We Really Do Need the Same Old Thing

I don’t mean that in a pejorative sense. But it does seem to me as I observe the evangelical landscape today, that what is tried and trust and true gets overlooked for the ‘new’. So many in the church today are captivated by newness – new trends, new ideas, new innovations, new buildings, new predictions, new words from God, new movements, etc that the old seems irrelevant. But really its the old that we need – what God did through his Son, how the church has been established, what God has already spoken. This is how we are refreshed, by gathering according to what has already been established, by remembering what God has already said and what he has already done to gather a body of people to himself through the work of the Son by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. But somehow that gets too boring and we get antsy for something new. Why?

It reminds me of this portion of the Screwtape Letter #25. If you are not familiar with the Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, they are instructions to Wormwood on how to frustrate God’s people and get the church off track:

But the greatest triumph of all is to elevate this horror of the same old thing into a philosophy so that nonsense in the intellect my reinforce corruption in the will…The Enemy loves platitudes. Of a proposed course of action He wants men, so far as I can see, to ask very simple questions; is it righteous? Is it prudent? Is it possible? Now if we can keep men asking ‘Is it in accordance with the general movement of our time? Is it progressive and reactionary? Is this the way that History is going?’ they will neglect the relevant questions. And the questions they do ask are, of course, unanswerable; for they do not know the future, and what the future will be depends very largely on just those choices which they now invoke the future to help them to make. As a result, while their minds are buzzing in this vacuum, we have the better chance to slip in and bend them to the action we have decided on. And great work has already been done. Once they knew that some changes were for the better, and others for the worse, and again others again indifferent. We have largely removed this knowledge. For the descriptive adjective ‘unchanged’ we have substituted the emotional adjective ‘stagnant’. We have trained them to think of the Future as a promised land which favoured heroes attain – not as something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.

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Refreshment for the Soul: What I Love about the Reformed Church

happy-woman in fieldIf you were to tell me 10 years ago that I would be a member of a Presbyterian church and love it, I would have told you that you were nuts. Especially back in my Charismatic days, I drew the typical caricature of the “frozen chosen” as Presbyterians were commonly called – dry, non-spiritual, deadpan, etc.  Even my transition into the baptistic/Bible church circle in 2006, I still carried some of that unfortunate mischaracterization in my mind.

It was not until I started seminary in 2008 that my perspective began to change. One of the main questions I started asking early on is what is the church and what is her purpose. The more I dove into Scripture and historical theology to formulate an answer, the more I learned of the Reformed church and the more attractive it became. In the context of Jesus command to make disciples, I began to see how what we do internally is just as important, if not more important than what we do externally. What we do internally must forge our identity in Christ, provoke worship to him and remind us of our covenantal relationship to one another, as the body of Christ.  But most importantly, what we do corporately must remind us of our need for Him.

Carl Trueman has written a rather lengthy piece on First Things, A Church for Exiles. He indicates that Reformed worship is a good place to get grounded in Christ in recognition of the fact that Christians are sojourners and exiles in the world. While I disagree with him on some points related to the Reformed church having no engagement with the public square, I do agree with him on his main point. Much of what he writes related to church itself that resonates with me on why I find the Reformed church so refreshing. Continue reading

Good Music or Good Worship?

praise bandHere’s a question I’ve been asking lately in relation to corporate worship – does the music have to be good to worship? And by good, I been good musicianship quality.

I use to be much more involved in music than I am now (though I did join the ensemble singers recently at my church.) Several years ago,  I served on the worship team for 4 years back in my Charismatic days (keyboards/vocals). One thing that was emphasized, which I still hear quite frequently is to bring excellence in worship, i.e. make sure the music sounds good. And by good, that means professional quality.

The past several years has experienced a diverted direction though I tend to reflect on things related to corporate worship (namely from a practical theology perspective). So in reflecting on the question does the music need to be good, I wonder if that does not overshadow the purpose of corporate worship. In other words, does it detract from the primary purpose.

