In the context of any home there’s a need for redirection from time to time. If a couple needs to get more sleep, they might discuss needing more sleep and then start to go to bed earlier. With a church of 600-700 adults in and out of the building on a Sunday for planned worship services, redirection is not so easy, but it is needed for this family just the same.
So, at the start of our Lord’s Supper service on Wednesday night we shared an announcement, a clarification, and an exhortation related to our Sunday corporate gatherings.
An announcement regarding seating on Sundays
We’ve got a really good problem: DSC is growing.
Our membership classes have been larger by a third for over a year and both services are quite full on Sunday morning. You may have noticed that increasingly we have less seats available on Sunday morning once we’re 10-15 minutes into the service.
This kind of growth in numbers requires a corresponding growth in hospitality.
Given how the room is designed it’s hard to see and sometimes navigate to the seats that are open. In our space, the room can look jammed full even with 250 seats available. This means it’s increasingly difficult for some to find their way to a seat.
In the smaller setting of our home, any of us would naturally get up to make room if someone came in and needed a seat. But with a gathering our size this doesn’t come so naturally. We need to organize for our hospitality a bit.
So, starting in October you’ll begin to see what we’re calling Section Hosts around the room; six of them. These people will be wearing a badge, coming early to mingle and make connections, and helping those looking for a seat to find a seat.
Your Section Host will need your help. You can help this need by doing two things: First, sit in harder to get to seats: the middle of a row instead of the edge, for example. Or sit down in the floor section. Those are the least visible and accessible seats once the service starts. By sitting down there you are freeing up a seat for someone who would come after you. Second, come early or on time to the service. More on that in a moment.
A clarification regarding children on Sundays
You’ll remember that about a year ago we encouraged the participation of children in the worship service.
If children can understand what’s going on in the Sunday worship service they should probably be in here with us. Of course, it’s for you to figure out how to do that, to train your children, and help them. But we wanted to set this as a new and good ideal for most families. And we gave some tips for how to ease your little ones into being with us. Click here for a follow-up blog post, “Families Together with the Family of God on Sunday” and here for Ryan’s sermon “God’s People in God’s Presence.” Also, since that time we’ve made available in print form John Piper’s article, “The Family: Together in God’s Presence.” It’s the little orange pamphlet available around the building. Including children in the worship service is not easy, but it’s important. We all need to be patient with young families.
Our church has grown in this area and we’re thrilled.
By way of clarification, we want to address the question of small babies. There are few things more beautiful to God than parents and their babies. So, we offer this clarification with full admiration for the vocation of motherhood, fatherhood, and recognition of the difficulty of those youngest years with a child. This church family loves babies and esteems parents.
Here’s the clarification: As we’ve said, if a child can understand what is going on in the service they should probably join us in here. But if a child is at an age where they cry when he or she is hungry, they probably can’t understand what’s going on and they should probably be in the nursery or cry room or foyer.
Now, if you and your baby can pull it off, and you are going to attempt to sit in the service (this is not illegal at DSC!), we would still ask that parents with infants aim for a seat near a door so they can exit briskly if the child does activate their noise box.
The reasons for this are simple and they have to do with hearing God’s Word:
- The baby can’t understand God’s Word
- The baby can, however, make it hard for others to hear God’s Word (including you)
- The baby can even make it hard for the service leaders to hear themselves think as they lead us God’s worship through his Word
Here’s the gist: If you think there’s a good chance your baby will cry, we would ask that you consider putting them in the nursery or using the cry room. If they do start crying, even if you think they might stop, head for an exit and take care of that lovely child.
An exhortation to seek God early
There’s a really easy way for us to have happier marriages on Sunday, a better witness, better hospitality, more and better conversations with our brothers and sisters, a better spiritual example for our kids and Sunday memories during their childhood, how we can cheer our Lord’s heart, and how we can honor everyone in the room better when we’re together. Who could resist all of this?
Here’s the exhortation: be on time.
How easy is that?
Not so easy, if we know ourselves and especially our church. We have done quite well at including our little ones in the service, better than we expected in some ways. We addressed the issue of lateness in 2011 but we have not, in the long term, improved as a congregation at being on time. We seem particularly and historically bad at this actually. Ouch! We all know we need to improve here, so hopefully this exhortation actually feels like something of a relief.
