Tag Archives: Church

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One of the often neglected benefits of the Church is her people.

We tend to see the worst of Christians in movies and sitcoms, but of the hundreds of Christians I am blessed to know, I am continually amazed by the compassion that I find. Take a bunch of sinners, put them in a room together, and you’ll be amazed by what God can do with them.

As I reflect upon the church, it is saddening that people live without it — not merely the experience of worshiping a Holy God, but the experience of knowing His people. And I’m not just talking about people to hang with, but people to hurt with — people who will shelter, feed, and comfort in the midst of life’s worst moments. After all, the church is not a building of wood or stone, but a people of flesh and blood.

If you haven’t experienced the life within a church, or if it’s been a while, send me a message. I’d be glad to help you find a local church in your area.

#GiveChurchAChance
#BeTheChurch

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Whether you’re new to the church or have been around for a while, this guide may help.  Believe it or not, but facial hair is a window to the soul.  It is my hope that this guide from Leadership Journal will help you navigate the confusing (and sometimes absurd) world of church culture.

 

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On this wonderful MLK day, let us remember the sacrifice and dedication of all those who have continued Christ’s work of bringing together all people. Our God is a God of reconciliation, and He is the one who unites different races and ethnicities. Let us celebrate His work through His Son and through His people.

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For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us… He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups.  Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death.

And this is God’s plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children. Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus. By God’s grace and mighty power, I have been given the privilege of serving him by spreading this Good News.

(Selections from Ephesians 2-3)

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Useful tips for meeting objectives in any organization, including the local church:

1. Define purpose and mission.
2. Assess strengths and weaknesses.
3. Write specific and measurable objectives.
4. Work towards general agreement.
5. Maintain a reasonable work load.
6. Develop strategies for using resources.
7. Practice accountability.
8. Design long and short range plans.
9. Be willing to change.
10. Measure progress.

(adapted from Kenneth Gangel, Feeding and Leading)

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Ten Commandments for Good Organization:

1. Definite and clean-cut responsibilities should be assigned to each worker.
2. Responsibilities should always be coupled with corresponding authority, so the task can be carried out.
3. No changes to the scope or responsibilities should be made until there is definite understanding on the part of all persons concerned.
4. No one person should be subject to orders from more than one supervisor.
5. Executives should not bypass an immediate supervisor to direct workers.
6. Critiques or criticisms should be made privately whenever possible.
7. No dispute should be considered too trivial to discuss.
8. Promotions, wages changes, and disciplinary action should be approved by an immediate supervisor.
9. No worker should be both an assistant and a critic to someone he/she is assisting.
10. Resources and facilities should be provided, so the worker can inspect and independently check his/her work.

(adapted from M.C. Rorty from the early 1930′s)

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When leading congregations, Christian leaders must be aware of both explicit and implicit theologies. What people believe determines how they act, and because of that, church members will continue to act according to the theologies that they hold. Without an awareness of both explicit and implicit theologies, church leaders can waste time, “spinning their wheels” on technical fixes to problems, while ignoring the deeper issues that are involved. Though it can take years, but church leaders need to address the explicit and implicit theologies of their congregants.

To begin with, explicit theology is what a church expressly believes. Explicit theology is usually easier to determine because of its public nature. What a church explicitly believes can be gathered from mission and value statements, doctrinal position papers, sermons, liturgy (including the hymnody), and various other items that express belief. While explicit theology is often accurate, it can sometimes be more of an expression of intent, meaning that not everyone may hold to the same ideal. Even still, explicit theology is usually the starting point for understanding what a congregation believes.

Implicit theology, on the other hand, is underneath the surface per se, and for that reason, it is much more difficult to determine. The term “implicit theology” refers to those beliefs that are held, but may not be fully expressed. Peter Cha, for example, illustrated how difficult it is to interpret implicit theology from merely what is visibly seen (i.e., artifacts), and that church leaders must take time to question what is unseen. In fact, congregants themselves may not even be aware of their underlying beliefs until they are explicitly pointed out. Implicit theology can include anything from “the pastor is the most spiritual man in our congregation” to “real worship means the raising of hands.” In most contexts, neither of the statements would be verbalized, but they can become part of the working assumptions of a congregation.

