Hope for 2024

The question with which we constantly wrestle is, “What is the word from God for Waterstone? What does he want us to be and to do? Where does he want us to go?”

by Larry Renoe on January 15, 2024

The New Year is a good time to talk about our direction as a church, what we’ve been hearing from God.

In Proverbs 29:18 we read: Where there is no vision, the people perish (King James Version, 1611). This text is often used to validate the use of mission statements, strategic plans and leadership ingenuity. While those things are helpful and wise, this verse is not really talking about strategic leadership technique. A modern rendering from the New International Version translates Proverbs 29:18: Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint. The word “revelation” means knowledge about God that comes from God. “Perish” means “to run wild or let loose or let our hair down.” What’s in view is a moment like Exodus 32 when Moses, after weeks on the mountain receiving the Law, comes down to find the people, impatient and left to themselves, going crazy and doing their own thing with a golden calf replica of God. When there’s no word from God, people do their own thing.

The question with which we constantly wrestle is, “What is the word from God for Waterstone? What does he want us to be and to do? Where does he want us to go?” It’s not enough to have a snappy business model that takes its cues from what experts say and people want. Unless the Lord builds the house, we labor in vain (Psalm 127:1). We need God! Thus, one of the primary tasks of our elders and staff is to listen to God so that we hear his voice and know where he wants us to go. One of the most common prayers of our staff is, “Come Holy Spirit to this meeting and lead us.” Our leadership posture is not with our back to the congregation saying, “Follow me.” Rather we are circled with the congregation saying, “Lord what do you want, and what do we need?”

Unless the Lord builds the house, we labor in vain. So what do we believe is God’s direction for Waterstone for this time?

The first thing to say is there are many good directions. Every church has a unique calling, culture and creativity that God grants to them. This is the rich beauty of the global church—the diversity of gifts. God’s desire for each local church is to seek its word from God. When we preached the Revelation a few years ago, we encountered this overwhelming, comprehensive vision of Jesus (Revelation 1:12-18). Then we listened as Jesus addresses the seven churches of John’s parish in Central Asia. We noticed that each message begins with a line from this vision: “These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand… The one who is the First and the Last… The one who has the sharp, double-edged sword…” Each church received a specific line from that vision in Revelations 1:12-18. Here is the point: no local church can capture the immensity of Jesus and his rule. Each church gets its own word from God, and God revels in the diversity and particularity of his kingdom! In other words, God is using Red Rocks Church, Foothills Bible Church, West Bowles Community Church and Light of the World Catholic Church (and so on) to share a particular part of the heart of Jesus. We are not called to be Red Rocks or Foothills or West Bowles, we are called to be Waterstone Church with our particular reflection of Jesus with all of our quirks and gifts.

Therefore, what we need do is let you know where we think God is leading Waterstone so you can decide if this is the place for you to invest your lives. Waterstone is great place; we believe God is at work here. Yet there are many great places where God is working. The question is does this word from God for Waterstone stoke the Jesus furnace in your heart?

So what is God saying to Waterstone for this year?

The foundational and formational constant at Waterstone is a word from Jesus’ first words in Gospel of Mark: The kingdom of God is hand. Repent and believe the good news (Mark 1:15). Our mission has never been to be a great church with a fantastic facility. Our mission has been to seek first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33).

What is the kingdom of God? It is the overarching story of Scripture and the definition of reality. Throughout the Bible, we hear God promise and see him move to redeem and renew the whole world through the entrance of supernatural power that resides in His Son, Jesus Christ. As all things are brought back under Christ’s rule and authority, they are restored to wholeness, beauty, justice and freedom. This message that God reigns is the central teaching of Jesus. The word kingdom is mentioned over one hundred twenty times in the gospels, and in ninety of those instances, it is Jesus saying it. Kingdom was his Big Idea. It is also what got him killed. Jesus says he is in charge, and Caesar is not. In fact, Jesus pushed it further: Caesar owes his allegiance to Jesus Christ, and his time is up. 

