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The Authenticity of Disciple Making

Month: February 2014

God’s Provision: Love

God’s Provision

                  We are so blessed! God has allowed us to experience His provision in many ways. We celebrate the funding of a feeding center and church plant in Nicaragua, and we look toward the completion of our Education Building. We celebrate the lives that are being changed and the discipleship that is taking place. I love serving alongside the folks at North Park, because we can always anticipate God doing the great work through our church.

The New Testament Church is an amazing organization, and God is providing for His church. The challenge for the church is to continue TRUSTING the God who has provided for us. He has provided breath for our lungs, and nourishment for our bodies. He has provided shelter for our families, and direction for our ministry. He has provided so much, but most importantly He has provided LOVE.

I know God loves me. God’s greatest provision for us is love. He loved me first. God is love. The blessing of God is to be able to experience His love and to see His love as we love others. The love that he has given us motivates us to love people in a like manner. We are to love as we have been loved by God.

As we celebrate God’s provision, let us be reminded that the greatest of these is Love.

1 Corinthians 13 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

 

10 Symptoms of an Inwardly-Focused Church

By Tony Morgan at tonymorganlive.com

Can you imagine a business that never focused on reaching new customers? Imagine Apple saying, “We have no plans to sell phones, tablets and computers to new customers in the future. We’re going to focus solely on our existing customers from now on.”

For a season Apple would likely continue to thrive because it has plenty of existing customers. But, over time, Apple would slowly lose it’s customer base until eventually everyone has either started purchasing products from other companies or passed away.

The thought of a business like Apple only focusing on existing customers seems ludicrous and a recipe for disaster, but the crazy thing is that I see churches embracing this “strategy” on a regular basis.

Let me help you discern whether or not you are part of an inwardly-focused church. Here are ten symptoms I’ve noticed in my interactions with churches across the country.

  1. Your bulletin is loaded with announcements. Usually this is an indication that your church is focused on programs rather than people. Programs are competing for people’s attention rather than creating a clear path for new people to take next steps.
  2. There are lots of meetings. The more inwardly-focused a church gets, the more board and committee meetings there are to talk about buildings and budgets. When people are on mission, there are fewer meetings.
  3. You don’t hear and share stories of life change. Instead, you’re more likely to hear about all the activities that are happening in the church.
  4. There’s only one service on Sunday. Inwardly-focused churches are more concerned about knowing and seeing everyone. That becomes the higher value over reaching new people.
  5. If you have more than one service, you have multiple styles of worship. There’s a traditional service, a blended service and a contemporary service. That’s an indication that the worship is more about the people who already attend your church.
  6. The greeters are talking with their friends rather than meeting new people. If there isn’t an intentional strategy for guest services with people and signage, it’s a good indication that you aren’t expecting new people.
  7. Change of any sort is resisted. It doesn’t matter how big or small the change. Service times. Paint color. Room assignments. Service order. Song selection. Inwardly-focused churches are more interested in preserving the past.
  8. The church is led by people-pleasing pastors. The pastors are trying to keep everyone happy rather than prioritizing fulfillment of the church’s mission. The first question is probably not, “What does God want me to do?” Instead, decisions are made based on the perceived response of individuals in the church.
  9. The church is attended by pastor-needing people. The “members” are consumers. They are expecting to be served rather than engaging the ministry to serve others.
  10. People are not inviting their friends. And your gut may be to teach more on evangelism, but that typically doesn’t fix the problem. More likely your services and ministries are not designed to reach people outside the church. When we intentionally create environments where life change happens, people want to attend and invite their friends.

Where does your church stand? One symptom may not be a strong indication of a serious illness. If you identify several symptoms in your ministry, it may be time to call the doctor.

The challenge, of course, is that even though your church is inwardly-focused, it could still appear to be thriving. Just because you have lots of people showing up doesn’t necessarily mean you have an outwardly-focused church.

