Archive for the Miscellaneous Category
On September 24 we hosted this year’s Elders Q&A. This is a way of facilitating and encouraging meaningful communication between the church’s leadership and the congregation. In a church as large as ours, this does require some thoughtful planning and care.
Ryan opened the evening with an explanation of why we do this each year and interacted with Scripture to give some context for the role of elders in God’s plan for his church. Then, for he first half Ryan moderated pre-submitted questions among the elders, and for the second half Trent fielded questions from the floor.
Here’s a list of questions we addressed with time stamps for the audio, which is available here.
- 8:00 DSC has sent out one family as missionaries and will send another out in the new year. What are the contingency plans should the missions giving dip below support levels?
- 10:47 There was a big push in 2011 and 2012 for local church planting as a part of the overall vision, but not much since then about what is next locally. Is local church planting still part of our strategy?
- 12:04 Other churches, even some locally, seem to have had some success with planting campuses instead of churches, would DSC leadership ever consider doing a satellite campus in Albuquerque or beyond?
- 14:41 How do the elders hold each other accountable in their personal spiritual lives and in regard to responsibilities at church?
- 19:26 Have you considered whether the makeup of the current eldership isn’t “elderly” enough? In other words, is it too young? Related, what about the balance (or imbalance) of staff elders and non-staff elders?
Church Life: Lord’s Supper, Church Discipline, Membership, Etc.
- 22:21 Why is our communion service on Wednesday night? Is it possible to have this communion service on Sunday mornings more often? Why do we do it when we do it?
- 25:14 Is there a place in church discipline for shunning? Paul tells the Corinthians that one of their sinning members should “be removed from among you” and to “purge the evil person” from their midst. Is this shunning?
- 28:04 How can members, under the elders, be more proactive about shepherding each other?
- 30:46 Why do we have a Sunday school or adult Sun classes? Why do we have age graded Sunday School or classes?
- 32:15 What does it mean to be a member of DSC? Is that in the Bible?
- 35:53 With our new Equip classes starting in the fall, are there any thoughts to expanding the building to allow more classrooms for adult education?
- 37:14 Is DSC cessationist or continuationist in belief? How does that work out in what we practice?
- 40:08 How should Christians think about and relate to a government that is increasingly antagonistic to Christians and restrictive of Christian freedoms?
Questions From the Floor
- 45:14 As elders you go to the sick in the body and pray for them. How often do you do that and how does that work?
- 47:47 Is there a possibly legalistic reason behind the gender separation between a Women’s Bible Study, Men’s Huddle, etc. Is there a reason there isn’t a corporate Bible study?
- 50:58 There’s a lot of excitement with the annual thrust for missions during Missions Emphasis Week. As far as church planting, what are your thoughts about that, how often it should be done, and our strategy?
- 55:04 In years past we had a ministry called The Well for young adults. Do we have any plans to reinitiate that type of ministry? If so, how would we go about that?
- 1:00:32 We’re all excited about our missionaries going to West Africa. Some organizations are calling their missionaries back because of Ebola. Whose decision will it be to protect our missionaries not only from health issues but other potential harms throughout their career?
- 1:03:12 What are the strengths of the pastors and the congregation at our church?
- 1:06:59 Israel has been in the news a lot lately. A lot of Christians think it’s biblically required to stand behind them. What’s the church’s position?
- 1:12:23 Praises to God from each of the elders
For audio from past Elders Q&A gatherings, click here.
This past Sunday, Sandy Beauchamp, Tim Bradley, Ryan Kelly, and Nathan Sherman hosted a panel discussion with parents of youth on the topic of our engagement with technology, devices, and social media. In proportion to how much we engage with tech, our thinking about that engagement is actually quite small. For Christians, this is an important context in which to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, strength, and mind.
To that end, after Sunday’s panel, Ryan drafted the following 20 questions to help us evaluate our use of technology.
- Is this device/app a tool or an idol? Is it serving me or am I serving it? Am I exercising dominion over it, or does it have dominion over me?
- What happens when I give up _________ (device/app) for a day? Do I even know?
- Does it serve/promote God or self? What’s the %?
- Does it serve others or me? What’s the %?
- Am I mindlessly following the world’s trends or am I thoughtfully analyzing, monitoring, evaluating, and adjusting my usage? Simply put, am I asking enough questions?
- Am I often living life through a device or an app (live-tweeting, Instagraming, Facebooking) rather than enjoying life through human eyes?
