Today begins a short series on how I/ we think about preaching at Grace Church. In this series I’d like to take on the subjects: what is “deep teaching” really? (there’s lots of misunderstanding on this subject in evangelicalism); why do I preach in the style I do?; how we plan sermons/ themes (calendar wise)? and finally how do we plan the services (creative elements, dramas, videos etc). The hope is to pretty much cover most of the Sunday morning experience and give you a true “behind the scenes” look at it all.
If you haven’t read part one of this blog series, I would strongly urge you to do so since the theological understanding is presented in the first part, this post will serve more as a practical fleshing out of the topic.
First of all, in my personal study on the subject, I have to go to the context of the book. It’s important in any biblical study that one looks at the context which includes both the verses and chapters that make up the book and also the cultural context to which it was written. 1 Timothy is a pastoral epistle and written (based on the context) to give instruction to the church, primarily on the topic of leaders and specifically to elders. It is in this context that I understand the debatable verses in 1 Timothy to refer to the “authority” and “teaching” of the elders of the church. The teaching related to that which would establish the foundation of the Church and not just application of Scripture. A woman, according to 1 Timothy is not to hold the role of an elder in the church. However that she is fully capable and available to fill any other teaching and authoritative roles in the church as is demonstrated in the example of Jesus ministry, the early church in Acts etc etc. Again, to echo the commentary (from part 1 of this series) – this is not making any commentary on the issue of value, worth or identity of women, but rather the role God has given.
I hesitate to write this blog for fear of misunderstanding or stirring up an issue/ debate. Yet having received feedback from several on last week’s message on the topic of leadership in the church and also my own conviction that this issue has for far too long segregated and disrupted unity in the church, I feel we need to give a little insight.
First let me share a section from “The Teacher’s Commentary” and then in my second post, allow me a few personal comments and processing from the life of GCR.
This week we’re looking at leadership in the local church. It’s an interesting topic and based on our experience we may have different expectation and perceptions of what a leader is. The reality is that while we all know of poor examples of leaders, especially in the context of church life; there is a biblical picture and ideal we should strive towards. Obviously leaders/ ministers in a church are to be examples and do require people to be led and ministered to. Leadership can not be fully discussed without a discussion on “followership”. In fact one thing I said to our elders and pastors a few weeks ago is that first we are “followers” – we’re following the leading of God’s Spirit for our lives and for our church. Our “leadership” then is to invite others to follow with us (as we follow Jesus). It’s an interesting way to look at Christian leadership – the idea that we’re following God and inviting others to follow along with us.
Yesterday we talked about the second element of a church: leaders. This got me to thinking about leadership and our reluctance to follow. It’s in me and I assume it’s in you. But I wonder why it’s there. I mean why is often the first response to someone else leading or making a decision to question it or ignore it altogether? I wonder if it’s because of leaders who were not trustworthy. Our times sure have produced plenty of leaders that give reason to question. Leaders who lack integrity; leaders who look out for themselves (not the good of those who lead); leaders who make poor decisions – all flood the landscape of our world. But is that the reason we resist following?
My wife, Lisa had an experience last night that she felt compelled to blog on, so here ya go:
Last night I attended the Survivor Resources** Walk-A-Thon at Como Park. Our oldest daugher Jessica (age 6-1/2) was invited by her 1st grade friend (also one of my girl scouts) whose father was tragically killed last fall.
As I approached the pavilion where people were gathered I was very aware that I was surrounded by people who had experienced great loss in their lives. There was a group wearing matching jersey’s with #18 Fischer on the back in honor of Megan Fischer, there were others wearing pins with photos of the friend or family member they had lost. I was surprised at my emotions as I began to well up. I wasn’t feeling sorry for them, I wasn’t particularly grieving on their behalf, but I was overtaken with the amount of strength that I felt just being in their presence.
During this first week of “Elements” where we talked about the church as the “body” of Jesus, I had a quote in my back pocket during all 3 services but never had a chance to pull it out. I do think it has some merit, so here it is…
Dietrich Bonhoffer once said,
“The church is not a religious community of worshippers of Christ but is Christ Himself who has taken form among men.”
I was really moved in this message by the reality of the meaning of this word-picture: body of Christ. When I start thinking through the implications of what it means to be the physical presence of Jesus on earth I’m both humbled and excited. And when I start thinking of what “church” has been known for, I am saddened. But when I think of what “church” could be known for, I am motivated to press forward and seek to become the living, breathing, body of Jesus to a world in need of Jesus like never before in all of history.
Ok, so here are the “blanks” we never got to during Sunday’s message — keep reading if you want a behind the scenes view on my preaching journey lately…
A Snapshot of the Church (Ephesians 4:1-16)
1. Authentic Living
2. Pursuing Unity
3. Leaders Equipping
4. Members Participating
5. Jesus Glorified
Lately, thanks (I think) to a few godly men in my life who called me to it, I’ve been experimenting with more “extemporaneous” preaching. What that means is you study, you immerse yourself in the text or topic you are teaching on Sunday. You think through stories from your life, ways to explain tough concepts. You read everything you can get your hands on and listen to whatever is appropriate. Then on Sunday, you get up and speak, often with an outline in your head and some rough concepts, but you let the Spirit lead and guide through your time. Now, let me be clear, I do believe the Spirit guides and leads when you prepare a manuscript or notes to teach from. And I also think some guys are wired to do this more than others and you need to find what works for you. But again, I had a few guys who I trust say, “Jason, when you step away from your notes, it really seems to come alive”. So for the Help Wanted series I “experimented” with this style and a number of people came up and affirmed that my friends are on to something.
Our new series is entitled, “Elements: essentials in a great church”. The first “element” is “members”. I would say this concept has been misunderstood at best and abused at worst. For many people, the concept of membership in my mind would make joining a church pointless.
For many, church membership is equated to membership in a country club or organization. The “member” “pays her dues” and expects a product that is to their liking and when the product doesn’t match up, the “member” chooses not to “re-up” their membership the following year. It’s based on entitlement and consumerism. For others church membership is a “guilt-thing” and so members are more like stock holders who then are concerned about the bottom line and are called upon to make things good when the finances are down (maybe you can tell from that analogy I don’t hold many stocks, so maybe that’s not the best analogy). But the point is it’s not about an opportunity, but again about the deliverables.
This blog is intended to augment the sermon entitled: Help Wanted: Family.
There is a lot that’s been written on a healthy family and I don’t intend to cover everything that could make up a healthy family in this blog, but more to highlight some of the most common characteristics I’ve seen lacking which seem to be the cause for most downfall in families. And since God’s Truth is THE truth – I trust this will be a helpful discussion to get you thinking and processing.
1. Communication – I posted a blog about this and conflict resolution – but let me add to the thoughts… good communication must go beyond the surface. The book of Proverbs talks about how a person’s heart is deep waters and a person of understanding draws them out. I’m amazed how shallow our conversations can be. We often don’t ask the questions that invite reflection and we don’t often create the atmosphere that invites people to share. I’ve learned that more can be gained with well thought out questions than can be gained in the greatest of lectures. Communicating involves two people and often we need to be the ones to start with vulnerability, sharing how things make us feel, what scares us, what encourages us etc. And I’ve also seen that communication doesn’t often happen when we want it to. It comes through extended time together – we can’t force it, but we can invite it.