As we move into Chapter 3 and 4 of our study of Romans, we will be talking a lot about grace. While we will be discussing the details of grace, I am often reminded in counseling situations, that many Christians, while they may know the basic idea of grace, they don’t understand grace in practice.
Kyle Idleman echoes my thoughts for VCF, writing in his book: Grace is Greater; “Numerous theology books teach the doctrine of grace, and some of them have helped me enormously. To be clear, though … I am much more interested in helping you experience grace.”
This distinction is central to my pastoral calling. Certainly, pastors must teach a sound theology of grace. But if people leave VCF without hearing stories of God’s grace, seeing the results of its healing power, and feeling it soak into their lives, our work is not complete.
Over the next few weeks, may I share with you some of my thoughts about telling the story of God’s grace, eliminating the blind spots eroding our full picture of grace, and setting the right “temperature” to produce vulnerability in our church?
First of all, as a pastor, I have found it easier to explain grace on an intellectual level, but under-estimated the need for people to experience it. So as I have been convicted by Holy Spirit in studying Romans, I am feeling led to bring back some balance to the message of grace.
If you are like me, I find stories, experiences and examples of grace in action powerful. There’s something extremely compelling about people sharing a testimony of grace—either the grace they’ve received or the grace they’ve shared. When we listen to those stories about the power of grace, its beauty comes to life.
So, Pastor Jim, how do you help people at VCF experience grace?
It’s not difficult to find biblical examples of people experiencing grace. In the Gospels, Jesus didn’t use the word grace, he didn’t give a long theological explanation of it, but his whole earthly ministry was marked by stories of grace.
We can also celebrate God’s grace among our own people’s lives. We need to continue to incorporate those stories as much as possible into our worship experiences. Hearing someone else’s story of grace opens up and encourages our own stories of the door to experience.
That’s why one of our desired outcomes for our church is to be authentic, transparent and vulnerable with each other. We see authenticity emphasized in scripture, which is good, but vulnerability takes it a little bit further. The power of God’s grace can be unlocked through our vulnerable moments, when we’re willing to talk about our struggles, doubts, challenges, and fears.
That’s part of what Paul is talking about in 2 Corinthians: when he is weak, God’s grace is shown to be powerful. So vulnerability is a core value that we intentionally celebrate.
Next week, I’ll give some thoughts on how does vulnerability differ from authenticity?