God’s Plan For A Better Church

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January 9, 2022

  • Daily Devotional

    Click Here to print a PDF copy of this week’s devotional resource.

    DAY 1 – Building a Better Church

    Today we will front load the entire week with the main biblical passages. You will read them today, get familiar with them, and have just one assignment. The rest of the week we will unpack and go deeper into the meaning and the implication of these passages.

    First, read the amazing statement from Paul about the Church in Galatians 3:26-28. If you have time, read Ephesians 2:11-22. We preached on this in the summer of 2021. It is worth rereading because it expands on the shorter Galatians 3 passage.

    Now, read 1 Peter 2:4-12. This is one of the most profound descriptions of the Church in the New Testament.

    Here is the assignment. Make a comprehensive list of the qualities or features of “the Church.” Again, you are just getting familiar with the nature of the Church.

    SUGGESTION: You can include your thoughts and observations in the NOTES section of the church app. If you took notes during the sermon, just go to that note, click on it, and add your devotional reflections right there. This way, all of your ideas will be in one place.

    As you look over your list, you’ll be able to see that the Bible’s description of the Church is impressive. This is us. This is who we are or, perhaps we should say, this is who Living Word is meant to be and who we are becoming.

    We the Church, the people of Jesus, are already these things and we are not yet fully these things. A Better Church will be more like this a month from now and MUCH more like this a year from now. We
    will be a Better Church if we start today. Every day you will pray that we will become a Better Church and learn how you can work to help us become a Better Church.

    Note: Church with a capital “C” denotes the universal Christian community; church with a lowercase “c” denotes a specific individual congregation.

    DAY 2 – CONNECT for a Better Church

    If you look over the list you made, notice how many of those descriptions have a sense of connecting with one another.

    We are made for friendship and love. We are relational beings. We need community. We need one another. We will be fully alive as we do life together. We just need to know what kind of life we pursue together and how we can create that BETTER kind of life together.

    Look at Acts 2:42-47 and 4:32-35 and notice how the believers did life together. What really grabs hold of you about that quality of life? If you look at the first chapter of Acts, you realize that these people are really different from one another. They have come from everywhere around the Mediterranean region. So, what pulls them together and what keeps them together? There are two things.

    First, it is simply Jesus. Jesus is the center of their world and all other differences fade to insignificance in the light of Jesus Christ, who is Savior, Lord, and God. Jesus crucified,
    resurrected, ascended, and Spirit sender. A Better Church has deep connections when we keep Jesus at the center. ALWAYS. When anything else becomes more important than Jesus (politics, race, economics, cultural tensions, anything), then the Church is in trouble.

    Second, it is love. Unconditional love. The better way that Paul describes as a “most excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31). After talking about the divisive spiritual gifts that are tearing the Church apart, Paul talks about the better way of unconditional love in 1 Corinthians 13.

    How do we build a better Church? It is simple. Love Jesus and love his Church. All of his Church. Every person in the Church. Even, and especially, those who are quite different from you.

    Pray and work on behalf of LOVE. Every day, find ways to CONNECT WITH and LOVE others who are a part of Living Word.

    DAY 3 – GROW for a Better Church

    Read 1 Peter 2:9-10. There are four phrases in these verses and a repeated use of the theme “God’s people.”

    A puppy grows and becomes a dog. A sapling grows and becomes a tree. A flower seed grows and becomes, well, whatever it is. Here is the point. It is the nature of life and growth to become more of what it is.

    What is the Church? The Church is a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and God’s special possession. We are chosen and we are God’s special possession. First and foremost, we belong to God. All other identities and commitments are secondary. We are a part of God’s family. Our allegiance, loyalty, trust, forgiveness, energy, priorities, and values must be centered on God and what matters to God.

    We are a royal priesthood. Peter combines two different themes that the Old Testament kept apart—rigorously so. Those themes are kingship and the priesthood. Because Jesus is both king of kings and the great high priest, and because we are in Christ, we are royalty and we are priests. It is an amazing new reality. Kings lead so others may flourish and priests mediate forgiveness and blessing so others can connect with God.

    Understand that Peter is not only referring to the pastors, church staff, and church board. Peter says EVERYONE who is a Christian is right now, a royal leader and priest.

    Maybe you are still a sapling. One day you will be a mighty tree of flourishing for others. As you grow in your Christlike character and your skills, you should constantly ask: How can I lead so others flourish at Living Word? How can I be a source of forgiveness and blessing?

    As you do that more and more, our church and our world will become BETTER and BETTER.

    DAY 4 – SERVE so the CHURCH becomes Better

    From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4:16

    In Ephesians 4:1-16 Paul talks about 1) unity in the Church, 2) positions and roles in the Church, 3) the Church growing into maturity, and 4) every member in the Church SERVING and doing their part so the Church becomes BETTER.

    We connect, we grow, and we SERVE one another.

    Every person who is a part of the Church needs to find their niche for service. The Church NEEDS every person and that means the Church NEEDS YOU to be a servant who makes a difference at Living Word.

    You are needed. Do you realize how valuable you are?

    You are gifted. Do you know what your gifts and strengths are?

    You are empowered. You already have the ability to serve and make a difference. We will keep empowering you to serve and make a difference.

    Have you found your place to serve? Ideally, we serve the people and in the places where our gifts and interests converge. But we also serve in areas where we are simply needed.

    The church website and app have a menu called SERVE. We keep this updated with opportunities. From time to time we spend several weeks recruiting new ministry partners to serve at Living Word.

    Pray and work for a Better Church. Pray that God will use you. Then get involved, serve, and watch how God uses you to make a difference.

    DAY 5 – REACH Out for a Better Church

    . . . that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.  1 Peter 2:9

    As you skim read 1 Peter 2:4-10, you learn the very nature of the Church. But perhaps you have missed the most important point of this passage. All that the Church is described as is for a reason. That reason is so that the Church, by its very life and existence, REACHES OUT with the good news and the praise of the God who does wonderful things.

    Reread 1 Peter 2:11-12. The Church is to be a witness. A light shining in the darkness. An example and model of what life with God is like. When the entire Church is a community of great love we show to the world the new thing God is doing.

    Generally, in the United States, it has been a difficult last few years. The Church has regressed. The Church’s reputation is damaged. The Church in the United States, and Living Word Community Church in York, PA, has to be a BETTER Church if we are to fulfill the mission of Jesus. Here are a few areas where we can and must be better:

    Racial issues and relationships, unity, trust. We want to be multiracial/ethnic, diverse, and inclusive. We need each other.

    Women in roles of leadership and influence. The conservative Church of America has been remiss for too long. Living Word has an enormous pool of women who are deeply spiritual, professionally skilled, and outstanding leaders at work and in the community. We are making room for women to work as equal partners to make us a BETTER Church.

    Political polarization. The Kingdom of God (and the Church) are much bigger than any political party or agenda. Holiness, shalom, righteousness, and justice—that is the Kingdom of God. No political party gets it right. God’s Kingdom gets it right. The Church is an outpost of God’s beautiful kingdom that wants everyone to flourish.

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