Church life

CHURCH HUNTERS

This tongue-in-cheek video cleverly exposes many of the casual and self-centered attitudes our culture has toward church life.

 

THE COMPELLING COMMUNITY

My book recommendation this month is a book I have been so excited about; I keep bugging the other pastors to read it.

A BIG priority at Greentree is biblical community. This is because it is one of the BIG priorities throughout the New Testament.

Even though I have spent a lot of time, reading, thinking and talking about biblical community, I found “The Compelling Community: Where God’s Power Makes a Church Attractive” by Mark Dever, to be quite helpful.

Mark Dever is Pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC. He is also the founder of 9Marks, an organization that seeks to equip churches to be healthy. I have benefited by their resources (and we carry many of them in our bookstore).

The Compelling Community” is helpful because it reveals ways that we seek to build community that “center on something other than the gospel”.  The examples Mark gives are:

Similar life experience
Similar identity
Similar cause
Similar needs
Similar social position

Mark doesn’t deny the value of connection through these factors, but he does point out that true community in the church must be rooted primarily on the gospel.

This means community in our churches should be “characterized by relationships that are obviously supernatural”. They should be relations that go beyond what is natural in the world around us.

I hope you will thoughtfully read through “The Compelling Community” and be challenged in your understanding of what relationships and fellowship should look like in the Church.

 

WHAT DOES SATAN WANT?

What does Satan want for your church?

He uses cunning and strategy, and his main weapon is deceit. Jesus warns us that, “there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44)

But with the Apostle Paul, we can say that “we are not ignorant of his designs” (1 Corinthians 2:11).

We should easily recognize these strategies of Satan who hates Christ and wants to harm his Church:

Satan wants us to be impatient with other believers

Satan wants us filled with frustration for the people of our church

Satan wants us to think that our differences with other believers are greater than our bonds in Christ

He doesn’t want us to read Ephesians 4:4-6

“There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism,  one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

Satan wants us to argue with as fellow church members as possible.

Satan wants us to gossip about the weakness of fellow believers

Satan wants us to give up on one another instead of keep “bearing with one another”

He really doesn’t want us to read any of Ephesians 4

“Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,  with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (vs 1-3)

Satan wants us to attack the failures that we see in fellow believers

Satan wants us to live disconnected from other church members

Satan wants us to ignore the hurts of fellow believers

He doesn’t want us to read 1 Corinthians 12:24-26

“God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”

Satan wants us to believe the worst about people in our church

Satan wants us to think that we have loved enough, and to think that we are justified in giving up on loving them more

He doesn’t want us to read 1 Corinthians 13:7-8 

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends”

Satan wants us to forget that God deeply loves every believer – that Jesus died for every believer – and that the Holy Spirit lives in every believer

We know what Satan wants – what do you think God wants?

THANKS CHILDREN’S MINISTRY WORKERS!

This Sunday we are recognizing, thanking and celebrating our Children’s Ministry Workers.

I think this comic from the Adam4d.com website does a good job of capturing how we feel about these faithful and loving workers at Greentree (click on image a couple times to increase the size)

2014-01-13-child-care1

WE ARE TAKING A FRESH STEP

This article grabbed my attention immediately

“The Big God in Your Small Group”

I saw it on the Desiring God Blog and it dealt directly with an issue we recently discussed in our Community Fellowship.

Although we have a strong group that has remained consistent for many years, we recognized we still have work to do in building more community and interaction outside of our scheduled meetings.

We talked about being more intentional in how we connect with one another as individuals, couples and families. Our desire is to deepen our relationships, bear one another’s burdens and simply know what is going on in each others lives.

What especially encouraged me was that the youngest couple in the group initiated this conversation.

Here was a couple with their hands full with life: they have two preschool children and another on the way; the husband operates his own business; and they serve in church – yet they recognize the need for and want deeper biblical community.

Do you have this heart?

Are you willingly to take steps to make it happen?

One of the comments made in our discussion on sharing life together, was how much we all enjoyed a recent gathering when we went around the room updating the group on what was happening in our lives.

It helped us to feel we really know what is going on in one another’s lives. I know it help me to have better clarity in how I can pray for the other members of my small group.

The greatest encouragement we can have in pursuing deeper community with one another is that God will be right in the middle of it. Scripture tells us that He wants (expects) biblical community to happen. This mean God will give us grace for it (and that will be needed). It also means God will bring fruitfulness to it (and that will be wonderful).

As you read the “The Big God in Your Small Group”, ask God to inspire you in how you share life with the members of your church – they are your forever family!

