Monthly Archives: April 2008

Big Church/Small Church Perspective

Here’s some things I believe:

a) Big churches are cool.b) Small churches are cool.c) One is not cooler than the other.

But I do think our perspective is all out of whack.I also think we get the impression that there are more big churches than there really are because it is the big churches that get the press coverage and the big church guys who get the conference speaking gigs, book deals, magazine article features, blog praise and criticism, etc.This is also what feeds the insecurity and competition and ambition of the small church guys who feel unsuccessful or unfulfilled.

Matt Chandler hit this head on at the last Resurgence conference when he told the thousands of eager beavers in attendance that most of them will never have a church that is much bigger than the one they already had. That is something conference cowboys rarely ever say. I mean, I don’t attend a lot of conferences, but I’d never heard it said, and my cynical hunch is that most of these guys don’t say things like that because most of these conferences are predicated upon the idea that by coming, listening, buying in, and applying at your own church, You Too Can Have A Church Like Mine!

It’s a warped perspective. Not every church can be huge, and in fact most churches are not. I’ll even go out on a limb and say most healthy churches are not huge. But of course it depends on how you define health (or success).

Spin alters our …

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Ministry to Youth

From Abraham Piper’s 22 Words blog:

Understanding teenage rebellion only as sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll implies that the goal is celibacy, sobriety, and employment. It’s not.

It’s Jesus.

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For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.– Habakkuk 2:14

When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.– 1 Corinthians 15:28

All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him.– Psalm 22:27

Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.– 1 Corinthians 13:12

The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.– Revelation 21:23

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Bored with Good Preaching

Paul Martin asks Are you bored with good preaching?

A family came to GFC a few months ago and could not stop talking about how glad they were to “hear the Word again.” I warned them, as I warn others in their situation, that they must guard their hearts from an over-zealous enthusiasm. Although it is great that they are being fed, even bland food feels like a feast to a malnutritioned man. What will they do when they have regained spiritual sustenance and find that the preaching is Biblical, yet quite average? If they train their senses to feel something is “good” only when they receive some kind of spiritual high, they could very well end up running from place to place looking for that high, not the Word.

There are still others that are so used to being well fed that when summer comes, or relatives visit or some other fancy strikes, they feel quite free to skip church to play.

He then quotes some great verse from John Newton.

I have a confession to make:Although I am committed to proclaiming the gospel of Jesus every week — in essence, playing the same song every Sunday — every single week I am tempted by the devil to do something else so that people won’t be bored with it. “It’s going to sound the same as last week,” he says to me, and he is so convincing and so logical that I have to constantly renew my commitment to my calling lest …

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Agents of the New Creation

I went with some friends last night to hear N.T. Wright lecture on the message of his latest book, Surprised by Hope. Homeboy was amazing.

Last night’s message was proof you don’t have to be a rah-rah sis-boom-bah gesticulator with a bazillion illustrations to preach a compelling message. You just have to have something extraordinary to say and you just have to say it in a compelling way. Of course, a British accent doesn’t hurt.

The thrust of the book and of the lecture last night was a resurrection-shaped Christianity. On the theological side, Wright corrected the dearly held cultural Christian belief in the afterlife as “going to heaven when you die,” emphasizing that whatever the disembodied existence in paradise after death is, it is only a way station on the way to the real destination — glorified bodied existence in the new heavens and new earth. This is, as Wright called it last night and as he calls it in several books, life after life after death.

He also put another nail in the coffin of premillennialist rapturism.He emphasized again that he does affirm the future second coming of Jesus.He reiterated briefly the historic/logical reasons for belief in the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead.He was just all around awesome.

It was only near the end that he began to passionately expound on the “What now?” of the message. Wright mentioned that as he was finishing the first draft of Surprised by Hope, he realized he really wasn’t done, that he …

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Worship as Turning to God’s Agenda

We are two messages into a series on Habakkuk at Element right now, and while we are focusing on four connected requirements it gives us for living the Christian life — brokenness, repentance, worship, and faith — the prevailing theme of the short three chapters of the book is the sovereignty of God. Habakkuk’s conversation with God says one thing most clearly: “God is in charge.”Or, as in Habakkuk 2:20, “But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.”

There are obvious shades of “Who are you, o man, to say to God . . .?” and not so subtle shades of “Keep your fool mouth shut,” but as it comes at the end of stanzas pronouncing woes on all the ways the Chaldeans (and everybody else) pursue their own glory, I think what it really means is, “God is the one who is in charge; better get with the program.”

