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Church With The Lights On (via Murray Campbell)

Murray Campbell provides an encouraging report about a gathering of people from different churches in Melbourne.
As part of that he writes of his appreciation for speaker Mark Dever asking that the lights in the auditorium be turned up.
The practice has crept into Christian gatherings with increasing frequency and serves to decrease the corporate and participatory nature of worship and emphasise a personal and observational based experience.
From Campbell:

The venue hosts (to whom we are greatly thankful for their generosity and hospitality), were setting up the auditorium’s lighting and sound when Mark requested that the lights be turned up. Why? Christian ministry isn’t a show with the spotlight shining on the preacher and where he can’t see the faces of the congregation/audience. Christian ministry, including the public teaching of God’s word, is not an exercise of spiritual manipulation or creating chasms between the ‘expert’ preacher and the congregation. Mark wanted to see and engage with the people present. For example, during question time, he would ask for peoples’ names and the church they belong too.
Observing this short interaction just prior to the event beginning reminded me of this salient point; ministry isn’t performance. It isn’t about the preacher or whoever is standing on the stage. Sometimes we complicate ministry by adding unnecessary elements which can create unhelpful theological and pastoral barriers. In public teaching or certainly for Sunday church, are we relying upon or utilising special effects in order to create the moment or to elucidate a response from the congregation? Does our architecture, our stage managing, and our use of multimedia support our ecclesiology and our trust in the power of the Gospel and the sufficiency of Scripture, or are we undermining these things? The topic of church music came up during question time: Does our music encourage the saints to sing, to encourage each other and to glorify God, or are they passive bystanders watching, admiring or criticising the band? Does the band function as an edifying accompaniment or as the main act? The point is so simple and yet we sometimes miss it. I am less seeking to answer these questions here, but to raise them for others to wrestle with them in their own context.

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Rachael Denhollander: Where Justice And Forgiveness Meet (via Murray Campbell)

Murray Campbell writes about an extraordinary victim statement that was spoken by Rachael Denhollander in the US.
Rachael and many others were subject to sexual abuse under the guise of medical treatment by the former USA Gymnastics team doctor, Larry Nassar.

In her statement Denhollander spoke these words, an amazing Christian testimony, that fully addresses the need for justice and forgiveness:

You spoke of praying for forgiveness. But Larry, if you have read the Bible you carry, you know forgiveness does not come from doing good things, as if good deeds can erase what you have done. It comes from repentance which requires facing and acknowledging the truth about what you have done in all of its utter depravity and horror without mitigation, without excuse, without acting as if good deeds can erase what you have seen this courtroom today.
If the Bible you carry says it is better for a stone to be thrown around your neck and you throw into a lake than for you to make even one child stumble. And you have damaged hundreds.
The Bible you speak carries a final judgment where all of God’s wrath and eternal terror is poured out on men like you. Should you ever reach the point of truly facing what you have done, the guilt will be crushing. And that is what makes the gospel of Christ so sweet. Because it extends grace and hope and mercy where none should be found. And it will be there for you.
I pray you experience the soul crushing weight of guilt so you may someday experience true repentance and true forgiveness from God, which you need far more than forgiveness from me — though I extend that to you as well.

Read the rest of Murray’s reflections here, and look for Denhollander’s testimony online.