10.14.2010

The CHURCH ATTENDANCE CHALLENGE

I was challenged in a previous post to not just point out the errors of others, but provide some calls to action.  I have done this over the past year in many of my posts, but here are ten ways to evaluate you motivations for church going, and whether you should be attending your present church.  The call to action is to be honest in this self-evaluation as you take a more active role to test the spirits to see whether they be from God, especially in finding a church that is faithfully preaching the gospel.
  
Personal Motivations

1.  Sentimentalism Is Never to Trump Truth

When it comes to church life, people are often more given to sentimentalism than they are to the truth.  There may be a variety of reasons for this: sentimental attachment to a building, longstanding family representation in a particular church, pride in a certain denomination, etc.  Doctrinal integrity often takes a back seat to these kinds of sentimental attractions.  In these scenarios, people are honoring their traditions more than the LORD. Such commitments become a smokescreen to the defense of the gospel.

2. Church is Not About Making You Comfortable

People approach a prospective church with the following questions:  What are the people like?  What kind of programs does the church offer?  Is the music good?  What is the facility like?  Church is not about making us comfortable.  The church is given as a place for God’s people to be fed with his means of grace and spiritually equipped for every good work. 

As Luther said, God doesn’t need our good works, but our neighbor does.   God determines who he places next to us in the pew.  Remember that we come as beggars to receive the true bread from heaven.  Therefore, as beggars, our mindset should be to help other beggars find this same bread. 

3. Your Children Do Not Determine Where You Will Attend a Church
We live in a day of the cult of the child.  Children are not expected to take a submissive role in the home. The home today is built around the child, and discipline is non-existent.  This has devastating affects upon church life.  Parents are prone to listen to their child’s wants rather than to actively nurture their children by determining what they need.  For instance, a child complains to the parent that the sermons are too long, or the service is boring, and the parents, unwilling to lead, honor their children more than the LORD (see the consequences of this in 1 Sam. 2), and base their church attendance on what the child likes. 

This has resulted in the practice of children’s church, and other practices that remove children from the worship service.  The consequences of this are devastating upon church life. We are raising an entire generation of children who are not being trained to listen to sermons or worship the Lord corporately.  The long term fruits of this will show in increased antipathy to anything formal or organized when it comes to worship, and an inability to hear the Word (are we seeing this now?). 

4.  Style Preference Is Not Neutral
Often people base church attendance on stylistic preference, mainly with regard to music.  The Bible never presents worship as a matter of personal taste or style.  But that has not held us back today.  Just look in the phone book, when it comes to churches it's all about your likes and dislikes—contemporary, life-giving, exciting worship, etc. 

Everything we do must conform to the specific commands of Scripture with regard to worship.  Our music must conform to his truth, our liturgies should be filled with his Word, the sermons should be delivered in the demonstration of the Spirit and of power.  We should stop asking if the church is doing things that we like, but we should rather ask whether the elements of worship conform to God’s Word.

5. The Message Is to Be Believed, Not the Man Followed

The average churchgoer, when searching for a church today, is primarily concerned with the likability of the pastor. Is he down to earth? Does he share personal stories from his own personal experience? Is he just a fun-loving guy who can relate, who connects with the youth? Is he friendly?  The pastor can easily pander to this and emphasize that aspect of his personality that people are attracted to.  The church then becomes built around him rather than Christ. 

The people in the pew need to understand that the man proclaiming the Word is one sent by God himself. The preacher is sent with someone else's message, along with a method already predetermined. Through the messenger, God is exposing the lives of the sheep directly. He is uncovering the sins of people's hearts. This is ministry. The great goal of ministry, therefore, is to drop prideful sinners to their knees that they might find life in the glorious gospel of Christ and him crucified.  If the pastor is doing his job, there will be times you probably won’t like him.  But likability is not a qualification for the pastor. Beware of the cult of personality.  If you are following a man, you are being set up for a great fall. Follow the message and not the man. 

Church Motivations


6. The Preaching of the Word Is to Be Central

Is the service centered on the Word? Is the Word being read, preached, prayed and sung?  Or is the Word being used as a fortune cookie to manipulate what the pastors knows people want to hear, rather than what they need to hear?  If the preaching of the Word is not central, since it is the primary means of grace, you can be sure, God is not present in that worship service. 

7. The Sermon Is To Be Christ-Centered

Isaiah says, Lord who has believed our report?” This is an interesting question. Paul cites this from Isaiah 53 in Romans 10 to make the case that Christ is brought to us in the preaching  of this report. What is the report?

Here it is: "He has no form of comeliness no beauty that we should desire him, he is despised and rejected, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief...and we on our part hid our faces from him, he was despised, and we did not esteem him...he has borne our grief’s and carried sorrows...yet we reckoned him stricken, struck down by God and afflicted and wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities...all we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was led as a lamb to the slaughter and as a sheep before its shearers is silent so he opened not his mouth (Isa. 53:1ff)."

The report is that of bloody crucified savior who is not beautiful in our estimation. The report comes as a description of Christ's gruesome death when his grave was made with the wicked, God himself delivering over his son. Why would God do this to his beloved son? Isaiah says that it is due to our rebellious hearts since we always go astray and turn to our own. In other words, the Father did this to Son because of our sin. 

