Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Gospel Growth Conference: Day II, Session III

Session III: Phillip Jensen "A Fresh Understanding of Gospel Growth"
[10/31/07 2:00pm]

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.

Gospel Growth Conference: Day II, Session II

Session II: Phillip Jensen "A Fresh Understanding of Church"
[10/31/07 10:30am]

Unfortunately my battery was dying and somehow my notes didn't get saved. I'll ask tomorrow for some notes that I can make sure I accurately fill in some of the outline...

The point of this talk was basically to discuss what the church is before we can discuss and come to a better understanding of "Gospel Growth". Namely, an assembly (church) is a congregation of Christians that comes together to hear the propositional Word of God that is laid out in the 66 books of the Bible (I would say that it is a regular meeting of a particular congregation in a particular place that preaches the Word of God and practices the sacraments of the Lord's Supper [hence discipline] and Baptism). Below is the ten point outline of Jensen's talk...

Hebrews 12:18-19
I. The Church is too Important not to Understand

II. The Problem with Understanding the Church

III. The Starting Point

IV. Gathering and dispersing in the Old Testament

V. The Gathering

VI. When is A Church The church?

VII. The Biblical Church

VIII. The Two Churches

IX. The Christian Church

X. The Purpose of the Meeting

UPDATE: I didn't track anyone down for notes on this. Sorry 'bout that. I got a bit too busy.

Gospel Growth Conference: Day II, Session I

Session I: Mark Dever Evangelism "What it is and what it isn't"
[10/31/07 9:00am]

Mark started with a confession...that members of his own denomination are usually condounded in his views in regard to evangelism. Mark is bothered and distressed about the naïve desire of many for numbers. He is always encouraged in evangelism by his Sydney Anglican brothers.

I. He then layed out what five mistaken identities of what evangelism is
I. Imposition
His main point is that it is indeed wrong to impose beliefs on others. Sometimes the way evangelism is done he can understand that people understand it to be that way. It is often treated like a club that many hit someone over the head with.

He said it's nto a matter of imposing beliefs. It is displaying first…facts. Like the pilot of his plane coming back from St. Louis recently didn’t impose his beliefs about where the runway was we are doing the same thing in evangelism. It is a fact. When we are talking of facts we don’t say that we are imposing something. The message Christians share is not our message…not like it’s yours in that it uniquely pertains to you and your ideas. We shouldn’t say, “This is how I see it,” or, “This is how I like to think of God.” This is the Christian gospel and it isn't only unique to individuals (although it does pertain to individuals).

"We didn’t invent this message. We don’t have authority over it. It is simply telling the good news…not making sure people respond properly." As in 1 Corinthians 3, “Apollos and Paul planted seed but God made it grow.”

He then discussed his conversations with a friend in Cambridge (a muslim friend). His friend wanted another more worldly muslim friend to become a better muslim and Mark wanted him to become a Christian. His friend would talke about how corrupt the Christian country that Great Britain was. Mark responded, "There is no such thing as a Christian country." His friend said that that’s Christianity's weakness. Mark responded that that’s why Islam doesn’t have a good view of human nature and reality...because you can't force someone to become a Christian if it consists only in outward acts. The fact that they can put a swrord to a throat to convert is wrong. As a Chrsitian we believe no one has any good in them that they have the ability to turn to God…and that we ourselves cannot make others to become a Christian by force. God does that. We share the gospel, but God does the work.

We don’t do things by force or imposition. We share and pray for them. Evangelism doesn’t include cooercion, or manipulation into life. Imposition…the gospel is not that!

II. Personal Testimony
Psalm 66 is an example of personal testimony “what He has done for me.” The New Testament is a personal testimony of people. 1 Corinthians 1 says, “our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you.” The truth of the gospel is proved in our daily lives. We should delight in God an verbally with others. But personal testimony is not evangelism!

He recalled a story of a non-Christian professor who leaned over to a student and said I don’t believe in any of this (regarding an evangelistic talk taking place). And the student responded, “yeah, I know, but wouldn’t you love to?” He said that she then began to weep.

Further, the blind man in John 9...Jesus heals him, “one thing I do know, that I was blind and now I see.” This is a verbal testimony to the power of God, but not evangelism...or the gospel. What the blind man did…is NOT evangelism. It is part of it, but there’s no gospel in it. The man didn’t even know who Jesus was.

Mark then discussed baptisms in at CHBC…they were getting great individual stories but the gospel wasn’t being shared in many of the testimonies people would share. So they then they made sure that people would give manuscripts of testimonies ahead of time to the pastors…to make sure the gospel was witnessed to in the ordinance.

"We as pastors need to be the ones to teach people that it’s not enough just to share what God’s done in their life…not telling them not to share that…but they need to make clear what Christ’s demands are on people"

Testimony is popular in Postmodern culture…people love narratives. Who would object to you saying something good about our lives. Mark is contending for the fact that it is sharing the message of the gospel that is evangelism…and personal testimony is not that.

