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Archive for March, 2008

The Great Easter only got better after the Sunrise Service.  Everyone was in a great mood and there was wonderful fellowship and laughter during the breakfast and hour before the service.  Churches go through cycles: sometimes there is strife and the tension in the air is palpable.  Other times there is such a sweet, sweet feeling of love and joy that you can’t help but feel good just to be there.  It’s a shame it can’t be all good all the time, but we are humans and I’m reminded that even the NT churches had their strife and trouble.  But for this year, this week, this day, all was great.

The service just hit in all the right ways.  A man whose wife had been very sick got up and thanked the church for all their love and care during her recovery.  He said that we should be proud of our congregation.  Indeed.  Then a lady who was baptized last week had me tell everyone that she knows that she finally made the right choice to make Jesus her Lord.  Indeed.

The music was perfect.  “The Old Rugged Cross”, “How Deep the Father’s Love”, “He arose” and two specials, “This is my body” and “My Redeemer Lives”.  I could have gotten up for the sermon and dismissed everyone and it would have been great (and people might have been happier in the end!).

But even the sermon went well.  This week proved my theory that when I think a sermon stinks it normally comes out as better than normal.  I guess when think it’s bad we rely on the Spirit more and He shines more than we do.  When I think it’s a wonderful sermon it falls short.  This week I didn’t feel good about it, and no amount of tinkering could get it good.  Even when it was done I didn’t feel that great.  But person after person thanked me for the great sermon– so they are either kind or the Spirit took the ball and ran with it.

The numbers were great too: we were up by half as much, or to put it another way, we had 150% of average.  That gives us a good goal to reach on a consistent basis for next year.  And most of the folks were not C&E worshipers or out-of-town guests, but regulars who have slackened up.  There is great hope that we will see these guys more in the months to come.  Let’s hope so.

Even the horse pastures were lively: the foals are out there running and playing under the stern eyes of their mothers, prancing around on stick-like legs.  I love to look out the office window and see them just plain ol’ having fun.  The lilies and daffodils are coming out and the trees are getting their buds.  It’s a great time of the year.  Each day gets a little warmer, it will soon be disc golf weather every day of the week.

Praise God for times when all is well.

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We had a great Easter out here in the horse pasture. The weather was good- sunny and chilly the way that Easter should be. The Sunrise Service went well: about 50 people standing out in the 30 degree weather, wishing their preacher had less blubber and was thus more susceptible to cold. The sun rose right on cue– and we even had the chairs facing in EXACTLY the right direction. It came up right in the middle of “He Lives” and was breath-taking. Or maybe it was the cold. Still, we caused a lot of damage to our retinas staring at it poking over the horizon. I was afraid that it would come up behind the farm house across the street, but it obliged by finding a clear place to rise. Of course I could have come out a few days earlier and staked out where it would rise, but one sunrise a year a year is enough for me to witness.

We all had a good Spirit, we rejoiced that “He is Risen”, and had a good laugh at our musical shortcomings. More people than normal were yawning as I did the devotion, but it was from the early hour, not my message, and the breakfast following was great (including a great spinach and mushroom quiche and a rotating donut stand that I admired but avoided).It seems that Sunrise Services are becoming less common. What a shame.  It sure was a blessing in the corner of the world.

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I was talking with a couple of my buds about the current obsession in some circles of evangelicalism with “outing” church things as pagan.  You know, the new Barna book which claims that sermons, pulpits, buildings, etc. are all pagan in origin.  To me this smacks of a backlash.  For the longest time the conservative elements of the church have slammed the more liberal elements for doing away with traditional things or for adding new things to the worship service.  In response, the more radical churches are insisting that some of the traditional things, like pulpits, are not so kosher either.

All this seems silly to me.  In fact, it reminds me a bit of the history of my own church movement.  About 100 years ago a group of Restoration Churches decided that they didn’t want organs in the church.  They were too worldly and too costly.  Organs were associated with rich city churches and saloons.  They made a decision to not have organs in their churches, or any other kind of instrumental music.  No problem.  But, to justify that decision they needed a biblical imperative and thus constructed a hermeneutic that argued from the silence of the NT concerning instruments.  Now they were not just saying that they preferred to not have organs but that others were sinning for having them.

Fast forward 100 years.  Some churches don’t want guitars, drums, basses, or anything else that smacks of a typical 5 person rock band.  They think the rock band format is too worldly, too loud, or not worshipful enough for their ears and accustomed style.  No problem, that’s a choice that each congregation is free to make.  The problem comes when they try to use the bible and flimsy arguments to insist that the rock style is not just something they don’t like but something that is unbiblical.

Now we see the backlash.  So Barna likes a house church with discussion instead of a sermon.  That’s fine, but don’t try to argue that meeting in a building with pews and a pulpit and a sermon is unbiblical.

If we are really trying to be a good New Testament church we should look back to what God wants in our religion.  God made it clear in the Old Testament that while he cared about decorum in worship, proper rituals and sacrifices, and proper Temple personnel he was more worried about the state of our heart.

Hos 6:6
6 For I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.
NIV

Amos 5:21-24
21 “I hate, I despise your religious feasts;
I cannot stand your assemblies.
22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
I will have no regard for them.
23 Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.
24 But let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream!
NIV

Without neglecting propriety in worship, God desired our hearts.  The same is true in the new covenant.  There are some things that we need to follow in our worship out of obedience: regular communion, biblical baptism, prayer, fellowship, compassion, the “apostles’ teaching”.  But we are getting way too focused on the unimportant things: buildings, music styles, sermon styles, etc.

A New Testament church is not defined by these things.  Instead it is defined by people seeking to be Christ in this world, worshiping in spirit and in truth.  God cares more about our hearts and our obedience than he does whether we preach behind a pulpit or from a beanbag.

James 1:27
27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
NIV

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A Forty Story Church?

I read that they were going to build a 40 story building in downtown Lexington, KY called CentrePointe.

CentrePointe?  Center spelled all old-fashioned-like?  An unnecessary “e” on Point?  Mid-word capitalization?  Vague meaning?

I thought for sure they were talking about a new church plant: CentrePointe is a perfectly typical name for a new church.  In fact, I’m guessing that if I googled it there is already a CentrePointe church out there.  Yup, there’s a Centre Pointe church in Santa Clarita, CA (and a neighborhood in Ottawa, Canada… or is that a neighbourhood?).

Still, I bet it’s not forty stories!  (and for the record, the CentrePointe in Lexington is a hotel complex).

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