This is the report.  At the heart of everything we do in preaching, there should be a goal to preach the report.  It is God’s chosen means to save.  So ask this question: Could the sermon you’re hearing be preached in a Jewish Synagogue?  If so, it’s not a Christian sermon. 

8. Worship Should Not Be Built on Entertainment

You have six days if you really must be entertained (who could endure six days of this anyway?), but the seventh day is a day of rest from worldly amusements and a time to seriously worship the risen Christ.  Keep in mind, “amuse” means to not think.  If the church you are attending is theater-driven, you have forgotten that the very character of the perilous times the apostle warns about is a desire in people to have their ears tickled rather than a promotion of a love for the truth.  What we do is foolishness to the world, and no manner of making it acceptable to the flesh will ever be truly Spirit-filled.

 

9. Sacraments Are to Be Faithfully Exercised

God has given us two visible words in baptism and the Lord supper.  These are signs and seals of his grace to us.  Are these being honored in your church?  Are they being faithfully administered and not cheapened by making what is holy, common (i.e. baptism in parking lots and swimming pools for whosoever feels moved, etc.).   Is the Lord’s Supper treated as a means for your personal renewed commitment to the Lord, or as a means of strengthening your faith spiritually with the body and blood of Christ. 

 

10. The Church Should Love You Enough to Discipline You

It is not love to allow someone to continue in blatant sin without correction.  In fact, churches that open their doors to people running from other churches because of sin are bringing down God’s anger on the whole congregation.  A little leaven leavens the whole lump (1 Cor. 5).  We are commanded, in love, to exercise church discipline on those who have strayed in doctrine or in life.  Most likely, people have no idea what church discipline is today because the practice has all but been abandoned.  Churches that do not oversee the flock in this way are seriously offending Christ and provoking him to remove his lamp stand from their presence.

56 comments:

  1. You're welcome, George. Things people really need to think through. Blessings in your ministry. Chris

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  2. This is a good guide for Christians today as they look for a place of worship where they and their families can grow in spiritual and biblical ways. It is a helpful list of priorities that should be present in our churches and in our worship of the Lord.

    Sally Gleason, Yorba Linda, CA

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  3. Guide #11: Be sure your church doesn't worship their worship.

    --Jeannine

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  4. Thank you, Sally. I'm thankful the list was helpful, and appreciate that you commented on my blog. Blessings, Chris

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  5. Jeannine, good one, we have the problem of looking over the fence without appreciating the blessings that are already in our lap. Hmmm, was this a problem for Israel in the wilderness, something to do with pots of meat...?

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  6. Hi Chris, I think you misunderstood my comment. We used to attend a church that thought they were really good at worship. Lots of talented people. Lots of cool songs. Lots of energy in the service. After we left, we realized that they "worshipped their worship". But we needed to leave before we could see things for what they really were. --Jeannine

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  7. Sorry Jeanine :) I responded quickly, but I liked what I thought you said, but I like it even better that I now understand it!

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  8. Great post and good insights!

    This would have made a really good appendix to Danny Hyde's book "Welcome to a Reformed Church" because it boils down the central convictions of what drives our (faithful) churches to look like they do.

    And I'm sure there will be several more gems like #11 by Jeanine that further illustrate the care that we must take in selecting a church. And it would seem that, if one were looking for a litmus test for a prospective minister, this might be a good place to turn to for a sense of what he might be 'up to' in his ministry.

    Good stuff!

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  9. Thanks, Norm. You're right, there is much more to say, but hopefully this summarizes all the key issues. Chris

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  10. Boy, plenty to say on this subject I want to limit it to this question.

    ONLY the church has the unique message of salvation. Why would a church not stay with the message and why would anyone waste their time to go to a church to get what you can get at a dance club or off the radio or MTV or in the gym?

    A friend of mine once asked of a seminary class: "what is the worst thing that can happen to you"? Someone answered "You could go to hell". To which my friend replied, "there is one thing worse... you could be in hell with your congregation! GO PREACH THE GOSPEL!"

    I shudder at the future prospects of some of the successful preachers in our society. May the Lord be merciful and bring repentance to our churches.

    Ian

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  11. I agree with every single point. But to leave it at that would be boring, and unedifying. So I will simply ask the question: When you talk about style, is the decision to use drums in the church, or a harp, or cymbals, or overhead projector for songs, a matter of style or preference? Is the practice of wearing suits in church a matter of style or does scripture require ties and blazers? Is wearing hats by women in church a matter of style or scriptural direction? Does scripture suggest that when we get together, that only one person should lead the service, or that two or three should speak in turn, and then everyone speak in turn?

    Oops, sorry. More than one question. I got carried away.

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  12. Just want to reinforce the uniqueness point I was trying to make.

    Only the church, and no other organization, has been commissioned in this way: "Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God."

    Thank you, for your work, pastor.
    Ian

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  13. John, the classic Reformed distinction between the elements and circumstances of worship should help you through many of these issues. And you have elders for a reason, they should be overseeing the worship according to God's commands.

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  14. Thanks, Ian for the good comments!