- Have my relationships becoming more shallow (even if I have more of them because of social media)?
- Am I growing less comfortable and/or less capable with face-to-face communication?
- Is my phone a crutch in more socially challenging environments?
- Am I doing confrontation or otherwise hard conversations through email or another electronic medium?
- Am I growing in true knowledge, wisdom, and discernment more than just bits of information, headlines, factoids? In other words, is my concentration, interest, and pursuit of “substance” growing or waning?
- Has picking up my phone, opening it, checking apps, etc, become thoughtless or merely instinctual?
- Am I setting purposeful limitations and boundaries on my tech use, or am I approaching tech-use with sheer pragmatism and/or hedonism?
- Does the fear of “missing out” on what’s going on socially significantly drive my use of tech? What’s behind that fear emotionally and spiritually?
- Am I confusing my true identity with the public identity I portray through social media? (Note: Our real lives are often uglier than the idyllic life we portray, but our identity in Christ is far greater than anything we could capture with social media.)
- Am I making public things that should be kept private? What parameters have I determined for what not to share?
- What does the biblical virtue of modesty look like on ___________ (app)? (Note: modesty relates to skin and clothes, but also to speech and attitude.)
- How might 1 Thes. 4:11-12 (“…aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, …so that you may walk properly before outsiders…”) apply to my use of social media?
- Am I evaluating my “need” for and time on social media in relation to my need for and time in Bible and prayer?
- Will this next tweet, photo, text, or post demonstrate love for my God and love for my neighbor (Matt. 22:37-40)?
Expository preaching is what we do at DSC. We mean to expose and expound the meaning of the Bible according to its own shape and agenda. That’s why, when Ryan designs a sermon series, he works through one side of a book of the Bible to the other.
Here’s a helpful video from Kevin DeYoung reflecting on the nature of expository preaching. Enjoy!
[RSS and email readers, click here to view this video]
On November 19 a very important ordinance will be brought to ballot in Albuquerque. It’s called the “Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Ordinance.” It does not represent everything we might desire for the protection of the unborn, but it appears to be a significant and politically achievable next step in the direction of justice.
That’s the specific occasion for this blog. But let’s back up a bit first and consider a Christian framework for thinking about abortion and acting in behalf of the unborn.
And lest this step be thought unnecessary, let us remember that as with many things that we can take for granted, if we do not self-consciously rehearse the deepest reasons for our opposition to abortion, we will grow vulnerable to bad arguments, unimpassioned indifference, and even quieted embarrassment for our position. There is even a term coined to describe those with pro-life convictions who have grown weary of speaking and acting for the unborn: “fetus fatigue.” Clearly, the question, “Why are we against abortion?,” is a question we need to answer with persevering conviction and persuasive clarity.
So, why are we against abortion?
First, we love babies and believe that abortion is the murder of an infinitely valuable human being.
There are two questions that every person has to answer in determining the moral acceptability of abortion. We do well to ask them and answer them for ourselves and those we seek to persuade. These two questions make the issue of abortion surprisingly simple.
The first question is this: when do human beings begin? The answer is straightforward from the Bible and it is clear in nature. In Psalm 139, David reflected on God’s intimate knowledge of every part of his life, even his life in the womb. With David each of us can say, God has “knitted me together in my mother’s womb” (139:13). Biology teaches us that Homo sapiens begin at the meeting of egg and sperm with the creation of an entirely new organism, unique with its own DNA. Given a proper environment and time, that organism contains within itself all that is needed to direct its own growth from that moment until death. In other words, embryos are human beings. Standard biology text books agree, and even many in the pro-choice community are happy to grant this view of human life.
But if many in the pro-choice community are happy to grant the basic humanity of unborn life, then how can they also be for abortion?
It is for this reason that a second question is especially important: What makes human beings special? We step on ants and we eat cows. Why not human beings? One view says that human beings are valuable for the kind of thing we are as human beings. This is what Christians hold, and we believe it to be so because, as Genesis 1:27 reads, “God created man in his own image.” A two-year-old girl, a handicapped boy, and an accomplished violinist share the same humanity and, thus, the same human dignity. To understand the alternative view, the acronym, “SLED,” will come in handy. This view holds that human beings are more or less valuable depending on their size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency. When an argument for abortion is made on the basis of viability, for example, the logic of dependence is at work. An argument for partial birth abortion will assume an argument from environment. These are what separate a human being in the womb from a human being outside the womb. But there’s a problem that must be acknowledged. It’s precisely this logic that leads Princeton Professor of Bioethics, Peter Singer, to advocate for the infanticide of young children. Thankfully, most abortion advocates do not live according to the logic required by their position. And that is precisely why a conversation about the nature of humanity and human dignity is a good place to start in persuading our neighbors concerning the status of unborn human life.
