If you’ve been around DSC for a while, you’ve heard us talk about Community Groups. In fact, hopefully you’ve more than heard about Community Groups, but you’ve been invited into one and encouraged to get involved. There are many crucial reasons to embed yourself in community in this way, but if we had to pick going to church on Sunday or to Community Group, which should it be?
In his article, “Worship is More Important than Your Small Group,” Jason Helopoulos addresses this question. Here’s how he begins:
Like most of you, I love small groups. I love the “give and take” of the discussion. I love the interaction with others. I love the questions raised and the answers discovered. But as much as you and I may love small groups, corporate worship is more important.
Someone recently commented to me that pastors are the only ones who really enjoy Sunday mornings as the high point in the week. I hope not! This individual insisted that other Christians look forward to their small groups more than corporate worship. She said it is more exciting for the congregant to be in a small group where they can ask questions, pray for others, discuss their own views, and get to know one another more intimately. I understand this sentiment and appreciate the desire to connect with others, but in all humility I would say to this well-intentioned individual, “You don’t understand the distinct privilege corporate worship is. We are communing with the saints before the holy throne of a majestic God.”
In the rest of his article, Jason addresses the uniqueness of Sunday morning and the common reasons that some might feel that it’s second to their Community Group. Read the whole article here.
As Christians, we believe that God’s Word is not only true but good. We also believe that what is good for us individually has social consequences. We do, after all, live together. Careful Christian reflection on the meaning and consequences of such things as marriage is a means of loving our neighbors.
In Sunday’s sermon, “The Heart of Marriage and Divorce,” Ryan pointed to the social consequences of divorce for people, especially women and children. This is a sensitive topic and you should listen to the sermon if you weren’t able to join us. On the subject of divorce and its social consequences, this was especially true in the first century, but it is true today as well. This is evident from our own experience with divorce, even if there are obvious exceptions, but it is also evident in studies that have been conducted.
In his article, “The Social Costs of Abandoning the Meaning of Marriage,” Ryan Anderson writes:
[Marriage is] a personal relationship that serves a public purpose. According to the best available sociological evidence, children fare best on virtually every examined indicator when reared by their wedded biological parents. Studies that control for other factors, including poverty and even genetics, suggest that children reared in intact homes do best in terms of educational achievement, emotional health, familial and sexual development, and delinquency and incarceration.
The breakdown of marriage most hurts the least well-off. A leading indicator of whether someone will know poverty or prosperity is whether, growing up, he or she knew the love and security of having a married mother and father. Marriage reduces the probability of child poverty by 80 percent.
Anderson linked to two studies that ground this claim.
First, in, “Marriage and the Public Good: Ten Principles,” the Witherspoon Institute offers these ten principles with a bundle of social science research to substantiate them:
- Marriage is a personal union, intended for the whole of life, of husband and wife.
- Marriage is a profound human good, elevating and perfecting our social and sexual nature.
- Ordinarily, both men and women who marry are better off as a result.
- Marriage protects and promotes the well-being of children.
- Marriage sustains civil society and promotes the common good.
- Marriage is a wealth-creating institution, increasing human and social capital.
- When marriage weakens, the equality gap widens, as children suffer from the disadvantages of growing up in homes without committed mothers and fathers.
- A functioning marriage culture serves to protect political liberty and foster limited government.
- The laws that govern marriage matter significantly.
- “Civil marriage” and “religious marriage” cannot be rigidly or completely divorced from one another.
Then, at the Heritage Foundation, Robert Rector’s study, “Marriage: America’s Greatest Weapon Against Child Poverty,” offers this abstract of the substance and application of his findings:
Child poverty is an ongoing national concern, but few are aware that its principal cause is the absence of married fathers in the home. Marriage remains America’s strongest anti-poverty weapon, yet it continues to decline. As husbands disappear from the home, poverty and welfare dependence will increase, and children and parents will suffer as a result. Since marital decline drives up child poverty and welfare dependence, and since the poor aspire to healthy marriage but lack the norms, understanding, and skills to achieve it, it is reasonable for government to take active steps to strengthen marriage. Just as government discourages youth from dropping out of school, it should provide information that will help people to form and maintain healthy marriages and delay childbearing until they are married and economically stable. In particular, clarifying the severe shortcomings of the “child first, marriage later” philosophy to potential parents in lower-income communities should be a priority.
God’s Word is true, and it also works. For the Christian, while our interest in marriage does not stop with our own individual marriages, our own individual homes are the most important place for the application of God’s Word to life. Not only has God given marriage to us for our good, which is demonstrably true, but he has given it to us that we might have the honor of living out a picture of his love for us in Christ (Eph. 5:22-33).
If you missed Sunday’s sermon, we would commend it to you. Listen here.
