Karis Church is sending several leaders to plant Coram Deo church in North Carolina. Core team member Josh Matejka shares his thoughts on answering God’s call to plant churches.Read More
Grant Yoder describes how membership in Karis Church has impacted him and his family.
First impressions of Karis Church
The thing that really stood out to me when I first arrived was just how committed the people of Karis were to their church family. Church wasn't something to be consumed, but to be molded and developed by all. A lot of sweat has been poured into Karis over the life of the church, and the many changes taking place in Karis now are exciting and a reaffirmation of this basic truth.
Seeing Jesus in Karis
I see Jesus in the rhythms of our church family. This manifests itself in so many different ways in different pockets throughout our church body. For us, this rhythm most recently manifested itself in the adoption of our daughter. Many families in Karis are embracing the care for orphans, which in turn has created one of these rhythms. From the beginning, my wife and I had friends to walk beside us as we struggled with infertility. We felt lost and didn't understand where God was leading us, but we had many people in our church family praying and encouraging us to continue to seek out His will. After much prayer, Jesus revealed to us the rhythm that he had developed amongst His church. We sat down and broke bread with families that had adopted children in so many different ways. These people poured into us and encouraged us throughout our journey. They laid out their unique and personal journeys in front of us and helped us to see the many routes that adoption could take. And that’s one of the great things about Karis Church. While God has created a rhythm in Karis, it’s not a pop song with three simple power cords. It’s big and vast, like an orchestra. Many instruments, all adding something to the whole. One rhythm, many vessels.
Growth through the preaching of God's Word
Karis Church’s commitment to solid, Bible-based preaching has challenged me and pushed me to study God’s Word with more passion. The fact that the preaching goes verse by verse and chapter by chapter through a book of the Bible reinforces to me that all of God’s Word has equal weight and nothing should be taken lightly. Additionally, Missional Communities (MCs) have provided an avenue to study the Word in more depth, and develop ways to move God’s Word into action through a community of believers. MCs provide many different avenues to take the teachings of Christ to the streets of Columbia.
Grant Yoder has been a member of Karis Church since 2007. He is the Director of Finance at a pharmaceutical company in Mexico, MO. Grant and his wife, Susan, recently welcomed their daughter, Adah, into their family.
Here are 5 ways that you can pray for the church in Japan this week.
1. Revival and unity in the Japanese Church- There are over 160 denominations in Japan among them are major divisions such as charismatic, evangelical and other groups. The events of the 2011 tsunami saw a turning point amongst the church of Japan as these different groups cooperated together to help the relief efforts. During that season the seed of revival began to take root in Japan. Pray the these roots would grow stronger and that this newly unified church would seize the opportunity of this revival and boldly proclaim the gospel throughout the nation. 2. Leadership Training- As the current church leaders in Japan continue to grow older there is a greater demand to see new leaders trained. Declining seminary enrollment and a genuine lack of committed young believers poses a threat to the future of the church. Pray that the current generation of leaders would be able to train up men and women within the local churches to become to future leaders that the church in Japan needs. 3. Discipleship- Application of biblical truth on a daily basis is a great challenge for believers who are continually being pressured to conform to this homogeneous culture. Many new believers struggle to plant firm gospel-centered roots in their lives. Pray that the Lord would give grace to his people that will enable them to live out Romans 12 4. Revitalized Worship- Many of the conservative churches maintain a form-centered worship that lacks the vitality of the Spirit. Ask the Lord to break in and give his people a new song to sing for his glory. 5. Missions- The Japanese church is still very young and has only to begun to be a blessing to the nations. Pray that the Lord would give the church of Japan a vision and burden for the nations of the earth. Japan is remembered among the Asian peoples as the nation that caused great harm and hurt during World War II. Pray that the Lord would raise up the church in Japan to a blessing to Asia and bring reversal to the historical damage.
When congregations practice church discipline today, they’re seen as crazy and controlling. Charges like, “that place is a cult,” are thrown around, for sure. But don’t we see similar practices in our culture at large? My wife’s MOMS club, certainly not a Christian organization, once expelled an unruly member. Reality shows like Intervention have been popular, while the practice of rescuing friends from danger has been the subject of sit-coms, as well. A transformed homosexual won’t hold his membership in a gay and lesbian organization for very long before being removed. But, speak of practicing discipline among the people of the God who invented it, and you’ll get called out for being unloving every time. Church Discipline is Loving
Church discipline, however, is loving. Are the family members dragging their celebrities to Dr. Drew seeking to love them? Is Drew himself showing hatred as he seeks to love those struggling addicts in hard ways? As the church pursues wayward brothers and sisters, calling them back to the gospel, they’re not ceasing love and beginning discipline. They’re loving through obeying Christ in biblical church discipline. I regularly have this conversation when disciplining my children. When they say, “You hate me,” which they often do, I remind them that they’re listening to the words of the crafty serpent and not Jesus. As Proverbs 13:24 puts it, “Whoever spares the rod hates his son.” It’s the absence of discipline that communicates hatred, not its presence. Good fathers love their children well by doing the difficult work of discipline. Good churches do the same.
Church Discipline is Difficult
The difficulty of church discipline is the problem. It’s hard to love people in this way. People lash out. Culture mocks. Churches back down. It’s not just a postmodern problem seen in the objections of the younger generation. It’s also seen in grandmas and grandpas who can’t imagine taking brother Bob or sister Susie off the rolls. Yet, in not obeying their Lord’s commands, they dishonor Him and fail to love their brothers and sisters. I often tell my children that it would be far easier not to discipline them. If I didn’t, though, it would be selfish. I would choose, in those moments, my convenience and my comfort over their growth. I would choose keeping them happy over seeking their good. Good fathers don’t make that choice. Neither do healthy churches.