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  15. Mark Van Der MolenOctober 16, 2010 at 5:54 AM

    John,

    The same principle should apply to any kind of instrument for use in worship. When I heard a teen in our youth group insist we "must" have a drum and guitar to be worshipful, I told him what's needed is that we take the drum and guitar to the parking lot and smash it to pieces. When he asked whether I felt the same about the organ, I told that if someone insists on the "necessity" of the organ, I'll be the first to give that parking lot treatment to the organ.

    We need to recognize that we so easily make these things our idols. The attitude of the heart with God as the object of our worship as he commands it should be our life. That attitude will be reflected in what/how/when we use instruments, our dress on the occasion of holy worship, etc.

    But if these "things" become the object of our heart's desire, throw them away and start over.

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  16. Style?
    Or is it core beliefs, that dictate the order of a church.
    Ex.
    If one believes that the only way to reach the lost, is to "prime the pump".
    Or manipulate the will at all costs.
    Then of course, the out come would be eccentric churches, entertainment is key to drawing in the masses.
    Then you come up with " the mourners bench" and people planted in the congregation to respond at the appropriate time, ect.
    Music becomes a tool used to manipulate the will.
    Singing chorus after chorus, becomes transcendent.
    Now a soften "WILL" is ready for the sermon.
    Which is also driven to manipulate the the will.
    So I guess my long drawn out point is this.
    The churches core beliefs of who God is, and how one comes to Christ, will determine STYLE, CONTEXT, AND PURPOSE.

    Charles finny is alive and well........

    Smoking flax...

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  17. John Z
    Those are great questions.

    Culture or personal preference is definitely woven in the way things are done.
    Look at the book of Acts. The Church in Jerusalem vs. The Paul plants.
    Reform is definitely affected by culture and or a preference to adhere to a particular way of doing things.
    Those old hymns we love to sing, were at one time new hymns.
    Some even written to familiar ale house tunes.
    I often wonder what our hymns would be like or sound like if the Reformation was birthed in Brazil, or Guatemala.
    Just a thought....

    Smoking flax...

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  18. Smoking, you write, "Reform is definitely affected by culture and or a preference to adhere to a particular way of doing things."

    I think the preception still is that things are a matter of perference. For instance, some think Reformed just like being old for the sake of it--singing old hymns. John's comments are a reaction to, I'm guessing, a bad experience in a Reformed church sometime in the past. So the reaction to his past is on these terms: ties, dress, blue psalter, etc. He views this stuff as legalistic and lifeless. As a side note, have we ever asked that maybe people where ties because it's their freedom in Christ to do so. Who is here becoming legalistic? But notice we are speaking of nothing substantive, merely a reaction to structured religion that is perceived to be dead and merely socially driven. This is very common.

    Had John come along and said, the gospel wasn't preached, the sacraments weren't administered, the Word never was central, tradition trumped truth, et al, this would indeed be something to react to. Mark VM makes a good point, when we idolize what we do for the sake of tradition, it becomes sinful. But if God's commands for our worship are at the forefront, our preferences won't really mean much. The old/new, traditional/contemporary distinctions come down.

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  19. John, on another note. I know we have been having some serious interaction over the past few posts. I do appreciate our dialogue and hope that these things help you, as they do me, to think through these issues.

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  20. Chris, your first answer, though accurate, was general and vague and not too helpful. Your other responses were better. The elements of worship are plain and essential, but it is the way these elements are presented, and the way we respond to them that become issues for discussion.

    Mark, while your comment seems to make sense, it also seems to be very biased. For example, while we don't need to "must" any particular instrument, that is not really the question. The question is what does scripture say about the use of it, and would you put drums or guitars or violins and cymbals on a par with the organ and piano, or do you treat them differently?

    Anonymous-smoking flax, you have made some good pertinent points that are relevant to style.

    Style is not the same as substance. The question is, can we condemn different styles, if the substance(elements) is present?

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  21. Paul said something that may also apply to our perception of style. The apostle Paul said that to the Jews he becomes as a Jew, and that to the Romans he becomes as a Roman, etc. This was more than just speaking in Hebrew or Italian. It implied a way of identifying with them, and speaking to them with circumstances and history and cultural context that they would understand. It implied a serious revision of his approach in presenting the gospel, even though it did not change the actual gospel itself.

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  22. Chris, just to respond to the personal note you made about me. You are speculating. I did not ask these questions because of dead legalism or because of a disappointing experience. I asked them because so many people will focus on the outward things like dress and instruments, and say that they do not like change. They then make these things a matter of faith and pure worship. I merely ask how our faith and scripture informs these things, and to what extent our freedom in Christ enables us to rejoice in the many ways we can worship our Lord and Maker. I am not accusing anyone of being legalistic, nor being legalistic myself. I have my opinions on these things, but am still interested in how others address these issues.

    There is sometimes also a custom to say that scripture does not demand something, but people exert incredible peer pressure to follow certain customs, as if they were the only christian practice. In many churches, the exclusive use of the organ is a good example of this. They are essentially saying with their actions, if not their words, that the organ is essential.

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  23. The earlier comment about worshipping your worship was a good one. I think it is important to realize that it can happen to all kinds of church styles. There are those who adore the drums, praise songs and three hour services to the point that it becomes more about the experience for them, and the necessity (to them) of following their particular practices.

