EBF's Board of Elders
Richard Roberts, Rich Carroll, Rick Siel, Stan Davis and Kim Wenger
The following letter is from Pastor of Teaching Richard Roberts and was presented at the church's 2014 Annual Meeting:
Dear EBF Family,
Ephesians 2:19-22 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (ESV)
In this brief passage, the apostle Paul reveals a little bit more of what Jesus meant when He promised, “I will build my Church…” What Christ Jesus has done is to create a community of people with a new identity and with a new relationship to Him and to one another. He has transferred our identities from enemies of God to friends of God and former enemies with one another into a new Kingdom of priests to God (cf. Rev 5:10), which binds us to one another with a new and prioritized kinship.
To help us understand the depth and intensity of this new identity, the apostle uses three images of increasing intimacy with God and with each other: Kingdom Citizens (fellow citizens), Family Members (members of God’s household), and Cemented Stones (built together with the Cornerstone). Using these images, the apostle is encouraging hope in a new identity and also encouraging affectionate and committed bonds of obligation, accountability, and support to one another within the Body of Christ.
Citizens are members of a new nation, no longer merely ideologues of similar political affiliations or national or racial identities, Christians are not primarily American or Chinese, Black or White, Democrat or Republican, Northwesterner or Southerner, Urban or Rural. “Christian” is the highest and most noble identifier as one who belongs to the Kingdom of God. In Christ, we are all obligated to His Kingdom, share in His values, and owe one another the basic services and accountability consistent with being a citizen of His Kingdom.
We are also members of His household. In this we are adopted into His family with the full privileges of being His children and fellow-heirs with one another. This means that the family of Christ is the highest family relationship for the Christian. I am not a Roberts before I am a Christian. Fellow believers are my family before any blood relationship and take precedence in my affections and in my obligations. This is why Jesus rebuffs His mother and brothers by stating the better and superior familial bonds of the Church by stating, “Behold, my mother and brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.” (Luke 8:19-21) Our Church relationship ought to take priority over our blood family relationships. My mother, the woman who birthed me, is first and foremost my sister in Christ. As such, we are not only citizens of His kingdom, but beloved brothers and sisters in the household of God fulfilling our filial obligations with eager joy, loving accountability, and mutual support of a familial relationship. “I got your back!”
Finally, we are not only citizens together, family united, but even stones cemented (“joined together”) to one another as the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. Thus, being glued together, we are part of one another, never to be separated or removed without grave consequence. When one stone is removed, pieces of the stones around it are torn apart and the entire wall is weakened. We are to be glued to one another to a greater degree than any other relationship in the human experience because the Spirit of God dwells in us. Together we house the very Spirit of the uncreated and unimagined God!
Each of these images increased in intensity and intimacy. Consider that citizens are bound by social contract, family members are bound by genetics, and stones are literally cemented to one another. With each deepening image there is also an intensified relationship with God. A King lives in the region with his people; a father lives in the same house as his children, but the Spirit dwells within His people.
These images imply a far greater and deeper commitment to the purpose of Christ and the life of the Church. They cannot be squared with merely attending services or events, even regularly, or by writing a check or email occasionally.
They imply that, as a new nation, we are committed to making close friends with those from different national, racial, political, and cultural backgrounds within the life of EBF as a priority. As a family, we do not merely “have meetings,” but are committed to share in the basic activities of life together under the guidance and eye of our Father: Praying together, eating together, spending time together, sharing possessions not merely “like” family, but as the family that is prioritized above mere natural relationships. We are committed to our whole lives coming into intimate, personal, consistent contact with other Christians at EBF. We are accountable to God as our Father and to one another as family. We must be functionally close enough to one another that we can see how you are growing and struggling as we seek to imitate our Father together in holiness. As a Temple of the Holy Spirit, it is together that we are inhabited, praying together and letting others know how you really feel about God in the authentic humility that comes from remembering that the Almighty God dwells among us. Thus, we are committed to corporate prayer, study, work, and worship, deemphasizing and deconstructing the individual spirituality that has invaded our churches.
As these three images show, Jesus has built us into a new people. It is not something that we must somehow achieve, but rather that we must live consistently with what He has already done. You are the Church already! You are Kingdom Citizens, Family Members, and Cemented Stones already. We desire to live like this, committed to one another above all other relationships because Christ has created us to be so.
In the light of this new identity and the consequent commitment to the Lord and one another indicated by this, the elders are considering a formal covenant between one another that would signify with proper severity and significance the reality of these relationships. In this covenant, we would desire for each person who desires to follow Christ and live out this commitment to one another as fellow citizens, family members, and living stones to signify it by formally promising to follow Christ and all His commands on how to relate to one another, united as His people at EBF.
A covenant is a sacred promise that is formalized, much like a wedding. The wedding ceremony is the not the real promise, but the sacred and severe public formalizing of the covenant already made to God and one’s spouse. In the same way, this covenant between members of EBF would be the sacred and severe public formalizing of the covenant already made to Christ and to one another in our hearts, to honor one another with sacred love as biblically commanded. If you have any questions about what this means, please contact one of the elders. We are still processing what this may look like for EBF, but we know that we desire to be a family fully committed to one another with whole-hearted affection and commitment, with each member using their gifts to build one another up to humble and joyful faith in Jesus, participating together in evangelizing the lost, praying collectively with fervency, and loving one another to speak the truth with warm affection, and holding each other accountable to the faith which we proclaim and the Lord whom we serve.
Would you pray with us to that end, and consider for yourself, “How committed am I to love this church that belongs to Him?”
In the light of our desire to see the Lord transform us into Christlikeness and to see the lost come to saving faith, we will be gathering together every Sunday evening at 6:30pm to pray for revival and an outpouring of His Spirit. Apart from Him we can do nothing (John 15:5, 16), yet when His Spirit moves He produces mighty works and powerful transformation (Col 1:9-10). Let us pray for a spirit of repentant faith, the conversion of the lost, and the revival of joy amongst us for His glory and our delight.