Which Clothes Matter Most in Your Church

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Some of us spend a good deal of time thinking about not only what clothes to wear, but what are appropriate church clothes for others to wear. Some come to church dressed in a suit and tie, due to the notion that if something is important, you dress to the nines out of honor of the situation. Some have other ways they dress, in a more comfortable way due to the fact that wearing a suit and tie is uncomfortable and distracts them from hearing the message.  If each camp isn’t careful, they may cast aspersions on those who dress differently.

I just recently read an article about why Millennials (20 year olds) may not be coming to our churches.  One of the reasons is, “You dress like the 1980’s and sing songs from the 1880’s.”  Ouch.  Here’s an excerpt:

If you sing “How Firm a Foundation” in your three-piece suit on Sunday morning and bemoan the idea of contextualization, you’re missing the point. You’re contextualizing just as much as the guy who wears Vans and hangs out at the skatepark, you’re just behind the times in your contextualization.

Everyone celebrates contextualization when a missionary in China does it, but for some reason, people have concerns when people do it here in our own communities.

Stetzer writes:  “Contextualization, then, is simply about sharing the Gospel well. Those who deliberately practice the process of contextualization desire to have an element of intentionality in their Gospel sharing; they desire to share the Gospel in way that is most relevant to the culture they are addressing.”

If you aren’t respecting the context and culture in which your 20-somethings live, don’t be confused when you don’t reach them.

This is such a hard balance to find for many pastors—including this one.  We want to find the balance between honoring our times of worship and connecting with the culture we wish to reach. 

But regardless of the outside clothing, our aim should be the clothing of the inner person, “adoring the doctrine of God our Savior” (Titus 2:10).  Colossians 3:12-14 says,

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”

Let’s take away whatever obstacles exist that will keep others from putting on Christ.  

Will we take that next step?

P.S.  Please read the article to which I linked earlier. 

The Church’s Teaching on Marriage is Nothing New: Marriage According to the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith

With the Houston mayor submitting (and later withdrawing) a subpoena for five pastors to turn in sermons, and now the news of two ordained ministers in Idaho City being threatened with fines and jail if they refused to marry same-sex couples, we see the downgrade in our government regarding religious liberties, especially in regards to the promotion of homosexuality.

Much ink has been spilled regarding how fast our society has turned regarding advocating same-sex marriage and homosexuality in general.  If marriage is simply about two people loving each other, then we would have no qualms with this ‘redefinition’–for there would be no re-definition.

But all through church history, the church has taught from Scripture what God’s design for marriage that stands as a covenant before God and each other as God joins a man and woman together for the purpose of procreating, bring other imagebearers into the world (Genesis 1:26-31; Matthew 19:4-6).  Marriage also helps keep us from sin (1 Corinthians 7:2-5).  This addresses all relationships outside the man-woman covenant of marriage–not just homosexuality.

Below are the four articles that the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith declares regarding the covenant of marriage:

  1. Marriage is to be between one man and one woman. It is not lawful for any man to have more than one wife, nor for any woman to have more than one husband, at the same time.
  2. Marriage was ordained for the mutual help of husband and wife, for the increase of mankind with a legitimate issue, and for preventing uncleanness.
  3. It is lawful for all sorts of people to marry if they are able with judgement to give their consent. But it is the duty of Christians to marry in the Lord, and therefore those who profess the true religion should not marry with infidels or idolaters. Nor should those who are godly be unequally yoked by marrying with those who are wicked in their life or who maintain heretical teaching condemned to judgement.
  4. Marriage ought not to be within the degrees of consanguinity [blood relation] or affinity forbidden in the Word, nor can such incestuous marriages ever be made lawful by any law of man or consent of parties so that such persons may live together as man and wife.

Scripture teaches this, the church affirms this, the world may hate it–but this is God’s design and this is where we stand. We can do no other!  God help us.  Amen!

How My Desire to Plant Churches Parallels My Musical Journey

My first piano lesson took place on August 17, 1978, just six weeks shy of my seventh birthday.  My piano teacher was Mrs. Carwile, who taught me notes and scales and musical pieces, first via Theodore Presser books, then by the color-coated John Schaum books.  She even helped me cut my teeth on playing hymns on the Broadman Hymnal. 

I moved to Michigan and learned classical pieces, continuing that quest through Virginia into Florida, where Terri Mullins continued to teach me in a backroom at the local Radio Shack that her family owned.  In college, I learned from the incomparable Marlene Woodward-Cooper at Palm Beach Atlantic University.  During my time there, I learned jazz (mostly self-taught) and consumed massive quantities of Dave Brubeck, Bill Evans, Chick Corea, and the master, George Gershwin. 

It wasn’t until I was a Music and Youth Pastor at First Baptist Church of Clewiston, Florida, that I published my first piece of music (a 22-measure call-to-worship that was a new setting to There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy).  It was then that I felt like a real musician.  Learning notes, learning scales, learning chords, playing with independent hands, classical pieces, jazz, then composing.

That journey parallels how I feel regarding my journey in ministry.

  • Learning the notes: learning the basics of pastoral care and preaching.
  • Scales:  Learning how to get the church moving toward reaching folks for Jesus.
  • Chords:  Playing more notes at once: preaching, pastoring, administration, counseling, etc.
  • Classical pieces:  preaching straight from the Word of God, staying true to what’s written on the page.
  • Jazz:  taking the chord structure from the piece (the Word of God) and improvising, giving color to the song—all the while interacting with the ‘audience’ (congregation) and staying true to the chord structure of the piece (the Word). 
  • Composing:  as a musician composes a new piece, so too do pastors and churches move to ‘compose’ new churches. 

