Church or Coffee?

While in North Carolina for Thanksgiving this past week I ran  across a church sign (at a very large church) that gave times for "Blended Worship" and "Bold Worship." What does that mean, if anything, to unchurched, lost people? "Worship" in and of itself would be confusing not to mention trying to decipher what "blended" is versus "bold." Are we talking about church or coffee? We should be strange and misunderstood where the Bible commands us to be, but in our attempts to reach lost people are we putting up needless barriers? Or, maybe we're not aiming at lost, unchurched people at all and just don't want to admit it.


Pastors Should Be Jerks

I recently came across this quote from John MacArthur. We need more pastors to be jerks.

"I'm not here to preach you sermons so you can have more information. As much information as I give you that's not what I'm trying to accomplish. I'm not here to offer you some oratory upon which you can render a criticism and an evaluation. I am basically here to jerk you out of your complacency week after week after week after week after week and yank you back to a God consciousness. I'm here to pull you back into Scripture. I'm here to pull you toward heaven. I'm here to refocus your thoughts. I'm here to shift your gears off of whatever it is you think about all week. Everything from your job to your family issues to the neighborhood to fixing the fence to the TV sitcoms and whatever it is you occupy yourself with; I'm here to jerk your mind back to spiritual reality so that you can fix yourself on God. And that's why we don't forsake the assembling ourselves together. You don't need to come to church every single Sunday morning and every single Sunday night to accumulate more information but you need to be jerked back to spiritual reality. And I'm the jerk.”


Is This the Best Way to Say This?

Let's think about this, indeed. This is a pretty popular slogan among churches these days and has been for quite some time. And the idea behind it is commendable. The motive is honorable. It is indeed the case that far too many churches are content to just be the church on Sunday mornings and never actually live sent lives in their communities. There is much more to being the church then just gathering together on Sundays. We are to live as a sent community of believers to be salt and light in the world, making disciples of our neighbors and the nations as we go about our lives each and every day.  I am all in favor for that biblical truth.

However, when we toss around so frequently slogans such as "Don't go to church. Be the Church," are we not communicating something that is fairly unbiblical? Likewise, when churches actually cancel their Sunday morning gatherings occasionally to go and "be the church" is that really a practice we honestly think that Paul or Timothy would have ever signed off on? It seems to me that when we use phrases and practices such as this that we are implying that "the Church gathered" is somehow inferior to "the Church scattered."  It is as if we should not be as excited and awe-inspired about what goes on Sunday mornings when we gather together as the Church as we are about what happens throughout the week when the Church is scattered.

Yet, when we look at the New Testament and the references to the "church" I think we will find that there are far more occasions where it is the church "gathered" together than the church "scattered" together. The majority of the epistles were written to the church gathered together. The letters to Timothy were written to Timothy to help him in leading the church gathered together.  As you look throughout the Book of Acts, yes there are occasions where individual members of the church or a couple of members from the church are out doing ministry, but predominantly when the church or group of believers are mentioned they are mentioned as being together and worshiping together. 

The Church scattered is a vital component to the missional identity of the Church. And it is one that is far too often neglected.  However, the fuel for the church scattered throughout the week in our individual callings and areas of ministry influence is what happens when the church is gathered together each week. It is as we come together--not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together--addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,singing and making melody to the Lord in our hearts (Eph. 5:19), praying with and for one another and the Gospel ministry God has called us to, hearing from the Lord from His Word reminding us of the realities and glories of the Gospel, that we are encouraged and refreshed to scatter out across our streets and across the oceans to make disciples of our neighbors and the nations, being the Church.The "church gathered" cannot rightly be called the church if it is not also the "church scattered." Likewise, the "church scattered" is unable to rightly be the church scattered if it is not also the "church gathered" together on a weekly basis. 

Jeff Purswell writes,

By definition, to be the church is to gather in God’s presence and to worship God together. And when we begin singing, we join the glorious worship that takes place unceasingly before the throne of God.

This is true regardless of how we feel, who leads worship, what songs we sing, or how we think worship went. There is something incredible happening on Sunday morning!

Be the church and go to church. Something eternal is going on in there. Don’t miss it. 

May we never think or inadvertently imply that this is not being the Church...


Preaching: Before and After

I'm currently reading Mark Dever's and Greg Gilbert's book Preach: Theology Meets Practice. In Chapter 8: "Delivering the Sermon" I came across some of the most helpful advice for before and after delivering the sermon.


"Is there anything quite like the few seconds right before you open your mouth and begin to preach? The music is done, everything is quiet, all eyes in the building are on you. You step to the pulpit, open your Bible, lay out your notes on the podium...and pause. Or at least I do. For just two seconds--maybe three--I pause before I begin speaking and let my eyes scan the congregation, maybe even make a split-second's eye contact with some people...It's to remind myself why I'm there, to press into my own heart one last time the enormity of what I'm doing. 'These people,' I think, 'belong to Jesus. They are His. He loved them, He spilled His blood for them, and He has put all the resources of omnipotence behind his determination to bring them safely home. And now, for the next hour, He's putting them...in my hands. To teach them and encourage them.'"

And after...

