I love seeing what God is doing at Antioch! If I haven’t said it before (I have!), I love being your pastor. It’s an honor, a privilege, and a blessing. I love seeing new faces and hearing stories about not only coming to Jesus but also coming to a deeper understanding of the Gospel of grace. Antioch emphasizes a “grace culture” – we not only preach a Gospel of grace, but we live out grace in the covenant community. As our refugee camp continues to grow, it’s important that we maintain the “unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph 4:3). So, to that end, I’d like to introduce you to our next sermon series: “Vital Signs.”
Beginning Sunday August 18th, We will begin a 9 week series on the doctrine of ecclesiology (or, the church). I know, it’s not expositional! While we remain fully committed to the concept of preaching chapter by chapter and verse by verse, occasionally it is good and necessary to ask “What does the Bible teach about _______?” This is called systematic theology. Whether we go chapter by chapter or whether we examine doctrinal subjects, the important thing is that we stick to the Word of God. So, in this series, we are asking what God’s Word collectively says about His Church. Then… back to our steady diet of exposition (I’m looking at you, Ruth)!
Vital Signs is adapted from the book 9 Marks of a Healthy Church, written by Mark Dever. This book (and ministry) has greatly influenced my philosophy of ministry. In short, Dever suggests that the health of a local church can be assessed by examining how the church preaches and practices 9 specific areas related to ecclesiology. They are: preaching, biblical theology, the Gospel, conversion, evangelism, membership, discipline, discipleship, and leadership. While it should be clear, we will state the obvious: We are not proclaiming Dever’s book as authoritative, rather, we are letting Scripture speak into these areas of our worship. These are the “vital signs” of a healthy church. Why do we make such a big deal about preaching verse by verse? Why don’t we do altar calls? Why don’t we ask people to recite a prayer? Why do we “go deep”? Is membership biblical? Why do we practice church discipline? Why do we lead with the Gospel? These are all questions we will examine as we ask God to show us in His Word how the Church is supposed to function. After all, it’s His church! As we continue to invite our community to Antioch, I pray that this sermon series will unify us in our purpose, encourage us in our endeavors, strengthen us in our resolve, and stir us in our worship.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Pastor Matthew S. Rickett