This Sunday we begin a new series through the book of Ecclesiastes. It’s a timeless, and timely, book. In it, the Preacher-King, recounts a lifelong search for meaning, purpose, and satisfaction “under the sun.” His quest is an attempt to make sense out of life on a purely horizontal plane, without God in the picture. To do so, he exhausts every nook and cranny of the created order and human potential. Yet, again and again, he discovers “all is vanity.” Path after path leads to a dead end, so by the end there is only one way left.
This makes Ecclesiastes a unique book. It belongs with the wisdom literature of the Bible (i.e. Job, Psalms, Proverbs, and Song of Solomon) yet is also distinct from it. While the other books portray the fruit-filled wisdom of following God, Ecclesiastes portrays the fleeting nature of seeking life anywhere else. There are lessons here that are not found anywhere else in the Bible.
All of this, makes Ecclesiastes a gift from God. Through it, God invites us to step back and consider what we’re living for so we don’t waste our lives on vapor. Our lives are typically too full, busy, and noisy to think deeply about such things—so God gave us an entire book to slow us down. This is good news for those who are looking for more or for something better. But, the search takes courage. It confronts, convicts, and challenges. It forces us to consider the most important questions of life and, if we learn, discover afresh unsearchable riches of the ultimate Preacher-King.
Here is how our search will take shape over the next three months.
Ecc. 1:1-11 — All is Vanity Ecc. 1:12-18; 2:12-17 — Knowledge Ecc. 2:1-11 — Pleasure Ecc. 2:18-26 — Work Ecc. 3:1-22 — Time Ecc. 4:1-16 — Evil Ecc. 5:1-7 — Empty Religion Ecc. 5:8-6:12 — Money Ecc. 7:1-29 — Success & Suffering Ecc. 8:1-17 — Fearing God Ecc. 9:1-10 — Facing Death Ecc. 9:11-10:20 — Advantages of Wisdom Ecc. 11:1-12:14 — The End of the Matter
As most of you know, we concluded our 2019 New Year Essentials sermon series last week. This has become an annual set of sermons that address topics to which we must repeatedly return for God’s glory, our joy, and the good of others. Of course, this is not an annual repeat of the same sermons. Rather, they are different sermons that take different angles on subjects we need to come back to again-and-again.
My prayer for that series was for the Spirit of God to move each of us to take fresh steps of faith this year. Faith does not stay put for long. Faith moves (James 2:17). Faith is a living dynamic force, given and fueled by the Spirit, that changes our every day lives, in ways big and small, for the glory of God.
That prayer is what led to my weekly challenges, to the entire church, throughout the series. Each challenge was a practical suggestion for how your faith in Christ might move you to take fresh steps in the area under consideration. Here are the four challenges I gave to the church:
#1 Memorize one verse a week
In a world filled with words, we won’t make it unless we’re being fed and fortified by the right words. We need unshakeable words of truth to give meaning, strength and hope to our lives. Those words are found in God’s Word. Of course, the amount of Scripture will vary from person to person. What matters is that you are stockpiling the riches of God’s Word in your heart. What’s your plan?
#2 Do not mirror the divisions of the world, within the church, but heal them
One of the purposes of the local church is to show the world the new kind of humanity God is forging in Jesus. Unfortunately, the local church can look just as divided as the world. What do we do? The healing we long for doesn’t occur automatically nor by blaming others. It occurs when each one of Jesus’ people decides, in faith, to be an agent of healing themselves. In this sermon, we considered ten attributes of a Gospel-forged people from Romans 12:9-21. What are two or three relational dynamics in that passage that Jesus is inviting you to grow in this year?
#3 Refocus your prayer life
There is no other way to reboot your prayer life than to begin to pray afresh. To do that it is critical to not see prayer so much as a separate activity, or even means of grace (which it is), as much as a vital means of ongoing communion with God. In other words, if we’re not praying, we’re not communing. This week my challenge was twofold: (1) Read one book on prayer and (2) prioritize each of our church-wide prayer nights this year.
#4 Consider afresh the wonder of Jesus’ local church—and join in.
Jesus’ local church is not one of the many options. It is God’s Plan A for spreading his glory through the salvation of his people among the neighborhoods of Seattle to the nations of the world. There is no such thing as a churchless or free agent Christian. That is largely a modern phenomenon. Though it is unfortunately common, it is irregular and unbiblical. This year, link arms with this local expression of Jesus’ people (or join another) if you’re not yet a member. If you are already a member, keep in mind that membership is a living commitment to a living people. In what ways might Jesus be inviting you to become more deeply committed to his people this year?