But not only is abortion the murder of an infinitely valuable human being, abortion is the violent murder of an infinitely valuable and defenseless human being. For Christians, the utter dependence of a human being in the womb is actually a cause for a special measure of care.
We are against abortion because we are for human life, and especially human life in its most vulnerable stage.
Second, we fear God and are captivated with his life-knitting glory in the womb.
Listen to what David believed and how David felt about the scope of God’s sovereignty over his life:
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
That human beings are made in the image of God is one of the Bible’s especially significant doctrines and one of the most practical realities in the world, as we have considered. But it also represents how God has chosen to reveal his glory in the world. Meditation on God’s pervasive knowledge and care for us is a reason for wonder and praise. And so it should be no surprise that across the story of the Bible we find the violent death of children standard fare for God’s enemy, the Devil. We can’t help but think of Pharaoh’s order for the Hebrew sons to be thrown into the Nile (Exodus 1:22). Yet, as the story goes, “the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them” (Exodus 1:17).
What happens in the womb of a woman isn’t just about her. It’s not even just about her and the baby. It’s about her and the baby and the hand of God. When our hearts are in the right place, we revel at God’s masterpiece in humanity and revile the assault of abortion on his handiwork.
We are against abortion because we fear God, and we are for the display of his life-knitting glory.
Finally, we love our neighbors and long for sinners to come to repentance.
Yes, this is an important and not a peripheral reason to be against abortion.
Heaven will be populated with abortionists, with those who aborted their children, and with people like you and me who looked to Christ for forgiveness and for righteousness. But no one will be there who did not first see and confess the reality their sin and guilt before God. So, telling the truth about abortion is about repentance.
We do not help our unbelieving neighbors by speaking only of sins most decent people are comfortable denouncing: lying, cheating, spousal abuse, and child trafficking, for example. Just read some of the stories of 26 women who committed abortions, published this week in New York Magazine. Some of these women have been hardened. Many of them are haunted. All of them, we know, need the grace of God, grace which is greater than all of our sin. Satan assaults the glory of God through abortion, and through abortion he tortures those whom he has enslaved. Being honest about the evil of abortion is an important first step toward knowing the love of Christ for those who would commit an abortion.
Yes, preaching against abortion will mean that some—even many—will harden in their opposition to our cause for the unborn, and even our Savior. But such is the case with any sin, no matter how gracious our presentation. Jesus’ own preaching blinded some while it gave sight to others. That’s God’s way.
We are against abortion because we are for babies, we are for the glory of God, and we are for the salvation of sinners.
So, how does this look practically in our lives as Christians?
It looks like many things. We pray for the unborn. We organize ourselves for strategic practical and gospel ministry through the establishment of crisis pregnancy centers. We start adoption agencies and open our arms, our hearts, and our homes to children through adoption. We befriend our neighbors and love them with truth and help when they are in a crisis pregnancy. We seek to persuade our neighbors by writing, speaking, educating, and engaging in the public square, in the academy, and in our little spheres of influence wherever we find ourselves. And, of course, as the Lord grants us children, we love them, protect them, sacrifice for them, and enjoy them as gifts.
We also vote.
Which brings us to the occasion for this article.
Human government is an indispensable God-given means to human flourishing and voting is a means by which we help to bring our leaders and our laws into alignment with what is just and good and true. It’s a way we love our neighbors, born and unborn. While politics and our part in it can never meet our ultimate needs, it does meet truly significant needs and is an expression of our worldview as Christians.
Writing for the elders at Desert Springs Church, we encourage you to read up on the “Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Ordinance” and participate in the political process by voting on November 19.
Fatigue, Faithfulness, and the Faithfulness of God
Thankfully, as evangelical Christians, we aren’t the only people who are for life and, therefore, against abortion. As an evidence of God’s common grace in humanity, still forty years after Roe there is in our own nation a broad and persistent resistance to abortion, of which this ordinance is a part. But as Christians who seek to defend the unborn, we should want to answer the question, “Why are we against abortion?,” in a way that reflects the mind and heart of God and in a way that promotes his gospel.
