Commit to Your Church

There’s an article that’s been going around on my Facebook for the past week titled ‘5 Really Bad Reasons to Leave Your Church.‘ This is something I’ve addressed pretty regularly on here, and have had many frustrations with as I’ve begun serving in a church. As I’ve also said before, and is said in the article, most of the time when people leave a church it’s because of a very selfish motivation. I got to preach just a couple weeks ago on church membership, and asked the question: Why aren’t people more committed to the church? Why can it be so difficult to find people to help out in some areas (music, nursery, coffee, greeting, painting, etc)?

Hebrews 10:25 is one of the most often quoted verses when addressing the issue of church “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some.” That’s generally where we stop. But if you continue on, it says, “but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Church isn’t about us, church is about God. Be willing to commit to your church to work through the thick and thin in order to better represent Christ to a dead and broken world. After all, as soon as you find the perfect church, it’s no longer perfect because you’re there.

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Worship Matters Study Guide

A year and a half ago I began a study with the music team I lead through Bob Kauflin’s book Worship Matters. Since that time, that has been consistently one of my most viewed blogs and the most googled phrase taken to my blog. So today I finally got around to compiling the entire study guide I did and putting it into an electronic format. I’ve got it in 2 different formats, a pdf or, for my fellow apple loving friends, as an iBook. Feel free to use them for your churches and let me know if there’s ways I could make this resource better. Thanks for checking it out!

Why You Should Raise Your Hands During Worship

Relevant recently posted an article titled ‘Should I Raise My Hands in Worship?’ It did a good job of taking the focus off of music being the only form of worship, but I still have some concerns with the overall direction the article took. As I read the Bible, I see an abundance of physical expressions that are to accompany our worship – and particularly worship through song. The biggest book the in Bible is a book about songs of praise to God.

Borrowing heavily from Bob Kauflin’s book Worship Matters (worth reading if you haven’t already), he begins by saying, “Biblical praise is normally expressed, spoken, and observable. That’s why David says, “My heart is steadfast, O God! I will sing and make melody with all my being!” (Psalm 108:1)” (page 170) Then on the very next page, Bob goes on to say

God created our bodies to glorify him (1 Corinthians 6:20)… Various physical actions can bring God glory, including clapping, singing, bowing, kneeling, lifting hands, shouting, playing instruments, dancing, and standing in awe (Psalm 47:1, 6; Exodus 12:27; Psalm 95:6; 134:2; 33:1; 150:3-4; 33:8)… The crucial question is this: Is there any physical expression of worship that God has given us in Scripture that I’ve never displayed? And if so, why?

– Bob Kauflin, Worship Matters. 171

These are some very important questions to ask about yourself as you worship at your church on a regular basis. Worshipping isn’t something we do only on Sunday morning, but there is something significant about our coming together as a body (Hebrews 10:25). The Bible doesn’t give an out if you aren’t an expressive person, or if it makes you feel weird, or if you’re not used to it. It’s not about you, it’s about the audience of one, who has revealed to us how we can worship Him. So what are some things you need to do in order to better worship Christ with your body?

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.

-Psalm 29:2

You’ve Got A Friend In Me

One of the most difficult transitions to adult life is friendships. When you’re in college friends come easily, either by starting a new semester with new classes, or by just walking around campus and sitting at a different table. But then college ends, and real life begins, and how do you continue to make friends that are more meaningful then, “hey, want to go to a movie?” Relevant Magazine posted an article today titled ‘Why Is It So Hard to Make Friends After College?‘ And part of it is true, there’s just something about college that makes finding friends easy: you’re all the same age, going through similar things and really wanting friends. It’s almost like the beginning of Toy Story, you’ve got a friend in me.

I was really blessed after college with an incredibly close group of friends (shoutout to Ryan, Joseph and David!) who were able to pour into me, and I pray I was able to pour into. One of them even went to college with me, but we decided we hated each other back then…

So how do you make friends after college? I’m going to address 3 things I’ve done that have been incredibly helpful in making friendships that are meaningful and go deeper than a surface friendship.