Bearing Gospel fruit in our everyday lives
In all this, we must remember that none of these make us right with God, nor earn us more of his love. We have God’s love, in Christ, through faith. Full stop. That is not our doing, it is a gift of God (Eph 2:8). However, as the reality of God’s love sinks into our hearts, it bears grace-laden fruit, such as storing up God’s Word, healing divisions, renewed prayer, and a growing love for his church. Let’s ask God to use these massive gospel truths to bear lasting fruit in our lives this year. Who knows what He might do through us?
I’m writing to update you on an important change coming this fall: classes. Let me explain how this came about.
COMMUNITY IS CRITICAL
Outside of our Sunday gatherings, the best way to to get plugged into the life of DCC is through a Cornerstone Community. In community we’re able to build friendships around the Scripture, prayer, mission, accountability, and service. Being in regular relationship with other followers of Jesus helps ensure that what we believe doesn’t merely remain in our head, but actually takes root inour lives. This is all the more important in a church of our size, where it is easy to remain unknown.
BUT, SO ARE CLASSES
But, as important as communities are, they can’t do everything in the life of a Christian. That shouldn’t come as a surprise. Nothing can do everything—not even the pulpit. Where will we learn about evangelism, or church history, or biblical theology, or counseling care, or how to disciple, or financial stewardship, or spiritual disciplines, or parenting, and more? The only answer to that is “classes.” So, this fall we are going to begin offering a handful of classes.
THE HEAD IS THE WAY TO THE HEART
The purpose of offering classes is not to create big heads, but big hearts. However, the way to our hearts is through our heads (Rom. 12:2). Spirit-filled thinking about God results in Spirit-filled feeling for God. After all, to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps. 34:8) we must know who this Lord is and exactly why he is good. That makes learning-well crucial to loving-well—and loving is the heartbeat of worshipful change. All Christian learning should be viewed in that light.
OUR FALL CLASS OFFERINGS
Therefore, this fall, we are offering six classes over a ten-week period. Our Sunday classes will begin on Sunday, September 30th. Our midweek classes will begin on Wednesday, October 3rd. Most classes will meet for one hour over five weeks and will be taught either by pastors, staff, or members. Our fall class offerings will be:
Foundations (Five weeks) Our Foundations class is the first stop for folks seeking to learn more about DCC and/or becoming a member. The purpose of this class is to walk through what we believe (doctrine), why its important to belong (membership), who we are (vision, mission, values), why we are here (context), and how we function as a church (leadership, ministries, partners, finances, etc). This class will meet on Sundays, during the 9am gathering, starting September 30th, for five weeks (and will then repeat) and will be taught by DCC pastors and staff. This class is required for membership with DCC.
Dynamics of Biblical Change (Five weeks, every other week) This is a for-credit, or for-audit, class through CCEF (Christian Counseling and Education Foundation) that focuses on the heart-level dynamics of how people change. This class offers a combination of online and onsite training. The onsite class will meet every other Wednesday, starting October 10th, for five weeks and will be led by Lisa Pratt, a certified CCEF facilitator.
Meeting with God (Five weeks, every other week) Would you like to grow closer to God, but you’re not sure where to begin? This class will provide a biblical understanding of the how and why of meeting with God through the spiritual disciplines on a daily basis to grow in deeper communion with Him. This class will meet every other Wednesday, starting October 3rd, for five weeks and will be taught by Pastor Craig Sturm.
Unity and Diversity (Five weeks) Can there truly be unity and diversity in the local church? This class approaches diversity through a biblical lens, while grounding us in our unity in Christ. Teachings will address the need for diversity and unity, the role of the local church, and practical next steps for each believer. This class will meet every Wednesday over five weeks, beginning October 3rd, and will be lead by Justin Keogh, DCC’s Director of Communities and Mercy Ministries.
Church History (Ten weeks) Have you ever wondered how the church got to where it is now? This class will walk through an overview of the history of the Church. Teachings will cover prominent figures, key events, and important movements from earliest days of the Church in Jerusalem to today in Seattle. This class will meet every Wednesday, starting October 3rd, for ten weeks and will be taught by members Marco Ribeiro and James Rayment.
Following Jesus (Five weeks) Are you a new, or renewed, follower of Jesus and looking for a place to start? What does it actually mean to follow Jesus? This class will walk through the “basics” of what it means to be saved by God and walk in his ways, from the gospel, to listening to God, to meeting with God’s family, to living in hope. This class will meet every Wednesday (except the week of Thanksgiving), starting November 14th, for five weeks and will be taught by members Pierce Martin and Kyle Dunn.
Q: When exactly will the midweek classes be offered?
