the church

Wanna make a difference this year?

My friend and fellow pastor, Stephen Cavness: For those who follow Christ & really want to make a difference this week/year:

Don't wait until sunday morning to "get ready for church" why not start NOW by:

* praying for your pastor as he prays, finishes up preparation,etc. pray that he have wisdom, understanding, clarity, & passion, as well as that he would be faithful to God's Word in his study, life, & proclamation.

*pray for sunday school teachers, nursery workers, ushers, & other church servants

*study your small group/ sunday school lesson!!! you'll be amazed at how much more enjoyable& beneficial your time together is, if what is being discussed is something you have been thinking/ praying through before you got there!

*pray for your own heart & mind to be impacted by God's word, worshiping with the church, & by encouraging & being encouraged by your brothers & sisters in Christ

*pray for visitors who may be there & think of ways to make them feel welcomed (more than just a quick hello & handshake). pray that any who have not trusted Christ will have their hearts pierced by the proclamation of the gospel!

*get on the phone or in the car & bring people with you!!!

Now, imagine if most everyone in our churches "prepared" this way each week- think we might notice a difference?

"Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God!" - William Carey

Dispatches from the First Year of Youth Ministry

Student Life started a new blog series called Dispatches from the First Year. It’s all about being a first-year youth pastor: the trials and tribulations, as well as the triumphs. Four newbies will be journaling for their first year, giving insights to discipling students, as well as being on a church staff, creating relationships with parents, and much more.

Our own Cam Potts, Student Pastor at LaGrange Baptist Church, (pictured) is one of the featured bloggers!  Check it out.

Grace Under Pressure

Parents of LaGrange Baptist Church: Do you feel the pressures of home life? Come join us for Parent Chat on Sept. 7, at 6:45 PM, as we hear how God's grace frees us in the midst of these pressures. We'll have an assortment of desserts and coffee as Pastor Tony leads us. If you have a child in SEEDS (1st - 6th grade) we encourage you to start the evening with your child in the SEEDS room and we'll dismiss you to Parent Chat at 6:45. Mark your calendars. Invite your friends!

Family Ministry is No Substitute for the Gospel

Brian Haynes:

The family ministry movement in our day is an awakening for sure. I believe it is a gracious move of God in our country to bring us back to His way of living. We, as churches, should implement effective strategies to equip families and minister to them in their brokenness. Never should this effort become an obstacle or an idol that hinders the Gospel. Family ministry done well will propagate the  Gospel throughout the generations and it will reach out to hurting and broken people at their deepest point of need. Give people the Gospel they are crying out for and use family ministry as one strategy to do just that.

  • Listen to Brian's interview with Tony Kummer about the topic of family ministry

What is the Church? - Children's Book

Jared Kennedy, Family Pastor @ Sojourn Church: What is the Church? is Sojourn’s second children’s book, written by Mandy Groce and Bill Bell.   What Is The Church? was written to teach preschool children that the church is not a building. It is a people that God has called together and made alive by faith.  Unlike other books on the church, this book does not answer the question by first telling about the activities that the church does (gathering, preaching, communion, baptism, counseling, discipline)–although those things are essential marks of the church and they should not be ignored.  Instead, this book begins with who God’s people are–recognizing that the church’s activity results from its identity.  When we call children to be a part of the church, we are calling them to be a part of a gospel people.  And, as a gospel people, the church is a believing family, a community of missionaries, servants, learners, and worshipers.  At Sojourn, we call our people to stop going to church and to start being the church. Once God’s people know who they are, we can challenge them to be who they are.  In other words, we call them to live as the people that God has made them to be.

We are pleased to announce that the book will soon be published by Christian Focus Publications.  The projected date for publication is July 2011.  You can pre-order now at their website.

What Will They See this Easter Sunday?

As people enter our doors this Easter Sunday, will they see us as real people worshiping a real Savior? Will they enter a community of grace? Tim Chester, in his excellent book, You Can Change, lists some great questions to discern if your church is a community of grace, and thus attractive to broken, needy sinners.

  • Are people open about their sin or is there a culture of pretending?
  • Is community life messy or sanitized?
  • Are broken people attracted to your community?
  • Is conflict out in the open or is it suppressed?
  • Are forgiveness and reconciliation actively pursued?
  • Do you constantly return to the cross in your conversation, prayers and praise?

The Pastor and Personal Criticism

C.J. Mahaney begins a new blog series on The Pastor and Personal Criticism.  Here's one section from his initial post:

There are many reasons why [pastors] can expect criticism:

  • A pastor can expect criticism because of his own sin, which will inevitably be present in his heart and service, no matter how mature or well meaning he is (James 3:2).
  • A pastor can expect criticism because there are limitations to his gifting, meaning there will always be weaknesses in his leadership.
  • A pastor can expect criticism because we often preach below-average sermons. (After one sermon, a guy asked me, “So where do you work during the week?” My sermon apparently gave him the impression that preaching wasn’t my vocation.)
  • A pastor can expect criticism because people can be proud and ungrateful.
  • A pastor can expect criticism because, well, it is a sinful and fallen world.

But we as pastors often forget one more important reason:

  • A pastor can expect criticism because it is part of God’s sanctification process—a tool that he uses to reveal idols and accelerate the pastor’s growth in humility.

God enlists many to serve us to this end.

