Today we are on the second week of our conversation focused on the Corner Church Ethos. Last week we started off with a conversation on why we plant churches, and the focus was on the parable of a relational dinner and Paul’s observation that the church functions as a body with many essential parts.
Why do we plant? Not to expand an organization; not to bring focus on any individual; and not to perpetuate what is happening in one specific location or community. We plant because we are all an important part of the body of Christ, of the Church. We multiply to allow the “parts” of each community to thrive.
As Paul processed in Ephesians 2, connection and right relationship with God are not dependent on what we do. It is through the grace we find in relationship with Jesus. That is a loaded phrase. But while we are not connected to God by what we do, God has created each of us for a purpose that He has prepared in advance for us:
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)
Let’s bring this together with Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12. Paul in Romans 12 speaks so directly to our synergistic relationship with each other and calls for selfless investment in the whole in order to make us all complete:
For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. (Romans 12:4-5)
We plant to embody this. Not to elevate one or a few, but to elevate all. We are all important parts to this call and mission. We are all part of God’s plan–the plan that He has been “waiting forever” for.
Today we are walking towards what we believe.
As I put on the screen last week, for over 16 years we have been trying to walk out some things: Follow Jesus. Focus on Scripture. Value everyone's story. Build real relationships. Seek spiritual reality. Encourage everyone to take personal ownership of faith, church and community. See that we are better together. And do this again and again so that people can have an opportunity to walk to church.
As we dig into the Corner Church ethos, this is not a moment of declaration that we have done it perfectly or figured everything out or have all the answers. It is not a declaration that we are doing better than ever. It is a declaration that we do have a target, and we all get to be a part of walking it out.
In this series we are not going to be so presumptions as to just let our ethos be simple declarations. Each week is going to be an invitation into processing our ethos–processing who we are. You will be invited to feel the tension each week, both in its abstractness and in its not being completed.
This could be a moment of asking, “Why don’t you just tell me who we are?” There is value in the information, but it pales in comparison to the processing.
Life, faith, relationship with God–all are so much more than answers. If it were all about answers, Biblical text would be so much different. It really is about process. Scripture is a window into process–a process that we are invited into as well.
Today as we talk about what we believe, this isn’t going to be a massive spreadsheet of beliefs but rather a deep dive into the complexity of what belief is and then a step of processing out what that means for us as a community.
First, on a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 is tending to not believe things and 10 is tending to believe everything, decide where you fall.
Choose where you think you are in the spectrum from believing nothing to believing everything.
Now that you have chosen your number, why did you pick that specific belief number? This isn’t about what you believe but why. How did you get there?
Why did you circle that specific belief number?
Why do you believe things in the way that you do?
Now we are going to take another step into the complexity of what belief is. Take a look at this four-quadrant chart:
Feel these four quadrants:
- It is possible to know a lot about something, yet not believe any of it
- It is possible to believe something wholeheartedly, but not really know much about it
- It is possible to not know anything about a topic or thing and have no belief surrounding it
- It is possible to know lots and believe lots
To get our minds rolling a little, I am going to give you 6 words, all words that you have some degree of knowledge and belief in or lack of knowledge and lack of belief in. I want you to write each word where it falls for you on this four-quadrant graph. We are not going to grade these. We are not going to trade or dissect each other’s. But this will help us in understanding the complexities that we are about to run into.
Write these words where they fall for you on this four-quadrant graph: Santa. Rest. Exercise. Democracy. Generosity. Jesus.
Hold onto that while we look at an interaction that Jesus had in Mark 9 with a man who has a sick son.
When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him. “What are you arguing with them about?” he asked. A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.” “You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.” So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?” “From childhood,” he answered. “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” (Mark 9:14-25)
The dad looks into the eyes of Jesus, and I think we see a moment of raw honesty: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” With this four-quadrant graph in front of you, with the words that you plotted on it, process this:
Where do you think this dad was on the graph?
What was he asking Jesus to do?
We love belief. We love moments when people take a leap of faith. There is something attractive or engaging that makes it have some deep entertainment value. It is a constant theme in books and movies. Here’s another question to build foundation as we walk into what we believe:
Why is belief that leads to action a common element in intriguing stories?
Belief or believing is an overwhelming theme in scripture.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:16-18)
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” (Romans 10:9-11)
(Before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead) Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” (John 11:40)
By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:5-6)
Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. (Mark 11:24)
As we’re talking about knowing and belief and action, adding the element or environment of faith can be confusing. How does it all fit together? It can be easy to read these concepts and not know how they affect life, or feel apathetic, or whatever. But we can imagine that these writers and their audiences weren’t just seeing these things as concepts but as things that actually impacted their day-to-day life. I am going to invite you to discuss this with your table for a moment.
How does faith impact the spectrum of knowing, belief, and action?
Wow. We have just spent 90% of our time building and processing the complexity of belief. But what do we believe? Well, I could list so many things. As we were writing our Ethos document a few years ago, this portion was getting longer and longer and longer and longer. And then we were reminded of the complexities of belief and knowing. This nudged us to a great theological principle: good theology will generally be something that has been embraced by many for an extended period of time. This is where we walked towards the creeds.
The Apostles’ Creed
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
We are going to end with a processing question. I hope you have felt in our conversation today that growing, focusing, and refining belief can’t be a passive process. I hope you have felt that scolding, guilting, or obligating belief is ineffective (and maybe even mean). I hope you have felt that belief is not a one-and-done process, but a life process of growing, moving and changing reality. I hope you have felt that being honest about where you are is vulnerable and risky, but worth it. You are not the only one dealing with the complexity of belief. I hope you have felt that processing belief together is incredibly helpful.
This all leads us to our last question today:
What are some active steps for you to help grow, refine, focus, develop, move… your belief(s)?
Take It Deeper Questions
- Read the Apostles’ Creed (Google search for it)
- What are some things that you believed as a child that you no longer believe?
- What has to happen for a person’s beliefs to change significantly? To become rigid and unchanging?
- How have your beliefs changed in the last 2 years? 5 years? 10 years?
- What stands out to you as you read the Apostles’ Creed?
- What is the value of simplifying belief?
- What is the value of the complexities of belief?
- How are you challenged, focused, encouraged, or confused by the Apostles’ Creed?
Bible Reading Plan
- Judges 8
- Judges 9
- Judges 10
- Judges 11