Most midweek classes will begin on Wednesday, October 3rd (be sure to check for your particular class). The building doors will open at 6:00pm. Classes will begin at 6:30pm and end by 7:30pm.
Q: Where should I begin if I am brand new?
Welcome! We encourage you to to jump into the Foundations class this fall.
Q: Do I need to take Foundations before taking other classes?
That would be our recommendation. Foundations is a soft-pre-requisite. Will we stop you from taking other classes? Of course not. But, we want you to know more about us as a church before digging in too deep, so Foundations makes the most sense as your first stop.
Q: Will the classes require homework?
Outside of the Dynamics of Biblical Change class, there will be no homework required in order to eliminate any potential barrier to participation. However, most classes will offer some form of optional reading and/or writing to process what you are learning.
Q: Can I still sign-up if I know I will miss a class or two?
Yes, please do. While we encourage you to prioritize your schedule around the class you take, in order to maximize your learning, we understand there will be conflicts. Please register and join as you are able.
Q: Can I jump into a class if I don’t register?
If you plan on taking a class, we highly encourage you to register. But, if you were not able to register, do not let that stop you from participating. Join the next class and let the instructor know. (There are exceptions to this, such as the Dynamics course which requires advanced registration.)
Q: Should I participate in a community or take a class?
Our answer to that would depend on your particular situation. Are you new? Join Foundations. Have you been on the fringes and are now looking to get more involved? Again, Foundations is for you. Are you involved in a community yet desire to take a class? Our first recommendation would be to do both if your schedule permits (after all, most classes are only five weeks). But, if you can only do one, and really desire to take a particular class, then feel free to take a temporary hiatus from community. Or, your community may decide to take a class together. There are lots of options.
Q: Will Kids ministry be offered for midweek classes?
Initially, there will be no Kids ministry offered on Wednesday nights. This will allow us to leverage the Kids space for classes. However, our hope is to eventually offer Kids. If you would be interested in helping to lead, or be part of, that endeavor please let us know.
Q: So, what should I do with my kids if I’d like to take a class?
There are a number of options:
1) You could bring your kids to a class,
2) One parent could take a class while the other stays at home with the kids,
3) You could make sitter arrangements or swap with another family, etc. You could also pray that we’d get a bigger building, along with a robust Kids volunteer team to staff midweek!
This month we’ve been exploring the transforming power of God in our lives through a sermon series called “Transformed: How Jesus Changes Lives.” My goal has been to help us see how the gospel of Jesus is active in pursuing real change in our Christian lives. I’ll land the plane of the series this coming Sunday – thinking through how we develop a culture of care within DCC.
EVERY CHURCH HAS A CULTURE
This is important for us to think about, because whether we realize it or not, some type of care culture is always active within our church. My prayer is that it would be a Jesus-centered, gracious culture in which people are receiving and extending gospel-saturated care to one another because that’s part of what it means to be the family of God.
Consider for a moment the various ways people in our church family would describe the struggles and hardships in their lives. You will hear terms like confusion, fear, anxiety, hopelessness, numbness, shame, guilt, anger, bitterness, injustice, betrayal, unforgiveness, loneliness, discontentment, and feeling overwhelmed. If the worship songs, liturgy, sermons, and conversations during a Sunday gathering or in community never address these struggles then people may wrongly conclude that the gospel is irrelevant, not offering hope for their reality.
We need to strive to make sure that the gospel that we read, sing, and preach Sunday after Sunday reorients and reshapes us as God’s people. Only God and His realities offer real hope in the difficulties of life.
A CULTURE OF CARE ROOTED IN THE GOSPEL
It’s good news to know that the gospel that changes hearts of stone to hearts of flesh is the same gospel necessary for caring for God’s people. It’s good news that we, as a church family, can develop a culture of gospel care regardless of the number of elders, staff, members, attendees, and budget. It’s good news that we have access to the wisdom, love, and power needed to develop a culture of gospel care within the church.
“When any person’s struggles are rightly understood, the mercies of Jesus Christ directly connect. The Savior of the world is specifically relevant to personal, interpersonal, psychological, emotional, and behavioral problems. God meets people in the very places they are weak, confused, wandering, and self-absorbed. The Holy Spirit causes faith, love, and wisdom to flourish in the very places where anxiety, anger, anguish, and addiction consume us.” (David Powlison)
A CULTURE OF CARE ROOTED IN THEOLOGY
Our vision for a culture of gospel care stands on firm theological grounding. The following is a snapshot of some of the central theological commitmentsundergirding our vision and practice of gospel care.…
We believe God builds His church as we love Him and others, specifically as we bear one another’s burdens and encourage one another to follow Jesus by faith. Therefore…DCC Care exists to help people know and experience joy in God so that they can live by faith and obedience in the midst of life’s struggles and help others do the same.
