The latest challenge

I have just started my way through What Is the Mission of the Church by Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert and right off the bat they are challenging some assumptions and pushing me toward a focus on disciple making – through the proclaimed word. Keys for me from the first chapter are that we should invest more energy following New Testament examples of “mission” and that being sent is all about teaching and sharing the gospel.

Of course – the DeYoung flavor of too many words per chapter is in full effect, which I thought Gilbert would tame, but it is all profitable info and worth it. Let’s see if I like the second chapter as much…

Can you thank God for that?

I have had a number of conversations as of late on what we watch and what should be the filter Christians use to avoid certain imagery and issues in media. Kevin DeYoung asks the easiest question in the realm of what you choose to watch and hear; can you thank God for it?

“I’ve learned over the years that the simplest way to judge gray areas in the Christian life like movies, television, and music is to ask one simple question: can I thank God for this? (We are to give thanks in all circumstances, right?

“I wonder if after most of our entertainment we could sincerely get down on our knees and say, “Thank you God for this good gift.” Something to think about.”

Something for all of us to think about indeed.

It may not be the music…

I have been blessed to be around a number of different styles of worship expression and I am thankful for the reverence and emotion each has inspired. From the large gospel choir in a rust belt town, to a tradition hymnal service led by one very excited old man and an organ then on to the hippie folk singer with a record contract.

I have come to appreciate the uniqueness of different worships style and while I might have some personal preferences I have learned to become more concerned about the preaching. And so often when a church faces decline or even desired growth among certain groups we can look hard at the music rather than the word being proclaimed from the pulpit and our lives.

If our church is made up of people who come for the music alone, me might have a problem. Sure music can be a gateway to gospel preaching but is our presentation more important than the substance?

Kevin DeYoung tackles this issue in reaction to some denominational conversations and he asks key questions we must answer well when faced with decline or desired growth. You can see the whole list here, below are ones I wrestle with.

“Is the gospel faithfully preached?
Are the sermons manifestly rooted in a text of Scripture?
Is church discipline practiced?
Are there good relationships among the staff and other leaders?
Are the people of the church engaged in personal ministry?
Is the congregation marked by increasing prayer and evangelism?
Do the pastors believe in the complete trustworthiness of all of Scripture?
Are their lives examples of personal holiness?”

Do we answers these questions and others well? The Lord will build his church, we must be faithful to his Word and obedient to his call.

A Modern Screwtape

While I think demonic strategy sessions might look more like the movie Inception, the C.S. Lewis classic, Screwtape Letters, has been used to provide a glimpse into what we might imagine the enemy of humanity would be up to.

Kevin DeYoung has written a modern letter just in time for the return to school. The victim in question is a student heading to college for the first time and the call is for avoiding church attendance at all costs.

You will excuse me for my stern tone, but I cannot overstate the importance of this matter of church. Perhaps your youth prevents you from fully grasping the eternal significance of this issue. Heaven is at stake, my infernal child. Spirituality is one thing. God talk is generally harmless. Student “fellowships” as they call them are tolerable for a season. But for hell’s sake, Wormwood, church is absolutely out of the question.

Of course, it goes without saying some churches serve our cause nicely. Dead tradition churches. Silly entertainment churches. Social get-together churches. Political party churches. Loveless, divisive churches. Doctrineless churches. These are all wonderful. Our concern, and I must reiterate it is a deep concern, is with churches that act like churches, the ones that preach Christ and live out their blasphemous faith.

Local Christian community is vital to our faith and as someone in transition looking for a church to call our own, I vividly recognize the dangers of no community.

Community is where we are accountable and challenged. It is the place we are equipped for ministry and where we often most minister. DeYoung’s creative is full of reminders of avoiding distraction in our faith and finding a community to live in. As we approach any new season of life it is important that we guard ourselves and biblical community is the best place for that.

Do you need new community or do you just need to commit where you are? What would a letter to your enemy look like and how can you counteract their attacks?