Bonus Track: Sunday 8/26

This past Sunday at Ignition Church we talked about our focus to reach people far from God – listen here. The premise of my sermon was, if we care for Jesus, then we will care for those Jesus cares for – people far God. I thought this blog post from Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle added some more depth and insight to the greatest command of Jesus.

Because Jesus Loves Us, We Love Others
by: Pastor Mark Driscoll

Jesus is the most loving person who has ever lived.

Jesus committed the most loving act the world has ever seen when he died on the cross in place of sinners (Rom. 5:8).

Jesus’ death has abolished the spiritual wall separating us from God (Eph. 2:11–22), and has made it possible for us to enter into the love of God and the church, and experience the very life of the Trinity. Jesus prays that believers throughout history “may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:21).
We Love Because Jesus Loves Us

We love others because Jesus loves us (John 13:34–35).

Though the weight of this command can be crushing, we are not asked to carry this burden in our own strength.

The practical implication of being reconciled to God is that we are not only loved, but we are also enabled to love. God the Holy Spirit puts the love of God into our hearts (Rom. 5:5). It is from the wellspring of the Holy Spirit indwelling us that we are enabled to love. As Galatians 5:22 says, “The fruit of the Spirit is love.”
God Defines Love

There’s so much talk about love thrown around these days. Thankfully God hasn’t left us to our own devices, but he actually has defined love for us:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away ( 1 Cor. 13:4–8 ).

This is no ordinary type of love. This is a supernatural type of love. Love, as defined by God, is to be among the chief marks of a Christian church. This was made clear by Jesus when he said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
Experiencing God’s Presence through Love

Loving God and others is not just a task we do for the sake of it. Jesus speaks of the reward of a life of love, saying, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23).

Those who love God in word, deed, and life will experience the presence of God in a loving intimacy akin to a warm, safe home where a family lives together.
The Emotions and Duty of Love

God commands us to love. With this in mind, we must acknowledge that while love can and should include our emotional feelings, it is not based solely upon them.

Despite our emotions, it is always possible to obey God and love because of the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit who has connected us to the source of all love. We can love even when we do not feel loving. This is why the Bible likens love to a fruit of the Spirit’s work in our lives (Gal. 5:22–23; Rom. 5:5; 2 Tim. 1:7).

I encourage you to trust in Jesus and continually ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit, so that he will grow and bear the fruit of love in your life (Eph. 5:18). He will enable you to love God and others.

Good Friday

No other world religion celebrates the death of their leader, because no other religion’s leader got up from the grave. Jesus’ arrest means our release. His death means our life. His resurrection means it is finished – sin, Satan, and death are conquered.

Thank you, Jesus! I could never pay the price for my own sin. Because of your unfathomable love and mercy, I don’t have to. You have paid it all for me! My debt is cancelled! I am free!

It is scandalous and preposterous to think it was the will of Almighty Creator-God to have His Son crushed by His creation for the atrocities His creation committed against Him after He had given us nothing but perfect love and beauty to enjoy. I cannot understand that kind of grace and mercy. But may it change me!

May we be to others as God has been to us. That is, selfless – not concerned for my life or my name, but only for the lives of others and the name of Jesus. May it start today. Tell someone about what Jesus has done for you and bring them to church this weekend.

Stress Participation, not Membership

At Ignition Church, one thing we will always encourage, celebrate, and facilitate is participation and involvement within the body of Christ – the local church.  One of the ways we will practically do this is by not having any kind of formal membership process or organization.  And I’d like to explain to you why.

For much of recorded church history, going through a membership process has been a hallmark of the local church. And please hear me on this – nothing is inherently wrong with that! However, what can often happen is church membership will either encourage complacency or discourage participation.

In some cases, the standard for membership is too low.  The false assumption that “attendance plus agreement equals affiliation” is not only allowed, but legitimized.  You attend a “membership class” and are told you are a now a member of the church since you don’t disagree with anything that is being presented (sometimes you’ll even sign a pledge to show it).

On the other hand, some membership upholds standards for believers to not only attend church, but to give, serve, and be in community – all good things!  But what can often happen is that membership becomes a hurdle for people looking to get involved.  It’s not as simple as signing up for a volunteer team or group – it’s now a process by which one has to pass through in order to “officially” become a part of the church.  Active participation is not as easy, obvious, and accessible as it should be.

So what happens if you eliminate membership, and instead press people straight into participation? Well, what better way for people to feel like a part of the church family than to become actively involved? Scripture is clear that the local church is a body with active parts, and the advancement of the Gospel is to occur through partnership and not just “paid professionals” (Romans 12, Philippians 1).

Does this strategy appeal to everyone? Of course not! It will deter those who just want to take up a seat and those who just want to come and “get fed.” And that’s the point. In the Bible Belt especially, we see people joining churches like country clubs and thinking that makes them good with God. Often the first question people ask after they meet you is “What church are you a member at?” (and yes, in East Tennessee we put the preposition on the end) We will not support the false belief that being a church-attender makes you a Christ-follower.  Life in Christ is more than knowing about God – it’s getting on mission in the local church with God.

Our strategy at Ignition is not rejection of membership, but promotion of involvement. We intentionally make it uncomfortable for those looking just to attend.  The only way to formally affiliate is by getting involved through volunteering and joining a group – we have eliminated any other options.

We make it simple. We make it obvious. We make it accessible.  And if you’re trying to build a movement – that’s the only way to do it.

High Stakes = High Standards

18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Matthew 16:18-19

29 And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me Luke 22:29

How high you set the standards reveals how high you see the stakes.

Ignition Church will choose wisely who we surround ourselves with as staff and volunteers. We will set high standards – for serving both on stage, and in the parking lot. It all belongs to God.