I pray that God will make us a people who are actively engaged in helping one another know and experience joy in God so that we can be a people living by faith and obedience in the midst of life’s struggles. By the grace of God, may He give us wisdom as we “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” (Heb. 10:24), as we “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal. 6:2)
I’m looking forward to our time together in February at the Women’s Retreat! Why? Because I love to be a part of women gathering together with open hearts and open Bibles, freed from the demands of daily duties to eagerly seek the Lord. I have the sacred privilege to lead us in those times in God’s Word.
Who is this woman leading you? Well, I’m Jani (rhymes with Annie) Ortlund, married for 46 years to A29 church planter Ray Ortlund. We have four married children, producing the most irresistible granddarlings—13 at last count! I spend my days much like you do, trying to figure out why God made me and how best to serve Him this side of Heaven. Part of that service involves speaking and writing about Him!
The theme for our weekend together is delighting in Christ. What does it mean to be “in Christ”? How do we come to rest there—to stay there? What is God’s part and what is our part as we muddle through our hopes and heartaches? How can our identity in Christ expand from one of duty to delight? And what can we trust Christ for in those inevitable dry and barren desert experiences?
How can you prepare for this time together? Please pray. Ask God to meet with us individually and corporately in fresh and significant ways. Pray that you will see Jesus, not Jani.
Oh, and definitely pack some chocolate! I strongly believe that chocolate makes for a better weekend!
Prayerfully, expectantly, and lovingly,
– Jani Ortlund
Ladies, this retreat is a unique opportunity to hit “pause” on our daily rhythms and gather together to be encouraged, equipped, and strengthened in our faith. We know there’s a lot to coordinate – from carpooling and childcare, to saving up for the cost, and giving up the bulk of your weekend. We encourage you to give your concerns for the weekend to Jesus, embrace all that He has waiting for you, and join us in the following:
As we’ve walked through the major prophets over the last four weeks we’ve encountered the reality, again and again, of God’s severe, but ultimately loving, discipline of his people for centuries of rebellion. Admittedly, their situation was unique as there were different provisions under the Mosaic covenant for obedience and disobedience than for those of us, in Christ (e.g. Deut. 28:15,49-50). But, even so, it raises the natural question, “Is suffering in my life due to my sin?” I addressed this, in part, on Sunday but thought it would be helpful to provide a more thorough follow-up.
We’ve all experienced it. A car accident. Loss of a job. Relational tension. Unexpected illness. Prolonged singleness. Sudden death of a loved on. Unmet expectations. Then, into heartache comes the searching question, “Is this because of something I have done?” It is often an honest question. After all, if God is trying to get our attention then we don’t want to miss it, right? How should we view the trial and troubles of life?
Suffering is Complicated.
Here’s the answer: It’s complicated. We often don’t know if suffering is due to a specific sin. I say “often” because there are occasions when we do know that situations in our life are connected to our sin due to the convicting power of the Holy Spirit. But, in most cases, it can be hard to filter through what is due to our sin, the sin of others, living in a broken world, or a combination of them all. That means we need to be careful here. We don’t want to end up like Job’s friends who wrongly blamed Job for his suffering. So, where does that leave us? While there is a lot that we don’t know about our circumstances, there is a lot that we do know about God, in Christ.
#1 There is No Condemnation, in Christ, only Love.
Firstly, if we have a living trust in Jesus, we can know our suffering is not a form of wrath-filled judgment and condemnation for our sin. Paul tells us, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1) In other words, Jesus bore the full condemnation our sin deserves on the cross. That means there is no additional punishment for our sin, whether past, present, or future. Therefore, we can know that our trials and troubles are not due to God’s condemnation for sin.
Even more, amidst them we can trust his love never wavers, after all, “What shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” This is a good question. Do trials and troubles separate us from the love of Christ? Should we think God loves us less if we are facing difficulty? Paul is emphatic, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Rom. 8:35, 37) We are not meant to measure God’s love by our circumstances, only Jesus (Rom. 5:8). In Jesus, nothing––not even suffering––can separate us from the love of God (Rom. 8:39).
#2 He Uses All Things for Good.
Second, if we have a living trust in Jesus, we can know that God is working all things in our life, even our suffering, for our ultimate good. Paul reminds us, “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good” (Rom 8:28). Similarly, after being sold into slavery by his brothers, wrongly imprisoned for much of his twenties, when all was said and done Joseph could say, “You meant it for evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Gen. 50:20). How could he say that? He discovered that God is at work in ways unseen amidst our trial and trouble. Of course, we don’t know exactly what he is doing, but at the very least he is growing our faith, increasing our love, deepening our grace, expanding our patience, cultivating wisdom, making us more useful for his purposes—in a word, transforming us into who we really are, as we become more like him.