CONNECTING EVANGELISM and CHURCH (part 2)

Yesterday I gave the first 5 suggestions from Jonathan Leeman concerning how local churches should connect church life with our desire to be effective in outreach.

Leeman’s purpose is to show that the traditional focus by churches on events and programs that draw unbelievers is only part of healthy outreach. Churches also need to grow “a contrast culture, which acts as this attractive backdrop for evangelism”.

Here are Leeman’s remaining 5 points:

6) Encourage members to live lives that bless outsiders. 

Church members, hopefully, are known as kind, friendly, and quick to lend a hand. We should be quick to jump in with a rake to help clear the neighbor’s leaves, quick to offer help to an office-mate, quick to defend a victim of abuse, quick to work hard at preserving the jobs of hard-working employees in difficult times, quick to bless in all sorts of ways. Good deeds should adorn our evangelistic words.

7) Invite people into formal and informal gatherings of the church. 

Countless stories could be given of how non-believers heard the gospel and then watched the church in motion, both in formal or informal gatherings, and then came to faith. The church’s life together compelled them. It pointed to something they had never known in their family, school, or workplace. In other words, inviting outsiders into the life of the church surely must constitute one part of our evangelism.   

8) Set the example in evangelism.

Wherever a church’s elders are known for their evangelism, you can expect to find an evangelistic church. Where the elders don’t, you won’t.

9) Feature evangelism and conversion stories. 

Church leaders should pepper stories of evangelistic encounters into their sermons and lessons. Church members should share prayer requests for evangelistic opportunities. Baptismal candidates should be given the chance to share their conversion experience. Things like these all help to make evangelism a “normal” part of the Christian life and the church experience.

10) Brag about your church.

The apostle Paul sometimes boasted about his churches as a way of boasting about Christ (see 2 Cor. 9:2; 2 Thes. 1:4; cf. Phil. 2:16). Christians, likewise, should look for ways to speak positively and gratefully—not obnoxiously or pridefully—about their churches around non-Christian friends. When a colleague asks about the weekend, mention how your church gave your wife a wonderful baby shower. Mention something encouraging the preacher said on Sunday. Mention the work your congregation is doing at the shelter when the subject of homelessness comes up. Doing this well, no doubt, takes practice.

Jonathan Leeman, an elder of Capitol Hill Baptist Church and the editorial director of 9Marks, is the author of several books on the local church.

CONNECTING EVANGELISM and CHURCH

Healthy churches want to grow and true believes want to see people come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Because of this churches are continually trying to find what is effective in reaching those who are without Christ.

In a recent article, Jonathan Leeman from 9Marks examined the culture within churches. What makes a church the kind of place where people see the gospel powerfully lived out. Or as he describes it how should we connect evangelism and church?

Leeman offered 10 suggestions for how churches can be a place of contrast to the world and so point to Christ. Here are the first five suggestions:

Often, pastors try to strengthen a church’s evangelistic ministry by exhorting people to share the gospel. Surely that’s one piece. But it’s also critical to grow the church as a contrast culture, which acts as this attractive backdrop for evangelism. 

1) Evangelism should lead to baptism and membership. 

Churches should not evangelize and then leave new converts out on their own. Nor should they evangelize, baptize, and then, maybe, someday, get around to bringing someone into church membership. Except for exceptional circumstances, churches should do what the church in Jerusalem did: baptize people into their number (Acts 2:41). Baptism, after all, is the corporate and authorized sign by which a church formally affirms a person as a believer. That affirmation should then be protected and nurtured by the ongoing oversight given through membership and the Lord’s Supper. We don’t leave new hatchlings outside of the nest, but bring them inside.

2) Teach members to integrate their lives with one another.

In order to strengthen a church’s apologetic power, members should constantly be reminded through the teaching of the word and the celebration of the Lord’s Supper that we are one body (e.g. 1 Cor. 10:16-17; 1 Cor. 12). Hardly a Sunday should go by when members are not reminded to build relationships with one another so that they might encourage, build up, strengthen, speak truth, warn, and love one another (e.g. Rom. 12:9-13; Eph. 4:11-32). They should be exhorted to show hospitality (Rom. 12:13; 1 Peter 4:9). All this creates an attractive witness for the gospel.

3) Teach members to sacrifice for one another.

Even more specifically, Christians should think about how they might better sacrifice for one another, financially and otherwise (e.g. Acts 2:42-46; 2 Cor. 8-9; 1 Peter 4:10). In a consumeristic nation, especially, the example of shared generosity among believers presents a powerful contrast culture. Remember, Jesus told Christians to love one another as he has loved us (Jn 13:34) a sacrificial love if there ever was one

4) Practice church discipline.