    But this also happens with formal churches, where people are upset if the service lasts more than an hour, or if a certain order is not followed precisely, or the minister is not wearing a black suit, or a white robe, or if the Lord's Supper is held too often (weekly), or not enough (monthly), or if the offering is held at the beginning or at the end, or if someone other than the preacher speaks or prays or leads a song.

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  24. Substance is what matters.
    Truth maters.
    I think that you misunderstood me Chris.
    I wasn't addressing legalism, or tolerance.
    Was simply making the point that certain models of "doing church" or ministry are clearly affected by culture.
    The Scriptures should always remain the rule in how we measure.
    But within that rule is Liberty is there not?
    Or what then is exclusiveism?
    Some cultures are more bubbly and vocal than others.
    This will always have bearing on what is seen as acceptable.
    But what is "truth" should remain consistent across culture lines.

    And I still contend, not to make a mood point.
    That what style one adheres to, is motivated by ones understanding of, not what the Gospel is.....
    But rather "how one is saved"......

    Smoking flax....

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  25. Smoking flax, most of your comment I understand, but not the last paragraph. How is one's style motivated by one's understanding of how one is saved?

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  26. John z...
    Ones style is motivated by ones belief of how one is saved.....

    That was my point in my first statement.
    If I believe that it is up to us to manipulate the will of the lost sinner.
    Than my style of "church" will be affected.
    Do I believe that it is up to us to draw the masses, then my main drive in all I do will be to manipulate the will of people.
    Threw our worship, or sermons, or sanctuary, everything.
    This has been the core of American Evangelism for a long time.
    That is what I was referring to by saying "Charles Finny is Alive and well"
    He hated to doctrine of election.

    Hope that helps clarify where I am coming from.
    (Style motivated by belief in how one comes to Christ)

    Smoking flax.....

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  27. John, You write, "Chris, just to respond to the personal note you made about me. You are speculating. I did not ask these questions because of dead legalism or because of a disappointing experience."

    Apologize for the speculation, your comments seem to parallel those who have had some bad experience in a Reformed church, as they usually end up throwing out the baby with the bath water.

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  28. John you write, But this also happens with formal churches, where people are upset if the service lasts more than an hour, or if a certain order is not followed precisely...etc."

    AMEN!

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  29. John writes, In many churches, the exclusive use of the organ is a good example of this. They are essentially saying with their actions, if not their words, that the organ is essential.."

    I think we are connecting here, you are absolutely right, John.

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  30. Thanks, Smoking, I understand just what you are saying.

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  31. Dear John Zylstra,
    I've been reading your comments on several of Chris' posts and sometimes get very confused by them. I can't quite figure out where you are coming from and am starting to conclude that you just really like to argue!

    I do think that you have a negative perception of Reformed theology and this is probably based on your past experiences. I've been there myself and rejected what I thought was Reformed teaching. Other systems of belief sounded more spiritual and more deeply "felt" than what I was seeing in my church and community. I was embarrassed to be from a Reformed church and this seems to be a common thing as many people are leaving the Reformed churches. We are leaving what seems to be old and lifeless in a search for something that can be felt and experienced. In these other churches, we do not learn any doctrine. Instead, we are pleased with the idea that our beliefs are based on “Scripture alone”.

    When a person outside the Reformed faith made a hostile comment about being Reformed, my husband and I were offended and decided we needed to study this more. In my studies, I realized that the Reformed teaching that irritated me so much was not accurately "Reformed". It was a twisted, misinterpretation of what had become a weak, traditional, sad religion. I hadn’t left the Reformed Church because I had never had the opportunity to properly understand it.

    Now, 9 years later, I can't claim to know every tenant of my faith at the deepest intellectual levels, but I have learned...and experienced...a lot! I can now state emphatically that I believe the Reformed interpretation of scripture to be the most Biblical and the most comprehensive explanation of scripture that I have heard. In my former, unguided study of God’s Word, I had developed my own doctrines and there were many inconsistencies in my beliefs. And worst of all, even well-intentioned, very devout Christians can fall easily into error.

    You seem like an intelligent man who is wrestling with many deep issues. I hope that I am not out of line and I hope that my comments are being communicated in a gracious way. I recommend that you do a very thorough study of the Reformed faith. I would recommend the “Manual of Christian Doctrine” by Berkhof. Chris Gordon might have others to recommend. Please don’t misunderstand me: I am not saying that Reformed Doctrine is more important than Scripture. Absolutely not! God’s Word is the supreme authority. But the Reformed interpretation is an excellent framework that aids in our knowledge.

    The Reformed view of a Sovereign God who judges the unrighteous and only gives righteousness and mercy to those whom He has given to His Son for salvation is a very important distinction. Understanding who God is and how He saves *is* central to the way one worships and lives. Naturally there is room for discussion on the details, but usually the disagreement arises when we have a tough time reconciling our wills to God’s will. We want to worship in a certain way and resent the guidance of scripture. We want a God that doesn’t care what we wear or what music we like and have a hard time truly bowing our wills before a Holy God that requires our whole heart and our separation from the world.