#3 He Will Never Leave You.
Third, if we have a living trust in Jesus, we can also know that He is never going to give up on us and will finish the work He has begun in us. He promises, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). That means we are never alone amidst our trials and troubles. Even more, “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil1:6). This means our trials and troubles are not peripheral to God’s purposes in our lives, but part of them. So, in Christ, when all hope seems lost, it is not. When we’re tired, he is still at work. When we feel abandoned, he is still committed. When we feel alone, he is, in fact, near. We can bank our lives, now and forever, on these profound promises.
#4 He Disciplines Those He Loves.
Fourth, if we have a living trust in Jesus, we can know that He is aiming to get our attention—probably in relation to our self-reliance. This is why the author of Hebrews exhorts us to see all hardship, trial and trouble as part of God’s loving fatherly discipline (which means training, instruction, and formation) in our lives (Heb. 12:1-11). Whether or not it is connected to our sin, is not the point. The point is that God is purposefully at work, as a loving father, in lives of his children, and though his disciplne “seems painful rather than pleasant…later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:11).
We see this in the life of Paul, in 2 Cor. 1:9, when he says, “We felt that we had received the sentence of death…” Paul was facing a literal death sentence. That’s a big deal. Then, notice how he interprets his perilous predicament. He continues, “But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” Do you see what he is saying? He didn’t jump to interpreting his “sentence of death” as something due to his sin, or even the sin of others, but ultimately as a sovereign means of rooting out self-trust and increasing his trust in “God who raises the dead.” Our self-trust is why we sin. Our self-trust is often why we feel far from God. Our self-trust is typically why we don’t pray. Our self-trust is why we are more impressed with ourselves, and the things of the world, than with God. In other words, self-trust always leads to our harm. So God, in his great love and mercy, is bent on ridding us of it. Often he uses suffering and trial to clear the clutter of our hearts, rip out apathy, and open our eyes to what matters most.
#5 Trials are Tools in His Hands.
Lastly, if we have a living trust in Jesus, we can know that every trial and trouble we face is meant for our transformation, and through that, our deepest joy. Though God is not evil, he is able to use evil for our good. James encourages us to, “Count it all joy…when you meet trials of various kinds.” Now, why would we do that? Consider it joy when we face trials? He’s not encouraging us to take joy in the trials themselves, as there is typically little joy found in them. But, there is joy found in what God can do through them. He continues, “For you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete…” (James 1:2-4). In other words, in Christ, we can count all trials and troubles as joy not because of the trials themselves, but because of whose hands they are in.
He Specializes in Redemptive Surprises.
In summary, we often won’t know if the troubles of life are due to our sin. However, there is a lot that we do know. We know that, in Christ, our trials are not punishment for sin. We know that, in Christ, our trials aren’t accurate measures of God’s love for us. We know that, in Christ, God is with us and will never give up on us. We know that, in Christ, God is able to use our trials for our ultimate good. We know that, in Christ, God uses trials to increase our dependency on him and, ultimately, our joy in him. God is at work in our lives, even amidst trial and trouble, in one thousand unimaginable ways; often in ways we wouldn’t expect, nor want, nor even pray, but always in such ways that tend to his glory and our deepest joy. He specializes redemptive surprises. So, take heart, friends. God is at work—even in the dark.
Next weekend the women of DCC will be heading over the mountains to Suncadia for 24 hours of God-saturated learning, intentional relationship-building, and interactive fun. This will be our first women’s retreat, and though I won’t be there, I couldn’t be more excited about the theme: The Greatness of God. Who we understand God is, and what he is like, shapes everything about us, from how we view ourselves to how we relate to others, from how we handle suffering to how we tackle our sin, from where we find durable joy to where we find rest amidst the crazy. So, don’t get caught thinking that the greatness of God is merely an abstract theological truth. Our souls were made to revel in His greatness and live out of that profound reality. Ladies, that’s what next weekend is all about.
So, in light of that, I am making a last pastoral call to any women who have yet to register. As of today we have 90 women signed-up. That is really encouraging! Our prayerful aim is 120. Let’s say that DCC averages 650 people on Sunday and half are women. That makes roughly 325 women. That means there are still 200+ women who have time to participate in our inaugural retreat. My encouragement to you: register. You will not regret it. We understand that not all of you can make it, but this is for those of you that can. If you’ve waited this long, there are probably some barriers, so let me offer the following encouragements.