Christian hypocrites and heretics in our midst compromise the witness of the church. When the church members in a community are known as liars, backbiters, and adulterers, that church’s evangelistic work will not go so well. That’s not to say that a church should discipline every saint who still struggles with sinning in their midst. Then there would be no church left. Rather, churches should confront and discipline unrepentant sin.  This serves, ironically, to evangelize the unrepentant member (see 1 Cor. 5:4), as well as a church’s city more broadly

5) Equip members to share the gospel. 

Church leaders should look for various ways to make sure every member can explain the basics of the faith. This can be done from the pulpit, the Sunday School classroom, the membership interview, and elsewhere

Jonathan Leeman, an elder of Capitol Hill Baptist Church and the editorial director of 9Marks, is the author of several books on the local church.

CREATING A HEALTHIER CULTURE IN OUR CHURCHES

A few months ago I read this article by Jonathan Leeman on the Gospel Coalition website. Jonathan Leeman is from 9 Marks, a ministry our of Capitol Hill Baptist Church that seeks to strengthen the local church.

In his article, Leeman describes developing a culture that leads to church health more than simply adding programs we think will make us successful. He then gives suggestions for creating that culture. As our church continues to pray about and consider what it means to be an ever healthier church, these steps may help each of us to better understand how we can be part of the culture of creating that healthier church.

SERMON LEFTOVERS 4.15.13

The next generation concerns us all  Judges 2:6-12

After a Sunday morning service over 35 years ago, a man in our church named Harvey Morey told me he was proud of my spiritual growth. It is still a vivid memory. Harvey did not need to be part of my family to impact my life. The next generation is a deep concern to all of us 

The people of God lost their way

There had been a time not long before, when they were a people marked by spiritual vitality

They were not a perfect people, they had failures, but they knew God and served Him

It did not take long for that spiritual vitality to be lost

A new generation “abandoned” the lord as their God (v12)

Can you think of more tragic words, than to have our children “abandon” God?

They abandoned truth, goodness, hope and so they abandoned life itself

They followed after the idols of the culture “around them”

Our surrounding culture is just as dangerous, but it is more intrusive

The values of the world have not only lowered, more significant is that shame itself has been lost

Society as whole has become antagonistic toward biblical Christianity

Technology brings all this closer to us and into our homes

Our children are equally at risk as the generation in Judges 2; and the fall can happen just as fast

What marked the faithful generations?

They had a shared expectation for God’s word (v10)

They knew God’s word and lived according to it (Joshua 24:23-24)

The people expected that God’s word should rule them

We face choices every day are we serious about the Bible’s role

Do you expect God’s word to rule your choices, your wallet and your desires?

They had a shared experience with God’s works (v7)

They all had a testimony of God’s faithfulness (Joshua 24:16-18)

The more we share life in service and care together, the greater that testimony will be

Leading the next generation is a shared task

Without question, God has given parents the pivotal role

As a church, our greatest responsibility to families is to equip them

I encourage you to attend our Family Equip Conference; parents, grandparents, children’s ministry workers and everyone who wants to impact families will benefit. Get more info

God instituted both the Church and the family to labor together

God’s plan is a unified cycle of family and church life

Instruction begins in the home with families, who are then being strengthened by the church

Families are fed at their church, which is then reinforced by families at home

We cannot keep the influence of the world from existing,

But we can cast it out of our hearts

We can attack it with God’s Word

We can take action to show we love God and we trust Him

We will never drift to godliness; we are either paddling to it, or drifting away from it

When we do drift, we add to the current that runs against the families in our church

Families battle the influences of compromise and corruption all around them – oh, may they not have to fight it in their church as well!

Families need us to be an influence and a refuge for godliness 

How can we lead the next generation?

We lead the next generation when we obey God’s word

The next generation of this church needs our example

They need to see that everyone is not going after the world’s ways

They need to see the health and vitality of a life that loves God

Our church is stronger with common obedience and weaker without it

We lead the next generation with our love for God

They need to see that all the worlds’ options cannot equal the joy and fulfillment of truly living for Christ

When they see us serving God, let them see He is our joy

Joy and enthusiasm are infectious, so let’s be contagious!

We lead the next generation by caring for one another

What they experience in the church should be deeper and more faithful than anywhere else

And when our prodigals are far away, we should want them to know we dearly love them and we are waiting for them

PASTOR HUMOR