Thoughts on Church

So, the election is over. The commercials have, thankfully, ceased. The rhetoric is slowly decreasing from its fevered pitch and we are entering that relatively peaceful political space known as the lame duck session. I don’t know about you, but I have, for the most part, tuned out of the 24-hour news cycle, and am sort of in the process of crawling back into my little hobbit hole in the Shire, perfectly content to allow the world to begin to pass me by. I am tired, worn out, ALL of my people lost. You get the drift.

It is in times like this, in the midst of cultural and political upheaval, that Christians must continue to remember those things that are most important. The Apostle Paul put it this way:

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
(Ephesians 4:1-3 ESV)

How, why are we to walk this way with one another? Why would Paul urge us to walk this way? Well, I’m glad you asked, Paul continues:

There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
(Ephesians 4:4-7 ESV)

Grace was given to each one of us. I forget that sometimes.

Fortunately, grace was given to me in my forgetfulness. Grace is a gift. It is given to us from God who is over all and through all and in all. Will I choose to look past political differences, even those I believe to be important, those that keep me up at night repenting for our nation, and choose to find the one Spirit in my brother or sister with whom I disagree?

Christian Fellowship is a spiritual discipline. It should be challenging, but it should also be a force for good in the world. A force which reminds each one of us that we are moving toward something much greater than we could possibly imagine. We are practicing for eternity with God, and he has given us the responsibility of demonstrating the coming Kingdom to the world around us now.

How will Christians live in fellowship with one another in the eternity that is to come? I am not so sure about the specifics, but I am absolutely certain that it will not look like what many of us all just experienced in this last election season. I think it may be the fulfillment of Paul’s vision for the church, which is really God’s vision.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

May each of us who call ourselves members of Jesus’ body demonstrate in fullness this most lovely command in our lives, in our homes, in our churches, in our communities. By this all people will know we are his disciples.


I don’t agree with everything Hugh Halter says in general, and I don’t agree with everything he says in this video, but this video gets very interesting as Hugh begins to explain how his church, Adullam, makes disciples who really are disciples, and not just people who occupy a pew or a seat on Sunday mornings.


Because I am a worship leader (and future church planter), I found this post by Donald Zimmerman over at The Resurgence to be interesting. It reflects a number of insights that I find quite helpful to see articulated this way.

Most helpful though is this simple observation:

“…consider the following: if your average church-goers attend a 90 minute service, three times a month, they will give you 54 hours of their attention annually. Depending on liturgy, your worship leader will get roughly 18-27 of those hours. Your worship leader sounds like a wise place to invest your time, doesnʼt it?”

Did you get that? Potentially a full third to a full HALF of the time a congregation spends in church services throughout the course of one year is given over to the worship leader. This fact could have been at the top of the post, framing and contextualizing the rest of the post, which challenges the pastor or church planter with some values-based suggestions.

But there is one thing this post does not do (and this is where my experience as a worship leader might prove helpful) – it doesn’t tell me, the potential church planter or pastor, which value to place higher on the priority scale.

So here is some practical wisdom. If faced with the decision to have worship led at your church by either a skilled musician (who lacks gospel maturity) OR a not-so-skilled musician (who demonstrates gospel maturity), always err in favor of the person who demonstrates gospel maturity. The reason is very simple:

Musical skill can be learned with some very simple steps, gospel maturity (or Christian character) is only learned over time and through many disappointments, toils, snares, humiliations, failures, etc.

In this situation, one of the best things you can do for the great musician who can’t articulate the Gospel to save his life is to (gently) place him under the leadership of someone who can demonstrate character and encourage him to grow in grace by modeling a life separated for the Lord. And, conversely, one of the best things you can do for the mature believer who may need skill development is to put them in a position where they are challenged to improve their skills by someone whom they are leading (AND tell them to go take lessons). This provides an opportunity for both people to be challenged in the area that they personally need to be challenged in, and avoids each of them turning their area of strength into a vice or an idol.

Obviously, meeting with, encouraging, praying with each of these kinds of people is going to be necessary as you lead the flock by the grace of God, and this where the initial observation comes back in. Regardless of who is standing at that microphone on a week-to-week basis, invest in your worship leader(s). FIND THE TIME to talk, not just about leading worship and things that have to do with Sunday, but know your worship leader, know their life, their ideas, read what they read, hang with your worship leader, show your worship leader that they are important to you. This single element will go a long way towards developing a leader you and your people can follow.

Thoughts on Marketing and Conferences – Reformation21 Blog.

Thoughtful and helpful, as Dr. Trueman always is. I say dear chap, why not put a conference like this together yourself? I’ll even be one of the no names!

What a funny phrase that is. “Give Thanks”. It’s funny because it’s sort of a contradiction in terms. Almost. Kinda. Here’s what I mean:

Give. It’s a transaction. It’s the act of transferring ownership of something that now belongs to me and allowing someone else to, essentially, take over ownership what was previously mine. We give time, we give talent, we give treasure. We give soup. We give music lessons. We give cars, guitars and fruit bars. When we give we don’t usually expect anything in return. “Look, I’m giving this to you, I don’t want your money…”

Thanks. It’s the expressing of gratitude for something I’ve been given. I thank my wife. I thank my God. I thank my pastor/father-in-law. I thank my friends. I thank American soldiers. In thank my kids’ violin teacher. I thank someone for something I have been given.

