Community – not just an add-on to the “church”

Community is not a peripheral ministry. Our communities should be the most palpable expression of the gospel within the church. As culture reflects the values of its citizens,

~ House, Brad,  Community (p. 45). Kindle Edition.

If then we agree that community is essential for disciples of Jesus and that it is at the center of God’s purpose, then we must expect implications for the church in form and function.

~ House, Brad,  Community (p. 46). Kindle Edition.

If we want to truly make disciples that advance the gospel, we must not only see the importance of community, we must understand it to be essential to the church.

~ House, Brad,  Community (p. 47). Kindle Edition.

Brad states:

Nation-wide, only one-quarter of young persons, eighteen to twenty-three years of age, who identify as evangelical Christians.

Also,

. . . community groups are great barometers of how well the church understands the gospel.

 

~ House, Brad,  Community (p. 93). Kindle Edition.

Community – some raw indictments

Brad speaks plainly about the current status of “community” in most churches.

Sadly, community within the church today is hemorrhaging.

~ House, Brad,  Community (p. 18). Kindle Edition.

We appear to be breathing as we gather for worship services and run our programs, but oftentimes we are merely surviving rather than living life abundantly. Jesus tells us that we must lose our lives if we want to save them. Life should be defined as the passionate pursuit of God. It should be marked by a hatred of sin in the believer’s life and an unquenchable desire for the fame of Jesus, taking every opportunity to share the gospel with a fallen world. If that is life, how are your vital signs? Can you find a pulse in the community of your church?

~ House, Brad,  Community (p. 20). Kindle Edition.

… the mission is to glorify God by proclaiming the gospel of Jesus for the sake of gathering God’s people to him, and to teach and grow them in their knowledge and love of Christ.

~ House, Brad,  Community (p. 22). Kindle Edition.

Ironically, for “a holy nation, a people,” we are comically pathetic at community.

~ House, Brad,  Community (p. 23). Kindle Edition.

Congregational Worship in the New Testament

by Bob Kauflin at Christianity.com

There’s no better place to begin a history of congregational song than the early church. Of course, the New Testament doesn’t offer much information on the topic. What did worship sound like in the first century? How long did it last? Who were the composers? No one knows. Still, two things are certain — God has excellent reasons for withholding such specifics, and there is much we can learn from what He has shown us.

First, the singing of the early church was scriptural. The hymn that Jesus and the disciples sang before going out to the Mount of Olives was most likely from the Hallel section of the Psalter (Psalms 115-118), typically sung after the Passover meal. Paul encouraged believers in Corinth, Colosse, and Ephesus to sing psalms. The lyrical songs on the lips of Simeon, Anna, Mary, and others had clear Old Testament themes running through them. A new age had dawned in the coming of the Messiah, but a strong link to the eternal truths of the Jewish Scriptures remained.

The songs of the early church were also focused on Jesus Christ. In his excellent book, Worship in the Early Church, Ralph Martin says, “The Christ-centered nature of Christian worship is one of the most clearly attested facts of the New Testament literature.” Almost all the New Testament hymns refer directly or indirectly to who Christ was or what He did. We have the songs of Mary, Zachariah, and others at the birth of Christ. The book of Revelation includes songs extolling the Lamb who was slain. Paul’s letters contain several unidentified quotations that focus on the Lord Jesus and are regarded by many as early Christian hymns (Philippians 2:6-11Romans 11:36Colossians 1:15-20;1Tim 3:16). These songs, produced and inspired by the Holy Spirit, paved the way for theological and doctrinal stands the church would take centuries later.

Another characteristic of New Testament corporate song is the manifest presence of the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 5:17-19 clearly implies that the singing of the early Christians was an overflow of the Spirit at work in their hearts. Corporate worship was never a lifeless, routine, or ritualistic event for the New Testament church. That may be one reason Paul says that we are those who “worship by the Spirit of God” (Philippians 3:3). It may also explain why the unbeliever who came into the Corinthian gathering declared, “Surely God is among you!” (1Corinthians 14:25) Certainly, that which set apart the gatherings of the early Christians was the presence of Him who promised, “where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20).

