Our “Core Values” are those commitments that guide our vision and strategy. These values define who we are and where we are headed.
The Gospel Changes Everything
The Gospel Makes Us a Church for the City
The Gospel Makes Us a People of Prayer
The Gospel Makes Us One
The Gospel Makes Us Outward Faced
The Gospel Creates a New Community
The Gospel Changes Lives
The Gospel Energizes New Church Planting
The Gospel Renews the Marketplace
The Gospel Renews the City Socially
VALUE #1: THE GOSPEL CHANGES EVERYTHING
“I am a sinner” and “Jesus is the Savior for sinners.” These are the twin truths of the Gospel, which the apostle Paul says “is the power (dunamis or dynamite) of God” (Romans 1:16). The Gospel is God's explosive power that changes everything.
First, the Gospel makes us Christians. You cannot be a Christian unless both sides of the Gospel come together. “I am a sinner” without “Jesus is the Savior” leads to drivenness, guilt and ultimately despair. “Jesus is the Savior” without “I am a sinner” has no meaning. As a result, we see Jesus merely as a great teacher or a good role model, but not as the answer to our greatest need. But when both of these truths collide you have the Gospel and everything changes. God forgives your sin, declares you righteous in Christ, gives you eternal life, adopts you as His child, and ushers you into an intimate relationship with Himself.
Application: We will minister with great hope and confidence. Since we are saved by the Gospel, which is the power of God, there are no hopeless cases. No one and no situation is beyond the Gospel's transforming power. The Gospel can change anyone.
Second, the Gospel grows us. Most people think we become Christians by believing the Gospel, and then we grow by mastering biblical principles for living. They believe that the Gospel is the starting point, but then we must move on to more advanced teaching to grow. But the Gospel is not merely the way we enter the kingdom, it is also the way we make all progress in kingdom living. The Gospel is not the ABC's but the A to Z of the Christian life. It is the way of righteousness “from first to last” (Romans 1:17). Therefore, the Gospel is the solution to all of our problems. At the root of all of our problems is sin, specifically the sin of looking to someone or something other than Jesus for our significance, strength and satisfaction. This root sin manifests itself in all of our various problems. God intends that my problems drive me to see in a fresh and deeper way that “I am a sinner” and “Jesus is my Savior”. And so change continues, just as it began, through the power of the Gospel (Romans 6:1-4).
Application: We will preach the Gospel to believers, not just unbelievers. Since, the Gospel not only makes us Christians (justification), but also grows us as Christians (sanctification), the most desperate need of both unbelievers and believers each and every Sunday is to hear and appropriate the Gospel to their lives.
Third, the Gospel empowers us to serve. Some would warn that if we focus on the Gospel of grace that we will produce lazy Christians. Their logic is: If we tell people “Jesus has done it all!” then they will have no motivation to serve others. Nothing could be further from the truth. Only the Gospel can produce unselfish love and service. Apart from the Gospel we will either avoid serving out of fear of failure, rejection, or inconvenience, or we will be driven to serve in order to ease our guilty conscience and gain approval from God and people. But when “I am a sinner” and “Jesus is my Savior” come together, our old motivational structure is demolished. We are no longer driven by fear, guilt or the need for affirmation. The Gospel gives us a whole new motivational structure. Paul says: “Christ's love compels us” to live for others (2 Corinthians 5:14-15; cf. Romans 12:1). To claim we believe and yet not be engaged in the needs of our world reveals that our faith is not in the living, powerful Gospel of Christ (James 2:17). For the Gospel changes everything!
Application: We will motivate with grace not guilt. We will refuse to use guilt trips to drive people to serve. Rather, we will motivate with the Gospel, which sets us free to love and serve unconditionally in response to God's grace in Christ.
The Gospel changes everything. This is our central value. We will draw out the implications of the Gospel in other aspects of our life and ministry.
VALUE #2: THE GOSPEL MAKES US A CHURCH FOR THE CITY
Cities are central to Jesus' mission. For example, Jesus chose as the text of his first recorded sermon Isaiah 61, which proclaims that the Messiah has come to “rebuild…restore…renew the ruined cities” (4). Jesus underscores the city-focus of his sermon and mission by declaring shortly after this sermon, “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose” (Luke 4:43). Following Jesus' example, the apostle Paul's missionary work was almost completely city-focused. He went to the large cities, and ignored small towns and the countryside. The early church did the same. Why? Why this focus on urban centers? There are at least three reasons:
First, cities are “population centers.” Cities are filled and becoming more filled with people. Soon in the 21st century, more than one-half of the world's population will live in cities. These are people made in God's image whom Christ loves and calls his church to love.
