Thursday, January 30, 2014

Why the Membership Covenant?

At our annual Family meeting we announced changes to our membership covenant. We've always had one but we recently re-vamped it and wanted to make it available to our Dwell family. Here are some questions or objections that we've heard or anticipate with the new document.

Frequently Asked Questions/Objections about the Membership Covenant

1) "Why a membership covenant? Isn't it going to lead to legalism of some kind?"
The importance of membership and a membership covenant is addressed in the document itself. But underneath that fear is that people will be held to some arbitrary standard and forced to live a certain way that seems contrary to God's love and grace enabling a legalistic environment. I have two ways I try to respond to what are legitimate concerns.
a) Legalism is one extreme error of the gospel and rightly a false gospel. But so is lawlessness. Christians are not better than anyone else, but by the Spirit they are leaving behind their life in the flesh. Christ did not die on the cross to forgive sin so that we could continue in sin (Rom. 6). He died to free us not just from the penalty, but also the power of sin. A Christian is being renewed in the image of our creator, is a new creation, is part of a redeemed community, is experiencing freedom from sin not because of the law but because we are united with Christ by the Spirit in his death and resurrection. Meaning, victory over sin is possible in the here and now. To not believe God can or needs to change you or that you need to be transformed at all, is to lack faith in power of Christ to renew you by the gospel on some level.
b) Perfection is not required, but progression is.
In other words, sanctification is the fruit of true salvation. The membership covenant is not intended to say, "You have to be at X level before we think you are a legit Christian." It is intended to say, "I need the body of Christ to foster the work of the Spirit to produce the fruit of God's grace in my life. I need other people to hold me accountable, to help me work through my hopes and fears so that God's Spirit may change my heart to the heart of Christ." We would never deny membership to anyone on the basis of what they have or have not done. We would only deny membership to those who say, "I have no sin," to those who call evil good, and good evil (Is. 5:20; 1 John 1:8).

2) "I can't be a part of this church if I don't agree to the Covenant."
This is simply not true and a misunderstanding of how membership functions in a church. There are lots of people who are a part of our church and who attend our church consistently but they are not members. Even though being a member is a Biblical concept, it is clear there were people who regularly attended worship services or participated in the life of the God's people but were not committed members of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 14). The Membership Covenant is for voting members and ministry leaders. It is not for our wider community and every attender. Membership is best reserved for those committed to being a disciple of Jesus Christ in this particular body of believers and see this church accomplish God's charge to make disciples.

3) "What is different about the new one?"

     a) Leadership Expectations
We wanted to add what leadership's obligations are to its members. The old Membership Covenant had lots of language about being a devoted Christian and voting privileges. But it had no language about how the leadership was supposed to serve its members. It would be like God telling Israel what the law was in Deuteronomy but leaving out the blessings and warnings. "You have to do this. But I don't have to do anything for you or hold you accountable."A covenant in the Bible is an agreement to be faithful even when the other party is not. It is given in the context of a redemptive relationship. God saved Israel and then covenanted with his people to always be faithful to them because he was the God of grace who saved them, even if they were not always faithful to him. Our leadership is committed to serve you whether you fill like a Christian rock star or a Christian failure.

     b) We wanted to include that members should participate in the ministry of the church, not      just believe what we do and attend.
We think it was necessary to communicate being a member is more than merely calling yourself a Christian and attending regularly. It is a commitment to contribute to the church's worship, service, and mission.

     c) We needed more clarity on organizational and doctrinal unity with a Spirit of charity.
The previous one simply mentioned agreement with our Affirmation of Faith but nothing about the spirit of agreement or disagreement. We need to agree on essentials. But we need to not be jerks about minor matters we disagree on. The Apostle Paul was hard on blatant unrepentant sin (1 Cor. 5) and false teaching (1 Tim. 1:20). But he was also hard on divisive people who threatened the unity of the church (1 Cor.; Tit. 3:10-11). We need to receive each other in Christ as Christ has received us (Rom. 15:1-7).

     d) We needed more clarity on being holy in Christ while also continuing to pursue holiness in Christ.
I think this is a frequently misunderstood part of the gospel, grace, and God's love today. People know Jesus is about unconditional love and Christians are not supposed to be judgmental. But how does one balance that with the clear commands to be holy and Jesus' words himself, "If you love me, you will obey my commands." Christ came to save us from the power of sin. We will change and we are destined to reflect the image of Jesus. There is an "already and not yet" aspect to the kingdom of God and our own holiness. We don't have to be perfect or as holy as the person next to us. But we do need to be optimistically committed to walk in his Spirit.

     e) We needed to make things previously implied explicit.
The old Membership Covenant said things like, "forsake the ways of sin," but did not say what was a sin or not. It was assumed you knew that meant not committing adultery, being addicted to porn, abusing alcohol or drugs, being an abusive parent or spouse, etc. We need to be clear about these things. We need to be clear that we were saved by grace alone through Christ Jesus to do good works.