    Sorry (everyone) for the long post! But these are important ideas and many are struggling with what they believe. I appreciate Chris's strong call to truth.

    ---Jeannine

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  32. Chris, its nice to "connect"!

    Jeannine, I appreciate all your comments. Just to respond briefly: Yes, I do like to argue/debate/discuss. I find that the challenges and testing in that type of discussion help you to grow. I love the precision of words ( and sometimes I have to change my words since they do not always convey what I meant to say).

    I do not have a negative perception of Reformed Theology. I have listened to more than 4000reformed Christian sermons. I have listened to reformed christian sermons in the CRC., Protestant Reformed, Orthodox Reformed, Netherlands Reformed, and Free Reformed churches. I have also listened to many non-"reformed" sermons on the radio, sometimes as many as seven per week. I have heard also heard a few very reformed sermons given by non-reformed preachers. I've often listened to Lutheran sermons on the radio as well. And I enjoy listening to Southern Gospel music, which often embeds a message within as well.

    I have taken a theology course at a Christian college, given partly by a professor who translated the book of Isaiah for the NIV Bible. I have a broad spectrum of experience, and I still think the reformed doctrines are very well thought out, and give an excellent account of what scripture is telling us.

    But I also think that sometimes the "reformed" tendency to condemn others does not allow us always to see God at work. We confess that reformed Christians are not the only Christians, but we sometimes act like we are.

    I really appreciate your comment, and I am always ready to examine what scripture has to say about anything. While worship is of course very important, it is also very important for us to remember that God is really interested in our daily lives, in our daily obedience. If we deny God on the other days of the week, by our actions, by following other gods and idols, then God has stated in the Bible many times, that he doesn't want our worship.

    I think you were very gracious.

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  33. Smoking, yes, we live and worship the way we believe.

    Reformed churches are evangelical, in other words, if they believe and obey the words that Jesus gave in Matthew 28, that Christ has all authority, that we must make disciples of all nations (peoples), and baptize them, and must teach them to obey everything Jesus commanded us.


    Some would argue that reformed are not evangelical, that God has predestined whom He will save, and therefore our lives and worship should not focus on unbelievers. But I would argue that they are evangelical, because they evangelize. So, if we evangelize, teach and make disciples, how do we do that?

    Preaching is certainly central. But how do we preach? Paul himself said: "19Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. 22To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings."

    I don't think Paul meant to compromise his faith. But certainly Paul meant for himself and us to consider others, to win them to Christ.

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  34. John z...

    Wow, quite an extensive life of study you've had.
    Impressed, how you remember listening to more than 4,000 reform sermons!

    Crazy how we are all products of someones teaching.
    I was raised to be anti-reformed.
    But have since traveled on my own path.
    Coming to the understanding that reform means Protestant.
    Those who protested against The State Church. The Universal Church.
    Protestant Christians.
    And it is my understanding that the main point of the debate Luther had with his adversaries was on the sovereignty of God.
    Grace alone. If you will.
    This was the hinge, of the whole reformation. In my understanding.
    And yes I would argue that God has predetermined who HE will save.
    My whole Christian world view was put on its head, as I begun to truly understand the doctrine of depravity.
    How man is completely unable, in every sense, when it comes to pleasing God.
    Or when it comes to attaining salvation.
    With this revelation I came to understand that Calvinism is Christianity. ( according to Spurgeon)
    With that said...
    Salvation does not happen apart from the hearing of Scripture.
    We are commanded to preach the scriptures, so we preach!
    This is the mechanism God has chosen to bring salvation to a degenerate, dead, being.
    Whom He has chosen to regenerate for reasons only known to Him.
    1 Peter 1:3..."caused us to be born again"
    HE is the causing. When you were born, it had nothing to do with you.
    All glory to God! That no man should boast.
    It has to be all God. Classic. John 3, john 6, Romans 9, Zachariah 5, ect. Ect.
    It permiates all of the Scriptures!
    Israel my elect.....
    O course you know all this,
    And again it wasn't until I understood better the doctrine of depravity, that I could even begin to accept what is so clearly taught all threw out Scripture, that Salvation is all God100%. And 0% man. It has to be so. Can a dead man raise himself?
    With that said, yes reformed churches are evangelical. Because they know God commands us to plead with sinners. Commands us to preach the "who so ever will" passages.
    But Gods spirit " is like the wind, you know not where it comes, or where it goes"
    And this was my point. In the previous statements concerning "style" .
    whether you adhere to these beliefs or not, will totally dictate how you evangelize, or how you do church. ...will it not?
    For the alternative is that it is all man. All you.
    Its up to you to convince the sinner to come to Christ. By any means. Manipulate the will so man will come.
    That's where the shows begin. Lights, camera, action!
    But beware. If its your style that draws men to salvation.
    Then it is also your style that will push men away.
    What a burden that is.....

    Smoking flax...

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  35. Smoking, good summary.

    Just one comment. If we worry about our style pushing someone away, we must remember that God keeps his own and doesn't lose them.

    Paul didn't worry about pushing people away; he concentrated on winning people to Christ. Lights and razzmatazz doesn't win people to Christ; it just gets their attention.

