5 Takeaways From the Missions Conference
This past weekend, God richly poured out His blessing on our congregation. We heard compelling stories of God’s work throughout the world, and we were deeply challenged through the preaching of Rev. Richie Sessions. During staff meeting yesterday we were all burdened that this not be another mountain top memory, but that the culture, excitement, and applications of the weekend would abide. Toward that end, I would like to share 5 takeaways from the conference – things that I would like to be in the minds, on the hearts, and within the conversations of TCPC.
1. Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy are inseparable. Ortho is the Greek word for “right” or “correct”. We talk a lot in our church about orthodoxy (right-thinking). But just as important is orthopraxy (right practice). In fact it is even wrong to speak of them as separate because they are married together as one. I heard this underlying theme in all of Richie Session’s sermons. He celebrated what we do well (orthodoxy), but he consistently challenged us where we struggle (orthopraxy). We articulate so well the doctrines of grace, but do we extend that grace? We know the ins and outs of the gospel, but does it compel us into gospel witness? Missions is the proper overflow of good and sound theology and Richie really confronted us with that truth this weekend. Application: We cannot call ourselves good theologians if our good theology does not overflow into good deeds.
2. We must internalize before we externalize. In many ways, these were not your typical missions conference messages. Richie spoke just as much about our need for the gospel as he did our need to share the gospel. And I’m glad he did. I’m not interested in a little flare up of shallow gospel witness in our community, soon to lose its zeal until next year’s missions conference. I’m interested in a congregation who’s heartbeat is mission, who’s instinct is mission — a church where witness becomes the new normal. How does that happen? It won’t happen by bringing in a zealous preacher to fire up the troops. It will happen when we are so filled with the gospel that it spills over into the world around us. More than anything, that is what Richie came to town to do; confront us, overwhelm us, lavish upon us the majesty of grace, knowing that grace cannot be contained and will always overflow to others. Application: Let’s preach the gospel to ourselves and to each other in hopes that the gospel will be preached to the world around us.
3. God loves the Bluegrass, and the individuals of the Bluegrass. A common barrier to missions is a failure to recognize just how lovingly zealous God is for places and people. We heard this, not just in the preaching, but also in the testimonies of our missionaries who brought back to us stories of God’s love of the Middle East, China, Togo, etc. A consistent theme of the conference was that God has a heart for every corner of creation, including our little corner, the Bluegrass. God doesn’t hate the Bluegrass. God isn’t indifferent to the Bluegrass. God pines after the Bluegrass with divine Trinitarian love. Therefore it is not fitting for the people of this God to go about with a posture of scorn (or even indifference) toward that which our God loves. But the challenge went even further. It is one thing to say that God loves the Bluegrass in some ethereal way. But Richie proclaimed the value of individuals to God. This is when things get really personal. God loves your neighbor that drives you crazy. Application: Let’s together repent of the tendency towards a militant and antagonistic spirit and join our God in His love for the Bluegrass, indeed the very individuals of the Bluegrass.
4. God is at work in this world. Wasn’t it refreshing to hear the stories from all our missionaries? It is easy to become cynical about the advancement of the gospel and impact of God’s Kingdom. We subtly doubt the victorious promises of Scripture and give way to the pervasive paranoia that seems to be overwhelming the Church these days – that nagging fear that the Church is nearing her extinction. We heard a different story this weekend didn’t we? Apparently the Church is here to stay, the great commission is in fact being fulfilled, and Jesus still intends to win back the nations. It was good to have this reminder. Application: Let’s be comforted and reassured that God is on the move and is going to win the story of history.
5. God is at work at TCPC. Something is happening right now in our local congregation. It is palpable and exciting. We ran out of seating, we ran out of food, logistical problems were everywhere … and the problems were glorious. The staff and officers were overwhelmed, not just by your participation in the weekend, but by the “feel” of the weekend. This was not duty-bound, begrudging, uninterested attendance. This was passionate, ready to be challenged, ready to repent, ready to change, ready to see TCPC make an impact attendance. This weekend was just another testimony that the Spirit is stirring the hearts of our people, and I can’t wait to see what He has in store for us. Application: Let’s pray for His anointing to abide!
Thanks to all involved in making this a wonderful weekend. The pastors and officers are praying that the culture of this conference would become the culture of our church. Application: The glory of Christ and the good of the Bluegrass!