Peruse Bible teachings and church happenings
Click here to read archived articles by our former preacher, Jared Hagan.
Checklists help pilots safely run takeoffs and landings, they help wedding planners see to every detail of their events, and they help tax pros cross every t and dot every i on our returns so that we don’t have to pay any more than is absolutely necessary. They just help us to make sure that we are completely engaged with what we’re doing; ideally preventing us from missing an important component of an important activity.
So, here’s a checklist to help us with Sundays. Here are a few reminders that can help us make the most of this important part of life.
Before church time:
- Pray. Pray for God to help us truly worship and truly learn.
- Read. Open your mind and your Bible to hear God speak. Look ahead at Bible class materials and be ready to participate in classes (and make sure your kids do so too).
- Give. Purpose ahead of time how much you will give to the work, remembering what it’s for: Helping needy saints and supporting the eternally important work of preaching.
At a service:
- Introduce yourself to a new member or a guest.
- Encourage someone who led part of the worship service.
- Talk to a kid or a senior saint who might otherwise be overlooked.
- Encourage an elder and/or a deacon.
- Invite someone to share a meal with you — either at your house or out at a restaurant.
- Look at the lobby board and find a way that you can volunteer or help.
Imagine if we all did these things every Sunday. How would our relationships with each other and our love for God be better?
Let’s find out :)
- Dan Lankford, minister. Special thanks to my wife, Kaitlin, for providing the main idea of this post.
Our prayers reveal what's truly in our hearts, whether they’re said publicly or privately. And I’m afraid that sometimes, the small prayers that we offer show that our faith in God is smaller than it should be. Maybe we need to pray bigger.
I was once in a service when the only prayer offered before Bible class was, "Father, help [our brother] to present the things that he wants to present this evening.” Can you see an issue there? That's different than praying for a teacher to have a ready recollection of the things that he's prepared, and it's very different than praying, "Father, help our brother present the things that you would want him to say." Both of those are things that we should want: We should want a brother to speak for God (that's what teaching a Bible class is, after all) and to have the things of God so fixed in his mind that he can recall them and speak them skillfully. We ought to be asking God for his will to be done and his words to be spoken—not simply what we want to present.
When that’s the prayer that we offer, it can sound like we're mostly interested in the speaker making a successful presentation. But 1) God can use unsuccessful presenters to speak his words (see Ex. 4:10, 2 Cor. 10:10), and 2) a class or sermon shouldn't be about what the speaker wants to say anyway. If we want to hear from God, let's pray to hear from God. Because if all that we pray for is for the speaker to speak his own ideas well, that's probably all that we'll end up with — a good presentation of the speaker's ideas, but not the words of God.
Consider two pieces of advice for how we think about our assemblies and about prayer:
- Remember that Bible classes and sermons are more than presentations—they are occasions for God's people to hear God speak. Ezra read from the words of God and gave the sense, and Paul told Timothy & Titus to speak to people as though they were speaking God's oracles. None of them prayed for opportunities to say what they wanted to say — they spoke for God. The Bible classes and sermons given in a congregation are categorically NOT tests of a man's presentation skills—they’re all about God.
- Choose your words when you pray. Think about the nature of our gathering in God's presence, and pray accordingly. I feel confident that David would not have prayed merely for correct notes and good voices for the worship leaders at the temple—he wanted them to be skilled in leading the hearts of the people toward God himself. We ought to want the same thing when we read and expound God's word. So let's pray for what we really [should] want to happen at our gatherings: that God would be glorified by a group of people whose hearts hunger to know him and his words.
- Dan Lankford, minister
"The Power of And." It's the simple reminder that while life often seems to present us with two opposing choices, we often have the ability to pursue both if we will give the requisite thought to doing it well. In manufacturing, companies think that they must choose whether to produce a quality product or to produce it quickly. In fitness, we are sometimes told that we have to choose whether to develop endurance or strength. In life and family, we think we have to choose whether to excel at work or excel as parents & spouses. But in all of those cases, there is a way to embrace both good things, as long as we use godly wisdom in trying to do them both well. It's the power of and; not the tyranny of or.
This simple principle should be applied to how we think about church. I find that many elders and preachers are more naturally inclined to thinking about the church in terms of its group behavior or in terms of the individual members who make it up. And while there's nothing wrong with those natural inclinations, we need to be aware of them so that we can deliberately open our eyes both aspects of church life. Because every congregation is individuals and a group.
This means that our group activities matter, and so they should be overseen by the leaders and engaged by the members. Worship assemblies, Bible classes, home devos, VBS and other special events, singing, worship leader training, and preaching... Church leaders should be eminently aware of how these things are going and how we are using them 1) to best glorify God, and 2) to maximize the spiritual benefit to the congregation.
It means that the individuals in a church matter. There is simply not enough religious activity to make up for a deficit of visiting orphans and widows. The extroverts need church fellowship, and the extroverts need church fellowship. Senior saints need to be visited and encouraged, and young folks need to be mentored and encouraged. Parents need someone to check on their parenting and their marriages. New Christians need well-guided Bible study. Engaged couples need Christian marital counseling. People with doubts need someone to shine the light on Scripture to answer those doubts. The socially awkward people in a congregation need friends, and the cool people in the congregation need friends. The rich and the poor both need reminders that Christ is our true treasure. And church leaders should be eminently aware of how all of those people's spiritual needs are being met.
Whether you are a leader in one of God's churches by position or simply by influence, don't pigeonhole your thinking into an emphasis on one or the other of these ideas. We should pay attention to the individuals in our church and to our group efforts. We serve God with both, and so we should serve him well with both.
- Dan Lankford, minister
"As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD'S house. When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the LORD on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, 'For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.'" (2 Chronicles 7:1-3, ESV)
I love that passage. It brings Israel an assurance that God's presence was among them and with them. In a way that noone living on that day could have ever witnessed before, God's presence physically appeared before them like he had done during the time of the Exodus. They saw and understood the glory of God, and they responded just like they should have: with worship.
Worship is all too easy to undervalue or to distort from its authentic purpose. It's too easy to lose sight of Who it's for and what its purpose is. It's easy to think that if we were present at a spectacle like the one from 2 Chronicles, then we would worhsip with minds and hearts lifted to a higher plane of spirituality.
But where is our faith when we think that way? Do we believe that God is with us when our churches assemble? Do we trust, even if we can't see it, that his people are his temple and that his temple is filled with his glory? Do we properly consider that he has chosen us from among all the nations and made us a people of his own special possession? Do we worship him authentically, even when there's no spectacle or when it feels like "there's nothing special going on"?
The people's words of worship in 2 Chronicles 7 are interesting. Because it's not that they respond to the fire and glory of YHWH by saying, "He is powerful and we are amazed at this incredible experience!" They understood that it isn't a spectacle that makes God great and worthy of worship; it's that "he is good, and his steadfast love endures forever." If that was why they worshiped him, then how much more should we proclaim his glory with passion and truth when we have seen his glory and goodness through the gift of his son?
- Dan Lankford, minister