1. Find an interest.

All of us have things we’re passionate about and enjoy doing. Whether that’s playing video games, reading books, hiking, climbing, playing basketball, running, watching movies, taking pictures, drinking coffee or playing music (if you enjoy all those things, please call me! Let’s hang out!) everyone has something they enjoy doing and are decently good at, or could get good at. So pick a hobby and start doing it. Find places nearby that you can do your passion with others, and before you know it, you’ve got a friend! And even if it’s something you haven’t really enjoyed before, there’s always room to try something new. When I moved to Wyoming I started playing no-stakes poker with some guys from church. Turns out I somewhat enjoy playing poker!

“Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .”” – C.S. Lewis

2. Get involved in a church.

This is the other area that guys especially can have a tendency to neglect. The way I met those friends right after college was through a church small group. Church also allows you to become friends with people you wouldn’t necessarily gravitate toward. I have a group of men from church that I get together with 2 times a month. 2 of them are retired, 1 is in his 60s, and the other is a decade older than me. It’s awesome! While we don’t have everything in common, we are all trying to become more like Christ in our everyday lives. You’d be surprised how much believers can have in common despite having no shared areas of passion or interest. Church allows you to become friends with those who are older, younger and the same age as you. And that’s what the church is supposed to be: a family. Proverbs tells us “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Ultimately that friend is Jesus, but we can have that in the church as well.

“Most often, growth happens through deep relationships and in communities where the implications of the gospel are worked out cognitively and worked in practically — in ways no other setting or venue can afford.” – Tim Keller

3. Be a friend.

This is one of the most difficult but necessary things you can do. This takes time, work and a TON of energy. Is there someone in your life that you can stick closer than a brother to? Is there someone you can serve, as Christ has commanded us to? This is the one area I didn’t see addressed in the article on Relevant. People are sinful which makes relationships with each other very difficult. There are going to be ways people rub you wrong and ways you are sinned, but that doesn’t mean you should withdraw. In fact, we should be like Jesus who was betrayed to death. I’m guessing most of us have never had our friends betray us to death, but we so often get offended like they have. So pray about this and find someone that you can be a friend to.

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”  – C.S. Lewis

Obviously this isn’t an all inclusive list of ways to make friends after college, but I think it’s a good start. We are created to be a friend and have friends, we are not created to be lone ranger Christians. We need people around us to help us, encourage us and point out our blind spots of continual sin. May we truly be a community that represents Christ to the world so they see what it means to sacrificially lay down our lives for each other.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

-C.S. Lewis “The Four Loves”

EFCA Theology Conference 2014

I’ve decided to do things a little differently this year and just continually updating this page with the new sessions in order. Would love to hear any questions or comments you might have!

A World Absorbing Text or a Text Absorbed by the World?

Dr. Richard Lints

Introduction – Cultural Saturation

Interpreting Overlapping Realities: Gospel and Culture

Misconceptions

Micro and Macro Stories

The Gospel as Theological Framework and Theological Vision

Culture as Macro and Micro Stories

Pre and Post – Modernity

Defining Narratives

Democratic Consumerism

Technological Rationalism

Social Pluralism

The Great Irony

Reading Our Times

Beginning Clues

Reading the Scriptures as a Canon

Being Read by the Scriptures

Christian Faithfulness in the Face of Ancient Cultural Challenges

Dr. D. Jeffry Bingham

  1. Christian Faithfulness in the Face of Persecution
    1. The Accusations of the Culture

1. Christians were being accused by a culture that was very religious, the culture saw Christians as atheists. This was the main motivation for Roman persecution.

2. Christians didn’t make good Roman citizens.

3. Romans viewed Christians as incestuous

4. Communion is viewed as cannibalistic

  1. The Faithful Responses of the Christians

1. They explained in literature and conversation. Showed how monotheism was something allowed even among the Romans, pointing to poets and scholars (Plato in particular) to show that monotheism was already accepted.

2. Pointed to their care for others (orphans, neighbors, hungry) as their appeal to how they were good citizens.

3. They said they were a family and that’s just the way they refer to themselves.

4. Eucharist was the reason they came together. They explained to the community what they were doing and why.

Christianity is a very gory religion, characterized by the sloppiness of blood.