While I know I’m a pastor, and nothing will change that calling, God is moving in my heart to lead my church to plant other churches in Denver.  I’ve begged God to keep me here to make this a reality, and to give me wisdom to take the next steps in being a mobilizing and multiplying church. 

No matter what, we are on a journey—either a musical or ministerial journey. 

What a joy!

Thom Rainer Helping Revitalize Churches—YES!

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Churches usually fall into one of four categories:

  • Established (a.k.a., traditional);
  • Plants (less than 3-4 years old);
  • Legacy (churches within a year of closing their doors).

God wants His churches healthy.  For each of these churches, particular challenges abound.  But have no fear—Thom Rainer is here.

At his new website, Revitalized Churches, Rainer puts out a series of videos on how to revitalize a plateaued or declining church.  In one of his videos, he outlines seven reasons why some churches experience revitalization, and others don’t:

  1. The leaders and members faced reality. One of the reasons most churches don’t experience revitalization is their unwillingness to “look in the mirror.” Denial leads to decline which leads to death.
  2. Many in the church began explicitly praying for God to revitalize the church. I know of a leadership group in one church that prayed every week for over two years. The church is now in true revitalization.
  3. The churches had an explicit and clear focus on the gospel. Preaching became clearly gospel-centered. Ministries became gospel-centered. And many members began intentionally sharing the gospel, which brings me to the next reason.
  4. Members did not just talk evangelism; they did evangelism. I did not see a specific approach or methodology to share the gospel in these congregations. It was clear, however, that there was a more focused intentionality on sharing Christ than in many previous years.
  5. Many members in these churches began focusing on serving Christ through the church rather than seeking their own preferences. Another way of stating it is that these members became other-focused rather than self-focused. This attitude seemed to be directly connected to their prayers for revitalization.
  6. These churches raised the bar of expectations. Thus membership in these congregations became meaningful. Members moved from spectators to participants.
  7. The churches developed a clear process of discipleship. The members became more immersed in the Word. There was a clear and cogent plan to help members grow in their walk with Christ.

Go to the website and watch the videos.  I know that our church will see these very, very soon. 

Balancing our Fandom for our Sports Teams

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As some of you know, I write on Mondays for a sports blog called the Burgundy Wave, a sports blog for our Colorado Rapids Soccer Club.  This past Saturday, my daughter and I went to see the final home game of the season between our Rapids and FC Dallas (‘FC’ means ‘football club’—what every other country in the world calls soccer).  I write for them because it helps me stay connected with not only other Rapids fans, but also my community in a non-church environment. 

The last home game was also Fan Appreciation Day.  My daughter and I had a great time where we watched our team play in fantastic fall weather, eating nachos, and just soaking it all in.  A Rapids representative asked us if we would like to participate in  a ‘jersey off their back’ event after the game on the field.  We would pick a card that contained the uniform number of a player on the Rapids roster, who would then give us the ‘shirt off his back’ and sign the card.  What a surprise.

Keep in mind, the Rapids lost 1-0, continuing an abysmal 12-game winless streak (their last win?  July 25 against Chivas USA).  But meeting the players, hearing their heart about how much they appreciated us even as they’ve disappointed us by their performance—I saw a bit of the drive of these professionals who want to win, but still were grateful that we’ve stuck it out.

Feel free to read the article at the BW here.  I’m hoping it provides a balance for fans in supporting the players, but holding leadership accountable as well—not an easy balance to strike.  Here are the four main points:

  1. The players hate losing worse than we hate them losing.
  2. They appreciate us more for sticking by them even in this ghastly streak.
  3. When you see how badly these professionals hate losing, your heart goes out to them.
  4. We need a balance as fans to support the team and players, while keeping the ownership and FO informed and accountable.

P.S.  Below is a picture of my daughter with Marlon Hairston.  He’s a 20-year-old rookie from the University of Louisville, who I hope will be an integral piece in their rebuilding process moving forward.  This picture honestly made our year.  What a nice, gracious young man he is!

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Sunday Hymn: Holy Father, Hear My Cry

Holy Father, hear my cry;
Holy Savior, bend Thine ear;
Holy Spirit, come Thou nigh;
Father, Savior, Spirit, hear.

Father, save me from my sin;
Savior, I Thy mercy crave;
Gracious Spirit, make me clean:
Father, Savior, Spirit, save.

Father, let me taste Thy love;
Savior, fill my soul with peace;
Spirit, come my heart to move:
Father, Son, and Spirit, bless.

Father, Son, and Spirit—Thou
One Jehovah, shed abroad
All Thy grace within me now;
Be my Father and my God.

(Horatius Bonar, 1843)

Links of Interest (10.18.2014)

A good Saturday morning to you!  Here are some links from this past week that I found interesting–and maybe you would as well.

Helpful Articles on the Houston Mayor and Her Subpoena of Sermons

What Christians Should Know About the Ebola Crisis (TGC)

Irrational Atheism (Crispin Sartwell, The Atlantic):  … and this from a non-theist!

The Mars Hill Postmortem (Trevin Wax):  Looking at where Mars Hill goes from here in the wake of Mark Driscoll’s resignation.

The Hopeless Marriage (Ed Welch, CCEF): What to do when mutual dislike occurs between spouses and things seem, well, hopeless!

Did the Roman Catholic Church Change Its Position on Divorce and Gay Marriage? (Denny Burk)

What Every Man Should Known About Sleep (Brett and Kate McKay, Art of Manliness):  Sleep needs as much attention as diet and exercise when it comes to our well-being.