#1 The gift of carving out intentional space to learn about God.
Our culture is marked by busyness. Work demands. School demands. Kid demands. Project demands. Schedule demands. 24-hour news. Endless social media feeds. It takes intentionality to slow down for five minutes, let alone an entire day. That makes this retreat a gift. It is a gift to carve out intentional space in your calendar to learn about the greatness of God alongside others seeking to do the same. This kind of intentionality is good for our souls. Don’t miss out on this gift.
#2 The gift of building new relationships.
Or, maybe you just don’t know anyone. It can be intimidating entering into something like this without knowing anyone else. We all get that. But, here’s the thing: that’s what retreats are for! More relational-traction can be gained with a retreat than with a dozen brief Sunday meet-and-greets. A retreat is the perfect place to get to know others. No one is “busy.” You’re all there for the same purpose. So, will this require you to take a step of faith? Yes. Will you be alone? No. Will you forge new relationships with others? For sure. Will it be worth it? No doubt. Embrace this as a gift of building new relationships.
#3 The gift of temporarily getting out of your context.
We all know what a gift it is to pause our normal rhythms for a change of scenery. Our family tries to get out of the city at least once a month. The process to get into the woods can be challenging, but once we’re there I always ask, “Why did I hesitate? This is amazing.” It is a gift to temporarily get out of our context to think, laugh, rest, and reflect—especially when it involves clean mountain air, tall evergreens and a river in your backyard (i.e. Suncadia). Sometimes that’s what it takes to get the fresh perspective we’ve been looking for. Embrace this retreat as a gift to get out of your context for a weekend.
#4 The gift of telling the enemy to take a hike.
For years as a new believer I noticed that all kinds of things came at me when I was presented with an opportunity to go on a retreat: family emergencies, other plans, lack of funds, sudden desire to be alone, etc. Often, I needed someone to come alongside me and say, “You really need to go to this and I’ll do whatever it takes to make that happen.” So, in most cases, I went. I can recall cases where I even regretted it while I was on my way there. But, guess what? Not once did I regret it afterwards. Not once. I’ve come to see that this is a common tactic of the enemy to keep us from opportunities like this that are sure to increase our faith, deepen our joy, and anchor our love in God—and all that he is for us, in Jesus. The enemy doesn’t want that. He wants us at home by ourselves watching Netflix. So, embrace the gift of telling the enemy to take hike. Put aside doubts. Change plans. Get your shift covered. Take a step of faith. You won’t regret it.
Ladies, you’re going to have a great time. All that said, here are the details:
Over the last two Sundays (1/15 & 1/22) we spent time considering Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:13-16, where he uses the images of salt and light to describe how his people are to influence the world together. Jesus’ point is that genuine faith in him is never purely private, but shapes and informs every part of our lives, from the inside out, in ways big and small. We all have a role in this. Together we are meant to serve as a living, dynamic, salty city, within our city, as a beacon of hope and help. This post is intended to follow-up on some of the themes that emerged over the last two weeks. This is particularly aimed at those of you who are new to DCC or have not yet connected to the life of our church.
How do we serve as a salty city set on a hill?
There are five main means by which we aim to be salt and light in our city. If you have additional questions, be sure to check our Fifth Year Prospectus in which we lay out who we are, what we believe, what we want to be known for, and more. I also recommend taking a moment to watch our Five Year Birthday video. Lastly, if you want to learn on-the-go you can download our app in which you can access sermons, blog posts, event information, and more.
#1 Making disciples
The biggest need for every person in our city is to be forgiven and brought into a vital relationship with the living God, in Jesus. That happens as the good news of Jesus is shared by us with not-yet-believers whom God has sovereignly placed around us. Practically, this means that we must continue to grow as a grace-saturated evangelistic people. However, the goal is not merely to know Jesus but to grow in him. (See Colossians 1:28-29) Taking these together, we define discipleship as the process of knowing and growing in Jesus. You might ask, “So, how do I grow with DCC?”
We gather as a church on Sunday and then scatter throughout the week into smaller communities, which we call Cornerstone Communities. The best way to meet people and build real friendships in Downtown Cornerstone is to join a Cornerstone Community. Regular, life-on-life, relationships with other followers of Jesus around the Bible and prayer is crucial to our ongoing growth. Forming smaller communities around the city helps us to learn how to be family together, how to love others who are different than us, and how to mentor others and be mentored by others. It is a tremendous gift to live life with others who are seeking to follow Jesus with you. We know that not everyone will be able to participate in every season, as each life-stage is filled with its own unique challenges, but we encourage you to give it a shot. We currently have 19 communities with a great need for more. To request more information about our communities, email us at .
