“Becoming Fully Devoted Followers of Christ” – Core Value # 5 of Orchard Community Church

Babies sure are cute, but they need people to feed them, change them, comfort them, and clothe them.  These things are all part of being a baby…but what if they are still true when the baby becomes a teenager or an adult?  A baby drinking from a bottle is cute and normal… an adult drinking from a baby bottle is not so much.

We know this to be true for physical growth, yet for some reason we don’t have the same expectation for spiritual growth.  We understand that new believers will need someone to help them grow by helping them to read the bible and pray.  We know that they will need “feeding” through topical studies that relate directly to their immediate needs.  Yet for some reason we have no problem when someone has been a Christian for 10 or 20 years (or even more) and they still are not growing on their own.

At Orchard Community Church, we believe that it is the goal of every Christian to become “Fully Devoted Followers of Christ.”  This is not reserved for the super spiritual or the people who just have way too much time on their hands.  It is God’s will that every believer in Jesus grows and matures.  Here is the explanation of core value #5, “Becoming Fully Devoted Followers of Christ”:

We see discipleship as a lifelong commitment to follow Jesus as we increasingly strive to learn from and obey Him, abide in Him, and sacrifice for His sake and for the sake of the Gospel. We will live out our lives and give our resources to Christ for the expansion of His Kingdom. (Luke 9:23-27; John 15:5-8; Colossians 2:6-7)

Sometimes churches are partially to blame for immature Christ followers.  When a church continues to spoon feed the people and does not lovingly encourage and equip them to feed themselves then growth is stunted.  In an effort to attract people and keep them happy, too often churches can inadvertently allow or even encourage people to remain immature in their relationship with Christ.  We don’t want this to be true of Orchard Community Church!

Colossians 2:6-7 is sort of my “life verse.”  It reads, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”  The more we grow and mature as believers in Christ, the more we are able to bring glory to God in everything we do.

Becoming fully devoted followers of Christ means that as we grow, we increasingly yield more and more of our life to God’s will and seek to be obedient to Him.  Sometimes well meaning Christians debate about how much you have to obey Christ in order to be a Christian.  To me, this question is looking in the wrong direction.  God has set before us the goal of being like Christ in our attitude and actions.  He has offered us abundant, eternal life through Christ’s death and resurrection.  He has called us to live in relationship with Him for His glory and our good.  Why would we sit around debating what we can do instead of focusing on what we get to do.  We have the incredible privilege of living for the glory of God.  We get to see the incredible faithfulness of God as we live in obedience to Him.  We get to see God work in and through us as we increasingly yield to His will.  We get to know more about the God who made us and loves us enough to send His Son to die for us on the cross.  Why would we ever want to stop and discuss whether we have come far enough when there is so much more that God has for us?

Sometimes it is tempting to look at a baby and think, “can’t they just stay like that forever,” but we don’t really mean that.  We don’t really want to make bottles and change diapers for the rest of this person’s life!  We aren’t born to remain children.  We are born to grow and mature.  We aren’t born again to remain spiritual infants.  We are born again to become fully devoted followers of Christ.


picture is of my daughter a few days after her birth and I believe I took it – though it could have been my wife.

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“Grace-Driven Transformation” – Core Value #4 of Orchard Community Church


Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.  (Philippians 2:12-13)

Are we there yet?  It is the question every parent dreads on a long road trip.  It usually starts about 10 minutes into the trip and doesn’t stop until you arrive at your destination.  It’s tough being a kid and waiting to get somewhere.  In fact, it’s tough being an adult and waiting to get somewhere in our lives.  We can wonder when we will “arrive” at the spiritual maturity we see taught in scripture and we think we see in others around us.

