Church: Theology in Action

Adam Truax   -  

On February 12th we had our monthly Collective Rally at Trinity Life Church. The idea behind these monthly Sunday morning meetings is that since we are becoming a decentralized network of neighbourhood-focused communities who are on a God-centered mission, we have a real need for unity and shared vision. 

These meetings are for sharing and developing short to medium term vision for our communities, and for allowing relationships to develop across the network. Friends from Scarborough to Mississauga come together to worship Jesus and carry one another’s burdens as we engage each of our communities with similar values and hopes.


At our gathering on February 12th we asked the question, What does it take to become partners in the kingdom mission? Thankfully we could explore some answers to that question found in the book of Romans, in Chapter 12. In this blog, I’ll share the three potential answers we came up with to help us work together as a community across regions in the Greater Toronto Area.


Standing on the Mountain of Kingdom Perspective

Good theology, scripture engagement, reading the Bible, and memorizing portions of the Bible  are all ways that the idea of kingdom perspective has been articulated in the past. We hope that all of these activities will develop into actionable wisdom that leads to a transcendent ability to make decisions and engage in activities that build the kingdom of God. But information is only helpful insofar as it leads to transformation, as many have often said.

Paul, in Romans 12, articulates it like this: “I appeal to you therefore…”(Rom 12:1, emphasis mine). This word, therefore, marks a turning point in the book. It shifts direction from the preceding eleven chapters, which excavate deep theological roots, and turns the focus to highly practical living points explained in the rest of Romans.

If you want to see those theological roots yourself, read chapters 1 to 11, and if you want direction for practical application then read chapters 12 to 16. Of course, we need both of these. Good understanding mixed with good application is a powerful combination.

Paul says this another way: “be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Rom 12:2). He also contrasts that directive with caution against being “conformed to this world” in the same verse. If we are to partner together on the kingdom mission Jesus gave us, then we need to have the ability to think from a higher kingdom perspective.

The best place to stand for that perspective is on the mountain of the scriptures. However, once we attempt to scale that mountain we quickly realize that it’s actually very difficult to get to the top! That shouldn’t stop us from trying, though, and as we keep at it we will find that the best way to climb the mountain is to put into practice what we have learned. It’s essential that we try to embody the values we discover in scripture. A truly integrated and intelligent person tries to align everything they value with how they embody that in the world.


Embodiment of Kingdom Values

If our mind is renewed it should be assumed that our body follows. How you feel and what you ultimately do about things is informed by what you value and consider good or evil in the world.

If you hear about starving children and it leads you to tears, that’s probably because you’ve been taught that all humans are worthy of value, dignity and respect because they’re made in God’s image.

You might also be disturbed by the suffering of children because you know that the biblical narrative suggests humanity was made for thriving in a garden of abundance in which we would be sustained and protected from the harms of chaos. You then may be led to donate money or time to causes that help food security in your own community or around the world.

This is a simplistic example of how our logical base layer code of thinking can affect our actions. Human behaviour is obviously multidimensional and extremely complex, however as we go through life we can derive a baseline assumption that how we think should lead towards action.

Looking again to Romans 12:1, we read Paul’s appeal to the church to  “present your bodies as a living sacrifice… which is your spiritual worship.” The spiritual worship Paul is directing us to here will be our embodiment of the deep theology he led us through in chapters 1 through 11, as mentioned above.

This kind of sacrifice is the delayed gratification of personal desire in order to accomplish a divine purpose. We call this integrity. When someone says something and follows through, even at great personal cost, they have integrity.

In the scriptures, God is regarded as faithful and true. He is the most integrated. Jesus Christ is an embodied example of unhindered worship and pure sacrifice, which is also integrity. The events of The Cross, in the christian faith, reveal God’s perfect perspective embodied in Jesus’ perfect action.

As we develop community together across neighbourhoods and regions I hope we will be people of integrity who live out what we value because we aim for higher perspective and practice what we learn along the journey. This way we can continue to build trust across a decentralized network of friends who share a common vision.


Growing and Multiplying Decentralized But Relationally Connected Communities

At Trinity Life Church we are attempting to move into a new way of understanding what it means to be the people of God united across the greater Toronto area. We want to transcend the idea that the church is a building or an activity that we participate in.

Rather, the church is an identity we embody together. This vision and understanding is currently manifest as multiple small groups scattered from Scarborough to York South Weston. If we continue to move in this direction, Romans 12 has more essential wisdom for us.

A few things we will need for this journey are humble self-awareness, celebrated diversity and non-negotiable relationships. Let me explain the underpinnings of those needs, with Paul’s help.

Humble Self-Awareness

Recently, I was listening to the Global Leadership Podcast and they quoted that 95% of people fail a self-awareness test. I don’t know how these types of tests work, but Paul seems to agree with this sentiment when he says, “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment…” (Rom 12:3)

When we are isolated, along with all of the other problems that isolation brings, we don’t see our need for true self-awareness. In fact, acknowledging that need can make our isolation more painful. But in a healthy community of believers where members try to be self-aware, or to think with sober judgment and humility, there is a freedom and joy which strengthens everyone.

Celebrated Diversity

The diversity discussed here isn’t political in nature. It has to do with appreciating how unique individuals are empowered to live out the kingdom mission. We each have a part to play and we each need to perform our functions well and with joy, cheerfulness, passion and generosity.

Paul uses many examples of different functions, and pairs each function with a particular tone to the function. One example is “the one who leads, with zeal.” (Rom 12:8) Does a passionate and zealous leader bother us sometimes? Instead of denigrating that person, perhaps we need to look for ways to celebrate them.

As humans, we often experience ‘gift projection’. This is the process of expecting everyone to operate in your primary spiritual gift. This pitfall can leave us isolated and cause us to push others into isolation as well. But Paul says, “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us…” (Rom 12:4-6).

Part of pursuing celebrated diversity is learning what it means to submit to those who are stewarding greater grace and faith in areas where we are weak. I think this is part of what Paul means when he talks about “Outdo(ing) one another in showing honour.” (Rom 12:10) The higher perspective that scripture offers helps us first to see someone’s difference, and secondly, to honour them by embodying the fruits of the Spirit in our relationship with them.

Non-negotiable Relationships

I grew up in Toronto, a highly urbanized mega-city. It’s easy to get lost here. Before Jesus, if a friend bothered me I’d go hang out with someone else. If I needed to completely switch friend groups, I would. We are never starved of the opportunity for human interaction in this place and I took full advantage.

The consequence of these choices was that I enabled myself to remain adolescent in my character development. My relationships were negotiable. I changed and decided the terms and conditions as I desired. I didn’t know how to have hard conversations with the important people in my life. I didn’t know what I truly felt or thought about myself, or my emotions.

What I’ve learned since persevering in a committed community is invaluable to my personal character development. I have more integrity, honesty, openness, clarity of purpose and much more.

If we are going to grow and multiply decentralized but relationally connected communities properly then deep relationship must be primary in how we move forward. These relationships need to be defined by familial desire and value as Paul shows us when he says “Love one another with brotherly affection.” (Rom 12:10)

The members of our community aren’t perfect, and oftentimes we didn’t choose them, but they bring about a kingdom purpose in our lives that pushes us toward Jesus and into society to see it transformed. These aren’t the types of relationships we see in a country club, where we pay our dues and receive services. These bonds run deeper and stronger, and are defined more by affection than they are by expectation.

The future is bright for a community that can embody and embrace this type of a future together!

Let’s climb the mountain of God and look out at our world with a kingdom perspective, which must push us into divinely inspired and empowered action alongside a beautiful church filled with brothers and sisters.