Finally, congregational song in the New Testament was … congregational. We repeatedly find singing take place among people who had relationships, a shared joy, and a corporate purpose. “The thought that the Church at worship is an accidental convergence in one place of a number of isolated individuals who practice, in hermetically sealed compartments, their own private devotional exercises, is foreign to the New Testament picture” (Ralph Martin). In the age of mp3s, iPods, and headphones, it’s important to remember that worship songs are intended to be sung with others who “like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1Peter 2:5).

Bob Kauflin traveled with the Christian group GLAD for eight years as a songwriter and arranger before becoming a pastor with Sovereign Grace Ministries in 1985. He is now the Director of Worship Development for Sovereign Grace, overseeing its music projects and teaching on congregational worship. He blogs at Worshipmatters.com and hosts the biennial WorshipGod Conference. He and his wife, Julie, have six children and an ever-growing number of grandchildren.

The (Almost) Effortless Way To Bless Others

by Mark Altrogge at The Blazing Center blog

Much of our serving others requires effort, labor and time. Helping a family move or babysitting or cooking a meal for someone involves work.

But God gives us an almost effortless way to bless others.

A little thought might be required, maybe, but you’re not going to break into a sweat or pull a muscle doing this.  (If you do, you’re really out of shape.)  This way of blessing others is so easy, we shouldn’t be rewarded for it, but our lavish God does.

Here it is:

The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life  (Proverbs 10.11)

With our mouths we can give life to others.  We can encourage, thank, appreciate, build up, edify, and point others to Christ with our mouths.  We can stir up, give hope, lift up the downcast and love.  We can teach, bless and sing God’s glorious truths. We can strengthen the weary, or point out where God is working in their lives.  We can pray for others, express our compassion and warn against temptation.  We can welcome newcomers to church.  We can counsel, read Scriptures to each other and share our testimonies.  We can extend forgiveness, teach our children, and tell the good news of Jesus.

Not only can our mouths impart life to others; we can benefit ourselves with our mouths.  When we thank and praise God or rehearse his promises to ourselves, we build our faith and increase our joy.

O Lord Jesus,
Thank you for the gift of speech
Please use me this week
To give life to others
To encourage the weary
To lift up the faint-hearted
To point people to their Savior
To build up your saints
To give your people grace and hope
Please fill me with your Spirit
And give me boldness and opportunities
To share the gospel.
Thank you, Lord.

Healing community

by Larry Crabb

Healing community does not depend on getting people to do what’s right or on figuring out what harmful psychological forces are causing us problems and then trying to fix what’s wrong.

A community that heals is a community that believes the gospel provides forgiveness of all sin, a guaranteed future of perfect community forever, and the freedom now to indulge the deepest desires of our hearts, because the law of God is written within us–we have an appetite for holiness.  Communities heal when they focus on releasing what’s good.

Connecting, P 38

Community – do we have anything exciting happening?

When I or others get excited about Jesus, we don’t have to be reminded to read the Word, sing, praise, worship and share. It just happens. Maybe that is why the early church was so successful — they were experiencing a living, interacting, powerful savior.

When we have a need to cajole someone to share, pray, or show some excitement about their walk with God, we can suspect that maybe nothing “real” is going on. Brad House speaks of that:

If you want to inspire people to the mission of God, you must lift up the Son. When we grasp the glory of Jesus, it becomes the sustaining inspiration that transforms life. Isaiah was inspired by seeing Jesus in the temple. Peter was inspired by seeing Jesus after his resurrection. Paul was inspired when he encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus. These men were changed when they saw the glory of Jesus. His mission became their mission. His glory was enough to change everything. Our apathy toward the mission of God is not because of a lack of knowing what to do. It is our blindness to his glory and grace that keeps us satisfied with nominal Christianity. If you want to light a fire under your church for the mission, don’t simply trot out your goals; lift up Jesus.

~ House, Brad,  Community (p. 75). Kindle Edition.

Should Worship Be Fun?

http://worshipmatters.wpengine.com/2007/02/06/worship-leaders-pastors-should-worship-be-fun/