Thursday, May 22, 2008

Function, Order, & Ordinances of the Church

Why in the world would we want to combine these three topics, each of which could easily constitute a semester of study by themeselves, into one Sunday morning lesson? The order and ordinances (also called the Sacraments) of the Church are the topic of more controversy and debate between believers than any other doctrinal topics. So, not only do they seem disconnected one from another, but wouldn't it be madness to try and cover them both in one hour?

The focal point of all these issues, however, is the function of the Church. The topic of which ordinances to observe, how to observe them, and when to observe them hinges on what the Church is seeking to accomplish in the first place. Likewise, the topic of how to order the church, who should lead, who should teach, who should serve and how the group should be structured also revolve around the simple matter of the Church's function in this world.

Our ultimate purpose as the Church is to glorify Christ. Whether it be through evangelism, benevolence, mutual edification, or simply corporate worship—all of which we will discuss next week—the ultimate FUNCTION of the church is to glorify and exalt Christ on earth until His return and thereafter.

So, we will look at ordinances and order of the Church through a dramatically simplified lense: how does this doctrine glorify Christ? In so doing, other questions such as tradition, cultural contextualization, and spiritual experiences all disappear. Is that too much of a narrow view? Can we really ignore matters that appear so relevant to our culture today? A disciplined focus on Christ alone does indeed earn the label "narrow-minded" in today's culture. "But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it" (Matthew 7:14).

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Does it matter what we believe?

Does it matter what we believe? Are there fundamental theological truths that are essential to what it means to be a Christian? And, if so, why do we have to write out an official statement that details what we believe in? Aren't we Christians who believe in the Bible?

Indeed, we are. But as such, we as the Church have a great burden to carry out Paul's charge to "encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it" (Titus 1:9). So how do we define what is "sound doctrine" and what we must "refute?"

Our church and the larger group of Evangelical Free Churches of which we are a part, has a 12 point Statement of Faith that was adopted 58 years ago. Over the past four years, it has been reviewed and a new proposal is on the table to make some changes.

Pastor Tom will meet with us this Sunday to discuss the background of this proposal and share the details as well as take questions and hear your thoughts. I encourage you to visit to see the existing statement and come ready to learn the reasons and call to make modifications.

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Thursday, May 8, 2008

Head, Hands, Heart... What's the 4th one?

Ok, so maybe Justin and Chelsea are going to be the only ones that get the joke, but whenever I try to list the metaphors for the Church from memory, I end up saying the 4H pledge.

This Sunday, we're going to go through as many metaphors as we have time for. The New Testament writers, and Jesus Himself, were incredibly adept at using imagery to communicate their point. So much so that literature classes often still use Biblical examples for a technique called a "Word Picture."

The metaphors are much deeper than what's on the surface, however. Examples of the Church as a building, for example, were intended to have a very significant and powerful reference for 1st century Jews thinking of their sacred temple. The bride metaphor reveals beautiful truths about the Old Testament laws for marriage and, in turn, reveals God's intent for our own marriages today as well.

Let's see how many we can come up with. What are some of the metaphors for the Church that you can remember... and what do you think they mean?
(Post 'em here)

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Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Church

From 9:00 to Noon on Sunday mornings, an hour and half out to eat for lunch with the group, 2 hours Wednesday night, and 2 hours Monday night... we could spend up to 8.5 hours each week "at church" in one way or another. Add in meetings, caring for other members, one-on-one accountability, Bible studies, personal quiet time, and before you know it you've got a part-time job just being a church member. So, for something that consumes so much of our lives (ideally, all of it) I thought it might be worthwhile to take a look at what "the Church" really is.

For the next 5 weeks, leading up to Kendra's and my departure to Southeast Asia, we will be going through a study of the Church. This Sunday, we'll start with the identiy of the church. What makes the church, why is it special, how did it come to be, and what does that mean to you?

To begin, we must start at the beginning. God's covenant with the Church is called a "new covenant," so what happened to the old one? What relation (if any) exists between Israel and the Church? How is the Church identified today... is it similar to Israel in it's identity, or not? How so?

In the weeks to come, we'll explore several major topics on the Church:

  1. Metaphors for the Church that are found in the New Testament
  2. The function, order, and ordinances of the Church
  3. The role of the Church in the world and your role in the Church

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