Jesus And My To-Do List

tdlistWhy is it that I often walk out of church on a Sunday morning feeling more guilty and with more on my to-do list than I did walking in?

I’ve had this occur numerous times over the last couple of years. I’m not sure if it says more about me or the church service and preacher. I can’t help wondering whether it’s my expectations of what it is to go to church and worship that leaves me wanting. Nevertheless, I occasionally walk out having that sense of needing to do more in the coming seven days.

I’m a preacher myself, so I know I need to work hard on the application of my sermons. The explanation of the Bible and understanding of the passage can be worked through slowly or quickly but application needs to be there…somewhere. And it is within this application section that I need to know that the burdens I’ve been carrying for the last however long can be lifted. That my cares can be taken care of. That I can hope and know God is in control of all things.

I need to be reassured that I don’t have to do anything more this week to have God love me more. 

I know God. I know God because of my faith in Jesus and his work on the cross. Through that work he has enabled me to have my sin forgiven and be in a relationship with Him.

I understand this will mean I will need to change. Following Jesus means growing as a disciple. This happens over time and with the Lord’s help.

But when I am weary from a week where I know I’ve sinned throughout, where I didn’t read my Bible as much as I’d like, where things haven’t gone right, then I come to church seeking comfort, seeking encouragement, and to be reminded that God still loves me and is taking care of me.

Of course, I may know this at a cognitive level. I may know this at an emotional level. But I need to know that this is the case again this week. Just as it was the last.

This reminder may happen through the Scripture passage, or through the words of the preacher in explaining the text, or through the application part of the sermon.  Whatever way it may be it needs to occur in a way where the application doesn’t mean I walk out with more to-dos this week.

Because guess what?

When Jesus died he didn’t add a single to-do to my list. He took many, many, many to-dos away though. When Jesus died he didn’t add guilt to my burdens, he took them all and dealt with them.

So, preacher (and I speak to myself as much as any other), preach Jesus. Preach Jesus in such a way as to articulate what he’s done without adding more to my week and my to-do list. Please.

More Millennial Posts

The last few days have seen an influx of Millennial articles hit my social media stream. The two I link to below are quite good and show an understanding of Millennial culture. Again, I do get sick of these articles a bit because they can be so generalised. Have a read and enjoy!

Millennials need a bigger God, not a hipper pastor by Drew Dyck is a good reminder to speak of a vision of God who is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-capable in this world. One who will continue to stay faithful to us, even when we reject Him and sin against Him.

Ten reasons churches aren’t reaching Millennials by Frank Matthew Powell is written for churches and pastors who are seeking to engage this generation. Unlike other posts which outline what’s wrong with the generation this outlines what’s wrong with the churches who aren’t respecting Millennials.

100 Sermons In

 

I preached my 100th sermon the other day.

I don’t consider myself a great preacher but there’s something about working at preaching that I find satisfaction in.


SP11

I have a spreadsheet which lists every sermon I’ve ever given. It tells me what number I’m up to, the date of delivery, what passage of scripture it’s from, what corny title I’ve given it, and where it was delivered. Due to my missions role there are a few double ups, having given the same sermon in different places.

Some today argue that preaching is a waste of time. That sermons aren’t worth what we think they are. That there is a better way of communicating God’s truth, perhaps in small groups or through one-on-ones or in some form of creative dialogue. These ways of delivering God’s truth are great and there’s no denying there are different ways people receive the Word and understand it. It’s all a matter of communication theory I suppose.

Yet, I still believe that Scripture not only gives us the words to communicate but also shows us the way God seeks his Word to go forth.

The proclamation of scripture is an important aspect to the teaching and receiving of His Word. From the beginning to the end of scripture God speaks and uses preaching as a means of proclamation. These sermons and words are delivered by the person God has gifted in teaching or prophesy, such as, Moses or Ezra or the Prophets or Jesus or Paul or other apostles, just to name a few.

Coming under His Word each week at a gathering of believers is important for my soul. I look forward to the opportunity to continue preaching His Word to anyone, anywhere.

Why Your Church Service Is Awesome

640px-Lancaster_Baptist_Church_Main_Auditorium
Photo: Wiki Commons

In the last 6-9 months I’ve had the opportunity to visit a variety of churches and sit through a number of services “on the other side of the pew”. Since I’m no longer on staff at church I get to observe and participate in services like never before. This experience is great and painful all at the same time.

Today’s post is simply a list of points that have struck me while reflecting on services I’ve been to recently. In other words, it’s a list of points that I think make your service awesome.