Application: We will encourage Christians to live in the city and to love and respect the people of the city.
Second, cities are “places of refuge.” Cities are filled and becoming more filled with great needs. Homelessness, aids, drugs, child neglect and abuse, lives filled with despair, corruption, greed, oppression, war-zone schools, the list goes on of needs/problems that exist all over America but more pervasively in our great cities.
Application: We will partner with the people of the city in seeking to serve the physical as well as the spiritual needs of the city.
Third, cities are “cross-roads.” Cities are filled and becoming more filled with great potential. Cities bring us in contact with a great diversity of people. This challenges our perspectives, reveals our prejudices, and causes us to grow. Cities also bring us in contact with a great number of very talented people. This challenges the people of the city to reach more of their God-given potential. As a result, not only do cities need Christians but Christians need cities.
Application: We will encourage Christians to learn from the city how to celebrate diversity, accept and love all people, and strive for excellence in all we do.
The early Christians lived and ministered in the cities. The result was that by the year 300 A.D. over 50% of the urban centers in the Roman Empire were Christian, while the countryside remained pagan. But, since the cities were “crossroads”, they shaped society and increasingly the countryside became Christian. What a striking contrast with American Christians today. The early Christians were relatively few in number with little resources, while we are relatively many in number with vast resources. They greatly impacted their society, while we are having less and less impact on our society. Why? To a great extent it is because the early Christians resided in cities, while today studies indicate that the percentage of Christians living in urban communities is lower than the percentage of Christians living in all other types of communities.
“When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices…Through the blessing of the upright a city is exalted” (Proverbs 11:10). What kind of a church will cause the whole City of San Diego to rejoice? That is the question we will continually ask, in order that we might become a church for the City.
VALUE #3: THE GOSPEL MAKES US PEOPLE OF PRAYER
The Gospel changes everything. Nowhere is the change more radical than in prayer. Take a moment and read Luke 11:1-13 and Galatians 4:1-7. These passages teach us that the Gospel renews prayer in at least four ways:
First, a new relationship. The most radical thing about Jesus' teaching on and example of prayer is that we address God as “Our Father”. Without the Gospel our relationship with God is like an employee with an absentee boss. Our prayers are a religious duty done to appease or gain the approval of a demanding boss. We are never sure he hears and we don't know if he will answer, because we don't know if we have earned his favor. But the Gospel ushers us into a radically different relationship. We are his children. He is our Father. He welcomes us into his presence, embraces us in his perfect love and delights to hear and answer our prayers, all because Jesus has earned God's favor for us. “Abba, Father,” is the heart of Gospel-prayer—immediacy, intensity and intimacy with our God. Everything else flows from this.
Second, a new purpose. Notice that “Our Father” is followed by “hallowed be Thy Name”. This is the way the Gospel works. As soon as the Gospel enables us to pray “Our Father,” it gives us a totally new purpose in life and in prayer. Before the Gospel comes into our lives our purpose and prayers are centered on promoting “my name”—my success, my reputation, my well-being, my comfort. But the Gospel teaches us that, through Jesus' life and death on our behalf, all that we have ever longed for--and far more--will one day be ours. Therefore, our lives are no longer consumed by these things, but rather by the desire that our Father would be glorified throughout the earth, that He would gain for Himself a great reputation, and that all people would know His love and honor and serve Him as Creator and Redeemer.
Third, a new attitude. The Gospel causes us to pray with an unique combination of humility and confidence. We approach God humbly because the Gospel teaches us that we are far more sinful than we ever dared imagine. And we approach God confidently because the Gospel teaches us that in and through Jesus Christ we are far more loved than we ever dared dream. “I am a sinner” without “I am loved in Jesus” leads to “humility” without confidence. “I am loved in Jesus” without “I am a sinner” leads to “confidence” without humility. Only the Gospel gives our prayers the unique combination of humility and confidence. In and of ourselves, we have absolutely no resources to fulfill our God-given purpose of sharing His love with others. As Jesus says in Luke 11, we don't even have the most basic resource--“bread”. But we do have a “Midnight Friend”, a “Good Father”. And so we come humbly and confidently knocking and asking Him to give us what we need to do His will for Jesus' sake.