4) "There are lots of other things called sins in the Bible that are not spelled out in the Membership Covenant. Why only address these particular ones?"
This is a valid point. Its a contextual decision. Traditional societies worshipped family, honor, and one's tribe - this can lead to communalism, classism, and racism. Modern society tends to worship money, sex, and power in order to create an identity for the individual previously gained through community. All of these are good things but when they become ultimate things they corrupt the soul and destroy people's lives. This is why we encourage unity, submission, servant leadership, and accountability to the body (denial of power), generosity and giving (denial of money), and sexual fidelity and chastity (denial of the worship of sex). We have to avoid the love of money, of power, and the lusts of the flesh. Eventually they catch up with you, and you find the fruit of your love is loneliness because people are tired of being used for your own sense of identity. Remember, the love of Christ is expressed most profoundly in the cross (1 John 4:10). Our identity is found in finding mercy from the very one we rebelled against.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

From Pastor Jason: A Unified Family

This year the elders and I want to see Dwell grow in unity. (Perhaps you’ve picked up on this theme.) I think yesterday was a great step toward this end. If you remember we reviewed our aim to receive, cultivate, and anticipate a unity anchored in God’s love and truth. I hope this was clear to those of you who were able to attend our family meeting yesterday. The sermon unpacked our biblical logic for the possibility and pursuit of unity. The family meeting laid out our practical application of this principle and purpose. We are committed to seeing everyone at Dwell grow together this year–from the newly born to seasoned saints. We’ll do this by keeping our faith anchored in the nature of God himself. And then, through this understanding we will seek clarity of our personal giftedness through communication and participation. We want to keep getting healthy … because healthy things grow in healthy ways. 

Attached you’ll find a digital form of our NCD report that John Lunsford reviewed at yesterday’s meeting. Additionally I’ve included a copy of the membership covenant and annual report from the pastors and elders. 

Please, if you have any questions don’t hesitate to give me a call (408.280.0611) or shoot me an email (

Much, much love …
Pastor Jason


Click the link to view each document ...


Friday, January 17, 2014

Recommended Books - Resolving Everyday Conflict (The Peacemaker)

I don't know about you, but I really struggle with conflict. As difficult as it is, conflict needs to be faced in order to be resolved. The problem is we do not always address it in a way that is gives us a sense of peace or is helpful (instead of harmful) to others.

Some of us ignore it, brush it under the rug, and hope it goes away. But this often enables another person to continue harmful behavior while bitterness, resentment, and anger bubble just under the surface. A single spark will cause an eruption and often a vengeful response.

Some of us become aggressive and seek to deal with conflict right away but often without much gentleness and a lot of misunderstanding. We wonder why people we often seek out to resolve a problem go running the other direction, meanwhile we label them as "dysfunctional" or unhealthy.

Resolving Everyday Conflict is a very short and simple book that gives four basic principles to resolving conflict in a way that fosters change and reconciliation. It is basically a shortened version of the very popular and excellent book The Peacemaker. Both are written by Ken Sande who has founded Peacemaker ministries as a result of the popularity of these books. It doesn't just follow Biblical principles laid out by Jesus, but Gospel principles that work to change our hearts to be more like Christ and be agents of peace and change in other peoples lives.

The book covers the 4 "G's" of conflict:
- G1 is Glorify God - bring God into your situation and seek his guidance and help to bring resolution and peace (this doesn't mean using him to rain down judgment!).
- G2 is Get the Log Out - own up to your part of the conflict (the step most frequently skipped).
- G3 is Gently Restore - help others own their part of the conflict (probably the most misused).
- G4 is Go and Be Reconciled (perhaps the most difficult).
The four principles sound simple on the surface and rather elementary, but if we are honest with ourselves, many of us are stuck in the third grade when it comes to resolving conflict. We might get 2 out of the four and that only with partial credit.

Sande asserts that the way we often try to make peace is to use some authority, whether our own or God's, in order to say why the other person is wrong and needs to change. We often believe our judgment of the situation is the right one. We overlook our own faults or we misplace them. We need to stop thinking we can change them or that they are a hopeless cause. We don't have God's perspective on the whole thing. He does desire to use us to be a catalyst for change in others. But let him do his job and you do yours. We have to acknowledge we contribute to the problem and begin with confessing our own sin and contribution. It doesn't matter whose portion is bigger, a speck in your own eye should always look like a log to you! Then by God's grace we may gain a hearing to gently point out the speck in another person's eye. This is difficult to do but we have to be gracious and we have to have their best interests in mind. Lastly, we must forgive and pray that the other person is able to as well and thus be reconciled.