  • Your worship or service leader is genuinely interested in welcoming me as a visitor. Because your service leader is so good I now know their name, I know what’s happening in the service, and what to expect in the coming hour. This is very good to know and I appreciate this information.
  • Your time of singing is an appropriate length and there has been thought put into the song choices. The words of the songs and the number of people singing in the service gives a good indication that your “song picker” knows what it means to gather as a church. They evidently know that the words of songs are important and there is a focus on the gospel and the theme of the whole service, particularly the sermon. While I know there are plenty of people who all have different preferences for songs you’ve been able to focus on the essentials in the choosing.
  • Your announcements are given by a real person, who tells me their name and highlights 2-3 points from the bulletin that are important for the church. I appreciate that it’s a real person up the front delivering the important announcements in good time. This shows me that you know it’s important to communicate with the church and also lets me know what I should take note of among all the other newsletter items.
  • Your pastoral prayer is spoken on behalf of the church for believers and non-believers around the world, throughout this country, and also for those within the church. In some ways the pastoral prayer can be a tricky one because there are so many options to pray for. Yet, the person who is praying this in your service has thought deeply about how to pray for people around the world. This gives the impression that your church is focused on the whole world and has a global worldview. Praying for your country and for those within the congregation also allows me to see that you care about your community, both inside and outside the church. It is in this prayer that the focus of the church is most readily shown.
  • You have a bible reading. This is brilliant. Not only do you have a bible reading but the one who speaks these words over the congregation introduces the text in such a way that if I didn’t know where to find the particular passage I am led by the reader to it. This is either through the mentioning of the page number, where it is in the bible (OT or NT), or being directed to the table of contents page at the front of the bible itself. Thank you for taking the time to do this, I know it must feel weird if you’ve always been around a bible but it is helpful to see you thinking about others. With this your reader has also given me ample time to get to the passage and is happy to stay silent while people “page flick” to the right spot.
  • You have a preacher who actually reads, explains, and applies the bible. Your service is awesome when this happens. It is one of the main reasons for gathering together on a Sunday, to hear the Word preached, and your service has a preacher willing to do so. This is excellent. Not only that, but they introduce themselves and seem genuinely concerned with wanting to get across what the bible is teaching. I’m not too concerned about how long your preacher goes for if he’s teaching and applying the bible, it’s just good for them to be doing so.
  • You have people in your congregation willing to talk after the service. To have a welcoming team or people who are on the look out is great. I appreciate that. To have people in your congregation who are willing to turn around and say “hello” off their own bat is even better. This makes your church look like a friendly and welcoming place, somewhere I’d think about coming back to.

So, is your church an awesome church?

Youth Ministry Models

The youth pastor at University Reformed Church has written a post on Kevin DeYoung’s blog giving some advice for youth ministers. It’s worth a read and some comment.

His four points are as follows and are all very good and straightforward:

  1. Relationships matter much more than coolness.
  2. Gaining the trust of the parents is one of the most important parts of the job.
  3. Center your ministry on the Word of God
  4. Give more thought and attention to the above things than to your youth ministry model.

All these points are good points. They should be points that every youth pastor can affirm. Coolness only lasts about 5 minutes and then everyone sees who you really are. Gaining the trust of parents in this role is essential and a high priority in the relationship building of the youth pastor. The Word is to play a central part of it all, guiding, directing, and correcting the young people, the youth pastor, and the church.

It is, however, point four that I find most interesting. While yes, it is important to give thought and attention to the three points above, it’s actually the three points that outline the model for ministry. Focussing on relationships, parents, and the Bible is a model for youth ministry. They are to be priorities and in the course of being priorities they become a model. In giving thought and attention to them you’re therefore giving thought and attention to your youth ministry model.

What’s your youth ministry model? One that focuses on the Word and relationships or one that puts it’s focus elsewhere?

Integrating Youth Ministry Into The Church

How is the youth ministry at your church viewed?

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St Peters Youth Ministry

Quite often young ministry is considered a must but it is also seen as the baby to a lot of the other ministries within the church. Sometimes i get the feeling that as long as there is some sort of youth group happening and there are some people we can call youth leaders then the church can promote itself as looking out for the needs of young people.

This, however, doesn’t capture how youth ministry fits into the whole church. Ideally, a good youth ministry should be able to be integrated into other ministries, where it would be acceptable for young people to participate, help out, and even lead. For example, it should be quite easy for young people to not only attend youth group on a Friday night, but also feel comfortable enough to be attending a service, or a small group or even a whole church event.

Finding and working this culture of integration between ages is hard, yet, it seems to be an ideal way for maturity to occur throughout the age groups of a church.

Afraid To Belong

I think you’re afraid of belonging.

