Monday, February 28, 2011

A Sign for All of Us

I was looking at various church-related signs on the internet when I came upon this one.  I like it because it applies to all Christians.  Once Jesus becomes our Lord and Savior we have direct access to God.  This makes us all priests.  Jesus expects His followers to live lives of servanthood, which is what being a deacon means.  So if you are a follower of Christ and see this sign, feel free to park next to it.

Holy Spirit Control

Confession time: I am sort of a control-freak. I don't have to work at it; rather it comes quite naturally. I'm generally pleased in any situation as long as I think I know what is going to happen, when it will happen, and how it will happen.

I've realized that I have been thinking this way even during our church family gatherings. Yesterday as we came together, we began by singing some songs, reading scripture, and praying.  I was comfortable because I could have predicted this. Then something happened that was unexpected (at least for me).

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Today's Gathering

I was going to write about our gathering today, but my friend Bobby beat me to it.  We had a great time.  Now we need to continue to live it out all week.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Sunday, Sunday

Sunday can be a wonderful day.  For most of us, it's the day of our primary weekly gathering with our church families.  I'm already anticipating our fellowship tomorrow.  I hope you are looking forward to yours, too.

Sunday can also be a dangerous day.  It can be dangerous to both our church families and to us as individual Christians.

Glad to See This

OnePlusYou Quizzes and Widgets

I'm not sure what this means, but I'm glad I won't be inadvertently offending anyone.

Why Does She Have to Park Next to a Dumpster? Where Does He Park?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Funny Church Sign

This one just makes me laugh.  Maybe it's because the sign isn't a marquee but is permanent.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

House Church - Flexibility

I love this photo.  I don't know who this guy is, but regardless his flexibility is impressive.

In a very different way, the flexibility inherent within the house church (simple church, organic church) is also impressive.

Simply put, the house church can do whatever needs to be done to both edify the body and reach out to the lost. There are no institutional or tradition-based restraints upon this flexibility. The church can and should do whatever needs to be done. If the members see in scripture that they need to believe and/or live differently about a specific issue, change can occur immediately.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Thank You Bible Translators

A few days ago I began thinking about bible translation. The more I pondered it, the more thankful I became toward bible translators.

I'm basically a one-language speaker.  I can spout a few Spanish phrases, but I'm hardly functional.  Although we lived in India for a few months, my Hindi never progressed beyond a very basic level; I've since lost much of it.

Regarding the biblical languages, my Hebrew is currently pathetic and my Greek is not what I'd like it to be (sorry Dr. Black).  I'm still working at it, but it is a sort of one step forward, one step back process.

Like most of you I'm very dependent upon the work of bible translators. Having taken a few classes that required a good deal of translation work from Hebrew and Greek into English, I have a glimpse of just how difficult the effort can be.  It's one thing to put together a wooden, ultra-literal, word-for-word type translation. It's something altogether different to translate in such a way that brings out the truth, clarity, and beauty of the scriptures. It's both a science and an art.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

House Church - Reproducibility

When it comes to the house church, reproducibility is a fairly easy thing.  When the house gets too small, it quickly becomes apparent that multiple gathering locations are needed. At that point, a new church is planted.

Let me be clear about a few things. I'm referring here to one group of Christians deciding to gather in two different locations. I'm not referring to the two groups putting up any sort of dividing walls between them. In fact, it could be that different people from the different groups gather together each week. Also, they could all occasionally gather together in a different, larger location such as a park, the beach, or some type of rented facility for the day.

A Quick Addendum

Just a quick thought related to yesterday's post:

I don't know any family that A) takes part in simple church life and B) has kids who are school-aged who C) does not home school their kids.  I can't think of even one.  I'm not sure what this means, but it struck me as interesting.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Question About Simple Church and Homeschooling

Here's a question I've been pondering but haven't yet figured out a satisfying answer:

The question: Why is it that almost all families involved in simple church life also homeschool their children, but many families who choose to homeschool do not take part in simple church life?

For example, here in Savannah we know a small number of families (some we gather with) who have embraced simple church.  Every one of those families also educates their children at home.  On the flip side, we know many families who have chosen to homeschool.  Some of these families gather in a simple manner, but most attend larger, traditional churches that run the range of denominations, styles, etc.  A good number even go to Savannah's only mega-church.

To sum up, almost all who take part in simple church also home educate, but most who home educate do not take part in simple church.

Why do you think this is the case?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

On Preparation

As we gather as the church, the purpose is mutual edification to the glory of God.  In order for this to occur, the bible shows us a pattern of everyone present at the gathering edifying everyone else.  The model we see is one of preparation leading to edification.