And fourth, a new request. So for what do we pray? What is the “bread” we need in order to fulfill God's purpose for us? And what is it that our “Midnight Friend”, our “Good Father”, is so eager to give to His children? Jesus tells us: “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him! (Luke 11:13). Every Christian receives the Holy Spirit at the moment they first trust in Jesus. But then we experience more and more of the fullness of the Spirit as we humbly acknowledge our need and confidently come to our Father for more of Himself.
Application: None of us ever “arrive” in our prayer life, because none of us ever fully get the Gospel. As a result we continue to be bored by prayer and boring in our praying. But once you taste the reality of Gospel-shaped prayer you will want more. As a church we commit ourselves to growing in prayer by: 1) teaching people how to develop a prayer life, 2) providing opportunities to pray with one another in various settings especially small groups, and 3) continually preaching the Gospel of Grace to one another, for only the Gospel can make us people of prayer.
VALUE #4: THE GOSPEL MAKES US ONE
The Gospel breaks down all barriers (race, class, gender, age) and makes all who claim Jesus as Lord and Savior one in Him (Galatians 3:28). Unity cannot be overemphasized. The Father decided in eternity not merely to save a collection of individuals, but to redeem a people (Ephesians 1:4). Jesus died to shatter everything that separated us from one another and to make us one in Him (Ephesians 2:13-15). The Holy Spirit takes very different persons, makes us one (1 Corinthians 12:13), and miraculously enables us to love one another. Why? Why does God want His church to experience such diversity in unity? There are at least three reasons:
First, God is an Evangelist. Jesus prayed that “all [believers] may be one…so that the world may believe that you sent me” (John 17:21). The strongest argument against the claims of Christianity is the divided church. To be an effective witness for reconciliation in the world, the church must demonstrate what it declares. It must show those outside that inside it has done the job of reconciling like and unlike. The supernatural miracle that authenticates the Gospel message is neither unity nor diversity. It is diversity in unity. It is natural for “birds of a feather to flock together” but when different persons become one people, the world sits up and takes notice. “What brings such a group together?” “What do they have in common?” Our answer is simple: the Lord Jesus Christ, who has loved us and given His life for us. By His Spirit He has made us one.”
Second, God is a Teacher. People learn best when they discuss God's truth in a setting of peace (unity) with people from very different backgrounds (diversity). Developing relationships with Christians from different races and ethnic groups: a) strengthens our faith as we experience the power of the Gospel to transcend cultures, b) challenges us to consider if our convictions are truly Christian or simply middle-class American, and c) enables us to learn from the strengths of different cultures and Christian traditions. Diversity in unity is essential for authentic Christian growth (1 Corinthians 12).
Third, God is a Father. Few things bring a father greater delight than to see his children loving and enjoying one another. On the other hand, nothing brings more sadness than if his children went their own ways, wanting nothing to do with each other. How much more so must our heavenly Father be deeply grieved when He sees His children fighting with each other or living in “peace” at a distance. On the other hand, how it must bring Him delight when He sees all His very different children loving each other because they know His love for them (1 John. 4:19-21).
1) We will seek to be a church that reflects the diversity of San Diego.
2) We will celebrate what Christ is doing in and through other churches and ministries.
3) We will partner with them to learn from them, and to serve one another and the City.
4) And we will continually preach the Gospel to ourselves. The cause of disunity is sin--in particular, pride and fear. We look down on those we view as inferior to us (morally, culturally, or financially). We are intimidated by those we view as superior. Only the Gospel can humble us (we are saved by grace) and make us confident (we are in Him), so that we “accept one another as Christ has accepted us” (Romans 15:7).
“Christ has accepted us!” That means that, in spite of our pride, fear and divisions, one day we will stand before Him with a “great multitude, which no one can count, from every nation, tribe, people and language” (Revelation 7:9), worshipping Him as one people. Until then, we will seek to be a herald, a sign and a foretaste of that great day.
VALUE #5: THE GOSPEL MAKES US OUTWARD FACED
Through the Gospel, Jesus makes us a people for others. His Gospel gives us deep respect and great hope for every non-Christian, and frees and empowers us not to live for ourselves but for our friends, neighbors and associates who don't believe. The Gospel makes us a people and a place where non-Christians are expected, welcomed and respected. Their questions and objections are invited. Their struggles and doubts are taken seriously. They are loved not that we might evangelize them, but we evangelize them because we love them.
