Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Character Matters

On Tuesday, I had the great privilege of meeting with the other church planters, about eight of us in all, from the Bible Fellowship Church at our fall Training Day in Quakertown, PA. These times are always such a blessing. It is so helpful to glean from the experiences of others in church planting ministry. These training contexts are helpful for deepening our understanding of our respective callings, as well as for deepening our relationships with others who are committed to this vital kingdom work. I've really grown to admire and appreciate each of the men who are also serving as church planters in the BFC.

Gary Spangenburg was the morning speaker. Gary is a man who wears many "hats"; he is a state constable in Pennsylvania, works for UPS, and is a lead instructor for Character First. Gary's presentation was an interesting mixture of Biblical instruction, interpersonal communication skills, and insights into the importance of one's personal character. What's really interesting is that Gary's presentation, which is used in arenas like corporate training seminars, translated powerfully into our context of church planting ministry. The "bottom-line" of Gary's talk was that there is a "new normal" in our culture related to wealth, health, and relationships. As a result of these new standards, or cultural codes, the way we engage people with the gospel of Jesus Christ may take on new forms. He said early on that, "[Ministering for Christ in your culture] is all about restoring broken relationships." This notion of "restoring relationships" lead to his presentation of the importance of Christ-like character.

I've been thinking a lot about character lately, even beyond Tuesday's special presentation. Our men's Bible study group has been studying Jerry Bridges' book THE PRACTICE OF GODLINESS where various godly characteristics are defined, described, and illustrated. How important is our character...before God...before the ourselves? Are we allowing ourselves to embrace the dangerous philosophy of our culture that there is an acceptable sliding scale when it comes to character? Have we bought into this idea that we are "okay" so long as we don't cause damage to others around us (and frankly, even a little collateral damage is okay in the eyes of many).

The Bible says in Romans 5:2-5:
Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
The growth of our character matters not because we think so nor because the world thinks so. Our character is important because God says that it's important. Take a look at this list and reflect over the character of your life before God. (You can click on the picture to make it bigger.)

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