Not that anyone has recently asked, but the primary purpose of Grace Covenant is to glorify and enjoy God. The heartbeat of Grace Covenant is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The only and ultimate authority for Grace Covenant, shaping our beliefs and directing our practice, is the Scriptures of the Old & New Testaments, the Word of God. These are our foundations, the same as always for Grace Covenant.
So, if no one is asking, and nothing is new, some may wonder: Why bother to mention any of this?
My reason for highlighting these things is because of the conversations we are recently having; and because of our increasing ministry to our more marginalized neighbors. And because I’ve been around the block enough times to know that issues like these can make even reasonable theologically conservative (some prefer the term “orthodox”) Evangelical Christians uncomfortable. The discomfort leads to questions – albeit, often good questions. And good questions warrant honest answers.
A good and reasonable question may be something like: “Are we becoming a Social Gospel church?”
If by “Social Gospel” someone means a church that substitutes good deeds, meeting some very real felt needs of our neighbors, for the proclamation of the gospel – “Christ crucified” in our place, for our redemption, and for our salvation – then the answer is absolutely not. (1 Corinthians 2.2)
If, however, by “social gospel” someone means that, in response to the love of Christ given freely to us, who are all broken and undeserving, we now endeavor to actively love our neighbors in tangible, practical, and demonstrable ways, then, in all honesty, I hope so. In fact, I pray that is so. Among my frequent and fervent prayers is that we be a “Full Gospel church”. (Unfortunately, that term, “Full Gospel”, has been hijacked to imply the promotion of speaking in tongues, even though speaking tongues or not speaking in tongues has little to do with the message of the gospel. So, one item on my bucket list is to reclaim the right use of the phrase “Full Gospel” before I die. I know that might be a bit quixotic, but… I digress.)
Jesus was clear:
“The most important [commandment] is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12.29-31)
The gospel of God’s grace compels us to love God AND love others in response. (1 John 4.19) If Grace Covenant were a train, “Loving God” and “Loving Neighbor” would be the two rails that comprise our tracks. The Gospel, which is the power of God (Romans 1.16), is our engine.
In the words of an author whose writings I’ve been reading a lot recently, Tim Chester:
“We were not made to look inward for self-realization, but to look outwards in love.”
Again, I don’t know that anyone was wondering, questioning, or doubting. But even if not, I think it good to periodically clarify this vision for our church. Having done so, I want to express how thankful I am for those who are on this train – those who teach soundly, and those who hunger for sound teaching; those who labor selflessly; those who ooze compassion and encouragement; those who practice hospitality; those who share their gifts, talents, and resources with the church; as well as those who go out from us to share the hope of the gospel with others across the country and around the world. At Grace Covenant we are blessed in many, many ways. If you are new to Grace Covenant, or if you are just peeking in the window by reading this pastoral note, I invite you to hop on the train, and engage in this journey with us!
Now for some of the more pastoral matters.
I first want to congratulate those who have recently graduated from high school:
- Kylie Delaney – Providence Classical School
- Elijah Rutan – Homeschool
- Stephanie Smole – Classical Conversations
- Hayden Stulen – Lafayette High School
Congratulations to all of you! Graduates will all be recognized during our services next week, on June 28.
I want to again remind everyone of the Baby Bottles 4 Life campaign. As I mentioned last week, this is an annual campaign we do at Grace Covenant, in support of CareNet Peninsula and their ministry to both mothers and their pre-born children. Ordinarily we do this from Mother’s Day to Father’s Day, but this year the campaign was pushed back a few weeks. We hope everyone will take a baby bottle (that we’ll happily provide), and fill it with your change – coins, bills, or even checks – over the next few weeks. Once filled, return the bottles to Grace Covenant, and we will send your gifts to CareNet Peninsula. There are 3 ways to participate:
- Pick up a bottle at the church, and take it home with you.
- Contact Donna Davis or Kathy Buhl in the church office, and we’ll be happy to have a bottle delivered to you at your home.
- Give directly to CareNet. Write a check, or use their online giving link: CareNet Peninsula.
If you have any questions about Baby Bottles 4 Life, please contact Donna Davis, who is coordinating this ministry for us.
For those who are interested in continuing the conversation about Race & Justice, please know we are planing to hold conversations, such as the one we did last week, about once-per-month, into the Fall. We have not yet set the date for the next Grace Covenant Conversation, but we will let you know soon. That said, if anyone has questions, I am more than happy to engage in one-on-one conversations, at any time. Just shoot me an email or give me a call. In the meantime, for those interested, The Gospel Coalition will host an online Night of Lament for Racial Justice on Saturday evening, June 20, at 7pm. This event is open to any who want to participate.
Finally, as we once again look forward to the Lord’s Day, on Sunday, let me remind you that we have two services, 8:30am & 11:00am, that will be offered both Live-In-Person and LiveStreamed. For those who will be participating via LiveStream, BOTH services will be streamed LIVE. Tim Nargi & Jeff Field wanted to make both serviced available for viewing, and they feel ready with our new camera and graphics to do so. Just go to the Grace Covenant web page, scroll down a bit, and click the link at the appropriate service time. If you would have interest in serving the church by running the LiveStream, please let Tim or Jeff know. Tim will contact you about setting up times to be trained in the use of the camera and tech stuff.
As for the services for this Sunday, there will be a little bit of difference in each of the services. The middle part of the first service will be centered around the celebration of a Baptism; while the second service will more follow our regular order. If you are new to Grace Covenant, or to the Presbyterian Church, or you are just a little curious about why we practice Baptism the way we do, let me refer you to a little book, available for free online, titled William the Baptist. But in pointing to this resource I want to offer one caveat: At Grace Covenant we do NOT expect everyone to agree with us on all of our practices or doctrines. We are happy to discuss, but we do not want to debate those who differ with us. Discussing an issue brings unity; but debate puts people on different sides. I offer the book solely as information, so that those curious can understand why we do what we do – and see that it is out of our commitment to be faithful to Scripture, not out of superstition, that we practice baptism the way that we do. Whether you wholehearted agree with us, or you think maybe we’re all wet – or not wet enough! – we want you to know you are loved and welcome at Grace Covenant.
Let’s see. I’ve now touched on baptism, race, justice, and speaking in tongues. That’s probably more than enough for one note. This is a good time to stop. For a .pdf of Sunday’s service, click: GCPC June 21; for the digital worship outline, click: GCPC June 21 Digital.
I close with these words paraphrased from the Apostle Paul, 1 Thessalonians 1.2:
I always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in my prayers.
Grace & Peace,
W. Dennis Griffith, Lead Pastor