Category Archives: Church

The Missional Church And The Super Bowl

I believe the primary mission of any Bible believing church is equipping the children of God in accomplishing the gospel mandate of the Great Commission. So first, let me say I love my church and I fully affirm the truth that the local church is the bride of Christ and I should treasure it as such. I believe Biblical obedience mandates that I should support the mission of my church with attendance, tithe and sacrificial service.

That’s a lot of “mission” talk. But that mission talk is what reminds me that I am supposed to be a missionary in a culture that is generally not friendly to the Bible. I am sent by God to be a light to those who need Christ. Loving. Building. Knowing. Caring. Relationships.

It seems like an obvious thing for a missionary to India, the Congo, or an Indian reserve in South Dakota to reach the people while showing respect to their culture and traditions. I wouldn’t serve food that highly offends the people of that community. I would not dress in a way that violates the social norms in that land. As long as it didn’t violate Gods law, the difference could be embraced.

Why then is there a knee-jerk reaction to churches changing their schedule for the Super Bowl? The Super Bowl is the largest, most viewed event in the United States. Maybe the world with exception to the World Cup. Would it not make sense to use the culture’s obsession with the game to facilitate an opportunity to spend time with friends, family and people who need loving, positive relationships? I would love to see a church that tells its members to go home and have Super Bowl parties. Invite neighbors, co-workers, churched and unchurched friends, and have conversations. Learn about their souls. Build a rapport. Be a missionary.

Is that having an agenda? Absolutely. But if my friends don’t know I have a gospel-oriented agenda in my life, I have deeper, more fundamental, issues. The lost are not impressed with our church attendance. Nor are they reached if we are not reaching. I am encouraged and taught in my church. But I am not witnessing when I am sitting on a pew. I am not meeting my neighbor when I am at a place where they are not. I am not more righteous when I take a stand against something that is not sin.

I am not advocating doing away with church. I love, need and embrace the local church. I am saying that our lifestyles, ministry approach and church schedules should reflect a mission more than a tradition.

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5 Reasons You Need to Join a Church

One of my favorite blogs is by a guy named Tim. I can’t remember his last name. He wrote a book a while back called The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment. I have not read the book. 

In the book, Tim discussed why a christian should join a local church. Tim gave these five reasons:

1. For Assurance.

While a person should not feel he needs to join a church in order to be saved, he ought to join a church to be certain that he has been saved. Christians, those who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, will naturally gravitate towards other Christians and will desire to be with them, to learn from them, and to serve them. A person who professes Christ but feels no desire to be among his believing brothers and sisters is not a healthy Christian. Thus, eager participation in a local church and heartfelt attempts to measure our enthusiasm for that group of believers is a God-given way for us to assure ourselves that we are truly saved.

2. To Evangelize the World.

The gospel can best be spread through combined and collaborative efforts. Throughout the history of the church great men and women have attempted great things on their own and have often been successful. But more often, great things have been accomplished through the collaborate efforts of Christians working together. If we are to reach this world with the gospel message of Jesus Christ, we must share our efforts with other believers.

3. To Expose False Gospels.

As we interact with other believers, we will see what true Christianity is, which ought to expose the common belief that Christians are self-righteous, selfish individuals. As we labor, fellowship, and serve alongside other Christians, and as we observe the lives of other Christ-followers, we will see what biblical Christianity looks like. The more we see of genuine Christianity, the more the counterfeits will be exposed.

4. To Edify the Church.

Joining a church will help Christians counter their sinful individualism and teach them the importance of seeking to serve and edify others. The benefit of being a member of a local church is not primarily inward, but outward. Christians attend a local church so they might have opportunities to serve others and thus to serve God. Every Christian should be eager to serve within the church and to edify others through teaching, serving, and exercising the spiritual gifts.

5. To Glorify God

We can bring God glory through the way we live our lives. God is honored when we are obedient to him. He is glorified when his people come together in unity and harmony to find assurance, to evangelize the world, to expose false gospels, and to edify one another. God is glorified in and through the local church.

It is good to be reminded that something as simple participating in your local church has profound eternal meaning.

I hope you have a local church. If not, you can come to mine.

(Source: Challies)

"Is Watching a Very Good Sermon on TV or Online the Same As ‘Doing Church’?"

This is an excerpt from an article by David Livingston:

For the first time in church history, our generation is able to watch and hear quality Christian preaching and music seven days a week, morning, noon, and night. And indulging in this wealth breeds in some a “consumer mentality,” such that they can simply change channels or turn off completely whatever they don’t like. In this, many people fall into a similar pattern with their actual church participation, i.e., to routinely “surf the Web of congregations” instead of hanging in there with all the other imperfect people in their church.