Yes, there are reasons to be exhausted, but there are reasons also to be encouraged. And there are even better reasons to keep speaking and acting for the unborn: Human life is precious, God’s glory is great, and God’s grace saves sinners like us to love life instead of death.
As you know, Hurricane Sandy has made a devastating impact on the Northeastern part of the U.S. Relief is already being mobilized by organizations like Red Cross and World Vision, and we would encourage folks in our body to contribute to those organizations as you are willing and able.
However, when it comes to DSC Missions funds, the elders have decided to focus designated funds given to DSC to sister churches in the immediate area impacted by this natural disaster. Our hope and prayer is that as these churches, who likely won’t have denominational support to help them out, will be able to minister to their own body of believers, as well as those in their area who are in need. We are already working to contact churches we know about in the area to see how they have been impacted.
So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:10 ESV)
If you feel compelled to give, please do so using a missions envelope at the church and designating it “Disaster Relief.” Or, you can also give via the church’s online giving here listed under “Disaster Relief.”
Please especially be in prayer for believers in this area that God will use them and the church to rise up after this disaster with hope amid certain despair. May the believers cry out with Paul as he says:
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
(2 Corinthians 4:17-18 ESV)
Greg Schneeberger needs no introduction on this blog. Maybe in a few years, but not yet. Just one month ago, Greg finished up six faithful years as our Minister to Youth and Families and moved his dear family to Encinitas, California, where he is serving as a church planting intern.
As some of you know, within the past year, Greg wrapped up a Ph.D.. Greg was kind to take some time out to answer some questions for us about his main writing project for his doctorate.
Greg, thanks for doing this interview for DSC. Of course, we were sad to say goodbye to you about a month ago now. You served faithfully here and we rejoice in your new station in ministry in California. This past year you wrapped up a Ph.D. and we haven’t officially congratulated you here on the blog. So, congratulations! We’d like to hear a bit about what your doctoral dissertation entailed. But first, since you are somewhat famous for unpacking new words and unpacking familiar words in a new way, tell us, what is a dissertation?
Ha. Good question, Trent. According to that most highly regarded academic source, Wikipedia, a dissertation (or thesis) “is a document submitted in support of candidature for an academic degree or professional qualification presenting the author’s research and findings.”
That’s a solid start. A dissertation is an extended academic work on a very specific topic within a person’s field of study. It’s argument normally presumes to add to the existing body of research in a field. That is, the goal of a dissertation is to make an original contribution to scholarship in some way and persuade the reader (as objectively as possible) concerning the merits of the argument.
The subject of my dissertation pertains to the overlap of Philosophy, Theology, and the socio-cultural context of 21st century religiosity among American youth and young adults. Basically, I’m exploring various contemporary religious trajectories among generation Y, exposing their philosophical assumptions, and trying to respond from a biblical worldview. It was easy to arrive at this subject, since it was an extension of my work with youth, young adults, and young married folks at Desert Springs. I was very eager to do doctoral work that was not only academic but practical for my ministry as well.
Specifically, that 21st century American youth are deeply entrenched in unbiblical philosophical worldviews. The church must enumerate, analyze, and respond apologetically to these. It does so with a biblical (dare I say reformed) philosophical theology in theory and practice. The practical aspect consists of the church defending the faith, and creating structures which engage and confront the idols of the age. Desert Springs is doing just this, as the church does in every age, through worship, community, and mission.
I enjoyed each section in it’s own way, but the more philosophical/apologetical sections were most fun. I suppose this was the case because they were the most challenging and stimulating to me as a writer and thinker.
The literature review . . . for obvious reasons! A dissertation is a like a marathon. It is not a sprint. Certain parts are “fun,” but many parts are just necessary evils. However, it is the totality of running and finishing the race that helps mold the thinker. For example, when I first began writing I asked forbearers for advice. One friend told me, quite bluntly, that I should expect to re-write nearly every word of the 1st draft. He was correct. I spent far more time on re-writing than I did on the original manuscript. That was humbling, as my advisor, although he was encouraging, continually pointed me to sections that needed work.
Indeed, this project has done just that. I wanted to pursue a degree that would challenge me spiritually and not just academically. Focusing on this area of study allowed that. I got to read as much Bible as I did postmodern philosophers or reformed apologists. I think God used the project to help me understand perseverance, hard work, goal setting, and the value of thinking critically about the culture and it’s deep philosophical structures for local church ministry. Certainly I wouldn’t go into any of the technical aspects with youth or young adults, but the issues I was uncovering fit perfectly with their needs. Thus, through this project, I was better prepared to preach God’s Word, and live out the body life of the church.