It may sound like a step by step process. It isn't. Its an art. But it is gospel art woven by God to reveal his glory, the sufficiency of his Son, for our good. I hope you check out Resolving Everyday Conflict and find peace in all your relationships through Christ Jesus.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

From Pastor Jason: Memorizing the Mundane

Perhaps you’ve given it some thought. Perhaps you’ve already cast the opportunity aside … not your thing. Or maybe, just maybe you’ve already got Matthew 5:1 memorized. At first blush this verse may seem simple enough; if not in length then certainly in content. What’s the big deal? Jesus saw a crowd. Then walked up a mountain (more like a big hill). And then sat down. What deep truth could we possibly glean from such a non-miraculous verse? What’s the point in memorizing such a simple set of words? I’m glad you asked.

One of my favorite things about the Bible are verses just like this. It’s not impressive. It’s not memorable. It’s not the good stuff. It’s set-up and context. What Jesus is about to say is arguably the most important address in the New Testament. But in my mind the simple, mundane, casual, and forgettable details of Matthew 5:1 make his sermon that much more viable for us today.

Today, when you go to church there’s a very good chance when it comes time for the preacher to preach he will stand. Or when you’re at school, when the teacher teaches, she or he stands most of the time. Very few take a seat. However in Jesus’ day it was customary for the rabbi or teacher to stand while he read from Scripture, but then to sit down when he was addressing the crowd. And so it brings life and authenticity to the stories of Scripture such details are present. Like when Jesus read Isaiah in the temple and rolled up the scroll … then sat down. Or when Jesus saw a crowd and walked up a big hill … then sat down.

When we memorize the mundane we are compelled to remember ... this really happened!

- Pastor Jason 


Work Day at Dwell - Coming up this Saturday, January 18th at 10am. We need your help to whip the church into shape! We also need to know how much coffee to make and lunch to buy, so please shoot an e-mail to if you plan on being there!

Family Meeting - the Google Doc sign-up sheet has been fixed so you can actually add your name to it! Yay! We need not only food sign-ups but also set-up, tear-down and more.

Men's Retreat - Dwell men, this is a great time to retreat and do manly things in the foosball and worshipping the Lord to the sounds of the Dwell Christian Church All-Dude Worship Band. Click here for more info. $30 deposit due to Jean Prats by Feb. 3.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

From Pastor Jason: Bible, Bible, Bible

At Dwell we really love the Bible. And this year we want everyone at Dwell to grow, grow, grow in their affection for Scripture. In my experience there is no better way to fall in love or back into love with Scripture than simply opening the Book. That’s why we are encouraging everyone to read through the Bible together this year. That’s why we are encouraging each of you to memorize Scripture as a church this year. Our reading plan has just begun … but it is never too late to jump on board (check out the reading guide here). And our memorization of Matthew 5:1-12 will begin this Sunday. Please join us!

As we open up the Word together more and more I know each of you will benefit greatly. I know all of us will only grow in your appreciation for the sixty-six books that form the Bible. But I do have one warning. There is a subtle yet profound difference between loving the Bible and loving God. It’s good to love the Scriptures. But that’s not the end of a Christian’s affections. After all, the text exists to highlight the majesty and goodness and nature of God himself. So let’s not stop at enjoying a book; may we fall in love or back into love with Jesus this year, together.

See you on Sunday!
- Pastor Jason 

- Dwell Work Day coming up next Saturday, January 18th. More info here.
- Family Meeting scheduled for Sunday, January 26th, directly following service. Come have lunch as a Dwell family (lunch provided!), praise God for 2013 and look ahead to 2014!
- Remember to avail yourself of our church blog for all kinds of interesting resources and news that your pastors put together just for you!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Explaining the Bible Reading plan

The Bible reading plan we are promoting at our church this year is a slight modification of the classic M'Cheyne reading plan. His has about four passages each day designed to have you read through the Old Testament once and the New Testament and Psalms twice. It is broken up into two passages for family reading and two passages for personal reading. It begins with Genesis 1 and Matthew 1 and just moves to the next chapter each day.

Our modification is basically to just use the first two passages for family reading this year, and then next year use the second two passages. If you follow it you will read Genesis through 2 Chronicles, Psalms, and the New Testament this year. Next year you would read all the Wisdom books and Prophets, Psalms, and the New Testament.

A wonderful resource to give great insights into the passages each day is DA Carsons "blog" For the Love of God. It is basically his 2 volume devotional book that follows the M'Cheyne reading plan. He provides reflections on one of the four passages each day.  You can follow it here.

Hope you have a wonderful time reading!