As Kevin Ford points out in Transforming Church, churches function best when their explicit theology matches their implicit theology and vice versa. If there is any discontinuity between the two, there will be underlying conflict. Such conflict should not be overlooked, but used as an opportunity to change either explicit or implicit theology, so that it better aligns with Scripture. To help encourage spiritual transformation, therefore, church leaders should be aware of both explicit theology and implicit theology, so that churches can be healthier and more apt to grow.

As church leaders help to develop local churches, they must look beyond mere technical fixes and focus on deeper adaptive change. In this effort, however, church leaders must take time to delve into the basic assumptions of a congregation, compare those assumptions with Scripture, and invest time in changing unbiblical assumptions. Simply changing the explicit theology (such as a doctrinal statement) will not change people’s hearts. Ministry needs to go deeper than what is espoused, so that heart issues, including what is assumed, can be sanctified for God’s glory.

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An important, yet often neglected, reason to update hymn arrangements relates to chord structures and patterns. Updating a song, or becoming more relevant, is not merely a matter of instrumentation. Simply adding guitar and drums does not make a hymn contemporary. In fact, many of the hymns were composed for piano or organ, so we can do them a disservice by simply swapping instrumentation.

Arrangements need to be flexible. In the music world, arrangements are part of the “language,” just as authors vary their sentence structures. We need to be cognizant of this as musicians — not berating people for being born in a different time period, but being sensitive to how culture has changed. We cannot expect someone born in 1998 to speak the musical language of the 1730′s, and if we do, we are being elitist.

Certain chords (e.g., diminished chords) just aren’t as common in popular music these days, and it can sometimes create an extra barrier that prevents people from focusing on the lyrics of our worship songs. For that reason, it’s beneficial to rearrange hymns, so that more people can appreciate them — even if they are slightly updated.

Of course, we should not limit ourselves to I, IV, V chords. While we should slowly experiment and try to teach congregations different styles, we cannot force it upon them. As with any language, it is necessary to start with what people already speak and gradually teach the new language.

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The family was designed by God to be a unique place, the most basic form of community, where much of our spiritual growth can occur.

Because God designed families, churches should support families and minister to them. In this effort, churches need to encourage families to live out their faith outside of Sunday morning. It is during the week, within the natural context of our home, where we make our daily decision to follow Christ.

At a formal level, midweek gatherings help parents, children, and youth to refocus on Christ. At the same time, there needs to be balance. Especially for young families, rather than “over programming” and having families over-commit (which can be counter-productive to spiritual growth), churches should support spiritual growth that can take place within the home. Extra help should be provided for young families who are just starting their journey.

We should never forget that churches need to be a “second family” for dozens, if not hundreds of people. Many do not have families, and others do not have healthy families. Because of this, it is important for the church to be sensitive to these needs and provide a safe place for orphans, singles, divorced, and widows. As the church loves as a family and ministers to those in need, the gospel is supported and enabled to spread (Acts 6).

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Helpful comments from C.S. Lewis on experiencing the “art of worship” within familiar forms:

“Every church service is a structure of acts and words through which we receive a sacrament, or repent, or supplicate, or adore. And it enables us to do these things best– if you like, it ‘works’ best– when, through long familiarity, we don’t have to think about it.

As long as you notice, and have to count, the steps, you are not yet dancing but only learning to dance. A good shoe is a shoe you don’t notice. Good reading becomes possible when you need not consciously think about eyes, or light, or print, or spelling.

The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God. But every novelty prevents this. It fixes our attention on the service itself; and thinking about worship is a different thing from worshipping…

A still worse thing may happen. Novelty may fix our attention not even on the service but on the celebrant. You know what I mean. Try as one may to exclude it, the question ‘What on earth is he up to now?’ will intrude. It lays one’s devotion to waste.

There is really some excuse for the man who said, ‘I wish they’d remember that the charge to Peter was Feed my sheep; not Try experiments on my rats, or even, Teach my performing dogs new tricks.’

Thus my whole liturgiological position really boils down to an entreaty for permanence and uniformity. I can make do with almost any kind of service whatever, if only it will stay put.

But if each form is snatched away just when I am beginning to feel at home in it, then I can never make any progress in the art of worship.”

–C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer (San Diego: Harvest, 1964), 4-5.