They, therefore, ignore the plain biblical instruction for their good—that God ordains struggles, conflicts, and outright orneriness within a church body so that he will get the glory of saved sinners like them growing in their faith, practicing his “one another” commands, and showing a clueless, alienating world his alternative community of reconciliation and grace.

That said, let’s go back to the original question and more particularly to what it means to “do church.” For starters, let’s acknowledge what the majority of us actually do every weekend at Bethlehem in our multi-site services. On a rotating basis, a different fraction of us will get live preaching, but most of the time far more of us sit and “watch a very, very good sermon” on a big video screen. So, what am I doing here, throwing stones at my own glass house? Maybe.

No doubt there are more than just a few folks who have surfed their way into our services from elsewhere to hear the very good sermons and will stay only as long as the sermons remain very, very good. That’s what “doing church” is for them … they are “auditing” church.

And that’s not all bad … in fact, it’s way better than staying away. By all means, come and audit! For that matter, staying home to watch a good sermon on TV is also way better than watching virtually everything else on TV. Long ago, the Apostle Paul wrote that he rejoiced at any kind of gospel preaching so long as Christ was proclaimed (Philippians 1:15–18), and so should we.

The rub comes in letting ourselves settle into minimalism. In other words, it’s very sad to reduce “doing church” to listening to a sermon whether it’s at home in front of a screen or in a building with others in front of a screen. “Doing church” is far more and far better than that … both on Sunday mornings and all through the week. Why? Because church isn’t a building to go to or programs and classes to attend; it’s a living fellowship of people who have a saving relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ … and a saving relationship with one another as members of the family of God (consider Hebrews 3:12–13).

Read the whole article here.

New Website for Church Class

The Wednesday class at my church has a new website.

Feel free to check it out.

What does a missional church look like?

Danny Aiken co-wrote a blog entry on how the modern day church needs to be more diverse in its methodology.

Our convention must confront the brutal facts:

In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus commands us to make disciples of all nations. This includes our own nation-the United States of America-and yet the truth is that we are failing to meet the challenge. While the population of our nation increases, the population of our churches has not kept pace. While the United States becomes increasingly diverse, the Southern Baptist Convention remains a mostly middle-class, mostly white, network of mostly-declining churches.[1] This is a painful truth, and to ignore this fact is the worst form of denial.

It is not as if the churches of the SBC have not tried to reach their own towns and cities. Many of them have worked hard to reach their cities and many of them have more or less succeeded. But the truth of the matter is that we are losing the battle. Our nation is becoming increasingly post-Christian and we are not stemming the tide. Perhaps one of the reasons that we are losing the battle is that we are “aiming at” a culture that no longer exists. The SBC built its programs and its personality, if you will, in the 1950s. But we find ourselves in a socio-cultural context that varies significantly from that of 50 years ago. Many of our churches no longer have the luxury of communicating the gospel within a city that has basically one culture. Instead, they find themselves communicating across numerous cultural and sub-cultural divides. [2]

Read the whole article here.

Guidance for Youth Group Growth: Part 1

I have been praying about getting more involved in my local church. I used to teach and help with the youth and God is drawing my heart there again. I emailed a few people to get some guidance on approaching that ministry opportunity. I will try to post a few answers on the blog. The following answer came from Zach Nielsen a.k.a. Vitamin Z:

1. Preach the word, preach it in love, preach it with challenge, conviction and mercy. whatever you get busy with, keep preaching, loving and using the word.

2. Develop leaders, parents and promote a paradigm of holistic ministry. e.g. don’t try to do it on your own, enlist the help of the local church to raise up youth.

3. Contextualize (perhaps a buzzword) without succumbing to relevancy…make services revolve around Christ in a way students can understand, and don’t under estimate their capacities to think.

4. Along those lines, challenge kids to ask the hard questions about themselves, the bible, and the world that vies so violently for their souls.

5. Be in constant contact with the elders/pastors at your church, make sure there’s a some men on staff fighting for you.

6. Spend time in the word and prayer every day, first and foremost.

7. Do discipleship for fun, find stuff that kids like to do and do it with them, then talk about God, and how he infuses all of our passing pleasures with eternal purposes.

8. Continue your own training (books, commentaries, seminary, etc) in the contest of the local church.

9. Meet with at least one older man per week, get discipled, fight for this.

10. Hang out with lost people and serve. Make sure you’re not in the bubble. Be in the world and not of it, make lost friends, chill with them, serve them, and encourage your students to do the same…

Clarification on Church Discipline

Thanks to Jordan Thomas at Solus Christus for an email which he sent in response to a previous post about church membership:

[There are several ways to] practice regular church discipline. There are two major types of discipline: formative and corrective. Formative discipline is when a Christian regularly avails himself to the shaping (disciplining) effect of God’s preached word, observance of ordinances, prayer, etc… Corrective discipline happens when a church, following Matthew 18, deals with a brother or sister in sin…with the express intent of restoring the individual to right fellowship with the Lord and His church.