  1. Christian Faithfulness in the Process of Scriptural Definition
    1. The Proposed, Erroneous Models of Scripture

On the one hand you had Marcion who cut most things out of the Bible, and then the other hand had add everything.

  1. The Faithful Responses of the Christians

The sacred text, if nothing else, included the Old Testament Hebrew Bible.

So they said nothing gets into the Bible unless it’s in harmony with the OT. And if they are universally embraced by Christians throughout the world. We don’t accept any text that doesn’t put the slaughter of Jesus as its’ focus.

Where is the Lord’s supper in your meetings?

The Opportunity to Learn from the Challenge of Race

Dr. Vincent Bacote

Mandela’s Death and movies like 12 Years a Slave show us the problem of apartheid and puts the legacy of racism right in front of us. Thought it may be in front of us, we may be tempted to avert our gaze.

  1. “Our” Issue and Our Mission: A commitment to Bible and the obligations of the gospel

Using the issue of race to enslave people is completely missing the idea of the greatest commandment: love God and love others. The Bible talks about it.

  1. Dancing with history: facing the world and society we have inherited in the modern West; why race remains a challenge for all of us in spite of improvements

These issues don’t simply disappear.

  1. Considering the Experience of Minorities: What can the church learn…and perhaps anticipate in the future.

The question of a lack of power. People become accustomed to accepting the fact that they are lacking in power. There’s also the question of hope.

  1. Considering Some Core Beliefs: How does our Christology, Soteriology and Ecclesiology lead us toward persistent and patient progress on the lingering question of race and the prospect of the evangelical church as a cultural minority?

Theology and ethics need to be seen together. Which Jesus do you emphasize? Which text do you go to when talking about Jesus? What do people experience at your church that helps deal with the issue of race?

If you’re going to be people of the book, are you considering all the book teaching us? Or are we just pragmatists?

  1. What Posture Should We Take: Faithful Presence, or something else?

Your context makes a huge influence as to what your suggestions can be.

  1. To Consider: What vision might we have for the future?

At one level, Christians out to be a counter-cultural people practicing a counter-cultural reality. People will notice this because it’s not typical for people to live with other people who are not like them.
Need to have a disposition of massive patience.

Regression happens within the church as well (the crisis of marriage is also taking place within the church)

A commitment to public engagement without messianic ideas.

Understanding the Times and Understanding the Places: Theological Localism

Dr. Fred Sanders

  1. Theology with a local accent

It’s just a matter of fitting in – the message of the cross should offend, not our way of talking about it (i.e. sports)

  1. Two methods: correlation and proclamation

Correlation: identified in Paul Tillick – philosophy raises the questions, theology answers them. Explains the contents of Christian faith using questions.

Proclamation: identified in Carl Barth

I suggest using theological localism.

  1. Taking action: Men of Issachar in every place

See 1 Chronicles 12:32. Seen in Augustine’s City of God.

  1. “Theological Engagement with California Culture”

 

Evangelicals in 21st Century American Culture

Dr. Leith Anderson

Introduction

  1. Living in challenging times

We get caught up in our time and forget about previous times issues

  1. Theology of Culture

Do you consider culture to be the friend, or the enemy of Christ?

  1. Matthew 13:24-30 – parable of the weeds

Looking back – where we came from

  1. Liberalism & Fundamentalism

Scopes vs Monkey trial in 1925, fundamentalists increasingly marginalized. Most of the world didn’t even think of fundamentalists, then along came Billy Graham

  1. Billy Graham & today

Evangelicals are now ¼-1/3 of all people in the US, so what do we do with that?

Looking around – where we are

  1. Globalization of Christianity

Now the largest & fastest growing religion. 20,000 new believers in China every day

  1. Evangelicals in America

We are the dominate Christian force

  1. Demographics

Segregation in America remains strong

  1. Theology

Homosexuality and the exclusivity of Christ

  1. Church in adversarial circumstances

Conclusion: How then shall we live?

Speak the truth, but always in love

Don’t be quick to come to conclusions

TRUST GOD

As long as people have the Bible and the Holy Spirit they’ll be ok.