The gospel of Christ overcomes the three main obstacles to an authentic outward face:
1. The joy of the gospel overcomes our apathy. There is a tendency toward uncaring inwardness in each of us. But the gospel fills our lives with such joy that we have tremendous energy for declaring the great things that God has done in Christ (Luke 2:20). When the reality of the gospel grips us, we simply cannot keep our mouths closed.
2. The grace of the gospel overcomes our pride. There is a tendency for Christians to think and act as if they were superior to unbelievers. But the gospel humbles us--we are saved only by God's grace and not our own goodness or cleverness (Luke 18:13). As a result, we approach unbelievers without superiority and with lots of respect, recognizing that often their wisdom and compassion exceeds our own.
3. The love of the gospel overcomes our fear. There is a tendency not to share the love and gospel of Christ out of fear of criticism or inconvenience. But in the gospel we are embraced by a love so great that it drives out all our fear (1 John.4:18), and frees us to love people with reckless abandon.
Application - Strategy
1. We will take a friendship, not combative approach. We will utilize the webs of relationships God has already given us to build bridges for the gospel. We will seek opportunities to present the gospel through authentic relationships not inappropriate confrontations.
2. We will take a process, not crisis approach. We will provide multiple exposures to the gospel. We will communicate not just what we believe but why, in a way that invites questions and engages people in dialogue, so they can receive information about Christianity that relates to where they are.
3. We will take a presuppositional approach. This means we believe that every person already does believe in God (Romans 1:18-25). God has already been witnessing to them. Therefore, we will help them find “God-pointers” (insights into truth) that they already have, and use them to direct them back to their Creator and Savior.
Application - Tactics
We will always be expecting and hoping that unbelievers will be “looking on and listening in” wherever we are as a body or as individuals.
1. In our daily life. We will love our neighbors. Through the testimony of a transformed life, deeds of love and kindness, and hospitality, we will actively cultivate authentic relationships with non-Christians and invite them to church that they might meet Jesus (Luke 5:29).
2. In our worship services. We will be determinedly conscious of and welcoming to non-Christians in our midst. We will worship in such a way that unbelievers can understand and be included (1 Corinthians 14:24-25). We will provide classes after worship so people can ask questions and get more information about Christianity (Acts 2:12-14).
3. In our small groups and service teams. We will have most of our groups and teams open to all people regardless of where they are on their spiritual journey. These small groups and service ministries made up of believers and unbelievers will be significant places where people can find Christ and grow in Him.
Bottom Line: The Gospel will make us a community where Christians say, “This is the place to bring my non-Christian friends.”
VALUE #6: THE GOSPEL CREATES A NEW COMMUNITY
The “body of Christ”, “a living sacrifice”, “a temple of living stones”, “a holy nation”, “the family of God”. The authors of the New Testament thought of themselves primarily as a community, rather than as individuals. They knew the reality of what we have failed to see and experience: that Jesus came not merely to save individuals but to create a new community. The individualism of our day and age has blinded us to the radical corporate nature of salvation. The result: a flabby church with virtually no impact on its members or society.
What Is “Christian Community”?
Jesus calls us a “city on a hill” which “cannot be hidden” (Matthew .5:14). What a vision for the church! Notice three things:
1. We are a “city”. Jesus creates and calls us to be a “city” within the city of San Diego. To be a “city” we must reflect the diversity of the city. So we will invite into our community all the different kinds of people in San Diego.
2. We are a “city on a hill.” We are to be in the city of San Diego and reflect its diversity and yet we are distinct—“on a hill”. We are to be a community that is a living picture of the kingdom of God. We are to model an alternative lifestyle in our business practices, race relations, definition of success, respect for human life, sexuality, problem solving, approach to material wealth, etc.
3. We are a “city on a hill” which “cannot be hidden.” This is how the church will impact San Diego. People will see the wisdom, power and grace of God in this “alternative city” and they will be drawn to praise, with us, our “Father in heaven” (vs.16).
Why Is “Christian Community” Important?
We need community to be fully human. God said before the fall: “It is not good for man to be alone.” Adam was lonely not because he was imperfect; he was lonely because he was perfect. God has wired us in such a way that we cannot be what he meant us to be unless we are living in community. We need community for three reasons:
1. To Grow. We grow in Christ's likeness in community not in classes. Classes are important for conveying truth content, but real change comes in community. Jesus and his disciples lived together, ate together, experienced life together. Jesus modeled to his followers what it meant to love God and neighbor in very specific situations. Community allows us to “look over the shoulders” of mature Christians as they accept people who are different, grieve the death of a loved one, handle unemployment, resolve conflicts, grow old in grace. We need to live in community so that the gospel can be passed onto the next generation.