God has an agenda and it is not only not ours, it frequently and constantly interferes with and opposes ours. We are used to thinking in terms of God helping us in our life, that our life is “our story” and we invite God to participate in it, and that is so bass ackwards. It is God’s story, God’s world, God’s life, and we get to participate in it.This is never more vivid in Habakkuk than in the way God answers Habakkuk’s complaints. He does so completely outside of Habakkuk’s assumptions and preferences and …

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Is the Second Coming a Pauline Innovation?

I finished N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope yesterday. As are all his books, it is excellent.I’m really excited, also, because some of the Element peeps and I are attending this event tonight.

Wright’s writing is always enlightening and provocative, but the most interesting thing I encountered in Surprised by Hope is his contention that Jesus never taught his second coming. Wright reads the Olivet Discourse, for instance, as referring to Christ’s coming in glory and judgment in the resurrection, and a bit to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.Now, this perspective is not new to me. It is a sort of preterism I am familiar with and find valid, despite disagreeing with it. The interesting part here is that Wright does not deny the future second coming of Jesus; he just says Jesus himself doesn’t refer to it, that he was concerned with other things.

This view, as far as I can tell, makes Paul the “inventor” of the second coming. Now, I don’t have a problem per se with doctrines originating with Paul, as I believe his canonical epistles are the revelation of God, inspired by God from beginning to end. So even if we encounter a New Testament viewpoint for the first time in Paul, it doesn’t mean it came wholly from Paul’s imagination. But my understanding is typically guided by the notion that Paul expands/extrapolates/applies the teaching and work of Jesus. Jesus provided the sheet music for a beautiful symphony, and Paul is concerned with teaching …

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Hold Steady

I have found as a teacher that clinging to a passion for the message, a burden to share the gospel, and a joy to proclaim Christ is an amazing antidote to the temptation to make feelings contingent upon the quality of the music, the smoothness of the transitions, the size of the crowd, the whatever. When I draw my excitement from Scripture and ground my motivation in an unbearable need to talk about the gospel, I cut off the emotional roller coaster of all the other who/what/when/where.

You can reach burnout rather quickly when ministry fulfillment for you is found in anything other than faithfulness to God’s calling.

There are highs and lows to ministry and preaching and leading a worship service, but consciously placing myself in the contours of Scripture does wonders for my ability to be content (and excited) no matter what.

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Church Values, Christian Values

Element does not have a formulated list of “values” as you see in most contemporary churches today. We don’t really even have a vision/mission statement per se, despite the fact that one of the first questions someone asked at our very first prospective leadership team meeting in 2006 was “What’s our mission statement?” I’m opposed to having such things just because you’re supposed to have them, and the closest we’ve come is this line from our About page: Our passion is to cultivate a growing, redemptive environment for real spiritual growth and connection to God and others.

But I’m toying with the idea of writing a list of Values for approval by our board of directors. It would be a way of having in writing a measuring stick for future efforts, programs, and attitudes, but I confess it would also be a way of supplying an antidote to the values prevailing in the church scene today. So instead of “creativity,” “relevance,” “the potential of people,” etc., our values would be:

The Ultimacy of GodWith the Westminster Confession of Faith, we agree that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Our highest value and greatest good is that God be glorified in all we do, that His name be renowned and hallowed, and that He would increase and we would decrease. We look forward to the day when “the knowledge of His glory fills the earth like the waters cover the sea.” (Hab. 2:14; 1 Cor. …

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Unchristlike Embarrassment

He doesn’t call it that, but I will.

I don’t know anybody who writes with such unabashed affection for the Church, with such a high regard for unity despite preferences and styles and cultural affectations, than my friend Bill Roberts. This morning he knocks another one out of the park with Embarrassed by Each Other?. A substantial taste:

in our day, in this time, it seems our divisions are becoming more dumbed-down, and hence less hefty, and, therefore, far less excusable. It’s one thing to respectfully divide from a brother over the weightier matters of doctrine. It’s quite another to divide from him because he isn’t as relevant as you are, or because you want to be called “Christian” and he wants to be called “Christ-follower”, or because his suit irritates you, or . . . whatever. It’s one thing to disagree on the meaning of communion, quite another to bash your brother because you think ministering to people’s physical needs is primary and you’re embarrassed because he wants to give them a Bible.

It’s common to be embarrassed by our brothers and sisters in Christ, isn’t it? It’s so easy to have that thought slip into our minds: “They’re doing it wrong. They’re giving me a bad name.” When, God help us, by our rejection of our brother, we give Christ a bad name. I’ve written around this subject recently, and continue to think on it with Christ’s words in mind.

I read the passage at the top …

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