This past Sunday marked 5 years of my family and me being at New Harvest Church. Time flies, truly.
For the better part of this summer I’ve thought about what I’d like to say to in some ways commemorate the 5 years of calling Salem and New Harvest home. In many ways I was asking God and myself the question, “what kind of church does God want New Harvest to be?” As the summer wore on I kept coming back to the phrase “love your neighbor as yourself,” which is first recorded in Leviticus 19.
In his book Center Church, Tim Keller says there are 4 types of churches that exist within the city:
- Church against the city: known for being against what is happening around it.
- Church in the city: known for merely existing within the city, otherwise separate from it.
- Church of the city: known for looking like and operating no different than the city around it.
- Church for the city: known for supporting the flourishing of the city.
I want my church and yours to be a church for the city, where we partner with the city for its flourishing as a sign of God’s inbreaking kingdom.
What might this look like for individual followers of Jesus? Here’s a simple diagram I put together to describe it:
It really begins on the bottom left, with God and what he’s done for us despite none of us being worthy of his kindness. As we take that in and as he continues to work in us we’re pushed and inspired by Him to love God back, but this doesn’t stop there, we naturally flow toward loving our family, and in the Bible family is not just the nuclear family. Remember Jesus asking the rhetorical questions: who is my mother? who is my brother? His point is that in Christ we have a whole new family, the body of Christ, comprised of local gathering congregations. So love of God pushes us to love our family, like our church and the people who live with us on a daily basis.
And from there we also continue moving beyond ourselves to love your neighbor. This could be the person across the hallway from us, it could be one door down or further down the street or on the other side of the world. Neighbor in a biblical sense is just a way of describing a person beyond yourself.
After moving out into the world we recognize our need for God. Engaging the world by loving your neighbor is so hard, and so difficult to do well without failing over and over again. So we’re pushed back to God because we need His help.
In this we see a paradigm where we’re constantly engaging and withdrawing. This back and forth is something we should be doing daily as individuals and in smaller groups and conversations and weekly as a local church body. We can’t thrive without that kind of withdrawal and engagement, we’re designed by God for both.
We need intentional withdrawal to spend time in worship, prayer, study, and meditation on God’s Word, time of devotion to Him. This naturally pushes out toward engagement in loving others, which pushes us to withdraw again.
I want to be at a church that exists for the city it calls home, to the glory of God—a church where we announce the kingdom of God in the public square, pointing out all the signs of God’s inbreaking kingdom. Do you want to be at a church like that? I pray it will be so.
You can listen to my message on this subject down below (click here email readers).