6 Reasons to Sit in a Different Seat at Church This Weekend

I know some readers won’t like this post. Most of us have a habit of sitting in the same place in church on Sunday, and I realize that nobody else is calling for changing this pattern. Nevertheless, I press on with my reasons that you and I should sit in a different place at church this weekend.

  1. Most of us get too comfortable at church in general. We develop all kinds of habits, like parking in the same area, going in the same door, following the same route to our small group room, sitting in the same place, and often going to the same restaurants after the service. Nothing changes—including, frankly, the depth of our walk with God. We also don’t expect God to do anything different when we gather, and we then get what we expected.
  2. You’ll get to know different people. You might already know everybody in your church, but sitting among different people will give you opportunity to get to know somebody more deeply. If you don’t know everybody, moving your seat will allow you to know somebody new. You’ll appreciate better the Body of Christ.

https://churchleaders.com/outreach-missions/outreach-missions-articles/312742-6-reasons-sit-different-seat-church-weekend-chuck-lawless.html

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Why Do We Go to Church?

Recently James K. A. Smith discussed the “good life” and the implication for Christian living at the Wisdom Forum. Halfway through this dialogue he made a striking comment,

People come to church and have no clue why. They sing a few songs, listen to a sermon, and go back to their lives without any change. The problem is that they have no understanding as to why they are doing what they are doing.

I am still chewing on these words, and I am overwhelmed for resolution.

If the common church attender comes to “worship” on Sunday but does not know why, then we have a problem. Why, then, should you go to church? To be more theologically accurate, why should you gather with the church — since the church is not the building down the street, but the group of believers?

How will we change this misconception of our time together? We have a purpose, not just as a body, but as individuals too. Do they know that? Now that I have a Master’s of Divinity in Christian Studies, you might assume that I have all the answers. However, I need to be reminded of why we gather as much as anyone.

The diversity of the local church should mirror heaven to a dying, lost and sinful world.

So Why Do We Gather as the Church?

We “church” to glorify God. We gather around God. Romans 12:1 commands us to present our bodies as living sacrifices to God. This lifestyle propels communal witnessing (1 Peter 2:9), repenting (Acts 2:38), worshipping (Psalm 150; Ephesians 5:19) and teaching (Colossians 3:16). We gather because we are one body, drawn together by God to be a people of God who live for God. We testify to God’s greatness. We disciple others through life together. We serve, teach and encourage, not just one another, but the world at large.

We do not ultimately come together for Sunday worship service to experience an emotional response that brings joy to us as consumers, though many Westerners gather for this very reason. Rather, we gather because God has united us. We gather because we live life together in being effective witnesses to our local communities. We gather because the diversity of the local church should mirror heaven to a dying, lost and sinful world. Christians are made to gather.

So again, I restate the issue at hand. Do believers and weekly church attenders really know this? Even if you think your church members know this, you may want to re-educate them because there might be blind-spots in your pews. Thankfully, everyone in the church has a purpose.

Read more: http://intersectproject.org/faith-and-culture/why-do-we-go-to-church/

How to Sabotage a Bible Study

by Greg Morse, Content strategist, desiringGod.org

My dear Globdrop,

You “regret to inform me” that your patient’s small group has laid down their forks, spoons, and gossip (momentarily) and have begun to read the Enemy’s book more consistently. Before you knew it, they began to trade meal time for “Bible time” and this makes you quiver, does it? Nephew, it was my suggestion.

You seem to forget that we never fear a man just because he reads a Bible. Some of our most useful vermin, having dedicated their lives to it, are snuggly tenured in religious departments across the country. Remember, we do not mind the Bible hobbyist, the hypocrite, and the text-twister. All goes awry, however, when the humans understand the Enemy’s word, treasure it, believe it, obey it, and are led through it to him.