I give thanks.

It’s almost as if the two words were really meant to be together all the time. In my giving I receive and have something to be thankful for. From my gratitude and thankfulness the giver experiences a reciprocity that is meant for them to receive in their giving and for me to give in my receiving.

Give thanks.

Giving thanks is like worship. In worship I am caught up in a beautiful cycle of giving and receiving; a cycle of pouring out (giving) my thanks as I am filled up with God’s gifts. It’s amazing, wonderful, beautiful and mysterious.

For more on this fascinating idea read Harold Best’s Unceasing Worship.

For John Piper, the idea that we would show up to worship on Sunday mornings, or any time, with only the purpose of giving, and not also receiving from God, is actually not even Biblical. And I think I agree.

Many churches, depending on the tradition, place an emphasis on worship as a way of giving back to God. It’s about giving Him something that he deserves, i.e., our praise, our attention, wholly, undivided. But that is at least incomplete. A worship service, at least one in which there exists a time frame in which corporate, congregational singing happens (take, for example, a typical Vineyard or Sovereign Grace worship service), should be a time of purposeful connection with God the Holy Spirit in such a way that there is an offering from the people of God that occurs, and a corresponding receiving from God that occurs. In this way, the people of God outpour as they are renewed and refilled by grace. It is a two-way interaction; a dance, rather than a performance before an empty concert hall. We receive our joy. We receive healing. By opening up this “channel”, so-to-speak, we receive his love and affection, his correction and encouragement, his grace and his truth.

In addition, this kind of two-way interplay does something else for us, the worshipers. It serves to remind us of our utter dependence upon God for life and breath and everything. It recalls to our minds the reality that from and through and to him are all things, and so, to him be glory forever. Amen. I am able to worship God because he enables me to worship him. The idea that I could ever bring anything to him that would adequately honor his value and dignity is simply foolish. Thankfully he has made a way through the shed blood of Jesus.

But the thing that this kind of interaction with God does for me, and this is where I move from the objective to the subjective, is change. It changes me. Little by little. More and more. Day by day. It changes me ever more into the image of Jesus. As I look into this dark mirror, I can see, more and more clearly, the image of Christ (1 Corinthians 13:12). That is revelation. That is freedom. That is obedience. That is worship.

Give. Thanks.


Soli Deo Gloria

There’s a Biblical principle called sowing and reaping. I think it’s probably more than simply Biblical, as if it only applies to Christians, I think that it’s how God designed things to work. In modern terms we might simply say “the more you put in, the more you get out.”

We see this at work everywhere. We see it at work when we save money in a CD. We see it at work in our jobs. If I work well, and contribute much to an organization, I should reasonably expect I’ll get more fulfillment, better promotions and more money as a result. We see it at church. The more people there are putting their hands to the plow, the higher the quantity and (hopefully) quality of impact that church should have. It’s really very simple.

The point of tension comes in the decision of what we should sow our time, talent and treasure into. Those are the three main categories of ‘stuff’ God gives us to make decisions with. Recently, my family made the decision to cut back on television. We decided that, given the current state of our finances and the current national economic conditions, we didn’t need to be ‘sowing’ our time and treasure into that electronic-moving-picture-brain-sucking-zombie-creating box and paying for the services necessary to run it. As a result, we’ve freed up treasure and we’ve freed up time that we can now sow into other things.

Often we don’t see the results of our sowing immediately (besides sometimes God uses our sowing for someone else’s reaping; see John 4:36-38, also the example of the church above). And that can be tough, but this is also a Biblical principle as well. Our culture focuses so much on right now, my way, right away (like that snotty little twerp, Veruka, from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory), but Biblically we should be living in light of our last day. The apostles Paul and Peter hammered this all through their letters. Pressing on toward an ultimate goal is how Paul explains it. Like a runner training for a race, so that he might finish well. In addition we see this principle at work in the parable of the ten virgins and the parable of the talents. Sowing faithfully, waiting faithfully, reaping joyously. Or not.

I don’t know if my family will see any short-term, instant gains as a result of shutting the TV off, but some things I can point to as a direct result of this one decision are:

  1. More relaxed evenings in our home.
  2. Less noise and confusion at the end of the day.
  3. More time spent talking around the dinner table on nights that I’m home.
  4. I’ve seen more books open around my house.
  5. The girls practice their violins without feeling like they’re going to miss Phineas and Ferb.

Not everything is all hunky-dorey and peaceful. We still have stresses. We still feel rushed; like we’re a couple of steps behind the pace of our lives, trying to catch up. Shutting the TV off doesn’t fix everything, but I wonder what other decisions we might make along these same lines that will together add up to reaping a harvest of righteousness, peace and joy as we sow more and more into God’s Kingdom and less into ours. Living in light of the end so that our last day will be so much more glorious than our first.

Sow for God, Reap for God.