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Corporate Worship As Training Christians For Daily Life (via Ray Van Neste)

The Bible has led the Christian church to understand its corporate gatherings as directed by God, directed to God, with blessings for Christians, and a witness to unbelievers.
When the order is reversed that which God has directed for Christians to offer to him, along with the blessings they receive from obedience can be jettisoned when a reductionistic principle of communicating the Gospel to unbelievers.
When content deliver is king, elements like corporate confession lapse because unbelievers can’t relate.
But then unbelievers never witness the elements of that God directed his people to offer to him, they never witness the blessings and benefits that God conveys to his people.
In making the Gospel central, the fullness of the Gospel as Christians are meant to experience it is impoverished on the grounds of inconvenience.

From Ray Van Neste:

A guided time of corporate confession has been a staple for Christian worship through the ages though it has fallen out of use in many churches today. A basic idea behind the practice is that in order to draw near to God we must confess our sins (Psalm 66:18; Hebrews 10:22; 1 John 1:9). This reminds us again of the holiness of God, our sinfulness and the pardon available in the gospel. Without this, we too easily tend to drift into worship taking God lightly. In such confession together we experience the gospel afresh, facing our sins and receiving the cleansing forgiveness which Jesus provides. This gracious pardon is the central reason driving our worship. Even if we bring many other sorrows and burdens with us, being reminded that our greatest problem–the wrath of God because of our sins–has been dealt with will enable us to praise God.
In addition, our forebears thought of our corporate worship as training us for daily life. Thus, singing gospel truths was not a “Sunday thing” but gave us songs to sing throughout the week in order to shape our hearts and minds. The proclamation of the Word gave us truth to contemplate and apply throughout the week as well as training us to study the Bible ourselves. And the prayers modeled for us the way to pray. Thus, corporate confession of sin helped shape us into a people marked by regularly acknowledging our sins and seeking forgiveness. I am grateful that our church follows this practice for many reasons, including the fact that it is shaping me and my children. That comment from my son was an early indication that God was at work showing him his need for forgiveness. About a month after the dinner table conversation, I had the privilege of baptizing him as he had come to trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of his sins.

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Heidelberg Catechism – Lord’s Day 21

Heidelberg Catechism – Lord’s Day 21

54.
Q. What do you believe concerning the “Holy Catholic Church”?
A. I believe that, from the beginning to the end of the world, and from among the whole human race, the Son of God, by his Spirit and his Word, gathers, protects, and preserves for himself, in the unity of the true faith, a congregation chosen for eternal life. Moreover, I believe that I am and forever will remain a living member of it.

55.
Q. What do you understand by “the communion of saints”?
A. First, that believers one and all, as partakers of the Lord Christ, and all his treasures and gifts, shall share in one fellowship. Second, that each one ought to know that he is obliged to use his gifts freely and with joy for the benefit and welfare of other members.

56.
Q. What do you believe concerning “the forgiveness of sins”?
A. That, for the sake of Christ’s reconciling work, God will no more remember my sins or the sinfulness with which I have to struggle all my life long; but that he graciously imparts to me the righteousness of Christ so that I may never come into condemnation.


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The Redemptive And Restorative Experience Of Being Part Of The Church (via Derek Thomas)

While no family is without some level of disfunction, those whose experience of family has left them hurt and alienated can experience what family is truly meant to be as part of the church.
It’s one of the reasons I look forward to gathering with Christians week by week:
From Derek Thomas:

…the church is an assembly called together into a homogenous, integrated unity. Several perspectives reinforce this in the New Testament. The church comprises the “family of God.” Each member of the church has become an “adopted son” (huiothesia; Rom. 8:15; 9:4; Gal. 4:5; Eph. 1:5). Now we are “members of the household of God” (Eph. 2:19), in which Jesus Christ is our elder brother. Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers (Heb. 2:11). We come to God in prayer, saying, “Our Father” (Matt. 6:9). To those whose experience of family is dysfunctional in this world, the experience of belonging to a community of brothers and sisters is redemptive and restorative, particularly when they experience the loving concern (fellowship [koinōnia]) of “those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10).

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Getting Rid Of The Messiah Complex

If you’ve talked to folk in churches that have a culture of decline they generally all agree there’s one reason that caused it and one solution to fix it: their pastor.
They seem oblivious to every choice they make as a church that cultivates decline, and wistfully yearn for the person who will see people come to their church while they continue to exercise the same churches that have resulted in decline.
What’s more disastrous is when the incoming pastor embraces the same narrative.
Churches so often get indulged in their disfunction.
That’s why this point from this article on five essentials to turn a declining church around by Joel Rainey appealed to me:

Get rid of the Messiah Complex.
There is a parable about a new pastor who, upon moving into his office, found three envelopes in his desk drawer. Each was marked to be opened for the first, second, and third major crises he would face. Before the end of the first year, he opened the first envelope in response to a major kerflufle to find these words; “This is from your predecessor. Blame everything on me.” It worked! But only for another six months. So when he opened the second envelope he read these words; “This is from your predecessor. Blame everything on my predecessor.” Again, that tactic managed to assuage the division. But three months later, in the midst of some of the nastiest conflict he had ever seen, he found himself opening that third envelope, where he read these words; “This is from your predecessor. Take a little time before you leave to prepare three envelopes for the next guy.”
The point? Presuming we are somehow “better” than those who came before us and thus will “save the church” is both arrogant and dangerous. In revitalization, we have a critical role to play, but just as former pastors aren’t solely responsible for a church in decline, we can’t be solely credited for bringing it back to life. That is the work of God alone. At the start, a number of God’s people will try to place you on that pedestal. For your own good, and theirs, refuse to sit on it.

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Why Plurality In Church Leadership? (via Dave Harvey)

The church I belong to believes that local churches are served by a group of leaders, a plurality in older language.
It’s not led by paid leadership or staff, with lay leaders performing like a consultative focus group or a board of directors.
Why would we believe that God desires this model of ministry for the local church?

Dave Harvey at Desiring God:

Of all the ways God could organize local church leadership, why plurality? It is not about simplicity, ease, or efficiency. When one considers all of the polity options God could have chosen for governing churches, it’s easy to see that he gave the church a plural leadership with a different set of goals in mind. But I believe God chose plurality because he loves humility.
“This is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.” (Isaiah 66:2)
If I’m right, God chose this method of church governance because, to work well, plurality requires what God values. Humility, contrition, word-trembling leadership — these are the kind of leaders to whom God looks. It’s no surprise to discover that these are also the values he requires for an effective plurality.

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It’s been my privilege to experience that plurality, that grouping of leaders again tonight.


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The Church Ladder No One Can Move

Pastors who watch this video about the immovable ladder of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre may find the scenario to be somewhat familiar.


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The One Place On Earth No One Should Be Surprised To Find Sinners (via Jared Wilson)

Jared Wilson writes against the niceties that compel Christians (who should no better) to maintain appearances of being okay.
If there’s one place on earth everyone should feel free not to be okay, it’s the church:

I know the reasons we don’t live transparently with each other. We’re afraid. We’re embarrassed. We don’t want to be a burden. We don’t want to be judged!
And I know the reasons others don’t live transparently with us. They’re afraid. They’re embarrassed. We treat them like burdens. We judge them.
And what all of this amounts to is a distrust in God himself. I know people are mean, I know people are judgmental, I know people act weird and get messy and cause problems and are really inefficient for the ways we normally like to do church—but if we believe in the gospel, we don’t have a choice any longer to live in the dark.
How about we stop being shocked to find sinners among the “pious” and start shocking the fearful with grace?

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