We are made to image the glory of God’s own self-emptying love within the spiritual family called the local church, and as a church family to radiate the love of Jesus Christ outward into the community, touching neighbors at their points of need whatever their church background, and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, reclaiming their lives for the glory of God.
The upward call of God is for our Church family to focus on Christ and come to reflect the glory of God’s self-emptying love. The outward call of God is for our Church family to look to the needs of our neighbors and reclaim their lives for the glory of God.
There are four areas where we see our community ailing, and where we believe we can help — not by promoting ourselves,
but by prescribing them the only antidote: Jesus Christ.
The condition of the families in our community is deeply discouraging. Marriages are frequently troubled, unfulfilling, and mired in strife; others are falling apart entirely. Parents lack confidence raising their children. Even the best memories of family are too often mixed with bitterness and resentment, as parents look to their children as a way of fulfilling their own goals, and children look to their parents the same way in return. Family – created by God as the beginning and end of society – is reeling under a disorienting burden of selfishness.
Economically, we think of ourselves as oppressed. We are the over-leveraged, the under-employed, the over-stressed, and the under-paid. Everyone is murmuring about ‘the new normal’. Unemployment is no longer a temporary stint between jobs, but a seemingly hopeless rut that can last for years. Money looms as a barometer of self-understanding. Americans think: my workplace’s reason for being is money, and my reason for being is the money I make at work. My identity is my net worth, and as net worth has crumbled in the last few years, so has my identity. These are the terms we understand ourselves in, so far removed from the terms that God understands us in.
The life of the mind has suffered a wholesale depreciation in the last two decades: we read now about “the death of the humanities.” Feelings, urges, personal opinions, emotions, desires – these are the only sorts of “reason” that propel contemporary humanity forward. Our community is kept informed by sensational news reporting, made passive through the triumph of images over text, educated in the absence of serious reading, and struggles to say much of substance through cheapened and coarse language. Good thinking produces good behavior, and good ideas make for good policy. The reverse, as we are now seeing, is equally true. Meanwhile, those who still do employ their minds seem unable to find goodness in God, truth in the scriptures, or meaning in creation.
The arts in our community are increasingly unsure what they are about. Music, paintings, dance, cinema, and literature often seem to vacillate between the celebration of empty subjectivism, and the acceptance of lostness and despair. Humanity is just so many lumps of flesh, and the heart’s only chance to transcend the ordinary is to embrace its own illusions. It is hard to see humanity as an image bearing the glory of God, or the flesh as that which Christ became. We wonder if it is even possible to feel lifted or exalted by anything anymore, without having to sacrifice one’s honesty.
Camelback Bible Church has been a witness to Jesus Christ in our corner of the world and beyond for the last five decades. Our history begins with a Church plant by Bethany Bible Church and an official incorporation in the State of Arizona on July 8, 1965. Our congregation began meeting in the facilities of Phoenix Country Day School, just across the street from 10 acres of empty land at 3900 E. Stanford Drive. The building we now know as Fellowship Hall was built a few years later – with a lot of dynamite to blast a basement in the rocky soil! – to serve as our Church Sanctuary. In this new home, our body saw many new lives brought to follow Christ as Lord, many new believers baptized, and generations of couples married, children raised and grown up, and friendships formed. Missionaries were sent from within our body to reach the four corners of the earth. Saints departed from our family to be present with the Lord. We endeavored not to cease drawing in, building up, and sending out.
In 1987, a new Sanctuary was built on the West side of campus, where we now meet on Sunday mornings for worship. The walls of that building over the last twenty-five years have also seen many people being brought toward spiritual completeness in Christ, minds renewed, families strengthened in the Lord, and hearts lifted to praise God in song. We sought to be God-glorifying, cross-centered, life-transforming, serving in our world as Christ served in his.
The years from 2002 – 2012 have been a time in which God has stirred our hearts to bring the riches of Christ to our world in new and bolder ways. He led us to plant two new and thriving churches: Roosevelt Community Church was planted in downtown Phoenix, and Way of Grace Church was planted in Buckeye. Our congregation also began holding two services with distinct modes of worship music, a contemporary service and a classical service.
Most recently, our church family has been pushed by the Holy Spirit to reach out to our community with the life of Christ. Reaching out in new ways has only increased our appetite for deeper and more sustained inroads into our community.