III. Social action or public involvement for evangelism
This tends to come about from the New Perspective on Paul folks using "kingdom" language to. Mark then said, "This sounds like turn of the century liberalism."

He then discussed William Jennings Bryan who was a democratic candidate for US…he may be the only man to run unsuccessfully three times in a row for the US presidency. He was a fervent Christian. In laboring for social action some friends believed he was sharing the gospel. However, he was not.

Many friends are confusing implications of the gospel for the gospel itself. Don’t confuse the implications of the gospel with the gospel itself. Social action is always more popular with non-Christians.

In the New Testament we don’t get a long treatise from paul of the abuses of the Roman government. He then quoted some of the passages that Social Justice Gospel folks point to: (1) Matthew 5:16 “see your good deeds”; (2) 1 Peter 2:12 “see your good deeds and glorify God”; (3)Matthew 25 “the least of these you did not do for me”.

But this action is not evangelism. Such actions commend the gospel. In and of themselves they share the gospel with no one. They can avoid the propositional, thorny truth that the gospel is. Social action tends to focus on horizontal solutions and normally take away our shame and avoid our dealing with our vertical problems with God.

Social powers are too limited to fix the problems in the world…they can’t reach the problems of our sins before a holy and just God. Proverbs 11:30 “He who wins souls is wise”. Evangelism is not declaring God’s political plan to the nations…it is declaring the gospel to men and women. He then invited those that disagree with him to come and talk after his lecture.

IV. Apologetics
People often mistake apologetics for evangelism. They are a good thing and Mark’s not against them (likewise he's not against social justice!). 1 Pet 3:15 “give a good reason for the hope that we have”.

Apologetics argue for the truth of the gospel. Christianity fits better with the state of reality…frankness of death…etc. They are good arguments for the truth of Christianity. Mark then recalled a talk at Cambridge...the leaders that invited him said thanks…BUT. Not everyone there was as critical as agnostics as he was before he was a Christian…he may have brought more doubts to people’s mind in their Agnosticism and Atheism then helped to share the gospel with them.

Sometimes his personal addiction to apologetics can be a cowardice. Like Jacob and Esau…he has inadvertantly put many things out there to soften the blow. Apologetics can present wonderful opportunities for evangelism. They discuss the purpose of life…what happens when you die, etc. They can also easily lead to evangelism…but it’s not the same thing as evangelism.

Mark led atheist group in college. They set the agenda and the questions and they would just discuss for hours. He can’t say that they were helpful sessions. They were kind of fun…but it sets everything up with the wrong attitude. Like waving a red flag in front of a bull.

He said that it is rather better to have straight up presentation of the gospel and then deal with questions as honestly and sensitively as they come.

Just because we don’t know everything doesn’t mean we don’t know anything. All knowledge in this world is limited. We proceed from what we know and then we work out. Even the youngest child does this.

The greatest danger in evangelism is being distracted from actually sharing the gospel. It is the positive act of telling the good news of Jesus Christ for the salvation of others.

He used to get into so many arguments with non-Christians about the inerrancy of the Bible. He doesn’t see this kind of evangelism pursued in the book of Acts. Tell the gospel and pray that God will convert hearts.

V. Don’t do evangelism for evangelism itself...
Evangelism should not be mistaken for the fruit of evangelism. Evangelism may not be defined in terms of results, rather the faithfulness of the gospel preached. 2 Corinthians 2:15-16 describes a “fragrance of life and smell of death”. Ministry certainly has these two separate effects. It is not how the seed is planted but the nature of the soil.

We can’t judge the rightness of preaching by the results that we see. Pragmatic results oriented, outcome oriented businesses…is not evangelism… Evangelism has become emotionally manipulative rather than the supernatural act of God toward the heart of a sinner. He then quoted Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “If what happened last night has not lasted twenty four hours I’m not interested in it.”

Many are undermining real evangelism in real churches…history is full of people coming to Christ years after they heard the gospel. Most don’t respond the first time they hear the gospel.

He then introduced us to Luke Short...and it took him a long time to be converted. He was a New England farmer who lived to be 100 years old. He was recalling his life...and he recalled a sermon he heard in England as a boy. He was converted to Christ 85 years after hearing John Flavel preach the gospel!

Evangelism is not to persuade people to make decisions…we do want them to make decisions…but we give God the glory. We fail only if we don’t tell them the gospel at all. Telling what it is to be converted, and then how to be converted.

II. The gospel is NOT these things
Positively the gospel is telling the wonderful truth of God, the good news about Jesus Christ for the salvation of sinners. Understanding this increases evangelism when it is not a guiltrip…and it becomes a joy. What it is is: (1) Honesty, (2) Urgency, (3) Joy, (4) Using the Bible, and (5) Backing it with praying to the glory of God.

