Knowing God

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By Larry Short

Our new vision statement has three parts:

KNOW God,

GROW together in Christ,

GO and serve, South Hill and beyond

In these next few editions of “The Last Word,” we’re going to look at our new vision statement, and how it (and the strategy which will guide our efforts over the next 1 – 3 – 5 years) has been informed by the “Reveal” survey instrument which we took a year ago this month.

The first part of our vision statement (“KNOW God”), which we will focus on this week, sounds incredibly simple. Our vision is to KNOW God. Sounds like a good, very basic goal for a church, right?

But in reality, I think this part of the vision statement is one of those things that truly is much deeper than it appears at first glance. We often act as if we think that “knowing God” is simply a matter of “knowing more about God” … or perhaps, put another way, believing specific truths about God. But Scripture assures us that when it comes to believing truths about God, that is not the whole story. James 2:19 says: “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that — and shudder.” Believing that there is One God is a fundamental tenet of Judaeo-Christian faith (Deut. 6:4). It’s a good thing to believe there is one God. But it’s not the whole thing. Believing God is One is not the same thing as knowing God.

Jeremiah 9:23-24 says:

“This is what the LORD says: ‘Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,’ declares the LORD.”

Truly knowing God is not a philosophical knowing … it is a relational knowing. Many people may know about my wife, that she is a wise and wonderful woman. But they do not know her in the way that I know her, in that unique covenant love relationship that we have as husband and wife. When we truly know God, He also knows us. We understand His character. We seek His desires. We seek and respond in obedience to His leading. We allow Him to change our lives.

For us here at Elim, the primary tool for knowing God is our weekend worship service. In it we submit ourselves to God, saying to Him, “We want to know You!” All the elements of this service … worship, teaching, tithing, prayer … fit together for the purpose of helping us to know God better, to deepen our relationship to Him.

We consider this FUNDAMENTAL. That means, it’s the first thing that we do, the most important thing, before all else. Knowing God must lie at the foundation of everything else that we do: of growing together in Christ, and of going and serving, South Hill and beyond. If we do not first know God, we should not proceed with those other worthy goals. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200!

Please allow me to challenge you today. Can you say in all honesty, “I know God!” I don’t mean, do you know everything there is to know about God? None of us do, none of us ever will. We do not have the capacity. We will spend eternity exploring the delights of God’s character, and will never tire of it. What I mean is this: When you stand before Christ at the final judgment, what will He say to you? Will He say to you, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world” (Matt. 25:34)? Or rather, will he say, “Depart from me, I never knew you.” For, ultimately, knowing God is being known by God. It is a two-way relationship.

Because knowing God is a relationship, this also means we MUST be willing to invest in the relationship in order to see it grow. The Reveal survey says we are very weak in such important spiritual practices as daily Bible reading (only 21%), prayer to seek guidance (31%) and confess sins (29%), and reflection on Scripture (a mere 17%). If only one out of five of us is seeking to hear from God daily, can we truly say we are growing in our knowledge of God? I would challenge us to greater fervency and passion in our pursuit of knowing God! Such effort should not be confused with good works; rather, it is a demonstration of a sincere faith. Hebrews 11:6 nails it on the head:

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

Reveal also revealed some other interesting things about us as a congregation. It revealed that we know much ABOUT God. We embrace the right doctrines. For instance, 97% of respondents embrace the doctrine of the Trinity. However, this percentage seems to decrease as you start moving the knowledge from head to heart. For instance, only 71% of respondents placed high value on the statement, “God is personal.” Only 66% placed high value on the statement, “Christ is first.” Only 64% expressed value and understanding of their identity in Christ.

Reveal showed us that we need to make the important transition from being primarily a “head” church, to a “heart” church as well. Knowing God is not simply knowing doctrine, not simply knowing about Him. Knowing God is having a personal and life-changing redemptive experience with the Creator of the universe.

This is our primary vision for the members of this church, that we would know God and be known by Him. If there is some way that we as staff, ministry leaders, pastors, and elders can help you in your journey toward knowing God more fully, please talk with us today and let us know what that is. We promise that we will drop everything to help you make this vision become a reality in your life!

NEXT WEEK: Growing together in Christ. What role do small groups play in our church? How can we grow together in our common identity as believers, children of God, who are committed to Christ’s will for our church and our lives and who are growing into that commitment on a daily basis? How will we transition believers from worship services, where they are getting to know God, into small groups, where they are growing together in Christ?

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We need to hear from you!

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By Larry Short

A group of Elim ministry leaders has been meeting, facilitated by Cindy Waple, with the goal of creating strategic ministry plans for Elim for the next 1, 3, and 5 years. In order to create these plans, we need to conduct a “SWOT” (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis of Elim and its programs. In order to conduct this SWOT Analysis, starting tomorrow (February 6) we will begin a two-phase survey of our friends and members, designed to help us gauge Elim’s current health and ministry effectiveness.

The first phase is a survey instrument called “Reveal,” which has been used recently by thousands of churches to help evaluate their spiritual health and ministry functions. Phase 2, which will launch a few weeks after phase 1 is completed, will be a customized survey instrument (“SurveyMonkey”) which we are designing to fill gaps for specific information not covered in the Reveal survey, helping us to understand needs and opportunities more relevant to our specific programs.

Believe me when I say we understand that everyone is very busy, and I know how challenging it is to take time out of the day to complete an online survey! But your participation in this process will be incredibly valuable to this planning team as we seek to prayerfully prioritize our ministry efforts and resources. We need a minimum of 60% of our friends and members to complete both instruments in order for them to be statistically valid and provide useful information … but we would like everyone to help us by completing both phases. Therefore we ask you to please set aside the time required to complete both surveys, the first one (Reveal), within the next two weeks; and the second (SurveyMonkey) a few weeks later.

If we have your email address, you will receive a link by email to each survey. (If we do not have your e-mail address, it is very important that you email it to our church office at office@elimefc.org.)

Note that we are asking all members of your household who attend Elim and are 18 years of age, or older, to each take this survey on their own.

If you do not have email or internet access, we still encourage you to complete the survey. We will have computers set up at church on February 7, 14, and 21, during both services, for you to take the survey. You can either take the survey during first service and attend second, or you can take the survey during second service and attend first. Our desire is to have all people who call Elim their church home take this survey. If these times don’t work for you please call the church office and we will set up a time that does work. (Phase 1 of this survey will take roughly 25-35 minutes to complete.)

Let me close with a word about why we are doing this. In last week’s The Last Word, Pastor Martin wrote describing the job responsibilities of elders. One of those key responsibilities is “guarding the vision,” which requires us as leaders to discern what God’s vision is for the Body of believers here at Elim, and to assess accurately where we are at in achieving that vision. As elders we take this responsibility very seriously, and eagerly look forward to receiving the information that will be provided by this two-phase survey, which will help us as we seek to be responsive to your needs and to the Lord’s calling on this Body.

Also, please be praying for us (the staff and elders, and the strategic planning team) and for our Body as we go through this process, that God would use it to help us discern accurately what He is doing and desires to do in our midst.

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