Category Archives: Vision

Prayer for Official Launch

Below is the corporate element from Sunday’s service. Our hope is that this can guide our prayers as we prepare for the Official Launch in September.

In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of the darkness”, has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 4:4-6

[Pray that God would shine the light of the gospel among the people of Little Rock, and pray that we would be faithful servants in this work – proclaiming not ourselves, but Christ.]

At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison – that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.
Colossians 4:3-4

[Pray that God would open doors for us to speak the gospel, and pray that we would proclaim the gospel clearly in those opportunities.]

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
Philippians 1:9-11

[Pray that God would be at work in our church body, uniting us together in love. Pray that the fruit of the Spirit would be abundantly evident among us, so that our lives together would commend the gospel.]

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Matthew 28:19-20

[Pray that God would give us a heart to make disciples of all nations, both here in Little Rock and around the world. Pray that we would be encouraged by Jesus’ promise to be with us in this work.]

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Why We Exist (Part 4)

This is the final article in our series from Jeff’s Vision talk at our first Core Group meeting. Be sure to check out the first three articles from this series – Part 1; Part 2; Part 3.

 Final truth to note – the clearest display and proclamation of God’s glory is the gospel. Look again at verse 10. Verse 10 is a summary of the gospel. What does it mean to become a Christian? It means that you have become one of God’s people. It means that you have been shown mercy. The clearest display of God’s excellency is the gospel of Jesus Christ. In verse 9, Peter has given us our purpose as a people, and that was to proclaim God’s glory. And the very next thing he writes is verse 10, a summary of the gospel. Do you see the connection? God’s glory is most clearly displayed in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

 Practically, this means that, as a church, we must be about the gospel, and in more than just a passing, lip-service manner. The message of the cross of Christ must infuse and inform everything we do and say. Our songs need to ring out with gospel truth. Our preaching needs to be centered on Christ and his cross. Our children need to hear daily about the message of the cross. Our neighbors need to know us as a gospel people. And our lives need to be modeling a daily dependence on the gospel.

 So, I hope you see a little more clearly what our Vision statement means, and why we think this is the biblical Vision for the church. The church is created by and defined in relationship to God. The church’s task is to proclaim God’s glory. That is what it means to glorify God – to use your life to highlight and demonstrate and proclaim how great God is. And I hope you see that this vision statement can only be fulfilled as each one of us labors every day to have eyes to see and know God rightly. But let us not forget that our labors to know and love God are to be done in light of the cross. Ultimately, our relationship with God is determined not by what we must do, but by what he has already done for us. That truth, the truth of the gospel, is foundational for rightly knowing and relating to God as glorious and great.

 Let me leave us with one final encouragement from God’s Word concerning our Vision. As we think about our Vision statement and the world in which we live, it might be tempting to become discouraged. The world is so decidedly anti-God that any vision for a church that is centered on God seems almost naïve and futile. Can we really expect this vision to be a reality? Will it ever be more than just a vision? Look with me at Revelation 5.11-14.

 11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” 13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” 14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

 This passage gives us the conclusion to the story even though we are only in the middle of the drama. And that conclusion is that this vision will be fulfilled. It will succeed. Indeed, it already has. God has already done what is necessary to ensure that he will be glorified throughout all the earth, by all peoples of the earth. God will be glorified, Jesus Christ will be exalted, and the church will be brought together to fully and finally behold, delight in, and display the glory of God in Christ. So, let us not lose hope in the intervening years. This vision – to glorify God in Christ – is the biblical vision, and it will be fulfilled. Oh, that God would help us to remain faithful in pursuing this vision, for his glory and for the good of the church!

Why We Exist (Part 3)

This is the third is a series of four articles from Jeff’s Vision talk at our first Core Group meeting. Be sure to check out the previous parts from this series – Part 1; Part 2.

 Third truth to note from 1 Peter 2 – the church’s mission is to proclaim God’s glory. We see this also from verse 9. Look at the last phrase of v9, “that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

 That is a purpose statement. Why have we been created and established as a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession? So that we might proclaim his excellencies. Our job, fundamentally, is to make God look great to a world that does not see him as very great. The world is convinced that God is not glorious, not excellent, not great. That is why the world is so messed up. Yes, the world is messed up because of sin. But isn’t sin, at its core, about seeing others things – whatever they might be – as greater and more glorious than God?

 So, the problem with the world is that we are rebelling against God, refusing to acknowledge his greatness and glory. In fact, at this point, the world is unable to see God’s glory. That is what Paul says in 2 Corinthians chapter 4. People are so blinded by sin and Satan that they are unable, even unwilling, to acknowledge God’s glory and greatness.

 So, what is God’s solution to this problem? The gospel-equipped church. God has ordained that the church will be his means of awakening people to see and love and treasure his greatness. Now, he is the one who is doing the awakening, through his Word and through his Spirit. But the means by which he accomplishes that is his church. As we proclaim God’s greatness and glory, people are given eyes to see God and his glory. As we use our lives to declare how great and merciful and gracious and glorious God is, the Holy Spirit uses our message to give people new life so that they might also see God in the same light.

