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We. Know. Not. How. (via Nathan Knight at The Gospel Coalition)

This sort of humility in gospel work is refreshing in a Christian culture that takes the circumstances of a move of God, distills them to a set of practices or a program, and then expects gospel fruit from emulating those circumstances.
I like intentionality, but pause at the point where the program is depended upon to produce fruit, without conscious reliance on God’s graciousness.
I also want to affirm that while there may be no “proven strategies” there are behaviours that are so antithetical to grace that their fruit is decay.
Though written in the context of church planting I think it holds true for church growth plans as well.
From Nathan Knight:

There are no “proven strategies,” no books, no Enneagram numbers, that if you just plug into a city will produce success. Success is found in the faithful spreading of the seed.
How does it grow? We. Know. Not. How. We planters rest in the sufficiency of Christ and the Word that points to him as we lovingly and liberally scatter the gospel in our cities. Scattering seed and sleeping defines our success, beloved. How about that?

Read the whole post at Gospel Coalition.


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The Place Where Wounds Become Openings For A New Vision (via Henri Nouwen)

There is no place where wounds and pains are absent, even in the fellowship of the church.
The Gospel enables the wounds to be openings where light breaks through, the pains a common pointer to future wholeness and joy.
This is our expectation as we gather in worship tomorrow.
Henri Nouwen writes:

It belongs to the central insight of the Judaeo-Christian tradition, that it is the call of God which forms the people of God.
A Christian community is there for a healing community not because wounds are cured and pains are alleviated, but because wounds and pains become openings or occasions for a new vision. Mutual confession then become a mutual deepening of hope, and sharing weakness becomes a reminder to one and all of the coming strength.

Henri Nouwen, The Wounded Healer Darton, Longman, and Todd, 1994 ed., pg 94.


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On The Different Response Of The Church To The Challenges Of Nominalism And Secularism (via Rory Shiner at The Gospel Coalition Australia)

A thoughtful piece by Rory Shiner about the differences between nominalism and secularism and how the worshipping church responds differently to each.
The observation that nominalism (people who identify as Christian without meaningfully following Jesus, while following a form of traditional church observance) and secularism (people who don’t identify as Christian or followers of Jesus, while having no knowledge of the Gospel or the actions of the church) are quite different and require nuanced expressions of church life and behaviour to help people understand the Gospel and where they are in relation to Jesus +gasp+ is helpful in thinking about church corporate practice.

Part of Shiner’s article:

The post-war generation was fighting a crucial battle. They saw the threat nominalism posed to the gospel.
But today, it would not occur to the average younger Christian that reciting the Lord’s Prayer might be inauthentic, precisely because no one they know outside the church knows the Lord’s Prayer at all. Going to church in a building that looks like a church doesn’t illicit a PTSD response in the under-40s. They find it at least neutral, maybe even attractive. They are not shadow boxing with nominalism. In fact, they’ve often never met a person who is nominal. By the time you’ve bothered to say you’re a Christian in this culture, chances are you are serious about being on Team Jesus.
Currently, the great threat to the gospel is not nominalism, but secularism.
The fact that the wider culture is in some ways interested in Christian practices is fascinating. It’s a vote against the listlessness, the disorder, the aimlessness, and the sheer loneliness of secularism.
In 1950s Australia, Christianity gave our culture a rhythm of work and rest. We had a universally observed Sunday, an expectation of shared family meals, and a deep sense of connection with the local neighbourhood or parish. Now we live in a world of 24-hour shopping. Sunday looks suspiciously like Every Other Day. Secular life is disordered life. You can be watching cat videos at 2pm on a Monday in your office, and replying work emails from the bath at 10pm on a Saturday.
Productivity literature is now full of advice that sounds suspiciously Sabbatarian. Young urbanities choose walkable neighbourhoods. They want to know their locality, buy from the same shop, know the name of the grocer, and so on. My grandma would find it all strangely familiar.
Or consider the rise of atheist churches in London. Young, secular Londoners gathering in churches to sing bad John Lennon songs and share fellowship. They have turned on its head our assumption that people like Jesus, they just don’t like the church. It would seem the other way around. They like church, they just don’t like Jesus.

Read the whole post at Gospel Coalition Australia.


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Remembering The Saints

Tomorrow is a day when many many Christian Churches take time to remember faithful disciples of Jesus who have departed the Church on earth and have joined the Church in eternity.
We will do so in prayer and song.
Some will have departed during the last year, some will have departed during our lifetimes, some departed before we were born.
Some will have been friends and family, others names we have seen or heard in various media.
This is the body of Christ, and taking time to remember specific members of it, is to further remember him.


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What Is Reformation Day? (via Stephen Nichols at Ligonier)

Some parts of the Christian church will recognise the Reformation tomorrow.
The legacy of the Reformation is more than the simple theological distinctive of justification by faith; without its impact the western church would be unrecognisable in its worship, ministry, and mission.
From an article by Stephen Nichols.

What is Reformation Day? It is the day the light of the gospel broke forth out of darkness. It was the day that began the Protestant Reformation. It was a day that led to Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, and may other Reformers helping the church find its way back to God’s Word as the only authority for faith and life and leading the church back to the glorious doctrines of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. It kindled the fires of missionary endeavors, it led to hymn writing and congregational singing, and it led to the centrality of the sermon and preaching for the people of God. It is the celebration of a theological, ecclesiastical, and cultural transformation.

Read the whole post here.


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Your Song Is About Its Testimony, Not Its Tone

Christian gathering has many facets, all of which are essential.
One of those essential facets is song.
Christian singing is not about demonstrating how your voice sounds, it is about demonstrating what your heart believes – and how that belief is shared with others.
Sometimes you’ll hear people say they don’t sing because they can’t sing.
But if Jesus is Lord of your heart you do have a song, and others need to hear it.

From Nick Aufenkamp at Desiring God.

Singing is vital to the edification of the church. And it’s not enough that just a few people sing — Paul is telling you to sing for the benefit of your brothers and sisters. But how does your voice benefit your church — especially if your singing voice sounds like a dog’s howl?
The power of your participation in congregational singing is not in the quality of your tone but in your voice’s testimony to God’s faithfulness. Your participation in singing signifies to all those around you that you love Jesus and trust his gospel.

source


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Ready For The Inauguration Of The Reign Of God (via Will Willimon)

We clean out our church store-room constantly.
The main reason is so that folk can’t give in to the temptation to put materials that have passed their use-by date back into service.

In Accidental Preacher Will Willimon writes of an early pastoral appointment in a church that had a Congregation of four hundred accommodated in a building that could have held two thousand.

Most disheartening were the seven – count ’em, seven – empty Sunday school rooms, three of which were now used for storage, as if upon Jesus’s return his first command would be “Quick. Bring me downs of worn-out hymnals and all the rusting, folding metal chairs you can carry. Come on, people, let’s inaugurate the Reign Of God.
Will Willimon, Accidental Preacher, Eerdmans, 2019, pg 177.

Encourage your pastor to be a preacher, not a curator.