In just four years after its inception at Sydney in 1980, the C3 Church grew from a handful to nearly 400 people. Since then, the church has developed into a Church planting movement with over 400 churches around the world. It was not always easy, however. In the early years, as with many other ministers from God, the C3 founders had to go through intensive tests of faith.
Last Sunday, one of the pioneers of the C3 movement, Pr Mark Kelsey, paid a visit to C3 Subang accompanied by his wife Pr Bernie. He shared a testimony about his experiences of what it meant to be hidden in Christ.
He first shared from Luke 4:14-30, the passage on how Jesus began His ministry. This was just after Jesus had undergone the test of temptations in the wilderness. ‘The Bible says it was Jesus’ custom to go to church (v16). You see, God does not just want us to hear about Him. He wants us to be an active part of His Kingdom. He wants us to belong, and to be part of the family of God. So the first thing we learn is that God wants us to be connected to Him and to be in this family of God.
‘Moving on with the passage, it tells us that the scroll of Isaiah was handed to Jesus on that day. Contained within it was the prophecy that Isaiah wrote ages ago about the Messiah. And Jesus unrolled the scroll and read aloud to the congregation the prophecy concerning Himself.’
When we go to church, we are handed the word of God. But it is more than passive receiving. When we receive the word of God, it is our task to unroll it; to let the word of God speak in a personal way to each one of us. Jesus found the fulfillment of the prophecy concerning His Identity within the word of God.
Pr Mark communicated that a remarkable aspect of Scripture is that it is written to be read and fulfilled. For as it is written in Colossians 3:3, we are each of us dead to our old lives and is now hidden with Christ in God. It means that we have not to just listen to the word of God but to actively live it out. To put it simply, the word of God is alive and extends beyond even the experiential.
In Ezekiel 47:1-10, we read about the river that flows from the Temple of God. This river that flows out from the Throne of God is constant, and within it flow the life that comes from God. How do we access this river of life? Our access is through Christ Jesus. We experience this when we are in worship.
God never just throws us into the deep end of the River. He is gentle with us and He eases us in. Many people experience God during worship, but they end there at what Pr Mark calls Experiential Christianity. We come to church, we worship God, and we are refreshed by the River for a while. And then we go out to the external world, and the River dries up.
But God does not want us to be just at ankle-deep. He wants us to go deeper. And some of us, we go knee-deep and we find ourselves at Directional Christianity. The word of God comes alive, and we find daily guidance from the word of God. The heart and mind becomes willing to be guided by God and we find our lives progressing a little from our past.
But there is more. When we go deeper into waist-deep water, we find ourselves being transformed by God. From the foundations of our being, even before we were born into this world, Christ has already a new version of us in mind. Some people never reach here because they are too bounded by the old personality. In order for God to transform us, we need to venture further away from our old bondages.
And then for those who are faithful enough to go even deeper, we find ourselves submerged in the river. Here it is no longer about us. Our Christianity becomes missional. We connect with God and we no longer seek for our own will but for the mission of God. This is where things can be scary but it is only here that we experience the full glory and power of God. It is here where we find the full life in Christ.
Pr Mark shared that where the river flows there is movement, and none more so than in deep currents. When God first called Pr Mark to plant a church in New York (a completely foreign environment to him) like many of us, he found it terrifying, and he first posed a ‘Gideon Challenge’ to God.
He set 3 conditions; firstly, that his senior pastor would talk to him about planting a church specifically in New York; secondly, that his wife would be present at the conversation, and thirdly, that all this would happen within 24 hours.
The next day, while leaving church for home, his senior pastor approached him to broach the discussion. The amazing thing was on that day, his wife was also on the way from home to his office right at this very moment, and she was also pulled into the discussion. All three conditions came together within 24 hours.
When Pr Mark first started planting his church in New York, it was not easy from the get-go. When they were first in New York, his wife Pr Bernie took up the call from God and went around the neighborhood, letting them know that they have come to start a new church in the city.
They were in fact evicted from their first home because their neighbor happened to be an atheist. Because she was annoyed with him and his wife, she went around petitioning for support to get him and his wife expelled. God directed Pr Mark to a venue for his new church and he found a church but there were only 6 people at the time.
Pr Mark shared that it was very rough in the beginning. God had directed him to a 1000-seater auditorium but there were only 6 people. A few weeks went by like that. One day, a lady came and enquired who he was. Wary of his previous experience, Pr Mark and his wife however decided in the end to be honest with the lady. The lady sat and listened and she accepted Christ right in that service! The next week she brought her husband, the week after that they brought their friends. Their friends brought more people, and in less than 4 months, they had 60 people in their congregation!
‘Remember the River? When you are in the river, life becomes bigger than circumstances,’ Pr Mark shared elatedly. From a trickle in the beginning, the water outlet soon overflowed. ‘The Bible tells us that the River of God flows not only to us but through us. Out of our belly flows Living Water!
‘There are many thirsty people in this world. They are trying to quench their thirst by seeking for answers from it but it is like they’re drinking salty water. God has called each of us to be reservoirs of fresh water for His kingdom. And where fresh Rivers flows, there is life.’
Ezekiel 47 is a reminder to us that God wants us to empty our lives so that we can abide in Him. Every river has an origin and a destination. The origin of God’s River of Life is His Throne and the destination of the River is the world.
This is God’s grand plan. It is what we are called for and when we’re in the deep parts of the River, there are no words in this world that can describe what it is like and the things of God that we will see.
NOTE: All pictures from C3 Subang used with kind permission from the church.
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