FFC Blog

Filter By:

Seeing Gospel Opportunities in the Unexpected

main image

What if?

What if you won a million dollars? What would you do with it?

What if your car is stolen? What’s your immediate response? The next day? One week later?

What if a government official walks into your church and asks you what you believe?

Would any of these questions be easy?

For me, the million dollar question is way too easy. Why, I can spend 100 million dollars fairly quickly. Yes, mission work would be the main beneficiary, and the need is great.

The stolen car question was asked in three parts, because the three timelines can have three different responses. Shock? Disappointment? Anger? I think it was The Simpsons that taught me the chain of responses in a crisis situation is known by the acronym DAFBA: denial, anger (D’OH!), fear, bargaining, and acceptance. There’s no right answer. For me, the stolen car question has other implications. Some neighbors of ours in France had their car stolen recently, when someone broke into the house to find the keys, hanging on a hook by the door, and off he went with a free car. That could happen to us, although our car is not the most attractive. The real issue for me is if one doesn’t find our keys sitting out waiting to be taken. What happens when someone doesn’t get a “free” car?

Finally, the government official question. Or it may be a news team. Or in the office, or a co-worker. Or on the street... anyone that you don’t expect, as if the question startles you: what do you believe?  Or “who are you?”

Unexpected circumstances can yield gospel opportunities.

1 Peter 3:15 says “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” Who would ever ask me? Maybe we should expect that more. Maybe we should interpret someone’s comment as his way of asking that question: “I don’t know what to believe anymore...” Is that not a wide-open door, begging you to walk through and share your faith?

Maybe the reason no one asks us about the hope we have is because no one knows we have this hope?

Lord, help us to keep our ears open, and especially our hearts open, for neighbors, co-workers, kids knocking at our doors during Halloween, suffering people around us, and help us to love. Help us to be ready to give a response for the hope you give us. Protect all those in areas where crime rears its ugly head, so that your children will rise up and be witnesses for your glory. Amen.

 


Gary, along with his wife and children, minister to the people of Lille, France.

The Christian Life is Not a DIY Project

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).

Sermons in the Age of Twitter

main image

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?

No.

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.

Staying Engaged During the Sermon

Here are some tips to help you stay engaged during longer periods of time and improve your overall learning retention:

  • Carry a Bible. If you impulsively wander from what you should be doing (reading the Bible, listening, or engaged in discussion) to things like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, leave your device in your pocket or your purse and carry a Bible. (NOTE: a book is a device with paper pages and words printed by ink.)
  • Use paper and pen. Research is showing there is a stronger cognitive connection when you use paper and pen rather than a digital device. You are engaging different areas of your brain and the simply physical representation of words on paper creates a stronger mental link that simple pixels on glass.
  • Take notes. One of the simplest and easiest ways to stay engaged and improve retention is to take notes. Lots of them. It forces you to become an active listener and to create summary nuggets of information as you listen, process, then write a note. Moreover, your notes will become valuable over time as you gather more in-depth notes on the Bible.

 

Posted by Chris Eller with 0 Comments

Social Media for the Glory of God

main image

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!

Posted by Timur Nesbitt with 0 Comments
in Blogs

Trending Reads | August

main image

In light of the summer series our church did on the 7 churches in revelation, this blog really was super interesting to me: 

Why Liturgy is awesome and not boring

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.

Continue reading

Being a millennial myself, this article was super helpful:

Why Church shouldn’t be cool

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? 

Continue reading

What happened to prayer meeting?

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.

Continue reading

How to use the gifts God has given you for His glory outside of being a preacher or worship leader

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.

Continue reading

What I want every high schooler to hear and know about dating

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?

Continue reading

 

12345678910 ... 1213