The church makes a mistake if its gatherings fault to one of two extremes.  The most common mistake is one we are all familiar with: the traditional church's planned gathering.  We've all seen the limitations upon edification that come from a scripted worship service. Most of the body is muted while a few people do almost all the talking, etc. This planning has good intentions and often leads to a nice ceremony, but it stifles the body.

Another mistake is the opposite extreme. This usually occurs in simple church or house church gatherings. The mistake is one of no preparation. When this occurs, everyone shows up looking for the Holy Spirit to lead, but little edification happens because no one is prepared to add anything. This type of extreme spontaneity can lead to people saying things they wouldn't normally say in order to fill a gap in the silence. I'm not speaking about a legitimate form of prophecy, but rather speaking words that simply fill a void.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Reformed Tendency to Create Superstars

What is it about Reformed folks and the tendency to create superstars?

I write from "inside the camp" of the Reformed, if by that we are talking strictly about God being sovereign over salvation (I reject the Reformed view of the church; no surprise there).

I've compiled a short list of some of today's Reformed superstars: John Piper, John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, Al Mohler, Sinclair Ferguson, Alistair Begg, C.J. Mahaney, Timothy Keller, Thabiti Anyabwile, Mark Dever, Mark Driscoll, David Platt, Matt Chandler, Kevin DeYoung, and Josh Harris.  There are several more.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

"Generous Justice"

Timothy Keller is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.  I've read four of his books so far and have liked each one of them.  Generous Justice is my favorite of the four.

In this book, Keller tackles head on the issue of Christians' responsibility to care for the poor and needy in society.  Throughout the text, he links the gospel itself to our treatment of the poor.  In the final sentence of the book Keller writes, "A life poured out in doing justice for the poor is the inevitable sign of any real, true gospel faith."

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

House Church - Unity

One of the goals within the house church / simple church /organic church is to embrace unity and avoid division.  Specifically, all Christians are united in the person of Jesus Christ.  Since we are in Him, we are one body.  Everyone who holds fast to the biblical gospel is part of Christ's body, His church.

We strive to live out Ephesians 4:4-6, where Paul writes, "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."

Along these same lines, the house church attempts to avoid any division related to what are commonly referred to as "secondary doctrines." Although doctrines of this type are important, they are not seen as worth dividing over.  They may include baptism, the Lord's Supper, spiritual gifts, church polity, etc.  Through the years many Christian denominations have formed because of division over secondary doctrines.  The house church rejects this idea.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

House Church - Missions

The focus upon missions, both locally and globally, is something that all churches should gladly embrace. This is true for both traditional churches and simple churches. Therefore, this is an area of church life where there both can and should be much agreement.

Every follower of Jesus Christ that I have ever met has agreed that everyone needs to hear the gospel.  We may not agree on exactly how to go about "doing missions" most effectively, but we are united in understanding that every individual on this planet absolutely needs to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.

In local bodies of believers we can pray, give, and go (that may sound a bit trite, but I think it's an accurate descriptor of our involvement). These are areas where we can unite as churches regardless of the church model we follow. We can team together in praying, giving, and going. In fact, we should.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

It's Not Because of Bad Church Experiences

I've both read and heard it said that the main reason people switch to the simple church model is because of bad church experiences they have had.

I obviously cannot speak for all those who have departed from the traditional church for a simpler, organic model of church life.  However, I can tell you that our family most emphatically did not leave because of "bad church experiences."  In our lives Alice and I have been a part of several solid, evangelical, traditional churches.  We've had a few negative church experiences here and there, but who hasn't?  Overall, we were pleased with and didn't give much thought to the traditional model until a few years ago.

I've written at length about why we made the decision to leave the traditional church; I won't bring all that back up again here.  Let me simply say that we did not leave because of bad experiences.  Rather, we left because of the bible.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

My Wife and Noel Piper

Noel Piper (John Piper's wife) has invited a series of guest writers to post on her blog in recognition of Black History Month.  Noel asked my wife Alice, who usually blogs here, to add to the series.  Alice has written a short post about her first experience with racism as a child.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

House Church - Giving

God is the Creator of all things. He therefore owns everything. God has graciously given us all things we need to live. We are to be good stewards of these things. This includes our time, talents, and resources. Every Christian I know agrees with these things.

The disagreement among Christ-followers comes in the forms of what/how much to give and who to give it to (sorry for the grammatical mess in this sentence).

The New Testament model shows Christians freely giving of their resources as they are lead by the Spirit.  There is no compulsion.  There is no guilt. There is no tithe. Rather, we are to be governed by this principle:

"The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." II Cor. 9:6-7

Read the Comments Too

I encourage you to read both Thabiti Anyabwile's response to the critique of his book chapter and the comments that follow.  The discussion is enlightening.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Thabiti Anyabwile Responds

A few days ago I wrote a post - entitled Expositional Listeners? - that challenged one of Thabiti Anyabwile's primary ideas from his book What is a Healthy Church Member?

