Pastor Kenton Slabaugh, senior pastor of Restoration Fellowship in Sarasota, FL, and senior leader of Restoration Network International shared a message with the Landstown congregation at our annual retreat on Sunday, September 2, 2012. I am borrowing his outline and reworking his message specifically for our congregation. My apologies to Pastor Kenton.
1 Peter 2:9-10: But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.
We are a chosen generation of people, a people being built together into a spiritual house. 1 Peter 2:5 – You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
The local church is a spiritual house. It is a group of people being formed by the power of the Holy Spirit into a living place for God (Ephesians 2:21-22). It is a place for God to dwell, to rest, to reside. It is not a building for religious activities to take place, but a place for the presence of God to be at home.
The local church is a holy priesthood. What do priests do? They offer sacrifices. We as God’s people are called to offer up spiritual sacrifices. We do not place animals on the altar. Instead, having presented our bodies as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1), we offer praise and worship, both in our individual as well as our corporate lives (Hebrews 13:15). We offer thanksgiving, recognizing that when we fail to thank God for His work in our lives, we are in danger of our hearts being darkened through the futility of our thoughts (Romans 1:21).
We offer up a lifestyle of obedience because we know that if we love the Lord, we will obey His commands (John 14:15; I John 5:3). We offer up a lifestyle of relationships with one another and with Christ, knowing that when “we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (I John 1:7).
What are we to be about as a local body of believers? Fellowship includes many things, mostly known in the New Testament as the “one anothers,” the things we do because we are in relationship with each other; things like, “be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).
What are the things that make Landstown Community Church what we are? What makes us like other churches in our community but also, what makes us unique, different than other churches? What ties us to the other churches in our network of churches, Restoration Network International?
What are the mantles of Landstown Community Church?
Landstown Community Church is a place of the Lord’s presence. Every congregation has a purpose for existence. There is a reason that God has placed us here on the corner of Dam Neck Rd. and Monet Dr. in Virginia Beach, Virginia. I believe that a primary reason for us being here is to provide, through praise and worship along with intercessory prayer and fellowship, a place where the presence of God abides. As we gather here to lift up the name of Jesus and to magnify God, as we seek to honor the Lord’s presence in our midst, we provide a place for people to meet with Him. Whether they may be devoted followers or novices, or even pre-believers, people find a place where they can experience God’s presence moving in His people.
The people of Landstown Community Church are a people of love, acceptance, and forgiveness. They are a people willing to invest in the lives of others. We love people for who they are, created in the image of God, loved by God, bought and paid for by the very life-blood of the Son of God. We recognize that every single person has value, none excepted.
The people of Landstown Community Church accept people as they are. We don’t have a long list of rules and regulations, a bunch of hoops that you have to jump through to be involved in what God is doing here. We will walk with you, no matter what you’re going through or where you may have been. Anyone with a sincere desire to follow Jesus is welcome to join in the adventure. We encourage everyone to repent of our self-focused lives and trust fully in the grace of God in our Lord Jesus Christ.
The people of Landstown Community Church forgive people, no matter what. As quoted above, we forgive others as we ourselves have been forgiven. No sin is too great; no failure too drastic to be forgiven. Fellowship and walking in relationship with each other require a willingness to forgive one another’s failures and restoration of those who have stumbled, recognizing that none of us are without fault.
Our desire is to live in community with one another. We realize that church is more than a service. It is living life in relationship with one another, caring for one another, and encouraging one another in the ways of the Lord.
One of the great needs in our world is fathering and mothering. Our families have been torn apart by divorce. Children are being brought into the world and being abandoned and abused. Many of our youth and young adults have never been parented. The church has a unique opportunity to come alongside these spiritual orphans and be fathers and mothers for those who are struggling on their own. The great need is for spiritual fathers and mothers to “adopt” these orphaned young people and help to “turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers” (Malachi 4:6).
We are embracing the teachings of orphan thinking and spiritual adoption. We seek to have everyone come to a place of health in our minds and hearts, to lay aside orphan thinking and to have our minds renewed according to the Word of God; to return to the Father of spirits and live (Hebrews 12:9).
We desire that our congregational culture become one of family, to move beyond surface fellowship to becoming involved in each other’s lives at a deep level, beyond what you may be able to find at the neighborhood sports bar or coffee shop. To be family, to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2), to share deeply, spirit with spirit, and provide a safe place to be real in our struggles to “put off the old man with his deeds, and…put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him” (Colossians 3:9-10).
We support and participate in ministries of inner healing and deliverance. We believe in and pray for physical healing, trusting in the authority of the Word of God that tells us that “He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses” (Matthew 8:17), and He “Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness – by whose stripes you were healed” (I Peter 2:24). Freedom in Christ is a value that all of us work at for ourselves and each other.
Our goal is to grow our congregation by impacting our circles of influence and to see our communities changed. Through growing the church, we want to launch new congregations and partner with other congregations to expand the Kingdom of God all over the world.
Over the years, many people have come and gone. We have experienced both growth and decline. I believe God is redeeming the years of decline so that we will have opportunities to both launch new works and help further the ministry of existing works. Cooperation with other congregations in our city and region is a key to expanding the Kingdom of God. No one congregation is capable of impacting our culture by themselves. Together we can accomplish so much more than any of us could possibly do alone.
Through relationships with our friends and neighbors, we attempt to love people into the body of Christ. Most of us are more comfortable with relational evangelism than with cold call kinds of outreach. Through meeting needs, sowing seed, a little here, a little there, we hope to see a harvest of souls. The key is to love people outside the church, to treat people with kindness and compassion. It is crucial that we embrace people inside the church as well. “Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:9-10).
All of these things are the walls of our spiritual house. It is what we are known for and what we desire to be known for. These are mantles: God-given anointing and authority to accomplish what God has placed us here to do.
This is what we are committed to as a people:
- To continually host and minister to the presence of the Lord;
- To be a people of love, acceptance, and forgiveness and to live in harmony with one another in community and unity with other members of the body of Christ;
- To be a people of spiritual fathers and mothers that displace orphan thinking with an adoption mentality that creates a safe family atmosphere;
- To be a people of refuge for those who are down-trodden, addicted, wounded, and distressed, promoting healing and wholeness;
- To launch church plants and embrace new congregations as relational opportunities present themselves;
- To love people into the body of Christ, into Landstown Community Church, and the broader kingdom of God.
Through God’s grace we will be this people and we invite you to join us in the effort.