Community-Grounded and Transformed
As we start this New Year, I want to share my heart for our continual growth in the Peace, Joy, Love and Hope we find in Christ. As we find new ways of practicing our gift of participation, I want to encourage you to be very attentive to the ways God speaks to you in your daily life.
In the fall, Christiane and I wrote a series about a disturbing trend in the church at-large that one book labeled as the de-churching of America. We were trying to look at some big picture ideas behind why over 40 million people have left the church in the last 20 years in the United States. This steady decline has caught the attention of social scientists, pastors, and christians everywhere.
The study showed that scandals, abusive leadership, mission drift, pandemic, and other major problems contributed to this loss. We gave a few practical takes on how to turn this trend. If you want to revisit this 4 part series you can find it on the blog on our church website starting here: https://marinerschurchofdetroit.org/blog/how-to-reverse-the-great-de-churching/ .
Our desire is for our community to be a place of healing, support, encouragement to all of us. We resist this ‘de-churching’ trend, by being a place for all who desire to grow in relationship with one another and God himself. And, it starts with each one of us being empowered to embody the reality of our faith. So, I keep coming back to this passage in Ephesians 1:17-20, and praying:
“that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places.”
Also, in Ephesians 2:4-10:
“God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
Please, read that again and meditate on the Apostle Paul’s words to us today. See how God reassures his grace towards you. Let’s focus on Jesus, and all that’s been accomplished for us to live life in the fullness of His presence. That’s how we become a community transformed from inside out. Grounded in Him, and ready to extend His grace and love to everyone.
There’s a new book, by a mentor and friend, Bishop Todd Hunter, called, “What Jesus Intended: Finding True Faith in the Rubble of Bad Religion”. True faith is the gift we receive by grace, found in Jesus himself.
Early in his book Bishop Hunter speaks of a bad habit he has when visiting museums. After looking briefly at the actual works of art or historical artifact, he dives in reading the plaques and information around the displays . He says:
“I suppose there is nothing wrong with my thirst for education. Except this: I can miss the thing itself. I might spend five minutes reading or listening to the audio headphones museums provide, but then I walk away having only given a glance at the actual display. The mind has been stimulated, but the eye has not taken the object to heart. Sadly, this frequently happens with Jesus. He can be talked about, deconstructed, analyzed, and critiqued, and all the while we may miss the thing itself—in this case the person Jesus himself.”
Let’s start this year with a new understanding of what it means to turn and “gaze upon the beauty of the Lord” (Ps. 27:4). He’s so much more than a piece of art or story told over Christmas. He is our Immanuel – God with us. Alive from eternity to eternity and receiving us with open arms as we are.
Blessings and Peace,
Rev. Todd and Dr. Christiane