Transformation in the Tampa Bay Area
Last Sunday, we learned more about our vision at Bay Cities Fellowship to experience transformation in the Tampa Bay area. Beginning in Oldsmar, we have a biblical vision of creating celestial cities where people live in contagious community. In light of this statement, we set out to answer the following questions: Where did this vision come from, how do we create celestial cities, and what is contagious community?
(Click to listen: A People of Biblical Vision)
Begins With A Biblical Vision
The grand narrative of Scripture is that God is creating a new people to live with a new purpose as they participate in the development of a new, heavenly place to enjoy God for all eternity. When you pick up your Bible, you are holding a cohesive story. One that is filled with drama, wisdom, commands, problems, and solutions. Ultimately, the central character, Jesus, and his plan shapes the entire framework of the story. In Hebrews 11, much of the Bible’s narrative is recalled and we are able to get a glimpse of this vision for transformation. We learn in Hebrews 11:8-10 that 8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.
Based on this text, let’s take a moment and ponder the following question: What a city would look like—relationally, economically, educationally, geographically, religiously—that possessed God as the “designer and builder?” We begin to see an answer to this question in Revelation 21:1-4—Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Our biblical vision is a reality that God has already created. Hence, we have an opportunity now to live in such a way that the world around us can acquire a taste for something they don’t have but desperately need. This opportunity for transformation prompts us to look at our second question: how do we create celestial cities?
To Create Celestial Cities
Creating celestial cities revolves around these five actions (adapted from “The Church in the Mission of God” by Bruce Ashford in The Community of Jesus):
- Enjoying God (Psalm 63:1; 1 Corinthians 2:7-10)
- Loving Other Believers (Acts 2:42-47)
- Recognizing Our Purpose (Genesis 1:28-31, 3:23)
- Longing For God’s Kingdom (Colossians 1:20; Ephesians 1:10)
- Reaching Other People (Matthew 28:18-20; Revelation 5:9-14)
When God’s people draw on the entirety of themselves (spiritually, morally, creatively, relationally, physically) they can be instruments and signs of his reconciliation. Also, as the church brings all of life into submission to Christ’s lordship, she points simultaneously back to God’s design in creation and forward to the consummated kingdom (Ashford, The Community of Jesus, p. 258).
Ultimately, our vision leads to a city where followers of Jesus live in such a unique, attractive way that the world around can’t help but notice.
Living In Contagious Community
We learn about the elements of this community in Acts 2:42-47—42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Simply, allow me to highlight the following:
By devoting ourselves to…
- God’s Word—“to the apostles’ teaching” (42,46)
- Giving—“And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need” (42,45,46)
- Worshipping—“to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (42,46)
- Being Together—“And all who believed were together and had all things in common” (42,46)
We can experience…
- God’ Blessing—”And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles” (43)
- Unity—”And all who believed were together and had all things in common” (44)
- God’s Favor—”praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (47)
This descriptive passage provides hope and inspiration for us to set our trajectories on arriving at this attractive conclusion.
Where We Live, Work, and Play
For transformation in Tampa Bay area to occur, we must transfer this good news into neighborhoods, places of work and recreation. Our lifestyle of going with the gospel will bring light into dark places. Every believer, embracing this biblical vision, can rely on the promise of Jesus and the presence of the Spirit to empower their pursuit of making this heavenly dream an earthly reality.