Where do you gather? (pt. 3)

In the previous post, I asked about our spiritual gifts and whether we know what they are or not. Today I’d like to revisit the questions from the first post regarding why we worship where we worship.

But first, a story

I don’t know when exactly they began to attend our church, but they’ve been a part of this fellowship for quite a while. Faced with a new state, town, and situation, meanwhile figuring life and ministry out, this family began to search the area for a church they could call home. After looking into two or three, they settled on our church, FBC of South Portland.

Having two young kids, one would think that the top priority for them would be to find a church family that had a thriving children’s ministry. I don’t know what the state of the children’s ministry was when they arrived (I think it was doing pretty well, though), but I do know that wasn’t the biggest driving force behind their decision. Yes, they wanted their children fed but, knowing the primary responsibility for leading their children fell on them, they chose this church based off of the gifts they had and the needs of the church.

Now you might think this arrogant: “Really? They wanted to attend a place where THEY could use THEIR gifts? What about being fed? What about letting the Church minister to you? Isn’t that a better and more humble way to choose a church family?”

The Sin of Consumerism

In a few short years the slogan, “Have it your way” has gone from describing personalized burgers to defining the life of the average American. If you don’t like the way something works, by all means complain about it and make sure it’s done differently. But this is hardly the proper attitude of Christians within the Church. It is easy to hop from church to church seeking to be fed and find the one ministry that has it “right;” but that is far from one’s purpose in the Church. We are not meant to be consumers.

Yes, we must be fed the Word of God. Yes, we must fellowship with other believers. Yes, our children need ministering to (even though that is primarily the job of their parents). But beyond all of that is our need to serve others within the Church. I cannot remember where I heard it said, but it’s true that “If Christian maturity were based off of the amount of resources consumed, the American Church would be the most mature in the world.” The sad fact is that our output (love, generosity, graciousness, servitude) is minuscule compared with the many sermons, books, devotionals, songs, etc., that we take in.

We exist not to sit here consuming resources but to share our gifts, be generous with God’s stuff, and to worship as a body.

You won’t get it your way

If we follow the example of the couple above and repent of our sin of consumerism, we will hardly get our way. Instead, we will be conformed to the way of the cross: the way that sacrifices our false desires while making way for true love and service for others. So we won’t (or shouldn’t) be so concerned about our church having the “right” music, “right” programs, “right” sermons, and “right” ministries. Instead, we’ll be concerned with following God where He’s going. “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37.4) is a call to seeking the things above so that that the things above can influence our lives below, starting with our choice of church family.

For more on this, see James Emery White

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Where do you gather? (pt. 2)

The previous post on this topic ended with these questions:

  1. Why do you attend the Church that you attend?
  2. How far do you have to travel to get to your church’s building?
  3. How is your commitment to that Church family (do you fellowship with others besides being in the building for an hour and a half on Sunday?)?

Today I would like to explore a truer reason to be committed to your local Church family: that of service to the body.

He gave gifts to men

Being forgetful, fallen creatures, we tend to neglect the things that God has reaffirmed time and again in Scripture. One of these is the Holy Spirit. This “thing” is actually a person– the third member of the triune God-head and many of us probably forget Him at one point or another (see Chan’s book on this).

One of His many functions is to give the individual members of Christ’s Church gifts that are to be used for building up the body and glorifying God. Ephesians 4.11-16 says,

And he (Jesus) gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and from by the waves and carried about by every wind and doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the whole body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Emphasis mine)

Clearly the Elders, pastors, and teachers of the Church exist in order to train others in godliness; that is an important part of their function. But this doesn’t just mean godly teaching once a week. No, these leaders are meant to aid others in the Church in finding their Spiritual gifts and being able to minister to the community as a whole. This requires us to be actively involved in our Church families pursuing righteousness and lives of service in light of what Jesus has done for us at the cross, grave, resurrection, ascension, and at Pentecost when He gave gifts to men.

What about you?

So what are your gifts? How can you be used in the Church? Maybe you have tried to be used, but can’t seem to find a good fit. Can you talk with your elders about where you fit? Do your leaders even know you enough to help you in this area? Could you make it a point to allow them to get to know you better?

Christ gave His all so that we could invest in His Church for His Kingdom and His glory. How will this work in your life?

For more on Spiritual Gifts, see Romans 12.1-8; 1 Corintians 12-14; Ephesians 4.1-16. Pray the Spirit’s guidance.

Where do you gather? (pt. 1)

There are many things that influence one’s choosing of a church family. Some look for good student ministries for their kids. Others desire one form of music over another. And many will attend (and become members) if they feel that the teaching is good and worth listening to. At the same time, some choose a church based off the community that exists there: do these people fellowship together? Maybe you have a combination of the four or have your own reasons all together, but one thing is for sure– our motivations are always in need of being checked.