Then he quoted from the evangelism chapter in the 9Marks of a Healthy Church book… It was how to maniuplate people with "psychological pressure." It is a controlled conversation technique "new" in evangelism… “get your prospect alone”…etc.

Mark also recalled that an attender one morning after preaching told him that the sermon was, “Best sales pitch I’ve ever heard. But I have one didn’t close the sale.” Sounds like a modern follower of Tillich.

We need to know what kind of sales we can close and ones we can't. The eternity of one soul is not one that we can accomplish. We shouldn’t let what we preach be molded by what it gets as a response. The problem is too deep that we are dealing with. God must change hearts!

Liberalism generally comes with a concern for evangelism. Look back…the desire to present the gospel in a way with people that don’t agree with you. Hence it changes the message in order to get a response. Relevance often holds in it's hand the very gospel itself (and can leave it out).

What we need to know is that instead of us to use our powers to change sinners…I should resolve to preach the gospel like a gentleman. Preach the gospel unashamed…God will use us to do it, but it won’t be is God at work. Like God used Moses the stutterer to get His message to Israel, and Paul the Jewish National to share the gospel with Gentiles

Like George Whitfield scoffers the "Hellfire Club"...the leader was mimicking Whitfield to his cronies…then he was converted and he was so pierced that he sat down on the spot and prayed for forgiveness of sins.

As we heard last night, the gospel is what produces fruit!

Gospel Growth Conference: Behind the Scenes!

Here are a few pics...

First, here are some of the 9Marks folks hanging out.

Second, these two guys are really the secret weapon of this conference so far. On the left is Josh Coover (who really makes everything that 9Marks does work) and on the right is Marty Sweeny (director of Matthias Media - US).

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Gospel Growth Conference: Day I, Session II

Session II: Phillip Jensen "Church Growth Paralysis"
[10/30/07 7:50pm)

I. An Advertisement for Matthias Media!
"Most things in Australia are odd or poisonous…" is how Jensen started his lecture his time. He gave a great description of the purpose of Matthias Media. He described how the Christian population in Australia is 1-3% of the population. It is a very pagan country. It is very hedonistic, pleasure seeking, materialistic and the like. He mentioned that they constantly laugh at England because they sent them to a prison or penal colony in Australia and they didn't realize that they were sending them to "heaven". He described Aussies generally as a people tha are not positive, don't have a "can-do" attitude. Their attitude is a "can't-do one, but hey it doesn't matter" (at this time many in the audience laughed...but it was a sad comment really). He said that Christians in Australia are Calvinists, Reformed (as the 39 articles were meant to be)…unlike most Anglicans and Episcopalians they believe in the 39 articles. He described how whent he Oxford movement of liberalism took place it didn't touch Australia's Christian community. He said that they spread throughout the world, but that the movement, being composed mainly as upper class Englishmen, didn’t go to Australia because they were a penal was below their worth. So they are basically time warped Anglicans that were separated from the liberal movements within Anglicanism. He also described J. I. Packer is an under cover Sydney man...even though he doesn't know it.

Then he came back to describing how they are odd as a publishing house. "They don’t publish books," he said. They look at the world and scriptures different than we would look at the world and scriptures; therefore, they have something different to contribute to churches.

They produce tools to help people minister. For example Islam in the Backyard. This is a booklet that answers the question, "What can you give to fellow Americans about Islam?" In the process of informing people about Islam they share the gospel with people through this resource. They produce interactive Bible studies…they produce materials that help people minister. Not a book…rather tools to help ministry. First, they produced a book called just for starters as follow-up material for a Billy Graham Crusade back in 1979. These resources are a way, "to get congregation members to do one on one ministry. Their aim is to have hundreds of people trained to just read the Bible with their neighbors."

These resources are a way to , "Provide weaponry to do the work of ministry."

II. Explication of Revelation 1:9-3:22
1:-11 Jensen explained that this is one letter to seven Churches…Christ is in heaven walking among them…seven churches is a representation of the complete church. Pergamum (2:9-10, 1-16), Thyatira (2:19 forward), Sardis (3:1 forward), Philadelphia (3:8 forward), Laodicea (3:17 forward). He pointed out the reversals in these passages...(1) life vs. death, (2) poor vs. rich, (3) protected vs. not safe, and (4) those that have arrived vs. the wretched. Notice that in all cases Jesus' view is the right view.

He then pointed out that none of these passages are about church growth...nor the words, "I have seen the numbers and it is good." These passages are about godliness, holiness, righteousness, persevering with, "the Word that you have heard."

I. We All Want Church Growth
"We all want church growth…no one wants a stagnate church. We all want to reach more people. We all want church growth," he said. He discussed how church growth is such a powerful concept that it can confuse our head seriously.

Do we really want church growth? If growth happens in a way that changes the church you may not want church growth. He talked about how at a friends church they prayed for growth, but then after a Billy Graham "Crusade" many people were added to the church and it wasn't what it used to be anymore.

