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The Church Is God’s Incubator For Making Disciples (via Stan Gale)

Stan Gale spent the days after his birth in an incubator. He received that life sustaining and growing support in isolation.
As a disciple of Jesus we are told that we need support for our life to be sustained and our growth supported. We need an incubator. But not in isolation.

The church is God’s incubator for making disciples. Through the means of grace made effective by the Holy Spirit, the church provides the light of God’s Word in an atmosphere oxygenated by prayer – the perfect environment for spiritual growth and development.
Unlike my time in a hospital incubator, the disciple is never released to be on his or her own. The need for Christ is constant and the church makes that apparent through celebration of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, both of which sustain the disciple in this world and anticipate the world to come.
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If the church is an incubator for spiritual growth and development that means it is incumbent on those who lead to ensure that the church is functioning according to Christ’s design. The light of Christ must shine with clarity of God’s truth and warmth of His love. The atmosphere must be oxygenated with prayer in communion with God and dependence upon Him. Discipleship will not be reduced to mere information but transformation into maturity, the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

Read Gale’s whole post here.


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When The Church Substitutes Social Transformation For Spiritual Growth (via Mark Galli)

Mark Galli considers the contemporary evangelical church and observes that when it adopts the emphasis of social transformation as goal instead of the nurture of Christians that it sows the seed of its own obsolescence.
The church is not designed to transform society, and when it teaches Christians that societal transformation should be a Christian’s chief goal they will gravitate to the groups which are purpose designed to do that work.
When the church emphasises the actions that attract unbelievers, it marginalises the actions that grow Christians.
The liberal churches followed a similar pattern into obsolescence, why would evangelical churches emulate it?

From Galli:

Because the church thinks it has to be missional, that it has to be a place where the world feels comfortable, it has dumbed down the preaching and the worship, so that in many quarters we have ended up with a common-denominator Christianity. It goes down easy, which is why it attracts so many and why many churches are growing. But it is a meal designed to stunt the growth of the people of God. And it is a way of church life that eventually burns people out, where people become exhausted trying to make the world a better place.

Read Galli’s essay at Christianity Today.


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Worship As Witness Of Jesus Bringing People Together (via David P Barry at Tabletalk)

Worship on Sunday is Christ’s demonstration to the world that salvation is a corporate experience with individual responsibilities, not an individual experience with corporate responsibilities.
From Tabletalk Magazine:

Our worship is meant to be the chief place where we demonstrate love for God and for each other. It is the clearest place where Jesus’ prayer for us is illustrated: that we would be one (17:11, 21–23).
Every part of our worship should reflect the unity that Jesus prayed, lived, died, and rose to accomplish. But, Jesus’ promise that the way we love each other will demonstrate that we are His disciples cuts both ways. If we allow our worship to become reflective of our individuality instead of our unity, we are illustrating to the watching world that Jesus does not bring people together. An “outsider” (to use Paul’s term from 1 Cor. 14:16, 24) should be able to watch the gathered saints confess Christ as one, sing as one, pray as one, and actively listen with a unity in their devotion as Christ their Lord addresses them in the preached Word. He should be able to perceive that there is a singularity of purpose and worship. He should see the power of God to bring different people and personalities and unite them in a holy purpose and holy love.

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On The Death Of Shopping Malls (via Wired)

Analysis of the situation of Shopping Malls that have closed in the USA in a video report from Wired.
It’s interesting to hear the balance of over-supply, changes in shopping habits, and changes in people’s social gathering habits are all thought to contribute to the change.
No one thing has contributed to the decline, and ongoing developments in demographics have meant that there are no simple responses that can return those facilities to viability.
The situation will continue to evolve, in the face of ongoing social changes, just as malls themselves were a response to post-world-war-2 social changes.
Solutions need to look forward and accomodate sociological developments instead of trying to keep meeting the culture that has passed.
Of interest to Christians is what changes in peoples’ gathering habits mean as we seek to interact with our culture in communicating the Gospel.
Malls were a development in ‘third space’ places beyond home and work and were one of the areas that supplanted churches.
There is a comment about churches taking over disused malls.
Larger churches sort of emulated some aspects of mall structure, and it will be fascinating to see whether that gets wound back or whether they have simply become their own sub-culture in that form.
The video refers to television program Stranger Things, but doesn’t require any familiarity with that program. I’ve never watched it.


