“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere” (2 Cor. 2:14).
Two years ago, Clifton Baptist Church graciously sent 21 of its members to a church less than two miles away, Clifton Heights Baptist Church, to revitalize its ministry to its body and its mission to its neighbors. During those two years, our great God has led us in Christ in triumphal procession and has transformed the ministry of this church to its body. We’ve grown stronger in many areas where we were very weak and we’ve improved in areas where we were strong. And we thank God for leading us this way.
But over those two years, the words “triumphal procession” didn’t really fit our efforts of revitalizing our mission to our neighbors. And we came to find out that sixty years of mission-drift and message-drift had made Clifton Heights Baptist Church irrelevant in the lives of the hurting people who lived around our church. We were feeling frustrated by our lack of outreach and by our inability to even engage people with the gospel.
And so, we decided to shut down the old church and launch a new church in its place. This wasn’t a mere marketing strategy: we really were a new church on the inside! We just needed a way to communicate that to our neighborhood. And we’ve been taking steps toward creating this new church for the last seven months.
This past Sunday, August 21, 2011, we had our first service as Christ Community Church. We started our service outside, in front of our new sign (which was veiled), and sang “In Christ Alone” together to our neighborhood. We chose that song because we want our church to reflect the reality that the only hope of the world is in Christ alone. And then we prayed. We prayed for the new church, for the power of the gospel, and for our mission to our neighborhood.
Then we went back inside and continued to worship our God together in song, in prayer, and in the Word. I preached from 2 Corinthians 4:1-6, where Paul, after defining new covenant ministry (2:14-3:6) and arguing that new covenant ministry greatly surpasses old covenant ministry in glory and that this glory is transforming us (3:7-18), applies these truths to the life of the church. And there are four applications: 1. do not lose heart; 2. stand firm on the gospel; 3. rejection is not personal, it’s spiritual; and 4. expect God to work to break down every obstacle to faith.
But our day wasn’t over yet. After our service we went down into our fellowship hall and shared a meal together as a family. Good food, uplifting conversation, and real fellowship. During the meal we also shared the Lord’s Supper together “first century-style,” something we had never done before. The setting was different than in our normal services, less formal, more intimate, and that gave us a different perspective on what we were doing. We had a great day.
Over the last two years it didn’t always look like God was leading us in a triumphal procession in Christ. Sometimes it looked like our church wouldn’t survive. But now that we’ve launched Christ Community Church, we can see that God has actually been leading us this whole time. Relaunching this church is the next stage of our triumphal procession and our prayer is that the triumphal procession will just keep going, as God exalts his Son through our ministry and we’re given the privilege of spreading the fragrance of Jesus into every house, condo, townhouse, and apartment in the Clifton Heights Neighborhood.