Good morning. If you have your Bibles, go ahead and grab those. We’re going to be in Genesis, chapter 1. We’re going to look at four or five verses there, really kind of camp out there, and then from that space, begin to flesh out some implications.
If you’re one of our members and were able to attend our Wednesday meeting, you know this has been a very difficult and heavy week in the life of our church. If you are a guest who has hung out with us for a long period of time (you would identify this as your church home although you aren’t a member), I need to read a statement about the events of the last eight days. It will be heavy, and I know some of you might not understand why we would do this, so I want to create some space for it. Especially for our Fort Worth Campus, I know this will be so disorienting.
“Last week we learned of a sin issue that has required the elders of The Village Church to make a sober and serious decision. Anthony Moore, our Fort Worth Campus pastor, has committed grievous, immoral actions against another adult member to disqualify him as an elder and staff member based on the biblical text in 1 Timothy and Titus, chapter 1. He has been removed from his role as a campus pastor and as a Village elder due to these actions.
Anthony acknowledged his sin when meeting with the Fort Worth elders and the three lead pastors of The Village Church, and we want to make it abundantly clear that we believe he is unfit for ministry at this time, including speaking engagements at conferences or other churches. Our hope and desire is for him to walk in faithfulness and repentance. We believe he is in need of deep healing and strong counseling for an extended period of time.
We do not plan on sharing any additional details about the nature of this sin issue at this time, although we completely understand the desire to know more. We believe we have a duty to protect the person who was directly sinned against in this situation, as well as Anthony’s family. As with all members and staff, we value the confidential nature of specific sin shared with us in many situations and want to demonstrate our responsibility to steward that information.
An elder gives up some of that privacy when they step into such a public role, but we believe sharing anything more than what we have is not helpful to anyone, especially the person directly sinned against in this situation. We are committed to caring for all involved, including Anthony and those hurt by his sin, the person directly affected, Anthony’s family, and the people of The Village Church.
We are charged with ministering to the brokenhearted and giving the grace of Jesus that he has given to each of us. There are serious and difficult consequences involved, but we will do everything we can to walk with every person wounded by this sin, not just now but in the months to come. This difficult news means the Fort Worth Campus transition will not happen at this time or in the foreseeable future.
The Lord has shown his grace in providing a group of local elders who are leading well in Fort Worth. They will be joined by the staff and elders of the other campuses of The Village Church in guiding and shepherding the future of that campus. We pray that in this situation, we will all see a sober reminder for all of us to confess our sins to each other and to our Holy God.
Sin is always crouching at our door, looking to destroy and devour. But thanks be to God for his grace that heals and saves. In Isaiah 6, we read that although King Uzziah had died (King Uzziah had been reigning for 60 years), the Lord was still on his throne high and lifted up, with the seraphim saying of him, ’Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!’
Our great, mighty, and holy King is still on his throne. He is not surprised or shaken. He is near to the brokenhearted and faithful to redeem. Please pray with us that we will keep that hope ever before us as we seek to heal. Please be in prayer for the Fort Worth Campus, the Moore family, and the member directly hurt by this.”
Now I just want us to sit in this for a second. Fort Worth, I know this is especially difficult and painful for you guys. I just wanted to say from me and from our elders that we are heartbroken and as ferociously committed to you as we have ever been. We are hopeful that the story we’ve seen played out in this space, in your space there, in that sanctuary of seeing things that were broken be put back together by the beauty of the gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit we’ll see yet again in this situation.
What I want us to do is spend some time praying together as a family across all of our campuses. Fort Worth will drop off the stream in just a moment or two. I want us to spend some time praying. Here’s what I want us to pray for. First, I want us to pray for Anthony and his family. The kind of deep parts of us that need to be healed, those deep parts that kind of drive compulsion, all of us need the Spirit of God to do work at that level. Anthony is in desperate need of that in this time.
