Tuesday, October 30, 2007

GfBC Family Integrated Church Conference 2007

Over the next few days, or so, I will be commenting on the Family Integrated Conference my family and I attended October 26th and 27th in Houston that was put on by Grace Family Baptist Church. It was a very good conference with over 300 people from 17 states. While it did seem that a majority of the people came from Texas there were people from as far west as Washington State, California (My Family) and as far east as Campton, New Hampshire (New Hope Fellowship). The main speakers were the Elders from GfBC; Paul Renfro, Matt Bullen and Voddie Baucham. Each spoke at one main session and then on Saturday they as well as others at GfBC spoke at a number of breakout sessions.

They did not proclaim to have all of the answers but as they have been in the thick of starting an FIC and as they had received many calls for information they decided that a conference would be the best way to get information out to those seeking it. While there were those of us there already in FICs there were others that were simply seeking to get information on the movement.

One announcement at the end of the conference was that they were going to start a Family Integrated Church Alliance, I am not sure if that is the final name, so as to help resource and give guidance to others wanting to start Family Integrated Churches. This builds on Vision Forums National Center for Family-Integrated Churches which basically is a listing to help people connect whereas GfBC is seeking to help go further to help in church planting. I am not sure of all the specifics as probably not all of them have been worked out, but this will be a great ministry.

Before I go for the day I want to leave you with a great saying that Paul Renfro shared on the opening session Friday night, I am not sure if his original saying or not but it is great. In speaking on where we seek our guidance for church and how so often the call from many in the church is to be creative he said: “Stop thinking outside the box and start thinking inside the book.” Stop and think about that as all too often the Bible is the last place we look for guidance in ministry.

More to come.

Reformation Study Bible - One Day Sale

Over at Ligonier Ministries they are offering a one day only deal for the Reformation Study Bible (ESV). On October 31st the bibles are $15.17. This is a great price for a great study bible.

Update: 10/31/07 (7:45 AM): The bibles are sold out.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Kevin Swanson at the UC&F Phoenix Regional Conference

You can go to Scott Browns Blog to hear Kevin Swanson’s talk at the Uniting Church and Family Conference in Glendale, AZ this past weekend: Lightning Rod in Phoenix .

Here are Scott’s comments on Kevin’s talk/sermon:

"Kevin Swanson gave a lightning rod address on “Pragmatism”, and proclaimed that evangelicalism is dying, and that the church has not had any appreciable impact on the culture because she has set aside Holy Scripture for all of life and godliness. The solution: the fear of God and obedience to His Word. Since so many biblical forms have been ignored in church and home, we need a reformation of practices that has its basis in trust in scripture. Hold on to your hat as you listen to this message. One of the conferees called this message seismic... I agree!"

I very much appreciate Kevin’s straight forward no holds barred approach. The church has issues and the only way to deal with them is to recognize them. To simply say we need to reach this culture is missing the point and often clouds the message. The more we look like the culture the less the message of the Gospel will be visible. At the end of the day the Gospel becomes subsumed by the trappings of the culture and then simply disappears from the message all together.

Listen to Kevin and be both convicted and exhorted. Let us make sure we do not let culture dictate the message of the Gospel but instead let the Gospel impact and change culture.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Use of Illustrations

I confess I have been guilty of using an urban myth to get across a point. The story of the boiling frog is often used, and I have used it, to get across the idea that slow change often engulfs us without us knowing it. Now while the point being made may be true it appears that the Frog Story may be a myth. This story has been used by many and, as I guess most Urban Legends are, has been accepted as truth. So, what is then interesting is that the truth that is trying to be conveyed is truer than the illustration used.

At Snopes.com they place the story as an urban legend and at Wikipedia on the subject of the veracity of this story there is some question as well. Wikipedia relates that the story originated back in the 1870’s and 1880’s and even links to a page of an article that would seem to say the original test may have been true but there is a definite level of uncertainty.

Bottom line is this illustration is gone from my list of illustrations, which is short as it is. I have recently been thinking about how I use illustrations and while they may make sermons more interesting are they as valuable as we think they are. I was talking to my sons about an illustration I used on a sermon some time ago and what I found was they could vividly remember the illustration but did not remember the point of the illustration. Yes Jesus used parables but keep in mind the idea of parables was to hide things from those not ready to hear (Matt 13:10-17; Luke 8:10), not necessarily to reveal them so His use of parables may not be the best reason to use illustrations.

The question I have to ask myself is whether I have been so influenced by the world’s view of conveying a message that I seek to do so by adding illustrations. This is not to say that illustrations are inherently bad but we do need to be careful how we use them and also to make sure they are true illustrations. In today’s age of a focus on narrative preaching I am concerned that we, me included, are more concerned about conveying a good story than conveying truth and relying on God to make sure the meaning gets through to the listener. This is not a free pass to lazy sermon preparation but is to say lets us be diligent to make sure the message of the passage is conveyed and not simply leave people with good anecdotes and illustrations that at the end of the day may do more to hide the message of scripture than accentuate it.

