Don’t be a hater: Get to church

Ted Kluck and Kevin DeYoung, who teamed up to write “Two Guys Who Are Not Emergent” and the just-published “Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion,” recently wrote an article for the On Faith section of the Washington Post. For two young guys, they sound a chord not heard often in this culture. That is, the church is important in our society:

Here’s what Bono, Oprah, and the guru speakers on PBS won’t tell you: Jesus believed in organized religion and he founded an institution. Of course, Jesus had no patience for religious hacks and self-righteous wannabes, but he was still Jewish. And as Jew, he read the Holy Book, worshiped in the synagogue, and kept Torah. He did not start a movement of latte-drinking disciples who excelled in spiritual conversations. He founded the church (Matt. 16:18) and commissioned the apostles to proclaim the good news that Israel’s Messiah had come and the sins of the world could be forgiven through his death on the cross (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 2:14-36).

Now, these guys are not naive. They know what churches can be like and how they have received a reputation for not being the most loving places in the world:

We’ve been in the church our whole lives and are not blind to its failings. Churches can be boring, hypocritical, hurtful, and inept. The church is full of sinners. Which is kind of the point. Christians are worse than you think. Our Savior is better than you imagine.

But the church is not all about oppression and drudgery. Almost every church we know of visits old people, brings meals to new moms, supports disaster relief, and does something for the poor. We love the local church, in spite of its problems, because it’s where we go to meet God. It’s not a glorified social/country club you attend to be around people who talk and look just you do. It’s a place to hear God’s word spoken, taught and affirmed. It’s a place to sing praises to God, and a place to serve others. It’s a place to be challenged.

Their new book “provides a solid biblical mandate to love and be a part of the body of Christ and counteract the ‘leave church’ books that trumpet rebellion and individual felt needs.” I know that there are many of us who have in the past gone through or currently are going through difficulties with your fellow believers in the church. Don’t despair — and don’t leave the church.

Download the study guide to go with the book.

Calvinism: The thing people fear in their churches

What is the most detestable thing a person can imagine happening to their church? A disregard of the scripture? A lack of mission? Triviality or a worship of culture? Moral corruption among church leaders or an unloving attitude? A lack of worship?

No, it seems that a great many fear the teaching of Calvinism. That is, the five points of Calvinism. The doctrines of grace. These things:

  • Total depravity
  • Unconditional Election
  • Limited Atonement
  • Irresistible Grace
  • Perseverance of the saint

That is, you believe that:

  1. We experience first our depravity and need of salvation.
  2. Then we experience the irresistible grace of God leading us toward faith.
  3. Then we trust the sufficiency of the atoning death of Christ for our sins.
  4. Then we discover that behind the work of God to atone for our sins and bring us to faith was the unconditional election of God.
  5. And finally we rest in his electing grace to give us the strength and will to persevere to the end in faith.

Radical stuff, that Calvinism. Goodness knows where that could lead.

Not sure? Here are some things you could read to maybe give you a better idea.

And now, some words for the nonrevolutionaries among us

Ted Kluck, by way of coauthor Kevin DeYoung’s blog, has some words for you in an excerpt of their latest great book, Why We Love the Church:

A search on a popular Christian bookseller’s Web site revealed no less than sixty-two items with the word manifesto in the title and hundreds containing the term revolutionary. There are revolutionary books for teens. Ditto for stay-at-home moms. There’s a book about how Jesus was a revolutionary communicator, and how you can use His revolutionary communication skills in your home/business/church. The question then becomes, If we’re all revolutionaries, are any of us an actual revolutionary? Being a revolutionary used to mean that you overthrew a government; now it means that you’re a courageous enough visionary to have church on a golf course or in someone’s living room.

My point in all of this is not to make not-so-subtle jabs at revolutionary culture (maybe a little bit); rather, it is to encourage the scores of nonrevolutionaries in our midst, of which I am one. I want to encourage those of us who try really hard to pray for our families and friends, try to read our Bibles consistently, and share the gospel with those around us. Those of us who aren’t ready to chuck centuries worth of church history, and years of unglamorous but God-glorifying growth in the name of revolution.

I’m also a part of the generation that has produced more memoirs before the age of thirty-five than any other in history. We’re crazy about Christian narrative nonfiction, especially those “on the road” stories, no matter how trite or contrived they may be. We’re journeyers. We’re wanderers. We still haven’t found what we’re looking for. Jack Kerouac’s (or Donald Miller’s…or Lauren Winner’s) wayward children are all over the Christian book landscape.

These narrative titles all follow a similar pattern, in that in them experiences are had (a cross-country road trip, a self-finding excursion through Europe, a documentary chronicling the lameness of American Christians, a chronicle on how the author dropped out of church and subsequently “found” Jesus), and then those experiences are shared in book form. Many of these books are supposed to tell us that “community” is the answer, and individualism is bad, but at the end of the day these books are largely about the individual and his or her discoveries.