#3 Engaging culture
There is no sacred-secular divide. This is God’s world – all of it. As Abraham Kuyper once famously noted, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!” We agree. This means that Jesus’ people need to prayerfully and thoughtfully consider how to engage the culture in ways that highlight this reality. We need to ask, “How does the unchanging gospel speak to the ever-changing culture?” An important aspect to this is equipping Jesus’ people in the integration of faith at work, within the creative arts, and the civic realm. This is an area that we still have quite a bit of work to do. Let us know if you’re interested.
#4 Sacrificially serving
We want to build a great city, not just a great church, through justice, mercy, and relevant partnerships. We aim to be a people who faithfully declare the gospel and display its implications in our context. Jesus said that he “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45) In other words, we serve because we have been served by him. His perfect life and sacrificial death on the cross, for us, should increasingly shape us as a sacrificial, servant-hearted people. As such, Jesus is both our model and motivation for service. This service can happen informally as we serve a neighbor changing a flat tire, or serving with the church, or serving through city-partnerships. You can learn more about opportunities to serve within DCC here. We’ll be rolling out more information about city-level involvement in the year ahead.
#5 Planting churches
We believe one of primary ways that the gospel spreads, and God’s kingdom advances, is through the planting of gospel-centered, Jesus-loving, Bible-teaching churches. We want everyone in our city, and the cities of the world, to know the incomparable news of Jesus. So, from beginning our goal was not just to plant this church, but through this church, plant many churches. To that end, we invest 10% of all giving received into church planting efforts. Together we have given literally hundreds of thousands of dollars to the planting of churches around the world. Second, we just hired our first, of what we hope is many, church planting resident whom we aim to invest in over a period of time and then send out to plant. Lastly, we also view ourselves as a teaching hospital. I previously wrote more about this here. If we’re going to be intentional about raising up pastors and church planters, we must be intentional about giving qualified men opportunities to preach.
We are just getting started
All that said we are on the verge of turning six years old in April. We are literally just getting started. There is so much left to be done. There are so many opportunities to serve. There are so many people that have never heard, let alone understood, the gospel. There are so many people in need of personal discipleship, counseling, and community. There are classes to be taught, ministries to be built, and leaders to be developed. The great news is that this is our work. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 12:7 that each one of Jesus’ people are gifted by the Spirit “for the common good”. That means God intends for us to do this together. None of us can (or should) do everything, but all of us can do something.
Will you join us?
Is Jesus calling you to get involved? Whether you’re an empty-nester, or a stay-at-home mom, or a college student, or a CEO, or a temporary Seattlite I want to invite you to get meaningfully connected to the life of DCC. Friends, there is something at stake in our lives. Who knows what God may do in and through us, as we partner together in this city, in our generation. Let’s pray that he makes us a salty city on a hill, for his glory, and the good of as many people as possible.
“How can you know anything for certain?” Have you ever been asked that or perhaps even wondered it yourself, particularly in connection with spiritual truth?
On July 3rd, we will launch a twelve-week journey through the book of 1 John. Though it is a short letter (just five chapters), the Spirit of God has packed it full of Gospel-centered, truth-establishing, righteousness-inducing, love-living-out words!
The Apostle John wrote to churches in crisis when he penned this letter. False teachers were causing the young church to wrestle through some very important issues: Who exactly is Jesus Christ? Can I have confidence that I am a follower of Jesus, a child of God? Do I really need to pursue holiness in my day-to-day life? What impact does God’s love for me have on how I love other people in the church?
In the midst of this fog and confusion, John writes to correct false teaching, not by point-by-point arguments, but instead by clearly and passionately presenting the truth of the Gospel and its implications for living.
Our prayer is that Jesus would use this book to stir our affections for Him, invite us into deeper levels of trust in Him, and move us to align our lives around Him. Additionally, let’s be praying for the men who are already prayerfully preparing to serve you well. One of our hopes and prayers as a church is to become a teaching hospital in order to train, develop, and equip future pastors and church planters.
If you’ve been running with us for some length of time, you’ve probably noticed that we often incorporate a form of confession into our Sunday gatherings. That confession can take the form of a prayer, a period of silence, or even a song. We do this regularly to highlight the fact that our faith is a living faith and our battle against sin is an active, daily battle.
In light of the season of Lent (read more HERE), we wanted to give a little more weight and emphasis to this element of our services, and specifically bring a corporate, collective nature to our confessions. Reading the words of a thoughtful, Christ-centered confession together in unison is a very unique and rich expression of our gospel identity as a people.
