Archive for January, 2011
Last week, Ryan was asked by John Starke at the The Gospel Coalition to answer an important question about the convergence of evangelism and the Sunday morning sermon. In this post, John asked Ryan, Is it appropriate for pastors to give evangelistic sermons or is Sunday morning strictly for the edification of believers?
In his third point, Ryan explained the nature in which a sermon can can apply the gospel to both believers and unbelievers:
I believe there is a way to preach the gospel to both believers and unbelievers since the gospel is what both believers and unbelievers need the most. In Romans 1:15, Paul relays that he is “eager to preach the gospel” to them—to Christians. This suggests that the gospel is not only to be preached to unbelievers as “the power of God unto salvation” (v. 16), but also to believers as the centerpiece of the Christian life. Similarly, Paul’s confrontation of Peter’s ethnic hypocrisy centered on the concern that this “conduct was not in step with the gospel” (Gal. 2:14)—i.e., it was inconsistent with the unifying purposes of the gospel. This concept, often called “the gospel for Christians,” is increasingly being enjoyed in articles, books, blog posts, and sermons, so I won’t belabor the point. But let me elaborate on the benefits this model of preaching has for believers and unbelievers.
As an able preacher exposes believers’ sins as a misstep with the gospel, and as he once again unfolds the hope, forgiveness, and freeing power of the gospel, non-Christians are listening in on it all. And they’re not only hearing the basics of the gospel, but are also getting a sense of what it’s like to be a Christian. They’re hearing the ongoing cycle of guilt, grace, and gratitude, which is essential to conversion and sanctification. They’re hearing the kinds of things that are expected of those who follow Christ, how they wrestle with temptation, and that the unshakable grace of God is greater than sin. Such preaching has an inherent protection from a Pollyanna gospel, which promises only peace, acceptance, and joy, since the struggle for sanctification is openly addressed. Such gospel-centric preaching also provides unbelieving listeners with an apologetic for the failings and hypocrisies of Christians they’ve known. Of course, at some point in the sermon, the preacher can more directly address the sin-sickness, pain, and rebellion of blatant unbelief (non-Christians). Then it will be useful to be more thorough and explicit about the facts of the gospel, how salvation was accomplished, and what precisely to do to receive his mercy. In all of this, the preacher has not only shown non-Christians what the gospel is and what the Christian life is like, but has also shown Christians how to talk to non-Christians about the gospel. He has also given his members a reason to invite their non-Christian friends to come next Sunday.
Visit The Gospel Coalition’s Blog for Ryan’s full answer. John’s question to Ryan was part of a larger series of posts on the subject of evangelism at the TGC blog. Read John Starke’s recent post clarifying the lessons he has learned about evangelism in the course of this series.
In last Sunday’s sermon, Ryan answered the question, “So What Do We Mean by Community?” We talk about it enough, but it’s important for us to know what we’re talking about when we do, and to think and talk about community in truly biblical categories.
From Hebrews 10:19-25, Ryan expounded the basis and purpose for Christian community. In the course of his sermon, Ryan mentioned seven spheres for community at DSC. I’ll list them here in case you missed them. Working from larger to smaller gatherings:
- Sunday AM
- The Lord’s Supper, every last Wednesday of the month
- The church-wide dinner before each Lord’s Supper meeting
- Various ministries, including women’s studies, men’s huddles, the hospitality team, etc.
- Community Groups
The author of Hebrews instructs us to “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” (24, 25). Showing up isn’t the entirety of the Christian life. However, showing up is an indispensable part of what it means to be a Christian. We are born into the community of God’s people, and we depend on one another as the means by which God perseveres us in our faith.
With this kind of regular life-on-life gathering in mind it’s good to recognize the temptation we all face for counterfeit community. Ryan mentioned the danger of Facbeook as a place where people often feel more connected than they are. R.C. Sprou Jr. and Russell Moore have published helpful articles exploring the place of Facebook in the Christian life and the subtle way in which social networks can undermine true community while giving the opposite appearance. They are, just like so many things, something to use for God’s glory, but to think carefully and Christianly about in doing so.
This Wednesday, we meet for our monthly Lord’s Supper service at 6:30 PM to remember Christ’s death in Scripture, song, and symbol.
This service will also include a Q&A time with DSC’s elders, which is a great opportunity to interact with and learn from those who lead our church. If you have any questions about our operations, ministries, vision, church planting, etc. that you would like answered, please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. The elder’s collect questions in advanced to ensure coverage of the most prominent issues. However, if there are questions unaddressed at the Q&A they will be answered through the DSC Blog or email.
Also, don’t forget to plan for our monthly church-wide dinner served before the Lord’s Supper meeting at 5:30 PM in the Youth Room. Suggested donations for this meal support church planting: $3.00 for adults and $2.00 for children under 13 ($10.00 max per family).
At DSC, we regularly remind ourselves of what our church is about with the mission statement, “Spreading God’s Glory Broader and Deeper.” But, lately, we’ve also been using three words to summarize the kinds of things we do together in pursuit of that mission: Worship, Community, Mission. This Sunday, Ryan began a three week series in which he’ll devote a sermon to each of these three words.
In last Sunday’s sermon, “So What Do We Mean by Worship?,” Ryan answered that question with an exposition of 1 Peter 2:4-10. We are a house for God’s presence, a people for His praise, because we have a cornerstone that is precious.
The language of “worship” describes what is the totality of the Christian life. Indeed, everyone is a worshiper and they are busy worshiping something in every moment of life. Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ are those who have been brought to see the truth and Glory of God for what it is, and have turned from the worship of created things and the gods of our imagination for the worship of the One True and Living God.