I also want us to pray for the victim here, and then I want us to pray for the Fort Worth Campus. I want us to pray that the peace of Christ would rest and be in that place in a really supernatural way. Here’s how we do that here. We tend to just kind of huddle up with who you came with. If you’re by yourself, you might get engulfed into a group, or you can just put yourself in a group. We’re going to just spend some time praying around those three things.
I’ll say right before we pray, everyone thinks they’re managing and controlling their secret sin until it destroys them. Everyone. In 20 years of pastoral ministry, every kind of explosion like this, whether it’s an elder or whether it’s just a personal individual, has always come when a man or a woman foolishly believes they’re in control of the apex predator that’s deep inside of their soul.
One of the things in the days to come for you to consider is where you might be managing internal darkness and refusing to confess and walk in the light. For this morning, let’s spend some time praying for Anthony Moore and his family, spend some time praying for the victim, and spend some time praying for the Fort Worth Campus. Let’s do that. Let’s pray now together.
Father, we thank you for your mercy and grace. We thank you that in our own lives as Christians, you have taken these broken spaces, these places that may be in our past we are ashamed of or we couldn’t believe we gave ourselves over to. You have healed, and you have reconciled, and you have made things right. We trust you in this situation (in every aspect of this situation) to work for your good pleasure and the joy of all involved. We trust you, and it is for your beautiful name I pray, amen.
Again, if you’re a bit disoriented about what just happened… Maybe you’re a new Christian, or maybe you’re a newer Christian in regard to kind of understanding and you want to know why we would say what we’re saying or why… Man, I want to just invite you to come have a conversation with us afterward. You can do that in Connection Central. There will be men and women up front if you want to process any of this.
We want to walk in the light with you always. We don’t want to hide anything, deal with anything internally without letting you know, “Hey, here’s something that happened. It was a really awful, terrible thing.” God is still God, and we’re going to just trust him to work in this like we ask him to work in all things.
I have, for the last probably five or six days, tried to figure out how to do this, which I knew I was going to need to do, and then transition into preaching a sermon. For all my prayer and for all the time I’ve spent just in my journal trying to figure out how to do it, there is no good way. Here’s what I want us to do. For the next 35 or 40 minutes, I want us to dream, to think about, what it might mean for The Village Church to be known in word and deed as a community of life.
See, we’re in our month of January. We always kind of tackle this subject of the sanctity of human life. The way I wanted to come at it in our time together today is just for us to imagine what it would look like for The Village Church to be known as and to operate as a community of life in the world. Now to think rightly about that, I think I have to point out some things.
In March of 1995, Pope John Paul II coined the phrase “culture of death.” He used this phrase to describe the growing and widespread cultural movements toward normalizing abortion and euthanasia as individual rights rather than moral crimes. In that document, he said choices once unanimously considered criminal and rejected by common moral sins are gradually becoming socially acceptable.
Here was his argument. His argument was that we had this moment of clarity around a couple of issues in human history where we could look back on human history and go, “That was crazy.” We are now drifting back to what we once in a moment of clarity around some singular issues considered absurd.
If I could maybe draw some connections, he is saying we had this moment of clarity around life where we could look back at the Spartans and acknowledge what a phenomenal warrior culture, but the idea of taking a newborn and finding a defect and chucking it off of a cliff was morally reprehensible. Are you tracking with me?
We had this moment of clarity around life that we could look back on bygone cultures and go, “That was morally reprehensible.” Yet the Pope’s argument was we seem to be drifting back toward what, in that moment of clarity, we’ve called morally reprehensible and now we’re making it normative, calling it not morally reprehensible but an individual right.
There are three ways in which you can view humans, right? There are three lenses by which you view humans. There’s a theological lens, there’s a biological lens, and there’s a philosophical lens. Let me try to define these views of humanity. The theological view of humanity is the Judeo-Christian position that considers humans created in the image of God, and that all humans are made in his image.
Then there’s the biological view. The biological view is a materialistic vision of humanity that considers humans nothing more than biological makeup. This is Darwinism. “What we are is biology. That’s it. We’re no more and no less valuable than cows and chickens and goats and sea turtles. We’re just biological beings. That’s what we are. There’s nothing unique about us, save maybe thumbs, but even primates have that.”
