If we’re going to have the kind of church that doesn’t underwhelm earnest Christians and encourage them to opt for “community” instead of church, what kind of body of disciples do we need to become?
“Discipleship is never complicated or easy, but always simple and hard.” – Mike Breen
That’s certainly true of this call to discipleship. We’re called to expect that Jesus will give us plenty to receive in each Sabbath feast.
The great London Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon once had a pastor-friend who came to him discouraged. He was upset about the lack of fruit he saw from his preaching ministry. The pastor complained that he was not seeing people come to faith in Christ under his preaching.
“Well,” Spurgeon retorted, “you don’t expect that someone will come to faith in Christ during every sermon, do you?” Sheepishly, the pastor said, “well, no.” “That’s precisely the problem,” Spurgeon said.
We often suffer from abysmally low expectations of what God will do in the power of the Spirit when his people are gathered in his presence.
Growing disciples of Jesus, in contrast, will experience a growing anticipation of what Jesus will do, especially when we come to God in the posture of receptivity. We come expecting that it will primarily be him that does a great work in and among us.
We no longer look at Sunday as the religious version of a dreaded Monday. We no longer see it as a day when we have to get the children up, get them dressed, get them fed, and keep them quiet so that we can say we went to church, and that our kids didn’t embarrass us.
Instead, Sunday becomes one of our favorite days of the week—even if we love going to work on Monday and hanging out with pizza, beer, and a movie on Friday night.
3 LETHARGIC ALTERNATIVES
Some fast-growing churches seem to put all their energy into making the worship experience so spectacular that someone could wander in half-dead and be resurrected by the sheer force of the music, the lights, the preaching, and the crowds.
Other stagnating and declining churches seem to simply go through the Sunday motions, which can make the most zealous Christian comatose ten minutes in.
Some Christians have seen all this at its worst, and have lost hope in ever seeing it at its best. And so they are satisfied with small group gatherings and private devotions.
Our church’s experience of Jesus is dependent on our church’s expectations of Jesus. Will he pour himself out by his Spirit when we are gathered to keep his feast? Do we expect it? Do we believe that Jesus always throws the best feasts and brings the best wine?
So, what’s our challenge? How do we be become an expectant people?
ARE WE EXPECTING?
The challenge for those preparing to lead us in festal Sabbathing is to mine the riches of the gospel of Jesus in its diverse implications for a more abundant life under his lordship. Preachers must prepare with diligence, with prayer, employing all their God-given powers of spiritual imagination to proclaim the gospel with authority and generosity (2 Tim 4:2). They must expect that God will accomplish much through its proclamation.
Those that cook food for the rest of us to enjoy should cook with love, expecting and praying that it will be received (there’s that word again!) with glad and generous hearts (Acts 2:46). Those who watch the young children in the nursery, those who lead music, those who clean the kitchen, and all others who serve at the Sabbath feast should ready their hearts, expecting that their humble service will be used by the Spirit of God to enable others to receive his grace and be transformed by it.
Whatever we bring to the feast, we bring it with the joyful expectation that Jesus has given us the gift, and intends to use it for the edification of the body (Rom 12:4ff).
It is incumbent upon each member of the feasting body to calibrate their hearts throughout the week, expecting that the feast will be satisfying, and that Jesus will delight our souls on the richest of fare.
The challenge for each of us is much like the challenge of our entire Christian lives: to live our week in the hopeful expectation that the best is yet to come, and that each Sabbath feast is a foretaste of the greater feast of the New Jerusalem, which we also expect to enjoy soon.
Andy Stager is the pastor and planter of Hill City Church in Rock Hill, SC. Gardens Don't Launch (and Other Church Planting Proverbs) chronicles lessons he's learned on the missional-ecclesial frontier. He co-produces Gospel Neighboring, a weekly podcast, and is co-author with Daniel Wells of Countdown to Launch: 10 Church Planting Rules Worth Breaking. He and his wife own and operate The Cordial Churchman, which makes and ships 100 handmade bow ties each week.
[All rights reserved. Used by permission. Originally published at “The Churched Disciple: Sabbath -- ‘Expect’”.]