Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Why Emmaus City Church Is Part of the CRC, A29, and Soma

Emmaus City Church Worcester MA Soma Acts 29 3DM Christian Reformed Church Transcultural Kingdom Multi-Ethnic Network of Missional Communities

Enjoying Being Part of Jesus' Church with the Christian Reformed Church (CRC), Acts 29 (A29), and Soma

I've been inspired with the idea for this post due to people within Emmaus City and those around Worcester asking questions like, "What is the CRC, Acts 29, and/or Soma?", "How did you become an ordained pastor and decide to start a church in Worcester?", and "It seems like Emmaus City has a lot of affiliations; what's up with that?" 

All great questions, and because people have asked them, I've been able to get some practice honing the answers, particularly in a predominantly Roman Catholic and nonreligious region where people have solid critiques of Protestants. Of course, my answers provided in this post will only provide an introduction. All the more reason to visit us sometime so we can meet up and discuss more.

For a more simplified answer featuring a summary, videos, and values, we are part of:

(1) The CRC: They connect us to a nearly 500-year-old denomination (and some key theologians and missionaries in Church history like Abraham Kuyper, Johanna Veenstra, and Samuel Zwemer), to the history of Jesus' Church, and to His faithfulness to build her up throughout the generations (Matthew 16:16-19; Ephesians 4:11-16).

CRC Videos: 
Joining God in the Neighborhood (4:30 minutes) 
Discipleship (4:31 minutes) 
Let It Shine (2:29 minutes)
CRC Values:
+ Gospel Proclamation and Worship: Believing that faith comes through the hearing of God's Word, we proclaim the saving message of Jesus Christ and seek to worship Him in all that we do. 
+ Faith Formation: As a community of believers, we seek to introduce people to Jesus Christ and to nurture their faith through all ages and stages of life.
Servant Leadership: Understanding that the lifelong equipping of leaders is essential for churches and ministries to flourish, we identify, recruit and train leaders to be servants in the Kingdom of God. 
+ Global Mission: Called to be witnesses of Christ's Kingdom to the ends of the earth, we start and strengthen local churches in North America and around the world.
+ Mercy and Justice: Hearing the cries of the oppressed, forsaken and disadvantaged, we seek to act justly and love mercy as we walk humbly with our God.
Sample of Books by CRC Pastors and Practitioners: 
+ A Light to the Nations: The Missional Church and the Biblical Story by Michael W. Goheen
+ Next Worship: Glorifying God in a Diverse World by Sandra Maria Van Opstal 
+ Urban Ministry: The Kingdom, the City & the People of God by Manuel Ortiz and Harvie M. Conn
Some Key CRC Organizations:  
+ Resonate Global MissionWe bring the Gospel to people, neighborhoods, communities, churches and the world to embolden them in participating in God’s mission and faithfully proclaiming and living out the good news of Jesus. We do this through Regions, Initiativesand Starting Churches
+ World RenewCompelled by God’s deep passion for justice and mercy, we join communities around the world to renew hope, reconcile lives, and restore creation. World Renew's worldwide ministry is three-fold:  
+ Community Development 
+ Disaster Response and Rehabilitation 
+ Peace and Justice

(2) Acts 29: They inspire us as a diverse and trans-denominational global network that is focused on equipping us to be a church that plants other churches regionally, nationally, and globally (Acts 1:8; 9:31).

Acts 29 Videos: 
Acts 29 Vision (4:22 minutes)  
+ Acts 29 Global ACTION Video (5:55 minutes)
Epiphany Philadelphia & Camden (3:55 minutes)
 Church Planting in Turkey (4:04 minutes)
Acts 29 Values:
+ Church-Planting Churches: Our focus is not simply on our own congregations, but on the work of God through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, making His name famous to the ends of the earth; in the DNA of all Acts 29 churches should be a deep and driving desire to see churches planted across the world, all of which are  defined by theological clarity, cultural engagement, and missional innovation.
+ Holiness and Humility: Our desire is that our family of churches will be comprised of  godly, sacrificial and mature people who would gladly lay down any and all of their liberties if it would serve the cause of Christ in greater ways, who don't seek conflict but also aren't afraid of it, and who treasure Christ and His Gospel above all.
+ A Diverse and Global CommunityWe want to press into and learn from those who differ from us in practice, philosophy and culture, especially those from different parts of the world; our desire is to find the Spirit of God working among us so much so that we see more of His glory in and through a bold ethnic harmony that reveals God’s infinite worth and the power of the Gospel in a visual and captivating way.
+ Praying for Conversions Through Evangelism: We desire churches filled with those who believe in the sufficiency of the Scriptures and in the power of the Spirit to break the hearts of the most hardened of people in their cities; we desire churches filled with people who see their relationships with neighbors, co-workers and friends as opportunities to love supremely by praying for and sharing the best news in the universe with them; and we desire churches filled with men and women who love the saving work of God so much that it would lead them to the ends of the earth, proclaiming and living out the Gospel until all will know.
Sample of Books by Acts 29 Pastors and Practitioners: 
In His Image: 10 Ways God Calls Us to Reflect His Character and Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds by Jen Wilkin
+ On the Block: Developing a Biblical Picture for Missional Engagement by Doug Logan 
+ What Church Can Be: An Optimistic Vision with Some Blueprints by Matthew Kruse
+ Steadfast Love: The Response of God to the Cries of Our Heart by Lauren Chandler 
Key Acts 29 Initiatives: 
+ Church in Hard PlacesA resource sharing collaborative that trains and supports indigenous church leaders in poor communities 
+ Diversity Initiative: To strengthen and reinforce our value to be a radically diverse and global community 
+ Rural Collective: To plant new congregations in "rural" communities, commonly seen as isolated, small, and forgotten places

(3) Soma: They equip us to be disciples of Jesus who make disciples of Jesus in the everyday stuff of life (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 6:7, 14:21-23).

