The name of a congregation says a lot about who they are and want to be. Of late, newer congregations are showing up with variations of the Church of the Abundant Life. I take this as evidence of the shift that is occurring in American Christian churches. They recognize that the new touchpoint for outreach to others is the life God offers—the abundant life in Christ.
For years the book we at our church have used with new members is entitled Life with God. It keys off of Jesus’ statement in John 10:10, “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” That’s our ministry intent. We are still learning how to deliver on that promise.
John 10:10 is one of those passages that has been in Scriptures from the beginning but largely overlooked for centuries of institutional Christianity. It is similar to Paul’s many, many references to the Holy Spirit in his writings. They have always been there but remained mostly overlooked, especially in churches of the Reformation.
Mainline churches in America today remain focused on the central issues of the Protestant Reformation five hundred years ago. At that time, most people were preoccupied with the role of good works in getting to the next life. Life for most in that still Medieval time was difficult, “nasty, brutish and short.” Surely there must be a better life ahead. The keys to that next life were held by the Catholic church, the only church in the western part of the Roman Empire. That church then was highly institutionalized and viewed church life to their own advantage. Their key to the next life was doing enough good works, as they defined them.
At a time now when few are concerned about God and the next life, finding a better life here and now is a good touchpoint for reaching out to those who know little about Christian church life, and what they do know probably carries negative associations.
What is this better life potentially available in Christian churches? It begins by offering God’s promise of mercy to all who come to him confessing that their life is not meaningful enough, confessing they are looking for something more. God offers them his grace in two forms. One is the gift of forgiveness of their shortcomings through the appeasement won by Christ on the cross. The other is the gift of the Holy Spirit and his empowerment to live out his fruit of love, joy, peace and other positive growth in the lives of believers.
As Luther preached, “When the Spirit comes, he makes a pure, free, cheerful, glad and loving heart—a conscience made righteous by grace, seeking no reward, fearing no punishment, doing everything with joy.” What better life can you hope for? Living this way is truly the abundant life Jesus came to offer.
At a time when so many today feel their life has little meaning or purpose, offer them a life that has the ultimate meaning and purpose. This is life with God, the abundant life.
Rick Warren described the ultimate purposeful life in his hugely popular book The Purpose-Driven Life (2002). First, he asked the most basic life question, What on earth am I here for? He then went on to outline five Bible-based ultimate purposes: 1) You were planned for God’s pleasure. 2) You were formed for God’s Family, 3) You were created to become like Christ, 4) You were shaped for serving God, and 5) You were made for a mission.
This fifth and last ultimate purpose is being in mission for God. “God is at work in the word, and he wants you to join him. He wants you to have both a ministry in the Body of Christ and mission in the world. Your ministry is your service to believers, and your mission is your service to unbelievers.”
“Your life mission is both shared and specific. One part of it is a responsibility to share with every other Christian, and the other responsibility is an assignment unique to you. This is to share your life message as a messenger of God.” Warren quotes 1 Peter 2:9, “You are a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
Is that enough to give your life ultimate meaning and purpose? The challenge to others is to try out this abundant life in Christ. Taste and see how good it is.
Have traditional churches focused much on the abundant life Jesus came to offer? Do you agree that the abundant life consists of the fruit the Spirit produces in a believer’s life?
Thomas Sharpe says
John 10:10 Jesus gives his purpose for coming. He says also he desires that we would bear fruit. I hear some in Lutheran circles speaking against Theology of Glory which seems to reject Jesus purpose in John 10:10. I maybe missing something here. I see John 10:10 as a great way to connect the Gospel to the culture.
“Theology of glory” is Luther’s term for outward success. He contrasts it to inner spiritual success–growing in inward submission that brings the fruit of love, joy and peace.
Lee Larsen says
I know the perception by many is that God promises a wonderful life so when they see all the tragedy in our world or they see Christians suffering their faith in God collapses. “Where are the blessings that come from faith? If I have to give up all my pleasures I expect a perfect life in return”.
They struggle with the concept that we are currently slaves to our sins. That our sins are what causes us pain & suffering and is what separates us from God. Without the Spirit within them they fail to make this connection. The blame falls upon someone or something else. Our society is depending more and more on others to provide a fix for their pain & suffering instead of looking to God.
While I truly believe happiness comes from the fruits of the Spirit I do not see that played out by many believers.
Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
These are indeed very powerful attributes and if they were at work within us why would there be so many divorces, so much anger, abortions abuse of all kinds. It is not like Christians are immune to this in fact too often the stats might be even higher among us. I do not believe the Spirit is truly being brought to full power within believers. This is where God provides us with true joy, peace and hope. We must do all we can to encourage a deeper faith, a stronger relationship with Jesus. This comes from growing Bible study involvement and bringing Christ to life within our communities, (service,specially of the type that bring about witnessing , not so much us to others, but others to us. This is what happens when we serve everyday people giving Jesus all the credit. We, along with the Spirit can provide the opportunities for recipients of our kindness to witness to us of God’s amazing power & love. His timing is perfect and when we love on all others in this way that timing becomes so divinely obvious that faith grows to all new levels. In this we realize the true gifts that come from our creator and the joy that follows.
Hi, Lee. Again, very well said.
Phil Bickel says
David, your post correctly points to a key adjustment needed in churches. How are lost people saved? I’m grateful that as a child my parents and church taught me that we are saved by grace through faith in Christ. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Firmly trusting in Christ as Savior, I had a further question: After we are saved, how do we live for God? Eventually, through teachers in my denomination and in other branches of Christ’s body, I discovered that we live the same way that we are saved: By grace through faith in Christ. Paul expresses it this way, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
For those to whom Paul’s words are a mystery your blog site clears away the fog of misunderstanding about how God both saves and sanctifies His people. I try to do the same at my blog site: http://www.faithtrekker.org. Thank you for your efforts.
Phil, good to hear from you as a fellow writer. I am glad you like my stuff. Blessings on your ministry.