If there’s a stereotype about church, it’s of an old creaky building with an organ playing softly while people scurry about with hushed voices. There was a good reason for the stereotype. The church can be a place of meditative prayer and the serene mood creates an atmosphere for this. But that’s not the whole story. This week, I was reading about the first introduction of music to the worship of God in ancient Israel. And it changed some of my preconceptions about God, music and the worship He desires. Let me explain.
I read a doctoral thesis by George Bullard recently called, “The Life Cycle and Stages of Congregational Development,” and it compares the development of a church to various stages of human growth. It was helpful because our tendency is to just think of the church as a static entity but it’s more like a living organism that is either growing or dying. Let me explain the stages in the life-cycle of a church that Bullard presents.
Last week, I took a course in church revitalization. As the name suggests, it was about restoring to life to churches that have lost their vitality. Over four days, four pastors shared lessons and insights they had learned in leading their churches through renewal. What was so refreshing was that none of them pointed to gimmicks or novel ideas. The course focused on the fundamentals but with clear strategies on how to grow in them. Whereas 20 years ago churches were talking about shorter sermons, skits, interpretive dance and avoiding words like sin or hell, today growing churches are focused on prayer, evangelism, discipleship and glorifying God. The conversation has changed – for the better! Let me share one of their stories.
The church wasn’t born until the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. And as it was being established, it was clear that the Holy Spirit was the One building and expanding it. His presence is obvious and prominent in the biblical record. Is His presence obvious in your church? Is His presence obvious in your life? Here are four signs that you don’t think you need the Holy Spirit.
People often comment on whether they enjoyed the worship on a Sunday morning. But have you ever stopped to consider whether God enjoyed it? How would you even know whether God enjoyed it? Here are three questions to ask of your worship this Sunday.
Today's post is by guest contributor, Christian Clement-Schlimm. Because it's the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, and because of Christian's background in history, I've asked him to share what Luther might think of the Roman Catholic Church, as it exists today.
Although I grew up with Roman Catholic friends and family, it wasn’t until I began university that I started to have serious theological conversations with Roman Catholics of conviction. These would include Roman Catholic seminarians, converts from Evangelicalism to Roman Catholicism, and people who frankly knew their stuff. We would discuss the nature of the sacraments and the positions of the early church, but it would always come back to the issues of the Reformation. One hard conversation I had took place with a Roman Catholic friend who was considering which Roman Catholic monastic order to join. At the same time he was struggling with critical points raised by Protestantism. The conversation ended when he basically asked, “Why can’t Roman Catholics and Protestants just get along? We’re all serving Christ after all.” I think many people struggle at this point. They know that there are differences between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism but they’re not sure how significant those differences are. What my friend didn’t seem to realize was that our differences were at the heart of our faith. We need to get along, but that doesn’t mean pretending that we’re the same or that our differences don’t matter. Let me explain.
What do you think about when you think about Easter? Many Canadians have traditions. Your traditions may involve eggs, chocolate and family get-togethers. Or your traditions may involve a more spiritual bent towards church and a reflection on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Regardless, I fear that millions of Canadians who attend church for Good Friday and Easter this weekend, won’t act Christian – even at church! Let me explain.
What Christian parent hasn’t felt fear that their child will walk away from the faith? And just about everyone knows of a child who has. Some of us know of adult friends who have turned away from God. And while we can sometimes point to triggers and circumstances, in the end we’re usually just left with theories and guesses about what might have happened. That’s why I was grateful to read a summary and review of Tom Bisset’s book, “Why Christian Kids Leave the Faith,” by Tim Challies. Bisset spent eighteen months interviewing people who had been exposed to faith at an early age and later rejected it. He basically asked them two questions: 1. Why did you leave? 2. Was there anything anyone could have done or said that might have made a difference in your decision? While the responses were varied, he cites four trends that emerged.
While the Bible does use the word “marry” and “marriage,” rather than add an eleventh commandment, “Thou shalt have a wedding,” there is a commandment not to commit adultery. And you begin to realize that if it’s a sin to sleep with someone who’s not your husband or wife, then there must be some formal process to identify where a marriage begins and when it ends. In a world without weddings or marriage, you’d never have adultery. Because the lines were never formally drawn, it would be impossible to nail down when you’d actually crossed them. I think church membership is a little bit like marriage.