Posted tagged ‘church’

Structuring the Church for Maximum Edification

February 6, 2012

Along with the resurgence of Reformed theology and gospel centrality, I believe there is a resurgence of biblical ecclesiology taking place as well. I’m grateful for the influences of organizations like IX Marks, and even more churchmen and practitioners who are bringing reformation to local churches according to the Word of God.

One of the practical benefits of examining our ecclesiology is being more deliberate and intentional in what we do as a body of believers. What is the nature of the church? How should a preacher handle a text? What should covenantal membership entail? These are questions reflecting a pursuit of a healthy, robust ecclesiology.

Being intentional not only means that we consider the practices or marks of a healthy church, but we also need to examine structures and systems to best accomplish the purposes as well as honor the marks of a healthy church.  In this post, I want to consider the need for structure for maximum edification.  Let me explain.

When Paul addressed the church in Corinth, there apparently was confusion and selfishness when it came to the exercise of spiritual gifts.  Some were given special recognition while others were devalued. The improper exercise led to further division instead of unity. Some were used for self-promotion instead of building up the church.  So what Paul does is lay out five overarching principles for the church to understand and implement:

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Our Churches Are the Proof of the Gospel

June 17, 2011

Mark Dever:

“Many Protestants have begun to think that because the church is not essential to the gospel, it is not important to the gospel.  This is an unbiblical, false, and dangerous conclusion.  Our churches are the proof of the gospel.  In the gatherings of the church, the Christian Scriptures are read.  In the ordinances of the church, the work of Christ is depicted.  In the life of the church, the character of God himself should be evident.  A church seriously compromised in character would seem to make the gospel itself irrelevant.

The doctrine of the church is important because it is tied to the good news itself.  The church is to be the appearance of the gospel.  It is what the gospel looks like when played out in the lives of people.  Take away the church and you take away the visible manifestation of the gospel in the world.  Christians in churches, then, are called to practice ‘display evangelism,’ and the world will witness the reign of God begun in a community of people made in his image and reborn by his Spirit.  Christians, not just as individuals but as God’s people bound together in churches, are the clearest picture that the world sees of the invisible God and what his will is for them.”

Mark E. Dever, ‘The Church” in A Theology for the Church, edited by Daniel L. Akin (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2007), 836.

The gospel is absolutely essential to the church.
The church is incredibly important to the gospel.

Therefore, the recovery of the gospel is essential to the health of the church, and the importance of the local church is crucial to the advance of the gospel.  May God gives us a passion for churches to be driven by the gospel, and may God grant churches an unrelenting ambition to make it unmistakably visible in our world for the glory of Jesus’ name.

Churches, Pay Attention to the Social Media Revolution

May 7, 2010

The new Socialnomics video . . .

Jared Wilson on Under-Programming Church

April 28, 2010

10 excellent reasons to under-program your church from Jared Wilson. Check them out:

1. You can do a lot of things in a mediocre (or poor) way, or you can do a few things extremely well.
2. Over-programming creates an illusion of fruitfulness that may just be busy-ness.
3. Over-programming is a detriment to single-mindedness in a community.
4. Over-programming runs the risk of turning a church into a host of extracurricular activities, mirroring the “Type-A family” mode of suburban achievers.
5. Over-programming dilutes actual ministry effectiveness.
6. Over-programming leads to segmentation among ages, life stages, and affinities, which can create divisions in a church body.
7. Over-programming creates satisfaction in an illusion of success; meanwhile mission suffers.
8. Over-programming reduces margin in the lives of church members.
9. Over-programming gets a church further away from the New Testament vision of the local church.
10. Over-programming is usually the result of un-self-reflective reflex reactions to perceived needs and and an inability to kill sacred cows that are actually already dead.

Be sure to read his additional commentary on the points as well.  These points are so important to consider that I cannot recommend them highly enough. Seriously, one of the most basic ways of undergoing local church reformation is considering the ministry design and labor to “under-program” your church.

Gospel Transformation

March 25, 2010

I’ve been “tweeting” lately pictures of gospel transformation in Scripture (see here, here, and here for examples).  But earlier today I came across the video below on Bill Streger’s blog that powerfully depicts gospel transformation in contemporary context.  If you were to ask me what church life should be all about, I believe this video does an excellent job of summing it up.  Grace Community Church is a church plant in the heart of San Antonio, TX where the gospel is apparently conquering hearts and transforming lives.  Check it out.

The Church Consumer

March 23, 2010

Now I know this video is somewhat silly, and I assume intentionally so (to make the point).  The question I think worth asking is, “Does the culture in my church accommodate, encourage, or tolerate this kind of perspective about the church?”