Then there’s the philosophical view. The philosophical view is the position that humans are defined by specific traits such as rationality or self-awareness. The lens you wear determines how you view and think about life and humanity. You can’t divorce your beliefs about life from the lens by which you look at human life. There was a sociological study done by… If you kind of know about some of these things, it’s somewhat ironic that the study was actually done at the University of California at Cal-Berkeley. The sociological study took these three views and asked five questions.
Here were their five questions: whether we should intervene in another country to try to stop a genocide, whether anyone should be permitted to buy kidneys from poor people, whether terminally ill individuals should be able to kill themselves to save money, whether or not we should take blood from non-consenting prisoners, and whether we should torture terror suspects. Those were the five questions.
The result of this questionnaire was he found people upholding the biological point of view and the philosophical point of view were less likely to support human rights than those embracing the theological perspective, because of course that has to be true. If all we are is biology, then who cares? If what it means to be human is that I have a certain level of rationality and the ability to contribute, then why is my life worth anything? You should be able to take my blood even if I don’t want to give it to you. I forfeited that right when I sold a nickel bag of weed.
On and on I could go. Your view of humanity affects your belief about life. Here’s what we’re talking about today. What would it look like for us in a culture of death to be a community of life? Well, it would probably be helpful for me to define what I’m talking about there when I’m talking about a community of life. I’ll put it on the screen. A community of life believes and declares. So two things. It believes and declares that God is the author and sustainer of all life from the womb to the tomb.
All right? I’ll read it again. A community of life believes and declares. You don’t just believe and do nothing with it, but you believe and declare God is the author and sustainer of all life from the womb to the tomb. Now let’s look at Genesis, chapter 1, to see theologically where we get this. Then we’re going to look at its implications. Genesis, chapter 1, starting in verse 26. By the way, this is in the midst of the creation narrative, so God has created almost all you and I know to be living and active in the world. Then we see this.
“Then God said, ’Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
And God blessed them. And God said to them, ’Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’”
Now I want to point out a couple of things here as we kind of build our case that this is what a community of life is. The first thing is to notice human beings among all the creative order are different than. Right? God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit are in this conversation, and they say, “Let us make man in our image, like us.” “Male and female he created them.” Human beings are distinct and different than anything else in all of creation.
If I could try to make sense of that a bit, human beings are the only ones who are aware that they are aware. Are you tracking? Human beings are the only ones who are aware that they are aware. I get your dog is awesome. I’m not trying to take that from you. Bootsie is legit. I like our dogs. We have two dogs: Gunner and Gus. They’re Australian Shepherds, brilliant in some very real ways. I have seen them be smarter than some people I’ve experienced, and yet they are not aware that they are aware. They’re not anxious about the afterlife. They are driven by their instinctive impulses.
Now look at me. You have instinctive impulses, don’t you? Let’s have just a real conversation here. How many times do you feel like an insane thought go through your mind, like this insane impulse? Like, “Oh, you want to go 40 mph in the left lane? I’ll just ram the back of your car.” Now what happens? You’re aware that you’re aware, and here’s what you do. “That’s crazy.” You don’t do it. Do you know who would do it? Bootsie (if he could drive a car). Right?
Dogs, horses, cats are driven by instinct, they’re driven by impulse, and you might be able to train them, but that is not moral, spiritual awareness. That is fear and instinct rooted in training. They’re not doing it because they feel guilty. They’re doing it because they don’t want to be kicked or they want a treat. That’s not the same thing as you. You and I alone have spiritual, moral awareness that makes us suppress our instinctual impulses.
It’s a sad thing in our day and age that we’re being told more and more and more that to ignore those impulses makes us less human. No, no, no. To ignore those impulses is exactly what makes us human. We’re not dogs. We’re not animals. We have been made in the image of God. We believe this. We declare this.
