As you read this blog, preparations are underway for the final night of Vacation Bible School.
Pastor Annie Sutton and her army of volunteers have done an amazing job leading children in exploring the love of God and the mysteries of faith. Tonight, an exciting week of worship, Bible study, recreation, crafts and snacks will culminate in a thrilling closing celebration.
Of all the good God has been “up to” this week, I wanted to share one moment worth mention.
One of our volunteers, JCBC member Linda Shipp, shared a conversation she had with the father of one of our international campers.
The daughter was having a terrific week. The parents, who do not attend church, were intrigued by our facilities, and were inquiring about our ongoing programs for children. Linda explained how we have a vibrant ministry to children all year long, and invited them to join us each week. He asked what we teach here. Linda told him we talk about God and about what it means to follow Jesus. Linda encouraged them to come on Sunday to get the full JCBC experience. They appeared very interested, but then shocked Linda when the father asked, “how much does it cost?”
How much does it cost?
Sit with that for just a moment, will you?
On the one hand, we marvel at the innocent inquiry of a neighbor who does not know that church is free. We don’t charge a fee to attend, to worship, to study, or to engage any number of life-giving programs. But on the other hand, his question causes me to reflect.
How much DOES it cost?
Providing ministries of excellence at JCBC certainly does come with a cost.
It costs money, time, energy, presence, prayer, patience, imagination, emotion, leadership, love. As I reflected in a previous post, it costs members the decision to [BE] here and [BE] for what God may be attempting in us and through us.
In his classic work, The Cost of Discipleship, theologian/pastor/martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer mused about what it “cost” to be a follower of Christ. He rightly observed that while the grace of our Lord is free, it is certainly not cheap.
“Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjacks’ wares. The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices. Grace is represented as the Church’s inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits. Grace without price; grace without cost! The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing. Since the cost was infinite, the possibilities of using and spending it are infinite. What would grace be if it were not cheap?…
Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.
Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.
Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.
Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.” (The Cost of Discipleship, pp 43-45)
I want you to consider today, as you think not only about your commitment to the church, but to your highest commitment to the Lord of the church…
What does it cost you to [BE] here?
What should it?
Have I told you lately how much I love being your pastor?
Well, I do.
Rev. Dr. Shaun King
Johns Creek Baptist Church