Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Small Country Church with Big Kingdom Vision

It was a true blessing to attend the Expository Preaching Conference in Heber Springs, Arkansas last week. My wife and I were encouraged by the instruction, the preaching, and the fellowship. What really blew us away was the church that hosts and helps fund the conference. Tumbling Shoals Baptist Church- just outside Heber Springs- is not your typical "small country church". Over the last few years their church size has fluctuated between 60-85 people. Our church is almost identical in size. They are mostly older folks but have seen more younger folks and children added recently. This reflects our church's demographics as well. There is nothing wrong with any of this but many denominational leaders and pastors would not think it too impressive. Unfortunately we are more impressed by the cover of the book than its contents. The contents of Tumbling Shoals Baptist Church ought to be the aim for every church-- large or small, urban or rural, young or old.

They are a kingdom-driven church. The church partners with an organization called International Church Planters (its offices are next door to the church) that sends out short-term mission teams into foreign countries for gospel work and church planting. I was told that 30% of the congregation went on a mission team last year (some to Kenya, some to Ecuador). One in three! The auditorium where the church gathers to worship is draped with numerous flags (I think 12) that represent the countries where they have been to help plant churches. Last year when the church was told of an urgent need to raise $100K to dig water wells in a community in Ecuador so that missionaries would have an open door to do gospel work, the church responded and raised the money in 6 months.

These aren't rich people. They are regular folk in a small rural community in Arkansas... but they are kingdom driven. The church often brings in pastors who are burned out or beat up to help restore them and send them back out. They train men up in their own congregation who sense a call to preach-- they have three men right now ready to serve as a pastor somewhere. They don't order prepackaged curriculum to teach from... their teachers are trained to teach expositionally through Scripture and are doing just that. Their textbook is the Bible. I was told their church's budget was somewhere south of 200K (less than the budget of our church) but they make every penny count toward the kingdom.

My hope and prayer has always been to lead Memorial to be a launching pad for the gospel into our community and into the nations of the world. It was refreshing to see an example of a church that is carrying that vision out. You don't have to be a mega-church or "impressive" in a worldly sense to make a kingdom impact. You simply must be faithful- lean on the sufficiency of Scripture and apply it to every area of your life.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Video Monday- Dr. Hershael York

My wife and I spent last Thursday through Saturday at an Expository Preaching Conference led by David Miller (evangelist and pastor to pastors) and Dr. Hershael York (pastor of Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfurt, KY and professor of preaching at Southern Seminary in Louisville). These men really encouraged us and helped me (along with 53 other preachers) sharpen skills to rightly communicate God's Word. Here is a sermon from Dr. York that he also preached for us on Friday night-- an excellent message to hear on Good Friday.

The embedding code I posted earlier didn't work so go to this link to watch the sermon:

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tuesday Hodge-Podge (4-19)

  • I've really enjoyed the series that B&H Academic has done on presenting differing perspectives of various theological and church issues. Justin Taylor previews and summarizes this new book on differing perspectives of the Sabbath.

  • My friend Clifton Rankin (author of one of the coolest named blogs) offers some insight on the myth that Martin Luther turned bar songs into hymns.

  • Here is a satirical letter written in response to that mean ole Apostle Paul.

  • Wendy Alsup offers her "Confessions of a Conflicted Complementarian"

  • This interview with Mark Dever is a must-listen-to by anyone (pastor or lay person) serious about disciple-making.

  • Jim Hamilton offers a great explanation on why he believes the Bible

Monday, April 18, 2011

Coveting or Content?

Here is a trailer for a new book by Stephen Altrogge. I found the video very convicting and haven't yet read the book. The issue of coveting and the need for contentment is critical for every believer.

"Greener Grass Conspiracy" Trailer - Stephen Altrogge from Crossway on Vimeo.

HT: Justin Taylor

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Fellowship and Hospitality

Acts 2:42- "And they were continually devoting themselves... to the fellowship..."

Hebrews 13:2- "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it."