It’s not just that we’ve been made in the image of God, but we’ve also... You saw three times in that text the word dominion was used. We’ve been given dominion, so not only are we alone in the creative order, made in the image of God, but then we’re made God’s viceroys. Now maybe you’re not quite sure what viceroy is. I don’t know that we have those in our system of government. If you watch Star Wars, you’ll know what this is. A viceroy is one who exercises the authority of another. They don’t have authority. They’re exercising the authority of another.
When God then creates man and woman in his image, in his image he created them male and female. He created them, and he gave them dominion over the fish, over the birds, and over the creatures on land. He is making them his viceroys. We exercise his authority for the flourishing of the world and of life at every level.
That’s why people who are cruel to animals are out of step with God’s good design. Where human beings embrace God’s call on their life, humanity flourishes. Life flourishes. The environment flourishes. We are viceroys of God. Man, if you’re tempted to make this a really kind of high-level, big thing and not to think about you individually wrapped up in this, let me read you one of my favorite texts. I’ll put it on the screen. This is Psalm 139:13 through 16.
“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”
This puts God actively involved in the womb of your mama when it comes to you. Now let’s chat for a second. We know as Christians biologically what’s going on in the womb. Right? We don’t think if you get an ultrasound you see some giant heavenly hands in there knitting. No, no. We know biologically what happens. We know a sperm meets an egg. We just celebrate the biology behind life in the womb. We celebrate it. What we’re saying is that there’s something going on underneath the biology.
I read a magazine article where they had mapped the human brain. They had identified the part of the brain that kind of lit up when you prayed or you thought about spiritual things. The argument was really, “Hey, maybe there’s not a God, because really it’s our brain firing. These synapses are firing and letting us know there’s something beyond us.” I’m going, “No, no, no. That’s fodder for worship!”
If there is a creator God who is going to ask me to worship him with all my mind, strength, and soul, then it makes perfect and beautiful sense that a part of my brain would contribute to fulfilling what he has demanded of me. Biology comes alongside the theology of life and says, “No, no, no. God is in this. God is in this!”
Man, we know that when the psalmist is saying he knits us together, but look at how intimately involved God is in you. He knows all the days he would have for you before you had yet lived one of them, and he built you physically and with personality and with mind for all that he would have for you as you lived out the days of your life. Now that’s stunning.
Most of us don’t think God would think about us at that level. We’re just so prone to kind of old-school deism. You know, like God cranked up the machine, and then he is not paying attention at all anymore. No, no, no. He is intimate. The Lord was involved in my formation in my mother’s womb. In Janet Chandler’s womb, he was putting together my personality. He was putting together my loud voice. He was putting together that I get animated about everything.
Why? Because he had some things for me. He had some things for me, and he has some things for you. You should never despise how you’re wired, how you’re gifted, or where you’ve been placed. God just doesn’t mess up. This is why he is saying you’re fearfully and wonderfully made. Because we believe these things are true, there are some implications. If we’re looking through this lens, that has some implications. Let me get into the first one.
- A community of life then unapologetically testifies that God values all life from the unborn to the disabled to the dying. If God values it, we value it because we are God’s viceroys. If God looks at it and says, “It’s good to be protected and to be celebrated,” the people of God say, “This is good. This is to be protected. This is to be celebrated.” That means, when it comes to the unborn, we’re in, compassionately and graciously in.
We’re going to be involved. We’re going to boldly talk about it here. I mean, this is what we do. All in. We want to have conversations that are awkward conversations. We want to have conversations where the world goes, “If you talk about that, something could blow up.” Well, I’m looking around going, “Everything is blowing up. Let’s have the conversation that we can put some of this out.” No, we’re going to be involved here compassionately and graciously.
You’re already doing this. You paid for a mobile clinic that’s in our parking lot right now. You did that! That travels around and takes care of women all over our area who cannot go to good doctors, who cannot get good medical treatment. It’s not a one-off. It’s a relationship that is then built, mentors who are then established. They are rallied around not just through the duration of the pregnancy but throughout really the early years of having that baby.
