Cornerstone exists because of Jesus. We are a people who have been transformed by the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, God has forgiven us and adopted us into his family. Now, we have a whole new life.
Through the gospel, God redeems us, forgives us, and adopts us into his family. The good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection makes each one of us a new creation and gives us a new identity: children of God. This is why we can never think of the church as an organization or a building. The church is actually a family—God’s family, filled with redeemed sinners that are now his children.
Through the gospel, God forgives us, adopts us into his family, and makes us his disciples. This means that the church is not just any family. We are a family formed by God—and sent out with a purpose.
The church is a family that ministers to one another, cares for one another, and builds one another up. Each member of the family is a child of God who is uniquely gifted to bless the family and to be a light in our city.
Just like a vine grows best with a good trellis, our church family grows best with good programs. Our programs and ministries are tailored to support the community and mission God has given us.
"Just as the gospel has thickened around your own heart—God's influence getting stronger and stronger in your life—it's been doing the same thing in the lives of four hundred other people at Cornerstone."
Every Sunday, we take time in our services to recognize God's activity in our midst. Most of the time we focus on what God is doing in a specific part of the church that not everyone gets to see. But this last Sunday, we got the chance to take a step back and look at what God is doing with the whole church together, and how he is leading us forward in 2016.
What God is doing with us today is actually a part of what he's been doing for thousands of years. Every local church like Cornerstone can trace its history back to the book of Acts, after Jesus died and rose again. His disciples stood up in Jerusalem and started preaching the gospel, and that day the Holy Spirit grabbed a hold of 3000 people. They became the first Christian community—the first church.
It's hard to imagine they had any idea what would happen. From those 3000 people, the gospel began to grow like a vine. If you’ve ever seen a vine grow on a trellis—those fences that are made up of criss-crossed strips of wood—the vine starts by grabbing onto one piece of the trellis, and it thickens around it, and then it reaches out to the next one.
Paul talks about that kind of growth in his letter to the Corinthian church:
"In the whole world [the gospel] is bearing fruit and growing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth." –Colossians 1:5-6
He's using vine language to describe the gospel grabbing a hold of people, thickening around them, and then launching out to other people. Growing, bearing fruit, spreading the grace of God.
That's how God was active in the book of Acts, and how he is still active across the world! He grabbed a hold of three thousand people and wrapped them into a church community, and thickened the gospel around their hearts. And then, he reached out and grabbed on to their neighbors, coworkers, and friends. Even whole cities were overtaken by the gospel as it grew, and bore fruit, and continued to reach out.
Heart by heart, generation by generation, the gospel kept bearing fruit and growing like a vine. Over thousands of years the gospel spread out across the world—until it reached your heart, and grabbed a hold of you. Your life is caught up in what God has been doing for millennia.
If you think about even the last few years of your life, you can see the ways God has been thickening his hold on your heart. Take a moment and consider the milestones that have happened in your life over the last three years. Through all different experiences, all the different life events, consider how God has been active in your own life. In other words, take a moment and recognize God's activity. Now, think about how the church community at Cornerstone has been a part of that process: from sermons to community groups to the friendships and experiences you've had here.
That's how it's always been: all throughout history, wherever the gospel grabbed people, they formed around a church community. That church family became the locus out of which all this growth happened.
Just as the gospel has thickened around your own heart—God's influence getting stronger and stronger in your life—it's been doing the same thing in the lives of four hundred other people at Cornerstone. Look at any person in our church family and you'll see someone who has a story like yours.
As elders, we have the privilege of watching that growth happen across four hundred people each week. We see the intricate network of God's activity as he moves people lives around, as he uses different relationships and different circumstances to thicken the gospel around different hearts.
And along with that privilege comes the responsibility of saying, "What's the next step? How do we continue participating in how God is growing the gospel? How do we keep walking forward as a part of what God is doing to bear fruit and grow the gospel in Los Angeles?"
As we've seen new people come to Cornerstone, as we've seen our community groups double just in the last year, and as you have seen more and more new faces in the church community around you, we believe that the next step for us will involve adding a third Sunday service in 2016.
We will start holding a third service in February of next year. It will be the same service as our current two service, we're just adding one more. And we're arranging it so that the church stays together as a whole. This service will be just one more avenue to worship with the Cornerstone community. It's a way of responding to the growth of the gospel God is bringing to our church. We’ll provide all the details and answer questions in January. But we are bringing it up now so you can join your pastors in seeing the beauty of what God is doing.
God is doing intricate and powerful work in this church community. When you see that what's happened in your life with God at Cornerstone is multiplied across four hundred people, and then realize there are millions of people in this city that the gospel can reach out to next, it is awesome and humbling. God is thickening the gospel around you and our church community so that he can reach out from us to the hearts of others in Los Angeles, giving them the grace and love that he has given to us.
We're also bringing this up so that you can pray. This next step for us is about a lot more than a service. It’s about us continuing to grow up into what God has called us to be as his community in this city he loves. Pray and ask God how he’s calling you to focus in, and participate, and embrace his activity in your life, and his activity in this community, and his reaching out into the lives around you.
Brian serves the church by overseeing preaching and Sunday morning services at Cornerstone.
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