The Mission of the Church: Calvin on Liturgy. (Yes, really. That Calvin.)

Eucharist-Mission1Story

What is the message that the assembly should communicate to the members and to visitors? There are, of course, countless good things that one might teach, but what is the over-arching goal?

Sometimes we approach the assembly microscopically, that is, focusing on today’s lesson without thought to the lesson taught over the course of the years.

I’m persuaded that we’ve greatly erred in not communicating the Story as well as we should have. By the “Story” I mean the over-arching narrative of Scripture. It’s a true Story. Indeed, it’s Truth.

You see, if we fail to teach the Story, then all the other lessons become atomistic, separated truths that aren’t seen as part of the total Truth of God’s revelation. And so, we pick and choose the parts that seem relevant and ultimately decontextualize our preaching and our worship.

Hence, we might overly focus on the therapeutic lessons in the gospels. The preacher will be praised by the members who are struggling to cope with insecurity, low self-esteem, and depression, but it won’t be because they truly understand how they fit into God’s Story. They might in fact consider Jesus to have come to earth and died so that they could feel better about themselves — which is not really quite the point. Continue reading

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Joel Levi: “Set My Body Free”


Been looking for a better song to go with Sunday’s Bible class. Here it is.

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The Mission of the Church: The Liturgy of Contemporary Church

Eucharist-Mission1If the church’s mission centers around Jesus as incarnated in the local congregation, then liturgy becomes extremely important in terms of spiritual formation. That is, if God wants the church formed in the image of Jesus, then how we conduct the assembly becomes a question of mission.

Now, for the last 30 years or so, the assumption has been that the assembly is missional (good) and that its mission is to be achieved by being “seeker sensitive.” That is, the mission of the assembly has become evangelistic — rather than spiritually formative for the church itself.

Michelle Van Loon recently wrote, Continue reading

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The Mission of the Church: Back to Wright

Eucharist-Mission1So I covered Christopher J. H. Wright’s view of the church’s mission a few posts ago. Let’s review.

In a recent lecture, Wright broke mission down into five elements:

  • Evangelism (proclaim the good news of the kingdom)
  • Teaching (teach, baptise and nurture new believers)
  • Compassion (respond to human need by loving service)
  • Justice (transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and pursue peace and reconciliation)
  • Creation care ( strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth)

All intrinsically flow from the Lordship of Christ

Continue reading

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Kings Church: Transgender and Intersex

A few days ago, I began scouring the Internet for Christian resources on transgender issues. And most of the material I found was pretty useless. The church just hasn’t given this subject much thought, and I could find very little that seemed to actually be based on the Bible. That is, even Christians are addressing the question in very secular, worldly, political terms rather than in pastorally sensitive terms shaped by Jesus and scripture.

By a fortunate coincidence, reader Christopher has pointed me to this video, which I find to be excellent. I’m still thinking through the issues, but the speaker, Andrew Wilson, at least gives us something worth thinking about.

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The Afterlife: Lesson 2, focused on Rom 8 and Rev 21-22 (June 12, 2016)

heavenhellClass 2 of this summer’s Sunday Bible classes: the coming freedom of the Creation from futility and a look ahead to the end of Revelation.

Download:

June 12, 2016 Class on Rom 8 and Rev 21-22

Or stream:

“And he lives forever with his saints to reign.”

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The Mission of the Church: Mission and Eucharist, Part 2

Eucharist-Mission1We’ve seen that both Thompson and Hauerwas find that mission is built not on the individual and not on benevolence or evangelism but on the ethics of the congregation.

Thompson finds this in Paul’s epistles. Hauerwas finds it in the Sermon on the Mount. N. T. Wright teaches much the same lesson built on the OT roots of Christianity. The prophets spoke of “the kingdom,” not “a personal relationship with Jesus.” Gentiles are saved, not by being grafted into Jesus, but by being grafted into Israel — a nation, a people, and a community. Our forgiveness is not so that we can receive a personal relationship with Jesus (although we do), but to qualify us to be a part of Israel/the Kingdom. In Acts 2, baptism was followed by remission of sin (“remission” is the same word used in Torah regarding the Day of Atonement), which was followed by being added to their number — becoming a part of the Jesus community. Continue reading

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The Mission of the Church: Mission and Eucharist, Part 1

Eucharist-Mission1When I first started reading Thompson’s The Church according to Paul: Rediscovering the Community Conformed to Christ, I thought it was going to be a Neo-Anabaptist book. “Neo-Anabaptist” refers to a movement led by John Howard Yoder and Stanley Hauerwas, with roots in 16th Century Anabaptist theology.

The Anabaptists arose about the same time as Calvinism and Lutheranism, except they insisted on the separation of church from state, and therefore they rejected infant baptism, insisting on baptism of believers, generally by immersion for remission of sins. And so they re-baptized their converts: “Anabaptist” likely means “re-baptizer.” We can’t say too much about the early Anabaptists because the Catholics, Calvinists, and Lutherans all persecuted them ruthlessly, and much of their writings and thinking has been lost to history.

Both Churches of Christ and Baptists like to claim Anabaptist roots, and there is some truth to it — although there’s hardly an unbroken line of succession. Rather, Anabaptist thinking on baptism influenced both denominations, but the Baptists descend from the Puritan family tree, while Churches of Christ descend from a mix of Presbyterian and Baptist roots — except for our doctrine of baptism, which is Anabaptist. (This hardly makes it ipso facto wrong.) Continue reading

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The Mission of the Church: Thompson’s Conclusions (Parables)

Eucharist-Mission1Thompson’s book, The Church according to Paul: Rediscovering the Community Conformed to Christ, is top-notch theology. The problem with the book is that it’s really nothing but top-notch theology. Thompson doesn’t offer anything in the way of examples or illustrations.

Now, I hate preacher-books where each chapter begins with a Ted-and-Alice story; you know, “Ted and Alice came to my office and asked me whether Adam had free will to sin or whether God required him to sin so his plan of redemption could come true.” Some of these stories are a little too convenient, and few are really helpful to understanding the rest of the chapter. It’s how preachers clear their throats before they get to the meat of the lesson.

So it’s with considerable reluctance that I present these Bob-and-Jim stories, but I think true cross-shaped living is so foreign to the contemporary church that I would be remiss should I move on without pausing to make Thompson’s point clear by parable.

Parable 

Bob is an elder in a church of Christ. (The little “c” means I’m referring to a church founded on Jesus as Messiah and has nothing to do with its historical roots or whether it subscribes to the Christian Chronicle (not that there’d be anything wrong with that)). Jim sells insurance for a living. And he’s a good and hard-working salesman. He is also an elder.

The church decides it needs to purchase a plan of long-term group disability insurance to cover its ministers because so many have elected out of Social Security. The elders have determined what they think they need, and Jim has been immensely helpful in advising his fellow elders on the options involved in such a purchase. Continue reading

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The Mission of the Church: Teaching

Eucharist-Mission1Christopher J. H. Wright lists as one of the church’s mission the teaching of new converts. This includes teaching, baptizing, and nurturing new believers.

In the Churches of Christ, we have a strong tradition of teaching and baptizing. Nurturing, however, is another matter. Some congregations have new member classes, but these are usually targeted toward transfer members. And there certainly are churches with new converts classes — it’s just that we often don’t have enough new converts to justify the effort. (This is true of most American denominations.) Continue reading

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