We cannot be a church that just screams out that abortion is a sin. We must be a community of life…womb to tomb…that celebrates and rejoices in life as God has defined it. In our foyers all over the place, we have ministries we walk alongside of. The Human Coalition. I know on the Dallas Campus, they have the Downtown Pregnancy Center there.
At all of our campuses, we come alongside ministries that are doing this well. We want to be people who are for the unborn. In fact, I’ll even put up a slide. If you’re not sure how you would even get involved in this arena but feel drawn to it, we have a whole page on our website that says here are some places and steps you can take.
It’s not just the unborn. It’s also the disabled. It’s also the disabled! One of the things that’s kind of heartbreaking as you kind of watch evangelicalism is how in a very large way, evangelicals have had removed from their guts the right theology of suffering,
When following Jesus means, “Man, if you’ll just give your life to Jesus, everything goes your way and you’re never going to struggle. You’re never going to have any issues. All your dreams come true,” you make God a genie. You don’t make him God. Actually, you make him a really, really terrible Father. Do you know who is a terrible father? The father who gives their kid everything they ask for. That’s a terrible dad.
It’s not a bad dad to have boundaries and to say no. Is there anything more loving than no? It’s hard. I mean, if you love your kid, you don’t want to say no. You shouldn’t rejoice in saying no, but they’re kids. They need to hear no. Right? Yeah. So when you gut the Bible, which is really clear that although we should pray and expect healing, man, in a Genesis 3 world, there’s going to be brokenness and disabilities.
If you’re here at The Village and you have long-term disability, man, I want our church to be a place where you feel welcomed, where you have a place of service, where you get to use your gifts and abilities to make us a better place, that you are celebrated and shown the dignity that belongs to all who are children of God.
If you are the parents of special-needs children, I want you to be able to come in here and breathe out knowing that we’ll see the same beauty in your child that you do. If you have a special-needs child (and we have a couple of elders who do), you know you get stuck in first gear as a family. Maybe not stuck. You get the blessing of just staying in first gear because you have to stay in first gear.
Well, we want to be a place where you can come in and just breathe out that we will see the beauty you see in your child. We’re okay at this. We can get a lot better at this. Part of this means we’re for the unborn, but we’re also for the disabled.
Then we’re also for the dying. Once you gut Christianity of its theology of suffering, you now then have replaced it with something else. No one gets to ascend to the throne of God and make the decision of when life ends. That is God’s call. He has set our days. He is using all of our days, including our last days, both for us and for his glory.
We want to be a place where those who are dying can die surrounded by those who love, surrounded by those who encourage and speak life into. In the few times I’ve been given the privilege by God to be in the room as someone is in their last bout of fighting for life, I’m always trying to hear where legitimate fear and doubt are covered by spiritual platitudes. Are you tracking with me on that?
Again, this is where theology is so important. That’s why I’m just going to continue to press you toward the Institute, to press you toward places where you can learn really beautiful things about God, and apply it and have it feed and fuel your soul. God knows it’s scary to be us. Do you know how freeing it is to say, “Man, I’m really doubting right now. I’m really struggling right now”? Just know the Lord knows that, and he is not, “Oh really? After all I’ve done? I saved you, but you don’t trust me now?”
I mean, just that we carry that in us (that insidious lack of trust in his goodness and grace) can be crushing. I want to point out that about suffering and death, I talked like this before I was diagnosed with cancer, and I’m talking like this after I was diagnosed with cancer. I’m not speaking as one who hasn’t been in the valley of the shadow of death. I’m speaking as one who has and found the Lord to be near, kind, and gracious despite the fact that I wrestled with doubt and struggled. There were a lot of really wicked things that were churned up in me in that season.
