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The Counter-Cultural Activity Of Going To Church (via Jared Wilson)

Gathering week by week is a work of service to your fellow worshippers and work of witness to those who do not believe.

From Jared Wilson:

One of the most countercultural things you can do is get up early on Sunday morning, put real clothes on, and drive to a church building. … In many regions of the Western world, church attendance is downright abnormal.
And so on the Lord’s Day morning, while all the other yards in your neighborhood are buzzing with lawn mowers, all the other kids are making for the swimming pool, all the other patrons of the coffee shop are lounging in sweatpants, you show your family’s otherworldliness in that moment that you dedicate to the countercultural tradition of going to church.
It’s not that you’re better than everyone else. It’s because you realize you may in fact be worse. When you back the family car out of the driveway on Sunday morning, you are telling your neighbors that you need Jesus and no amount of Sunday leisure can satisfy you like Him, that no rest is better than that which is found in Jesus, and that when the thin veneer of worldly frivolities starts to show a few cracks, you might be the kind of person they could talk to about the “alternative lifestyle” of following Jesus.

source


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The Gospel Will Empower Its Own Implications (via Jared Wilson)

Jared Wilson writes about the mission response to Gospel preaching and teaching.
Christian ministry can’t be motivated by fear and guilt.

The good news about Jesus doesn’t just tell Christians how to respond, it is the power by which they respond.
Remember that the gospel will empower its own implications. So remind your church that they have all the wind of the Spirit at their backs, that God has always been roaming the earth seeking whom he may revive, that the kingdom is not contingent upon them but upon him, and that they are not responsible for evangelistic success, but evangelistic faithfulness.
The motivation of grace better triggers a church’s impulse for gospel mission.

Read the whole post here.


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Pastors Must Be What They Want To See (via Jared Wilson)

Jared Wilson points out that pastors must model the pattern of life they long to see in the Christians they serve.
A plurality of elders in a congregation helps provide a broader balance of these qualities.
From Wilson’s article:

If we want our churches to be of one mind, to be of one heart, to assassinate their idols and feast on Christ, to be wise and winsome with the world they have forsaken, to be gentle of spirit but full of confidence and boldness, to be blossoming with the fruit of the Spirit, we must lead the way.
A pastor goes first. In groups where transparency is expected, a pastor goes first. In the humility of service, a pastor goes first. In the sharing of the gospel with the lost, a pastor goes first. In the discipleship of new believers, a pastor goes first. In the singing of spiritual songs with joy and exuberance, a pastor goes first. In living generously, a pastor goes first. In the following of Christ by the taking up of one’s cross, a pastor goes first. All I am saying is that one who talks the talk ought to walk the walk. Don’t lead your flock through domineering; lead by example.
The pastor ought to be able to say with integrity to others, as Paul says to Timothy, “Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 1:13). It is not arrogant to instruct others to follow you, so long as you are following Christ and showing them Christ and giving them Christ. “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ,” Paul says again (1 Cor. 11:1).

Read the whole post here.


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Only The Gospel Can Power Pastoral Ministry (via Jared Wilson)

Jared Wilson outlines five ways the Gospel shapes and empowers pastoral ministry.
Here’s one of his four points.

In the trenches of day-to-day ministry work, it can become tragically easy to think of the whole thing as a managerial enterprise. We plan and program, we mentor and coach, we write and preach. The relational work of ministry is taxing. Studying takes its toll.
Nearly every pastor I know has been wearied by ministry. For this reason, we need to remember Christianity is not some ordinary religious methodology. It is supernatural.
We pray because we aren’t in control. We preach the Scriptures because only God’s Word can change hearts. We share the gospel because only the grace of Christ can bring the dead to life. We have to remember who we are in Christ or we will go on ministry autopilot, assuming we’re working under our own power.
Knowing the power of the gospel (Romans 1:16, 1 Thessalonians 1:5) means the weakness of the pastor is no hindrance to the Lord at all. In fact, the very idea of Christianity presupposes human inability and weakness. Paul goes so far as to boast in his weakness, knowing that when he is weak, Christ is strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
We’re told that a Korean pastor once visited the United States and was asked what he thought of the American church, to which he replied, “It is amazing what the church in America can do without the Holy Spirit.” May this never be said of us!
If we pursue pastoral ministry in our own strength, trusting in our own selves, we will be in big trouble. Our churches will be devastated, and so will we.
No, let us remember all that we are is because of Christ, and apart from him, we can do nothing. This reality will empower our leadership and our preaching and achieve real spiritual impact.

Read the others at the Gospel Coalition.