But, as Ryan discussed on Sunday, our corporate gatherings are like the sprint one might do at the end of a jog. Sunday mornings aren’t just like other worshipful opportunities in the week. Sundays are unique expressions of the worship of God in pursuit of his merciful, presence among us. We should give it all, not coast on in.
So what are some practical implications for believing that gathering together on Sunday is a big deal? I’ll expand here on a few I gathered from the part of Ryan’s notes he didn’t get to on Sunday:
1) Coming and Engaging:
All of us could make Sunday mornings a greater priority in our thinking about it and preparing for it. Some of us need to come more. You need for it to not be easy to stay in bed or go to the lake. Some of us need to come earlier. Identify what is slowing you down and calculate some changes to remove those problems. It may mean going to bed earlier. It may mean making what-to-wear decisions the night before. Some of us need to make more appropriate spiritual preparations through prayer, confessing sin, meditating on Scripture. Some of us need to come ready. Some of us need to talk to people. Some of us need to figure out what we’re doing here anyway. We don’t meet to be awed by song or lights or personality. We meet to be awed by God in singing, speaking, and hearing his word, and seeing Christ more clearly when we do. Some of us need to realize that a critical spirit toward elements within the service, when those criticisms aren’t grounded in God’s own word but our preferences, is hurting the church, redirecting glory from God to an idol. A critical spirit could be stealing your (and others’) joy.
This sounds more simple than it is. How natural it can be to hear and not really hear! We want to be the kind of hearers that chew and digest and speak the things we hear because in hearing them we can be transformed. We want to live more peacefully, forgive more eagerly, give more generously, serve more fervently because of our hearing. That takes more than sitting there. It doesn’t mean feverishly writing things down – we don’t do that at a movie. It means letting the words have their way with us, to be absorbed in them. If you are in and out of town, maybe you would commit to listening and really hearing every message you miss, in part, so that you will know something of what you were missing and truly miss being there live when you’re gone.
We’re a church that listens to preaching pretty well. When guests preach for us, they say that we’re a wonderfully listening church. Some guest preachers have told other preachers that DSC is a church that loves preaching. We should praise God for that. But we’ve also, at times, been known for not singing very loudly, for being rather passive participants during in our weekly gathering. We can grow here as a church, so let’s grow in volume, participation, and passionate expression.
4) Going and Taking and Doing:
Our worship on Sunday is an intensified block of the same things we’re to do all week. God’s glory can be praised in every mundane part of our normal lives: in our driving, talking, walking, working, waiting, and in our sleeping (1 Cor. 10:31). We are to go to his Word, and go to him in prayer, on our own and with our family. Let’s give our all on Sunday mornings, and let that truth, glory, awe, and worship launch into the rest of our week.
Update: Cause for Praise is now also available on Amazon.
In the month of December, Desert Springs Church (DSC) released Cause for Praise, an album of songs for corporate worship recorded live at DSC in September. Almost all of these songs were written by our own DSC musicians.
Cause for Praise is now available in iTunes.
- In Christ
- Psalm 46
- Cause of our Praise
- Great God
- Clap Your Hands
- Come and Dine
- Jesus You Reign
- Have Thine Own Way
- Our Delight
- The Love of God
The lyrics from the first song, “In Christ,” represent the simplicity, focus, and gospel clarity that is the goal:
With all I have and all I am
I cannot add to the work of His hand
Because of Christ I stand here clean
And I will sing because I am redeemed
In Christ, I am made alive
Because He came and was crucified
In Christ, righteous I stand
Washed in the blood of the great I AM
There is therefore now no condemnation
For those who are in Christ Jesus
Of course, if you’d like a hard copy, you can purchase a CD for $10.00 at the Resource Center on Sunday mornings.
On November 12 and 13, we welcomed Nancy Guthrie to DSC for our annual Women’s Conference. This year’s theme, Holding On to Hope, was taken from her important book by that title. Nancy spoke from the book of Job to explore the meaning and significance of suffering for the Christian. She speaks as one who has experienced great loss, and will help all of us to better understand what Job meant when he said, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).
The audio from the conference is now available:
- When Your World Falls Apart
- Holding on to Hope
- Q&A with Nancy Guthrie
- Hearing God Speak in Your Storms
Also, Collin Hansen recently interviewed Nancy Guthrie at The Gospel Coalition Blog in a post entitled, “Sad People, Safe Churches.” We included some of that interview in a previous blog post and commend the entire interview to you.
In Sunday’s message, “The Urgency of Unity,” we explored Ephesians 4:1-16 to see that unity is a declaration of the gospel’s power. Unity between diverse peoples is something unnatural to Adam’s race, but not to Christ’s. In Christ, we are a new humanity.
As those who are redeemed to God, but in the process of begin redeemed in our practical faithfulness to God, we still need to hear the command to “walk in a manner worth of the calling to which [we] have been called…eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit” (Ephesians 4:1-3).
Paul Tripp, in his book, How People Change, asks a helpful question to encourage us toward unity: “What are some common obstacles that hinder redemptive relationships from developing in our lives?”
Here are Tripp’s eight suggestions mentioned in Sunday’s sermon:
- The busyness of life, keeping relationships distant and casual.
- A total immersion in friendships that are activity and happiness based.
- A conscious avoidance of relationships as too scary or messy.
- A formal commitment to church activities, with no real connection to people.
- One-way, ministry-driven friendships in which you always minister to others, but never allow others to minister to you.
- Self-centered, “meet my felt needs” relationships that keep you always receiving, but seldom giving.
- A private, independent, “just me and God” approach to the Christian life.
- Theology as replacement for relationship. Knowing God as a life of study, rather than the pursuit of God and his people.