Soma Videos:  
What Does Missional Community Life Look Like? (14:43 minutes) 
Dope Church (3:35 minutes) 
Big House Beans (2:31 minutes) 
Soma Values:   
+ Gospel Saturation: We want to see Gospel saturation so that every adult and child has a daily encounter with Jesus in word and deed; it is the truth of the Gospel that enables us to genuinely and joyfully do what is pleasing to God and to grow in progressive conformity to the image of Christ. 
+ Missional Community: We believe a Gospel community on mission is the primary structure for making disciples of Jesus who increasingly submit to Him in all of life (worship), are being changed by Him (new identity), and obey Him and teach others to do the same (multiplication); if the mission of making disciples is the process of bringing all of life under the lordship and empowering presence of Jesus Christ, then we create environments where life on life, life in community, and life on mission can occur. 
+ Always Reforming: We are a Gospel-centered, theologically-formed family of churches who are always in need of reforming as the Word, the Spirit, and the Church (contemporary and historical) continue to shape us towards greater faithfulness and fruitfulness.
Sample of Books by Soma Pastors and Practitioners: 
+ Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life by Jeff Vanderstelt
+ Called Together: A Guide to Forming Missional Communities by Jonathan K. Dodson and Brad Watson 
+ Gospel Basics for Kids by Brad Watson and Heidi Wygle
Key Soma Equipping Resources: 
+ Soma School: A robust, Gospel-centered missional ecclesiology immersion which exists to see pastors, planters and leader thoroughly gripped by the gospel, orientated toward saturating cities with the presence and power of Jesus. 
SaturateA ministry of the Soma Family of Churches that exists to resource disciples and churches throughout the world in a gospel-centered, missional ecclesiology; through equipping, coaching, consulting, and resourcing.

In light of all of the above, Emmaus City Church believes that:

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is cosmic, social, anthropological, communal, and personal. As Abraham Kuyper, a theologian in the CRC tradition, once said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!” (Acts 29 and Soma both love this quote, too.) This means there is not one aspect of the human experience that the Gospel, or Good News of Jesus' reign of grace, truth, mercy and justice does not impact, and so we seek to apply this Good News to everyday life, whether we are working, eating, playing, or resting. Jesus' holy life, atoning death, victorious resurrection, glorious ascension, sending of His Spirit to us, and His coming return redeems and transforms us for abundant life with Him in every moment. And we trust that one day the entire cosmos is ultimately going to be reconciled to God through Christ for eternity. In light of this, we remind each other of this Good News in the yearly rhythms of the Christian calendar, as well as in our daily and weekly rhythms. The seasons of Advent-Christmas-Epiphany and Lent-Easter-Pentecost help us to embody the practice each year to look to Christ and His death-defying love and life for our salvation, and anticipate and celebrate how our gracious God comes to us, saves us, and transforms us out to be like Him as we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him and others for the life of the world until He returns to make all things new. 

The mission of God flows from how we view our God, Father, and King, through His covenant and kingdom relationship with humanity and creation. God gives us our identity from which our mission flows, and He gives us rest in Him from which our work flourishes. The ultimate mission of the Church has always been the same and will never cease: we are created to love God and enjoy Him forever with each other and all of creation as we multiply His image-bearing throughout the earth. That is why our liturgies during our masses are rooted in recognizing how the Father, Son, and Spirit give us our identity as God gathers and commissions us to be His family of Kingdom servants and witnesses who are set apart for the life of the world during the week. The Father sent the Son, the Father and Son sent the Spirit, and the Father, Son, and Spirit send the Church to make disciples of Jesus as we see His redemption, reconciliation, and restoration reach every corner of the earth. 

The Christian faith is Scripturally and historically tied together to Jesus' historic and global church. We uphold the Scriptures as our rule of faith while also embracing the practices and traditions of Jesus' Church that can be affirmed throughout all of Christian history. We are so thankful to be rooted in the historic family tree of Jesus' Church with the covenant promises, Creeds, and Apostolic faith passed down to us. Rather than taking an overly skeptical view of the past, we approach how God is speaking to us from Scripture, then consider the historic tradition of our brothers and sisters from the past and present around the world so we gain more understanding of everything Jesus has done and continues to do to unite and build His Church throughout the millennia. This humble posture in the midst of Jesus' Church's ongoing story is a way the historic and global family of God can continue to teach us how to navigate and see clearly our specific culture we often breathe in unconsciously. Christian teachings and practices throughout the centuries help us thoughtfully test modern interpretations of Scripture that may seem novel but ultimately prove lacking in connecting us to the Story of God and the teachings of Jesus that are the same yesterday, today, and forever.

The goal is for us to be thoroughly centered and rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We participate in His life through the verbally proclaimed Word and visibly demonstrated Eucharist together during Sabbath gatherings; and we participate in God’s continuing mission to redeem His people and renew all things in Worcester and beyond throughout missional community life during the week. We are the treasured body and bride of Christ who love and worship Jesus, and love and serve each other, enjoying being, resting, reflecting, listening, serving, eating, praying and celebrating in our gatherings and our scatterings. These and more spiritual practices have endured throughout the ages to help point our hearts towards God’s Kingdom when we try to rush past life without Him. The enduring, trans-generational, and transcultural nature of the Gospel reminds us that Jesus' Church is and always has been a worshiping and missional community throughout time and place.

Next post: Membership in Jesus' Church | An Overview from Scripture

Christ is all,

Rev. Mike "Sully" Sullivan

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