This week, David Murray posted some good advice for families. In his third installment in a series on “Ingredients Of A Happy Home,” David Murray shares these six tips:
- Maximize the number. Yes, we have conflicting schedules, shift work, overtime, etc. Yes, there are college assignments to be done, email to be answered, books to be read, chores to be completed. But just because you can’t get everybody together all of the time doesn’t mean we can’t get some together some of the time.
- Maximize involvement. Don’t let the loudest or oldest voice dominate. Work to ensure that everybody gets a shot at telling about their day, their joys and trials, successes and failures.
- Maximize listening. Encourage careful, appreciate, and interactive listening. Ban cellphones and sarcasm. No rising from the table while someone is speaking.
- Maximize positives. It can be tempting for some people and for some families to just dwell on the negatives at work, at college, or even in the national situation. Sometimes it can be helpful to ask each person to list three positives from their day until that becomes more of a natural instinct. Humor and laughter are also tasty side-dishes.
- Maximize food. If teenagers know that they’re going to miss out on some really great food, and even better deserts, they’ll be much more likely to organize their schedule around your mealtimes. They can get microwave dinners anywhere. Worth putting extra money and effort into enticing them to the family table. Yes, godly herbs are better than ungodly steak. But godly steak is best of all.
- Maximize worship. Start the meal with prayer, turn the conversation towards God at opportune moments, and close the meal with prayer and a short Bible reading.
For one more source of counsel, Columnist at the New York Times, Bruce Feiler, has this to share.
Kevin DeYoung recently published a blog, “The Plus One Approach to Church,” with some wise counsel for anyone who desires to be more connected at any church, and it applies at DSC too. If this article doesn’t hold timely advice for you, then maybe it will come in hand in your next conversation with the next person you meet on Sunday morning
Here’s how he beings his article:
Are you just starting out at a new church and don’t know how to get plugged in? Have you been at your church for years and still haven’t found your place? Are you feeling disconnected, unhappy, or bored with your local congregation? Let me suggest you enter the “Plus One” program of church involvement.
I don’t mean to sound like a bad infomercial. Here’s what I mean: In addition to the Sunday morning worship service, pick one thing in the life of your congregation and be very committed to it.
This is far from everything a church member should do. We are talking about minimum requirements and baby steps. This is about how to get plugged in at a new church or how to get back on track after drifting away. This is for people who feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. This is for the folks who should make a little more effort before slipping out the back door.
The idea is simple. First, be faithful in attending the Sunday morning worship service. Don’t miss a Sunday. Sure, you may miss a couple Sundays during the year because of illness. Vacation and business travel may take you away from your local congregation several other Sundays too. But keep these to a minimum. Don’t plan all your cottage getaways over the weekend so that you miss out on your own church (and perhaps church altogether) for most of the summer. Don’t let the kids’ activities crowd out Sunday services. (What did Joshua say? “If soccer be god then serve soccer, but as for me and my household we will serve the Lord.” Something like that.) Don’t let homework or football or too much rain or too much sun keep you from the gathering of God’s people for worship. Commit right now that Sunday morning is immovable. You go to church. Period.
Now, add one more thing.
Read the whole thing here.
Depending on your involvement at DSC, that next thing for you may be joining us at our monthly Lord’s Supper service, held this month on February 25. It might mean getting involved in a Community Group. Or it might mean joining us for our next membership class, Knowing Christ, Knowing the Church, which is held each Spring and Fall on Wednesday nights, and during the Summer on Sundays.
As a church in a city like Albuquerque we have the blessing of fellowship with believers who have relocated here from around the country. This also means we say goodbye to people from time to time who relocate elsewhere.
If the time comes for you or someone you know to move, hopefully the question of finding a church comes up right away.
In his article, “Two Factors to Consider Before You Move,” Deepak Reju offers these two points of counsel:
1. If you are considering moving, make sure there is a good church in your new location before you make the final decision to move.
If the local church is one of the key sources for your spiritual growth (Eph. 3:10; 4:11-13; Heb. 10:24-25), why would you take a risk and go some place without knowing first if there would be a good church near you?
Don’t make your decision to move based solely on criteria like:
- This new job will be good for your career.
- Education will give you better job prospects in the future.
- You’re dissatisfied with your current job so you need to move on to somewhere else.
- You’ve outgrown your current house, so you want to move to a bigger one.
- You want a bigger home just because you can afford it.
- You are about to start having kids and want to move closer to your family.
- You would rather live in a city or the country or where the pace of life is different.
2. Consider, at some point in your life, committing to a church long-term.
If you’ve found a church where you are growing spiritually, then you’ve found a good thing. Why give it up? If you stay in your church over the long-term, you have the benefit of:
- Getting to know the leadership of the church much better and allowing them to get to know you.