– See more at: http://tonymorganlive.com/2014/01/28/10-symptoms-inwardly-focused-church/#sthash.rSBG3qaU.dpuf

Changes in the Church

From Thom Rainer:

I know I’m not smart enough to have predicted all of these major changes in churches the past decade or so. The changes have been profound in many churches, and they seem to be lasting changes.

For clarity, please understand I am not making qualitative assessments of these paradigm shifts; I am merely noting them. And I understand fully that all of them are not operational in all churches. Nevertheless, they are pervasive on the congregational landscape of American.

  1. From senior pastor to lead pastor. The latter is becoming a more common title in multi-staff churches. The change is not merely semantics. It reflects an expectation of pastors to provide clear and ongoing leadership.
  2. From trust to trials. The pastor was once the most revered person in the church and the community. Today he is often the recipient of harsh and frequent criticisms. I’ll address the reasons for this shift in my post next Monday.
  3. From denominational to quasi-denominational. Churches used to look to denominations for their primary resources. More today are looking to large churches that behave something like a denominational provider.
  4. From solo preacher to multiple teachers. More churches have more than one preacher/teacher, a trend that is growing even among smaller churches. What is significant as well is the increased use of the term “teacher.” It implies a different approach, style, and content than was expected a decade or so ago.
  5. From attractional to incarnational. Not too long ago, churches utilized significant resources to get people to come to the church building. More today are expending resources to move the members to minister in the community.
  6. From geography to affinity. Churches in the past often identified with other church by their denomination and location. Thus we have state denominations, local associations, and regional districts. Today more churches are identifying with other churches that have common precise doctrines and common practices.
  7. From low expectation to high expectation. Churches have been through a long season where leaders were reticent to expect service and ministry of church members. To the contrary, many churches worked hard to make their congregations user-friendly with low expectations. That is shifting, and the high expectation church is becoming more normative.

The implications of these shifts are enormous. I hope to expand on each of them in the weeks ahead. I would love to hear your thoughts.

The Gospel According to Joshua

Justin Taylor|12:42 pm CT

The Gospel According to Joshua

In the latest issue of Modern Reformation, I have an article on “The Gospel according to Joshua” (which subscribers can read here).

In the closing section, I look at why the physical-spiritual contrast is a true but inadequate way to compare the work of Joshua and Jesus (who share the same name).

Some interpreters look at Joshua and Jesus through the contrast of physical fulfillment and spiritual fulfillment.

Joshua, they note, is promised covenant prosperity: protection from God’s enemies and success in all his endeavors (Josh. 1:5-8). Jesus, however, gives up physical comfort and protection in order to serve as our final sacrifice.

Joshua leads the conquest of a physical land through physical war; Jesus rules a spiritual kingdom where we fight with spiritual weapons as “sojourners and exiles” (1 Pet. 1:21).

This observation is true, so far as it goes.

It helps us to remember that in this world we are not promised physical safety or success.

It reinforces the crucial truth that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12).

But the physical-spiritual contrast is ultimately inadequate.

We must remember that the story is not finished.

There is another act to come in this divine drama.

Christ will return and he will physically (as well as spiritually) defeat all of his enemies once and for all. “Unlike the wars of old that led only to more bloodshed and misery, Christ’s global judgment and victory when he comes again will truly be the war to end all wars (Matt. 3:11-12; 24:27-25:46; Rev. 17:1-20:15).”*

We will enter into the Promised Land, which is no longer restricted to a strip of land in the Middle East but is now expanded to include the whole earth (cf. Matt. 5:5; Rom. 4:13).

Christ himself will wipe every tear from the eyes of our new resurrection bodies as we live securely in his presence forevermore (Rev. 21:4).

One greater than Joshua has appeared and will one day return again.

And on that day, all will see that the battle truly does belong to the Lord.

[* Michael Horton, “Notes on Joshua,” ESV Gospel Transformation Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013).]

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