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Archive for the The Church Category


Aug 23

Programs, Busyness, and Faking God’s Work in the Church

2012 | by Trent Hunter | Category: The Church

Have you ever said to yourself, “Our church should have a program for that!”? Or maybe, “Our church has too many programs!”

Hebrews 10:24-25 gives us an important command: “let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” This command and others like it mean that we should make plans to be together. Yet programs aren’t ministry, and there are good reasons to guard against over-programming.

In this video from The Gospel Coalition Blog, Ryan Kelly interviews Ray Ortlund and Darrin Patrick about the dangers of over-programming in the church.

[RSS and email readers, click here to view this video]

Jan 18

Why Church Membership?

2012 | by Trent Hunter | Category: Community,The Church

DSC’s membership class, Knowing Christ, Knowing the Church (KCKC), is offered three times a year, and the spring session begins on Wednesday, February 1, from 6:30-8:30 PM.

Perhaps you are not a member at DSC and intentionally so. You aren’t certain membership is important for Christians or important for you specifically. Or maybe you are a member, but you’ve never really thought about what the Scriptures say about the nature of the church and our relationship to one another as Christians.

All of us could take church membership more seriously, and for that reason, Nine Marks ministries has a helpful video and summary in answer to the question, “What is church membership?”

[RSS and email readers, click here to view this video]

In KCKC, we explore the foundation, nature, and purpose of what is at the heart of God, His Word, and God’s plan of salvation: the church of Jesus Christ. She has been purchased by the blood of Christ for a display of God’s glory.

Here are some of the questions we explore in the class:

  • What is the foundation of the church?
  • Why the church?
  • What is the church?
  • What does the church do; what are its purposes?
  • What are the distinctives here?
  • How does DSC operate; how is it led?
  • Why join a church and what does it mean?
  • How do I get involved?

For more information about DSC’s membership class, visit the KCKC Page. To sign up, fill out a Communication Card on Sunday, email info@desertspringschurch.org, or call the church office at 505.797.8700. This class is not just for those pursuing church membership, but for anyone interested in getting better acquainted with DSC or the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Feb 11

State of the Communion: 2010 Highlight Video

2011 | by Trent Hunter | Category: The Church

Over the past week, we published a series of posts summarizing some of what God did in and through DSC in 2010. You can read the series on the blog (Part 1Part 2 and Part 3) or download and print out the full report. This was in coordination with Ryan’s series, Worship, Community, Mission.

In conclusion to this series, we showed this 2010 highlight video during last week’s service:

Nov 18

Making DSC Safe for Sad People

2010 | by Trent Hunter | Category: The Church

As Christians, we look forward with great hope to a day when suffering will no more, but we look forward to that day through the experience of suffering in this life, even great suffering.

In Romans 8:18, Paul writes, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” That doesn’t mean that the sufferings of this present time are no big deal, but that they will be eclipsed and made nothing one day when our redemption is complete. One day God will “wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). Until then, we live with the tears and pain that come with this age.

Collin Hanson recently interviewed Nancy Guthrie at The Gospel Coalition Blog in a post entitled, “Sad People, Safe Churches.” Of course, Nancy Guthrie was our speaker last week at DSC’s Women’s Conference (check back soon for audio from the conference). In the following two questions, Nancy addresses some of the practical needs of those who are hurting.

What’s the most helpful thing we can do for a fellow church member struggling through grief?

Grieving people have four primary needs that the church has a key role in addressing:

  1. They have intense sadness that is lonely and lingering that needs to be respected.
  2. They have significant questions that need to be addressed in light of Scripture.
  3. They have broken relationships that need to be healed and normalized.
  4. They have a deep desire to discover some meaning and purpose in their loss.

While we make room for people to be sad, we want to walk with people in expectation that God will indeed do a work of healing in their lives so that they do not stay stuck in their sadness, but emerge from it strengthened in their confidence in God, deepened in their understanding of the Scriptures, and equipped to serve others.

What are some common errors we make when trying to help someone going through a difficult time?

On a practical level, we say, “Just call me if I can help.” The truth is, when you’re going through a family crisis or grief, you don’t really want to have to keep asking for help or organize all of the help you need. To have someone assume the responsibility for organizing meals and other practical help is a great gift. Even better is the person figures out what is needed and simply says, “I’m coming over Wednesday morning to do your laundry.”

