I'm around people and talking to them literally all day when I am at work, and although I would classify myself as more of an introvert, I crave and look forward to simply being around other believers even when I am exhausted after work. Our world is not easy to live in as followers of Christ. In these days when Bedside Baptist is a fast growing “church” due to either the cramming in of additional activities or laziness, what we need is quality fellowship. We need to “get down to the nitty gritty” as Nacho Libre would say. We need to share life, pray, study, worship, and serve together.
As a side note, yet on topic, I’m thankful for our lighthouses and the women’s ministry where we can sharpen one another and bear burdens together. If you aren’t involved in one of these groups, I strongly encourage you to join a lighthouse and/or Bible study.
A few years back when I was in college, I began to understand the importance true fellowship has on being steadfast in faith and spiritual growth. I went to a Christian college, in fact, but even with requirements of daily chapel attendance, weekly church attendance, and a Bible minor, spiritual dryness remained a threat to the Christian bubble we lived in. One could still get involved with the wrong crowds of students, isolate themselves within their studies, or have the prideful idea that they don’t need accountability or discipleship.
Not knowing anybody but my roommate going into my freshman year, I didn’t know what to expect when it came to finding a good solid group of friends. God used the friends he placed in my life to teach me more about Himself. A group of us who were in brother-sister halls formed a bond that has lasted beyond graduation.
Towards the end of sophomore year through graduation day, we met every Sunday night to pray, sing, and read scripture. This was the first time I truly remember feeling unconditionally loved by people other than my family. Along with the laughing and goofing off, we shared trials, encouraged & prayed for each other, and some of us cried. And I can say, when you have 21 year old girls comfortable enough to cry through their struggles in front of 21 year old guys, and those guys respond with compassion and prayer, you know you are among some quality people. There was no judgement, and we all sought to serve and love each other. We weren’t perfect at this at all times, but God sustained our unity through forgiveness, selflessness, and focusing us on Christ.
Now out of college, I have taken the lesson of necessity of church fellowship. One way God made us in His image was in our relational ability, as the Trinity is in constant unified fellowship. God uses biblical fellowship to show and give us His unconditional love, truth through the study of Scripture, refreshment of our souls, and the unity of the Church. Let us not take for granted our brothers and sisters in our lives who love and intercede in prayer for us.
God is glorified through the unity of His children (John 17:20–26).
The weekly sermon is as much a part of the traditional worship service as the bulletin and singing the doxology at the conclusion. But wait, we don't sing the doxology at the conclusion of the service, and more and more churches are moving away from a printed bulletin in favor of a digital version.
So much in our church services has changed over the last 40 years, but one thing is still the same: the sermon. Sure, it's been modified over the years. It may be shorter, or longer, depending on your church, and it may focus more on answers to a nifty "how to" question with four or six memorable responses, again, depending on your church. But essentially, it's still the same.
At the same time, the process of learning has changed dramatically over the last 40 years, and continues to change at a rapid pace.
At a recent symposium of which I was a part, hosted by the Iowa Distance Learning Association, one of the presenters made the point that teaching and learning in colleges and universities is falling behind in their methodology compared to K–12 schools. Students entering college in 2016 are native learners in the land of 21st Century Learning, while many colleges and universities still employ "old school" methods of teaching. Primarily, the lecture accompanied by the ever-present PowerPoint deck, which usually has a blue background with a lot of white text. A lot. In old school teaching, the instructor is the one working, and the students are sitting and watching. In 21st Century learning, the students are the ones working and the teacher is there to guide their learning and discovery.
Churches would be wise to follow some of the changes happening within K–12 schools and higher education, and at least become familiar with the trends. Students today have a shrinking attention span. In their K–12 classrooms, they are likely to be engaged in project-based learning that forces the students to become active in the learning process, rather than passively sitting while a teacher lectures. Lectures, on the other hand, are often pre-recorded and delivered to students via a podcast or screencast that gives them the information they need to work on their projects, in collaboration with their teacher and other students when they are in class.
This is very different from a church service. Think about who is active in a church service, and who is sitting and observing? If you are 30 years and older, this is a common experience; if you are 29 years or younger, it is more likely a foreign way of learning.
The problem is apparent when you look around a congregation during a sermon. How many folks do you see who are engaged with their phone or tablet? Does this mean they are not engaged in the sermon? Not necessarily; we've become very skilled at multitasking when it comes to listening. Most folks today have their phone out when they watch television or even when they engage in conversation. Get a room of young people together in a social environment, and watch how many are playing a game on their phone or browsing Facebook while fully engaged in conversation and watching television, all at the same time. Many of us only carry our phone or tablet to church with us, instead of a physical Bible. I get that. The Bible apps available today are excellent. Yet, we would be lying if we didn't admit that at least the temptation to glance at Facebook or email during church is always there. Just when you get to an important point in the sermon, a little notification goes off telling you someone just tagged you in a Facebook post with a headline, "YOU WON'T BELIEVE THIS!!!!!!!!!"
Is the sermon dead?
