More than to any person or cause, we seek to be devoted followers of Jesus. We know him as God incarnate, Creator, Lord and Saviour: the one who shows us the heart of the Father. He lived in history, died, was raised from the dead, and lives today. He is our centre, as individuals and in our life together. Following him leads us to the Father; the Holy Spirit leads us to him.
Jesus is our hero.
Coldness of heart, idolatry, and disobedience must be transformed into passion, purity and obedience towards him. We’ll live and die to be near to Him, be like him and to do his mission on the earth. Our most central practice is loving him. We want this love to flow into every part of our life. We want it to be seen in every way we think, and feel, and act. We ask his Spirit to fill us.
2 The Bible:
knowing and using it
Because God has spoken to us authoritatively in scripture, we need to know what is says, understand what it means, and figure out how to obey it. When we do that, it transforms our minds. It helps us to both know the important questions to ask, and to find God’s answers. It acts like a map to show us God’s view of reality.
So, we spend time teaching and learning from it when we gather together; we spend time pouring over it personally. We memorize it. We hear the Spirit speak through it. We pray from it. We encourage and correct each other with it in a spirit of love. Though it helps us discern what is right and what is wrong in people’s lives (especially our own), we don’t treat it as a weapon to judge people. Nor do we stop learning from people that understand it differently.
We study to understand its original context, so that it can be applied accurately in our time and in our cultures. Accepting what God speaks to us through His Word is part of worshiping him.
God speaks. When we listen, and speak what we hear, we understand this to be the gift of prophecy. While scripture is like a map, giving us the big picture, prophetic gifts can situate us on that map, and speak to our immediate situation. Jesus taught that his sheep would hear his voice.
Paul stressed that an ability to hear the voice of God and speak what one heard was one of the greatest gifts that the Holy Spirit gave to his people. Though it seems that some people have unique gifts in this way, we know that all Christians have this ability to hear their Father.
When we practice this, we don’t expect a person to go into a trance-like state or perform like a medium in a magical way. Rather, listening to God and sharing what we hear is as relational and natural an experience as talking to a dear friend. Nor does sharing what we hear need to be a poetic monologue in which we dress up our words to sound as close to King James language as we can. Prayer is a dialog between friends, and we can speak what we’re hearing in everyday language. We can practice this gift of listening, and we find that over years, his voice becomes familiar, clearer and more recognizable.
We know that we still sometimes mistake what we hear, and so our practice is to test with others the validity of each “word” or impression that we believe might be from God. We practice this gift primarily for the purpose of encouraging each other, and building up God’s people. We want to use this gift also to show those who don’t know Him, that He knows them. We are least likely to use this gift to try and predict, direct individuals’ courses of action, or find them marriage partners!
praying for God’s purposes on the earth
God has chosen to place his power behind a people that prays. In doing so he wants to work with His church in an intimate way (his “bride”) to accomplish all his purposes for the world. Prayer changes things. Also, it changes us. As we pray, God gives us his heart – his joys and sorrows, dreams, and thoughts. We value intercession for both these reasons: the transformation of this world and the transformation of our hearts.
We pray with passion, because God is sharing his heart with us. We pray with desperation, because we feel the lostness of this world that we love. We pray with hope, because Jesus said he is making all things new. We pray with lots of thanks, because there is so much of God’s character stamped into this world. And, we do it at all times, like we breathe; it’s not just for when we gather together in a building, but in everyday life, in all settings. Intercession takes our worry away, because when we exercise faith, we slowly get rid of the illusion that God does not care for his world.
5 Purity of Heart:
the inward journey
Jesus taught that what’s on the inside of a person matters to God, matters much more than mere outward performance. Its not that actions don’t matter; rather, they can only be sustainable when they come from a right heart. Or, as Jesus put it, only a good tree produces good fruit.
Yet all of us are double-minded in some ways. We love the fleeting pleasures of sin even though we know that they’ll hurt later. This double mindedness tears us apart until God unites our heart to want one thing above all else.
What is this one thing that can unite all the warring parts of our inward being? It is love for God. Only that. Uniting our hearts under any other purpose, however noble, will make us less than we were created to be.
Purity of heart is truly a practice. In other words, it doesn’t come through one quick decision, but many choices over years. It doesn’t come from sheer discipline or will power, but from seeing as God sees, and then acting on what we see. It doesn’t come only from quickly over-ruling our dark side with our good desires, but from being real about both sides of who we are and surrendering both to God for his reshaping.
The scriptures speak of many issues of inward purity, but almost every time the New Testament addresses purity of heart, sexuality and anger are mentioned. Seduction and aggression have many faces. We seek to turn away from all their perversions, but we know that respecting the behavioral boundaries of scripture begins with an inward journey. Here in our neighborhood, where sexuality is often reduced to a commodity, and anger often boils over into violence, we have agreed to let the light and darkness wrestle together in our hearts, and not stop wrestling until our hearts our united by love.
6 The Arts:
expressing the beauty of God
God is radiant with perfection in every way. To discover his beauty is the inheritance of every disciple, and to find ways to express it is our calling. Because everyone has a unique angle from which they perceive God, the art of expressing God’s beauty does not belong only to a few. Everyone’s gifts deserve to be nurtured, so they can express what they have glimpsed of the magnificence of God.
It’s not that some kinds of people are artists; it’s that all people are some kind of artist. Each person, each act of creativity brings out more of the fullness of who God is.
We put creativity into our worship times together as well as into the creative way we live, serve, work, and lead in our personal lives. We strive both for excellence in this, as well as delight in the small, non-professional and often awkward attempts that we make in expressing our worship.
Our art knows no bounds between secular and sacred: wherever beauty or skill is to be found, we ascribe its source to be God, and wherever it is misdirected, we can often redirect it in our hearts towards him. We use almost any medium or artistic form to delight ourselves in God. We’re still wondering if there’s any form that can’t be redeemed.
giving & sharing resource
It would not be fitting for the people that follow the one who “came to serve, not to be served” to not be generous. Wherever we have abundance, we know that it is not for hoarding for ourselves, but rather to extend the Kingdom of God. “If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry.” So taught John the Baptist.
But Jesus taught that we were not just to give until our abundance was at risk. He emptied himself, and we are to have the same mind; sacrificial giving from a joyful heart, not rule-based, is what would truly mark us out as Jesus’ followers. We don’t believe that this means we should give until our families are suffering, necessarily, as 1 Tim 5:8 describes our priority to care for our relatives and immediate family. However, the people of God are also our family and need our care, and all people are part of the human family to whom we belong.
When we give from the first of our money, God tells us he accepts it as worship. When we put our own needs first, he does not, says Malachi, and instead promises to put holes in our wallets until we learn to get our priorities right. So our practice is to take from the first of our income, not what is leftover; many of us begin with the tithe, which was 10% of one’s income and commanded in the Old Testament. The New Testament might offer more freedom, but we doubt that the model of Jesus’ life points to a smaller, less-generous posture than those that came before him.