Sometimes we’re afraid of saying the wrong thing to someone who is hurting so we say nothing, adding to his or her hurt by ignoring it. Or we’re afraid that “bringing it up” will make the person sad, not realizing that our “bringing it up” actually allows that person to release some of the sadness they are already feeling.

On a spiritual level, I often hear Christian leaders or counselors say to the person who is grieving something like, “It’s okay to be angry with God. He can handle it.” I know they are trying to encourage authenticity before God and with other people, and that is worthwhile. But a church that is a safe place for sad people brings the truth to bear on the untruths and misunderstandings that serve as grounds for anger toward God rather than giving permission to hold on to or simply vent that anger.

Perhaps another mistake we make is assuming that people have grasped the sovereignty of God that has been preached from the pulpit. Often it is not until believers’ lives are shaken by circumstances or sorrow that they are finally ready to delve into deeper theological truths. As they are struggling to put together their understanding of a loving God with the God who allowed the accident or the illness, we have to be ready to talk through the implications of God’s sovereignty in very real terms. And usually it is not one conversation that settles this, but must be a series of conversations, giving time for these deep truths to settle in.

So, of all the places on this earth, the church should be a place for sad people suffering loss, because we are a people who can be honest with the reality of loss in this life. After all, we have a Savior who lived and suffered a thoroughly human life (Hebrews 5:15). Go here to read the whole article, here for Ryan’s recent sermon from Hebrews 5:15, “A Sympathetic Savior,” and here for a list of Nancy’s books.

Nov 4

A Primer on Church Discipline

2010 | by Trent Hunter | Category: The Church

At our last Lord’s Supper gathering, Ryan preached on the subject of church discipline in his sermon, “A Redemptive Judgment.” In a sentence, church discipline is that loving process whereby God, through his people, addresses us in our sin for our restoration to him, to his people and for his glory. Matthew 18:15-20 is the most specifically descriptive Scriptural text regarding church discipline, outlining a process of restoration that begins with personal confrontation and ends with removal from the church, if there is no repentance across a careful process involving the whole church. Along with preaching and the sacraments (Lord’s Supper and Baptism), this commitment to accountability and reservation is an historic and certainly biblical mark of the church.

9Marks ministries has done a good job of promoting, explaining, and defending this important practice for God’s people. Jonathan Leeman has written a helpful introduction to the subject, entitled, “A Church Discipline Primer.” Here’s his introduction:

What would you think of a coach who instructs his players but never drills them? Or a math teacher who explains the lesson but never corrects her students’ mistakes? Or a doctor who talks about health but ignores cancer?

You would probably say that all of them are doing half their job. Athletic training requires instructing and drilling. Teaching requires explaining and correcting. Doctoring requires encouraging health and fighting disease. Right?

Okay, what would you think about a church that teaches and disciples but doesn’t practice church discipline? Does that make sense to you? I assume it makes sense to many churches, because every church teaches and disciples, but so few practice church discipline. The problem is, making disciples without discipline makes as much sense as a doctor who ignores tumors.

I understand the reluctance to practice church discipline. It’s a difficult matter for any number of reasons. Still, this reluctance to practice church discipline, a reluctance that many of us probably feel, may suggest that we believe ourselves to be wiser and more loving than God. God, after all, “disciplines those he loves”; and “he punishes everyone he accepts as a son” (Heb. 12:6). Do we know better than God?

God disciplines his children for the sake of their life, growth, and health: God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness” (Heb. 12:10). Yes, it’s painful, but it pays off: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:11). A harvest of righteousness and peace! That’s a beautiful picture.

Church discipline ultimately leads to church growth, just as pruning a rose bush leads to more roses. Said another way, church discipline is one aspect of Christian discipleship. Notice that the words “disciple” and “discipline” are etymological cousins. Both words are taken from the realm of education, which involves teaching andcorrection. Not surprisingly, there’s a centuries-old practice of referring to “formative discipline” and “corrective discipline.”

My goal in this primer is to introduce the reader to the basics of corrective church discipline—the “what,” the “when,” the “how,” and a few more words on the “why.”

Read the whole article here (and note that the article is two pages).

Oct 13

What is the Mission of the Church?

2010 | by Trent Hunter | Category: Recommended Link,The Church

That’s an important question. We’re called to do many things, but what is the one thing that informs and makes sense of every other thing we’re called to as Christians and as the church?