But, it is perhaps a harbinger of necessary change. Pastors and teachers within the church need to be aware that they are speaking to an increasingly distracted congregation with a decreasing attention span. One thing our teaching team does at First Family Church is carefully craft a Take Home Truth for every sermon. This simple sentence captures the key learning objective of the sermon and serves as the single point of application we want folks to take home. We work hard to make it simple and easy-to-remember. When it is all boiled down, we hope it is the Take Home Truth that sticks.
Here are some tips to help you stay engaged during longer periods of time and improve your overall learning retention:
Millions of people around the world use social media to keep in touch with their families and friends. We usually use social media to post our ideas or share our own thoughts about our day, pictures, random blogs, etc. I've found that it's a great platform to share our lives with others around the world.
But, social media can also be used for something greater: the glory of God. What do I mean by this? Evangelism. I think it's safe to say that we all have a lot of non-Christian friends that use social media every single day to stay up-to-date on what their friends are up to, and even just scroll around for nothing so that they can kill time. They do this by checking their Facebook posts, Instagram photo likes, Twitter retweets, and Snapchat views. They read blogs and watch videos and share this content with those that follow them.
But, they also are watching what the people they follow post as well. This is great, because it gives an opportunity to share the truths of God with our social media friends. I realized a long time ago that I have so many non-Christian friends who follow me and read my Facebook posts or tweets that are related to the gospel. Personally, I love using social media to share the gospel with my "digital/social media" friends. And I know that every time I post something about God, some of them get angry with it or with me, or they write me a private message for more questions about my particular gospel post.
On the other hand, I also receive encouraging messages from my Christian friends as well. They thank me for encouraging them in the faith by posting something from the Scriptures or some solid quotes from Reformed theologians.
I love using social media to share the gospel with my unbelieving friends, and at the same time to encourage my believing friends in the gospel. It brings me great joy when I have an opportunity to share and serve.
I'm so thankful for social media as a platform to share the truths of God with my friends. This is just one platform of many, but one that God can use nonetheless. What a great opportunity we have to use something as simple as social media to tell our friends about Him who redeemed us for His glory and our joy!
In light of the summer series our church did on the 7 churches in revelation, this blog really was super interesting to me:
Sometimes the idea of “formal worship” scares people. I hope to make that less scary. The Protestant traditions include Anglicanism, Lutheranism, the Reformed, and Presbyterianism. Although these traditions have important differences, they reflect important similarities in the way they worship. I could feel more or less at home in any of these traditions, so long as they are true to their Reformation heritage. A liturgy is an order of worship in which God gives grace in the gospel and we respond in faith, hope, and love.
Being a millennial myself, this article was super helpful:
The generation we call “millennials” (individuals born between 1980 and 2000) has been the subject of countless Christian articles and books in the recent years. How do we reach them? What are they looking for in church? Why do so many, even those raised in Christian homes, seem disillusioned and frustrated with the local church?
Some of my earliest memories are of my dad, a fly fisherman, carefully selecting tiny bits of feather and horsehair for his fly box. He knew the importance of carrying a colorful and varied selection of flies: Once on the river, he would identify the newly hatched insects on the stream’s surface and notice which were attracting the fish. He could then “match the hatch” from his box, tying onto his line a fly that resembled the real ones on the water.
Of all the people you’ve ever seen preach in a Speedo, David Boudia must be the most eloquent. A world-class diver who, after Rio, now has 4 Olympic medals to his name, he often stands with reporters after competitions and does all he can to deflect attention away from himself and toward Jesus. He usually does this by telling how his identity is not wrapped up in being an Olympian or a medalist but in being in Christ Jesus. Just before the 2016 Olympics he released his biography Greater Than Gold. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and wanted to share the 5 big life lessons he communicates.
When should young people begin to date?
Your answer probably hangs on why you think you (or anyone else) should date in the first place. Anyone can see that the costs are often high — crushing breakups, sexual sin, shocking betrayal, sudden rejection, devastating heartbreak — the pain of love that never walked the aisle.
So why do so many of us still dive so quickly into dating?
When it comes to serving in the local church, the Apostle Paul had much to say. However, we can also learn from his example. By example, I mean not only his actions, but his attitudes. The 2 letters written to the church in Thessalonica provide some good material to glean from Paul’s example. I have therefore identified 7 lessons that we learn from these two short epistles.
Paul begins both of the Thessalonian epistles with thanksgiving to God. He recognized that it was not him who instilled the faith, love, and hope of the Thessalonians, but God (1 Thess 1:2–5). This is a crucial principle to follow when serving in the church. It can often be the temptation to think that success is due to our own abilities and talents. That may be true to a certain extent, but it cannot be true entirely. For it is God who gives His servants their talents and abilities. In the first epistle, Paul stated that he always continued to give thanks to God for his readers (1 Thess 1:2). In like manner he made a similar statement in the next epistle when he said that he was obligated to give thanks to God, for it was worthy (2 Thess 1:3). He knew that he could take no credit, but only thank God for such success as evidenced in the Thessalonians’ lives. This principle is also evident in 1 Thess. 2:13, where Paul thanks God for their reception of the word of God which he proclaimed. It would have been very easy for Paul to think that it was his words that these people received. However, he knew that God was responsible and not him. It is only when this perspective is kept that the Servant of God can remain humble like Paul and give continual thanks to the Lord for all that He does through us.