II. The Value of the Church Growth Movement
Our motives are very mixed. Many times growth is really only about significance. He discussed the perspective that a community can’t laugh at us as much when there are hundreds of us as opposed to ten to fifteen of us. Significance then rubs off on the pastor. The more significant our church the more significant, "I am." He then postulated a pastors thoughts that, "Then I could write books and move around the world displaying our signficance...because people with large churches come and tell others how to grow churches."

A lot of times the "Church Growth Movement" has been about competitiveness…you want to grow more than the church down the street. It is in the heart of the American way…NOT the Christian way.

III. The Failure of Church Growth Movement
A. Values...
In the late 20th century there began this movement called the Church Growth Movement. It told churches what they wanted and how to get what they wanted. Those that were successful were doing good things and those that weren’t successful had hope (he also mention that despite criticism of Billy Graham he was in fact converted in 1959 at a Billy Graham crusade).

The "Church Growth Movement" (CGM) helped us face reality. Helped us count numbers, and accurately. Clergymen tend to count poorly and often average off numbers. He said then that he doesn’t pay attention to numbers…he pays attention to the audited accounts (that people pay for tithes...that shows how many are really there). This movement gave churches a start to look seriously at who was coming to their services with statistical sophistication.

He then discussed how practically at his church he would see in the first week or two of the first term was the high point of the year, and the number in attendance only went down (slowly) throughout the term...then it would spike right before finals, and likewise the second semester (session) it happened again. He would get depressed because he was looking at the numbers on a day to day level. The CGM helped him then to pay attention from year to year. He noticed the congregation would grow by 5% each year. He would get depressed if he looked from week to week, but the CGM taght him to look over a 10 yr period. The CGM also gave new categories of growth Biological, transfer, and evangelistic growth. The CGM helped face reality as to why you are growing or declining. So there are values.

B. Failures...
But the CGM was a failure.

IV. Church as an Assumption
Jensen read the literature of the movement…became an adjunct professor at the local seminary...and read even more (because there is a lot that was and is produced). He noticed that in all the literature that they always assumed a view of both church and growth without ever defining either. They just assumed it. This is the logic, "We know what a church is, and you church is and we will help grow it." But it was never defined. It was just assumed what it was and that it was positive. Under God there are very good reasons for a church to decline and under God many churches should decline and even disappear.

The CGM looked at tactics not strategy: how to fill a parking lot, the building, or the character of the advertising, etc. All superficial and all unimportant. Size, and not the penetration of society was it's focus. All churches can be growing and still the percentage of the population of Christians in the community and those that are being reached for the gospel could be declining. You just feel good because yours is growing.

V. What is the Biblical Idea of Growth
Generally churches embracing the CGM just care about their own churchs' growth. "It’s a fascination with me," he said the thought process is that, "I don’t care about your church’s growth." He said it is Ayn Rand’s philosophy. Everyone looks at themselves and everything in the world is okay. It is atheistic, not Christian!

VI. What is the relationship between Church, Growth and Evangelism?
He discussed that churches should be concerned with the number of people in area are being converted. Not the CGM's view that all the conversions should be taking place in one church (my church) rather than 40 other churches in the area. It’s deceptive because it’s about me and my church…it’s seductive because it makes me grand!

If you look athe world the way you see it it may not be the way Christ sees it. America is a very mobile society. No one seems to come from where they are at the moment. In Sydney, they grow up there die there and think that it was "heaven" all along. We are always moving. Statistics are good, but then when you’re in practical ministry it’s not any good. Most of the growth is transfer growth. People coming from other churches that don’t preach the gospel don’t count as transfer rather to CGM churches inflate their ego by saying that they are “evangelistic growth” because they aren't certain.

Year after year a friend of Phillip saw people converted but his church never grew. It was because the people that were saved would move to another community because their lives had changed. His friend's community was not a safe one and a lot of illegal activity took place there. When people would accept Christ they would move to other communities because their life had changed more in the direction of holiness. Jensen described this friend as "a champion" but because of the "Church Growth Movement" he became very discouraged.

Church is a concrete reality…before you are a Christian or are very old you see a building and your parents say that’s a church and you see people going to it and your parents say that’s a church. So you know what it is before ever reading the Bible. Your first experience is what it is and sets an expectation from the get go (he drew a parallel to Mac & PC users...that your favorite is what your first's not a perfect analogy, but here it is). Church growth is about what you are doing…but it’s not necessarily what Jesus Christ was doing.

He then gave an exhortation to test a congregation's spirituality, "Leave the rain shelter [building] behind and you’ll see how spiritually connected your congregation is."

Is the church in the OT, only mentioned 2 x’s in Matthew…our experiences are too powerful to read the Bible. Most CGM literature assumes that any expression of organized religion will work...and leaves the church and what true Christian growth completely ambiguous. You can apply their principles to Roman Catholic churches, and the Boy and Girl Scouts!