We don’t need the help. We need the heart.

The reality is people’s eternities ride on our obedience – you can’t get much higher stakes than that. Don’t let that drive you to despair, but rather awaken you to the opportunity God has given His church! God will do all that we cannot do (like save people), but He won’t do what we can do and what He has called us to do.

There is no higher calling than that of serving in the local church. There are no higher stakes.

Let’s match it with our standards.

Bonus Track | Rags to Riches

The following is a “bonus track” – an extension of the sermon from this past weekend at our informational meeting.  To hear the full sermon, please visit the Media page on our website.

The Gospel is the ultimate “rags-to-riches” story.

This past weekend I talked about how we will always need the Gospel. We need to remain constantly steeped in the Gospel in order for our hearts to change. Most often the case is we get to a point that we feel we don’t need to hear the Gospel – and that is exactly when we need to hear it again!

This is because our hearts naturally gravitate toward religion. Religion – getting to God by works – appeals to our self-centered human nature. We always want to believe that we can accomplish some part of our redemption.  We focus on what we can control – our behavior, our actions, and our appearance.  We try and clean ourselves up,  often fearing that if we don’t God won’t love us.

The Gospel shows us that there is no hope in this religion.  And that’s why the Gospel is so offensive.

No one wants to believe that we are totally helpless.  No one wants to think that we were totally unpleasing to God and separated from Him in our state of sin.  There is nothing we can do to make Him love us, and even our best attempts are to Him as menstrual rags and excrement (Isaiah 64:6, Philippians 3:8).

Truth is – we are charity cases.  Unable to earn. Unable to repay.

But the Gospel does not leave us there!

Once we are in Christ, this all changes!  In Christ, we are made new!  Our lives of Spirit-empowered, joy-filled (not dutiful or obligatory) obedience and sacrifice become a rich and pleasing aroma to Him! (1 Peter 2:5, Hebrews 13:16, Philippians 4:18, Romans 12:1, 2 Corinthians 2:15)

We were once charity cases – now we are more than conquerers!

We were once helpless orphans – now we are adopted children of the Most-High God!

We were once in the rags of our sin – now we are in the riches of the King!

Be Patient, Be Prepared

February 12th was a monumental day in my life.

Ignition Church had it’s first informational meeting that night, and one of the greatest highlights was in the moments before going out to preach when my wife prayed for me. Before praying, she looked me in the eye and told me, “You are ready for this moment, because you’ve been patient with your calling.” It was powerful, and she was right.

For over 4 years since God planted the vision in my heart, I have submitted myself to godly authority, prayed, and trained. I’ve learned from some of the best at Elevation Church. I’ve completed seminary. Through God’s provision, I’ve formed a team I’d charge the gates of Hell with. And now God, in His perfect timing, has judged I am ready to begin.

If there is any advice I have for church planters and their teams, it is this: be patient and be prepared.  I’ll share with you how our team has done that over the past year.

We’ve gotten educated. We have gotten invaluable experience serving in a healthy, vibrant church – Elevation Church – for over three years. Also, through reading, studying, preaching, mentoring, asking questions, seeking answers, and hours of meetings, we’ve gotten very well-informed on what we’re doing. This hasn’t made us cocky, either – as we learn more, we realize how much more there is to learn.

We’ve gotten united. I don’t mean that we’ve just gotten to be buddies – we’ve gotten united. One vision, one purpose. This does not come easy, or without a cost. There have been several hard conversations, difficult decisions, and lots of time invested. We’ve clarified who we are and how we will do things. Everyone is crystal clear on what Ignition Church stands for.

We’ve gotten healthy. Last summer, I led our team through a spiritual, personal, and leadership development initiative called Summer School – they read books, wrote papers, and made presentations. They worked hard and grew spiritually, many like never before. Last fall I led them (and myself!) through a physical fitness and nutrition initiative called the Fall Fitness Challenge. We have made sure to honor God in all areas of our lives, and ensured that a lack of discipline would not disqualify us from reaching this city. If you want to do some heavy lifting, you need to get healthy – in every way.

And now, after all that, we’re getting started.

Ignition is now a safe environment into which we can add people. No one will change our identity, nor will we mishandle the people God brings to us. Our foundation has been laid, and it’s solid.

I’m not suggesting you’ll ever feel totally ready or that you can prepare for every circumstance. We all still feel in over our heads and stretched – we’re confident, but we’re not comfortable. We always want our leadership feeling this way because it demands growth and faith in the One who called us then, and equips us now.

We’ve patiently waited for the day, and our nets are prepared. Now we can move forward confidently, and wait for God to bring the harvest.

Informational Meetings | Update

It has begun!

What God has been preparing us for our whole lives is here. We have been working, planning, and praying for over a year, and in His perfect timing – God delivered.

There was sense of anticipation that began with the team and quickly spread to all of those they had invited over the past few weeks.  By the time 5:30 rolled around on Sunday, the atmosphere was full of expectancy and electricity.

The presence of the Lord was tangible. As those of you who joined us during Twelve know, that was our focus in prayer; we thank you again for praying with us. Our team did a wonderful job honoring our guests and we had several people comment on how welcome they felt. Honoring our guests is a focal point for Ignition, and it always will be.

On top of all the expectancy and atmosphere, we had a total of 38 people in attendance! We had friends and connections from here in Knoxville, as well as out of town guests from Charlotte, all out to support and hear about the story and vision of Ignition Church. Every guest filled out a connection card and many people commented with excitement about the future for Ignition.

With such a great first meeting in the books, we are highly expectant for what God is going to continue to do over the coming months!