Some may use the words fellowship and hospitality interchangeably but these are really different things. Fellowship is what Christian brothers and sisters enjoy with each other. It means sharing or having things in common. You may be of different ethnic make-up or different economic level or different personalities or different interests and hobbies but what you have in common is more significant and more binding. You are common recipients of the grace of God which has transformed you to new men and women. The church may be multi-ethnic or diverse in its personalities but it is not multi-cultural. The church represents one new gospel culture. The more diverse a congregation the more magnifying of how the gospel brings such diversity together in one new culture. Fellowship is more than socializing or having pot-luck suppers. Fellowship is demonstrated by the continual effort of every church member to invest relationally in other church members- to encourage others, carry each others' burdens, labor together in ministry, and celebrate together in worship.

Hospitality is a different animal though. It refers to your demonstrating kindness and assisting with needs of strangers. For Christians this means demonstrating godly character and kindness to those outside the church-- visitors to your local church, yes, but especially those who are strangers to Christ. The gospel is a message lived out. Outreach and evangelism are not programs on a Tuesday night that happen with only a small group of extroverts in the church. These are the mandates of every Christian and the gospel message is adorned with Christian hospitality. People who visit the local church ought to be extended kindness-- not just a bulletin. Go sit with them (don't ask them to get up and sit with you-- leave your spot and go to them). Take them to lunch. Make an appointment to have them to your home. Shock them with how generous you are with your time.

Hospitality cannot just wait for people to come to us though. Work on getting to know your neighbors. Bake a big batch of cookies (slice and bake are ok), bag them up, and deliver them with a kind note. Who turns down cookies? Follow that up with an invitation to your home or to dinner out. If you know of a need, offer to help. Find out birthdays and send cards. These things are not sharing the gospel in and of themselves but they may pave the way for an opportunity to share and when you share the gospel, the message will have been commended by your unique and Christ-like character. Don't wait for a flashy "new way we're going to reach people" program to get started at church (those usually have high costs and low returns anyway). Do outreach like the Bible shows us to do it and trust the Lord with the results!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Evaluating our Four Targets (April)

Almost two months ago I presented four targets our church needs to be aiming for in 2011. These are things quite frankly that have needed work and if we are going to be the church that God's Word calls us to be we have to give concentrated attention to these things. The four aims are:

1. Be a more diligently praying church

2. Train men to be leaders in their home, community, and church family

3. Put more "boots on the ground" for community gospel outreach

4. Build bridges between age and social groups in the church

So after two months what progress has been made? We must evaluate. Of course it should be said we can "do more" but if the heart isn't burdened for these things and you don't have an humble faith our "doing" won't last. Still we have committed to a special emphasis of 100 Days of Prayer. I am hoping this will get us contrite before the Lord and sensitive to His leadership. We've gotten out into the community to make connections and put the gospel in homes and we have plans to do more of this (we trust the Lord with the results). We're continuing to try and link people together by sharing fellowship meals the first Sunday night of the month and by encouraging everyone to open their homes for fellowship with one another.

The weakest of these four as "doing" is concerned is #2. I'm still trying to think through how we can more tangibly work on training men though I've been encouraged by some one-on-one time I've shared with some of our guys over the last few weeks. Let's keep praying, keeping striving for Biblical faithfulness, and keep investing in one another for the building up of the body!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Tuesday Hodge-Podge (4-5)

  • Here is some wise counsel on giving and receiving criticism

  • Here is some practical advice to loving your neighbor and showing gospel-driven hospitality

  • Here is a good interview with Dale Ralph Davis (a faithful expositor) on preaching Christ in the Old Testament

  • I'm really excited about this-- Wayne Grudem's Christian Beliefs has become a video teaching series

  • Below is a video of John Piper and R.C. Sproul sharing reflections on their lives and ministries

Ministry Reflections with John Piper & R.C. Sproul from Ligonier on Vimeo.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Gospel Lived Out

I hope my congregation is as blessed through the preaching of Galatians as I have been through the study of Galatians. It is so encouraging to stare deeply at the nature of the gospel and its application to every area of our lives. The gospel is a message but it is a message lived out. Yesterday I hovered over Galatians 2:10 to address a critical misunderstanding of the gospel called "social gospel". As I said yesterday the gospel is not that men do good and compassionate things in society but the gospel does enable men to do good and compassionate things in society. If you have been transformed by God's grace you are going to demonstrate God's character to the people around you-- first to your brothers and sisters in Christ and then to everyone else the Lord has put in your path. Such action adorns the gospel and commends it to others. The world should hear the truth of the gospel from your lips and see its transforming power through your life.