Soma School Session Two: Who Is The Church
Gospel Motivation – Our Identity as Gospel People
SOMA’s Identity as Gospel People
Not too long into our journey as a new church plant we realized that we were doing a good job of calling people to the Mission and even seeing people actively engage in serving our community in tangible forms. However, we observed that many of our people were being driven to missional activity from non-gospel motivation. They were active because of guilt, shame, performance-driven hearts or based upon their belief that they needed to justify themselves before God or man (the leadership, their peers, the community). This dichotomy between the gospel message and our actual lives ultimately leads to burnout, disillusionment with the gospel, and outward moralistic actions, which lack any supernatural power.
This led us to take a closer look at how Paul motivated the churches he wrote letters to. In most cases, Paul (whether addressing a messed up situation or trying to encourage those who were being faithful) starts his letters with Who God Is, What He Has Done in and through the person and work of Jesus, and then moves on to Who We Are In Christ. He does all of this before he begins to instruct them on how they should live.
This is the pattern you see throughout the Scriptures. First comes the Indicative, which is followed by the Imperative (You even see this in the very beginning - In the beginning was God...He creates...We have our existence as Image Bearers...then he tell us what to do). The Eternal God and His work precede our existence and our obedience. Our Doing does not justify our Existence or give us identity. Rather His Work gives us our existence, identity and meaning - Our Being. Then, our Doing proceeds out of our Being which proceeds out of His Being and His Work.
This led us to clarify that we were not leading a church based upon a set of Core Values, but instead based upon our core Gospel Identities: Who We Are Because of Who He Is and What He Has Done. Our motivation for what we do must come out of Who He Is and What He Has Done or we will be leading people into lives that are not grounded upon, lived within and walking in line with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel Message leads to Gospel Motivation grounded in our New Identity in Jesus Christ. Then, out of our love and gratitude to God for Who He Is and What He Has Done and now Who He Makes us to Be, we work out our Gospel Methods.
What would you said are the Key Identities of the Church?
As we looked at the very beginning of The Story and followed it through to the end we saw four key Identities stand out that we believe were all grounded in God and His Work: Family (Sons of God), Missionaries (Sent Ones of God), Servants (Belong to God for His Work) and Learners (Disciples of Jesus Christ taught by the Spirit of God).
What are people most motivated by or implicated with: Core Values that tell us what we’re committed to together or Core Identities that inform who we are based upon the Gospel?
Our Gospel Identity: The Church is a Family of Missionary Servants
1 Peter 2:9
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
The Church is a Chosen Race – the called out ones (FAMILY)
We are God’s Family – His Children who are adopted and fully accepted and loved – we don’t do good works to BE justified, we do them because we ARE justified (John 1:11-13)
When I believe the Gospel I know I have a perfect Father who loves me and accepts me not because of what I've done but because of what Christ has done. If I don't believe the Gospel then I try to find approval through connection to a church, a community, a group, my father who failed me, a charismatic leader, etc. I will prop them up as functional saviors who affirm and accept me - yet when they fail me, I will be devastated. And it is certain – every one of them will fail to deliver the love and acceptance that the Heavenly Father gives.
SOMA’s FAMILY IDENTITY STATEMENT:
Family – We are all children of God who care for each other as a family.
God has always desired a people–an earthly family–who would live in such a way that the world would know what he is like. Jesus said that those who live in his ways and obey his Father are truly his family. Through Jesus we believe we are Children of God and brothers and sisters with each other. As family we see it as our obligation to personally care for the needs of one another – both physically and spiritually. We disciple, nurture and hold each other accountable to this Covenant life together. We do this through regular celebration gatherings and consistent involvement in a DNA group.
(Genesis 12:1-3; John 1:12-13; Romans 12:10-16)
Where do we see this throughout the Story?
So, what does it mean for the Church to be the Family of God?
How would the life of the local Church you are serving with change if this identity was fully embraced?
The Church is a Royal Priesthood – the sent ones (MISSIONARIES)
We are God’s Missionaries – His Ambassadors who have been reconciled and sent out to be agents of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17-21; John 20:21)
If I believe the Gospel, I no longer need a purpose to justify my existence. I have been justified through Jesus fulfilling his mission and purpose and I join him on the mission that is guaranteed to succeed. Our proof is the resurrection - nothing could stop him, not even sin or death. My justification is not connected to my success of the mission and yet, I am part of the mission that will succeed and the fruit of it is eternal. If I don't believe the Gospel, then I will dedicate my life to a lesser mission and purpose that is guaranteed to fail in the end because it will not overcome sin and death (i.e. A nice home, car, money will not go with me to the grave; a successful career could easily be taken away; a family with three lovely kids who grow up perfectly could end with my kids dying or then walking away from God, etc).
SOMA’s MISSIONARY IDENTITY STATEMENT:
Missionaries – We are sent by God to restore all things to Him through Jesus Christ.
