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Good Churchmen (via David Burke)

It was good to see David Burke at the General Assembly of Australia this week.
He and Paul Cooper were launching their book Read In The Light, a compilation of essays relating to the Declaratory Statement that the Australian Presbyterian Church adopted at its formation which formalises its understanding of certain aspects of the Westminster Confession of Faith.
Anyway, David was reflecting on having heard of a couple of people being described as ‘churchmen.’
In a certain time that phrase may have described someone who seemed to have a higher loyalty to the institution of the church than to Jesus.
But David set himself the task of composing a positive formulation of what that description might mean.
“A good churchman is someone who sees and relates to the church in Christ. He is committed to the church through, in and for Christ. He values the church not in itself but as the body and bride of Christ. His loyalty to the church is conditional on and conditioned by his loyalty to Christ.”

Read his whole post at his blog.


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Laundering Frantic Distraction From Christians (via Stephen McAlpine)

Stephen McAlpine writes about church as a place of focusses attention, not impatient demand.
If Christians are to be salt and light, a non-anxious presence in an increasingly anxious culture then our gatherings would be well served to be measured and consistent.
This includes the impulse for non-stop music playing under every activity and word, or a passing parade of faces coming and going from the platform.
From McAlpine’s post:

Jesus lived the life of focussed attention. The world around him (“Everyone is looking for you Jesus!” says Peter) would drag him into frantic distraction. But, by the power of the Spirit, Jesus knew that his greatest asset was the focussed attention that would take him all the way to the cross in Jerusalem.
I don’t get the impression that people in our churches know how to do focussed attention all that much. I don’t get the impression that their work lives, social lives, social media lives, and family lives are built upon focussed attention. I don’t get the impression they are given much option anywhere in the world. Or at least nothing in the world invites them away from frantic distraction towards focussed attention.
So maybe that’s our job as church leaders. Maybe it’s the role of the church to launder the frantic distraction out of our people, in order to better equip them for life in a frantic and distracted world. In order to help them to be that non-anxious presence at work; that listening neighbour who has time on their hands; that person who they meet who needs help.

Read the whole article here.


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Building Generosity By Setting Vision (via Andrew Hopper at JD Greear)

Culture takes time to establish, and maybe longer to change.
In this guest-post at JD Greear’s blog Andrew Hopper talks about the way in which setting and sharing a vision builds generosity as people get a sense of what could grow if they release resources to support it.
Sometimes this giving and releasing will be on a personal level, other times it will be on a corporate level as a Church makes decision to let go of something existing in order to strive for another goal.
Participating in this is part of being a growing Christian.
From Hopper:

While it’s true that “culture eats strategy for breakfast,” vision sets culture. The greatest tool for building generosity within the church is giving people the picture of what could be. I’m not naturally great at casting vision; but, leadership is focusing on what needs attention, not what you are already good at.
As we’ve applied ourselves to improving in this area, we’ve learned there are two components to setting vision: heart and opportunity. All the opportunities in the world won’t matter if people don’t first realize that generosity with time, talent, and treasure may be the greatest marker of a growing Christian.

Read the rest here.


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The Church Is God’s Incubator For Making Disciples (via Stan Gale)

Stan Gale spent the days after his birth in an incubator. He received that life sustaining and growing support in isolation.
As a disciple of Jesus we are told that we need support for our life to be sustained and our growth supported. We need an incubator. But not in isolation.

The church is God’s incubator for making disciples. Through the means of grace made effective by the Holy Spirit, the church provides the light of God’s Word in an atmosphere oxygenated by prayer – the perfect environment for spiritual growth and development.
Unlike my time in a hospital incubator, the disciple is never released to be on his or her own. The need for Christ is constant and the church makes that apparent through celebration of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, both of which sustain the disciple in this world and anticipate the world to come.
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If the church is an incubator for spiritual growth and development that means it is incumbent on those who lead to ensure that the church is functioning according to Christ’s design. The light of Christ must shine with clarity of God’s truth and warmth of His love. The atmosphere must be oxygenated with prayer in communion with God and dependence upon Him. Discipleship will not be reduced to mere information but transformation into maturity, the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

Read Gale’s whole post here.


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When The Church Substitutes Social Transformation For Spiritual Growth (via Mark Galli)

Mark Galli considers the contemporary evangelical church and observes that when it adopts the emphasis of social transformation as goal instead of the nurture of Christians that it sows the seed of its own obsolescence.
The church is not designed to transform society, and when it teaches Christians that societal transformation should be a Christian’s chief goal they will gravitate to the groups which are purpose designed to do that work.
When the church emphasises the actions that attract unbelievers, it marginalises the actions that grow Christians.
The liberal churches followed a similar pattern into obsolescence, why would evangelical churches emulate it?

From Galli:

Because the church thinks it has to be missional, that it has to be a place where the world feels comfortable, it has dumbed down the preaching and the worship, so that in many quarters we have ended up with a common-denominator Christianity. It goes down easy, which is why it attracts so many and why many churches are growing. But it is a meal designed to stunt the growth of the people of God. And it is a way of church life that eventually burns people out, where people become exhausted trying to make the world a better place.

Read Galli’s essay at Christianity Today.


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Worship As Witness Of Jesus Bringing People Together (via David P Barry at Tabletalk)

Worship on Sunday is Christ’s demonstration to the world that salvation is a corporate experience with individual responsibilities, not an individual experience with corporate responsibilities.
From Tabletalk Magazine:

Our worship is meant to be the chief place where we demonstrate love for God and for each other. It is the clearest place where Jesus’ prayer for us is illustrated: that we would be one (17:11, 21–23).
Every part of our worship should reflect the unity that Jesus prayed, lived, died, and rose to accomplish. But, Jesus’ promise that the way we love each other will demonstrate that we are His disciples cuts both ways. If we allow our worship to become reflective of our individuality instead of our unity, we are illustrating to the watching world that Jesus does not bring people together. An “outsider” (to use Paul’s term from 1 Cor. 14:16, 24) should be able to watch the gathered saints confess Christ as one, sing as one, pray as one, and actively listen with a unity in their devotion as Christ their Lord addresses them in the preached Word. He should be able to perceive that there is a singularity of purpose and worship. He should see the power of God to bring different people and personalities and unite them in a holy purpose and holy love.

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On The Death Of Shopping Malls (via Wired)

Analysis of the situation of Shopping Malls that have closed in the USA in a video report from Wired.
It’s interesting to hear the balance of over-supply, changes in shopping habits, and changes in people’s social gathering habits are all thought to contribute to the change.
No one thing has contributed to the decline, and ongoing developments in demographics have meant that there are no simple responses that can return those facilities to viability.
The situation will continue to evolve, in the face of ongoing social changes, just as malls themselves were a response to post-world-war-2 social changes.
Solutions need to look forward and accomodate sociological developments instead of trying to keep meeting the culture that has passed.
Of interest to Christians is what changes in peoples’ gathering habits mean as we seek to interact with our culture in communicating the Gospel.
Malls were a development in ‘third space’ places beyond home and work and were one of the areas that supplanted churches.
There is a comment about churches taking over disused malls.
Larger churches sort of emulated some aspects of mall structure, and it will be fascinating to see whether that gets wound back or whether they have simply become their own sub-culture in that form.
The video refers to television program Stranger Things, but doesn’t require any familiarity with that program. I’ve never watched it.