Puritan Richard Baxter got this. In his book to pastors, The Reformed Pastor, he wrote,

Because there are many eyes upon you, therefore there will be many observers of your falls. If other men may sin without observation, so cannot you. And you should thankfully consider how great a mercy this is, that you have so many eyes to watch over you, and so many ready to tell you of your faults, and so have greater helps than others, at least for the restraining of your sin. Though they may do it with a malicious mind, yet you have the advantage by it.*

Read the rest of this humbling post ...

Community that Pushes Us Out of Our Comfort Zone

When we picture community in the church we usually think about sitting in a safe, comfortable home with our small group laughing and hanging out together.  And that's a good thing.  We need that! But I often wonder if real community can only happen when we get off the couch and get into the lives of people and risk something for the gospel. Alan Hirsch calls this communitas--the next level of community where individuals come together in a common mission that may include suffering and opposition.  His thoughts are compelling:

What do you think?  Do you agree with Hirsch?  Can real community (communitas) happen without moving into the lives of people outside the church?

How to Come to Church: Eager, Expectant, Early

A good, needed word from Josh Harris about how to come to church: 1. Come Eager to sing to him, fellowship with other Christians, hear his word. 2. Come Expectant that he will speak, change us and refresh us. 3. Come Early —not walking in late, but in our seats and ready to go [when the service starts].

Eager, Expectant, and Early from Covenant Life Church on Vimeo.

Why We Need Good Friends

James K.A. Smith:

...in the past couple years I’ve become convinced that perhaps nothing is so important for your walk with the Lord as good friends. I think God gives us good friends as sacraments—means of grace given to us as indices of God’s presence and conduits for our sanctification. While “there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Prov. 18:24), that same Friend send us friends to help make his presence tangible and concrete. Nothing continues the incarnation like Christian friendship.

(HT: JT)

With whom do I want to do life together?

Guest post by: Eric Schumacher With whom do I want to do life together?

That is a question we all answer with our actions and choices, if not our words.

Is it with those who share my tastes, my style, my ethnicity, my status (marital, financial, social, intellectual or otherwise), my gender, my age, my politics, my parenting choices, my hobbies, or my affinities?

I like the answer of Martin Luther (as quoted in What Luther Says):

I want to be and remain in the church and among the little flock in which there are timid, weak, and ailing people who recognize and feel their sin, plight, and misery, who sincerely sigh and cry to God without ceasing for comfort and help, and who believe in the forgiveness of sins and are persecuted for the sake of the Word, which they teach and confess in purity and without adulteration.

Essentially, Luther says, he wants to be in a church that loves the Gospel and hopes in Christ. To which I add, Amen!

If you do it in a family then you can do it as a church

Gospel-Centered ChurchTim Chester gives this little challenge from his book, Gospel-Centred Church:

Start playing around with this principle:  'If you wouldn't do it as a family, then you shouldn't do it as a church.'  It does not always work.  Families do not submerge members under water and they do not recruit new members--although good families are welcoming and inclusive.  But give it a try and see where it takes you.  Then have a go with: 'If you do it in a family, then you can do it as a church.'

What comes to your mind?  Eating, serving, sharing, sacrificing ...

How to Breed Spiritual Apathy in Your Kids

This is a stirring post for parents who wonder why their kids are apathetic about the Church.  No doubt there are many reasons why young people are leaving the Church, but I think Scott Linscott is right on when he says, "When I look for someone to blame I head into the restroom and look into a mirror. Yupp, there he is. I blame him. That parent looking back at me is where I have to start." Here are his 5 Keys to Making Your Kids Apathetic About Faith:

  1. Put academic pursuits above faith-building activities.
  2. Chase the gold ball first and foremost.
  3. Teach your kid that the dollar is almighty.
  4. Refuse to acknowledge that the primary motivating force in kids’ lives is relationship.
  5. Model apathy in your own life.

I encourage you to check out how he fleshes out each one of these here.

(HT: Pete Scribner)

Just Talk to People

Drew Dixon gives four suggestions on making the most of our Sunday morning gatherings. I resonated with this one, in particular:

Talk to people -- it's difficult to “stir each other up” when we are mere spectators at church and are not utilizing this time to build relationships. Some of my very best friends are members of our church, but sometimes I have to make a point not to spend all my time talking to them at church. At church, I want to make a point to talk to people who I do not know as well. Those who I am very close to will still be my friend if I don’t spend all my time at church talking to them and there are many wonderful, mutually encouraging relationships that can be built in our church if we will just step out of our comfort zone and talk to the people we don’t know as well. Our church is small but just big enough for folks to fall in the cracks and miss out on mutually encouraging relationships. Be intentional in your communication with people when we gather for corporate worship. Instead of blaming others for their lack of interaction with you—why not seek them out. You will only get out of church what you are willing to put into it.

Learning from a Gang Member About Community

Francis Chan, from his book, Forgotten God:

“A while back a former gang member came to our church. He was heavily tattooed and rough around the edges, but he was curious to see what church was like. He had a relationship with Jesus and seemed to get fairly involved with the church. After a few months, I found out the guy was no longer coming to the church. When asked why he didn’t come anymore, he gave the following explanation: ‘I had the wrong idea of what church was going to be like. When I joined the church, I thought it was going to be like joining a gang. You see, in the gangs we weren’t just nice to each other once a week – we were family.’ That killed me because I knew that what he expected is what the church is intended to be. It saddened me to think that a gang could paint a better picture of commitment, loyalty, and family than the local church body.” (152)

(HT: Tim Chester)