Why we leave or stay

The author of Hebrews gives this command in 10.24-25:

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Here, he’s assuming that we are going to have trouble being consistently committed to our church families, so he offers the motivation of the end: The Day is drawing near, and you need this family now more than ever. Don’t neglect them! But so often, we feel the “need” (read: sinful desire) to drift away from the church we belong to claiming that other churches have it “better.” A better music ministry. A better children’s ministry. Better sermons. Nicer people. The list goes on.

This has been on my heart for quite some time now and I have been encouraged by some other ministry leaders who have similar thoughts as I do. These have been men who are not in their “ideal” situation but are serving their local church family faithfully. Along the way in this short series, I will share some of their stories along with theological and philosophical reasons behind choosing a church family (spoiler alert: the goal of this is to encourage us to be more involved in our church and local communities and be less concerned with our “needs”).

With that said, I end with the following questions:

  1. Why do you attend the Church that you attend?
  2. How far do you have to travel to get to your church’s building?
  3. How is your commitment to that Church family (do you fellowship with others besides being in the building for an hour and a half on Sunday)?
More to come, but for further thoughts regarding this, see Ray Ortlund.

What we do with the news

As many have taken to the web to discuss the very recent announcement regarding President Obama’s new (old- renewed) stance on Gay “Marriage,” I write merely to pass on information and confirm the solid Biblical standpoint from which we as believers should approach this issue.

Contradictory statements

As Albert Mohler wrote today, our president and country are in a tight spot. With so much on the line, much care has been taken to say the “right things” at the “right times”. Mohler expands on this by exposing some rough, contradictory statements; read his article here.

How does a Christian respond?

The gospel of Jesus Christ is the central issue at hand. One is not saved by becoming straight, nor is homosexuality  the sin that seals the deal on one’s condemnation. God has made us and called us to Himself so that we might be changed to be more like Jesus. This change in Christ is, as Jesus said, taking up one’s cross and following him. If we are becoming more and more like Jesus, we are to be dying to self day by day. This is the heart of this issue, and no amount of political persuasion will change people– only the blood of Jesus does that. To this end, both Collin Hansen and Jared Wilson have offered great, moving points. Read them both, preferably before reading anything else here.

In light of what they said, what should the Christian’s response to this statement be?

Kevin DeYoung gives the following five reasons for Christians to oppose Gay Marriage which you should click the link on and read before you comment on the following list:

  1. It’s been consistently voted against
  2. It’s not for the common good
  3. The word  Marriage means something and has meant something throughout history
  4. It further normalizes what until recently was, and still should be, considered deviant behavior
  5. Cultural pressure will not stop with a victory in redefining marriage

Prove it…

The last link I’ll add is in hopes to prove that contrary to the belief of some, the Bible nowhere declares its affirmation of homosexual marriage; it does not accept it as proper and cannot be twisted to claim otherwise. There has been much reading already, but please set aside some time for this article: The Bible does not affirm Homosexual Sex or Homosexual Marriage.

Still, love and respect

Rejection of homosexual marriage does not mean that Christians should reject homosexuals in general- just as the Bible’s rejection of gluttony does not allow one to reject those who are obese. There are actual people involved, not just theories and arguments; we should be still loving, still be honest, still be compassionate, just as we are still firm on the truth in the nation where we are permitted and encouraged to vote according to concience. What we hold to be true according to God’s Word affects our lives and we are to be at peace with others so long as it depends on us (Rom. 12.18).

Red Hands 318

Here’s the third of my occasional links to other ministries and ministry leaders. See also the first and second.

My good friend Stephen Brush has begun a new Twitter account.

@Redhands318

From his blog:

It’s the account I created to post information about Human Trafficking. Human Trafficking- especially Sex Trafficking- is something that I’m becoming more and more passionate about fighting and informing myself and others about. It’s something that everyone needs to be aware and knowledgeable about.

What about us?

Is this really a problem? Is Human Trafficking really still going on? Well, according to the CIA, there are 45,000-50,000 victims of sex slavery and trafficking each year in the U.S. alone. I cannot imagine how many others there are throughout the world. So what are we to do? Surely we must pray well for those who are trapped in this horrible slavery. But as the Church, it is our duty to act as well. Stephen has shared a few different links including one to another ministry: Unearthed (twitter).

I would encourage you to follow both of these as the Church continues to fight this war. And speaking of Human Trafficking, here is a gripping half-hour video that speaks through the analogy of The Candy Shop. I have posted this before, but it’s too good to leave out!

