There really is an app for almost everything. An app for weather forecasts. An app for sports updates. An app for coupons. An app for color coordinating your clothes. In a world of "if you want it, we'll provide it," we can often think that should be true of the church we attend. But the church is not an app! So what should the church provide? The short answer is: what the Bible says it should.
But what is that?
Ray Ortlund Jr, a pastor I admire, contends people need three things. And those three things should be the same three things the church provides: gospel + safety + time.
Gospel: People need multiple exposures to the happy news of the gospel from one end of the Bible to the other.
Safety: People need the safety of non-accusing sympathy so they can admit their problems honestly.
Time: People need enough time to rethink their lives at a deep level, because people are complex and changing isn't easy. (The Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ, p. 72).
This is what people need. This is what churches ought to provide. If you're mentoring or discipling someone or if you're leading a small group, try adopting this as your mode of operation. Let them know gospel + safety + time is going to characterize these gatherings. These are the ingredients a community needs to become healthy and vibrant.
Pain. Suffering. Adversity. Hardship. You name it, we experience it. So much of it is out of our control. Money won't stop cancer. A great health insurance plan is no guarantee against a car accident. The best cardiac surgeon won't make you immune to a lethal heart attack. Much of the difficulty we experience in this life is out of our control.
But there is one thing we do control that can either make our lives better or more difficult. That one thing can be summed up in a single word: expectations.
What are your expectations for this life? Sometimes I wonder if we expect this life to be better than is realistic or even biblical. Here's the problem: the higher our expectations for this life, the more difficult suffering will be. Because if your greatest hope is this life here on earth, threats to this life will crush you. But if your greatest hope is NOT for this life, but for the life to come, threats to this life while difficult, will not cripple you. If your greatest hope is the life to come, you'll find yourself buoyant even when this life attempts to drag you to the bottom.
Set your expectations high for the life to come and long for it! "Come, Lord Jesus!" (Rev. 22:20)
This sermon was given by Rev. Brian Dainsberg at Appleton Alliance Church on Sept. 6, 2015.