This blog post may not be what you think.
We are having renovations in the basement of our church building. But the church isn’t a building, and so I’m not going to be focussing on the building renovations, but about renovating our churches, our people, into the likeness of Christ and into alignment with God’s mission for the city.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the word renovate is defined as: “to restore to life, vigor, or activity”. It may be seen as a sort of revival. Yet, not necessarily a “holy ghost revival” with a tent meeting, but of a revival of hearts towards God and his mission to seek and save the lost and reconcile all things to Himself. This is the work of restoring the missional life of the church, a vigor to spread the glory of God through gospel-saturated, Christ-centered, Spirit-led activity. For pastors and other types of ministry equippers, this work of renovating the church is essential. Almost two years ago I had the privilege of joining the pastoral team of West Coast Christian Fellowship, a neighbourhood church in East Vancouver. As pastor of community engagement, I’ve been in the process of listening, learning, and praying for insight about what the Holy Spirit has been doing through our ministries and what the He may be leading our people into this coming season.
Before we renovate our ministries, we need to renovate our ministers – no, I’m not just talking about the church staff, I’m talking about the whole church. “You want to renovate me?” someone might retort. Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t a “I want to fix you because I know better” kind of situation. Ministers and leaders of Christian communities should desire to see themselves, their churches, and neighbours daily renewed in Christ, daily conformed more and more into the likeness of Jesus. Jesus wanted this (Jn 17:17), Paul wanted this (Gal 4:19), we would be unloving to not want this. Let’s get to work in equipping them for the work of ministry (Eph 4:12). It starts with their (and our) preconceived ideas of the work at hand.
Renovating our Perception of Mission
Missions is For Moms Too
I asked a group of young mothers at our church about what they thought of the concept: “We are all missionaries.” One mother honestly expressed, “I don’t like that! It means that I have to have results, and that I have to be an extrovert and meet new people on the street.”
Renovation work before me was to consider what her current perception of a missionary is and then help to re-envision what a missionary can be: not only for extroverted salespeople types, but for everyone in everyday life with gospel intentionality.
“From what historians can gather, hospitality – not martyrdom – served as the main motivator for conversions [in the early church].”
– Diana Butler Bass, A People’s History of Christianity
Missions is Both Global and Local
I spoke with another lady from our church and asked her what she thought and felt about the concept (and reality) that we are all missionaries. She thought it was a good wakeup call, but she felt left-out. Her husband had just recently gone overseas to spread the gospel to villages filled with illiteracy and therefore don’t have the Bible in their mother tongue. She was left here in Vancouver to do work and look after the family. I had the opportunity to help her renovate her understanding of missions and to recognize that she is in fact: 1) not left alone, and 2) currently called to be a missionary in her everyday life. She proceeded to tell me about a Muslim woman who she’d met and had started becoming friends with, inviting to church, talking about the gospel with, and even brought to Missions Fest! She thought that she had to “quit [her] life” in order to go on mission, but with a little help, she recognized that she just needed to shift her life focus with gospel intentionality.
Missions at the Stake and with a Steak
Many people in our churches may not see themselves going overseas to reach the unreached and preach to the “heathens”, but at the same time, it isn’t unlike them to invite people over for a meal and share their lives with those in their networks. Being missional is just understanding that you can do all of these things with gospel intentionality; being aware of God’s desire for reconciliation with this world, and our opportunity as His ambassadors (2 Cor 5:20) to invite people into his renewed community. Diana Butler Bass, in A People’s History of Christianity, wrote that though martyrdom played a big part in the growth of the early church historians, “from what historians can gather, hospitality – not martyrdom – served as the main motivator for conversions.” Whether it is martyrdom or hospitality, the Good News of God’s grace, when deeply grasped by God’s people, results in sacrifice, boldness of love, and amazing witness of hope that transcends suffering. As we and our fellow ministers endeavor to grasp the gospel and live missionally, we may face a multitude of challenges rooted in the hearts and minds of our churches.