Church Discipline is Better
Certainly church discipline, when actually attempted, has often been done poorly. However, the presence of poor, unloving cases doesn’t remove our responsibility to follow the loving commands of Christ well. In the Bible, discipline is meant to be restorative. It seeks to win back a brother or sister (Mt. 18:15). The goal isn’t to harm, but rather to deliver from harm, bringing the Christian back into the realm of grace and safety. Unlike secular forms of discipline, church discipline shouldn’t attempt to push a person to the curb or try to make him or her go away. It seeks to bring that struggling sinner back into the fold, where he or she can work through that sin in community.
Our love for others, then, should also be transformative, much like our heavenly Father’s love for us. David Powlison has written, “God’s love is more than unconditional, for it is intended to change those who receive it.” Grace is not simply accepting people as they are. It’s even better than that. Grace is accepting people as they struggle to grow and being beside them as an encouragement in that struggle. Calling someone out on sin can be a very gracious thing. Leaving someone in a self-destructive state can likewise be quite hateful. Christian tough love has a different goal: it seeks gospel restoration and transformation. Sadly, many point and yell, “How unloving!,” turning their backs on a love too great for them to imagine.
Love Through Discipline
Here is our calling: loving our brothers and sisters enough to do difficult things that they might be changed, no matter what cynical non-Christians or deceived Christians might say. Picture the reality show crack addict, having just stumbled and taken a hit, lying desperate in his room. Picture his friends bursting into the room, picking him up, dragging him back to rehab. That’s love. Before we find ourselves drunk in our sin and slipping away from God and His community, let’s surround ourselves with people who we know will rescue us when we don’t want to be rescued. Let’s rid ourselves of the idea that autonomy is either biblical or healthy. Let’s admit together that it, in fact, kills. And, as we see our brothers and sisters stumbling in our midst, let’s show them love, doing hard things, seeking their wellbeing, no matter what anyone thinks, including them. After all, if the world calls us fools, we’re in good company.
As we worshiped together at the Upper Crust this week, several thoughts came to me that led me to immense gratitude for God's providence in our young, "portable" church. What do I mean by portable? Simply that we don't have an official church building that we can call our own. So, some Sundays, like this past one, we worship at other locations together. But why should we be grateful for this? Isn't it just a big hassle? We had to load everything up in the trailer and do a whole bunch of extra setup work. Everyone had to get up even earlier. In fact, wouldn't our setup work be so much easier if we had our own building where we could just leave everything in place for the next week? Well, yes. These "annoyances" would be avoided in our own location. But the reality that hit me on Sunday was just how minor those annoyances are in comparison to the blessings. Without our own building, we are reminded every week - and particularly on weeks such as this past one - that the church actually has very little to do with the building. This is hard to remember in our culture, where we use the word church almost exclusively to describe a building or location where we go to do things like worship or have Bible study. But the church is actually the people of God. The Greek word translated church - ekklesia - literally means "the called ones." A building is not a church. Jesus promised us that "where two or three gather in my name, there I am among them" (Matthew 18:20). Nowhere in the New Testament do you see Jesus or the Apostles talking about the church as a lifeless building or place. In fact, Jesus speaks strongly against it. In John 4, he explains to a woman that the Father is not seeking worshipers who worship merely at a specific place, but worshipers who worship "in spirit and truth." So, the primary blessing for us is that we are constantly reminded that the church is the living, breathing body Christ - God's people. This people worships God wherever they gather. It was beautiful to come together in a completely different place with a totally different feel this week, and hear the voices of his people ring out strong and clear. Indeed, it is not the building that ushers us into God's presence. Rather it is the blood of Christ that makes a way to God's throne. And the Spirit is among us to bring us there.
There are many other blessings in the portable church we can thank God for. We are constantly propelled out into the community, because we don't have a place to which we can retreat. Likewise we are propelled into one another's homes throughout the week, allowing us to practice hospitality toward one another. We can easily miss out on these blessings if we have a prescribed and safe place to go for everything we do. Additionally, we are stretched as a people to corporately take ownership in our Sunday gatherings, because it does take so much service and sacrifice to pull them off. This guards us from letting only the handful of laborers make Sundays happen. Instead, we have a weekly opportunity to serve one another and to contribute to the mission by sacrificiing our time and getting down in the trenches to do humble, sometimes thankless work: plugging in cords, setting up a book table, etc. I'm amazed at how many people give to make our Sundays happen week in and week out. This is a prime avenue for God's sanctifying work as he transforms us into humble, sacrificial servants like Jesus. Plus, we just get to spend more time together on Sundays, connecting and building relationships while we serve!
Lastly, we also have an opportunity to bless the place (and thank God for it!) that we do call home, the Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts. As I participated in the True/False Film Festival this weekend, I saw 90% of the films in the Missouri Theatre. I was reminded consistently by overheard conversations that this venue is a beautiful, unique place in our city. It's the premier place to gather and enjoy the arts together. So many people around me had not yet seen it in its restored elegance. They marveled at it. I paused numerous times to think, "Wow...we get to meet here and praise God like 50 Sundays out the year. That's amazing." So we should thank God for the place he has given us to meet, even as we remember that the place is secondary. He has been exceedingly generous to us. And, moreveover, that generosity has come to us through the MO Theatre staff, such as David White, Tyler Richardson and John Gilbreth. These folks have given much of their time and energy to making this work for us. We have a great opportunity to bless them and the whole Theatre by our own generosity and sacrifice to make sure we take good care of what we've been given, as well as by seeking to frequently bless and thank the people by whom God has given it to us.
So, yes, Karis. As strange as it may sound, let's thank God that we don't have our own building. And let's sieze the opportunity of being a portable church.