Core Value #4 of Orchard Community Church is a strong belief in “Grace-Driven Transformation.”  Here is the full description:

We are passionate about the Gospel’s power to bring about long-lasting transformation into the image of Christ. Our gratefulness for God’s saving grace through Christ positions and motivates us to eagerly and intentionally cooperate with the Holy Spirit and access the empowering grace of God in a life-long process of being made more like Jesus. (Philippians 1:6; Titus 2: 11-14; 2 Peter 3:18)

The call to follow Christ involves being transformed.  Change is not optional in the Christian life.  It is the necessary effect of the gospel in our lives.  But it is God who brings about this change.  Philippians 2:12-13 says that we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, but then it goes on to say that “it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”  This is the essence of Grace-Driven transformation – we are working (or living) out what God is doing in us.  It is His grace at work in our lives changing us to who He created us to be.

We believe in the power of God to change lives.  We are also very careful to not try to substitute our own power or methods to try to change each other.  A call to be changed by God’s grace can easily slip into beating each other up.  Believing in Grace-Driven Transformation as a core value means that we trust that God is at work and that it is our work as a church to look to and point others to Him through the power of the gospel so that He can change us.

If you are reading this and struggling with asking God “are we there yet” – wondering when you will be the person you should – know that God is already at work in your life.  If you have accepted Christ as your savior then God has promised that He has put His Spirit in your life and is changing you from the inside out.  This is why the list of Christian qualities is called the “Fruit of the Spirit” – it isn’t the fruit of our labor, it is the fruit of God’s work in us.  Trust what God is doing in your life.  When we beat ourselves up we tend to stay away from the means that God uses in our lives to transform us – gathering with believers, God’s Word, and prayer.  Yet when we trust in God’s work in our lives we will run to the ways where He is working.  We will be encouraged by the truth of God’s grace at work in our lives.

We, the people of Orchard Community Church, trust in God’s Grace-Driven Transformation at work in each believers life.  It is God’s job to change people.  It is our job to point them to the grace of the gospel that can bring about that change.


photo by Flickr user melissaemmons

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“Dependent on God” – Core Value #2 of Orchard Community Church

So it finally happened.  After about 6 weeks of writing 5 times a week, I missed a day.  Yesterday I took some time off to go to a movie with my wife because I have been working a lot of evenings.  After the movie I looked at my phone and saw several missed calls from both my mom and my brother.  Immediately I knew something had happened with my dad.  The rest of the day was taken up with phone calls back and forth and trying to look at the ever changing options for air fares.  Fortunately, today I can say that my dad is doing great.  We’re still not sure exactly what happened, but a lot of the really bad possibilities have been ruled out so that is a very good thing.

So that’s my excuse – it was a pretty crazy day yesterday!

I have been using Wednesdays to write about “The Church and the Word” and have mostly been writing about the Mission Statement and Core Values of Orchard Community Church were I serve as the Senior Pastor.  This incident actually helps me do something that I’ve been thinking about anyway.  I am going to start writing these posts on Thursdays.  Every week the church sends out an email about what’s going on at the church and I include a link to my post from Wednesdays.  If the email goes out on Thursdays, it makes more sense to have it link to the post from that day.  You probably don’t care about my daily blog post schedule, but just in case, there’s the explanation.

Core Value #2 of Orchard Community Church is that we are “Dependent on God.”  Here is the longer explanation:

We are committed to daily intimate fellowship with God. Through steadfast prayer, we glorify God by honoring His name, seeking His kingdom, and submitting to His will. It is our individual and corporate responsibility to ensure that all aspects of life, ministry and fellowship are preceded, undergirded, and empowered by prayer. We believe that nothing of lasting eternal value will happen apart from dependent and faith-driven prayer. (Luke 11: 1-12; Ephesians 3:20-21; Colossians 4:2)

Earlier in the week I wrote about the fact that God is always present with us.  Because of God’s gracious presence, we can depend upon Him for everything.  So what does this look like?  How do we do this?

I love the phrase, “It is our individual and corporate responsibility to ensure that all aspects of life, ministry and fellowship are preceded, undergirded, and empowered by prayer.”  Prayer is the outward act of a heart that is depending on God.  It is the expression of life that is lived in the recognition that God is present and powerfully at work.