In the context of thanksgiving, Paul reveals another crucial characteristic of ministry in the church. This is his acknowledgment of the power of the Gospel. It is the very truth of the Gospel which is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16). It came to the Thessalonians by the very power of the Holy Spirit with full assurance (1 Thess. 1:5). Again, Paul had part in leading some of these people to Christ (Acts 17). Yet, he recognizes that it is the Gospel of God that saved these people from their sins, not him. Whenever any church sees people come to Christ it, is paramount that we acknowledge that it is the power of the Gospel that releases people from the dominion of Satan, not us. Like the attitude of thankfulness, this principle must always be at the forefront of the servant of God’s thinking, or else he or she will become proud and attempt to steal the glory that is due to God alone. God will not share it (Isaiah 42:8).
Throughout these two letters are references to affirmation along with exhortation. In 1 Thess. 1:3–5, 1:6–9, 2:14 and 2 Thess. 1:3–4, Paul affirms his readers in all that they did that was praiseworthy. He acknowledged that they had exemplified the Christian life. In 1 Thess. 3:12, 5:11–22, 2 Thess. 2:1–12 and 2:15, Paul exhorts his readers to be obedient to their calling. In 1 Thess. 4:1–12, he gives exhortation along with affirmation. The obvious pattern is that Paul clearly affirmed his readers in all that they did which was good, and yet he continued to exhort them to abound even more. Whether it is exhortation or affirmation, neither should emphasized to the neglect of the other. It is not an issue of giving a reason for pride in the hearts of believers when affirming them in their ministry, it is a matter of following the pattern of the Apostle Paul in affirming the flock and letting God take care of the issue of pride.
Over and over again, Paul reminds his readers of their eschatological hope in Christ. When speaking of their conversion, Paul mentions how it secured their being saved from the wrath that was to come in 1 Thess. 1:10. In 2:19, he makes reference to the Lord’s coming in relation to his own hope and exaltation in His coming. In 4:13–5:10, Paul comforts his readers with the reality of the Lord’s coming as a basis for their hope. In 2 Thess. 1:7–10 and 2:1–12, he makes reference to His coming to judge those who oppressed them. It was a mindset that drove Paul to pen the words in these passages. Paul knew that even though we live in this world, it is not our permanent home. It is this mindset that must be possessed by we who serve in His Church. For if we have this mindset, then we will be able convey it to those who serve alongside of us.
Paul and his companions had suffered much. It was the opposition to the Gospel which instigated these persecutors to buffet these servants of God. It says in this passage that even though they had suffered in Philippi before they arrived at Thessalonica, they still had the boldness in their God to preach the Gospel to the Thessalonians. The opposition which they encountered was very great as not only evidenced by Paul’s statement here, but also what we learn from Acts 16. This passage records Paul’s arrival in Philippi and how he shared the Gospel. It was then that he casted out a demon from a slave-girl who was possessed. This then caused her owners to subsequently beat Paul and Silas with rods, strip them naked, and cast them into prison. Obviously, they suffered much, but they continued to preach the Gospel, not only in Philippi, but in Thessalonica. It is this steadfastness in the midst of opposition that conveys Paul’s attitude toward ministry. He knew that souls were at stake, and that he had divine mission to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ. In this world, we are bound to face much opposition. It comes from outside the Church, as well as inside. Yet, we must never relent in doing what is right, but remain steadfast as the Apostle Paul did.
Very much connected to the idea of persevering in the midst of opposition is the motivation to do so. This is the motivation to please God and not men. We see this principle in Paul when he says to the Thessalonians, “…so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God…” This attitude must be in the heart of anyone who serves in the church. Paul knew that the power unto salvation lied in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and not in himself (Romans 1:16). He also knew that he had already been approved by God. Knowing this, it didn't matter what people thought of him or his style of ministry, for he was concerned about what God thought. This does not mean that he thought that he arrived and could not learn more, for he also recognized that God was always in the process of continually examining his heart for the sake of approval. It is also noteworthy to mention that this does not mean that Paul had no compassion for people, for the next few verses reveal his heart for people.
As mentioned above, Paul had a deep sense of compassion for the people of God. Even though he did ministry in the manner which pleased God, it did not mean that he ignored people and used this God-driven attitude as a vice for such a practice. After his reference to his motivation for ministry, Paul recalls his treatment of the Thessalonians with these words in 2:7: “But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children.” He goes on to say that they did not only impart the Gospel, but their own souls. These people had become very dear to the Apostle and his companions. He had a deep heart and felt compassion for them as a mother would her own children. There is no greater way to express human devotion and love. Later on in 2:17–20, he reveals his great desire to see them. In 3:1–10, he expresses his joy on hearing the news of their condition. Paul genuinely loved these people, and he was not afraid to express it. Paul also showed his affection for them, in that he continually exhorted them as a father, to walk worthy of their calling as God’s children. What a balance we see here in this beloved Apostle of God. He not only cared for those under his charge with compassion, but also with exhortation knowing that God desired them to be holy.
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