Boycott Starbucks?

That’s what some well meaning Christians wish to do in light of Starbucks’ position on Gay “marriage.” Upon originally hearing of this, I wanted to find out what was actually going on. So after looking at some articles about what was being said, I found that Starbucks is simply doing what most other big corporations are already doing in the U.S; they are realizing that many Americans want homosexuality to be widely accepted and are acting in response to gain more customer loyalty. If we think about it, this is a similar tactic to what business did until about 15-20 years ago by being closed on Sundays. They realized their customer base probably wouldn’t be coming out on Sunday because many people would be in Church and were encouraged to not buy or sell on the Lord’s day. That being said, this is probably more of a marketing attempt on their and others’ part to gain a greater customer base.

Beat to the punch

Dr. Russel Moore (and probably many others) has already responded to this situation better than I could here:

…we don’t persuade our neighbors by mimicking their angry power-protests. We persuade them by holding fast to the gospel, by explaining our increasingly odd view of marriage, and by serving the world and our neighbors around us, as our Lord does, with a towel and a foot-bucket.

We won’t win this argument by bringing corporations to the ground in surrender. We’ll engage this argument, first of all, by prompting our friends and neighbors to wonder why we don’t divorce each other, and why we don’t split up when a spouse loses his job or loses her health. We’ll engage this argument when we have a more exalted, and more mysterious, view of sexuality than those who see human persons as animals or machines. And, most of all, we’ll engage this argument when we proclaim the meaning behind marriage: the covenant union of Christ and his church. (Read the rest, here)

Other considerations

Dr. Moore is spot on in his reasons behind not boycotting Starbucks (or Home Depot, or other business with similar ideals). In response to the situation and his points, I would ask a few questions:

  1. How many businesses in America do you think support things you disagree with? If you did your research, how many would you have to stop shopping at to maintain your consistency as a believer?
  2. How many Christians do you think work at Starbucks and these other businesses? How do you think this campaign is affecting the testimony that they have worked hard to establish there? Chances are, this will initially hurt the testimony of the Church in those individuals (not ultimately, though, as God is still sovereign in our weaknesses).
  3. Likewise, how much money do you think was spent by Christians in Ancient Rome on businesses and goods that likewise paid for the crucifixion of their fellow believers? This is, of course, more speculation than anything else, but should be considered as well.

All told, I’m not going to stop going to Starbucks (or working at Home Depot, or shopping at Target, etc…) just because of their stance on this matter. I want to pray that God will use me in every situation possible to show Himself as the great God He is. Finally, whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. If you cannot in good conscience purchase items from those places that you have found support the sinful things of this world, then for you it is sin. But do not cast judgment on those who see nothing wrong with such purchases (we’ll prayerfully try not to cast judgment on you!)

Australia’s Voices

On February 1, I began an occasional look at little known ministries and people within ministry who have big things to say for Jesus. Here is the second installment.

As mentioned in my previous post, many Westerners (especially non-believers) are unaware of the persecution of Christians that goes on around the world on a daily basis. I was personally made aware of this ignorance while preparing to go to China a few years ago. I was at work talking with some co-workers about the upcoming trip when one girl asked, “So when you get there, are you going to do street preaching or something like that?” I was surprised at the question because in my narrow view everyone knew about China’s distrust of the Christian Church. It is for this, and many other reasons, that Thirteen Three exists.

Who they are

As their site says,

Thirteen Three is a youth initiative of Voice of the Martyrs Australia. Our mission is to empower and mobilise a generation of passionate youth to be bound with their persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ through praying, giving, writing, serving and telling others.

Thirteen Three is committed to inspiring Australian youth to live out Hebrews 13:3 by remembering persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ.

“Remember the Lord’s people who are in jail and be concerned for them. Don’t forget those who are suffering, but imagine that you are there with them.”

Their ministry has committed to serving the global church– especially those who are undergoing persecution. They go on trips to serve Christians in persecuted nations by bringing Bible training, encouragement, resources, and even medical supplies and expertise to those who need it. But most of all, they are prayers and they live to lift up the specific names and issues that are going on around the world right now.

Meet Brad Konemann

Brad is the director 0f Thirteen Three. I’m blessed to have met Brad at my former Church a couple years ago and he is a great man of God. His heart for the Gospel and the Church of Christ is well seen and God has used him (and this ministry) in powerful ways throughout the world. For more information, as I have not done much justice to Brad’s Bio or the ministry in general, please see his page as well as his message from Lead 2010 (low audio quality).

Connecting

Perhaps the best way to get involved with Thirteen Three is to subscribe to their blog. Lift these brothers and sisters up in prayer as they minister to our other brothers and sisters.