Pointing People to Jesus in Congregational Singing

9 02 2013

Here’s an extended quote from Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church by Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson, and Eric Geiger.  It’s found on pg. 43 and emphasizes the importance of being intentional in picking out congregational songs that point us to Christ and His work.

“As you consider selecting songs for your worship services, consider them in light of the truth of the gospel.  Imagine the songs as teachers-because they are! If your people could understand your doctrine only through the music you sing, what would they know about God and His pursuit of us? If your people could understand your church’s beliefs only through the music, what would they know? These are good questions to ask yourself in order to stay Jesus-centered.

Too often the songs we sing in many churches are bold declarations of what we can do for God, of what we have that we can offer Him.  And while the character of God and His work on our behalf does demand an active response from us, we must be careful not to teach people unintentionally that the Christian faith is about our personal resolve and commitments.  Choose songs instead that remind people about the greatness of God.  Choose songs that boldly remind people of the gospel – how He found is in the hopelessness of our sin and redeemed us for His own pleasure and glory – because only the gospel can stir the Creature to worship authentically and live.  Without consistent reminders of the gospel, our worship services quickly become empty religious feasts that (according to Scripture) disgust the Lord.”

Creature of the Word trailer

Creature of the Word on Amazon


What makes a church a church?

14 07 2012

I’ve been reading RetroChristianity lately by Michael J. Svigel, and wanted to share some helpful things he said about what makes a local church an actual church.  There has been some heavy emphasis lately in the evangelical world on the fact that the church is “not a building.”  While this is certainly true, it only identifies what the church is not, and doesn’t help us define biblically what the church is.  Just because you sound the mantra “We aren’t a building, we’re a people!” doesn’t necessarily mean the group of people you gather with constitutes a true church.

Svigel says “An authentic local church is supported by two pillars: the essential marks and the essential works.”

The marks of the church are as follows:

  • Orthodoxy– “Orthodox believers are those who hold to the essential truths of the Christian faith – those fundamentals of the faith that have been believed everywhere, always, and by all.”
  • Order– The local church has to have leadership.  “Order emphasizes the necessity of properly trained, trusted, and tested pastors, teachers and leaders of the church, to whom the orthodox faith has been entrusted to pass on to the next generation.”
  • Ordinances– These ordinances are Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  Svigel rightly states that the ordinances “are closely associated with the growth, discipline, and purity of the church’s members.”

The 2nd pillar of the church is its “works.”  Of course it doesn’t mean the church “works” to be saved, but rather a true church will bear fruit, and this is what that looks like:

  • Exaltation– “The purpose, goal, and focus of the church- to glorify God the Father, through the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Another good term would be “worship” but that was taken by Rick Warren 🙂 and it doesn’t fit with Svigel’s alliteration.
  • Edification– The church is to be “building up believers in love and good works.”  Edification is not focused on the outside, i.e. the world. Rather, it is focused on Believers, discipling them, growing them, teaching them… “in edification, the disciple-maker’s role is to teach and model.  The disciples role is to learn and follow.”
  • Evangelism– This “focuses on the unsaved world, balancing both local and global missions.”  The church is to go and tell!  We must communicate the Gospel in our local context and to the ends of the earth.

A church, is more than just you and your buddies hanging out on the golf course.  It’s more than just “fellowshipping” with some friends at the lake.  The church is a people but these people are organized with a common purpose and common goals, having the glory of Christ as their highest aim.  I still like this definition from Vintage Church:

“The local church is a community of regenerated believers who confess Jesus Christ as Lord. In obedience to Scripture they organize under qualified leadership, gather regularly for preaching and worship, observe the biblical sacraments of baptism and communion, are unified by the Spirit, are disciplined for holiness, and scatter to fulfill the great commandment and the great commission as missionaries to the world for God’s glory and their joy.”

So, is your church a church?