Carving time out daily for prayer is really important.  When we do this, we are declaring that God is most important in our lives.  We are thinking about things in terms of His will and plan rather than just ours.  We are seeking His guidance and direction in everything we do.  Making time to pray is an act of worship that shows that God is not just somewhere on the list of priorities in our life, He is the #1 priority and everything else that has importance in our lives finds its meaning in Him.

But specific time in prayer is just the beginning.  Scripture says to “pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).  What is that about?  God isn’t just present with us when we stop to pray.  He is present always – when your boss calls you and says he needs to meet immediately; when you look at your bank account and can’t figure out how you’re going to make it through the next few months (weeks…days?); when you look at your phone and see a bunch of missed calls from family members and you know someone you love is in trouble.  Since this is true, we can and should pray continually.  As we reach for the phone to make or take that difficult call we can pray.  As we go to work in the morning we can pray.  As we walk into a room we know our kids just trashed, we can pray.  Whatever we are doing, whatever we are going through, we can pray to God and ask that we can follow Him and display His glory in that situation.

Did you know that a group of people spends time in prayer before every worship service at Orchard?  Why do you think this happens?  Why do you think we post a list of daily Scripture readings on the back of the weekly sermon notes?  Why do you think I write these posts each week?  Why do we even have a Mission Statement and list of Core Values at all?  It’s because we are completely and totally dependent on God and we will do anything and everything to remind ourselves of this and to live this out as a church and as individuals.  Since we do what we do for God, not us, we must depend on Him for everything so that He gets the glory and we get to grow and learn more about Him.

photo by Flickr user Giampaolo Squarcina

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“Passionately God-Centered” – Core Value #1 of Orchard Community Church

Last Wednesday I introduced the importance of the Core Values for Orchard Community Church saying they were like “Guard Rails” that keep us on track on our mission.

The first Core Value of Orchard Community Church is to be “Passionately God-Centered” which is further explained:

We are passionate about putting God at the center of everything we do as a church and as individuals. We strive to draw attention to the greatness of God and to glorify Him in what we do, say, think and plan. We will be bold in declaring our love for God, giving thanks for His many blessings and making known and remembering what He has done. (1 Chronicles 16: 8-12, 23-26; Psalm 115:1; 1 Corinthians 10:31)

The idea of “putting God at the center” might be best understood as keeping God at the center.  He IS the center, the focus, the purpose, the reason for, and the ultimate goal of our lives and our church.  To say that we want to put him in the center is to admit that we often put something else in His place and we are seeking to give Him his rightful place back in everything we do.

Keeping God first may seem like a no-brainer for a church, but it is actually very easy to mess this up.  It is so easy to put people first instead of God.  Putting people first seems like such a good thing.  We want to help people.  We want them to be loved.  We want them to hear and accept the gospel through any means possible.  We think that when we put people first we are helping them, but we are leaving unchallenged the main idol of our day – ourselves.  We are a poor substitute for God’s glory and grace.  Our culture teaches people to live their lives focused on themselves.  The Church must teach people to take their focus off of themselves and place it squarely on God.

Have you ever seen someone on a street pointing up?  What do you do as you walk by?  You look where they are pointing!  This is the importance of being God-centered as a church.  It means that when people look at us they will see that we are pointing to Someone beyond ourselves – we are pointing to the Almighty God who sent His Son to die on the cross to save us from our sins.

This means that our ultimate goal is to display the glory of God in everything we do and that we will do this in God’s way, not ours.  Jesus said that the “first and greatest commandment” is to “Love God” and the 2nd greatest is to “love others” (Matthew 22:37-39).  The order is absolutely crucial because the truth is that when we do not keep God first in everything we do we will always love people less than we should.

As a church, we will be “Passionately God-Centered”.  This is the first, and most important Core Value of Orchard Community Church.

photo by Flickr user dziner

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