I am friends with a guy who is starting up a tech company in Dublin called Vivos. The central idea behind the company comes from Howard Thurman, a 20th Century preacher, civil rights activist and spiritual mentor to Martin Luther King. He said:
Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
My friend’s company aims to help match people to jobs that make them come alive. Brilliant! Now what has all this got to do with church? In my understanding, which I explain on stevevaughan10.com, the church of Jesus Christ is supposed to be a place where people ‘have come alive’; and since individually and corporately we have come alive, we are part of the solution to what the world needs!
We’re supposed to be a church that provokes questions, awakens desire and demonstrates that life in relationship with God through Jesus is the most wonderful and joyful life there is. This idea was put into a book called Provocative Church by Graham Tomlin. At the end of the first chapter he says:
A community of people that lives by God’s ways, that has learned to place love, humility, compassion, forgiveness and honesty right at the centre will make people think. To put it differently, a church that lives its life under the kingdom of God cannot help but provoke questions.
And that is the vision of Christ City Church. We want to be a blessing to the people and the city of Dublin, making a difference spiritually, culturally and socially; and in so doing we pray that we will provoke questions, awaken desire and help other people ‘come alive’ as they discover who God made them to be and how they can come back into relationship with God through Christ.
So, with this in mind, we are starting a new five week series, from 7th September to 5th October, called Provocative Church, where we will look at what God wants from his church. The series will be based on Romans 12 in the Bible. The letter of Romans was written to a group of 4-6 house churches in 1st century Rome, probably numbering between 100-200 people in total across the churches. The first 11 chapters outline exactly what Jesus has done to bring us into relationship with God and with each other. And then in chapter 12 the Apostle Paul, who wrote the letter to the Roman Church, starts to get practical and outline what our response to Jesus should be. We’re going to break the series into 5 parts, as follows:
7th Sep: A Transformed Community (Romans 12:1-2)
We are all devoted and give our allegiance to something – this is the thing we worship. We can worship money, sex, a relationship, power, sport and so on and so forth. The thing we make the object of our affections will eventually transform us and conform us to its own purposes. Our whole identity and value will be derived from this thing. Paul starts Romans 12 by urging us to be devoted to Christ; to not conform to the pattern of this world but to be transformed to God’s ways. This is the basis of becoming a Provocative Church. We are neither to assimilate to the world’s ways, nor retreat from the world altogether. We are to be fully engaged in the world and fully transformed by God.
14th Sep: A Serving Community (Romans 12:3-8)
God has made each of us unique and has given us different gifts. We are not to try and prove ourselves and build a name for ourselves through the gifts God has given us. Nor are we to envy those who have gifts we desire or are more gifted than us. Instead we are to thank God for the gifts he has given us, and use our gifts with humility so that others are encouraged. Our gifts are not to be used to boost our egos but to help others flourish. That is what the church is all about and one of things that makes us stand out from the world and provoke questions.
21st Sep: A Loving Community (Romans 12:9-13)
Everyone, I think, agrees that love should be the foundation of the world. But we all know that to love is really, really hard sometimes. It is hard to love your spouse until death parts you. It is hard to love your children when they wind you up or are disobedient. It is hard to love those who think differently and act differently from you. It is hard to be generous with your time, money, home and possessions. In these verses Paul is going to help us think through how we can love when it’s hard and how the power and strength to love all comes from our relationship with, and the love we have received from Jesus. Jesus said in John 13 and 17 that if we love each other, the world will know we are his disciples. Love is key to being a ‘Provocative Church’.
28th Sep: A Forgiving Community (Romans 12:14-21)
Now if love is hard, forgiveness is even harder…maybe because it is the deepest form of love we know of, to love someone when they don’t deserve your love; they deserve your anger. To love someone when they have wronged you, to love someone when they are unlovable, is the love that God has shown us in Jesus. It is called Agape, which is unconditional love. It is love with no strings attached. In Greek there are four words for love: Eros – sexual and romantic love; Philio – friendship love; Storge – parental love (affection); and Agape – unconditional love. The Bible celebrates and prizes all four loves but says that Agape is the highest form of love, and it is the word the New Testament uses every time it speaks of God’s love for us. Jesus famously showed it on the cross when he looked down on his murderers and said “father forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.” This is what God asks of the church today: to love those who persecute us, to forgive those who wrong us and to do good to our enemies. We are to leave justice in the hands of God, knowing he is a perfect judge and will one day right every wrong. In the meantime, we are to show others the love that Christ has shown us and forgive those who have wronged us. This is ultimately what makes a church provocative…may God help us!
5th Oct: A Praying Community (Romans 12:12)
In the final week of the series we will be obeying the command “to be faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12) and will be praying for our city, the people within the city and our church. Human effort alone cannot bring light into darkness. We need God to stretch out his hand and bring blessing and love to Dublin. So we’ll look at what it means for us to pray for our city, and then we’ll do it. If God is not with us, we will never be a provocative church, that is one of the reasons we must pray.
So this will be our first series as a church and will lead us up to our launch Satisfied? on Sunday 12th October.
I hope to see you there…I’ll speak for no longer than 25 minutes…promise!
**This is part 1 of a series of 6 looking at our vision and values. The vision of Christ City Church Dublin is to make a difference to the city spiritually, culturally and socially. Our four values are mission, discipleship, community and leadership. Check out more on our vision and values page.