2. To Serve. The quality of our community is the real secret to finding our calling in life. God has given each of us gifts—special abilities and skills—to serve him in the world and in the church. But how do we discern what our gifts are and how to best employ them in service to others? It is by living in a community of believers where we can discuss our passions, test our gifts, and be encouraged, counseled and prayed for by those who know us.
3. To Witness. “A city on the hill cannot be hidden.” The quality of our life together is a witness to the world. Jesus prays in John 17:23, “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” Our unity in community is the main way that people will believe the gospel.
How Can We Be A "Christian Community"?
1. By Preaching the Gospel to One Another. Christian community is a gift that is received through the Gospel. In Ephesians 4, we are commanded to “maintain the spirit of unity” not establish it. Christ has already established it through His cross and His Spirit. We are ushered into this unity the moment we believe in Christ. It is a gift that is received but it is also a gift that is cultivated. We will cultivate Christian Community by continually reminding one another of the Gospel—we are far more sinful than we ever dared imagine, but in and through Jesus we are far more loved than we ever dared dream.
2. By Devoting Ourselves to One Another. Christian community is cultivated as people believe the Gospel and in response devote themselves to the Lord and one another. When Luke describes the early Christian Community he says immediately after believing the Gospel “they devoted themselves…to the fellowship” (Acts 2:42). The word “devoted” means they “set as a priority”, “committed to”, spending significant time with one another. They ate together in their homes, discussed God's Word, worshipped, prayed, and shared their resources with one another. That's why the basic building block of Harbor Presbyterian Church will be our Community Groups—small groups that meet to experience Christ's presence in community. The promised result: “a city on the hill which cannot be hidden” (look at Acts 2:47).
VALUE #7: THE GOSPEL CHANGES LIVES
Religion makes nice people; the Gospel makes new people. Religion reforms you on the outside; the Gospel transforms you from inside out. Religion says: “If you live a good life, then God will love you.” As a result religion leads to a deadly combination of pride and despair. Pride when we are superficial enough to think “I'm a good person”, and despair when we are honest enough to see “I am so self-centered.” On the other hand, the Gospel leads to a unique combination of humility and confidence. For the Gospel says: “None of us is good in fact we are far worse than we think (humility), but through Jesus Christ we are far more loved than we ever dared dream (confidence).” When the Gospel comes to us it radically changes us—we are “a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17). This profound change can be summarized by saying: We are in Christ; and Christ is in us.
We are in Christ!
At the moment that you believe the Gospel, you are united with Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13). This changes everything.
First, you have a new identity. “In Christ” is the repeated New Testament refrain that defines the Christian's new identity. This means who you are is not determined by what you do, where you live, or who your parents are. Rather, your identity is determined by Jesus' life, death and resurrection for you. This means that everything that is true about Jesus is true about you “in Him”. This is so prevalent a theme in the New Testament that space prevents us from completely spelling out your identity, but here's a taste. “In Christ”, you are righteous and holy (Ephesians 4:24), you are a saint (Ephesians 1:1), you have died with Christ to sin's rule (Romans 6:1-6), you have been raised with Christ (Romans 6:11), you are seated with Christ in heaven (Ephesians 2:6), you are a joint-heir with Christ (Romans 8:17), and when Christ returns you will be like Him (1 John.3:1,2).
Second, and most important, you have a new Father. “In Christ”, you are God's child (John 1:12; Ephesians 1:5), you are loved by the Father from before creation (Ephesians 1:4), you have been reconciled to the Father (2 Corinthians 5:18-19), you are free from the Father's frown and condemnation (Romans 8:1), you are an heir and therefore rich (Galatians 4:6,7), you are the Father's work of art (Ephesians 2:10), the Father loves you with the same infinite love He loves Jesus (Colossians 3:12), the Father is pleased with you (Luke 3:22), the Father rejoices in you (Zephaniah 3:17), you have direct access to the Father—He always welcomes you and listens to you (Ephesians 2:18), the Father will never let you go (John 10:29), the Father will never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).