Our war efforts are hindered not only by allowing real soldiers to wield his book but also by keeping the toy soldiers from playing with it. Every week, we get the privilege of witnessing the group as they frolic about with the very blade of our Adversary. And as they slash each other, they do our work for us. No, my dear Globdrop, the solution is not to shut down such Bible studies, but rather, to join them. And after joining them, to lead them.

How to Destroy Any Bible Study

Nephew, as you seek to lead your first study, the greatest mistake you can make is to let them read Scripture unsupervised — we risk losing them every time the book is open. That invites their Ghost to do his dreadful work. Never be lax on this point.

Now although the Enemy’s Son insults us — calling us birds in his parable — we do love to devour his word from their hearts. But this can be quite troublesome as it usually requires some weeks’ labor with only moderate returns. It remains far easier to prevent his word from ever truly being planted in them to begin with. This we can deliciously do in their — excuse me, our — Bible studies.

To this end, I now instruct you.

1. Ask great questions.

Convince them that the proper question for all Bible study is either: “How do you feel about the text? What did you get out of it?” Or, our favorite: “What does the text mean to you?” Oh, I nearly fall from my seat waiting to hear their answers! Joanne feels like the Enemy was a tad harsh with his mother at that wedding. And look, Darrin is getting much out of the text! No doubt he is receiving a wonderful sense of annoyance from our idea that Paul was a bit of a sexist in his letter to young Timothy. And to James, “God is love” means that it is of little consequence whether or not he stops sleeping with his girlfriend.

Let them commune with their feelings and opinions while the Enemy’s book lies open on their laps. Make the apostles’ teaching the occasion to tell stories about how tough their week has been or to soapbox about whatever makes them most passionate. Never let them be confronted with the words of Moses, Isaiah, Paul, John, Peter, or, through them all, the Enemy himself.

2. Convince them that there are no wrong thoughts about a verse.

When someone does speak up about what they think the author meant, never let it be questioned. Baptize all interpretations as equal. One of my subjects articulated it well just the other day when, unable to bear the momentary silence, she blurted out, “Guys, this is a safe place to share your thoughts on the passage. There are no wrong answers here.” Precisely.

When all thoughts count, all opinions (however ridiculous) matter, when they are cut off from the accurate interpretations handed down from the past, they become a church unto themselves constituted by that emotional fragility (pride) that will make correcting another’s thoughts higher treason than heresy. Globdrop, when all interpretations are correct, none truly is.

3. Keep the Bible study merely that: a study.

Bring the Enemy’s word out to be dissected, examined, and (if at all possible) critiqued — but make sure to divide the three strands. They must never read devotionally, theologically, and ethically all together. Keep them to one lane. If your man tends towards a theological bent, give him a heavy head, a shriveled heart, and uncalloused hands. Make him the first to debate, the last to worship, and the first to excuse himself from service.

If devotional, make him sentimental but shallow in his understanding and ignorant to any further application. Let him be deeply affected by his personal devotions but never enough to think too hard or to take the Enemy’s commands too seriously.

And finally, if ethically inclined, let him build his social-justice house without any real love for the Enemy. Let him imagine that he does wonders to advance great causes in the world, all while leaving behind the most significant command: love the Enemy with his all. And his highest mission: Make disciples of all nations. “Lord, Lord did we not . . . ” is one of the most satisfying refrains for our Father Below to overhear just before the patients are placed before us for good.

4. Cause them to love the promises while ignoring the commands and warnings.

Let them tell each other indiscriminately: God will never fail you! You are his child! God will always be there for you! God has forgiven you and will continue to do so with every failure, no matter what! (Now, of course, do not let the real children believe this.)

Hand out divine promises to all like free popsicles. While the adulterer licks on his Grace-Grape freezie and the unrepentant drunkard slurps on Strawberry Steadfast-Love, never let them realize the fatal error. Cause them to skip over those terrible themes like repentance, new birth, killing sin, and the Enemy’s wrath when the group inevitably wanders upon them in the text. Let them smile at the warnings and filter every uncomfortable text through “Love,” all the while reserving the conditions for other people. Presumption, dear nephew, presumption.