How do we understand growth. What is it that we are working to grow? Where will you see growth happening from God’s perspective. What is our expectation? When our children grow we measure them at the door way, but we don’t assume that they will grow higher than the door way. We have an expectation for church growth. What’s the right size, is there a right size, what does God expect from us in growing a congregation? What's the relationship between church, growth and evangelism? What is the relationship between the church and evangelism: Aiming at outsiders and insiders…special services?? Are the special services a church or is that different than church? What of para-church organizations…can a para-church be a Christian movement? Are they really churches that don’t call themselves that so they don’t lose support of real churches?

What of worship services on Sunday mornings and evangelistic services in the evening? What are we supposed to do as a church? If you haven’t figured this out then you don’t know what you are doing. And this is what most church growth movement literature shows.

VII. The Failure of Utilitarianism
Failures of pragmatism…comes from removal of absolutes that are replaced with outcomes. Growth can be at the expense of other churches.
[Unfortunately, at this point I had to go set up and work at the hospitality I missed the rest. This talk was really an introduction to what they hope to cover in the lectures over the next couple days.]

Gospel Growth Conference: Day I, Session I

Session I: Tony Payne "The Beginnings of Gospel Growth"
[10/30/2007 7:30pm]

I. Roots
Tony started by describing how he grew up on the northern shore of New South Wales…chasing Emu’s over lunch, rode a Kangaroo to school, stampedes of Koalas, etc. He described aussies as "sport mad"...a bunch of convicts and jailors that some how over the last 200 years have turned Australia into one of the most beautiful countries in the world.

Then he contrasted Australia with the United States...we are a country founded on noble speeches and acts. National unity, freedom, and bravery. He described our pledge of allegiance and national anthem and pointed out it's noble nationalistic qualities...then he picked up a guitar and played “A Waltzing Matilda” which is Australia's anthem. Here are the lyrics:

Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong,
Under the shade of a coolibah tree,
And he sang as he watched and waited 'til his billy boiled
"Who'll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me?"

Down came a jumbuck to drink at the billabong,
Up got the swaggy and grabbed him with glee,
And he sang as he stowed that jumbuck in his tucker bag,
"You'll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me".

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
"You'll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me"
And he sang as he stowed that jumbuck in his tucker bag,
"You'll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me".

Down came the squatter, mounted on his thoroughbred,
up came the troopers, one, two, three,
"Who's that jolly jumbuck you've got in your tucker bag?"
"You'll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me".

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
"You'll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me"
"Who's that jolly jumbuck you've got in your tucker bag?",
"You'll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me".

Up got the swaggy and jumped into the billabong,
"You'll never catch me alive," said he,
And his ghost may be heard as you passed by that billabong,
"Who'll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me?"

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
Who'll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me
And his ghost may be heard as you passed by that billabong,
"Who'll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me?"

Not the noblest of anthems...

After describing the absurdity of what the song means and the nations roots in an unwillingness to submit to authority and how different it is from the United States he said that they look at things a little different than we do. Therefore, their Christian culture also looks a things much differently than ours.

One of the reasons they have come is because their culture has different gifting than our Christian culture. He then proceeded to "explicate" Colossians 1:1-8.

II. Explication of Colossians 1:1-8 Matthias Media's Theme
He described how it is the founding passage of Matthias media, and how it speaks to us about gospel growth. The central theme is the gospel itself. The gospel is "the word of truth" as Paul put it. It deals to a surprising degree of the gospel itself. He then outlined the passage in three points:
I. How the gospel spreads...
II. The gospel's effects...
III. The character of the gospel that is growing in this way...

I. Spread
The gospel spreads through people, apostles (Paul), slaves (Epaphras in verse 7). He described how in this passage it spreads because it is powerful. In verses 5-6…the gospel is bearing fruit and growing. He speaks as if it has a life of its own. Like a stubborn weed that whereever it is planted it keeps growing. It’s not like a mystical magic…but it is the word of truth. This word of truth is about God and His will for the future. Gospel gives freedom and liberty, and it spreads because it is powerful (in its very nature) in this way.

Tony then described how there is a great loss of confidence in the power of the gospel. He pointed that this is a wonderful theme of David Wells’ books. He then described how secularism and relativism came many decades in Australia before it came here in the United States. They are more accustomed to dealing with this than we are. He said that this is one of the only ways that Australia is ahead of us…rugby, cricket, secularism, and relativism.

Then he described how love in verse 8 is love in the Spirit, and it is God's work.

II. Effects
In this second point Tony described how the gospel then bears fruits and these are the effects of the gospel. It, "bears fruit, it proliferates numerically and bears fruit and grows in individual lives (verse 4-5). More specifically the effects are faith, hope, and love (1 Corinthians 13:13).