We want to be a place that is serious about loving well the unborn, the disabled, and the dying. We don’t just testify that God values all individual life if we’re going to be a community of life. The other thing we must give ourselves over to is…
- A community of life compassionately seeks the welfare of the greater community. What that means is you and I need to be for human flourishing everywhere. Now we see Jeremiah say it this way. Let me set up what’s going on in Jeremiah. In the book of Jeremiah, the people of God are in exile. They’re in a place they don’t want to be. There’s a group of them who think, “Here’s what we need to do. We need to withdraw completely from culture. We need to build high walls. We need to have our own little thing going, and we don’t need to interact with the world outside.”
Then there was another group of them who were like, “Forget it. We’re in exile. Let’s just become just like the Babylonians. Let’s give ourselves over to that.” Then the prophet shows up and goes, “No, no, no. There’s another way to do it, and here’s the command.” “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”
One of the great kind of benefits of the Internet era is the breadth at which you and I can experience the world. I think it’s happened so fast, we haven’t taken a moment to think about this. We are the first group of humans ever to be able to experience the breadth of the world like you and I get to experience the breadth of the world, and yet one of the unintended consequences of that breadth has been a loss of depth and rootedness to where we actually are.
So how do we be a community of life that lives for and seeks the welfare of the greater community? I’m going to throw out some really easy ones. Meet your neighbors. You’re like, “Oh, okay.” Okay. Know their names. Take walks around your neighborhood. Live more of your life in the front yard. Bring a welcome basket to a newcomer in your neighborhood. Make too much of your favorite dish and share a plate.
How about this? Ask for help. You’re going to build a fence. Ask for help. How about this? Offer help. Don’t just be like, “Bill, are you building that fence? Golly! What is that…8 feet? That looks miserable. Hmm.” Just don’t be that way. Stop. “Can I help?” Look. This is seeking the welfare of the city. How about this one? You’d never guess I’d say this at church. Throw a party for your neighbor. Like literally throw a block party. You can do that!
Maybe you’re like, “Well, I’m an introvert.” Well, okay. Listen. Your spouse isn’t, because introverts don’t marry other introverts. That can’t happen. Right? One of you is the extrovert, so have the extrovert drive it. You come out, introvert, meet a couple of people, go throw up, and then come back out and meet a couple of more people. Throw a party. Who doesn’t like a party?
Now I wish I could say, “Man, we threw a party in my neighborhood,” but we didn’t. One of our neighbors did. One of our neighbors at the end of the street threw a big party and invited everyone on the street over. In three and a half hours of eating, drinking, laughing, and telling stories we learned that one of our neighbors had fled from a genocide 35-40 years ago and arrived in the United States with not a dollar to their name.
We learned the guy next to them is about to bulldoze his house down and build another house in its place. We learned that the son of the guy next to him keeps giving him dogs, and he hates dogs. He wanted to know if we wanted one. I don’t. I have two. Then here’s what happened. In one three-and-a-half to four-hour dinner party, my block shrank. We know everybody’s name. We know their background. We’re able to say hi. We’re able to stop the car and have a conversation now.
Do you know what happened? Rootedness began to take place. A sense of belonging started to take place, which is what we’re so desperately hungry for that Instagram and Snapchat will never actually bring to us, that Facebook isn’t going to bring about in our lives. Congrats on the 600 friends.
Now this isn’t all we can do. Here are some ideas as a Home Group once again to seek the welfare of the city. On Saturday morning, I was working out. There was a woman in the class I was working out in, and she is a first-year teacher. Apparently, that is awful. I don’t know, but apparently year one in teaching is the kind of, “Jesus, take the wheel. Help me! I’m not going to make it” kind of experience. I don’t know. I’m not a teacher, but judging by the reaction of teachers when I have said that, this is a universal experience for first-year teachers.
As she kind of just shared with me how difficult this year has been and not only is she trying to transition out of having a degree and the college scene into kind of…I don’t know…grownup life and then trying to navigate these lesson plans, I thought, “How cool would it be if Home Groups would just come alongside first-year teachers and go, ’We’re for you all year long. Whatever you need from us, we’ve got you’?”
