~ Ian Carmichael
In my part of the evangelical world there has been quite a lot of debate lately around the appropriate length of sermons. Some of it was kicked off by a motion moved at a denominational meeting that proposed mandating that sermons be 20 minutes or less in all its churches. Then there was a subsequent Facebook discussion a week or so ago on the same topic in which there was much heat, little light, and—it seemed to me—a whole dimension of the discussion missing. (How unusual for Facebook!)
You see, one of the things that trouble me about discussions of sermon length is the all-too-frequent assumption that it’s the preachers who need to change if people are switching off in sermons. Intuitively, that just doesn’t feel right to me.
As I was pondering these matters, Hebrews 3 and 4 came to mind, with the repeated refrain (originating, of course, from Psalm 95): “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion…”
If we honestly believe that if we are hearing God’s voice today through the preaching of his Word, surely our response as listeners should be like Samuel’s “Speak, for your servant hears” (1 Sam 3:10) rather than “Hey, Lord, nice to hear from you, but I can only spare you 15-20 minutes”.
And then I kept reading Hebrews 5, especially this section:
About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (Heb 5:11-14)
So the writer is definitely not happy with them. He’s giving them a right-old kick up the backside. He thinks they should be more mature by now, more skilled in the word of righteousness, with more highly trained powers of discernment. But they’re not, and he’s disappointed.
In chapter 6 he goes on to talk about the danger of Christians who have “tasted the goodness of the word of God” and yet have “fallen away”. That’s literally a hopeless outcome for a Christian.
But what’s causing this immaturity that is putting them at such risk?
Back to 5:11, and the phrase I find interesting: “you have become dull of hearing”. The HCSB translates it this way: “you have become too lazy to understand”. I think the original word conveys the idea of being sluggish.
Basically, they’re not putting in the effort needed. They want to just cruise along and not have to work hard on grappling with the word of righteousness. That’s no road to spiritual growth.
As church leaders—and I presume many reading this are in that category to some extent—can I suggest that we need to do three things?
by Bill Hull
No one individual can fully disciple another, because no one has the full arsenal of spiritual gifts and wisdom to adequately bring another to maturity in Christ. That does not mean one-to-one discipling is invalid—but a master-pupil model is not enough for the church. The ministry that thinks of discipling in a one-on-one terms falls short of what God intended for His people.
I need several mentors to fully develop me in Christ; a ministry-skills mentor, a character mentor, and people who will help me focus on a variety of other issues. Only the body of Christ can provide an environment that gives the full range of experiences and challenges I need. One-on-one can provide the fine-tuning in personal matters as I walk with Christ, but it cannot do the whole job.
If a church focuses only on ministry skills and one-on-one discipling, the majority of the people remain undiscipled.
~ The Disciple-Making Church, p.35
by Terry Virgo
The church is the place where the Holy Spirit dwells. . . The church should be open to the phenomenal manifestation of the presence of the Spirit. . . Some would say that it’s a private experience . . . but the manifestation of the Spirit is for the common good . . . you gather to the presence of the Holy Spirit . . . Jesus said I wont leave you orphans, I will come to you . . . we are looking for the awareness of the presence of the Spirit here. . .
We are not coming to sing a few songs. We are not coming only for the preaching.
We are coming to meet with Jesus. We are gathering to our risen Lord. . . doing church without Jesus is terribly boring. . . Now we are the temple of his presence . . . anything can happen, God is here with us!
Here’s a story with which you may be familiar.
Boy meets girl. They fall in love. They have a big wedding, in which all their friends and loved ones show up to celebrate their big day.
And then, following that wedding, those same friends and loved ones stop hearing from the newlywed couple. The marriage relationship has become so prioritized that their other friendships and relationships nearly dissolve altogether.
As a professional counselor, author and relationship expert, I wonder if our Christian culture at large tends to get fixated on romantic relationships, without remembering the other important relationships that God calls us into.
Somehow, we’ve fallen prey to the dangerous mindset of seeing marriage as the only relationship that is supposed to reflect the Body of Christ.
As important as marriage is within the Church, I can’t help but wonder: what about the other significant relationships God calls us into? What about our relationships with other believers that God has placed into our lives? What about mentorship, discipleship and friendship? What about community?
Here are some reasons community might have more benefits than we think it does:
1. Community Challenges You to be More Like Jesus. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
Nothing makes you more like Jesus than the daily grind of interactions with others. We often think about marriage when it comes to this refining process, but the truth is God also gives us community as a way to become more like Him.
God’s Word reminds us that we are put in relationships in order to encourage one another in our pursuit of God and His Kingdom. It’s within the context of community that we are given the opportunity to be refined as followers of Christ.
2. Community Meets Practical Needs. (Acts 2:42-47)
Just like in the early Church, community is a place where we come to get our physical needs met. We need to learn to let down our walls and ask for help from our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Whether we need someone to pick up medicine for us when we’re sick, cook us a meal at the end of a long week or help us carry a financial burden, the Body of Christ was made to support and love one another in practical ways. We can learn a lot about love within the exchange of practical needs.
3. Community Carries You Emotionally. (Galatians 6:2)
Just as important as physical needs are the emotional needs we carry through life. We are given the the responsibility to support each other in hard times and to carry one another’s burdens. As much as we need to be available for our brothers and sisters in Christ, we also need to have the courage to ask them to come alongside of us when we’re the ones in need of support, prayer or a shoulder to cry on.
It’s important to learn to be real with one another, because that’s what true community is all about.
Read more at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/whole-life/10-unexpected-benefits-real-community#SWtAh1vUAVXgEWe9.99