Let’s leave the frogs, and other such dubious illustration to the world and endeavor to let scripture speak as if we really did believe it was the actual word of God, I know that is my goal.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Around the Web and Blogosphere (10/09/07)

The Monergism Bookstore has upgraded its website, check it out. They even have a flat rate shipping charge of only $3.99 for unlimited items

There is a good article over at Old Truth.com called: 'Creative Worship Experiences' or Strange Fire? The area of worship, mostly in regards to music, is one that all too often is devoid of scriptural basis but is instead left to the subjective idea of doing what the “Spirit” leads one to do. The question we have to ask is whether God tells us how He desires to be worshipped or if we can do anything that is not expressly forbidden by scripture (the regulative principle vs. the normative principle).

Dr. Al Mohler writes: Falling Birthrates, Empty Cribs, and Collapsing Worldviews. What is interesting is that the mindset of Germany doesn’t seem that far removed from many evangelicals today. While I do not have specific numbers with regards to birthrates among evangelicals in the US a simple observation of the surrounding American evangelical culture would let us see that there are less and less children being born and they are coming later in the life of professing believers. From my perspective this comes from the buying into the secular worldview rather than the church changing the world with a biblical worldview.

You can read Courtney Tarter’s article Confessions of a Recovering Feminist on the CDMW blog.

Sorry this months give away is done I will update as others become available.
Tim Challies is having another great give away courtesy of Ligonier Ministries. You can enter here , and please enter this referral code of 20072, or click on the banner below and it will take you there and automatically enter the referral code.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Free Audio Book – The Life of David Brainerd

This month’s FREE audio download at ChristianAudio.com is:

The Life of David Brainerd (Unabridged) by Jonathan Edwards

You may have to sign up for an account, if you have not before, but this is a free download. There are a total of 9 files to download of about 32MB each. I have not been able to listen to them yet, but the ones I have listened to in the past have all been very good. There is a different free download each month so make sure to check back with them at the beginning of very month.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Evangelism and the Local Church

I have listened to a number of people who defend their method of doing church by referring to Paul on Mars Hill (Acts 17:16-34) and Paul’s statements in 1 Cor 9:19-23 as ways to attract unbelievers or those labeled as likely never setting foot in a church.

First, I want to say that the desire to see people hear the Gospel is to be commended. We should all have a desire for people to hear the message of the gospel, the Good News. Here is where I think the problem lies. The church is not primarily for evangelism, it is for those that are already believers. If a “believer” would claim that church is not for them or they do not like church without any number of extraneous activities that person may need to either reevaluate what the church is called to be or may need to even re-evaluate their faith.

I find it interesting that the verses that are often used to say the church needs to more reflect the world/culture around them are verses that have nothing to do with the church as a gathering. At Mars Hill, Paul is on the turf of the philosophers they are not coming to the church and in 1 Cor 9:19-23 he does speak about how to relates to unbelievers but again not in the context of the gathered church and not as far as some people try and take the verses. The call is to go out and evangelize not send out notices about how cool ones church is so people (unbelievers) come in.

We should desire unbelievers to enter our churches but the draw needs to be God not some slick campaign or packaging. Mark Dever in his new book (The Gospel & Personal Evangelism) talks about “Using the Church” in evangelism but in this he is speaking about inviting those we have a relationship with to come and see how a community of faith worships the God we proclaim to follow. It is their being among a people that are called to be distinctly different from the world that God can use to draw them to Himself. Unbelievers should be uncomfortable and they need to hear the entire message of the Gospel and not a partial and emasculated Gospel. It is when we live as a truly loving community of believers (John 13:34-35) that others will know that we are truly disciples of Christ. It is not culturally driven music, or drama, or any other creation we can think up it is first and foremost the word of God preached (Rom 10:14-15) that God uses to change hearts as well as our love for one another.

We do need to make sure our messages and speech is such that it is understandable but that is often a far cry from what is deemed as “contextualization.” I am also not calling for a reverting back to any particular age, but I would say we can learn much from the past. I would even say singing hymns, that so many have a disdain for, may be the very tool God can use to reveal Himself to people. Hymns may seem archaic to some but the truth that is packed into so many of them is often missing from many of the new songs that are written. What I am calling for is a return to church being built around and focused on believers so that when unbelievers enter in they experience something completely foreign from anything else they have experienced. If we simply follow scripture for the church’s role we will be the salt we are called to be rather than some sort imitation of the world around us.

I understand that this may sound like some sort of fundamentalist desiring the good old days. Well let me tell I do believe in the fundamentals of the faith and some things of the past would be nice but that does not make me yearn for the old days. Actually, I have only been a believer for a little over 18 years (I’m 48) so I really do not have old days to yearn for. My call again is to seek out what God desires of the church and not what we think is best. Yes, do use the gathered church for evangelism but be careful that it does not become it’s sole focus. We are to make sure we evangelize in our daily lives and make sure to know your neighbor and those that work around you but remember God calls the church, His bride, to be His and not the worlds.