 But, there is something implied here in this ordering of things that should not escape our notice. If we are to proclaim God’s excellencies, that means that we must first see him as excellent. You cannot proclaim something as glorious if you don’t first yourself see it as glorious. That means that we must be cultivating hearts that love and treasure God and his glory. We must labor to see God as great. Look, it is not just the world that has the problem of not seeing God as very great. We are still afflicted with that problem ourselves. Even believers can have their vision clouded and become convinced that something other than God is both great and glorious. So, we must be working hard at seeing God as great. And let me say that it is hard work. It is labor. And it is life long. There will never be a point in this life when we will able to say, “Ah, it’s over. I treasure God completely and fully. My heart is totally enraptured by this glorious God.” No, friends, that is a description of what we will be saying around the throne in heaven! The Christian’s life on earth is a long, difficult battle to see God as great. All of life relates to God, so let us be laboring, day in and day out, to see him as great and glorious.

Why We Exist (Part 2)

This is the second in a series of four articles from Jeff’s Vision talk at our first Core Group meeting. You can read part 1 here.

 Second truth to note – the church is defined in relationship to God. We see this in the beginning of verse 9. The terms Peter uses to describe the church are used in relationship to God.

 A Chosen Race – chosen by whom? Well, God! We exist as a people because of God’s gracious, sovereign working. We are not a self-made race of people. Our beginning, our origin as a “race” is found in God’s sovereign, gracious choosing of us to be his people.

 A Royal Priesthood – what do priests do? They mediate and intercede between the people and God. So, our role as the church, in part, is to “mediate” between sinful humanity and God by pointing them to the one true Mediator, Jesus Christ. We do not exist just to help people through life. We exist to help people through life by teaching them about how to relate to God through the gospel of Jesus Christ. If we were to remove God and his gospel from the center of our work, then we would cease to be this royal priesthood.

 A Holy Nation – In the OT, God told the people ofIsrael, “Be holy as I am holy.” Holiness was defined in relationship to God. How did the Israelites know what it meant to be holy? By knowing God. The same is true for us. As we continue to grow in our knowledge of God, then we grow in our pursuit of holiness. But if God loses his position as the defining point of our existence, then we lose our connection with growing in holiness. That is why our vision statement is about God because we want to be a holy people.

 A People for His own Possession – For whom do we exist? For God! We are his, by nature of his having made us and shown us mercy. To not have him as the defining center of our existence violates the reason for which we have been created and gathered together – to be his people.

 Here’s the point – not only were we created by God, but our entire lives are now defined in relationship to God. There is not a sense in which the church can say that it exists or functions apart from God. Now, I know that there is no church openly saying that it exists or functions apart from God. Nobody’s vision statement reads, “We exist independent of God!” But isn’t that what we subtly do as churches and Christians – remove God from the defining center of our lives and thus our churches? We make Christianity about everything other than about God. And the other things that we put at the defining center are not bad things. It is not bad to want to help people have better marriages. It is not bad to want to help people deal with difficult circumstances in life. It is not bad to want people to know how to better handle their finances. The bad part is that we are looking for answers in all the wrong places, namely places other than God himself. People have better marriages as they learn to better and more rightly relate to God. People can deal with difficult circumstances by rightly relating to God. People begin to use their finances more responsibly as they do so in relationship to God. What I am saying is that how we relate to God is at the center of every area of our lives. That is why, friends, our Vision statement, our hope for success, must be centered on God.

Why We Exist (Part 1)

At our first Core Group meeting, Jeff taught through 1 Peter 2:9-10 in connection with our Vision statement. The goal in that first meeting was to remind ourselves of the God-centered nature of the church, as well as to grow in our understanding of why we exist as a church.

 We’re posting the points from Jeff’s talk in a series of four articles.

 At Midtown Baptist, our Vision is as follows –MidtownBaptistChurchexists to glorify God in Christ. To achieve this Vision of glorifying God in Christ would be the definition of “success” in our understanding. But where in the Bible do we get this Vision? And what does it mean to glorify God in Christ? Those are questions that I think 1 Peter 2:9-10 can answer for us. So, let’s take a look at four truths from this passage and see what we can learn about our Vision as a church.

 The first truth is this – the church is God’s creation. We see this in verse 10. Note the contrast in our situation before and after God’s work in our lives. Before God’s work in our lives, we were not a people, and we had received no mercy. The implication is that we were alienated, separated from God. That is a hopeless situation, one that promises a future of justice and judgment. But God, out of his sheer grace and mercy, has made us into a people. He has shown us mercy. He did not leave us in that hopeless situation. Instead, he has shown mercy to those who should have received justice and judgment. He has made us into a people, his people. Here’s the point – the very fact that the church exists – both the Body of Christ and individual local churches – the very fact that we exist highlights the grace and mercy of God.

 So, here at the beginning ofMidtownBaptistChurch’s existence, let’s remind ourselves that our very gathering together is because of God’s grace and mercy shown to us in Christ. Just our sitting here with one another, listening to God’s Word, should remind us of God’s initiative, of God’s mercy and grace. We are not here out of our own initiative. Our plans are not ultimately rooted in our own desires or insights. We are here because of God’s grace and mercy. That means that we should be a humble people. Let us never position this church or talk about our ministry in a prideful, better-than-others kind of way. To do so would be to violate the most foundational truth concerning our existence as a church – we are God’s creation, the result of his own gracious and merciful initiative. There is no place for pride in the church, especially a church that acknowledges God’s sovereign grace.

 The implication of this truth is also important. If our creation is the result of God’s gracious working, then our continued existence must also be intimately connected and related to God. If our very lives originated in him, then our continued life as the church must also be rooted in him. What I mean is that our vision as a church must begin, continue, and end with God. If our vision did not begin and continue and end with God, it would indicate that we have forgotten the miraculous way in which the church was founded. It would indicate that we have left the source of our life. That is why our Vision statement is about God because the church is about God.