Session III: Phillip Jensen "A Fresh Understanding of Gospel Growth"
I. Introduction: How do we use the word "Worship"
Phillip started his introduction talking about possums! "Never stir the possum…they have terrible claws and nasty fangs." He said that by picking on worship he’s kind of stirring a possum (this reminds me of a time when I was little and my older sister carried what she thought to be a death possum into the wood...a few minutes after she set it down it got up and walked off).
Jensen has found that folks don’t mind critiquing the Bible but they surely do when you critique an understanding of worship. He started by looking at the words the Bible uses and the way that the Bible uses them... He discussed how we say phrases in certain ways because they roll off the tongue better: "Ladies and gentlemen" "Men and women" "humankind" as opposed to "humanity". We noticed the linguistic use of the order when the feminist movement came about. The words we use in English are deep seated in our consciousness…but the way we use them might not be how the New Testament writers used the words (as he is showing is the case for the word "worship").
So you take worship. What does worship mean for people today: “Take part in a religious service.” Then of course worship is church, and church is worship. But if you don’t know what church is then you don’t know what worship is.
Recently worship has come to mean singing hymns. This is seen as a “worship leader” so if the preacher preaches then the music leader is often referred to as the “worship leader”. A pastor's primary role biblically is not to be a counselor, "but we’ll have to take that up another time," he said. Some songs are not honoring to God. And the songs tend to take up the meaning of how you sing and how you feel when you sing…it’s the way you do it.
Praise is a similar term. This can take a different form in either music or spoken communication of speaking (or singing) well of God. Then he “praised” Tony Payne with a compliment as an example just speaking. Then he sang the same “praise” of Tony. It wasn’t any different rather, “[he] just distracted us,” with his singing as he said.
Why do we have a church service. If worship is a vertical coming up to God…then why would a horizontal act represent it. Service is depicted by liturgia (etc.). Most of the words are of cultic worship. They are words hardly used in connection with church gatherings or meetings. They are used in regard to Israel, or in fulfillment of the temple of Christ Jesus. They are used metaphorically (Romans 15 “Romans offered up as a sacrifice to God”). The metaphor is used, but the church is not seen as a center of worship…the temple yes, but the church is not seen as the temple. The temple is Christ, the temple is heaven…and the worship language gets caught up in heaven. The language of church is of serving each other. We worship all the time in all of our lives, but we don’t gather together for the sole purpose of worship in our regular gatherings biblically.
This is something that is not the main purpose of gathering. Do you go to chuch to breathe? We worship God all the time everywhere in every aspect of my life similar to breathing.
Now what do we mean here? Every Sunday of your life you are greeted by a minister saying, “We come together today for worship.” He said then that the definition of the word “worship” becomes what he is using it as. Time and mode of use of words redefine the words.
Why do we import the language of worship for coming together on Sunday? What we should say is, “We gather together today to hear God’s word.” Now we know what we are doing when we gather.[This was a great summary of what is covered very thoroughly in David Peterson's book Engaging With God]
II. A Fresh Look at Gospel Growth Acts 6:7
The word for growth or increase here is in the context 9 ideas...1. Growth of the church in quality (Eph 4:15-16) not numerically but into Christ in the context of a congregation, (Col 2:19) growth in godliness…quality
2. Growth in individual (1 Peter 2:2; 2 Peter 3:18) Christians grow personally and spiritually as we grow spiritually as churches
3. Growth in numbers markers in the development of the gospel as it goes out (Acts 2:41 [3,000 souls]; 2:47 [those being saved not the church but believers]; 5:14 [believers added to the Lord #’s of conversions]; 11:24 [many people added to the Lord]; 6:17 [disciples multiplied])
4. 2 Occasions there is growth of churches (Acts 6:35 [churches strengthened and increased in number]; 9:31 [being built up…it multiplied]) What does it mean that the church multiplied? Church and growth connected…
5. Growth of the gospel (Acts 6:7 “Word continued to increase”; 12:24; 19:20 “increased and prevailed”; Col 1:6 “bearing fruit and growing”; ) sower sows the seed and the seed is the Word, and the seed grows…and God gives the growth.
6. Growth of the kingdom Matthew 13 with the mustard seed parable. Kingdom in a sense grows. That which is small has great significance. We often pray for the kingdom to grow, but it
7. Oikodomeo…to build…translated as build up…rather then build out. Matthew 16:18; 1 Cor 13; Eph 4…to build the church in Christ likeness.
8. Saints refers to all Christians…the saints in Paul (he thinks) refers only to the Jewish Christians.
9. The strengthening of the church. Acts 15, and 14 “the strengthening of the disciples” qualitative rather than quantitative.
He then discussed how we are not to grow the church…we are to preach and pray, but not necessarily build. It’s a great danger to our individual selves in our sinful natures to do things that are beneficial for our selves, "You have to be wary of theological conclusions that benefit yourself."
He talked about how Tim Keller's insistence on church planting as opposed to church growing is more biblical and actually has proven to be successful in their experience, "We reach more people with the gospel than we ever would if we grew the size of our churches." Rather they increase the number of churches and along with that brings the ability of each church to reach different people in their vicinity.
He also discussed how the church of Christ is always in session. He tried to show that the New Testament gives us some flexibility in meeting times. However, the smaller the churches and the more numerous those smaller churches are, the more people they will reach. There is nothing sacred about being big or small.
In 1 Corinthians 4 what is required is that we be faithful not successful numerically. The thing that is growing is the gospel…not the growth of the size of church. It is the Word of God that gives growth in the gospel. Because the Word of God is active that is at work in those who believe. It is by the Word that the church comes into existence…and it is by the Word of God that churches grow. That is why Timothy is told to look to life and doctrine and not to give up on his reading and teaching. We are more concerned about saving souls, glorifying God, and being faithful.
Many people are under the influence of numerical success and in the name of pragmatism have led their people away from the Word of God for what appears to work. One technique is by giving people jobs in the first couple weeks of their attendance. He wants to give people the gospel first before he gives them a job. He jokingly added that, "if they aren’t a Christian he finds that they are much more difficult to handle anyhow."
A book that you received called, "How to grow your church," is a book for the waste paper basket!
He is trying to relieve people from the guilt trip to which Church Growth Movement moves people. And encouraged us to grow people into Christlikeness by the power of the Holy Spirit.
What then does the Bible teach about church? What does the Bible teach about growth?
1. The church gathers to hear the gospel.
2. The gospel that saves people is the same gospel by which people grow.
3. The reason the church gathers is to preach to the saved because the church is the gathering of the saved.
4. If any outsider attends they should hear the gospel…and maybe in the providential grace of God they may be saved. 1 Corinthians 12 shows this very thing when an "idiot" that comes to the meeting…it’s open to all, but those that aren’t saved are not the focus. "Tongues" are the judgment of God…for unbeliever’s condemnation. Prophecy is for the salvation of Christians.
5. Outsiders should see if they should come in that we are Christ’s people by the way we love one another.
6. The powers of the heavenly places see the victory of Christ in our unity.
7. As a church, Christ’s people, we are always open to newcomers welcoming them as we have been welcomed in by God. How can we not have a gathering that is warm and open to outsiders.
8. Our prayers and the people growing in godliness will be going out to preach the gospel to others. The church is the springboard of evangelism out to the world. The church as it is doesn’t evangelize. You can’t be like Jesus without laying down your life for the salvation of sinners, and this should be our response to WWJD. Go out and preach the gospel…in order that they may be converted to come to the assembly of Christians.