A new congregation of believers is emerging among the middle-class in the city of Huambo, Angola. We join several families for worship and study on Sunday afternoons. They are dual-income families and single mothers working hard to make ends meet during a nation-wide financial crisis. They want the best for their children, so they put them in private schools, take them to gymnastics and academic clubs, and seek the best health care available – often traveling abroad to find it. They have struggling marriages and extensive obligations to extended family. They are seeking God in a fast-paced, urban environment. They are busy. I’m sure you can identify.
We call this body of believers Renovo, a name that reminds us that we are not to be conformed to the world’s way of doing life. Instead we are to be transformed, renewing our way of thinking and doing life God’s way (Romans 12:2). Week by week Renovo is being transformed as we read the word, help each other to understand God’s way and obey it. We are there to encourage and be encouraged. Our time together is invaluable and I often leave a gathering in awe of God’s presence and overwhelmed by how much more there is to share about his love, mindful of the importance of being with the church. Sadly, our time together is limited by our fast paced urban lifestyle and our cultural obligations. It shouldn’t be. That’s the world’s way of doing life.
When my lifestyle feels hectic, going to a women’s prayer meeting feels inconvenient, or I just don’t feel like speaking Portuguese that day, I remind myself of the value of meeting with the church and that motivates me to go be with my church family. I want to model this for my brothers and sisters in a transparent way, sharing my struggles and weaknesses, so that we can encourage one another to be obedient to God’s call to a transformed lifestyle in this busy and distracted world.
What lifestyle changes will we make and what perceived cultural obligations will we sacrifice for the sake of the church and the name of Jesus?
I don’t use the Message very often, but this is right on.
Romans 12:1-2 MSG
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.