Assurance of Salvation

12 07 2012

Biblical assurance of salvation is a beautiful thing and something God wants His children to have (1 Jn 5:12-13). Here are four things that can give us confidence that we belong to God:

1. Faith in Christ today: It’s not  did you put your faith in Christ some time in the past- Rather, are you trusting Him right now? If you did put your faith in Christ some time in the past, then you will be trusting Him now.

2. The Presence of God’s Spirit: Believer’s are indwelled with the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit prompts us to believe the right things about God and to produce fruit.

3. Obedience to God’s Word: Do you delight to obey God?

4. A Pattern of Growth Over Time: It’s not about the snapshots in your life where you mess up, but is the overall “movie” of your life one that is depicting you maturing more and more into the image of Christ?

*The above were taking from Mike McKinley’s book Am I really a Christian?

Leaders Who Last

11 05 2010


Just finished Leaders Who Last by Dave Kraft, leadership development pastor at Mars Hill in Seattle.

This is a short book definitely worth the time reading for anyone in ministry leadership. (Pastors, Youth pastors, etc.)

What I like most about the book is Kraft’s idea that Christ is our foundation for leadership! Obviously this is a biblical concept but many books either seem to assume this idea or just leave it out altogether.  Early on Kraft stresses the importance of maintaining the Spiritual Disciplines, not as a means of earning Grace, but in response to it.

I don’t want to spoil too much of the book for you, but my personal take away was the evaluations listed after each section.  This is a book that I will put on my shelf in an accessible place so that I can reference it periodically in my own walk.  As a leader I must constantly reevaluate my purpose and vision to make sure that I have not strayed away from the path God has set for me and His people.

Hope you’ll read this book and learn well from it…

Click here to see an interview with Dave Kraft about the book

Stop Dating the Church

14 04 2010

Just finished the book, Stop Dating the Church by Joshua Harris last night and thought I would share a brief review.

Harris, Senior Pastor at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, MD, begins with a story that we’ve all heard about, seen, or been a part of in our own life.  He tells a story of how a boy named Jack fell in love with a girl named Grace.  At first Grace was everything in the world to Jack.  She was “the one”. But after a few years of dating the “spark” is gone.  Jack is dating Grace more for the familiarity of the relationship.  There is no passion and he has no intentions of marrying this girl. “One night, when [Grace] asks if they can define the nature of their relationship, Jack blows up ‘We’re together, aren’t we?’ he asks angrily. ‘Why isnt that enough for you?’ Obviously, Jack isn’t ready for commitment. And it’s unclear if he ever will be…” (pg. 12).

Harris enlightens his readers that there are “millions of Jacks walking around today. And Grace isn’t a girl. Grace is a church.”

In our culture today commitment has become less important.  My generation will change careers several times in their life and some will go through several marriages.  We are so busy with so many things that it is difficult for us to commit to one single thing… Unfortunately, for Christians, this mentality has carried over to the local church.

Harris emphasizes a high view of the local church.  Now, this is not a “high view” of the church as seen in the Roman Catholic tradition, but a high view in the sense that Harris sees the local church from a biblical perspective.  It is the bride of Christ! Harris does spend some time talking about the Church universal (all Christians united by the Holy Spirit) but his main focus in the book is the local church.  He even says that our involvement in a local church should be enough to keep us from moving to a different location, even for a job change! He also emphasizes his life-long commitment as a pastor to his church.  Obviously God can and does (at times) move pastors around, but if more pastors had a higher view of their involvement within the local church, perhaps churches would be in better shape…

What are you committed to? We give so much of our life to other “priorities” that we forget the place church must have in our lives. Here is the profile Harris gives for a church-dater:

1. They are me-centered: In this attitude we ask “what can the church do for me?”
2. They tend to be independent: They go to church because they are “supposed to” but avoid any real commitment.
3. They are critical: Yes, we are fallen and every church will have its flaws. But, should we treat the church with a “consumer mentality- looking for the best product for the price of our Sunday morning”? (pp. 16-17)

The local church is the vehicle by which God has chosen to carry out His great plan.  Don’t you want to be a part of that? Don’t you want your life to be about so much more?