But for many of us, confessing our sins together can feel strange, uncomfortable, and clunky. The thought and practice of confessing our sins personally with God can be scary enough right? Why add another layer of complexity, awkwardness, and public acknowledgement of our sin when we already struggle to confess our sins privately? I’d like to answer that question, but first we should look at where we get the idea of corporate confession in the first place.
Corporate Confession in the Bible
The first question we should be asking is whether corporate confession is merely a liturgical practice or if there a biblical premise for confessing our sins together? I would submit to us that corporate confession comes first from our biblical heritage before any other church tradition:
Leviticus 16– An entire day – the Day of Atonement – was set aside yearly for corporate confession among the people of God.
Nehemiah 9:3 – Upon returning from the exile to Assyria, Nehemiah led the people of Israel as they corporately “made confession and worshipped the LORD their God.”
Ezra 9-10 – In a time of widespread revival and reawakening to the Word of God, Ezra led the people in weeping, trembling, and confessing their sin together “before the house of God.”
Psalms – the psalms include numerous prayers and songs of confession, intended for use in the corporate worship of Israel. (e.g. Ps. 51:1 “Have mercy on me of God, according to your loving kindness; according to the multitude of your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions.”)
Lamentations– the entire book of Lamentations is a corporate confession of Israel’s sin and national mourning over the consequences of that sin (e.g. Lam. 3:40 “Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the LORD!”)
James 5:6 – we are invited as the church to “confess [our] sins to one another and prayer for one another”
Revelation 2:5 – the church of Ephesus is admonished by Jesus to corporately “remember” and confess where they have gone astray and to corporately return to their “first love”.
As we see from these passages, biblical confession is often more than a private encounter with God in our own hearts.There is something unique that comes from experiencing confession together, that God has designed to be formative and restorative for us as His people. So why is corporate confession a vital part of God’s means of grace to us? I think there are a number of reasons, but I’ll suggest just a few here:
#1 Corporate confession helps us see our sin for what it truly is.
The reality of sin is that we oftentimes don’t see it for how dark it is, until we bring it into the light. We don’t realize how deeply it has ingrained itself in us. We don’t see how pervasive it is in our actions, words, thoughts, and affections. The beauty of corporate confession is that it provides an opportunity to speak of our sin, exposing it to the light as Paul speaks of (Eph. 5:11-13). When done rightly corporate confession can help us identify species of sin that we otherwise wouldn’t have seen. And God uses these prayers to awaken us, renew us, and give us eyes to see the ugliness of our sin and the beauty of His grace. Corporate confession is meant to lead us to Jesus.
#2 Corporate confession give us words when we have none.
You may feel the same way – sometimes it’s hard to know what to say when we’re confessing our sins. We see the selfishness, we see the pride, we see the greed, anger, lust, and self-righteousness, but we lack the words to articulate how much we want to detest and turn from that sin, as well as humbly ask for true repentance. Corporate confession gives us language – biblical, thoughtful, meaningful words – to express our sorrow and grief over our sin as well as our true and unshakeable hope in the gospel.
#3 Corporate confession reminds us that we are not alone in our need of grace.
This is a beautiful reality and unique benefit of being a member of the body of Christ. We are all humbled at the cross, every one. As we confess our sin together, we see quickly that we are not alone in our struggle against sin (1 Cor. 10:13). We see that we are as much in need of grace as everyone else around us. And we see that the same Savior has died and risen for all of us. Corporate confession gives us the permission to own our sin with each other, lean into his grace together, and walk out our growth and sanctification in a community marked by mercy and hope.
#4 Corporate confession exhibits the unity that we have “in Christ.”
To be “in Christ” is to be joint recipients of all the benefits that come from trusting the gospel of grace and the God of grace. By joining in one voice together to acknowledge our need and embrace his provision, we collectively magnify the One who has united us together through his blood, that is Jesus (Eph 2:11-14)! Corporate confession is a living, dynamic parable and apologetic for the gospel as we embrace our corporate identities together as those “in Christ” and invite everyone everywhere to the same hope in the gospel.
Hopefully you can see that there is much more going on when we confess our sin together, than may first meet the eye. It’s not just a private, isolated encounter with our need for grace. That is by God’s design. He wants us to experience redemption not just individually but as communities of faith together. It’s as we acknowledge our need for grace together that we experience our unity in Christ and we give testimony to the watching world that the gospel is enough, even for us. Jesus gets all the glory in that.
May Jesus give us the courage and grace to be a people who can regularly acknowledge the depths of our sin and the corresponding heights of his grace! The gospel is truly astonishing! His grace is sufficient for me. And His grace is sufficient for you. Let’s remind each other of that often as we gather. Love you all.