From an interview with Michael Horton about his latest book, Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World: Belonging to the body of Christ, being exposed regularly to the means of grace and to the communion of saints, is radically life-changing. But that process can’t usually be measured in days, weeks, and months. We have to simply believe God’s promise. It’s easy to burn out when we expect every public service or daily time with the Lord to be earth-shattering. And just when it becomes ordinary, we back off because we don’t want it to become “routine.” But that’s just the point: it’s good to have routines that we stick to regardless of the fireworks. Again, I think of analogies: “How was your marriage today?” “How was your workout?” Most of the time, it’s “fine.” You can’t have revolutions every day or there wouldn’t be steady growth. Pastors, too, can burn out when every “worship experience” has to be phenomenal.
John Piper: But the hard truth is that most Christians don’t pray very much. They pray at meals—unless they’re still stuck in the adolescent stage of calling good habits legalism. They whisper prayers before tough meetings. They say something brief as they crawl into bed. But very few set aside set times to pray alone—and fewer still think it is worth it to meet with others to pray. And we wonder why our faith is weak. And our hope is feeble. And our passion for Christ is small. The Duty of Prayer And meanwhile the devil is whispering all over this room: “The pastor is getting legalistic now. He’s starting to use guilt now. He’s getting out the law now.” To which I say, “To hell with the devil and all of his destructive lies. Be free!” Is it true that intentional, regular, disciplined, earnest, Christ-dependent, God-glorifying, joyful prayer is a duty? Do I go to pray with many of
Tony Reinke: In his new book, Kevin DeYoung writes, “It may sound boring or out-of-date, but it just happens to be true: the way to grow in your relationship with Jesus is to pray, read your Bible, and go to a church where you’ll get good preaching, good fellowship, and receive the sacraments” (134). It sounds ordinary, and it is, as Kevin explains in the following clip (4 minutes):
By Joe Thorn: In my desire to be like Jesus I have to guard against the temptation to merely focus on the external. Addressing the outside of our lives is easy and has nothing to do with real sanctification. Superficial godliness is no godliness at all. It is nothing but a thin gloss over a man’s life. A kind of religious manliness that neither addresses or changes the heart. But the other danger is doing nothing, and simply hoping that God makes us grow without any cultivation. Our growth in godliness is a grace from God, derived from our union with Jesus, and is a work of the Holy Spirit, and yet we are active throughout in both killing sin and living unto righteousness. So all the effort, action, and work on our part in the process of sanctification must spring from faith in Jesus and be aimed at our hearts, not just our behavior. This means we need to grow
From Jonathan Leeman: A local church is a group of Christians who regularly gather in Christ’s name to officially affirm and oversee one another’s membership in Jesus Christ and his kingdom through gospel preaching and gospel ordinances. That’s a bit clunky, I know, but notice the five parts of this definition: a group of Christians; a regular gathering; a congregation-wide exercise of affirmation and oversight; the purpose of officially representing Christ and his rule on earth—they gather in his name; the use of preaching and ordinances for these purposes. Just as a pastor’s pronouncement transforms a man and a woman into a married couple, so the latter four bullet points transform an ordinary group of Christians spending time together at the park—presto!—into a local church. The gathering is important for a number of reasons. One is that it’s where we Christians “go public” to declare our highest allegiance. It’s the outpost or embassy, giving a public face to our future
“Your task [as a preacher] is not to send people away from church saying, ‘That was a lovely sermon’ or ‘What an eloquent appeal!’ The one question is: Did they, or did they not, meet God today? There will always be some who have no desire for that, some who rather than be confronted with the living Christ would actually prefer what G. K. Chesterton described as ‘one solid and polished cataract of platitudes flowing forever and ever.’ But when St. Peter finished his first great sermon in Jerusalem, reported in the book of Acts, I do not read that ‘when they heard this, they were intrigued by his eloquence’ . . . or ‘bored and impassive and contemptuous’; what I do read is, ‘When they heard this, they were pierced to the heart.’ The heart of man has a whole armor of escapist devices to hold off the danger when reality comes too near. But I would remind you that
I love this from Chad Bresson: . The New Testament local church is the means of Christ’s redemptive work whereby He… calls and gathers his people through regeneration of the Spirit, confession of faith in Christ, and proclamation in baptism (Matthew 16:18, Hebrews 10:19,25, 2 Cor. 3:3, Acts 2:41,44, Col. 2:12, Titus 3:5-6). dwells among his people (Ephesians 2:21-22), a new man/creation that incarnates Christ with the message of reconciliation (Eph. 2:15-16, Cor. 5:17-21). reigns over his people by his Word through elders (Colossians 1:18, Hebrews 10:19, Acts 2:33). covenants with his people to be their God and they his people (Hebrews 8:10, Luke 22:20). feeds his people through the Proclamation of Word/Gospel and Lord’s Table (Col. 1:24-29, Romans 10:14-17, Acts 5:42, 6:7, 8:25, Matt. 4:4, 1 Corinthians 11:26). purifies his people and protects the gospel in discipline (Matt. 18:15-20, Heb. 4:11-13, 1 Cor. 5, Heb. 12). expands his kingdom through Proclamation, gifts, and multiplication (Acts 1:6-8, 6:7, 9:31, 12:24,
Rick Phillips comments on the question of “crafting church visions.” Is it necessary or even advisable for churches to make 5-year or 10 year plans? Or is such a practice a corruption of the spiritual calling of the church? My response consists of the following 7 points, which I will flesh out below: 1. The mandate for church “visions” comes not from the Scriptures but from the secular leadership industry and corporate consulting groups. 2. The emphasis on “visions” and “strategies” has the general effect of placing the church’s confidence in methods rather than in our message. 3. Vision planning helps church leaders to conduct objective analysis so as to support better decision-making. 4. Strategic timelines (5- and 10 year plans) tend to focus the church on results it is able to produce, whereas the Scriptures focus the church on results that only God can produce. 5. Church visions emphasize what is distinctive about particular churches (their context, target audience, etc.)