Renovating our Ministers
Now, keeping in mind that pastors should be championing the cause of their people and cheering them on; keeping a positive, encouraging perspective, while doing this, it is also helpful to consider where there is space to grow by God’s grace. Some of you and your people may have some of these areas already renovated, for others of you, a church-wide reno may be necessary.
“One’s orientation to mission can be a great diagnostic of their spiritual health.”
Paul’s urgency for the renovation of hearts in the Galatians was evident when he said “my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!” (Gal 4:19). Often we can think of Christian maturity in terms of character, love, good theology, holiness, but being Christ-like also involves being about the Father’s business, being on mission to seek and save the lost.
One’s orientation to mission can be a great diagnostic of their spiritual health.
- If we don’t know non-believers, why is that?
- If we don’t know how to share the gospel, what needs to change in our discipleship?
- If we don’t want to meet new people, is that because of fear?
- Is it because it makes us feel insecure? Is that because we’re too busy?
- If we say we don’t have time for mission, what is occupying thtime?
All of these questions, upon reflection, lead to answers that can be addressed with the gospel.
In planning a major renovation, you have to consider the scope of the project. What are the different parts that need renovating?
Here’s some things that need renovating from time to time:
- Renovating our identities. Some churches need to renovate their people from being consumers of the kingdom into being construction workers for the kingdom. We need to know that when we are baptized in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, we are coming under the identity of a loving and missional God. Like Father like sons and daughters. When we recognize our identity as beloved children and missionaries, how we approach daily decisions begin to change. We start viewing our church basement renos as the renovation of our missions base; renovating a space to become a place for the community to connect with God’s family of ambassadors. I’ve made a map of where our people live in Greater Vancouver and titled it: MISSIONARIES as a reminder for our people of their missional identity whether they go overseas or not.
- Renovating our hearts to care. To pray for our neighbours, coworkers, classmates. Paul wrote to the Romans about how much he cared for his fellow Israelites who didn’t have the gospel. He spoke of having “great sorrow and unceasing anguish” in his heart (9:2). He said that he would rather be “accursed and cut off from Christ” if only it were possible for others to be forgiven and received by Christ (9:3). We need our hearts to care more to comfort others with the gospel than for our own comfort of remaining unengaged.
- Renovating our eyes to see. We need to see the needs of those all around us, especially their spiritual needs. We cannot keep our eyes locked to our devices as we sit on the bus or walk down the street. When we see our neighbours complain, we need to look deeper into what the real problem is, how sin has harmed their hearts and how Jesus can bring healing and hope.
- Renovating our minds and our mouths to become gospel fluent. We need to remind ourselves and those around us of the reality and impact of the gospel in our lives . Without grasping the gospel to the point of fluency, we tend to settle into the narrative of the world, clinging to the world’s, forgetting our identity in Christ and our mission to spread his grace, truth, and love; many have expressed struggling with daily “gospel amnesia”, forgetting what Jesus has done, is doing, and wants to do through us.
Encouragement for Your Renovation Project
The pastor of church plant in Warfield, BC encourages us all, saying: “We have to keep seeing this gospel ourselves, becoming awed and amazed at it again and again. When it is alive in us, we can’t help but want to share it and let it flow out. So a constant gazing at God and what he has done for us in Christ is essential – that surely will deal with passivity, laziness and being over occupied with other things!
Missions comes as a response of joy to the gospel and an awareness that others need this news as much as we do. The gospel is that though we fail in our obedience, Jesus lived the perfectly obedient life. He wants to exchange our failures for his victory, our shame for his honour, our sin for his righteousness. May you be encouraged with the gospel as your fuel and inspiration to sow broadly the seeds of the Kingdom.
 One tool that has helped me to teach gospel fluency is a book called The gospel Primer by Caesar Kalinowski. I’ve gone through this book with our Connect group, with campus ministry groups, as a West Coast Christian School bible class, and I’ll be giving a 6min “TED talk” seminar on this at Missions Fest. gospel fluency has been a huge shift in my own walk with Christ.
Look out for Part 2 to this article which will cover the renovation work of our ministries, measurements, and hope. It will be very hands-on and applicable.
Answering questions: How do we renovate our website/statements/small groups/processes?