Monthly Archives: October 2014
In his book, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, author James Emery White has one chapter devoted to key components of a church’s ministry that will keep the front door open and help attract the unchurched. Here’s a summary of his principles.
- Friendliness—You must be intentional about the guest’s experience and cultivate an atmosphere of acceptance. “Acceptance is not affirmation, but it is an embrace.”
- Children’s Ministry—Children are the heart of your growth engine. And if nones ever come to your church uninvited, it will probably be for the sake of their kids.
- Music—Music matters, and the key is cultural translation. And remember, there’s no such thing as traditional music.(See yesterday’s blog.)
- Building—From the moment when nones first view the church and its grounds, the initial impression is made; physical surroundings convey strong messages.
- Importance of the Visual—Over the last twenty years we have decisively moved to a visually based world and the church needs to move with it.
Does all this matter? It depends on whether or not you are expecting company.
At last night’s quarterly leader’s meeting at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, I introduced a proposal from the elders to add several people to our staff. As I explained, the purpose and focus is to train and equip these individuals for a career in full-time ministry, not merely to add staff to our church. You can read the details in the proposal below.
In his book, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, author James Emery White addresses to issue of music in the worship service. His perspective might surprise you.
There is no such thing as traditional music. All music was, at one time, newfangled, contemporary, cutting-edge, and probably too loud. The great hymns of Martin Luther are considered traditional and sacred to our ears, but they were anything but traditional and sacred to the people of Luther’s day. Many of the great hymns written during the Protestant Reformation, such as “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” were based on barroom tunes that were popular during that period. Luther simply changed the lyrics and then put the song into the life of the church. The result? People were able to meaningfully express themselves in worship—or at least connect with it stylistically.
Charles Wesley also borrowed from the secular music of his day, and John Calvin hired secular songwriters to put his theology to music, leading the Queen of England to call them “Geneva Jigs.” Bach provides a similar pattern, as he used a popular form of music known as the cantata for weekly worship music. He was also known to seize tunes from “rather questionable sources and rework them for the church.” Even Handel’s Messiah was condemned as “vulgar theater” by the churchmen of his day for having too much repetition and not enough content.
The last line is worth rereading. The point? Throughout history you’ll find a connection between church growth and contemporary music. Sorry if that’s too crass for you, but it’s true. Don’t ever downplay music—remember, there’s an entire book of the Bible that is almost nothing but lyrics you can work from so here are two words that will serve you well: music matters.
Just as the deeper issue with friendliness is an atmosphere of acceptance, the deeper issue with music is cultural translation. Let’s retire such words as relevant and contemporary, shall we? The heart of it all is a missionary enterprise: learn the language of the people, the music, the dress, the customs—and then translate the gospel for them.
Chase this with me for a moment. If we were dropped into the deepest reaches of the Amazon basin as missionaries of the gospel to reach a specific unreached tribe of people, we would attempt to learn the language, dress in a way that is appropriate, craft a worship experience that uses indigenous instruments and styles, and work tirelessly to translate the Scriptures into their language. No one would argue with that approach. It’s Missiology 101. Now realize that your mission field is the West. Are you doing the work of a missionary?
Book Review: The Last Rescue: How Faith and Love Saved a Navy SEAL Sniper, by Howard Wasdin with Joel Kilpatrick
How do you go from an elite warrior to a broken man? How do you find meaning and purpose when your body can no longer perform the skills that gave you an identity? How do you find support to endure rehabilitation and recovery? How do you go from being valued for your tactical skills to being unable to put your marriage and family back together?
These are some of the questions touched on in Howard Wasdin’s book, The Last Rescue: How Faith and Love Saved a Navy SEAL Sniper. Wasdin is a former member of SEAL Team Six who survived the firestorm in Mogadishu made famous in the movie Black Hawk Down. Wounded in the battle, he returned home to discover his marriage was falling apart and his world turned upside down. On top of that, he faced the challenge of rehabilitation and recovery. His greatest challenge, however, was discovering a new purpose in life.
At the same time Howard was recovering from his wounds and trying to find his place in a peacetime world, his future wife, Debbie, was walking through her own trial by fire. When they met, they began a journey together by rediscovering their faith in God and their ability to trust in God’s goodness.
The book is a very fast read. Wasdin weaves together his time in the SEALs with his childhood years and his journey through rehabilitation and building a new life. He shares lessons he learned along with Scriptural principles without being overly preachy. He tells how he learned the importance of love and forgiveness.
Having read his previous book, SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy SEAL Sniper, I was curious to read the next installment of how he adapted and adjusted to life at home. While I would not call it a great book, it is an interesting story. The book would be a good gift for someone interested in the military. It would be a good conversation starter to lead into spiritual things.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com http://BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
When you ask the average person, “If you died tonight, do you know for certain if you’d go to heaven?” their response if often like this comic.
Scripture, however, explains that we can know for certain.
