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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.


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Congregational Life – A Place Where We Are Saved From Our Yearnings, Rather Than Having Our Yearnings Met (via M Craig Barnes)

In a brief article at Christian Century, Craig Barnes writes about the disposition of wanting to protect people from their own hurt feelings, and how the life in the church is not meant to be place where flawed people grow in Christ likeness by experiencing the imperfections that remain within us:

Congregations are filled with people who bring their yearnings with them into the community. Often these yearnings have not been met in other places like family or work, so people are hoping the church will be the place where they will finally find affirmation for their heart’s desire. But the church is not paradise. It’s a divine reality of redemption in which we are saved even from our yearnings. It’s a community in which we learn to sacrifice our hopes, failures, and hurt feelings in order to turn to Jesus Christ, our savior.

Read the whole post here.

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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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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.


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…Make Them Get Married, Or Something Even Worse – Support Your Local Sheriff

James Garner’s Support Your Local Sheriff is a very amusing comedy western in which a group of actors who could play dramatic roles in keep a straight face while sending up some familiar scenarios.
Garner’s Jason McCullough gets diverted on his travels to Australia and becomes the titular sheriff of a lawless frontier town and apprehends one of the sons of a local outlaw family.
The mayor, played by Harry Morgan isn’t entirely convinced the arrival of law and order is entirely a good thing; for wherever there’s law and order, can the churches be far behind?

Mayor Olly Perkins:
That must have been some show you put on at the saloon this afternoon. It kind of sobered up the whole town.
Jason McCullough:
Well, that’s good.
Mayor Olly Perkins:
Maybe… maybe not. It has been a lot of fun around here up to now. I mean, everything all kind of wide-open and relaxed. Nobody looking down their noses at anybody who happened to shoot someone else. Nobody poking their noses into nobody else’s business without them getting their big noses blasted off in the process. Ah, I guess now that we got law and order, churches will start moving in.
Jason McCullough:
Yeah, that’s usually the next thing that happens.
Mayor Olly Perkins:
And then the women will start forming committees and having bazaars. And then they’ll chase Madame Orr’s girls out of town, or make them get married, or something even worse. But, what the hell, like you said, the law’s the law, and we got to face up to it sometime.
Jason McCullough:
When did I say that?