He then discussed hope more specifically. It is not described as a fruit or an effect of the gospel. Hope is the very content of the gospel in vese 4-5.

III. Character of the gospel that is spreading and growing in this way.
Hope is what the content/character of the gospel itself is about in this passage. The gospel is a message with specific content, truth vs. 5, vs. 6 " the hope laid up for you in heaven".

What is the hope that is the content of the gospel that came to the Colossians? Chapter one is the answer to that…in verse 12 namely redemption and the forgiveness of sins. Further, we have been qualified for something that we weren’t qualified before. They have the share of the inheritance of the saints.

This is not a special group of people with plaques behind their heads as Roman Catholics would have us believe. Saints are all Christians; however, Paul is not speaking that issue here. These people ARE a special group, a unique group, and a closed group. They are a special, holy, chosen people of God. Saints is an ordinary word for holy ones...describing Christians.

Tony then quickly described what hope is in the Old Testament, namely, holy ones of God who come into the kingdom of everlasting rule of their God. The sons of Israel (as Ephesians 2 puts it). Paul says “so then you are no longer aliens but fellows citizens of the saints [paraphrase].” We are able then to join the saints and become a saint. Gentiles and the entire world. Further, in this line of thinking verses 21-23 show that saints (or Christians) are "reconciled by His death to present you holy and blameless." Also, he pointed out in verse 25 gentiles are the riches of the, "mystery which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." Jesus came to save all of us…to reconcile all of us to be part of the glorious kingdom of God. Paul’s gospel is the mystery that it is Christ, Christ in you.

The Israelite inheritance has been thrown open to all. Verses 13-14 "they are purchased by redemption, the forgiveness of sins."

III. Conclusion
He then came back to his discussion of foundations, roots, and openings and how they are important…particularlyfor a conference. If it was good for Paul to start with the roots of the gospel in his letter…it is good to start with the gospel at this conference as well.

He said that the churches of Galtia, Colosse, etc. were in danger of moving away from the gospel. In his greetings Paul is pointing at the objective truth at the beginning of his letters of who they are. Paul reminds the churches of their founding narrative.

"The founding narrative," he said, "of Australia is of of jokes and irreverence. That is not what is important, however. The found in narrative of a nation is not as important as our founding narrative in Christ!" The majority of the 300 or so people that came resounded in Amen's all over to this.

The purpose of the next few days are here to serve this purpose, namely the gospel.

Gospel Growth Conference: Introduction

Mark Dever is definitely one of the reasons why conferences at CHBC are so great. When he speaks in front of an audience he extends a warm atmosphere to the entire group.

He began by describing how this conference is NOT about 9Marks, rather it is more a conference to introduce attendees to Matthias Media. He described how Philip Jensen is provocative in obviously healthy ways.

Then he wanted to see who is here…so he had everyone stand up (three times). As they named different type of ministries people slowly people sat down (from senior pastors to deacons).

The second time he had everyone stand again…this time they sat down by denomination (Baptists, Presbyterians, Non-denominational, Evangelical Covenant, CMA, Plymouth Brethren, Menonnite Evangelical, Episcopalian, Church of Christ, Congregationalist, Evangelical Free, Associated Gospel Church, Bible Fellowship, United Methodist, Sovereign Grace, Christian Reformed, Primitive Baptist, Anglican).

The third time he had everyone stand again…and he had everyone sit down based on how far they came for the conference (DC, MD, VA, DE, NJ, PA, NC, SC, GA, FL, NY, New England, AL, MS, TN, KY, OH, IN, IL, MI, WI, WA, less of a distance than Washington State, CA, Toronto, AK, Yucatan Mexico, Chile South America). Both the guys from Chile received three free books for coming the farthest.

Right away it felt like a small intimate environment, not like some more impersonal (and huge) conferences that I've been to (there's also free snacks and drinks at the hospitality kitchen! I never received that at some of the bigger conferences I've been to!)

It's pretty clear that this is an ice-breaker, but it's an ice-breaker with a deliberate show exactly who is here (Tony Payne clearly spoke directly to what some of the ice-breaker revealed).

We concluded the introduction with Hymn 15, "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing"

Gospel Growth vs. Church Growth Conference!

Well, the time has come for another conference at Capitol Hill Baptist Church! First was the 9Marks Weekender, then the Women's Conference (Where CHBC brought in Noel Piper to speak to over four hundred women), and now the Gospel Growth vs. Church Growth conference.

