John 13:35- “By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another”
This week I’m reading the new book written by Keith and Kristyn Getty, “Sing.” I was glad to read much of what they are writing about are things that I have also been writing about. Chapter six is especially germane to the last few blog posts I’ve written about the importance of community in the local church. The Gettys state that all of us, even late teens and twenty-year olds, are searching for community, creativity, and communication in our churches.
Creativity means that excellence is more important than trying to emulate someone else’s musical style. Never underestimate the power of simplicity and authenticity in your music so you have the ability to “think outside the box” creatively. By trying to simply copy another church’s platform, you rob yourself from being the church God has called you to be, with the talents, gifts, and graces of the people in your flock. For example, I like Mexican food…very much so. Most of the people closest to me are aware that I could pretty much eat it every day. There is a great casual dining restaurant in our area that is “like” a Moe’s or Chipotle, but they offer limited variety of options—but do it (in my humble opinion) better than anyone else in our area. They are always busy—always. Their approach is fresh and affordable, no frills, do fewer things really well….and they do. I liken this to the approach that we at Ivy Creek take in our approach to most everything we do. We realize we shouldn’t be “better” than some churches in our area at certain things, so we have identified what we do really well (perhaps I’m partial–but better than many of our sister churches) and we do that creatively with the talents of in our church. This approach to being authentic, creative in fewer things, and intergenerational in our approach, allow us to focus on making all generations feel valued and welcome.
Communication is also important. We aim to communicate truth by being biblically-centered and gospel-rich. Our pastor preaches expositionally so you are not generally getting his personal opinions or platitudes on issues, but biblical instruction. Our music is also theologically-rich, gospel centered, musically interesting, and able to be done with excellence. This “meat” is what all ages can chew on throughout life. Our songs of faith should be rich with what I call “lasting” songs. That’s primarily one of the reasons why I almost never teach a brand new song until I see that it has “lasting” power.
Community is very important for us as well. Certainly we work hard to integrate our church and have opportunities to interrelate, but we also work hard on reaching our community. We sponsor a Good News Bible Club at one of our local elementary schools; we have on campus major events where we have hundreds and hundreds of visitors come to hear the gospel. We do nursing home ministry, Good News at Noon, prison ministry, and the list goes on. We have community IN and OUT of our church. This is important for many reasons, but especially as you consider the research that suggests that young people really are “cause” driven and care about social issues. Without investment in our communities, there will be less engagement among the various generations in your church.
In closing, I couldn’t help but think about this great contemporary choral anthem that our choir and orchestra learned several years ago by Christy Nockels, “By Our Love.” The text describes perfectly what our mission and goal is at Ivy Creek. If we are going to be a community that leaves a legacy of faith (long after we’re gone), we’ve got to be reaching in, yes, but also out into our community, demonstrating the love of Christ in tangible ways.
“By Our Love”
Walking in the Spirit, there’s much to be done
We will come reaching, out from our comforts
And they will know us by our loveSisters, we were made for kindness
We can pierce the darkness as He shines through us
We will come reaching, with a song of healing
And they will know us by our love!
Children, You are hope for justice,
Stand firm in the Truth now, set your hearts above
You will be reaching, long after we’re gone,
And they will know you by your love!
The time is now
Come Church arise
Love with His hands
See with His eyes
Bind it around you,
Let it never leave you,
And they will know us by our love