"Few preachers who preach God's Word feel great when the sermon's done. I'm usually thinking about everything I didn't have time to say or even a few things I did say that I wish I hadn't. Then the time for the benediction slips up on me, I give it, and then I sneak to the back door to talk with people as they walk out. Sometimes people come to talk, and I'm humbled and encouraged by the ways they say the Lord used the sermon in their lives. Other times no one says much of anything, which bothers me more than I wish it did.

But the immediate feedback--as much as we crave the instant gratification--isn't the point. A pastorate is made up of a lot of sermons, and the fact is, most of those sermons are going to be singles rather than triples or home runs. But that's fine. If the Lord is so kind as to give you even a long string of singles, that's purely of His grace, and your congregation will benefit and grow from that. You score runs with a string of singles. So don't worry if you haven't hit a home run in a while--and if you hit one today, don't get cocky! Either way, go home, rest, thank God for the grace He gave you to teach and encourage His people again, take some time off, and then start the whole process over the next week. Our God is a good God, and week after week, sermon after sermon, He will give grace and strength and insight to the men who preach His Word."

Good, good stuff.


Church: The Most Unlikely Place For Father's on Father's Day

I came across an interesting statistic in relation to Mother’s Day and Father’s Day in a recent USA Today article.  The article was based on a recent survey conducted by Lifeway Research.  The survey had to do with the highest attendance days in churches in America. Ninety-three percent of pastors surveyed said that Easter was one of the top three high attendance days.  Eighty-four percent of pastors surveyed said that Christmas was one of the top three high attendance days. Fifty-nine percent of pastors said that Mother’s Day was one of the top three high attendance days in the life of the church.

Now what about Father’s Day? Only four percent of pastors surveyed said that Father’s Day was one of the top three attendance days in the life of the church each year.  Scott McConnell, director of LifeWay Research, said, "Clearly, mothers want to be present for the affirmation that is typically offered in most churches, but families also are present knowing their attendance will honor their mother. Many families make church attendance on Mother's Day nearly obligatory. The attendance difference between Mother's Day and Father's Day is telling. Either churches are less effective in affirming fathers, or families believe Christian fathers don't value their participation in worship services."

Ed Stetzer, President of Lifeway Research wrote, "It seems that on Mother's Day, moms say, 'Let's all go to church.' But on Father's Day, dads say, 'I'm going to go play golf,' " I think the research possibly says something pretty revealing about the difference in the spiritual health of mothers and fathers.  Mothers generally want to be in church on Sunday, with their children. Fathers on the other hand, for the most part, don’t want to be in church with their children on Father’s Day.

Therefore, I want to encourage you as Fathers and Grandfathers to stop that trend this Father’s Day.   Dads, Granddads, would your children or grandchildren pass out if you picked up the phone and said, “Hey, I’d love it if you and your family would come and go with me to church this Sunday?”  Children and Grandchildren, would your Dads and Granddads, pass out if you picked up the phone and said, “Hey, I’d love to have you join me at church this Father’s Day morning?”
Why don’t you call them and find out?  See you on Father’s Day!


Being a Mom: The Hardest & Best Job In the World

“The hardest job in the world is also the best job in the world. Thank you, Moms!”

That’s the closing line in this advertisement by Proctor & Gamble for the upcoming Summer Olympics in London.  2.6 million people have watched this video online.  One of those commented, “Watching this and thinking, ‘Will I ever be a good mother?’” 

 As much as I liked the commercial, I thought it was potentially more discouraging to mothers than encouraging. Why? I completely agree that being a mom is the hardest job in the world. Having been raised by an exceptional mom and now being married to an exceptional mom, there is no doubt it, it is the hardest job in the world.  But is what makes it the hardest job in the world the fact that you have to do laundry, take them to school, and bandage up their wounds?   No, what makes it the hardest job in the world I think has more to do with the fact that you do all of those little things and rarely do you hear, “Thank you, Mom. I love you.”  What makes it the hardest job in the world is watching watch those little, or formerly little ones, go through sickness and heartache that you can’t heal. What makes it the hardest job in the world is watching them grow up and make bad decisions that you can’t change. 

And is it really true that what makes being a mom the best job in the world the fact that your child competes and succeeds in the Olympics and that makes it all worth it?  What about those kids who grow up and just do ordinary stuff the rest of their life?  Sometimes, what makes it the best job in the world is the fact that your kid is still living. Sometimes what makes it the best job in the world is that your child grows up and learns from their mistakes.  But sometimes they don’t and they never get it together.  

But it’s still the best job in the world because for the most part, mother’s never stop being moms.  They keep doing it and loving.  What other job is there where you put so much into it and potentially get so “little” out of it but you keep the job? In any other job like that , a person would just quit, but not moms.  That’s the greatest proof that it’s the best job in the world.

Why do moms do that?  1 Thessalonians 2:7-8 says, “Be we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become dear to us.” It’s because children are dear to their mothers. It’s because moms are affectionately desirous of their children.  Therefore they give themselves away no matter the outcome or result. And that’s a small, but beautiful picture of God’s love for sinners through Christ: affectionately desirous and self-sacrificing for our good.

Therefore, to all the moms this month who have raised just ordinary kids, like me, you really do have the hardest and best job in the world and we are glad you never quit.  And to all of us ordinary kids who have been raised by these extraordinary moms, “rise up and call her blessed.”