- Getting to know the local community better (which will help your evangelism).
- Sitting consistently under preaching that is benefiting you spiritually.
- Building a kind of depth to relationships, which you achieve over 10 or 20 (or even 30) years that you don’t get if you move every 5 years.
- Being known by others who have had the chance to see your needs, challenges, and sin patterns over time, which in turn enables them to speak meaningfully into your life and care for you in a way that those you just met couldn’t.
- Earning trust among leaders in the church so that you might be assigned various responsibilities.
- Earning trust among leaders and others generally that you might be speak into their lives in significant ways.
- Having the opportunity to minister to the children of others as they grow from infancy to adolescence to adulthood, and having the ability to help form in those children’s minds a model of godly adulthood.
- Building greater unity within the church by growing up with the church.
- Providing a kind of stability in the church by staying and giving an example of commitment through thick and thin.
- Being sanctified through being at the same church during different seasons . . .
- Witnessing long-term spiritual growth—what it is like for God to make people more like himself over decades.
If in God’s providence and for good reasons you are headed to a new place, check out the TGC Church Directory, the 9Marks Church Search, or the Acts 29 Church Finder. There are other networks and ways to find a fine church, but these are three that we recommend regularly.
Finally, here are four things to look for when you’re getting to know a church either through a visit in person or to their website:
- What do they believe? This is available on most church sites or at an information counter.
- What’s their diet? Check out their sermon archive to see if they preach topically or through books of the Bible in an expository fashion.
- How are they led? Are they led by biblical qualified elders/pastors?
- What’s important to them? This takes some perceptivity, but, for example, are they engaged in the spread of the gospel locally and abroad?
You won’t find a perfect church in DSC, and you won’t find one anywhere else. Each church will have its areas of strength and it’s areas of needed growth. In the Lord’s wisdom, every Christian and every local gathering is a work of his grace in process. But perhaps these links and counsel will help you find a good fit if and when it comes time to move.
If leaving DSC is hard, then you’ve done it right. That says as much about God’s grace to commit you to this church as it does the body you’ve grown to love. Wherever you land, involve yourself with that same love and commitment.
On the DSC Blog we regularly link you to helpful articles, books, and resources around the web. Never have we linked to 24 in one click. Today that is about to change.
Click here for 24 Free eBooks from Desiring God.
Jonathan Parnell explains a recent trickle of eBook resources made up largely from the sermons and writing of John Piper.
Over the past two years, the team at desiringGod.org has published a series of ebooks made available to our readers free of charge. The ebooks range from material written by John Piper, individual biographies, and multi-author volumes, with each one downloadable in three electronic formats (PDF, MOBI for Kindle, and EPUB for iBooks and other readers). Some also include a paperback option as well. With our most recent release of Killjoys, the total number is now 24. Check out the full list below, and enjoy.
All 24 are described and available here, but here are a few examples along with their descriptions:
Disability and the Sovereign Goodness of God, John Piper
Disabilities are a reality. They break into our lives in various forms: as the product of genetic misalignments in the womb, as the result of tragic accidents, as the byproducts of infectious disease, and from the degenerative effects of old age. And no church is immune. Every church leader must be prepared to answer very hard questions about the goodness and sovereignty of God.
Take Care How You Listen is an ebook on listening well. It is comprised of five unedited sermon manuscripts from the preaching ministry of John Piper. We pray this resource will serve your personal reflection as you heed Jesus’s command to “take care how you listen” (Luke 8:18).
Exposing the Dark Work of Abortion, John Piper
We are children of the light. Abortion is a work of darkness. The apostle Paul said, “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them” (Ephesians 5:11). This short book is a collection of three sermons John Piper preached on abortion, aiming to help us speak out.
Getting to know that special someone includes learning about family and friends and schooling and athletics, favorite pastimes, books, movies, life’s best moments and worst, the brightest places in our background and the darkest. But what about theology? Ever think to ask about that? This short book offers some help.
In October of 1792 the Baptist Missionary Society was formed in the home of Andrew Fuller. For the next twenty-one years Fuller served as the leader of this organization, raising funds, writing periodicals, recruiting missionaries, and sending personal letters to those on the frontlines. He longed for unreached peoples to hear the gospel and championed the important (but often overlooked) foundation of doctrinal clarity.
Good: The Joy of Christian Manhood and Womanhood, John Piper
For this multi-contributor volume, we teamed up with the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood to produce a fresh articulation of God’s good design in creating men and women. This resource — the collaboration of 14 contributors — seeks to cast a vision for manhood and womanhood that is rooted more in beauty than mere ideology, more in gladness than mere position.
