The Core Ministry Principles
of Christ Redeemer Fellowship
1. Great Commandment Love is the foundation and motivation for everything we do. We will live in covenant with each other, treating each other as Jesus has treated us, extending grace, mercy, forgiveness and reconciliation to each other at all times. This is necessary because we are “fragile earthen vessels” and, in our personal struggle with sin, we will fail and fall many times and need help to get up and try again.
2. We will be a worship driven church, not a program driven church. The New Testament Church was established and expanded as a response to the presence and power of God working in their midst with signs, wonders and various other demonstrations of His activity. Programs, to whatever extent they existed, were a response to what God was doing, rather than an attempt to compensate for the fact that He wasn’t showing up and changing lives. We will eventually have various ministry and teaching programs. However, they will not exist to attract or retain members. Instead, they will be a response to the work of God in the lives of the people as He releases gifts and callings and reveals needs that He wants to address in the church and in the community. Our first priority will be to make room for the Holy Spirit in our worship services, allowing Him to take first place and lead us and love us however He desires. Interacting with Him is our highest goal – to whatever degree the sermon or the music or the other components of the service flow with that, then, and only then, will they be in order. In accordance with 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, we will proclaim the Gospel and let the Holy Spirit confirm it by His power.
3. We will have a high commitment to prayer in everything we do. Prayer will flow in our worship services as we seek God and minister to each other; it will inform and undergird our planning, and it will define our outreach to the community.
4. We will place a high priority on ministries of blessing in our community, focusing on ways to express the covenental love of Jesus to change lives, rather than simply trying to think up ways to attract people to our church.
5. We will place a high priority on working with and supporting the work of the Body of Christ in our community, finding ways to bring believers together across congregational lines in order to become the fullest expression of the Church in our community.
Reflections on Our Core Principles
Principle #1 — The Greatest of These
“For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14
[This is the first in a series of articles outlining the five core principles that undergird the ministry vision of our church – JE]
I don’t know any other way to do this except to just come out and say it: after over 25 years of being in the ministry, studying the scriptures and observing the behavior of Christians in general, I have come to the conclusion that most of us have tragically misunderstood the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It seems to me that most conservative Christians believe that the Gospel is all about being saved and getting other people saved. I believe I can now demonstrate clearly from Scripture that the Gospel is all about being loved, and loving other people. There is a HUGE difference between the two points of view.
Starting with John 3:16 (“For God so loved the world) and perhaps having its most forceful summation in Paul’s magnificent appeal to love in 1 Corinthians 13 (no matter what I do for the Lord, if it is not conceived and carried out in love it is worthless), the Gospel of Jesus Christ clearly has this simple premise: You are loved by God in ways you cannot imagine; share this love with others by whatever means you can. Without a doubt, this love journey is powered by faith in Jesus Christ and continues through eternity, but the point is to give and receive love with God and those He loves. His love changes everyone and everything!
Here is where I think the whole thing broke down. Most of us were taught to focus on the Great Commission from Matthew 28 – you know, Go and preach and make disciples and baptize, teaching them to obey all I have commanded, etc. That sure sounds like the Gospel is about getting saved and getting people saved, doesn’t it? But, there is a subtle but clear defining term specified here that makes a big difference. Jesus says teach them to obey what I have commanded. So, what is it that He commanded (and still commands)?
In the Gospels, the idea of commands only comes up in this context in basically two instances. We read in several places that Jesus was challenged by religious leaders to name the most important commandment. Without hesitation, He quotes from the book of Deuteronomy, affirming that the two most important commandments are to love God and to love others. In Luke’s account of this story, He reports that the ensuing debate over Jesus’ answer inspires Him to tell the story of the Good Samaritan in order to illustrate His point. But the best and most powerful example is found in John 13:34-35, often referred to as the Great Commandment. As far as I know, this is the only time Jesus said, “I command you to do this.” And His command was for us to love each other in the same way, with the same intensity and mercy and dedication and faithfulness, that He loves us.
As far as I am concerned, the Great Commission is really a subcategory under the Great Commandment. After all, what better way to love people than to introduce them to the One Who loves them the best? Sadly, too many of us stop at that point. Once we get saved in response to His love, we spend hardly any time pursuing or applying the Great Commandment in our relationships, especially in church! Judgmental attitudes, compulsions to be in control and battles over “doctrinal purity” can make the church one of the most relationally dangerous places in town! Sadly, history records as many acts of war between Christians as acts of love, probably more.
The problem is simple, really. Christians are still people – people who still fail, who are still controlled by the wounds and fears of the past, people who still struggle with sin and the fear of being rejected by God and others. We are all people who need to be loved and to know that there is a place where we can honestly be ourselves without a fear of being abandoned … or worse. And that place is supposed to be the church and the medium through which this is to be accomplished is the love of Jesus flowing into us and out of us – the same gracious acceptance and commitment that brought us into the Kingdom in the first place. We need to know that in Jesus, we are not only saved, we are safe.
Jesus closes His Great Commandment with these words: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” There is no Gospel apart from the love of God, and there can truly be no church where living out that love with each other is not the number one item in the mission statement. So, printed below is Core Principle #1. If you don’t remember any of the others, this one alone will take you pretty far.
Blessings – Jackie