9Marks is teaming up with Matthias Media to put this on. I'll try to post some notes from some of the lectures, and some pics too;)

Here's a quick look at the schedule:

2:00 pm Registration begins. Bookstore opens.
6:30 pm Pre-conference registration ends
7:00 pm Session 1—The Beginnings of Gospel Growth (Tony Payne)
7:45 pm Break (late arrivals may register)
7:50 pm Session 2—Church Growth Paralysis (Phillip Jensen)
10:00 pm Bookstore closes

7:30 am Bookstore opens
9:00 am Session 1—Evangelism: What it is and what it isn't (Mark Dever)
10:15 am Break
10:30 am Session 2—A Fresh Understanding of Church (Phillip Jensen)
12:00 pm Lunch (on your own)
2:00 pm Session 3—A Fresh Understanding of Gospel Growth (Phillip Jensen)
3:15 pm Break
3:30 pm Session 4—Resources for Gospel Growth (Tony Payne)
5:00 pm Dinner (on your own)
7:00 pm Session 5—Bible exposition (Phillip Jensen; open to public)
8:15 pm Panel Discussion—Tony Payne, Phillip Jensen, Mark Dever
9:30 pm Fellowship over Refreshments
11:00 pm Bookstore closes

7:30 am Bookstore opens
9:00 am Session 1—Gospel Growth day by day (Tony Payne)
10:15 am Break
10:30 am Session 2—The task, the tactics, the telos (Phillip Jensen)
12:00 pm Conference ends

I'll do my best to get some good tidbits out here... Here are a few teaser pictures of the book store before it's been picked over!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Busy, Busy, Busy

In case you haven't noticed I haven't posted in quite a while. I've been really busy lately, so I'm sorry about that. Last Wednesday I was up until about 11:30pm for a rehearsal for the Women's Conference at CHBC. Thursday the elders' meeting I was at went until about 1:30am at night. Then Friday I was busy up through the end of the Women's Conference at about 10 or 10:30pm. I've been trying to catch up on sleep the last couple days, because I run three times a week at 6:00am with Michael Lawrence...not to mention Theology Breakfast at 7:00am in Mark's study.

Have a great week...and I'll be writing more soon.

In Christ,

Saturday, October 06, 2007

My Cous is a Crazy Juggler!!!

The first video below is the most recent video. I don't endorse the song, but man, my cousin is an awesome juggler!

The second video is a little older, and I've posted it before...but it's worth reposting! Also, I would recommend the music Bela Fleck and the Flecktones...good choice!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

To Husbands and Wives

This could use a fresh read!

[1.] To husbands and wives. Inquire whether you do not live in some way of sin in this relation. Do you make conscience of performing all those duties which God in his word requires of persons in this relation? or do you allow yourselves in some ways which are directly opposite thereto? Do you not live in ways that are contrary to the obligations into which you entered in your marriage-covenant? The promiese which you then made are not only binding as promises which are ordinarily made between man and man, but they have the nature of vows or promissory oaths; they are made in the presence of God, because they respect him as a witness to them; and therefore the marriage-covenant is called the covenant of God; Prov. 2:17.; "which forsaketh the guide of her youth, and forgetteth the covenenant of her God." When you have vowed that you will behave towards those to whom you are thus united, as the word of God directs in such a relation, are you careless about it, no more thinking what you have promised and vowed, regardless how you perform those vows?

Particularly, are you not commonly guilty of bitterness of spirit towards one another, and of unkindness in your language and behaviour? If wrath, and contention, and unkind and reproachful language, be provoking to God, when only between neighbours; what is it then between those whom God hath joined together to be one flesh, and between whom he hath commanded so great and dear a friendship to be maintained? Eph. 5:28, 29. "So ought men to love their wives, as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife, loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church." Eph. 5:25. "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it."

It is no excuse at all for either party to indulge bitterness and contention in this relation, that the other party is to blame; for when was there ever one of fallen mankind to be found who had no faults? When God commanded such an entire friendship between man and wife, he knew that the greater part of mankind would have faults; yet he made no exception. And if you think your yoke-fellows have faults, you should consider whether you yourselves have not some too. There never will be any such thing as persons living in peace one with another, in this relation, if this be esteemed a sufficient and justifiable cause of the contrary. It becomes good friends to cover one another's faults: Love covers a multitude of faults: Prov. 10:1. "Hatred stirreth up strife; but love covereth all sins." But are not you rather quick to spy faults, and ready to make the most of them. Are not very little things often the occasion of contention between you? Will not a little thing often ruffle your spirits towards your companions? and when any misunderstanding is begun, are you not guilty of exasperating one another's spirits by unkind language, until you blow up a spark into a flame?

Do you endeavour to accommodate yourselves to each other's tempers? Do you study to suit each other? or do you set up your own wills, to have your own ways, in opposition to each other, in the management of your family concerns? Do you make it your study to render each other's lives comfortable? or is there not, on the contrary, a very often subsisting between you a spirit of ill will, a disposition to vex and cross one another?

Husbands do sometimes greatly sin against God, in being of an unkind iperious behaviour towards their wives, treating them as if they were servants; and (to mention one instance of such treatment in particular) laying them under unjust and unreasonable restraints in the use and disposal of their common property; forbidding them so much as to dispose of any thing in charity, as of their own judgment and prudence. This is directly contrary to the word of God, where it is said of the virtuous wife, Prov. 31:20. that "she stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy." If God hath made this her duty, then he hath given her this right and power, because the duty supposes the right. It cannot be the duty of her who hath no right to dispose of any thing, to stretch forth her hand to the poor, and to reach forth her hands to the needy.