If you aren’t aware of how bad the problem is, it might be because you are entering the worship center 5-20 minutes late on a regular basis. There are Sundays in which at the start of either service there are only 50 people in a room that on many Sundays will fill to 300 by the time the sermon starts. Some Sundays are better than others, but this pattern is not owing to many legitimate reasons for being late, but a culture of lateness rooted in a basic lack of preparedness for what we do together each Lord’s Day.
There are some things in life we are regularly on time or early to and there are other things we are regularly late for. It usually had to do with incentives. What we get for being on time or what it cost us for being late.
So, since we are people with motivations, let us offer some compelling incentives to be on time:
- Unity. This is one way to pursue unity in our church. It says, “we want to be together.” It also helps mitigate against unity-harming pride in our body. For those that are on time it can be tempting to condescend toward the body for this cultural problem.
- Witness. It commends the gospel and the God we sing and hear about in our services since it says we really do want to be here, and we really do want to sing and hear these things. We can imagine that there are family members and friends that haven’t been invited to church because of the embarrassment it would bring to have to explain why the room was so empty when the service began.
- Honor. It honors our service leaders who prepare for and lead these services.
- Word. Movement in the room can distract others from what we’re singing, praying, and hearing together.
- Joy. Some are late and it’s no hit to their happiness that morning. For others it’s a point of constant tension or guilt.
- Modeling. The kids in our congregation will remember the empty room. Your kids will remember coming late. Expect they’ll do the same.
- Worship. You are not connecting with God during the first song if you aren’t there for it. The services are designed with a certain logic, including invocation and a call to worship, and alter the confession of sin in song, Scripture, or prayer. We’ll fight not to miss the beginning of a movie and for good reason. The services are structured similarly to move from beginning to end, and every part is needed for sinners like us who need God. If you’ve never discerned the logic then you might be like the person who only knows movies starting 10 minutes in.
Now, a word to married men. Here’s the word: lead.
Leading doesn’t mean merely saying “we’re going to be on time!” Leading is saying “What time do we need to get up to be on time? What do we need to do the night before? What do we need to not stay up late doing the night before?” (like watching a movie). And, gentleman, if you are the one making the family late, you know what to do. And if you have small kids, remember that they are your kids too. If your wife cares for the children in the mornings during the week if you work outside the home it may be tempting to expect her to manage them on Sunday morning as well. But unless you’re leaving early to serve at church apart from your family on Sunday, getting the kids ready is part of getting your family ready. Sundays should be an easier morning for your wife for having you home.
Finally, there’s the danger in this exhortation that some will turn around and go home when they are late. Please know that you are not looked on by the church’s leadership in judgement, even on the Sunday after this exhortation. There are always reasons some are late. We will assume the best of any individual while recognizing that there is a need for growth here as a church.
To hear Ryan’s original exhortation to pursue God’s presence, in part, by being on time to church, listen to his sermon on Psalm 16, “In Hot Pursuit of His Presence.” The exhortation comes at the end and includes reasons to come early, practical suggestions for how to prepare for Sunday, and a vision for what Sundays could look like if we were on time. In that sermon, he closed with these wise, pastoral, loving, and convicting words from Charles Spurgeon:
“There should be some preparation of the heart in coming to the worship of God. Consider who he is and in whose name we gather, and surely we cannot rush together without thought. Consider whom we profess to worship, and we shall not hurry into his presence as men run to a fire. Moses, the man of God, was warned to put off your shoes from his feet when God only revealed himself in a bush. How should we prepare ourselves when we come to him who reveals himself in Christ Jesus, his dear son? There should be no stumbling to the place of worship half-asleep, no roaming here as if it were no more than going to playhouse. We cannot expect to profit much if we bring with us a swarm of idle thoughts and a heart crammed with vanity.”
Lord’s Suppers are great for getting our family on the same page. If you missed hearing this in person at our gathering last Wednesday night, thank you for reading this entire post.
May Sundays speak to the work of God in our lives and in our church through hospitality, attention to the Word, and an apparent eagerness to be together in God’s presence.
Looking forward to growing with you –
Trent, for the elders
This past Sunday we wrapped up our series through the Gospel according to Mark. The title of the series was, Who Is This Man?. That’s the question Mark writes to answer. Of course, all of the gospels are written to address this question, but Mark’s work is particularly focused on the specific question of the identity of Jesus Christ.
It’s for that reason that when Drew Hodge penned a song of our series, he lifted the title of the series for the title of his song, “Who Is This Man?,” now available on Bandcamp.