In the course of this sermon we traveled through Ephesians 5:22-24, where Paul gives wives this command:
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
What does this mean? What doesn’t this mean? If we want to honor our Lord with obedience then we should want to know. Because this is a commonly misused and misunderstood passage, it will be helpful to linger on it a bit.
About two years ago now, in his sermon, “A Word to the Wives,” Ryan addressed the subject of submission from 1 Peter 3:1-6. In doing so, Ryan referenced six points from a sermon delivered by John Piper indicating “What submission is not,” according to 1 Peter 3:1-6. Here they are:
- Submission does not mean agreeing with everything your husband says. You can see that in verse one: she is a Christian and he is not. He has one set of ideas about ultimate reality. She has another. Peter calls her to be submissive while assuming she will not submit to his view of the most important thing in the world—God. So submission can’t mean submitting to agree with all her husband thinks.
- Submission does not mean leaving your brain or your will at the wedding altar. It is not the inability or the unwillingness to think for yourself. Here is a woman who heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. She thought about it. She assessed the truth claims of Jesus. She apprehended in her heart the beauty and worth Christ and his work, and she chose him. Her husband heard it also. Other wise Peter probably wouldn’t say he “disobeyed the word.” He has heard the word and he has thought about it. And he has not chosen Christ. She thought for herself and she acted. And Peter does not tell her to retreat from that commitment.
- Submission does not mean avoiding every effort to change a husband. The whole point of this text is to tell a wife how to “win” her husband. Verse one says, “Be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won.” If you didn’t care about the Biblical context you might say, “Submission has to mean, taking a husband the way he is and not trying to change him.” But if you care about the context, you conclude that submission, paradoxically, is a strategy for changing him. The goal of this text is to help wives bring about the most profound change in their husbands that can be imagined—the transformation from being a spiritually dead unbeliever to a spiritually alive believer. Submission does not say, “I renounce all efforts to change my husband.” What it does say we’ll see in a moment.
- Submission does not mean putting the will of the husband before the will of Christ. The text clearly teaches that the wife is a follower of Jesus before and above being a follower of her husband. He is going on the path of unbelief. She does not follow him in that, because she has been called to be a disciple of Jesus. Submission to Jesus relativizes submission to husbands—and governments and employers and parents. When Sara calls Abraham “lord” in verse 6, it is lord with a little “l”. It’s like “sir.” And the obedience she renders is secondary obedience, under, and because of, and filtered through obedience to the LORD with a capital “L”.
- Submission does not mean that a wife gets her personal, spiritual strength from her husband. A good husband should indeed strengthen and build up and sustain his wife. He should be a source of strength. There are ways in which a wife is the “weaker vessel” as verse 7 says. But what this text shows is that when a husbands spiritual nurturing and leadership is lacking, a Christian wife is not bereft of strength. Submission does not mean she is dependent on him to supply her strength of faith and virtue and character. The text assumes just the opposite. She is summoned to develop depth and strength and character not from her husband but for her husband. Verse five says that her hope is in God, not the husband.
- Finally submission does not mean that a wife is to act out of fear. Verse 6b says, “You have become [Sarah's] children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.” In other words submission is free, not coerced by fear. The Christian woman is a free woman. When she submits to her husband—whether he is a believer or unbeliever—she does it in freedom, not out of fear.
So, what, then is submission? Piper continues:
It is the disposition to follow a husband’s authority and an inclination to yield to his leadership. It is an attitude that says, “I delight for you to take the initiative in our family. I am glad when you take responsibility for things and lead with love. I don’t flourish when you are passive and I have to make sure the family works.” But the attitude of Christian submission also says, “It grieves me when you venture into sinful acts and want to take me with you. You know I can’t do that. I have no desire to resist you. On the contrary, I flourish most when I can respond creatively and joyfully to your lead; but I can’t follow you into sin, as much as I love to honor your leadership in our marriage. Christ is my King.”
If you’d like to further explore the subject of Christian marriage or biblical manhood and womanhood, the following books should be a great help. Follow the link to the first three for a free PDF version.
- 50 Crucial Questions about Manhood and Woomanhood, John Piper and Wayne Grudem
- What’s the Difference? Manhood and Womanhood Defined According to the Bible, John Piper
- Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem
- God’s Good Design, Claire Smith
- What did You Expect? Redeeming The Realities of Marriage, Paul Tripp
- When Sinners Say “I Do”: Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage, Dave Harvey
- Feminine Appeal: Seven Virtues of a Godly Wife and Mother, Carolyn Mahaney
- The Masculine Mandate: God’s Calling to Men, Richard D. Phillips
All of these titles are available on Amazon or at the Book Nook. Also, check out the messages portion of our site, which includes a number of sermons on the subject of marriage and biblical manhood and womanhood.