This post finds us continuing in our series entitled, “Living Above & Beyond.” The purpose of the whole series, and this season in which we find ourselves at Bethel Church, is to equip us as followers of Jesus to live above and beyond material slavery, spiritual complancency, and small-minded eternal vision. We want God to meet us where he finds us today, and to transform us toward greater maturity and sensitivity to his Spirit.
Recent weeks have found us giving attention to Deuteronomy 26:5-11, from which we have been equipped to understand what it could look like for us to “make a response” to God (Deut. 26:5) that affirms God’s goodness and recognizes that everything that we have and all that we are is for him and his glory. It has been important to establish this, for any further discussion on how we as a church might live above and beyond where God finds us today must begin with this important truth. Otherwise we are just playing games.
Of course, this has significant implications for the value we place on things like our talents and spiritual gifts, our relationships, our time, and our money. If we really believe that all of these things belong to God, then that revolutionizes how we process the manner of our living. Deuteronomy 26:10-11 empower us to remember that God deserves not just a portion of who we are or what we have, but he deserves all that we have and are! And his goodness calls for a celebration of extravagant joy!
Which leads us to 1 Chronicles 16:1 and following, at which place ancient King David hosts an extravagant celebration for the people of Israel. The Ark of the Covenant, traditionally the earthly throne, so to speak, of God, has been generally ignored. King David has decided that it is time to bring it into Jerusalem and establish for it a special place of residence. The elaborate festivities surrounding the movement of the Ark toward its resting place bring to mind the kind of extravagance that the Mishnah speaks of for Deuteronomy 26’s first-fruits celebration: a grand processional, music, dancing, the reciting of ascent psalms, community, etc.
Embedded within 1 Chronicles 16 is some special insight into not only the Israelite celebration of God and his goodness, but the expectation that the celebration of God and his goodness have a strong missional quality about it. Indeed, 1 Chronicles 16: 23-24 declares, “Sing to the LORD, all the earth! Tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!” It would appear that our extravagant rejoicing should create a loud echo rallying a deaf and broken world to bend the knee before Yahweh (see Psalm 96:2, in which, nearly identical to 1 Chronicles 16:23-36, we are exhorted to “bless his name,” the word “bless” meaning to “bend the knee” or “be broken down”). Raising up still other worshippers of God should dominate our lives. “Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice, and let them say among the nations, ‘The LORD reigns!'” (1 Chron. 16:31).
With this opportunity in mind we who follow Christ (and our churches) must be intentional in our messaging about Jesus. The word “tell” in 1 Chronicles 16:23 means “to preach,” and is presented to us in the Hebrew piel form, suggesting a strong tone of intentionality and intensity. It is a word pregnant with expectation that the preaching or telling be strategic and with great effort. First Chronicles 16:35 gives us the message to tell. “Save us, O God of our salvation. . . .” One cannot help but note that the words “save” and “salvation” are intimately connected to the world Yeshua, or Jesus.
The opportunity to raise up still other worshippers must have a bias toward non-believers; that is to say, new converts. Throughout 1 Chronicles 16, in the midst of this very Hebraic celebration, there is a purposeful focus on the goyim, the nations, the peoples, the heathen—those who are not already walking in faith in the One True God (see again 1 Chron. 16:24). Christ-centered churches must stay missionally focused on raising up new converts in Christ, or, perhaps, connecting with believers terribly disenfranchised in churches that are not Christ- and Word-centered.
This opportunity to raise up still other worshippers should motivate churches to create a context for synergetic experiences wherein new converts and season Christians can come together to make a response to God, paying tribute to God (1 Chron. 16:29) and affirming his greatness (note the “Amen!” in 1 Chron. 16:36).
These three things, drawn as they are from the text of 1 Chronicles 16, and reflecting this notion that Bethel Church’s extravagant joy should create a loud echo that rallies a deaf and broken world to bend the knee to the One True God, give shape to an important vision we have for things like additional worship venues throughout our region. The Fargo-Moorhead metropolitan area is the significant hub for a vast rural region that desperately needs synergetic experiences wherein new converts and season Christians can come together to make a response to God. Intentionally taking the message of Jesus to our rural communities by means of satellite campuses or house churches, where the cost in the community is modest, where strong accountability exists, and where we at Bethel Church truly host the responsibility of helping people celebrate God, much like King David did with the people of Israel in 1 Chronicles 15-16, is the dream that we believe God wants to make into a reality. He wants us to help people all over our region live above and beyond where they are now.
Which brings us back full-circle, so to speak. To more effectively avail ourselves to the crucial task of raising up still other worshippers, it will be helpful for Bethel Church to eliminate its own financial debt. It is not that we cannot pursue these opportunities in our current financial circumstances, for, thankfully, we are generally financially robust. It is simply that we wish to be as agile as possible, as free as can be, so that we can move forward with our faces set like flint, unhindered and without hesitation.
After all, so much is at stake!
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Special Note: For those of you wanting to participate in Bethel Church’s capital campaign entitled, “Living Above & Beyond,” an effort through which we, by God’s grace, intend to eliminate the remaining 2.3 million dollars that we have on our facility, please note that pledge Sunday will be February 19, 2012. On that date we will receive from all interested parties whatever pledge commitments they would like to make to see the debt eliminated. Also, Sunday, March 4, 2012, will be our “first-fruits” Sunday, at which time pledge participants will offer their initial gifts for the effort. For more information click here.
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“Write This Down…” provides a restatement of selected points or observations from various teaching venues at which Pastor Matthew speaks. The preceding material is from Pastor Matthew’s message entitled, “Worshippers Who Live Above & Beyond,” and part of the sermon series “Living Above & Beyond,” presented on the weekend of January 29, 2012, at Bethel Church.