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The Joy Of Staying Where You’ve Been Sent (via Karl Vaters)

Karl Vaters makes some observations arising from the deep and satisfying relationship between a congregation and a pastor.

If you are where God called you to be, that should be enough to keep you there.
You don’t have to prove your worth.
You don’t have to justify your calling.
You don’t have to see constant numerical increase.
You don’t have to be someone you’re not.
You have value. To God and his church.
Right here, right now. No matter what the numbers do or don’t look like.
Go where you’re called.
Love the people you pastor.
Reach out to others with Jesus’ love.
And stay until you’re moved.
They say the joy is in the journey.
Sometimes, the joy is in staying where you’ve been sent.

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Aware, Wise, and Intentional – The Missional Church (via Michael Milton)

Michael Milton provides a definition of a missional church and expands on how that definition functions:

A missional church is an ecclesial community of Word, Sacrament, and Prayer where pastoral staff, officers, and members are united in their commitment to the Gospel-driven practice of the Great Commission of Jesus Christ in every area of ministry and life.

I like the clarity of Milton’s position on the need for a theology that wants to embrace a city has to do so on the basis of the lostness of the city and the need for its citizens to personally experience redemption in contrast to the corporately experiencing the blessings of the kingdom:

The missional church is one that is aware of its parish’s socio-historical context, including an understanding of the development of the context, and responding wisely in sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Thus, every part of the church’s ministry is attuned to the surroundings andintentional in its outreach ministry to the community. We do not disagree with Alan Hirsch’s definition of a “missional church” as “posture toward the world.” However, we believe that such a posture must be that the world is lost and in need of the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ. Theologies that “embrace the city” without pointing to the sin in the city and the unbelieving city dwellers’ need for personal repentance and faith in the resurrected and reigning Jesus Christ are not missional as the word describes the urgent mandates of the Gospel.

Read the whole post at Christianity Today.


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The Attitude We Have About The Church Is The Attitude We Have About Jesus (via Stephen Kneale)

The Church is the body of Christ. Not figuratively. Literally.
The way you’ll treat the Church tomorrow is the way you treat Jesus.

From Stephen Kneale at Church Matters:

If Christ is unified to his people, then what one does to his people is what one is doing to Christ. How one treats his people is how one is treating Christ. This is the clear implication of Jesus’ own words in Matthew 25:40.
Jesus’ words to Paul have far wider-reaching ramifications than how Jesus views the persecution of his people. It has clear implications for how the Lord’s people treat one another. It similarly has implications for how the Lord’s people treat the Lord’s stuff.
If we cannot be bothered to get out of bed to get to church on Sunday morning, we are not just failing to bother spending time with God’s people but we are spurning Christ himself. When we have no interest in serving and caring for the Lord’s people, we are failing to care for the Lord. When we drop the ball on stuff in church and put upon others, we are spurning the Lord and saying there are other things that take precedence over him.
If Jesus’ words to Saul tell us that those who persecute the church are persecuting Christ, it also tells us that how we treat the church is how we treat Christ. If we never go to church, if we constantly go away for the weekend, if we never serve, if we find anything else to do, these are not just holding the church in low esteem, it is treating Christ lightly and a direct reflection on our views of him.
By contrast, a high view of the church is a high view of Christ. If the church becomes a high priority, Christ is a high priority. Serving the people of the church is a measure of our love for Christ. Serving in the ministries of the church is a measure of our love for Christ. Turning up at weekly worship and engaging with the Lord’s people is a measure of our love for Christ.

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