Third, you have a new family. Your new identity is not merely an individual identity it is a family identity. Because we belong to Him, we belong to one another. “In Christ”, all barriers--race, class, gender, ethnic--are broken down (Ephesians 2:14), we are all one (Galatians 3:28), we are brothers and sisters (Hebrews 2:11), we are a new ethnic (1 Peter 2:9), a new people belonging to God (1 Peter 2:10), we are all members of the same body (1 Corinthians 12:12), we are His flock (John 10:27), we are His temple made of living stones (1 Peter 2:5), we are the branches He is the vine (John 15), we are a new city (Matthew 5:14).
Christ is in us.
In addition to being “in Christ”, “Christ is in you”. Being in Christ gives you a totally new status. And having the Spirit of Christ in you enables you to increasingly experience and live consistently with your new status in Christ.
First, you have new wisdom. You are no longer dependent upon the wisdom of the world. The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth (John 14:17), who directed the writing of the Bible (2 Peter 1:21), gives you “the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:13-17). Through scripture the Holy Spirit enables you to know God (Ephesians 1:17), to know who you are in Christ, and what God's will is for you (Ephesians 1:18).
Second, you have new love. You are no longer a slave to your own selfish motives. The Spirit of Christ brings a whole new motivational dynamic by pouring out His love into your heart (Romans 5:5). The Spirit working through God's Word, empowers you to know God's love (Ephesians 3:16-19), assures you that you are God's child (Romans 8:16), and causes you to love God (Galatians 4:6; Romans 8:15) and people (1 John 4:16,19-20).
Third, you have new power. You are no longer helplessly stuck in life-defeating patterns of sin. The Spirit enables you not only to know and desire God's will but also to do God's will (Philippians 2:13). By the Spirit you grow in Christ-like character (Galatians 5:22-23), you minister with confidence in weakness (2 Corinthians 3:5-6), and you boldly witness even in the face of opposition (Acts 4:31,7:54-60).
If you have believed the Gospel, then you are in Christ and Christ is in you. And that changes everything. Your status changes once and for all. And the Spirit of Christ begins a process in you. He progressively changes you inside-out into the person you already are in Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). And although that process is never completed in this life, you can be “confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it out to completion” (Philippians 1:6). For when Christ appears, “we shall be like Him” (1John 1:2).
VALUE #8: THE GOSPEL ENERGIZES NEW CHURCH PLANTING
On Pentecost, the exalted Lord Jesus poured out the Holy Spirit on his church to empower bold preaching of the gospel and, through that, to energize a multiplying church planting movement.Throughout the Book of Acts, Luke calls our attention to how the gospel spread, lives were changed and people were incorporated into vibrant new churches. Follow the story and see what the gospel can do.
In Acts 1:8, Jesus commissions his church to be his witnesses to “ends of the earth”.They were to win the world for Christ--an impossible task for a church numbering 120 members (1:15).But then the Spirit comes and Peter is filled and overflowing with the gospel and in one day “three thousand were added” (2:41).They began to meet in house churches and a church planting movement was born.The gospel grew and “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (2:47).Then “many who heard the message believed, and the number grew to about five thousand” (4:4).Then “the word of God spread.The number of disciples…increased rapidly” (6:7).The gospel is picking up momentum and new churches are multiplying.
Then “a great persecution broke out against the church…and all except the apostles were scattered…those scattered preached the word wherever they went” (8:1,4).Now it is not just the apostles. The gospel is running like wildfire.It cannot be contained.Pour water on it here and it breaks out in five new directions.“Throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria…it grew in numbers” (9:31).“All who lived in Lydda and Sharon…turned to the Lord” (9:35).Churches are being planted in each city.In Joppa “many people believed in the Lord” (9:42).
In Antioch, “a great number of people were brought to the Lord” (11:21); churches were planted and from those churches Paul and Barnabas were sent out and world-wide church planting was inaugurated (13:1-3).Paul and Barnabas went to Iconium and “a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed” (14:1).In Derbe, “they preached the good news…and won a large number of disciples” (14:21).
And it goes on and on.To this very day, the same gospel continues to spread, changing lives and gathering people into new churches.Churches that not only grow but churches that plant new churches for new people because the gospel cannot be stopped.
Why is Church Planting so Important?
Here are at least three reasons:
1. New Churches Are Needed. In 1900 there were 27 churches for every 10,000 people in America.In 1950, 17 churches per 10,000 people.Today, there are 12 churches per 10,000 people in America.More churches are needed in America and especially in Southern California.For example, in University City, there are only 2 ½ churches per 10,000.And in Downtown San Diego there are only 2 churches per 10,000 people.