Waterstone is mindful of two overriding beliefs about the kingdom of God. First, his kingdom is cosmic. A kingdom is a domain of influence where what you say goes. Modern kingdoms include the “kingdom of Google, the kingdom of Elon Musk or Oprah Winfrey.” And those kingdoms do have influence. However, God’s sphere of control is total—all of history, space and time. He has the sovereign right and the stunning power to make his desires the reality.  As theologian and former prime minister of the Netherlands, Abraham Kuyper, put it: “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’” (Sphere Sovereignty, 32).

Second, his kingdom is devastating. That is, if Jesus is in charge, we have to repent. Change. We must fall down before him as our King and put everything in our lives into orbit around him. If he is the meaning of life, the goal of history, and the promise of the future, then we must align every “square inch” of our lives with kingdom come. In other words, the point of Jesus’ first coming was not just to offer an escape from the earth and get to heaven. The point was to say, “Kingdom of God—here. Now. Get on board. Be a walking preview.”

So the guiding word for Waterstone is to seek first the kingdom of God. We believe God is ruling all things—political things, personal things, cultural things—by his unseen power and with his inscrutable wisdom of laying down his life to disarm all other powers. It means investing in eternal things through sacrificial service now. It means putting our ultimate hope and treasure, not into merely human efforts, but in the victorious King who rules over all. As public theologian Russell Moore puts it:

“The kingdom of God, both now and in the age to come, is ultimately about what Paul calls being ‘hidden with Christ is God’ (Colossians 3:3-4)—finding your life and mission in Jesus’ own, not fitting him into the kingdom you design for yourself. For too long we’ve called people to ‘invite Jesus into your life.’ Jesus doesn’t want to be in your life. Your life’s a wreck. Jesus calls you into his life. And his life isn’t boring or purposeless or static. It’s wild and exhilarating and unpredictable… And I yearn for the moment when, as heir to the throne of the cosmos, I join with my brothers and sisters—and our Galilean pioneer—to sing out, ‘Let us eat, drink, and be merry, for yesterday we were dead.’”

(“A Purpose Driven Cosmos,” Christianity Today, February 2012, 33)

Waterstone’s mission is to be a people empowered by the presence of Jesus Christ to proclaim his kingdom and demonstrate his love, justice and mercy to our neighbor. God’s reign is made visible by the Church moving in rhythm with his Kingdom. We identify and practice three rhythms: transform, neighbor and restore.

The Transform rhythm means putting ourselves into environments where we are empowered by the presence of Jesus to become like Jesus. Ephesians 2:19-22 holds this incredible statement—the Church of God is a dwelling place in which God lives by his Spirit. The Church is not an organization of this world. The Church is utterly unique because it runs on Easter power that renews, redeems, nourishes and sustains us. The character of Christ is formed in us by the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-26) such that our driving purpose, like his, is to live for others. At least twice a year we commit to seasons of intentional discipleship pathways where, in community, we participate in courses, practices and worship gatherings intended to help us become like Jesus.

The Restore rhythm is committing our time, abilities, finances and voices to seeing God’s rule and reign break in on the broken structures of our world. The Church is to be a visible demonstration—billboards and previews—of the coming restored kingdom. As well, we are passionate to display unity within Christ’s Body so that the world will see and experience a transcendent love.

Now we come to the rhythm of Neighboring, which means to proclaim the good news of God’s kingdom. Jesus said to go into all the world and make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). We like the daring in the word “proclaim.” Not that you stand on the corner and scream the gospel, but rather proclaim is taking the courage and intentionality to bring up Jesus in a conversation with a friend you love. It is the authenticity to live out the truth that if Jesus is important to you, you will talk about him. The apostle Peter put it this way: In your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect… (1 Peter 3:15).

So now, finally, we come to the beginning question: what is Waterstone hearing from the Lord for this year? Where are we going? We are going Neighboring.  Why?

