Sunday, November 18, 2007

A New Kind of Hymn Story

Mars Hill is using the following videos in their present message series. As you'll see, the videos are powerful mini-biographies of hymn writers. Mars Hill is far from a traditional church so I think these videos illustrate how new generations long to have a connection with the rich heritage of faith that precedes them. In a culture that is always promoting "bigger and better" people are longing for a connection with something that doesn't change, something that has powerfully transformed lives for generations. This something is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Hebrews 11 and 12:1-3 illustrates for us how important it is to look back at the "great cloud of witnesses" that have gone before us. Their testimonies encourage us to fix our eyes on Jesus the founder and perfector of our faith.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Spurgeon on Thanksgiving

But when you glorify God as God, and are thankful for everything—when you can take up a bit of bread and a cup of cold water, and say with the poor Puritan, ‘What, all this, and Christ too?’—then are you happy, and you make others happy. A godly preacher, finding that all that there was for dinner was a potato and a herring, thanked God that he had ransacked sea and land to find food for his children. Such a sweet spirit breeds love to everybody, and makes a man go through the world cheerfully.”

Charles Spurgeon
Sermon on Romans 1:20-21

Monday, November 12, 2007

Simple Church Continued

Here’s another excerpt from Simple Church a book I’ve been reading lately that totally hits the nail on the head in regard to church vision and strategy. As I stated a few days ago, the basic premise of the book is that simple churches are effective churches. Here are the four main characteristics of a simple church as defined in chapter 3. Simple churches have…
  • CLARITY: The ability of the process to be communicated and understood by people.
  • MOVEMENT: The sequential steps in the process that cause people to move to greater areas of commitment.
  • ALIGNMENT: The arrangement of all ministries and staff around the same simple process.
  • FOCUS: The commitment to abandon everything that falls outside the simple ministry process.
Some of you may have no clue or concern about how a church operates strategically, but the previous characteristics are so huge in the “big picture” of church life. By the grace of God, if we can communicate and live out God’s mission with clarity, movement, alignment, and focus I believe we will truly be maximizing our potential to participate in God’s mission to reach our community and the world with a movement of the gospel.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Altar Calls: 10 Reasons Not to Do Them

It's interesting that my friend Zach blogged about this several days ago. Lately I'd been thinking a lot about the validity of the "altar call" after hearing Kevin, a seminary friend, explain how he dealt with people who commonly requested that his church do altar calls. I used to be part of a church that did altar calls, so have lived on both sides of the practice. I must admit that the practice seemed a bit contrived. Of the handful of folks who came forward after a message, the majority of them were "regulars" who were always up there crying and repenting of something they did during the previous week. Every once and a while I have people ask for us to do them at Parkview. This is why I appreciate that Ryan, the teaching Pastor at Zach's church, recently put together 10 reasons why they don't do altar calls. Pretty interesting.
1. The altar call is simply and completely absent from the pages of the N.T.

2. The altar call is historically absent until the 19th century, and its use at that time (via Charles Finney) was directly based upon bad theology and a man-centered, manipulative methodology.

3. The altar call very easily confuses the physical act of “coming forward” with the spiritual act of “coming to Christ.” These two can happen simultaneously, but too often people believe that coming to Christ is going forward (and vice-versa).

4. The altar call can easily deceive people about the reality of their spiritual state and the biblical basis for assurance. The Bible never offers us assurance on the ground that we “went forward.”

5. The altar call partially replaces baptism as the means of public profession of faith.

6. The altar call can mislead us to think that salvation (or any official response to God’s Word) happens primarily on Sundays, only at the end of the service, and only “up front.”

7. The altar call can confuse people regarding “sacred” things and “sacred” places, as the name “altar call” suggests.

8. The altar call is not sensitive to our cautious and relational age where most people come to faith over a period of time and often with the interaction of a good friend.

9. The altar call is often seen as “the most important part of the service”, and this de-emphasizes the truly more important parts of corporate worship which God has prescribed (preaching, prayer, fellowship, singing).

10. God is glorified to powerfully bless the things He has prescribed (preaching, prayer, fellowship, singing), not the things we have invented. We should always be leery of adding to God’s prescriptions for His corporate worship.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Simple Church

OK, OK, I know my blogging has been extremely inconsistent. I have always maintained that my blogging is not motivated by maintaining high readership or by being a "quality filter" for numerous other blogs and information sources. Blogging is my opportunity to journal and share things God is teaching me. If I am busy, then blogging will be one of those things that slips off the radar on occasion. Anyhow....

Church leadership at Parkview are presently immersing themselves in several strategy books as we seek to implement our new mission and vision as a church. One of the books I have been reading is called Simple Church by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger. I have only read the opening chapter, but it resonates very deeply with so many of the things I am quite passionate about. Today I thought I would share a brief excerpt from page 14...
The significance is that, in general, simple churches are growing and vibrant. Churches with a simple process for reaching and maturing people are expanding the kingdom. Church leaders who have designed a simple biblical process to make disciples are effectively advancing the movement of the gospel. Simple churches are making a big impact.

Conversely, complex churches are struggling and anemic. Churches without a process or with a complicated process for making disciples are floundering. As a whole, cluttered and complex churches are not alive. Our research shows that those churches are not growing. Unfortunately, the overprogrammed and busy church is the norm. The simple church is the exception, yet our research shows that should not be the case.
In an ever complicated world, people are crying out for clarity and simplicity.