5. Lead them anywhere but to the Enemy himself.

Never slack on this point. If you recall stories from your great-grandfather, Lord Barkmare, the Pharisees had terrific Bible studies until the Enemy almost spoiled things: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life” (John 5:39–40).

Let the mice free in the labyrinth of theology, current events, or ethics but never let them adore him, follow him, treasure him, go to him and find life. All it takes is one sight and your patient may be lost forever.

So, Globdrop, encourage your prey to bring his Bible this week — we will be reading Philippians 4:13 through the lens of human athletic achievement. But never lose sight of your man. Watch whether yours is the sort who will bleed for it, die for it, storm our gates with it. If he seems to be such a man, tempt him to hit the snooze button in the mornings, fill up his calendar in the evenings, and then continue to gently guide him through our midweek, delightful group Bible study.

Your Expectant Uncle,
Wormwood

You Don’t Just Need Community, You Need Friends

https://blog.lifeway.com/leadingmen/2018/10/10/you-dont-need-community-you-need-friends/

The Link Between Church Attendance and Youth Retention

https://bellatorchristi.com/2018/10/08/the-link-between-church-attendance-and-youth-retention/

6 Ways to Engage with Your Community

We live in a time when most of us are disconnected from the communities in which we live. We don’t know our neighbors, rarely serve in our city, and the cast majority of the connections that we have there are digital. This disintegrating of community leaves people lonely and alienated, leads us to treat our neighbors with suspicion, and means that fewer people are hearing about Jesus.

For followers of Jesus, remaining isolated from the communities in which we live is not an option. We have been called by God to love our neighbors, to pray for our neighbors, and to serve our neighbors in the name of Jesus, so staying aloof and knowing no one constitutes serious disobedience to Jesus.

For those of us who grew up in communities that seemed more tightknit than our current ones, we should not spend much time bemoaning this situation, but rather we should begin mobilizing to address it. This situation offers us many opportunities to make an impact by being a friend to people, showing people hospitality, and by serving them in Jesus’ name.

If you have been distant from the community in which you live, here are six ways that you can engage with your community.

Spend Time in Your Front Yard

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/onedegreetoanother/2018/02/engage-community/

What are the Marks of Genuine Friendship?

A few years ago, our family was at the beach when a little girl ran up to my seven-year-old daughter and said, “My name is Isabella. Do you want to play?” My daughter yelled “sure” and they ran off as if they had known each other for years.

I wonder at what point we stop doing this. When do we get afraid of rejection and become suspicious of people? While our children are not sinless, their lack of cynicism is refreshing because their desire for friends reminds us that we were not created to live life alone.

God created us to be wired for friendship, yet sin has broken friendships and relationships. To return to my opening illustration, my daughter got mad at the little girl she was playing with a said she didn’t want to be her friend anymore. The little girl came over to ask if they could be friends again and my daughter responded, “well, I will give you one more chance.” (In case you are wondering, yes we had a conversation about that.)

One thing we need to realize about our friendships is that we tend to respond sinfully to being sinned against. Because of this, we can be tempted to have superficial friendships instead of real ones, to be consistently frustrated with other people, and to hide from real friendships because we are cynical about the possibility that they can exist.

What constitutes a true friendship? This is not an unspiritual question. The biblical writers devoted ample space to the subject of interpersonal relationships. For example, you cannot read through Proverbs without running across a treasure trove of wisdom for discovering and maintaining true friendships.

We can learn a lot about genuine friendship by observing the friendships throughout Scripture. In particular, the friendship between David and Jonathan shows us three truths which help us understand the nature of true friendship.

Friendship Springs from a Strong Bond

Read the rest:  http://www.patheos.com/blogs/onedegreetoanother/2018/10/friendship/?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Evangelical&utm_content=46