Nine chapters including the intro and conclusion, around 450 pages, and an eleven that’s it’s done! Of course, now that it’s done, there are already things I would go back and change, update, and nuance. But we’re human, research progresses, and you have to pull the trigger. All in all, I do think I accomplished my personal and academic goals. I’m glad I had the opportunity to think and write in this way and only pray that it serves to strengthen my future ministry in the church.
Thanks, Greg – and, again, congratulations!
You can learn more about Greg and Caite’s new adventure at their family blog.
As many of you heard Pastor Ron announce a couple of weeks ago, the elders have very graciously given me this summer to be away from the office and off from preaching in order to focus on writing and, Lord willing, finish my PhD dissertation. But I thought it might be helpful for me to give a little more detail and explanation here—especially for those new enough at DSC to not know that I’m still a student, and also for those who have been at DSC long enough to assume that this project probably got finished a long time ago!
In 2003 (so almost eight years ago now!) I came to DSC with an unfinished PhD project. Since then I have slowly chipped away at a dissertation, but basically only made progress when I got a month or so away from the office to completely focus on it (usually in July). It was slow-going, but 80% of my dissertation got written this way.
That brings the timeline up to about two years ago when I started getting frequent, debilitating migraines (5-6 per week). Since then, the PhD work has been on the back-burner…or maybe it’s better to say that it hasn’t even been on the stove since I don’t think I’ve written a sentence or read a whole book related to the PhD since the summer of 2009. Throughout that time it seemed that God was making increasingly clear that this degree would eventually have to be abandoned. And I was fine with that.
But as of January of this year the migraines have been significantly better. (So many of you faithfully prayed for me and my family during that time, and I can’t thank you enough!) Once we realized that this was more than just a temporary improvement, the old question resurfaced about whether I would take another stab at finishing this degree. After some discussion and prayer with the elders and Sarah, we all agreed that it was worth one more shot. And we all agree that, after all these years, we really are talking one more shot. Either this summer will end with something very close to my final draft complete or I’ll drop it altogether. My wife and kids, the elders, the staff, and really the whole church have all been amazingly patient, gracious, and supportive over the years. I think we all agree that on the one hand, it’d be a shame to not finish a degree that has literally thousands of hours already invested; on the other hand, this really has been a bit of a distraction for so long—far longer than any of us originally imagined—so it’s time to “fish or cut bait,” as they say.
Speaking of fishing, let me make clear that I won’t be doing any of that this summer. As Ron said, this won’t be an easy summer for me. I won’t be preaching or available for meetings (besides a weekly elders meeting), but I’ll be at home feverishly reading, writing, and reworking my dissertation. I figure that I have something close to 1000 hours of work ahead of me between now and August 31. If you do the math you’ll see that I have my work cut out for me.
So, if you think of it, I would very much appreciate prayer: for clarity, energy, health, efficiency, etc. But also pray for me more spiritually than that: for trust and joy in Christ, an increased love for his Word and prayer; to not be motivated by fear of man, but working unto the Lord. Pray also for my sweet wife and kids. This won’t be an easy summer for them as you can imagine. We’ll work in some “fun” here or there, but on the whole I’ll be far busier than usual. And, they would want me to say they are completely behind the plan for this summer.
I probably should also clarify that getting this degree is in no way to be able to leave DSC and go to teach in a college or seminary. I did begin postgraduate study years ago wondering whether the Lord would have me serve in a church or in a classroom. But that question has long been answered. I love pastoring; I love the church; I love our church. I believe in long-term ministry in a single church, and I plan to be at DSC for as long as the Lord will allow me. I can also say that after years of almost having a PhD, and that pathway being such a rollercoaster, the prospect of sometimes being called “doctor” or anyone being impressed with “credentials” is no motivation at all.
So, then, why bother finishing? First, I would like to finish a project that has been given so much time and energy. Second, I think that the research and writing have been good for my overall thinking, preaching, and theological refinement. Third, I think that I have a topic that is worth the time and effort, not just for myself but also perhaps for others (should anyone besides my examiners ever read it!).
Some other time I can explain a little more about the degree and the topic of the dissertation. This is too long as it is.
In short, thank you for your patience, support, and prayer. I am blessed beyond measure to be at DSC, and humbled to be able to serve such wonderful, fruitful, growing people. I’m looking forward to seeing you on Sundays this summer and seeing how God works in us through the 90 days of listening to the New Testament.