    But sometimes an acceptance of a different style will also encourage some Christians to be better witnesses. Part of that includes the necessity for everyone to be a witness, not just a minister or pastor or evangelist. Everyone, every christian, must be prepared to declare the gospel of Christ, and to live it; that will be the witness. The way to live it, is to love God and your neighbor (I John 3).

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  36. A brief comment about following the message, not the one who presents the message. This point made by Chris is basically true. However, we should not oversimplify it, because the credibility of the messenger is also part of the message. If the messenger does not live by the message, does not walk the talk, then the message will be mixed, and it will not be believed. So it is important for the messenger to do what he preaches. It is important for the witness to live as she speaks.

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  37. John Z..
    "If we worry about our style pushing someone away, we must remember that
    "God keeps His Own and doesn't loose them.."
    To quote you...

    Yes John you are right.
    But.
    God also does the drawing of men.
    The calling of men.
    The choosing of men. (And women of course, let the reader understand )

    Who can move against His hand.
    So. If God does the drawing in of men, and only He knows who they are.
    Then our effort should be in simply presenting the Word of God clearly.
    That, should be our concern. Not what pleases men, or tickles them into the sanctuary.
    Not our style, in other words.
    We should be upsets at ourselves when we don't get that right.
    Style should be a result of who you are, how God has made you. We are all not Ezekiel's.
    Style should not be about manipulation of ones will. Or Baiting. Or what the latest poll says about such n such.
    Our mandate is to preach the Word of God.
    Do that well and have a clear conscience, for your walking in obedience to Christ.
    He will call His own, draw His own, and Raise His Own....and yes not lose one of them that the Father has Given...(John 6)
    He Saves His elect by the "truth". He sanctifies by His Truth.
    So lets stay focus on preaching His Truth.
    And since the Elect don't have a big E stamped on them, we preach to all.

    Thanks for your comments John Z.

    Smoking flax...

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  38. Smoking! (you are)

    I want to repeat.

    Paul himself said: "19Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. 22To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings."

    The apostle Paul didn't stick to one style, even though every style he used was formed, informed and conditioned by the will of God.

    To re-emphasize: it must always be the true gospel presented.

    But, it is not only presented thru formal preaching. The gospel is also presented in our actions, in our words with friends and neighbors, in our informal preaching at basketball games, at coffee break at work, and on internet activities, and to our children and their friends. Our lives often speak a clearer message (should) than our words.

    Many people, perhaps most, do not come to Christ in a church service. They come to Christ through the witness of people around them in their environment. The church gathering and preaching is usually a means of discipling, although sometimes it is actually a means of evangelizing too - but they have to get there first. And while it is true that God draws whom He will, it is also true that he uses us to draw them, and commands us to do it.

    The basic message of scripture is God's love overcomes our sinful nature thru Christ, and He commands us to love HIm and our neighbors as ourselves. If we are afraid to love our neighbors, and do not treat them as we would be treated, don't talk to them, invite them for coffee, share the gospel with them, make sure they are not needing something that we may be able to provide or help with, then we are not preaching the gospel, and the love of God is not in us. And then we will be unable to disciple, and our evangelism will be nothing.

    ..john..

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  39. Who is your neighbor?

    Even after hearing the parable of the Good samaritan, I still sometimes hear people saying that it only applies to this situation or that situation, and not to other situations. They take this parable so literally, and so they are looking only for people lying on the side of the road, helpless, or maybe people who come across their path. They miss the point of what Jesus said after the parable when He was asked, but who is my neighbor? Jesus said basically, it is not for you to ask who is your neighbor, but rather are you being a neighbor.

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  40. John z....

    You are correct, in what you are saying.
    At least in my mind.
    And yes, stats prove that the masses that come forth during crusades or that sign " I want Jesus to give me a good life card"
    Don't stay long-term as followers of Christ.
    One on one wins out hands down, as far as long term Discipleship goes.
    But, I was more addressing "church attendance " article.
    As far criteria for finding a church.
    Is the "church" manipulating the will of "attenders "
    Or simply focused on presenting the Word of God correctly.

    Back to our discussion on style and content.
    My statements above are in regard to that.
    So again your belief in how one comes to Christ, does and will affect the model put forth in creating a church.

    Thanks john, sorry for miss leading you off topic on a side matter.

    Smoking flax...

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  41. Regarding how we dress:

    While visiting a local "Reformed-in-name-only" church for a relative's baptism, I made the the awful, awful mistake of wearing a suit. It was a packed house. The preaching was on how annoying proud people are, and I was, quite literally, the only tie in the building, much less a suit.

    After the service, maybe it was my imagination, but some people I knew didn't want to make eye contact, much less speak with me. I was greeted by the pastor making the rounds, by one friend and my relative.

    Am I crazy, or do some churches that most decry "style legalism" the most guilty themselves?

    My church may not be the most conservative in dress, but we mostly wear ties by choice. However, I honestly can't imagine anyone feeling out of place or shunned if they walked in dressed completely down. Can't imagine them feeling as completely out of place and shunned as I did.

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  42. I think when people can't look past the dress style, they are neglecting to look at the person. It is quite possible that a person wearing a suit is in need of as much help as the person wearing rags and jeans. Help is not provided by shunning or diassociating.

