27 Jun 2009

"Going to Church"

Submitted by Paul Brown

I don't remember where it was that I heard this, but recently I heard someone question the propriety of the phrase "go to church". Perhaps it was Jeff Vanderstelt at the Gospel Conference (Session 1 or 2), who I remember at the very least never using that phrase but substituting "gather with the church" or something similar. It could have been in Total Church. Maybe it was somewhere else. At any rate, "being the church" over against "going to church" is a popular topic, at least according to Google.

The concern about phrasing arises from understanding the meaning of "church". In the New Testament, "church" is always the redeemed community of Christ-followers. Sometimes it refers to the local church (Rom 16:5; 1 Cor 16:19), sometimes to the universal church (Eph 5:25; Mat 16:18), but in no case does it refer to anything like a building or an event that one could go to. I don't think that this teaching is controversial or peculiar to those who have been emphasizing the missional nature of church.

Although many of us who are Christians know this doctrine about the church, nonetheless our language more often than not refers to church as someplace to go or a meeting to attend. For example, Holly and I commonly refer to what we do Sunday morning as "going to church". Likewise we call our Sunday evening activity "going to Regen", and during the week, we "go to community group". Fundamentally, church, Regeneration, and community group are all communities of people, yet we refer to a meeting or gathering of it as if it were the thing itself.

While I don't want to get hung up on the phrasing per se, I do think that the way we say things both reflects and shapes the way we think about those things. When someone says "church", what is the first thing that comes to your mind? What do you visualize? When I hear that word, the first thing that comes to my mind is the Bear Valley Church building, perhaps an image something like this (but with more of Kendrick Lake in the background).

I don't know whether it is worth going to the effort to train myself to abandon the language of "going to church". But I do know that I need to cultivate an attitude of rightly seeing the church as the community of those who are redeemed in Christ and to live out my identity as part of that community all the time, not just at our gatherings. Maybe changing the way I talk about it will help.

16 Jun 2009

New Layout

Submitted by Paul Brown

I changed the layout of the site today. The new theme is based on Black Mamba but includes, as usual, a number of modifications to get it to look the way I want it.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the new layout, and if you notice anything that is goofy, please let me know.

Stories: 
20 May 2009

Maturity?

Submitted by Paul Brown

Yesterday, I was really humbled by this blog post by the lead pastor at Coram Deo Church in Omaha about the results of their informal church demographics survey. The notable statistic was that 55% of the respondents described themselves as "mature disciples of Jesus". Since the church is comprised of mostly young adults who have mostly been only recently affiliated with the church, the pastor reacted with incredulous shock: "Really? 55% of Coram Deo people are 'mature Christians?' I think some of you are being too generous with yourselves...." As Paul says in Rom 12:3, "Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you."

I must admit, when I imagine how I would have responded on such a survey, I would probably have described myself as "mature". But am I really? This then raises the question of what it means to be a "mature" follower of Christ. The way this was answered in the comment thread was to point to this sermon on the subject, which outlines the three-fold areas of gospel, mission, and community as the barometers of maturity (something like what is shown below, I guess, based on the audio alone).

Maturity is the intersection of Gospel, Community, and Mission

When I stop and consider all that Christian maturity entails and how young and inexperienced I still am, my mouth is stopped and I am humbled by how far short I fall of "attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ" (Eph 4:13). I guess "maturing" in Bear Valley parlance is probably a better descriptor. After all, I've not arrived, but by God's grace I am heading in the right direction.

Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Phil 3:13-14)

14 May 2009

An iGoogle Tip

Submitted by Paul Brown

Every once in a while I come across solutions to computer annoyances. Today I found a very easy solution to the bothersome "tabs" that waste space on the left side of my iGoogle page. Here's what my iGoogle page looked like:

iGoogle page with annoying tabs on the left

To get rid of the useless tabs taking up almost a quarter of the screen on the left,

  1. Use a recent version (>2.0) of Firefox as your web browser. (Actually you can use any Mozilla-based browser that will run .xpi add-ons, including, SeaMonkey, Flock, Songbird, eMusic Remote, Prism.)
  2. Get Adblock Plus. This is a great add-on regardless of whether you care about your iGoogle tabs or not. I have used Adblock Plus for a couple of years now already, and I especially like that Adblock Plus takes out most of the trashy ads on sites like Myspace. Adblock is on Mozilla's list of recommended add-ons and is the #1 most popularly downloaded add-on. All that to say, this add-on is reputable, not some random download recommended by a weirdo. :)
  3. Add "google.com#TD(class=leftborder)" to the list of Adblock filters. Just click the arrow next to ABP to the right of the address bar, select Preferences, click on the "Add Filter" button, paste in "google.com#TD(class=leftborder)", click OK, and it's done!

Now my iGoogle page looks like this:
iGoogle page with annoying tabs removed

Yet another reason to use Firefox rather than "Internet Exploder" (as our new IT guy likes to call it)....

5 May 2009

Singleness & the Church

Submitted by Paul Brown

Having left behind singleness just over two months back, I read this article, Making Singleness Better by Tim Adeney, with a good deal of interest. The article starts out by exploring the various comments of the Apostle Paul with regard to singleness and marriage. In 1 Cor 7, Paul suggests some reasons why one might choose to stay single, counseling that he judges that, in the Corinthian situation of the time, it is preferable to stay single, though no sin to marry. On the other hand, in 1 Tim 5:11-15, Paul counsels that, in the (Ephesian?) situation of the time, it is preferable for the young women to marry rather than stay single.

From this example, the author then moves to examine the situation of our time and make some observations—or rather, ask some questions—about singleness and marriage. He considers these three questions (abridged below):

  • What if most long-term singles aren't that way by choice but by circumstance?
  • What if most voluntary singleness is related more to simply not growing up and assuming adult responsibilities than to dedication to the things of God?
  • What if long-term singleness is a really lonely place to be?

In light of Scripture, how should we respond to these questions? Do the "what-if's" ring true? If so, then what about it? Have a look at Adeney's suggestions, then consider what it might look like in your life and your community. I don't want this to be a "bash-the-church-for-faults-I-see-but-don't-do-anything-about" sort of post. What positive response can we have?

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