2. New Churches Are More Effective In Evangelism. Powerful internal pressures cause long established churches to allocate most of their resources to the care of members.As a result, most churches plateau in size during the first two or three decades of their existence.By contrast, new congregations are oriented toward outreach and on average 1/3 of its members were previously unchurched.
3. New Churches Mobilize More Believers For Ministry. In older churches, ministry positions (especially leadership roles) are held by long-standing members.It often takes awhile for new members to be given an opportunity for meaningful ministry.The planting of new churches, however, opens new ministry opportunities and therefore leads to greater mobilization of believers.
Harbor Presbyterian Church is committed to being part of Jesus' gospel-driven church planting movement.By God's grace and the energizing power of the gospel we hope to not only plant churches but to plant churches that plant churches.
VALUE #9: THE GOSPEL RENEWS THE MARKETPLACE
The gospel renews the marketplace by awakening us to two things. First, all of our work matters to God. So-called “secular” work is as valuable and God-honoring as Christian ministry. Second, God matters to all our work. The gospel enables Christians to work in their vocations both with Christian distinctiveness and excellence, the result is that the culture of the city is transformed from the inside out.
WHAT IS A MARKETPLACE CHURCH?
1. It is a Marketplace Church. It will meet mid-week in or near the business district during the lunch hour (a light lunch will be available). It will orient its message and ministry to the people in the marketplace.
2. It is a Marketplace Church. It will not be merely a bible study or a preaching event but a church. It will offer: small groups, mentoring relationships, seminars, spiritual counseling, ministry opportunities, etc. It will not replace the Christian's Sunday church but will augment it.
WHY A MARKETPLACE CHURCH?
1. Spiritual Growth. Christians highly committed to their vocation are often too busy to have adequate exposure to the “means of grace” (teaching, prayer, community, accountability). Local churches often do not address spiritual issues peculiar to a particular profession. There is a need for prayer, nurture, support and counsel for Christians in particular professions.
2. Effective Evangelism. Christians in the marketplace have many non-Christian friends and acquaintances with whom they work and do business. One of the best ways to have a credible witness is to invite these people to church. However, distance and schedule often makes it inconvenient for the person to accept the invitation. But reconnecting the church with the marketplace makes the Christian more effective in inviting people in the marketplace to church.
3. Professional Excellence. Although some Christians in the marketplace come together for fellowship and nurture, there are very few attempts at intentional cooperation among Christians in a particular profession. There is a need for mentoring relationships, joint ventures, new companies and institutions, professional associations, and “opening doors” for one another.
4. Christian Distinctiveness. Although some Christian professionals meet for networking and mutual encouragement, there are very few examples of Christians in particular professions thinking and discussing how to approach their vocation in a distinctively Christian way. There is a great need for Christians in particular professions to come together to do the hard work of theological reflection and discussion aimed at answering the question: “What difference does Jesus make in how we think about and do our particular work?”
VALUE #10: THE GOSPEL RENEWS THE CITY SOCIALLY
Nothing is more clear or strong in the Bible than the call to care for the poor. And yet, most people talk about care of the poor as if it was an option--one of many. Perhaps that's why Matthew's version of the Sermon on the Mount is so much more popular than Luke's. Matthew says: “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” But Luke hits it head on—“Blessed are the poor…But woe to you who are rich…” Care for the poor is central. The Gospel, to the extent that we get it, calls us and enables us to know the poor, become the poor and love the poor.
KNOW THE POOR
The poor are mentioned over 200 times in the Old Testament. But who are the poor?
1. The Poor Are Needy. They have little or nothing of what the world values and as a result the world discards them. Now the Bible does say that some people squander the world's goods and end up poor as a result of irresponsibility. But what is striking is this—80 to 90% of the passages on the poor do not say they had wealth but were irresponsible. On the contrary, there is reference to the fact that irresponsibility is a result of poverty not the cause of poverty. For example, Proverbs 10:15: “The wealth of the rich is their fortified city, but poverty is the ruin of the poor.” Here in San Diego, 80,000 of the households have an annual income below the poverty level. Frequently crime, addictions, irresponsibility, and unrest are a response to poverty. The Bible says by and large the vast majority of people who are in misery are born and come up having nothing of value so they are thrown away.