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What You Win People With Is What You Win Them To (via Jared Wilson)

Invoking the spirit of Monty Python’s Trojan Rabbit, Jared Wilson points out the problem with ‘bait and switch’ forms of evangelistic activity, whether the less mature forms associated with youth ministries or the more sophisticated forms utilised by attractional or seeker focussed churches.
The problem is:

“the gospel of Christ’s finished work became relegated to the end of a service, almost an addendum to the real focal points of the goings-on, and then it frequently became pushed to the end of an entire message series, eventually became saved just for special occasions, and ultimately has been replaced altogether by the shiny legalism of moralistic therapeutic deism.
Eventually the attractional church became all bait, no switch. The approach of today’s attractional church is like the Trojan Rabbit of Monty Python’s Arthurian nincompoops–smuggled inside the castle walls with nobody inside.
As a result so many inside the system, shepherded under this system and joined to it, can’t distinguish between attractive and attractional, practical and pragmatic. When we lose the centrality of the gospel, we lose the ability to think straight.

source

Another sign of this is the preaching in these contexts can be biblical, but largely therapeutic or educational (focused on the needs and actions of the hearer), rather than focussed on what Jesus has done for his people.


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Guarding Against Being Church-Attending Idolator (via Jared Wilson)

Our human hearts were once described as factories that produce idols.
Jared Wilson points out that production can continue in the life of the Christian, and can occur in the settings in which we gather for worship each week.
From his post:

On Sundays, our sanctuaries fill with people seeking worship, and not one person comes in set to neutral. We must take great care, then, not to assume that even in our religious environments, where we put the Scriptures under so many noses, that it is Jesus the exalted Christ who is being worshiped.
Every weekend in churches everywhere, music is performed to the glory of human skill and artistry. Once upon a time, I sat through a little ditty in a church service in which the congregation was led to sing, “I can change the world with these two hands,” and the question struck me like a lightning bolt: “Who exactly am I worshiping right now?”
Likewise, every weekend men and women file into church buildings in order to exult in the rhetorical skill of their preacher, to admire him and think of their church as his church, not Christ’s church. Many of us file in each week to enjoy the conspicuous spiritual exercises of our brethren. We worship the worship experience; we tithe with expectation of return from heaven’s slot machine; we dress to impress; and we serve and lead to compensate for the inadequacies in our hearts that only Christ can fill. Every weekend, hundreds of preachers extol a therapeutic gospel from the pages of the same Bible where the real gospel lies. We Reformed are not exempt, as too often our affections are poured totally into doctrine with only vague admiration reserved for doctrine’s Author.
A church will become idolatrous in a heartbeat because it’s already there. So we cannot set our worship on autopilot. We cannot mistake the appearance of busy religiosity for worship in spirit and truth. We see in Exodus 32:5 that even the worshipers of the golden calf ascribed their worship to the covenant Lord Yahweh.
The gospel imperative, then, is to return again and again to the gospel indicative. Our first duty is “gospel obedience” (Rom. 10:16; 2 Thess. 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17), which is to stand at attention to Christ upon the gospel’s “ten hut.” Our hearts and minds flow through the rut of idolatry, but the deliberate proclamation of Jesus at every possible turn will force us off our idolatrous course. Martin Luther advises us:

I must take counsel of the gospel. I must hearken to the gospel, which teacheth me, not what I ought to do, (for that is the proper office of the law), but what Jesus Christ the Son of God hath done for me: to wit, that He suffered and died to deliver me from sin and death. The gospel willeth me to receive this, and to believe it. And this is the truth of the gospel. It is also the principal article of all Christian doctrine, wherein the knowledge of all godliness consisteth. Most necessary it is, therefore, that we should know this article well, teach it unto others, and beat it into their heads continually.

Tim Keller elaborates: “So Luther says that even after you are converted by the gospel your heart will go back to operating on other principles unless you deliberately, repeatedly set it to gospel-mode.”
The proclamation of the good news of Jesus and the extolling of his eternal excellencies is always an interruption, always a disruption. It alone will bring the sword of division between where even our religious hearts are set and where they ought to be. For this reason, we cannot go about minding our own business any more. We must mind God’s (Col. 3:1-4).

Read the rest here.


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Where To Go On Mondays (via Jared Wilson)

There’s only one destination for a pastor on Mondays.
From Jared Wilson:

So there is water for you today, whether you push through on these difficult Mondays in the quiet of your study or the busyness of the visitation route or whether you take these Mondays off to recuperate at home. There is water for you at every moment, living water flowing freely from the pierced bosom of Christ. It is water to satisfy your thirsty soul, water to heal your ministry wounds, water to cool your heels, water to cheer your “Monday face.” Don’t look for it anywhere but in Jesus.

More here.