Earlier today Anyabwile responded to a blog post that voiced many of the the same concerns that I blogged about.  I have no idea who the unnamed blogger is.  It could be me, but assuming that seems a bit arrogant on my part.  Regardless, please  read Anyabwile's response here.  Then read Bobby Auner's response to Anyabwile's response.

Monday, February 7, 2011

"God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything"

God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything is a significant text by noted atheist Christopher Hitchens.  After its release in 2007 it was a best seller for quite some time.  This book has contributed mightily to the rise of the New Atheism within this country.

Because of its impact, I decided to give this book a try.  Since I'm obviously a theist, I knew that it would be a challenge to read it.  Let's face it: it's always easier to read someone you agree with than someone you don't.

Not wanting to add to Hitchens' already full wallet, I checked this one out of a local library.

I must admit that I selectively skimmed this book.  The reason is that I have no interest in Hitchens' discussion of world religions outside biblical Christianity.  My interest was two-fold.  First, how does Hitchens interact with biblical claims?  Second, what does he propose as the best belief system?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

On Missing Fellowship

I've been battling the flu - and losing - for the past five days.  Most of our family is now sick with one thing or another.  Because of this we are not able to gather with our church friends today.  I really wish we could be there.

Something special happens when the church comes together.  If you have ever been a part of a loving church family, then you know what I'm talking about.  The gathering is far more than an encouragement-club of some kind.  When the church gathers, Christ is truly present with us.  He shows Himself to us through our interactions with others.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Varanasi Street Scenes

This is a nice video of Varanasi, the city in India where we served for several months a few years ago. I like this particular video because it has no commentary; instead, it simply shows life as it is in this Hinduism-dominated city.

BTW - I have no idea why it says "Varanasi Cruise 2010."

House Church - Discipleship

This particular post is less about house church discipleship than it is about biblical discipleship in general.

First we must ask what discipleship is.  We could probably come up with a few differing definitions.  Here's my take on the subject: Biblical discipleship occurs when followers of Jesus Christ come alongside one another and assist one another in growing both closer to Christ and in greater Christlikeness.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

When Intentions Meet Examples

What happens when good intentions bump up against biblical examples? Specifically related to the church, what happens when an idea based in good intentions meets in scripture an example that is completely different? How should we handle this?

Let's take an example: the construction of large church buildings.

What happens when a church, after much prayer, believes that they are led by the Holy Spirit to construct a new building of some kind?  It could be an addition to what they already have or a completely new gathering facility. Either way, the outlay of money is significant but the reason is to minister to both the church body and the surrounding community.  Let's say the church doesn't even have to take out a mortgage but instead pays for it in cash (unlikely these days).  The new building is constructed with only good intentions.

Reading an Atheist

I have recently realized that the books I read tend to come from a narrow view of theology.  My library could almost be described as "Reformed." I've got a large variety of books by Piper, Sproul, MacArthur, Packer, Dever, Mohler, etc.  There are even a few by Calvin, Luther, Owen, and Edwards (although I confess to struggling with reading those).  What do all these authors have in common?  Their view of salvation is basically exactly the same - even down to the details.

I no longer think it's healthy to read from a narrow band of authors. Therefore, I'm branching out.  Specifically as I study the church I'm hoping to hear what those outside the Reformed group think.  Right now I'm reading through Watchman Nee's The Normal Christian Church Life. Waiting on the shelf are The Rabbit and the Elephant, Generous Justice, and The Deep Things of God.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Servant Leaders?

Felicity Dale has written a short, excellent post entitled Servant Leaders? Take a look.

Yes or No?

In my previous post I focused on Colossians 4:12, which says, "Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God."

In light of this verse, here's my question: Are we expected to follow Epaphras' example?  Yes or no?

There are many Christians who say that we do not need to follow the biblical model in our lives.  What is required, they say, is what is commanded or taught.  According to this line of thinking, we have freedom to follow what is modeled if we choose to do so.  However, it isn't required.

If, on the other hand, we believe that Christians are expected to follow what is modeled, then we look to more than just what is commanded and taught.  We also look for what people did that was approved of by the apostles.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

On Colossians 4:12

My friend Alan Knox has begun blogging through his study of Colossians.  I encourage you to read it.  It is sure to be good.

His writing reminded me of something that happened this past Sunday during our church gathering.  I wanted to encourage everyone to understand that we all need to teach one another and be taught by one another.  This may happen is various ways, but the key is that teaching is mutual and reciprocal in nature.

In order to do this, I read Colossians 3:16, which says, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God." (emphasis mine)

After reading this, I decided to quietly read through the remainder of Paul's letter. I noticed something I had never thought about before. In 4:12, Paul writes, "Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God."