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The Bible And Church Revitalisation (via Harry Reeder)

Harry Reeder (of Embers To A Flame) outlines the principles of church revitalisation as he discerned them from the Bible.
I like the notion that “The objective is not church growth. It is church health.”
A while ago I settled on the plan of encouraging mgpc to do what a healthy church does because that would be a way to grow towards health.
If we waited for arbitrary yardsticks of health to be achieved before doing healthy things we’d spend longer not being healthy.
We haven’t pursued Reeder’s paradigm with all the bells and whistles. (I’m not that focussed, nor am I convinced that it transfers perfectly to our context, but probably more of the first reason than the second.)
And intentional discipleship is probably still a weakness.
Also, when I think of some of the challenges ahead of our churches in Adelaide this resonates significantly.

Anyway, this is lengthy, but well worth reading if you’ve never read him before and a succinct reminder if you have.
An excerpt:

In 1980 a young Pastor fresh from seminary arrived at his first pastorate encountering startling realities. Although thinking he was fully aware of the issues at hand, he soon learned this was not the case. When you get “onsite” you soon gain “insight.” Church attendance had diminished from more than 1,000 to an average of 55. There were no children’s Sunday School classes because there were no children. The average age in the congregation exceeded 70 and its past had become glorified nostalgia. On his first Sunday, the service ended at the expected 12:00 hour. As he and his wife made their way to the lobby, amazingly, in spite of the infirmities of age, the congregation had exited and were rapidly emptying the parking lot. The box of church attendance had been checked and they were ready to move on. There were no sounds of fellowship from lingering crowds…only an empty sanctuary and parking lot within five minutes of the benediction. The pastor, who had gone outside to speak to the departing congregation, was embarrassingly locked out of the church building by the equally rapid exit of the part-time church janitor. After breaking into his own church to obtain his Bible and car keys, along with his wife’s belongings, they looked at each other with an increasing realization of how enormous this challenge would be. But, there was more to come.

Here was a church in decline and its demise imminent. It could be said one flu season would put the church out of business. Even the Presbytery counseled us to sell the property and use the proceeds to plant another church. Yet the neighborhood was full of unreached people. The daily vandalization of the church revealed two factors. One, the neighborhood viewed the church as a derelict unused building. Two, the neighborhood knew of its presence. Could this church be revitalized? Knowing that revival is God’s work and I could preach and pray for revival but only the Lord could bring one. I also found a Biblical pathway to lead a church back to spiritual vitality? Let me explain.

Read the whole post here.

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Saints (via David Cook)

Some thoughts from David Cook (current Moderator-General of the Presbyterian Church of Australia) on saints.
Very topical given the recent beatification of two former Popes of the Roman Catholic Church as saints last week.

An excerpt:

I turned up for my early morning coffee today and, helping my newsagent friend, Charlie, dropped off today’s edition of La Fiama, the Italian newspaper, to my barista, Dom. I asked him, as usual, to translate the headline – “Pope declares two Popes saints”.
How does a person become a saint in the Roman Catholic church?
Generally, consideration is not given until five years after the person’s death, though this can be waived, as in the case of John Paul 2. Then, there is an examination for holiness; then, that others have been drawn to prayer through such holiness; then, that miracles have been attributed to prayers made to the candidate for sainthood.
Once all this is established, beatification takes place and the person is given the title “blessed”.
So today Popes John 23 and John Paul 2 were beatified.
Impressive ritual with huge crowds in support, seems so right, but in reality this substitution of the veneration of people in place of God is stark idolatry.

Read the rest of the post here.

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A Reflection On Easter Sunday And ANZAC Day

I wrote this piece last week.
I don’t know if it will be published anywhere else or not.

There is something about the time just before dawn. As the daylight begins to invade the darkness of night, shadows become discernable figures. Shapes take form, and we become able to discern familiar faces in the departing gloom. It may or may not be darkest, but our anticipation of the light of day heightens our sense of anticipation for its arrival.
I read with interest on the War Memorial website that the initial expressions of the Dawn Service were more observed by veterans, while family and others would join in the later service during the day. Today more and more are attending at dawn, adding their solemn observance alongside those who have served.
In those early decades though it must have been remarkable for these companies who were welded together in conflict to gather together without outsiders. In simplicity they would obey the ordered to “stand to”, observe two minutes’ silence, then hear a lone bugler play the Last Post before concluding the service with Reveille, the bugler’s call to wake up. Nothing else needed to be said. They would never forget those who did not return. They would never forget the reason why they had gone.
It is the addition of we others that has required the addition of various elements, external trappings that nurture an insight into the convictions that those who have served know so well.
This isn’t to say that those who have not served know nothing of sacrifice, loyalty, friendship and commitment. It does recognise that those we honour expressed these qualities in the most demanding of circumstances. It also affirms that we agree that their sacrifice on our behalf was worthy.
What a privilege to gather in thanks and remembrance. What a special privilege that the wider public are welcomed among this circle of comrades.
Last Sunday a group of Christians gathered at dawn in Mount Gambier. We gathered to celebrate the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Many other Christians would gather across the city to do the same throughout the day.
But the early morning invited the simplest of observances: prayer, singing, hearing the Bible and thinking about its truth. The simple essence of worship. Nothing else needed to be added.
In our gathering we affirmed that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ were completely necessary. He suffered for our sins. His triumph over the grave is a triumph he shares with his disciples.
The ANZAC day dawn service gathers those who have sacrificed and those who have not to remember the sacrifice of the few for the many.
The Easter day dawn service gathers those who are the beneficiaries of the sacrifice of the one for all.
Both observances demand that we live our lives consistently with that which we affirm in the early mornings.
One bids us strive toward a goal of lasting vigilance; Lest We Forget.
The other bids us rest in an eternal victory; This Do In Remembrance Of Me.

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Man With Alzheimer’s Meets Family Dog

90 second video of what happened when one woman’s father, stricken with Alzheimer’s and usually non-communicative, met their family dog.
Tissue alert.