I am looking forward to this book. Both Ted and Kevin have a great way of getting right to the point in a helpful way. Don’t go find yourself. Find God and love the church.

 

Bad idea: Trying to fit God into the American Dream

Over the last few days over at the Desiring God blog, Paul Tripp has been answering questions. It’s been a great series, but I thought this one was particularly good:

What is the greatest hindrance to cultivating community in the American church?

The first thing that comes to mind is frenetic western-culture busyness.

I read a book on stress a few years back, and the author made a side comment that I thought was so insightful. He said that the highest value of materialistic western culture is not possessing. It’s actually acquiring.

If you’re a go-getter you never stop. And so the guy who is lavishly successful doesn’t quit, because there are greater levels of success. “My house could be bigger, I could drive better cars, I could have more power, I could have more money.”

And so we’ve bought an unbiblical definition of the good life of success. Our kids have to be skilled at three sports and play four musical instruments, and our house has to be lavish by whatever standard. And all of that stuff is eating time, eating energy, eating money. And it doesn’t promote community.

I think often that even the programs of a local church are too sectored and too busy. As if we’re trying to program godliness. And so the family is actually never together because they’re all in demographic groupings. Where do we have time where we are pursuing relationships with one another, living with one another, praying with one another, talking with one another?

I’ve talked to a lot of families who literally think it’s a victory to have 3 or 4 meals all together with one another in a week, because they’re so busy. Well, if in that family unit they’re not experiencing community, there’s no hope of them experiencing it outside of that family unit.

We have families that will show up at our church on Sunday morning with the boys dressed in their little league outfits, and I know what’s going to happen. They’re going to leave the service early. Now what a value message to that little boy! Do I think little league is bad? I don’t think it’s bad at all. I think it’s great. But they’re telling him what’s important as they do that.

You can’t fit God’s dream (if I can use that language) for his church inside of the American dream and have it work. It’s a radically different lifestyle. It just won’t squeeze into the available spaces of the time and energy that’s left over.

Read the rest of Tripp’s answer here.

What’s the problem with the church?

Why We Love the ChurchKevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck, who brought us “Why We’re Not Emergent (By Two Guys Who Should Be), have teamed up for a new book that looks at the local church and its biblical mandate. The book, called “Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion,” is due out July 1 and is described this way by the publisher:

Why We Love the Church presents the case for loving the local church.  It paints a picture of the local church in all its biblical and real life guts, gaffes, and glory in an effort to edify local congregations and entice the disaffected back to the fold.  It also provides a solid biblical mandate to love and be part of the body of Christ and counteract the “leave church” books that trumpet rebellion and individual felt needs. 

DeYoung, in lead up to the book’s release, looks at reasons people are disillusioned with the church. He breaks those reasons into four groups:

  • Missiological — it doesn’t work any more and is making no difference whatsoever
  • The Personal — it’s views are too harsh toward certain groups and unloving and has an “image problem”
  • The Historical — the church is corrupted from its original pristine state
  • The Theological — the modern view of the church is foreign to what Jesus came for in the Bible

Over the coming weeks, DeYoung will post excerpts from the book and address these concerns. I look forward to reading them and the book’s release.

Short film from DG: Is this you?

I came across this today and I have to say that, sadly, it had a familiar feel to it. This reminded me of some of the conversation we were having last night at our small group about how we lack intimacy with those within our own church because we are often harsher than the world with what we see as flaws and failures. Because of that tendancy, I think we tend to put on phony faces in front of each other like we see in the video. What happens is we are a) hypocritical and b) not really helped by or helping those around us.

Worship is for the entire family

I love to go to church. We only have one service at our church, and it happens to be on Sunday morning. But it is a special time for me to be there with my spiritual family and worship my heavenly father.

But I know that not everyone shares that passion. And, usually, those people are the youngest among us. Being at church is something that, in our society, is becoming an increasingly unique experience. After all, we are not prone to gather and stay in one place for that long. Thus, it becomes hard for children to appreciate, let alone adults.

That is why I found this article to be so useful in helping my children — and other children, I hope — learn to appreciate being in the service from a young age. We don’t give them enough credit for what they can understand. If we really believe that our children can grasp enough to be saved at an early age — and I really believe that — then we should also encourage our children to be a part of the service, as best they can, as fellow worshippers.

HT: Desiring God

John Piper says “Don’t Waste Your Pulpit”

First of all, I am not a pastor. I will say this: I am glad that my pastor values the word of God and does take time every Sunday to explain it to us. In the clip below, John Piper exhorts pastors to preach God’s word and not their own thoughts. It is a tragic thing when churches become places of topical discussion when we know that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing though the word of Christ.

HT: Provocations and Pantings