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Captive Congregation (via Atlas Obscura)

This Victorian era prison chapel placed the congregants/prisoners in seperate booths so they couldn’t see one another.
Today they just have worship with the lights out instead.
Though I accept that putting a roomfull of malcontents together in a dark room would have made for a very risky environment.
These days we could market it as introvert church.

Source: Atlas Obscura.


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If You Arrive At Church Early (via Cornerstone Community Church)

Here are some benefits of turning up to church early.
(Roughly defined as more than 60-120 seconds before the appointed starting time, though in reality that’s actually arriving dead on time. Early would be sooner than that.)
If you consider your attendance as ministry to others, rather than as something that you do, or something that is for yourself, these are just a starting point.

If you’re early:
Your heart will be more settled and ready to worship our majestic Creator God.
You can take a few minutes to sit quietly and think about the Lord you came to worship.
You can get your children to the appropriate classrooms without rushing.
You can take a few minutes to encourage one another in fellowship before the service.
You can take a few minutes to read through the church bulletin before the service starts.
You can encourage your church leaders by showing greater respect for their careful and prayerful planning of the worship service.
You set a good example for your children in holding high the principle of love for others.

Read the whole post at Cornerstone Community Church.


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The Past Is A Nice Place To Revisit, But A Terrible Place To Live (via Jared Wilson)

Churches should be places of thankful remembrance; the shared knowledge of God’s faithful blessings in the past are a great encouragement to present and future ministry.
Thankful remembrance should not give way to nostalgia. Thinking that the best is behind, or that present or future hope are only attainable by a return to what was of a past season is destructive.
Our past experience equips us to navigate present circumstances; and the good old days generally didn’t feel that good when they were happening either.

From Jared Wilson.

Anyone stuck in a nostalgic space is stuck in unreality. And the truth is, much of our nostalgic dreaming is fantasizing about a fantasy, not anything actually experienced. There is a kind of nostalgia that is actually harmful.
A church stuck in the “good old days,” for instance, is in great danger of death. Nostalgia is toxic to a church.
Similarly, the cold hard truth is that there is no such thing as a “golden age.” For every “simpler time” many people look back in hopes of recapture, there is a large number of people who experienced it as anything but. Sometimes white folks love to look back to the 50’s and 60’s as the good old days, willfully oblivous to the institutional injustices against black folks for whom nostalgia isn’t an option.
In this way, there are personal moments or experiences we might look back to and think upon fondly, but the time that the Lord has drawn out for us is relentlessly linear. We cannot — we dare not — live in the past. But it is helpful to remember it, to be cautioned by the reality as well as selectively instructed by the hopes.

Read the whole post here.


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When The Church Feels Smaller, But Is Actually Larger (via Sam Rainer)

Sam Rainer observes the impacts on congregational life and ministry activity that flows from a contemporary change toward less frequent attendance at corporate worship by active Christians.
The reality challenges traditional practices of pastoral care and congregational communication.
For example:

The church feels smaller but is actually larger.
Consider a church that has four hundred people attending four out of four weeks. This church has an average weekly attendance of four hundred. Take the same church with the same people but change only the attendance frequency — lowered to two out of four weeks. The church’s average weekly attendance is now two hundred.
The true size of your church could be double the average weekly attendance, if not higher. Many will wonder Where is everyone? on a Sunday morning, but pastors and church leaders will experience an increased ministry load. As attendance frequency declines, the congregation will feel smaller while getting larger. The people coming less frequently still email, call, and set up counseling appointments. They still ask you to do funerals and weddings and come to the hospital.

Read his other observations at Sam Rainer.
He’s promising to address the situation.


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Serving Where The Action Is (via Michael Jensen)

Christians will gather together tomorrow to worship God, give witness to the power of Jesus at work in their lives, and to serve one another.
The church is not a holding pattern, it is God’s plan to reveal his good news of salvation to the world.

From Michael Jensen:

…local church ministry is worth it because God has chosen the local church as his instrument for saving the world.
What? The feeble local church? Yes. In his first letter, Peter writes to the scattered and browbeaten believers, and reassures them that they are “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a people belonging to God – that you may declare the praises of him who brought you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
Like Israel, the church has not been chosen because it is powerful and impressive. Far from it. God choose the weak things of the world to shame the strong and the foolish to shame the wise. If we are weaker than we once were, then maybe God will do all the more powerful things in and through us.
The local church is where the action is. As the Holy Spirit draws people to Christ, he draws them together. And in their love for each other, he shows his love for the world. Tiny – perhaps. Tired – maybe. Feeling insignificant – possibly. Not cool – almost certainly. But never mind all that – the local church is on the right side of history.

source.


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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.