When You Talk to the Man Upstairs, Mention My Name

12.8.14“Kevin” comes once or twice a month to church. Always nice and affable, a little on the stoic side. Doesn’t say much. Kevin first started coming with a family member months ago (this family member told me that it was a BIG deal that Kevin was back in church). Years of wild living. Years of mistakes. Years of running. But now he’s been coming to Mt Vernon.

Every once in awhile Kevin will come up to me after the service and say a few kind words. Something I preached on spoke to him. He did so again yesterday and spoke this phrase again to me, “When you talk to the man upstairs, mention my name.” He’s said it maybe two or three times over the months.

My first reaction is that it sounds almost Catholic in nature, him requesting that I be a priest or intercessor for him. But I know that he doesn’t have any Catholicism in his background. I think he asks me to mention him to God because Kevin doesn’t feel worthy enough to pray himself. He spent years living hard and has accumulated regrets that are weighing him down. In his mind he’s convinced he’s blown it with God. Kevin doesn’t think he deserves another chance. He’s thinks God thinks the same way.

My heart breaks for Kevin and the regrets that weigh him down, and yet my heart rejoices that he’s in a place where he can hear about and hopefully experience the grace, mercy, and forgiveness of a loving God. God loves Kevin. God’s not done with Kevin yet. He hasn’t given up on Kevin, and neither should we.

If you’re reading this and don’t mind praying, pray for Kevin (that’s not his real name but God will know whom you’re referencing). Pray that Kevin would experience grace and mercy. Pray that Kevin could lay his burdens down at the foot of the cross. Pray that Mt Vernon can be the hands and feet of Jesus tangibly in Kevin’s life. Let’s all mention his name to the man upstairs.

Creating Contagious Communities of Hope

Hope is the most valuable commodity in the world today. If you have hope, you can endure the greatest trial, walk through the deepest valley, hold on in the depths of despair. If you take away hope you’re finished, doomed to wander aimlessly through the arid wasteland that life can sometimes be. Hope is the most valuable commodity in the world today.

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The driving vision of Mt Vernon is creating contagious communities of hope. Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. His work on the cross, and more importantly his resurrection from the dead, gives us hope. Through Jesus we have hope for a home. We can belong. We are not orphaned in this universe. Our Heavenly Father calls us his own and adopts us into his family through the sacrifice of his son Jesus. We belong.

Through Jesus we have hope to overcome. We can change. We don’t have to remain mired in our current circumstances. We have the power of Almighty God living inside of us, breathing new life and new power into us. We are transformed. We can overcome. We can change. Through Jesus we have hope for a purpose. We matter. We were created on purpose for a purpose. Our lives are infused with meaning simply because we exist. In the eyes of our Creator, we are beautiful, purpose-filled, majestic souls worth the sacrifice of his only Son. We matter.

And through Jesus we have hope for eternity. This world is not the end. This life is not all that there is. By conquering death and the grave, Jesus ransomed us from death and secured for us a future glory that will make this world pale in comparison. In Jesus our future is bright. In Jesus our eternity is secured. Because of Jesus we have hope, therefore we do not lose heart.

If you strip everything else away, it’s the hope we have in Jesus that drives everything we do. And that’s why our unifying vision is creating contagious communities of hope.

Creating Contagious Communities

The battlecry of Mt Vernon Church is creating contagious communities of hope. Over the past two days we’ve looked at what it means to create and what it means to live in community. Today we’re going to talk about what it means to be contagious.

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The definition of contagious is: (of an emotion, feeling, or attitude) likely to spread to and affect others. That should be an obvious adjective for the church, but many times it’s not. Growing up I was a part of churches that had drawn the circle around a group of people and said in effect, “This is enough; this is all we are going to reach.” I’ve had the heartbreaking experience of seeing friends come to Christ but then be rejected by the church because they didn’t fit the ‘church mold.’ They were good enough for Jesus; they just weren’t good enough for the church.

At Mt Vernon, we never want to draw the circle around those in the room and say, “this is enough.” We want to be contagious. This passion drives the way we present ourselves, the language we use, the songs we sing, and the sermons I preach. We approach church with the mindset every week that God is actively drawing people to himself. He’s actively working in our community, and so should we.

So we invite, we bring our friends and loved ones and even those we’ve just met. We have medically-trained doctors sitting next to recovering alcoholics, and just about everyone in between. We go overboard with our Host Team (guest services) to ensure that everyone knows they’re welcome here. You can’t walk through our doors without being greeted six times. We’re a bunch of saved people that have been transformed by the love of Jesus. It’s a love we can’t keep to ourselves. We’re contagious.

Creating Communities

The unifying vision of Mt Vernon Church is creating contagious communities of hope. Yesterday I talked about what it means to create. Today I want to talk about community.

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Culture today is overwhelmed with an epidemic of loneliness and isolation. The digital revolution of the past two decades was intended to bring people together in new and exciting ways. Email, Instant Messenger, Text Messaging, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. In one sense, we are more connected than ever before. And yet, technological connectivity is a poor facade for true community. We were created to do life together. We were wired to live in community. God models that in his own being with the trinity. It’s why humans have always been intrinsically drawn together in relationships. It’s why the worst form of punishment given out to criminals is solitary confinement. We were created for community.

At Mt Vernon, we’re intentional about creating community. Community isn’t something that happens when we sit in rows. Simply occupying the same space together for an hour on Sundays isn’t enough. True, deep-rooted, face-to-face community happens over time through conversations. Community happens as relationships build equity and trust together. That can’t be done sitting in rows. It has to be done sitting in circles. LifeGroups (our moniker for small groups) are the lifeblood of our church. It’s the foundation of our community. Small groups of believers, gathering together in rooms and homes, sharing meals together, opening the Word together, doing life together, creating contagious communities of hope.

Community is where church happens. It’s where we can be the hands and feet of Jesus. It’s where we can practically show Christ’s love to those in need. Community isn’t flashy; it’s more mundane than spectacular, more marathon than sprint. But when life (and church) is lived in community, we fulfill the vision of the New Testament church and bring glory to the One who created us for community.