We live in an increasingly secular culture. What is in front of us is radically different from everything behind. In the 20th century, the church in the West was effective as a “speaking” church where people could be somewhat interested to come inside to see what was going on. But in the 21st century, this is model no longer as effective. According to the Pew Research Center, one-fifth of the U.S. public—and one-third of adults under thirty years old—are religiously unaffiliated These are the highest percentages ever in Pew polling. No longer will the Church be at the center of cultural conversations regarding moral or spiritual values. No longer do social structures support church routines or traditions.

In a pluralistic public square, the Church gains credibility and voice and converts because of the way we love our neighbor and demonstrate his kingdom outside of our building and inside of our culture through hospitality, conversation, compassionate service and seeking justice. In other words, strategies need to change. The Church must stop “canoeing the mountains.” When the Lewis and Clark expedition reached the headwaters of the Missouri River, they expected to look west and see the waves of the Pacific Ocean. Instead, they (eventually) saw the Rocky Mountains. At that moment, their canoe/water expedition became a hiking expedition. Different tactics were required.

Put directly, our growing secular culture requires the reframing of church strategy from a sanctuary-based, membership-based, religious-and-life-service-provider, to a local mission outpost where the congregation is equipped to proclaim and demonstrate God’s kingdom to our neighbor. Each week we send out our congregation as the Presence of God (Holy Spirit dwelling in us!) going into the world—crossing boundaries, proclaiming, praying, healing, loving, serving—bearing witness to the reign of Christ.

This is why we are going Neighboring. What does this mean in terms of practice?

  1. Pray. Our neighbors are those with whom we live, work or play. Choosing four or five individuals/families, we will pray for them by name at least once each week. We pray God’s favor, provision, and invasion of their lives by Jesus. As our prayers go out for them, so do our hearts.
  2. Engage. When we see or encounter our neighbors, we drop our immediate agenda to seek out conversation. Our lives unfold one conversation at a time, and the buildup of conversation helps relationships go from surface to serious to spiritual. After many conversations, your neighbor’s heart will begin to go to you. It is then where 1 Peter 3:15 becomes a reality: give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.
  3. Welcome. This practice was how the early church gained culture-changing influence. Throughout the New Testament we read of how they practiced hospitality to win hearts (Romans 12:13; Hebrews 13:2; 1 Peter 4:9; 3 John v.8). This is the challenge for this year: plan one time with one neighbor to meet for dinner or coffee in order to share your story and the hope that you have in Jesus Christ. Can you imagine what the Holy Spirit (our managing Partner in all things gospel) will do if a thousand believers at Waterstone share their faith at least one time this year?!

As our small groups kickoff this year, I am asking Brooke and our small group leaders to share together the film series, “Life Shared” by Alpha. We originally asked our small groups to view this series in 2019 with the intention of a call to practice in 2020. Then 2020 happened. Thus, we are going to watch it again as a church. It provides not only some great ideas for hospitality, but even more, stories that will stir our hearts.

Neighboring, especially the challenge to share our faith one time this year, is the big idea. It’s where we are going. Will you show this great love with us and for us? When you do, could you please let me know how it goes? . We look forward to the stories and to making His-story.


Tags: vision, prayer, jesus, gospel, kingdom, restore, transform, new year, neighbor, 2024


Rachel Weaver on February 24, 2024 9:46am

This is incredible! Looking forward too see how God works through ourselves & everyone!

Kristin Corash on March 1, 2024 1:03pm

Larry’s description of truth that we don’t ask Jesus to join us and our messed up lives, but He asks us to join Him on His mission adventure (my words) never looking back, is exciting. I envision starting out on a hiking trip, see amazing sights and experiencing miracles. I know Jesus empowers, encourages and leads us by His spirit whom he has graciously given to us and filled us with to follow Him and be like Him.
I want to be part of neighboring and Jesus will empower, guide and lead me to do it.


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