EFCA Theology Conference 2014 Pre-Conference Part 2

The final part of the Pre-Conference from Dr. Fred Sanders

Tacit Trinitarianism

God has no unmet needs – there are no needs outside of the divine life

  1. Getting saved – an evangelical practice. The eternal son becomes the incarnate son to make others an adopted son bringing them into relationship with God.
  2. Knowing Jesus personally – generally trying to point to a deeper reality of communion with God. “ask Jesus into your heart” (Eph 3, being strengthened in your inner man) Puritans used that heart language, book My Heart, Christ’s Home. Jesus is present from heaven, it’s the Spirit who is indwelling. This means being indwelt by the Holy Spirit who makes Christ present here on earth being poured out from the right hand of the Father.
  3. Devotional Bible reading – this comes from a high view of Scripture, we know the Bible is God’s message to us.
  4. Understanding Scripture’s big story – the big story of Scripture is very evident, about how the Father sends the Son and the Spirit
  5. Conversational prayer –
  6. Evangelism –
  7. World mission –
  8. Daily spirituality –

EFCA Theology Conference 2014 Pre-Conference

The pre-conference at this years EFCA Theology Conference is on the doctrine of the Trinity and is done by Dr. Fred Sanders from Biola. Here are the first two lectures and links to the Prezi slides that were used.

Approaching the Doctrine of the Trinity

The Trinity-try to understand it and you’ll lose your mind, try to deny it and you’ll lose your soul.

  1. Teaching the Trinity as an inviting doctrine

The word of the Trinity is not far away, you don’t need to get advanced degrees to understand.

Trinity is primarily for categorization and building up the understanding of believers.

  1. The basic component of the doctrine

One being in three persons, we don’t say God is one person and three persons, or God is one person and three persons

  1. Three key texts

Trinity is not in the Old Testament because the OT was a time of promise, we don’t find the doctrine of the Trinity revealed in the OT, but we see shadows of it. Then the New Testament is the time of fulfillment, the Messiah and the Spirit already came. The revelation of the Trinity is in the events of the Father sending the Son and the Spirit.

  1. John 1:1-3 – takes you from the beginning of the Gospel to the beginning of the whole Bible. What we have in Jesus Christ shows us what happened before creation, which leaves us with God.
  2. Matt 28:18-20 – doctrine of the Trinity is in Scripture, even if the word itself is not. Trinity just means “threeness”
  3. 2 Cor 13:14 – the revealed character of these three persons (see also 1 John “our fellowship is with the Fathe rand the Son”

Overall idea: salvation is by & from & in & with the Triune God

  1. Heresies to avoid
    1. Tritheism – three gods (kind of Mormonism)
    2. Modalism – 1 god doing 3 things, manifests himself in 3 ways (oneness Pentecostalism)
    3. Subordinationism – 1 real god, a couple lesser gods (Arianism, Jehovah’s witness)
    4. Illustrations
      1. There’s nothing like God or God’s trinity
      2. Most illustrations are a little helpful, but mostly just show Trinitarian heresies
      3. The main things are the plain things: God the Father saved us by sending the Son and the Spirit.

The Trinity is not a distraction from the gospel, but a super-condensed explanation of it.

 

The Deep Things of God 

  1. Grace as God’s gift of himself

Grace as free forgiveness, grace as power for service (John 3:16, Gal 4:4-6, Eph 1:3-14)

  1. The two hands of God

The incarnation and atonement are the means to the end of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

  1. The economy of salvation

God gives himself as the gift of salvation

  1. The happy land of the Trinity

Church Membership & EFCA Theology Conference 2014

I finally had the opportunity to preach again! This time, it was on the issue of church membership. For those of you interested in listening, feel free to click here.

And it’s also that time of year again, where I do my best to live blog the EFCA Theology Conference. This time it’s about “Christian Faithfulness in a Changing Culture.” I’m looking forward to this time, but it’s a 9 hour drive to get there! Should be a good time with my Sr Pastor. 

Hope the blogging world is still alive and thriving! One of my goals this year is to get back into the habit of writing on here regularly.