, or is into sound and music, we want to offer you every opportunity to develop these gifts at conferences geared to these talents. We challenge you to take on these roles as part of your involvement at NDIC.
I know this sound like a shameless plea for help. It sort of is, but we also really believe that as we become more involved as a community, and interact and do life together – we more truly reflect the image of Jesus!
Philippians 3.13-14 ) (See notes).
Notes in NIV Bible Translation
Hebrews 12: 1-3 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Galatians 5: 22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
Matthew 28: 18-20 “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Philippians 2: 1-11 “ If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness, and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death of a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that of the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Philippians 3: 13, 14 “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”