    If the sermon was merely about how annoying proud people are then it was unsciptural. If the sermon dealt with the pride of people that keeps them from Christ, from repentance, then....

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  43. Mark, your comment also made a judgement about "reformed in name only". It may be a valid judgement, but together with your demeanor and possibly your attitude it may have had more to do with how people who knew you treated you than your suit.

    Not that I am justifying their behaviour, just explaining a possibility.

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  44. Mark, you write, "Am I crazy, or do some churches that most decry "style legalism" the most guilty themselves?"

    Yes, I did a whole post on this very point: http://christopherjgordon.blogspot.com/2010/02/legalism-what-is-it.html

    When i visisted a local mega church, I was not approached by anyone. I'm guessing that was because I was too nicely dressed. I am told that they tell people to dress down, and even require this. Striking, they are intolerant of one's liberty.

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  45. I've been to large churches, and to small ones as a visitor. Small ones almost always are more overtly friendly, mostly because they actually know that you are a visitor. Churches with kids tend to be friendlier than those which have few or no children. Larger ones are more active in providing various groups to belong to and classes to attend, but the visitor must take the initiative.

    But some of the larger churches (3000-5000 attenders) had a significant number of members who wore suits and ties, some of them being the greeters at the door and the ushers in the sanctuary. And often the preacher would wear a blazer, but no tie.

    Making generalities from isolated incidents can be very misleading.

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  46. Smoking, I've been giving your comment some thought. You said, "My statements above are in regard to that. So again your belief in how one comes to Christ, does and will affect the model put forth in creating a church."

    Yes I think that sometimes our worship style is reflective of our belief in how one comes to Christ. But it is a combination of motivations that form and shape our worship style.

    First, we want to worship God, the God who is revealed in scripture. Second, we want to be true to scripture in how we worship. Third, we want to be true to the language of scripture in expressing our worship. Fourth, we want to include the teachings of scripture in how we worship together as a group. So it is broader than only considering how people come to Christ, since much of our worship is about people who have already come to Christ expressing their devotion, repentance and joy in their salvation.

    But there are different variants and different emphases. Paul in one of his epistles talked about orderly worship, doing things with decency and good order, when he said that those speaking in tongues should only speak if there is an interpreter, and that prophets should speak in turn, and that if one sitting had something to say, that the other should stop, and that they should take turns, so that everyone could speak in order, not competeing with each other in a disorderly fashion. But we have taken that to the extreme, which the scriptures do not mandate, by only placing one person to preach and lead a service. It's not necessarily wrong, but we must admit that it is not required by scripture either.

    When we say our worship is guided by scripture, that does not mean that there is not a rich variety of acceptable ways in which we can worship our Lord and Saviour.

    Those who prefer solemnity, quiet, sonorous and majestic worship, often deny the validity of the joyful worship expressed by the one who wrote most of the Psalms, when he led the procession of the ark back to Jerusalem. They deny or supress and discourage the use of all the instruments that the psalmist used and encourage, whose songs they almost exclusively sing, in almost a hypocritical fashion. This does not have much to do with how people come to Christ. It has to do with imposing our own human feelings on to how we worship, and narrowing the human perspective on who God is, and on what God wants from us.

    Those who prefer noise, color, and vigorous enjoyment of the life that God gave them in Christ, prefer to use as many instruments as possible, and to make most of their declarations to God thru song, as well as listening to God's word speak to them thru songs. They sometimes forget that for music to fulfill its purpose, it must also be understandable to people who hear it, not just to God, since most of those songs (if done well), are God's words speaking to His people, just like the Psalms were not only the words of the Psalmist, but also the words of God to his people.

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  47. Good stuff John z....
    Lots to consider.
    Just as the article put out by Chris....
    It seems as if we live in a age where every term must be defined, extensively.
    Ex.- "worship " "salvation " "church"

    And we often fall into the trap of being as Cain was, and not so much as Able obeyed.
    Difficult ...
    Music may or may not be worship .......if you know what mean.
    "Obedience rather than sacrifice "-Hosea

    Thanks for your thoughts!

    Smoking flax...

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  48. Some Christians claim, "The Bible is all I need," but this notion is not taught in the Bible itself. In fact, the Bible teaches the contrary idea (2 Peter 1:20–21, 3:15–16). The "Bible alone" theory was not believed by anyone in the early Church.

    It is new, having arisen only in the 1500s during the Protestant Reformation. The theory is a "tradition of men" that nullifies the Word of God, distorts the true role of the Bible, and undermines the authority of the Church Jesus established (Mark 7:1–8).

    Although popular with many "Bible Christian" churches, the "Bible alone" theory simply does not work in practice. Historical experience disproves it. Each year we see additional splintering among "Bible-believing" religions.

    Today there are tens of thousands of competing denominations, each insisting its interpretation of the Bible is the correct one. The resulting divisions have caused untold confusion among millions of sincere but misled Christians.

    Just open up the Yellow Pages of your telephone book and see how many different denominations are listed, each claiming to go by the "Bible alone," but no two of them agreeing on exactly what the Bible means.

    We know this for sure: The Holy Spirit cannot be the author of this confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33). God cannot lead people to contradictory beliefs because his truth is one. The conclusion? The "Bible alone" theory must be false.