Romans 6:23 points out that I have a problem. I am a sinner in need of a savior.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The bad news is that because I am a sinner by nature and by choice, I deserve to be punished. Like receiving a paycheck at the end of the month for my work on the job, death is the just wages for my sin.
The good news is that eternal life is available through Jesus Christ. Even better news is that heaven is a free gift. It’s not earned or deserved.
Romans 10:9-10 goes on to explain how I can receive this free gift.
“…because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”
- I believe the good news that Jesus died on the cross for my sins and that he rose from the dead on the third day
- I confess Jesus is Lord by asking him to forgive my sins
- I can know for certain that heaven awaits me when I die
Eastern Air Lines Flight 401 was bound from New York City to Miami on December 29, 1972. It was filled with holiday travelers. As the aircraft approached the Miami Airport for its landing, a light that indicates proper deployment of the landing gear failed to come on. The plane flew in a large, looping circle over the swamps of the Everglades while the cockpit crew checked out the light failure. Their question was this, had the landing gear actually not deployed or was it just the light bulb that was defective?
The flight engineer fiddled with the bulb. He tried to remove it, but it wouldn’t budge. Another member of the crew tried to help out… and then another. By and by, if you can believe it, all eyes were on the little light bulb that refused to be dislodged from its socket. No one noticed that the autopilot had been inadvertently disengaged and the plane was losing altitude. Finally, it dropped right into a swamp. 102 people were killed in that plane crash.
While an experienced crew of high-priced and seasoned pilots messed around with a seventy-five-cent light bulb, an entire airplane and many of its passengers were lost. The crew momentarily forgot the most basic of all rules of the air—“Don’t forget to fly the airplane!”
People can get caught up in the busyness of the day—running from the house to the doctor to work to school to soccer practice to music lessons to church to committee meetings to . . . You can do so much and yet accomplish so little.
Churches can have so many activities, programs, projects, committee meetings, banquets, and community involvements—so many wheels spinning without really accomplishing anything of eternal significance—that the congregation forgets its primary objective.
We can learn a lot about someone by following them during a typical day. We can learn even more by watching an individual during a busy and stressful day. Mark 1:21-39 presents a single day in the life of Jesus. Amidst the pressure of hurting people, growing popularity, and the expectations of his followers, Jesus was in charge of his schedule and priorities. He made time for what was most important. On the busiest day of his life, Jesus maintained three priorities: people (29-34), prayer (35), and preaching (36-39).
Following the worship service in the synagogue (21-28), Jesus and his four disciples went to the home of Peter and Andrew. The Jewish custom was that the main meal came after Sabbath worship at about noon. Since Simon’s home was apparently close to the synagogue it was the natural place to go for lunch.
Upon arriving, Jesus learns that Simon’s mother-in-law was sick in bed with a fever. He compassionately goes to her, touches her and heals her completely, without saying a word. The fever leaves her. She immediately gets out of bed, showing no lingering weakness, and serves the party.
Between Jesus delivering a man from a demon in the synagogue and healing Simon’s mother-in-law, the excitement is now building. That evening at sundown it seems as if the entire town is camped at the front door. Everyone in Capernaum knew Jesus was in town and wanted something from him. In a compassionate response, Jesus heals many and casts out many demons.
Despite a full day of ministry, Jesus got up early the next day and went to a solitary place to pray (35). Jesus cannot extend himself outward in compassion without first attending to the source of his mission and purpose with the Father; and, conversely, his oneness with the Father compels him outward in mission.
The crowds return to Simon’s door expecting to find Jesus. Simon and company go looking for Jesus (36-37). Their statement, “Everyone is looking for you” may indicate some annoyance with Jesus on their part. They thought Jesus was not taking advantage of his opportunities. They wanted him to do more miracles and increase his popularity.
The phrase, “looking for you,” means to seek with evil or inappropriate intention. Mark apparently understood that the motives of the crowd were not good. The people of Capernaum apparently had no interest in Jesus beyond his miracles. They were not willing to come under his authority in the kingdom of God.
Jesus’ reply indicates that the disciples did not understand Jesus’ plan and mission. His plan was to go elsewhere to preach (39). His plan was to proclaim the good news, not become the resident miracle worker. He would not let popular acclaim change his priorities.
Following the example of Jesus, we can learn much about how to maintain our priorities in the midst of daily life. Amidst the pressure of life’s busyness, we should make time to Serve the needs of others, Spend time with God, and Share the gospel.
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on October 26, 2014. It is part of a series in the Gospel of Mark. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.
Whether you cross the street or cross the ocean, here are three challenges that all of us face if we want to live for Christ and share his message with our world.
- Learn the language: educate yourself on how to talk in a way that people can understand and to which they can relate and eventually respond
- Study the culture: become so sensitized to that culture that you can operate effectively within it
- Translate the gospel: translate it into its own cultural context so that it can be heard, understood, and appropriated
Cited in The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, by James Emery White