On the other hand, are not the commands of God, the rules of his word, and the solemn vows of the marriage-covenant, with respect to the subordination which there ought to be in this relation, made light of by many? Eph. 5:22. "Wives submit yourselves to your own husbands, as unto the Lord:" so Col. 3:18. What is commanded by God, and what hath been solemnly vowed and sworn in his presence, certainly ought not to be made a jest of; and the person who lightly violates these obligations, will doubtless be treated as one who slights the authority of God, and takes his name in vain.
[Edwards, Jonathan The Works of Jonathan Edwards Vol. 2: Christian Cautions Section VIII (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2003), 182.]

Family Devotionals

Yesterday I had the privilege of reading and participating in the family devotional of one of the pastors out here. It was excellent! Four kids from age 10 to age 2 (I think).

Anyhow, I read about the story of creation. One of the children couldn't make it all the way through (the youngest...and they said it's normal for her age). One was moving almost constantly. Then questions to the three remaining started. It was amazing...the one that was moving constantly was listening. His answer to his dad's question was almost verbatim from the text. The pastor said that if they just had him sit still the entire time he'd spend his thoughts focused on staying still and not listening to the passage being read. In college we talked more about activity as a sign of ADD than we did about kinetic learners...I didn't realize there was such a category. Well folks, there is such a category. It was great to see! It was a pretty good testimony to catechizing your children too. They have a pretty firm idea of our creating God and what He made everything out of (nothing)...and how He did it (speaking)...and why (for His pleasure)!

Also, the pastor shared a little tidbit of a good way to remember the order of creation (I had never heard this description before; it was pretty helpful for me!). It'll help you remember the order of creation pretty well.
Day 1: Light and Dark
Day 2: Air and Sea
Day 3: Ground
Day 4: Sun and Moon
Day 5: Birds and Fish
Day 6: Animals and Vegetation
Day 7: Rest...

The question was, "What did God create on the fourth day?" None of the kids could come up with the correct answer so here's the explanation. Days one through three have a direct connection to days four through six.

So whatever was created on day one was directly related to what was to be created on day four. Whatever was created on day two was directly related to what was to be created on day five. Lastly, whatever was created on day three was directly related to what was to be created on day six.

Hence the couplings/correspondence of the days of creation:

Day 1: Light and Dark
Day 4: The Sun and Moon

Day 2: Air and Sea
Day 5: Birds and Fish

Day 3: Ground
Day 6: Animals and Vegetation

Day 7: Rest...

Another thing that was really a blessing to hear was how he led his kids in prayer. Each prayed a about something they were thankful to God for and a prayer of confession. When I sat through another pastor's devotion about a month ago he called the prayers "thank you" prayers and "I'm sorry" prayers. The pastor's family last night calls this devotional time "story time" and they really get the kids excited for it. They also read a fictional history story called Beric the Briton: A Story of the Roman Invasion by G. A. Henty. It was great! The other family devotions that I've had the blessing to observe were right after dinner time and really only consisted of reading the Bible (a children's Bible) and one of the lay elders' family devotion involved singing hymns as well.

It was really a great time, I hope that I'll have the blessing of helping with more of these devotionals in the future.

This is also of note...when Lindsey was babysitting a few weeks ago for another lay elder one of the kids asked if they could read the Bible together. Lindsey was taken back a bit because I don't think she's ever been asked by a kid she was babysitting to read the Bible with that much enthusiasm before. Lindsey learned the acronym ACTS from that experience. (A adoration C confessionT thanksgiving S supplication).

Just some testimony to the ways that God uses family devotions to display the gospel to people we disciple, to neighbors or kids staying over, babysitters, and beyond!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Memorials That Make You Think

Last weekend Lindsey and I went to the Holocaust museum and Arlington National Cemetary. We have heard numerous people say that they want to go one or both of these, but they didn't want to do it for a date because it's kind of depressing.

Well, we did them one day. The cool thing is that the Metro (subway) goes all the way out to we didn't have to drive.

When I was about 13 I went to Auschwitz and in Poland and the Holocaust museum was really nothing compared to that, but I hadn't seen some of the video footage of the aftermath of the Holocaust. Given my human capacity to sin I have to ask myself if I would have been capable of doing what the Nazi's did if I was in that time and place. I pray to the Lord that I wouldn't have done it. It's hard to believe that humans would do that to other humans...not just the murder, but the biological experimentation. Even a pacifist has to ask himself or herself if they could stay to their views. Before Bonhoffer died he even turned back on his pacifism. I couldn't take pictures inside the museum. But I'll post some pics from Arlington cemetary later.