Or what if Home Groups visited local senior shut-ins, and we walked in as a Home Group and said, “Who never gets visited? Whose family either lives in another state or is unable? Who can we love? Who can we serve? Who can we make in their last few months, last few years, of life feel valued and dignified and loved?” We gave ourselves over to that.
What if we got involved with ministries like…? I know this is gets a little wonky in the campus model. In our foyer, we have a table for Journey to Dream, which comes alongside and helps all sorts of social issues in Lewisville or communities and schools. We’re actively involved in our schools here. We should be actively involved in our schools here. What if we gave ourselves over as groups?
I heard a story. Actually, a good friend of mine works very closely with me. One of the things his Home Group and multiple other Home Groups did is there’s a home in Denton that takes care of abused women. They went up there, and man, they built a fence. They just did anything they could to come alongside that ministry. What is that? That’s seeking the welfare of the city.
I know some of you are like, “Well, what about evangelism?” Goodness’ sakes! What an opportunity for evangelism at every turn! I’m not saying you throw a party at your house and an hour in go, “I’m glad you all came. If you’d have a seat…” Now if the Spirit leads you, okay, but I’m saying the fertile ground of soul winning is almost always rooted in relationship. Build relationship as you seek the welfare of the city.
Here are a couple more things on this. Invest locally. We’re in the suburbs here. I know the Dallas Campus is like, “Whatever. Never!” We’ll see you in a couple of years, yo. One of the curses of God on the suburbs for all of our comfort is that everything is kind of box chains. When the mercy of Christ breaks through and we get locally owned restaurants, coffee shops, and businesses, we should invest time, energy, and dollars into local businesses and local such-and-such.
I think we need to be involved in local politics. For all the handwringing about the apocalypse at the national level, it’s actually at the local level that you can make a significant difference. We have members of our church who are on the school board. We have members of our church who are on the kind of planning committee on one of the cities. We have those who are in the school system at high levels.
Get involved in local politics. We should just show up in force when there’s a Christmas tree lighting, when there’s a homecoming parade, when there’s a football game. We should just always be around celebrating what’s right and good in our community to be known as a community of life.
- A community of life actively fights for the oppressed, the vulnerable, and the voiceless. Now to do that, there has to be somewhat a knowledge of who those oppressed, vulnerable, and voiceless actually are. We know easily the most vulnerable and voiceless are the unborn. Easily! I just don’t know how you can argue another direction.
We know (not guessing, like we know) scientifically that by eight weeks, they recoil from pain. They are dreaming. All of their organs are present and functioning. We know they have their own unique fingerprint. We know they have their own unique DNA, their own unique blood type. We know all these things are true, and yet still you’re able to suck them piece by piece, to tear them apart in their mother’s womb, almost always built around convenience. Notice I said almost always. Who will be their voice? Who will be their protector? I think that’s one but not the only one.
I think (and we’re watching this grow at The Village, and I’m super excited about it) you can get involved in regard to adoption and foster care. The foster care system is hopelessly broken. If you work in that world, you know what I’m saying is true. I mean no offense. What if The Village Church by the grace of God dove in to foster care and adoption and did all we could to come alongside of those who are in very difficult situations to love and serve and to have our lives wrung out so they might grow?
We have a ministry called YoungLives we work closely with that walks alongside teen moms. Almost all of them come from very difficult backgrounds and situations. It’s one-on-one mentorship. I could just keep going here. I want us more and more and more actively involved in the lives, hearts, and families of refugees. Here in Lewisville, there’s a massive group of Burmese Chin who are in our area, and the government has settled them right in our area.
I don’t know if you know about this, but at our Plano Campus… Our Plano Campus sits about three or four blocks from a very large mosque. They have started having these dinners with Muslims where they come and they talk about Isa. Isa is Jesus in the Qur’an. The Qur’an then commands Muslims should study other holy books. Man, we’re just having dinners. Our people over there are like, “Hey, shouldn’t you study other holy books about Isa? We should do that.”