“God has not only saved us; He has invited us to participate in His master plan…The church community is where we learn to love God and others; where we are strengthened and transformed  by truth from the Word; where we’re taught to pray, to worship and to serve; where we can be most certain that we’re investing our time and abilities for eternity; where we can grow in our roles as friends, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers…” (pp. 20-21).

Harris goes on to discuss the purpose of the local church and the reason that it is vital to our walk with Christ that we be involved members. Charles Spurgeon says the church is “the dearest place on earth” (p. 129).  When we understand our responsibility and joy within the church we will understand Spurgeon’s quote to be an understatement!

Personally, my favorite part of the book is Harris’s “high view” of Sundays! No, he’s not saying that Sunday is the new Sabbath, but he is saying Sunday is the Lord’s day (this is the Biblical view by the way).  He is even so bold as to say that we should schedule our weeks around Sunday (instead of visa versa as so many of us do).  He says that we must be careful about our scheduling on Saturday night, so that we can give our best Sunday morning.  He encourages singles and families to read the Bible and pray on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings before church anticipating all that God will do during the service.  It breaks my heart that Sundays have become unimportant to Christians.  They go to the lake, or ballgames, or fishing, or just stay home, instead of being with God’s people! I’m not saying we can’t ever take a vacation with our family, but you know your own heart and motivations….

This book is only 129 pages long.  With just a few minutes each night you’ll have this book read in a week! I promise you it’s well worth it… You’ll come away with a better understanding of what our relationship is to be with the local church.  This will challenge and encourage you in your own walk with the Lord!

Are you a church-dater?

Book Review: Christ-Centered Preaching

29 03 2010

Chapell, Bryan. Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon. 2nd Ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2005.

In his book, Christ-Centered Preaching, preacher and Seminary professor Bryan Chapell outlines a model for preaching expository sermons. Chapell’s work is biblically based as he both encourages and challenges preachers to preach as God intended “to save those who believe” (cf. 1 Cor. 1:21).  His book is an excellent resource for both young preachers (me!) and those desiring to be refreshed in their insight on what it takes to develop and preach effective, life changing messages from the Word of God.

The best thing about Chapell’s work, and the reason it should be read by those beginning a lifelong ministry of preaching and those desiring to get back to a biblical model of preaching, is that it is unapologetically centered on the Word of God.  He gives practical tips on how to construct introductions, conclusions, and transistions, but everything is grounded in the Word. Basically, the book gives great explanation on why to use the Word and how to use the Word in preaching. 

Another thing that Chapell does well is to almost provide a “theology” of illustrations.  Explanation of the text is a biblical thing for preachers, but Chapell argues that in addition to that, so is illustration. Illustrations are more than just humor or time fillers but actually “expand and deepen [listener’s] understanding of a text” (p. 178). Chapell makes the case that illustrations are a vital tool for exposition, and then as he does with introductions and conclusions, provides practical advice on how to find and use good illustrations in sermons.  Preachers desiring to preach as God would have them preach must remember that “sermons too full of illustrations choke credibility; sermons too lacking in illustrations strangle goodwill” (p. 201). Along with illustrations, Chapell even provides many of his own preparation suggestions for outlining messages that will be a good resource to any preacher.

The only caution I would give about the book is to make sure that you do not think of sermon preparation as only “scientific”.  This is not Chapell’s intent, but if you were to just skim the book you may think it’s all about our work and not the Holy Spirit’s. Chapell is just emphasizing our need to be good stewards of sermon preparation.  He even states, “sermons succeed when the Holy Spirit works beyond human craft to perform his purposes” (p. 265).

So, all that to say, if you have the time, read this book! And, if you are new to preaching, make time and read this book! God bless…