Church Hopping

The term “Church Hopping” connotes a certain flightiness that may be more divisive than helpful. However, there has been some excellent discussion on the topic–both in my bedroom, on my phone and in the blogospere.

David Fitch, in a post on the topic, writes:

To me this is one more extension of the historical game of musical chairs. At first it was the Roman Catholics leaving for Reformed churches. Those Reformed churches came to the New World and weren’t individualistic enough, so we had Great Awakenings and a whole bunch of folk left to join the revivalist churches. There were also the people that were always leaving for some fresh Anabaptist primitivist vision of the church. These too were ancestors of evangelicals. Now we have people doing the reverse, i.e. leaving evangelicalism back to the high church traditions. They are sick of the thin insubstantial theologies and narcissistic forms of Christianity that have evolved out of evangelicalism’s individualism. Ironically, theologians, many whom critique the consumerist habits of evangelicals and mega churches are folk who move to the high church traditions, “church shopping” for a more substantial vision instead of trying to help us evangelicals out of our quandary. One can only wonder how long the ancestors of these folk will go before they complain about rote liturgy and leave for a primitivist more authentic version of Christianity again and start the whole cycle again.

Over against all this, I propose we give up the musical chairs and stay put. Let us all seek faithfulness and trust the work of the Spirit to take us somewhere out of where God has put us. It is slow but I believe it could be taking us towards a renewed unity of the church.

In response to a comment that Fitch quoted no scripture in support of his argument, Josh Malone stated the following in his blog, First Theology:

I had another good conversation about “church hoping” (or maybe better put making a switch) with a prof friend at the last church I worked… His view was there were two reasons to leave: 1) if there is a serious compromise in the leadership where they no longer function as a church (I don’t think he was thinking simply in terms of doctrine here – maybe something like the reformed definition of “church” correct preaching of the gospel, partaking of the sacraments, and practice of church discipline); OR 2) if there is no way/opportunity to use your spiritual gift. Some variant of the first is probably cited pretty often by church hoppers, but the second one really surprised me. His argument was… if you can’t use your gifts then both you and the community are suffering. I think you could make some sort of a biblical case for those two concepts (I don’t know how compelling).

I’ve also had other friends who look at church commitment as a “covenant” – like a marriage. You stay for better or worse and always work thru it. I am inclined toward agreeing on some level that leaving a church should be the exception. I don’t know exactly what grounds would be justifiable (or if they could be quantified) – many explanations I’ve heard are along the lines of “my needs weren’t being met.” That’s one reason I was intrigued by this article, because it recommended that people try to work thru difficulties rather than take the easy way out (which I think is endemic today and his examples from “low” to “high” or vice-versa are pretty common too).

So I pose some questions. Is a pragmatic, though admittedly prayerful, approach the correct method to choose a church? Or is it calling–a divine placement thought which we labor for God’s Glory? Should changing churches be a result of the cons outnumbering the pros or vice versa? Is it “over-spiritualizing” to call local church membership a calling? Is it ever possible “over-spiritualize”? Would God ever call you to stay a church that seems stagnant in its growth, though not heretical in its’ theology? If so, on what basis? Is there Biblical support for any answer to the above questions?

For some helpful reading about church life, read here, and here .

Right Views of God, Self, Sin and Salvation

Jordan Thomas at Solus-Christus pointed us to some quotes from Richard Owen Roberts in Roberts’ excellent introduction to Salvation in Full Color.

A Right View of God

Many tolerate a view of God which is vastly beneath the revelation which God makes of Himself in the Holy Scriptures.

Contrary to the thinking of many, God is not evolving into a softer, more cuddly Being, but is as full of righteous indignation now as when He flooded the earth, destroying the civilization of Noah’s day and when He poured fire and brimstone from heaven upon Sodom and Gomorrah.

A Right View of Self

Every person who maintains a view of God as high as is set forth in the Bible is forced into a correspondingly low view of self. No man can be great in his own eyes when his eyes are fixed on the high and lofty one whose name is holy, who alone is great. Conversely, a degraded view of God promotes an inordinately high view of self.

A Right View of Sin

A high view of self invaribly leads to a distorted view of sin. The proud sinner demands the right to determine what is acceptable and what is unacceptable behavior for himself. His pride forbids him to bow to God’s definition of sin, and his arrogance enables him to snub his nose at God’s threatnings and warnings.

In that pride prevails both in the world and in the church, new definitions of sin are issued and degradation marches like an army of locusts across the land.

A Right View of Salvation

A distorted view of sin naturally leads to a corrupted view of salvation. If, by human definition, sin is of minor consequence, then the need of a God-sized salvation is eliminated.

If it is not New Testament salvation, and if it is not the salvation of historic Christianity, is it salvation at all?