Unless people see in our churches not only the preaching of the truth but the practice of the truth…in our communities, then let me say it clearly:
They will not listen, and they should not listen.
— Francis Schaeffer, The Church at the End of the Twentieth Century, pg. 52.

The new year will launch Spring HIll Presbyterian Church into a new phase of her young existence. Beginning on January 21, 2018, we will meet for weekly worship on Sunday mornings at Heritage Middle School starting at 9:30 am. As always, nursery will be provided for children ages newborn through 3 years old.

When I think about this future transition in the life of our church, I can’t help but reflect on the past. Graciously, God blessed this past year in the life of our small but growing church. We began last January to meet on a weekly basis on Sunday nights at Spring HIll Academy Preschool. Intending to deepen our love for God and one another, we studied the book of Mark and sought to develop deep and vulnerable relationships with each other. Over the course of time, we came to understand the gospel and each on a deeper level which enabled us to speak the gospel into each other’s lives. Bittersweetly, the time at the preschool has now come to an end.

As we look ahead, I can’t help but wonder about the development of our community at Spring Hill Presbyterian Church. Currently, I’m reading a book penned by Francis Schaeffer called The Church at the End of the Twentieth Century. He wrote this prophetic book in the early 1970s. Based on what he was witnessing in the thought of individuals—mainly the rise of relativism and the decline of truth—he boldly and accurately anticipated much of what we have seen in the church in the twenty-first century. Without a bolding proclamation the truth—not just in word, but also in deed—Schaeffer believed that the church would crumble into utter irrelevance.

In order to remain relevant, Schaeffer makes a strong case for the church being a community. As individuals, God saves us. He forgives our sins individually. He pardons our personal sins through the death of Jesus on the cross. But Christianity is not individualistic. It is a community of believers. In theological terms, when we are justified by God (legally pardoned of our sins) we are also adopted into his family. We are called into a relationship with a personal God who is there (to quote the title of another one of Schaeffer’s books). When we are called into that relationship with God, we are also called into relationship with others.

The church is a community unlike any other. It’s not a social gathering or an activist club. It’s not a community that gathers because of shared interests or hobbies. This community exists because its individuals have been transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ. They exist to glorify God and to draw other people into this community through making disciples. This community exists because of the gospel. Through faith in the death and resurrection of Christ, people who were strangers to each other are now brothers and sisters in Christ.

This community also exists to proclaim the gospel. By the way that people in this community interact with one another, they display the lovingkindness of God. The members of this all share in an incredible gospel transformation which has taken place in each of their lives. But what if other people could not tell? What if this community didn’t appear to be transformed? What if the individuals didn’t act any differently? Schaeffer saw this happening and anticipated more of it. Here is what he says:

Unless people see in our churches not only the preaching of the truth but the practice of the truth, the practice of love and the practices of beauty; unless they see that the thing that humanists rightly want cannot achieve on a humanist base—human communication and human relationship—is able to be practiced in our communities, then let me say it clearly: They will not listen, and they should not listen.
— Francis Schaeffer, The Church at the End of the Twentieth Century, pg. 52

My prayer is that Spring Hill Presbyterian Church will continue to grow into a community to which people can’t help but listen. The New Testament is filled with “one another” commands which call people to “love one another,” (John 13:34) “bear one another’s burdens,” (Galatians 6:2) “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another,” (Ephesians 4:32). If we launch a church on January 21, 2018 that doesn’t practice the truth in our community, then we will launch a church to which people will not listen and should not listen. But if we launch a church in which the gospel is lived out vulnerably and truthfully, people can not help but hear and see the good news of Jesus Christ. I pray that Spring HIll Presbyterian Church is this type of community.