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  49. Is Half of The Story Sufficient For Salvation?

    How many sides are there to a story? If you say two, then you are wrong. If you had one side and I had one side that would make two sides. However, there is a third side, the side of truth.

    Rule # 1... One half of truth does not a truth make. Neither does one half of a story make the full story. No intelligent person can hear one side of a story and decide which side has the truth.

    Both sides have to be heard, then analysed, and then a decision has to be made as to which side (if either) has a valid story, and after that, the right side(s), or truth side, can be determined.

    This thinking holds true for discerning what Holy Scripture tells us.

    Throughout the Bible there are double standards, yet the fundamentalist thinking shows only one standard, or one side of the story, or only one half of the truth.

    Their thinking is in violation of rule # 1. With only one half of truth, you do not have truth. Anything less than the whole truth is error.

    In the following example, side 'A' is the first side, side 'B' is the second, and side 'C' is the right, or truth side.

    Example ... Sola Scriptura...? Only the Bible. Fundamentalist thinking is that the Bible is sufficient and nothing else is needed for salvation.

    First of all, in order to believe in the 'Bible Only' philosophy, you have to show that Scripture says it. Is that not true? The doctrine of 'Sola Scriptura' is not to be found in Scripture.

    A. Tradition is condemned in many places in Scripture, such as Job 22:15, Matthew 15:6, Mark 7:3-13, Galatians 1:14, Colossians 2:8, 1Timothy 1:4, Titus 1:14, and 1Peter 1:18. Look at these verses and grasp their meaning.

    They all address 'vain' human traditions and are rightly condemned. This is one half of the truth.

    B. Tradition is supported in more places in Scripture than it is condemned. Study Isaiah 59:21, Luke 1:2, 2:19,51, Luke 10:16, 2Thessalonians 2:14-15 - "Stand firm and hold the traditions you have learned..", 2Timothy 1:13,2:2, 1Peter 1:25, 1Jn 1:1,2:24, 2Jn 1:12, Revelation 12:17,19:10.

    These are different traditions than mentioned in 'A'. These are the Traditions of GOD, or 'Apostolic' Tradition.' Again, this is only half of the truth.

    C. The truth is, yes, we do condemn the vain tradition of men, as shown in 'A', and we must keep the Tradition of GOD, as shown in 'B'.

    Thus we have half the truth in 'A', and the other half in 'B', and combined we have the full truth.

    The false doctrine of Sola Scriptura adds A and B together and puts the total in A, rejecting all of tradition. A+B=C.

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  50. johnzylstra@abnorth.comNovember 8, 2010 at 8:33 AM

    Traditions: How do we know which are good, and which are bad/vain? It is thru the guidance of scripture that we can discern this. There are traditions which take us away from scripture, away from Christ, away from obedience. There are traditions which bring us closer to God, bring us closer to daily obedience, help us to understand scripture better. There are traditions which are somewhat neutral and somewhat timely, and others which no longer meet the purpose that they originally fulfilled. Traditions cannot be put on a par with scripture, but are guided by scripture, and subject to scripture, subject to the word of God. Scripture guides us in obedience and service; tradition is part of our service.

    So traditions are not mandated, but are helpful tools to keep us in service to God.

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  51. The problem with arguing against Sola scriptura is that other sources of authority are put on a par with scripture, which often means that they have more authority than scripture. A good example of this is the RC demand that "priests" must not marry. A particular passage by Paul about it is good not to marry, is used to justify a command, rather than a suggestion. So, in spite of the fact that many of the apostles were married, with no indication that Jesus was disappointed in their being married, now, based on the opinion of one apostle, who indicated it as an opinion, the RC church made it a law. They claim to follow the apostolic tradition, but they do not. This is always the problem when a formal church body or church leader places himself on a par with scripture.

    Another example is the churches that put undue restrictions on Christians (non-members) partaking of the communion, as if that communion supper was a personal possession of that local church or denomination. Such a disregard of the fellowship of believers in Christ is a direct contravention of scripture, which expressly states that Christians are to look after and include all members of the body in that celebration, not individualistically and ignoring those who don't fit their image, whether because of wealth, or race, or heritage, or maturity, or denomination.

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  52. This is great Chris. Everyone should evaluate these factors before deciding on a church for their family. Yes the devil is an angel of light and many just want their conscience pampered. "Never sacrifice principle on the alter of affection" Lori Perez-Jeffreys

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  53. As human beings,we always look for that 'perfect pastor' who will preach to us. But the truth is,even those pastors themselves are human beings who still face the same trials as any other human being,their souls also need nourishing as ours do.
    It is good to read various literature,listen to sermons,research etc, for further understanding of the Word.But we should be careful not to become side-tracked or too absorbed into opinions and beliefs formulated by men,such that it becomes 'the gospel according to so' instead of the gospel according to Christ,who is the author and perfecter of our faith.
    Lets us pray and ask God to help us read His Word and give us an understanding of the same.His Word is perfect.
    Read all you can,listen to sermons but remember these are men speaking,ask God to speak to you also,to give you an understanding of His Word.
    Pray also for wisdom(James 1:5),and God is faithful.

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