HT :: Phil Awtry

Social Media and the New Frontier for the Local Church

February 13, 2010

The videos below are not new but perhaps might be new to some of you.  I’m posting them because of their implications for community and church life.  The rise of social media/networking cannot be overlooked, both the pros and cons, on the future of the church.  If you church is in tune with the socialnomics and seeking to use technology to engage your culture, let me hear your thoughts.  Much similar to Kent Shaffer, SEO can carry more potential for evangelism in the future than we realize.

Christ the Builder, Christ the Perfecter

December 1, 2009

The church is a people who are called out and set apart from the world who are also called and sent into the world.  The goal of the Christian life is complete conformity to Christ, and such conformity is both in character and in mission.  In other words, the church is to be both a holy people (set apart) and missionary people (sent) at the same time, all the time.

I come away with this when considering the promise that Jesus will build His church and the purchased goal that Jesus will perfect His church.

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The Church has been under-fathered and over-mothered.

September 2, 2009

Matt Redman has some good words about romantic language in worship songs.

Insight Podcast: Interview with Tullian Tchividjian on Gospel, Church, and Culture

April 9, 2009

My good friend Doug Baker has continued his long list of excellent podcasts with his most recent addition – Tullian Tchividjian.  It was recently announced that Tullian accepted the position of pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, suceeding Dr. D. James Kennedy.  Tullian is the author of several books, most recently Unfashionable: Making a Difference in the World by Being Different (which we will be giving away at this year’s Band of Bloggers fellowship).

The podcast is broken down in two segments, and the flow of the interview is listed below. To download, click on MP3 next to each part.

Part 1 DOWNLOAD MP3

A Church Like the World – What We Need?; Wanted:  Servants not Celebrities; The Big Business of Evangelicalism; “Christians make a difference in this world by being different from this world; they don’t make a difference by being the same”; Relevance – What is It?; The Irrelevance of Relevance; Against the World for the World; The Bible as God’s Listening Post; An “Emergent” Humility?; Evangelism – God’s One Great Work?

Part 2DOWNLOAD MP3

Culture – What is it?; Sola Scriptura or Sola Cultura?; Jesus and Cosmic Renewal; The Cultural Mandate – What and Why?; What is the Kingdom of God?; Contextualization – What is It?  Do We Need it?; The Church as God’s Greatest Evangelistic Tool.

I’m grateful for Doug continuing to offer informative and engaging discussions on topics that matter from some of the most respected voices in Baptist and evangelical circles.  To subscribe to the Insight Podcast on iTunes, go here.

Joe Thorn on Gospel-Centered Assimilation

August 13, 2008

When I first saw the sketches on Joe’s Twitter, I knew that this would be good.  Joe has developed a gospel-centered assimilation that is excellent.  Back in March, Joe unveiled the ministry paradigm for Redeemer (where he pastors) focusing on three arenas–the table (home), the pulpit (church), and the square (city).  Building on this paradigm, Joe develops a gospel-centered assimilation with progression from (1) gospel encounter to (2) gospel experience to (3) gospel service and finally to (4) gospel calling.

I encourage you to check out the entire post.  Solid. Practical. Gospel. Church.

Is Relevance a Liberal Assumption?

November 9, 2007

While the Board of Trustees were in town for the SBTS Heritage Week, Mark Dever held a IX Marks lecture in Broadus chapel in which he opened up by speaking to the issue of relevance in gospel ministry (I was in attendance). Writing for Baptist Press, Garrett Wishall quotes Dever who said,

“I would like to suggest that the most fundamental problem in the church is not that we are not relevant enough in relation to the world, but that the church is not distinct enough from the world. Our churches must reflect the character of God.”

I remember Dever also arguing that churches are becoming “culturally determined.” In light of this, Wishall notes,

The idea that the Gospel must be made relevant is a liberal assumption which, if taken to its end, can result in the theological liberalism of Friedreich Schleiermacher, the father of Protestant liberalism, Dever said, adding that numerous church models seek to be relevant and do not reach the unorthodox conclusions of liberalism but remain unhealthy because they are based on an unbiblical definition of success.

Dever then goes on to explain a little of what he means by “an unbiblical definition of success.”

“The problem with the seeker-sensitive model, emerging church model and even the traditional model that say, ‘Get as many people into a room as possible and share the Gospel with them,’ is that they view success in light of visible fruit,” he said. “All three of these approaches say, ‘Change your techniques and let’s get some numbers.’

“Instead of being directed by [visible] success, we should be directed by faithfulness. We should say, ‘If the Lord doesn’t like our product, we will change the product.’ We shouldn’t take the idea that if we don’t have X number of conversions in our church, then we must be doing something wrong. I am glad Jeremiah didn’t think that. And I am glad that Jesus Christ didn’t think that. Let us remember that we are following the One who was crucified as a revolutionary.”