T. David Gordon,  thinks so. I came across his article a while back from the Aquila report, The Problem with Praise Bands. Now I’ll preface my thoughts on this article with the issue of preference. It does seem to me that we need to distinguish musical preference from its purpose in corporate worship. I find far too often music gets criticized because of issues of preference rather than function. As I wrote about in A Critique of Worship Music Criticism, we need to be careful about being too critical of music just because its one style or the other. Continue reading

Big Sheep Need Food…and Know Food

Whenever I run across statements from pastors that I think run contrary to the witness of Scripture, it just makes me cringe. I do so because of their responsibility to their congregation and the orienting effects of what is being promoted.  And so it was with a statement I came across the other day;

Hebrew 5:12 speaks to those who should have matured by now but are still sitting in the pew waiting to be spoon-fed. When someone says I’m leaving my church because I not being fed it may speak volumes about their lack of maturity. Only babies need to be fed, mature believers know how to feed themselves and others.

Now I don’t want to pick on one person.  But I want to leverage this comment and express a concern that is relevant on a broader scale. Because I’ve heard this statement before, that mature believers shouldn’t expect sermons to feed them. I get that pastors are challenged with people who don’t want to read their Bibles and grow. I get it and empathize. But the idea that we should not expect to be fed is so grievously unfaithful to the witness of Scripture, the task of discipleship and the purpose of preaching,

First, to say we feed ourselves runs contrary to Ephesians 4:11-16

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood,to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are togrow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

sheep eating from troughWe always need the food of the gospel and Christ-centered preaching. Always! I can’t imagine that when Jesus told Peter to feed his sheep that he stipulated a caveat “until they can feed themselves”. The idea that feed ourselves runs contrary to what it means to be in the body of Christ. Maturity doesn’t happen because we feed ourselves but because we grow together in the Lord and learn how to apply godly wisdom. No matter how much even a pastor is accomplishing for the Lord, feeding of God’s truths from others is always needed. That is how we grow together in the Lord. Continue reading

When Christians Hate to ‘Go to Church’

church stage_emptyThese are some quick thoughts related to opposition that I encounter from time to time at the notion of going to church.  Nothing highlighted that more than Kevin DeYoung’s post The Scandal of the Semi-Churched, in which he argued for the importance of regular gathering based on Heb. 10:25. Now of course the idea that God’s people should participate in weekly worship gatherings does not solely rest on this one verse. The breadth of Scripture illustrates that his elect engage in corporate worship, both in the OT and NT. This is not just people getting together and doing whatever, but organized in a way to honor the Lord and remind his people of who they are. This includes the presence of leadership, teaching, exhortation, prayer and sacraments. Scripture is too rich with this concept to ignore it.

It is not offensive to suggest that Christians should participate in weekly gatherings and yet sometimes that is the response.  To be honest, I’m actually amazed when I hear Christians spit on this idea considering that being a Christian means you are automatically part of the body of Christ.  Now in some cases, the opposition is to a particular church structure. Even then we should be cautious. If you disagree with a particular ecclesiology at least commend the ones who take it seriously. Don’t spit on them just because you disagree with the structure. It does not make sense for us to be called the body of Christ if that is not represented in some fashion as a corporate entity. And by corporate, I don’t mean 501c3 structure but a visible representation of our identity in Christ.

Now I get that many people have been abused by churches and her leaders. I get angry myself at the self-serving platforms that many who call themselves pastors have created. In contemporary evangelicalism, we have a problem with pragmatically oriented structures that result in individual needs dispensing rather than securing our corporate identity. I sympathize with the ones who have found churches to be a lonely and isolating experience, as I wrote here Church of the Lonely Place. I realize that Christians may go through a time of a nomadic existence to find a good body within which to land. There is fear and caution and concern and a whole range of human emotions associated with dealing with unsettling situations, especially when there are triggers from past hurt. But I don’t think the suggestion of weekly attendance should garner opposition.   Continue reading