If you were with us for one of this year’s Easter services you’ll remember that we heard this song along with a video. Here’s the video with lyrics below:
Who is this man come to die,
beloved son from on high,
God and man to make us one,
King and a kingdom come?
Who is this man on the way,
power and love on display,
cleansing healing every stain,
washing our guilt away?
Who is this man hanging there
on a tree our shame to bear?
For our sin, for His prize,
the Lamb of God had died.
Who is this man risen high,
once dead now very alive?
Empty tomb filled with light,
this man is Jesus Christ!
This man is Jesus Christ!
This man is Jesus Christ!
This man is Jesus Christ!
For more songs from DSC, visit the DSC Bandcamp page.
Kevin DeYoung is the lead pastor at University Reformed Church in Lansing, Michigan. Since he began publishing, DeYoung has served the church well through the publication of many timely books. He also writes regularly at his blog hosted at The Gospel Coalition.
One topic DeYoung speaks to from time to time with nuance, insight, and conviction is politics. That shouldn’t be heard the wrong way. He’s not a political junkie who cares more about politics than his work as a pastor. But he understands the real, somewhat complicated, but always consequential role of political engagement for Christians given our opportunities in a democratic republic. He has done a nice job over the years of speaking to Christians concerning their role of citizens of this world, albeit a role secondary to our role as citizens of the next.
A nice example of this would be a piece published earlier this week, “Ten Things to Remember as the Presidential Campaign Season Gets Into Full Swing.” Here are his ten things:
1. We’re not electing a king.
2. Elections matter.
3. Character matters.
4. The best predictor of future performance is past performance.
5. You almost certainly will not have a beer with the next president.
6. The big picture matters more than all the details.
7. The candidates will say something stupid.
8. The media will do very little to help you understand the issues and what each candidate believes.
9. It is extremely unlikely that either party will nominate someone with no political experience.
10. The system could be much worse.
Click here to read DeYoung’s explanation of each point. Here’s his explanation of the last point:
Sure, there is plenty to complain about. The presidential campaign seems interminably long. It takes a boatload of money to stay in the race. We are all stupider because of Twitter and the 24-hours news cycle. And even the best debates are hardly Lincoln-Douglas material. But we do get a say. We do get a vote. We basically get the presidents we deserve. I’d rather have candidates pandering for our votes than dictating the terms of our surrender. Yes, if you want to be president it helps to be rich and famous, but you also have to hang out in New Hampshire all winter and shake the hand of every farmer in Iowa. I like that. There are good reasons to be frustrated with both parties. But with only two major parties, it’s hard to completely ignore most viewpoints. You can’t build a coalition without trying to appeal to a lot of diverse groups of people. So is the system broken? I’m sure it is, but I’m also sure there are more ways than we can imagine to fix it even worse.
DeYoung isn’t the only one to read during election season. He’s not going to write ongoingly about every turn and every issue in the presidential race. The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission will be more helpful there. And there are others worth listening to who write and reflect from an explicit or roughly Christian worldview including Albert Mohler, Michael Gerson, Ross Douthat, etc.. The Gospel Coalition will publish a number of thoughtful pieces along the way, and Justin Taylor will drip pieces like these into the line of his blog at The Gospel Coalition:
- “A Conflict of Visions: Or, Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?“
- “FAQ with Robert P. George on the Moral Purpose of Law and Government“
- “This Kind Cannot Be Driven Out by Worldview Training and Legislation: The Place of Prayer and Fasting for the Pro-Life Movement“
- “The 7th Planned Parenthood Video + 4 FAQs“
But mixed in with posts on just about everything else a pastor would care about, DeYoung will provide consistent and timely insight into politics. Here are a few helpful pieces he’s published on Christian political reflection and engagement over the years:
- “Three Self-Evident Truths“
- “What Am I Doing When I Vote?“
- “Five Things Worth Celebrating on Election Day (Plus One More)“
- “A Lockean Philosophy of Government“
- “Do Pro-Life Policies Even Matter“
- “Politics is Hell“
- “What Is Religious Freedom?“
- “The Narrative of Struggle and Political Power“
- “The Three R’s of Christian Engagement in the Culture War“
- “What the Debates Say about America“
- “Christian Principles for Realistic Politics“
- “A Friendly Reminder as the Campaign Season Gets Into Full Swing“
- “Why Are We So Offended All The Time?“
Finally, since this is a post about who to listen to, let me suggest that TV news will be one of the least helpful resources for receiving and processing ideas and the specific views of candidates during this season. This is not to mischaracterize every network or show, but generally speaking TV news is a circus of perception creating and narrative forming media. Generally speaking, TV news does not foster careful or extended thought. Generally speaking, TV news cheapens and askews both good and bad arguments, both good and bad candidates. So, watch, yes. But read more than you watch. Be thoughtful and careful in the coming months.