So I am curious as to what you think. Is relevance inherently a theologically liberal idea? Is it possible to reflect both the character of God and the culture in which you live? Can churches be culturally engaging without being culturally determined? Biblically faithful and culturally fruitful?

Tullian Tchividjian with Books on Church and Culture

November 7, 2007

Tullian Tchividjian has compiled a nice list of books on church and culture.

  1. No Place for Truth by David Wells
  2. God in the Wasteland by David Wells
  3. Losing our Virtue by David Wells
  4. Above all Earthly Powers by David Wells
  5. Engaging God’s World by Cornelius Plantinga
  6. Not the Way it’s Supposed to be by Cornelius Plantinga
  7. Heaven is a Place on Earth by Michael Wittmer
  8. Lectures on Calvinism by Abraham Kuyper
  9. The Gospel in a Pluralist Society by Lesslie Newbigin
  10. Resident Aliens by Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon
  11. Where Resident Aliens Live by Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon
  12. American Evangelicalism by James Davison Hunter
  13. The Transforming Vision by Brian Walsh and Richard Middleton
  14. He Shines in all That’s Fair by Richard Mouw
  15. The Gravedigger File by Os Guinness
  16. Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey
  17. Rumor of Angels by Peter Berger
  18. A Peculiar People by Rodney Clapp
  19. Being the Body by Charles Colson
  20. Chameleon Christianity by Dick Keyes

There are some books I am quite familiar with, including those by Wells, Kuyper, Newbigin, Plantinga, Guinness, Mouw, Pearcey, and Colson. But I must say there are quite a few I have never heard of(!), such as Clapp, Keyes, Walsh, and Wittmer. Some that come to my mind that were not mentioned include:

H. Richard Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture
George Marsden’s Fundamentalism and American Culture
Kevin Vanhoozer’s Everyday Theology
Os Guinness’ Prophetic Untimeliness
Richard Hofstadter’s Anti-Intellectualism in American Life
Henry Van Til’s The Calvinistic Concept of Culture

Any other good books on church/Christianity and culture that you can think of?

On Cultural Engagement

October 24, 2007

Given our recent discussion on church and culture, I was jazzed to see that soon-to-be-father-of-three Joe Thorn has written a nice piece on cultural engagement.  Before he lays out six rules, Joe provides a helpful cultural framework that addresses the aspects of culture that are broken (to be redeemed), evil (to be rejected), and good (to be accepted). Joe’s six rules of cultural engagement then follows:

1. Be present.
2. Practice discernment.
3. Develop your theology.
4. Find courage.
5. Speak clearly.
6. Love.

Good stuff. Be sure to read the whole article.

Toward a Missional SBC, Part 2

October 7, 2007

[Caveat: Figuring that I would be questioned/challenged thus, “So Timmy, what are you doing to be a missional Christian or advance the cause of a missional SBC? You blog, so what? And you’re a Calvinist! I thought you guys didn’t do evangelism.” That’s what yesterday’s post was hoping to address at least in part. Now to my conclusion . . .]

Ed Stetzer has stated in numerous conferences that the leading issues facing Southern Baptists deal with missiology and ecclesiology. I happen to agree with him, although theological error and heresy is always around. Questions like, “How does the church relate to the culture?” and “What ways of doing evangelism will reach the next generation?” and “What constitutes a church?” will continue to be hot button topics in the years to come. Let me briefly mention some things to consider as we look for a promising future and greater emphasis on being Great Commission Christians.

There are two polarizing camps which we need to be careful to avoid. The first is the camp of liberalism. Liberalism has historically embraced a naive, postmillennial position where Christianity is subsumed in the culture as their over-realized eschatology forces them to think with an unbalanced emphasis on the immanence of the kingdom of God. The most popular form of contemporary liberalism can be found in the Emergent organization (not to be confused with the emerging church movement, although Emergent is the liberal end of it) who espouse a postmodern epistemology and want to revise and reconstruct orthodox Christian belief. On the other hand, there is the camp of fundamentalism. Fundamentalism has historically embraced a dispensational premillennialist stance advocating a rejection of the culture as entirely worldly. The tend to have an over-reactive, negative view of culture with an under-realized eschatology that leads them to an unbalanced emphasis on the transcendence of the kingdom of God. I believe that both these camps are dangerous to the future of the SBC. The former emphasizes orthopraxy over against orthodoxy; the latter emphasizes orthodoxy over orthopraxy; the former has uncritical acceptance (radical continuity) of the postmodern culture in which we live; the latter has an uncritical rejection (radical discontinuity) of the postmodern world in which we live. Unfortunately, in recent years, what we have seen is these two camps feuding with one another, neither producing converts, and neither championing the cause of the mission of Christ.

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