What is to be our response to the poor who are needy? Mercy. Overwhelmingly, the passages on the poor are not a rebuke to the poor but a call to God's people to show them mercy. “Do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother…Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart” (Deuteronomy 15:7-11).
2. The Poor Are Powerless. As a result they are oppressed. They have little that the world values but the little they have the world takes away. “A poor man's field may produce abundant food, but injustice sweeps it away” (Proverbs 13:23). “A poor man is shunned by all his relatives—how much more do his friends avoid him! Though he pursues them with pleading, they are nowhere to be found” (Proverbs 19:7). You see it is not just a matter of irresponsibility. Things are broken. The poor are powerless; as a result, the little that they have is taken away from them.
What is to be our response to the poor who are oppressed? Justice. God calls us to defend the cause of the oppressed (Psalm 82). “Seek justice, encourage the oppressed, defend the cause of the fatherless, and plead the case of the widow” (Isaiah 1:17). But the problem goes much deeper than any social program can deal with. And so the Bible not only exhorts us to do justice but also to look to the day when God will come and make all things right. “The needy will not always be forgotten (Psalm 9:18)…'Because of the oppression of the weak and groaning of the needy, I will arise,' says the Lord” (Psalm 12:5). And so Jesus begins his ministry reading from Isaiah 61 – “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.” Central to what it means to be a follower of Jesus is to bring relief to the poor through mercy and justice. The Gospel helps us to know the poor and the Gospel helps us to…
BECOME THE POOR
In Matthew, Jesus does say, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3). The Gospel comes to you only if you get rid of your middle-class spirit and get the spirit of the poor. That means three things:
1. Acknowledge That You Are Needy. The middle-class spirit says: “If I live a good life then I will have something of value to present to God. If I give to the poor, show mercy and do justice I can present something to God that he will value. I can do it.” But the Gospel says: “No one is good, no not one.” Even our good deeds are filthy rags. They stink of self-righteousness. Because they have been done to feel superior to others and to get leverage with God so that He owes us a good life. They have absolutely no value to God.
2. Acknowledge That You Are Powerless. The middle class spirit says: “Okay, if I have failed I will just pick myself up and try harder. I will turn over a new leaf. I may be down but I am not out. I'll double my effort. Never say never, think positive, visualize success—I can do it. I will do it!” But the Gospel says: “Not only are you spiritually bankrupt with nothing of value to present to God but you are totally incapable of reversing the situation.” It is like a drowning man trying to pull himself out by his own hair. No, it is worse. It is like a dead man trying to dig himself out of the grave. The Bible says: You are spiritually dead and totally powerless to do anything that would merit God's approval.
3. Acknowledge That Your Only Hope Is A Poor Man. Trust in the King who became a poor man. He was born in a feed bin, in a cattle shed. At his dedication, his parents gave the smallest offering possible. He was raised in a poor family, in a poor community. All his life he was poor. “Foxes have holes and birds have nests but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” He entered Jerusalem on a borrowed donkey, had his last meal in a borrowed room, and was buried in a borrowed grave. He died naked. He had little the world valued and the little he had was taken away. He was discarded, thrown away. And only because of Him do you we have any hope. Your only hope is a crucified poor man. If this offends you, you are middle class in spirit and you cannot be saved. You must become the poor. And finally, the Gospel calls us and enables us to…
LOVE THE POOR
To the extent that the Gospel works in your heart you will love the poor in three ways:
1. You Will Identify With The Poor. You will see that they are just like you. You will see their dirty, tattered clothes and think: “All my righteousness is a filthy rag, but in Christ we both are clothed in his white robes of righteousness.” You don't pity them. You have empathy for them, but you don't look down on them. You respect them. Instead of serving them in a paternalistic way you see them as partners in ministry—people from whom you have much to learn.
2. You Will Be Generous To The Poor. Does the Bible call us to give everything away? No. Does it call us to stay rich? No. The Bible calls us to become incredibly contented and daringly generous with what we have because our riches are in heaven.
3.You Will Stand With And For The Poor. That's what it means to do justice for the oppressed. The Gospel frees us from our obsession with our reputation and our comfort and enables us to so identify with the poor that we are willing to stand with and for them against injustice and oppression.
The Gospel of Jesus is for the poor and only the poor—the spiritually poor and especially the materially poor. For the Gospel to come to you, you must become poor. When that happens the Gospel enables you to know and love the poor.