Yesterday, Kevin DeYoung posted an article written by Ryan Kelly about the word, “Missional.” In this post, Ryan follows up on his recent round table discussion with pastors Greg Gilbert and Kevin DeYoung on the subject of the mission of the church. Ryan argues for the centrality of gospel proclamation if all of the Church’s doing and helps clarify the relationship between showing mercy in tangible ways and sharing about Mercy in Jesus Christ, between offering help in this life and telling persons about the only Help for life eternal.

Ryan offers three suggestions to help inform the ongoing conversation concerning “the vocabulary and content of the church’s mission.” I’ll paste them here, along with highlights from each explanation. However, don’t waste your time reading it here – go to Kevin’s blog and read the entire article.

1) Insisting on a definition of missional or asking for specifics of one’s view of the mission is not curmudgeon fundamentalism—it’s still needed.

…There are a few take-aways here. 1) Those skeptical of the term missional should give the benefit of doubt about another’s definition until there’s reason to be concerned. The term itself has no necessary bearing on gospel fidelity. 2) Conversely, those who identify themselves with the term missional should be gracious and eager to clarify when another asks him what that word means. I’ve seen too many young pastors get bent out of shape simply for being asked what missional means to them. That’s silly. 3) We should all strive to avoid repetitive empty vocabulary, and instead make pains to be clear about what we think the church should be doing. Again, this is a good discussion if we navigate it openly and graciously.

2) Especially we younger evangelicals have to give a more sober and careful hearing to our fathers in ministry when they warn us with historical examples of when the church’s deeds eclipsed, or became, her gospel.

….Read Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism every five years. Read the work of George Marsden, especially Reforming Fundamentalism: Fuller Seminary and the New Evangelicalism, which chronicles the missteps of both fundamentalism and left-wing evangelicalism in the last century. Surely we don’t think our generation or our camp is so sharp, so vigilant that we are above repeating such mistakes. So perhaps we young, mission-impassioned, ambitious types need to do a little less eye-rolling and a little more prayerful listening when others—especially those more historically astute and/or experienced—seem more cautious and suggest more careful nuance about the relationship between deeds and gospel.

3) Partly influenced by the need to protect the gospel, but mostly based on the Bible itself, it seems to me that there is warrant for prioritizing gospel proclamation over other important commands Jesus gives his followers.

  • While Jesus healed and fed, the gospel accounts culminate with the disciples’ commission to proclaim and make disciples. This doesn’t mean that this is all they are to do, but “famous last words” do seem particularly noteworthy, especially when they are quadruply given.
  • The book of Acts not only begins with another such commission (1:8), but continues with dozens of preaching/conversion stories to makeup a rather overwhelmingly consistent theme.
  • Paul insists that the facts of the gospel weekend—Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection—are of “first importance” (1 Cor. 15:3). Those who want to have social and cultural issues right alongside the gospel have to provide a satisfying explanation of what Paul meant here if he didn’t see any priority. I, personally, haven’t heard one yet.
  • The word “gospel” implies that there’s a message—a message which must be proclaimed. As Carson recently wrote: “…the very nature of announcing or proclaiming (good) news—whether ευαγγελιζω or kηρύσσω—is that words are the primary medium. What we might call the logocentrism of Scripture is massively reinforced by the nature of the gospel itself: it is news, good news, to be proclaimed.”
  • There are some very good NT scholars who have written on the mission of the church and have rather consistently put the emphasis of the church’s mission on its proclamation (e.g., KostenbergerO’BrienPlummer). As I’ve already noted, this seems to be a growing consensus among some of the most prominent missionalleaders as well.
  • Most agree that good deeds are, in part, validation of the gospel message to unbelievers. But by nature this sets up some kind of priority: the validation of a thing cannot be greater than or completely on par with the thing itself.

Again, visit Kevin’s site for the whole article.

Oct 5

DeYoung, Gilbert, and Kelly on the Mission of the Church

2010 | by Trent Hunter | Category: The Church

Kevin DeYoung, Greg Gilbert, and Ryan Kelly were recently featured on The Gospel Coalition blog discussing the mission of the church. In this round table discussion, they work to clarify the relationship of the gospel message to deeds of mercy.

In a recent message, “Summarizing Luke: The Man, The Message, The Mission,” Ryan addressed the question of the church’s mission at greater length.