For a pastor who writes on these things with care, concern, and a critical mind, Kevin DeYoung is worth the read.
You may be familiar with Don Whitney’s books, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life and Spiritual Disciplines within the Church. Whitney has given his life and ministry to strengthening Christians and the church in Christ through—you guessed it—spiritual disciplines.
One of these spiritual disciplines is prayer, and Whitney recently published a helpful new book focused on this important dimension of our communion with God. It’s titled, simply, Praying the Bible.
Here’s Kevin DeYoung’s description:
Short, simple, straight forward, edifying. I don’t know anyone in today’s evangelical world more effective at teaching about spiritual disciplines than Whitney. This readable, conversational book will help you pray the Bible in a way that is edifying, easier, and more enjoyable than you might think. Like the best books on prayer, this one makes you want to go somewhere quiet and pray.
Here’s a conversation with Don Whitney posted by Justin Taylor with timestamps below:
[RSS and email readers, click here to view this video]
- 00:00 – What is your ministry background?
- 00:54 – As you travel around the country, what are some of the common complaints you hear from Christians related to their prayer lives?
- 02:19 – What would you say to someone who feels like a failure in prayer?
- 04:40 – What areas of Scripture are particularly conducive for prayer?
- 05:47 – What are the Psalms of the Day?
- 07:55 – Can you illustrate praying through Psalm 23?
- 11:51 – How will praying the Bible help us remain focused in prayer?
- 13:37 – What are the sorts of testimonies you hear from people who have started praying the Bible?
Click here to order a copy.
Here’s the scoop:
Calling all DSC artists!
We are almost done with This Is Our Song! Now we are ready to start the artwork for the record and we want you to help.
Here’s how it will work:
- We are looking for all types of visual art (paintings, drawings, sketch art, photography, etc.)
- You submit your art to firstname.lastname@example.org
- We pick what we think best captures the theme and vision.
- That’s it!
So, if your are interested or you know a DSC’er who may be qualified, here is the vision:
This Is Our Song. These are our songs and our stories. These songs come from the life and moments of our church. They cover a range of biblical truths – who God is, what He has done, who we are, our need and response. Christ and His work.
If you could lock into one word – story. His story through us. Every song has a story. Every song tells a story.
Now, capture that with pictures, images, and few words.
Please have your submissions in by August 14th
Let the artistic juices flow, and lets make this record beautiful together!
If you haven’t subscribed to the DSC Music Blog, consider doing so here. On most Mondays Drew Hodge posts a Sunday Recap with songs and texts from that Sunday’s service, including links to songs and lyrics. Here’s an example from July 12.
There are over 400 quotations or illusions to the book of Isaiah in the New Testament. For that reason alone, Isaiah is a good book to get to know. But there are a variety of reasons that Isaiah can be intimidating: it’s 66 chapters long, its organization can be difficult to grasp, and its ancient context can be a bit obscure to us.
There’s no substitute for simply reading and rereading Isaiah. The more you do the more its message will become clear, and the more you’ll hear its echoes as you read the New Testament. That said, there are a number of excellent resources published for a variety of purposes and in a variety of formats.
To help you walk through the text, two resources are worth mentioning. First, Drew Hunter’s, Isaiah: A 12 Week Study, will walk you through the book with questions and provide instruction along the way. Then, in Isaiah by the Day: A New Devotional Translation, Alec Motyer provides his own translation of Isaiah (he’s an Isaiah scholar, so he can do that) and concisely explains the heart of each section as it relates to the whole.
Motyer also has a full readers commentary, titled, Isaiah, in Tyndale’s Old Testament Commentary Series. If you had one commentary on Isaiah, this should be it. If you’re going to be teaching Isaiah or if you’re a university student dealing with challenges to Isaiah’s unity, Motyer’s more technical work is for you: The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction and Commentary. Finally, for a compilation of sermons edited for publication by a faithful pastor, Ray Ortlund Jr.’s, Isaiah: God Saves Sinners is excellent.