Belonging to something goes against the grain of our culture. We’re meant to be individuals. We’re meant to be concerned purely with the self. We’re meant to do what we like in this day and age. Life is for our own pleasure, our own enjoyment, and our own fun. Why then would we belong to anything?

Despite our individualistic culture there is something about us that wants to belong. Look around, football clubs have members, Facebook has friends, Twitter has followers, wars have armies, politics have parties, institutions have chapters, and beer drinkers (or parma eaters) have locals. With belonging comes a sense of being part of something bigger. There is a feeling of commitment and mutual appreciation. There is a knowledge that other people are like us, they are centred on the same things we are. There is a togetherness, a mate-ship, a team bond.

This might all be well and good but there is also something within us that makes us afraid to belong. Belonging means we have to be investors, investors of time, energy, and emotion. Belonging means we are exposed, vulnerable, and out in the open. Belonging means disappointment, hurt, and heartache. Belonging isn’t easy and that’s why we’re afraid.

When the footy team never makes the eight, when the political party is stuck in opposition, when the family is in turmoil, when colleagues aren’t pulling their weight – situations like these make belonging hard. The same goes for the church, to belong to a local congregation is going to be hard. When 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people, when the offering decreases, when the rosters aren’t being filled, when the people won’t turn up, continuing to belong to a church is tough.

In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul talks about the church being like a body. And in v14-16 he says,

“For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body.” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And, if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body.” that would not make it any less part of the body”.

Paul is telling us, whether we like it or not, that there is no excuse for not belonging to the body. While the church may be made up of people with a number of different gifts there is still a responsibility to belong. Not everyone is going to be the preacher or the Sunday school teacher or the offering steward but that doesn’t mean we are excused from belonging.

We like to belong to something but we don’t like to commit. We like to belong in quiet ways. After all, it’s nice to sit up the back and hear pleasant music and words wash over us for an hour. But hey, getting involved in the constitution committee, having people around for lunch, building a relationship with a teenager, helping out with crèche, playing the guitar, or (dare I say it) beginning a new ministry, well, that’s not nice – that’s messy! That actually means it’s time to get our hands dirty, invest time and money, invest emotional energy.

So, whether you’re part of the 20% that does most of the work or the person who wafts in and out of church buildings each Sunday perhaps it’s time to evaluate where you’re at. Perhaps it’s time to commit to belong, truly belong, or are you too afraid?

I Love My Church

I love my church.

I love that Jesus is glorified at my church.

I love that the Bible is taught at my church.

I love that people are hungry to know more of God at my church.

I love that people are willing to learn the Bible at my church.

I love that there is a growing community of young people at my church.

I love that visitors feel welcome enough to come out to snac at my church.

I love that during the week there are different people from my church meeting together for funsies.

I love that those who come are willing to serve at my church.

I love that there is a sense of the Spirit and of community at my church.

I love that young adults are willing to invest in young people at my church.

I love that there are a number of ‘older folk’ who support the evening congregation at my church.

I love that encouragement can be gleaned from just being with people and hearing their stories at my church.

I love that I have the opportunity to lead people at my church.

I love my church.

I love that it’s God’s church.

A House United by Frank Frangipane

Frank Frangipane, House United: How Christ-Centered Unity Can End Church Division (Grand Rapids, USA: Chosen Books), 2006.

I was given this book by a long-time serving member of my church. It was given to me on the back of a pastor leaving and also their interest in my article in the Baptist Witness. I was greatly encouraged to receive this and have spent a few weeks reading through it.

The central premise of Frangipane’s book is much like his title. He is encouraging believers the world over to quit being so divisive and start taking heed to the Bible’s commands for unity.

The book is in five parts and he comes out strong by talking about the sin of division straight up. I seemed to plough through the beginning of the book and it wasn’t until the last few sections where he captivated me a bit more. I don’t think he was particularly wrong in the beginning of his book but it just took a while to get into. He touches on important topics throughout and uses the Bible correctly in making his points – although he does tend to work interesting angles into his OT exegesis. I wasn’t convinced too much with his chapters on Lucifer and demons but he does hit many nails right on their heads in other parts.

As the book flows he works from stating the sinful nature of church splits and division to looking at areas where division usually starts. The third part that he touches upon is the way in which healing can come about after certain sins and divisions within a church and then encourages all believers to become more Christlike in their hearts.

I think that it is a great book and was quite thought-provoking. He is solidly evangelical and Biblically based and it is hard to argue against what he says. I would recommend this book to anyone who has gone through a church split or division, has felt hurt by the church or who wonders why the church isn’t united and how to bring healing to at least a little part of it.

4/5.