Then on top of that, our Home Groups over in Plano are beginning to adopt these refugee families who are coming in and help them navigate our systems, help them find work, help them get driver’s licenses, help them navigate and invite them into not just the nation but into our body of faith. This is what it means to be a community of life. It’s not a single issue. It’s a thousand issues all branching out from a core conviction that the God of the Bible is the creator and sustainer of all life from the womb to the tomb.
You know, I say this a lot. I’m going to say it again. The least compelling version of Christianity is the one that turns people into navel-gazers who only see their own struggles and failures and then cannot see the brokenness and despair around them. This version forgets that God is pushing back darkness in the world through his church. The Spirit is, as Paul writes in Ephesians, both exposing darkness and revealing the manifold wisdom of God to the world.
Now I think self-examination and a disciplined pursuit of holiness are God’s commands on our lives and should be taken with the utmost seriousness. But that’s not done by staring at your navel and being obsessed by all the ways you fail. No, no. That’s by lifting your eyes up, seeing the glory of God, and joining God in what he is doing and pushing back what’s dark, exposing darkness for what it is, and being a community of life and hope in a culture of death. Let me give you one such story of what it could look like.
Aurlyn Wygle: We would read verses in the Bible that talk about God’s heart for the fatherless and how he cares ferociously for the oppressed, for the vulnerable, and for children. All throughout that time, the Lord was stirring in us. By the time we were ready to grow our family, we walked into it really excited.
Brad Wygle: Yeah, in a way when you read those verses like taking care of the fatherless and the oppressed, it’s like, “Well, how do you do that?” One of the most practical ways for us was to foster and adopt. I got the call, and the first call was, “How do you feel about twins?” I remember being like, “Well, I mean, we wanted siblings.” Then, “Yeah.” They were like, “Okay, we’ll be at your house in an hour and a half.”
Yeah, a lot of times I didn’t know how to pray because I don’t want a family to fail, but also I realized one of the main reasons you get to adopt through foster care is because a family fails. That is just like a strange world to be in.
Aurlyn: It’s a constant trigger for anxiety and situations that force you to rely on the Lord and trust the Lord and his story he is telling.
Brad: Every month it would change, but the constant shift was toward it looked like it was going to be pretty possible for us to get them. We both got up. It was a normal day. We took care of the boys and then drove to court.
Aurlyn: We could hear the doors open, a scuffle of people walking out. Everybody’s head was low. The CASA was just saying, “All right. They want them to go.” I remember when we got home, the boys were napping. I was just giving my sister a hug and crying. It was crazy because when they woke up, to them it was just a normal day. We knew every smile was potentially the last.
I remember seeing through the dining room window the car pull up. James just had no idea what was going on, and Jordan was crying. When they left, in that moment, that was forever. We knew we would never see them again. I couldn’t hold anything against the Lord. I wished I could’ve made him owe me and that he was wrong for doing this, but I knew I didn’t have anything to hold against him.
I had actually over the course of those four to five months texted the boys’ advocate multiple times to try to get an update. It was pretty clear there was just not going to be any updates whatsoever on how the boys were doing. Then I was at work one day, and I saw I had a text message from her. It just said, “Hey, the twins might be coming back into care. Do you have room for them?”
Brad: We were like, “Yes!”
Brad: “Yes, we have room for them.”
Aurlyn: Seeing the caseworker get out and unload them, these two little boys who were so familiar and yet looked so different, now they were coming up and into our home.
Brad: It hit restart on the whole process again.
Brad: It’s like we’re excited they’re back in, but we don’t know what’s going to happen. Through like, you know, several mediations, court dates, visits, and stuff, it became apparent we would be able to get to adopt them.
Aurlyn: The moment the judge said they were ours and for the first time called them by their new names was super sweet and also super surreal. We get to just have normal life. We get to just be a normal family.
Brad: Our ultimate hope for the boys would be that they would be strong men who lead well, who would love well, and never remember a day where they didn’t know and love Jesus.
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