God sent his son, Jesus, to Earth to take on human form and live within the culture. He worked, ate and interacted among the people; living in such a way that those around him could see and experience what God was truly like. Jesus came so that all people, places and things could be restored to a right relationship with God. In the same way, we believe we are missionaries sent into our culture to restore all things to God through Jesus. We live this out through involvement in a missional community.
(John 1:14; 20:21; Colossians 1:19; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21)
Where do we see this throughout the Story?
What does it mean for the Church to be the Missionaries of God – The Priest of Shalom?
What would change if your missional community or entire local Church were to embrace this identity?
Why don’t we live as the missionary people of God?
What would need to change in you first in order to faithfully lead the people under your care in this identity?
The Church is a Holy Nation – Sanctified Servants
A holy nation that is an alternative city within a city to give a foretaste of what the eternal city will be like under the rule and reign of Jesus Christ. We belong to God and exist to bring Him glory.
We are God’s Servants – His Possession who have been purchased and set free to serve others – not in bondage to sin and not as slaves to men – winning their approval (1 Corinthians 7:22-24; Galatians 1:10; Philippians 2:5-11)
If I believe the Gospel, I am being set free from slavery to false gods that keep me imprisoned, don't feed me and eventually beat me to death. All of us are serving a master or many masters. The question isn't “Am I a slave”, but “Who am I a slave to?” When I believe and live out my gospel identity as a Servant of Jesus, he is my master and he sets me free to live life as it should be lived. I now belong to him as His Servant and whatever I do, I do as unto Him.
Soma’s Servant Identity Statement:
Servants – We are servants who serve Him as we serve others around us.
Fully God–fully human, Jesus took on the posture of a servant. He gave his life, even unto death, so that others could experience salvation, peace and restoration. Jesus said, “I am among you as one who serves…” All those who follow Jesus are called to serve in the same humility. For us this means joyful submitting to God, leadership and to each other, as we serve whoever God brings into our lives. We do Whatever He leads us to do, Whenever He tells us and Wherever He wants us to do it (W3).
(Matthew 20:25-28; 25:31-46; John 13:1-17; Philippians 2:5-11; 1 Peter 2:16)
Where do we see this identity throughout the Story?
What does it mean for the Church to be a ‘city within a city’ – Sanctified Servants giving a foretaste of the full consummation of the Kingdom?
What would it look like in your community if the Church took seriously this identity? How would the people live differently?
Where and how do you need to begin personally living this out?
The Church is a Community of Disciples – called to equip and be equipped (Learners)
We are Learners/Disciples of Jesus – His Disciples who are dependent upon His Spirit to teach and transform us into the image of Christ – not dependent on man alone to teach us and not conformed to this world (Matthew 28:18-20; John 16:13-15; Romans 8:28-30)
Everyone is looking to something or someone as their teachers (philosophies, books, media, etc). However, every one of them has both truth and error laced throughout. If I believe the Gospel and that Jesus is the Truth and has sent his Spirit into my heart to take what is Jesus' and show it to me, then I have THE Teacher who is THE Truth residing inside of me to direct me to truth in his word, show me Truth all around me and point out the lies and deceit. I can either believe the Gospel and Have the Source of Truth as my teacher or not believe the Gospel and turn to distorted views of the Truth.
Consider Genesis 1:28, 9:1, and Deuteronomy 6…
How was Israel supposed to live this one out?
The Church is called to equip for ministry and mission…fruitful multiplication of discipling ministers (Ephesians 4)
God has called and gifted people in the church to not only use their gifts for works of service and ministry, but to equip others for works of service. The Body of Christ will be built up as each person serves and equips others to serve.
The Church doesn’t need more programs to do the work that people are called to do – the Church needs people to be faithful to their calling to develop and equip others. This responsibility needs to be placed back into the hands of the people who ARE the Church.
We don’t go to Church. We are the Church
Soma’s Learner Identity Statement:
Learners – We are Students of Jesus who take responsibility for our own development and the development of others.
As a young man Jesus grew in both height and wisdom. He learned from local religious teachers, by living in community, and through regular times of listening to God. Jesus called others to follow his ways, to be his disciples and live in obedience to all that God commands. He then sent these followers out to make new disciples. We believe we are also called to be followers of Jesus who take responsibility for our own development and the development of others. This includes both our personal time with God as well as involvement together in training provided by spiritual leadership.
(Luke 2:52; Matthew 28:18-20; Ephesians 4:11-13; 2 Timothy 2:2)
1. Identify what you believe to be the Key Identities of the Church, support this biblically and describe how these identities would shape the everyday ministry of the Church.
2. Identify which of the Key Identities your church is weakest in and work out a strategic plan to realign your Church in light of that Identity. Describe how you would address the Head, Heart and Hands in your strategy.
3. Read Chapters 3-4 from “You Can Change” and do the exercises at the end of each chapter.