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Looking Forward, Looking Back, Looking Around – The Lord’s Supper

The Lord’s Supper is a meal with a unique vantage point.
Christians look at three realities and are spiritually nourished in each.
From Guy Prentiss Waters:

The Lord’s Supper, therefore, always and simultaneously points in two directions, backward and forward. It points backward to the finished work of Christ on the cross. The Supper, in particular, underscores this finished work as the fulfillment of the words and works of God in redemptive history leading up to the cross. It also points forward to the certain hope of the glorious return of Christ at the end of the age. It reminds God’s people of the certainty of this hope—that the great, promised messianic banquet awaits us. If God was faithful to bring his promised Son into the world the first time to live, die, and rise again for our salvation, we can surely trust his promise that Jesus will return at the end of the age to consummate the application of his saving work in our lives.

source.


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Wisdom In The Timing And Implementation Of Change In An Established Church (via Ron Edmondson)

In a church plant (and, in a more limited way in a revitalisation) the leader has a considerable degree of discretion and control about how things are done.
With an established church, particularly those of smaller to medium size, people have a sense of ownership and partnership that means the introduction of change needs to be processed with wisdom and patience.

In concluding a post on the subject, Ron Edmondson says:

Be strategic in the implementation.

Take your time. Establish trust. Build consensus. Talk to the right people. Even compromise on minor details if necessary. Accommodate special requests if possible and if it doesn’t affect the outcome. Be political if needed.
It’s part of the process, especially in a highly structured environment. (Does that describe any churches you know?)
Structured environments shouldn’t keep you from making the right decisions involving change. They just alter the implementation process.
Knowing this difference provides freedom to visionary pastors and leaders in highly structured environments. You can make the change. You can. You’ll just have to be smarter about how and when you make them.

The only thing I’d add is don’t simply bank up trust and never get around to spending it on needed change.
Sometimes that time of patience can become the status quo that you never emerge from.

Read the whole post at Ron Edmondson.


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The Antidote To Domineering Leadership – Leading By The Beauty Of Example (via Sam Allberry)

Sam Allberry writes that culture on either side of the Atlantic Ocean contributes to two different strands of authoritarian leadership taking root in the church.
In concluding, his point is not that the antidote to bad leadership is not no leadership, but servant leadership – a leadership that leads by example. And that example comes not from an individual, but a team.

It is common in American churches to borrow leadership wisdom from the business world. The pastor is the CEO. His role is to bring success, often and especially measured in numerical terms: The church needs to grow in membership and giving. In the UK, it’s slightly different. The church tends toward a military model. The pastor is the three-star general who directs everyone to do the right things.
There is obviously much to be learned from both successful CEOs and also great generals, but both models can quickly become toxic. When either becomes the primary model for Christian leadership, is it any wonder that domineering pastors result? The pastor-as-CEO approach might foster entrepreneurialism and risk-taking, but it easily becomes results-oriented. The pastor-as-general approach might foster perseverance and grit, but it easily becomes task-oriented. One produces swagger: Their word is law because they’re economically indispensable to the church. The other produces presumption: Orders must be followed because the general “knows” what is best for every person. In each case we either tolerate or fail to see traits of bullying, because ministry ends justify ministry means.
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The antidote to being domineering, then, is to lead by example rather than by coercion: “Not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock” (1 Pet. 5:3).
The flock is to be led, yes, but not by force of personality. The flock is to be led by beauty of example. Being domineering is bad leadership; and the answer to bad leadership is not no leadership but the right kind of leadership.

Read the whole post at the Gospel Coalition (USA).


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When The Goal Is To Know Everyone, Instead Of Everyone Knowing Jesus (via Thom Rainer)

Thom Rainer features a post dealing with one of the reservations Christians have about additional church services or congregational growth.
It runs along the line of “We can’t add another service! We won’t know everyone.” or “We’re dividing the church?”

One of the observations about that which Rainer offers is:

There are often unarticulated and underlying meanings to these objections.
It is not uncommon to start a new service with a different worship style. Some of the objectors may not really be concerned as much with the additional service as the style of worship.

It’s a helpful observation to try to unpack whether the presenting concern is the actual concern.
Most Christians want more people to come to Jesus, not to put a size limit on the Kingdom.

There are more points at Rainer’s blog, along with some helpful observations in the comments.


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The Exhausting Rest Of Modern Evangelicalism (via Stephen McAlpine)

Stephen McAlpine seems to have observed some very similar situations in the church circles he moves in to some that I’ve seen in mine. (I think our circles are not that different)
If you’ve been around for a long time nothing is really new, it’s just old things turning back up relabeled.
When evangelical faith reasserted itself in my denomination it took a long time for people to stop trusting in their activity and trust in the righteousness of Jesus. Now in some circles a profession of faith is taken for granted and the reality of people’s salvation seems based on the degree to which they fall in behind the church program.
Church should never be the place that people feel guilty coming to because they don’t feel they’re doing enough.

From McAlpine’s article:

Yet here’s my concern. Just like Israel, God’s people today are struggling with that concept. There’s a relentless push for progress that we are being swept up in, and in an era of what I call “Big Eva” – the large evangelical ministry juggernaut replete with conferences after conference, ministry tool after ministry tool, leadership summit after leadership summit, technique after technique, there seems very little commitment to true rest. Apex leaders atop ministry pyramids are pushing God’s people with a sanctified version of brick making that has no end in sight.
And what does that look like? It looks like no rest. It looks like aping the pyramid/apex leadership and structures of the Pharaohs. And in a land of secular Pharaohs, the easiest thing to do is to mimic them, and create sanctified versions of the same thing.
My concern is that too many church leaders pooh-pooh the busyness of their people and constantly call them out of it, but merely to call them to a sanctified version of that busyness that, at its heart, is simply another version of brick making: “Hey you’re way too busy over there in your office/work/home, how about you come and be way too busy over here instead, for the right thing.
After all, Israel may have left Pharaoh behind, but they were about to enter a land where Sabbath was also unknown. They were going to have to go against the grain to show what true rest looked like. The default would be to fall into a Promised Land version of being too busy.
As I survey the increasing wreckage of “Big Eva” across the Western world, with the scandals and burnouts, the sexual and spiritual abuses, there is a clear pattern -rest – sabbath rest – is glaringly absent. Left behind the now disgraced pharaohs is a trail of burned churches and exhausted sheep, who were told they were doing God’s work, when all too often they were making bricks for a ministry Pharoah.

Read the whole post here. And then relax.


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The Privilege Of Watching God’s Word At Work (via John Chester)

In this post about preachers and preaching, John Chester remarks about one incredible privilege that preachers have, particularly those who are blessed to preach to congregations where they can pretty much see everyone, and who are able to be free from a manuscript long enough to observe how people are reacting to God’s Word:

There is one other profound blessing that the pastor receives because he is looking into the faces of the congregation. The living and active nature of the Word of God is impressed on him as never before. [Of course this only applies to pastors who actually preach the bible!] From behind the pulpit I have seen people burst in to tears, tears of joy at the thought of heaven and the hope we have in Christ, and tears of conviction in response to a powerful truth of Scripture. I have seen the look cross a visitors face the split second they become offended by the gospel, and I have seen someone sitting with their arms defiantly crossed melt and soften as the Word of God washes over them. It is a unique blessing to be able to see how people respond to the preaching of the Word of God.

Read the whole post here.