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Wordwise Insight, Issue #028
April 14, 2007
Greetings

WORDWISE INSIGHT is the free, informative monthly newsletter of Wordwise-Bible-Studies.com

IN THIS ISSUE...

BIBLE INSIGHTS. Tests of discipleship; a crisis of values, and more

READER Q & A. Why go to church--reguarly, and more

REVIEWS & IDEAS. Church Builder's Sourcebook


BIBLE INSIGHTS

FOUR TESTS OF DISCIPLESHIP
Luke chapter 9 gives us several snapshots of what a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ should be like. In the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 and its aftermath, the Lord speaks to His disciples. His words become an important part of their training. There we see:

1) The test of faith’s OBEDIENCE (vs. 10-17). “You give them something to eat.”

2) The test of faith’s KNOWLEDGE (vs. 18-20). “Who do you say that I am?”

3) The test of faith’s VALUES (vs. 23-26, 57-62). “What advantage is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?” (Cf. Mk. 8:37; also see the “me first” of vs. 59, 61.)

4) The test of faith’s LOVE (vs. 46-50). “The Son of Man [came] to save” (vs. 56), while the disciples were absorbed with getting the highest place in the kingdom (cf. Matt. 19:27).

A CRISIS OF VALUES AND PRIORITIES
The brief encounters described in Luke 9:57-62 identify crises of values and priorities in the lives of three individuals Jesus met. From the Lord’s comment to each more is here than meets the eye. The first man apparently has made some assumptions as to what following Christ would be like. The latter two seem to be using their requests as delaying tactics, or as a means of avoiding discipleship altogether.

1) A priority on COMFORT (vs. 57-58). The man says to Jesus, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” But it seems, based on the Lord’s response, that there was a hidden qualifier in his offer. That he meant “if it seems to me to be pleasant and profitable.” The “scribe,” as Matthew 8:19 describes him, was concerned about his own material advantage and comfort.

2) A priority on CUSTOM (vs. 59-60). “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” “Me first! What will others in my community think of me if I don’t follow the proper tradition?” There was, in ancient times (dating back even before Abraham’s day) a practice of secondary burial. A body was customarily laid out in a tomb for a year and allowed to decompose. Then the bones were taken and re-buried with those of other family members. If this is what is in view here, it could be the man is asking for a delay of months.

3) A priority on COMPANIONSHIP (vs. 61-62). “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid farewell to those who are in my house.” Another me first! And Jesus knows the man is “looking back” (vs. 62; cf. Lot's wife, Gen. 19:26) with longing on the relationships and companionship he will have to relinquish to come with Him.

THE LEARNER-SERVANT PRINCIPLES
On the website there is an article about discipleship called The Learner-Servant Principles. Extensively referenced to Scripture, and with many diagrams, this material will give you a unique perspective on the subject. The seven basic principles are interconnected. They show the essence of discipleship as it is revealed in God’s Word, four key things God expects of us, and how sin contrasts with the four. As well, you will gain a helpful understanding of what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and walk in the Spirit. The framework described can also be used to analyze passage after passage in the Bible. Please study the material, put it to use, and pass it on!

TRUTH IN OUR TRIALS. Check out the extensive outline study on the subject of suffering at Truth About Suffering.


READER Q & A

Question: Why do we need to attend church? Can’t we just worship the Lord out in nature? Or what about just watching a church service on television?

Answer: Certainly we can--and should--worship God as we see before us the wonders of His creation. The hymn, “How Great Thou Art” was written in that context. And yes, it is possible to enjoy and profit from some services on the radio or on television. Thank the Lord for godly men who faithfully preach the word through the media. It is a blessing to many shut-ins who are unable to attend services. But having acknowledged these things, there are important reasons to go to church, and to do so on a regular basis, not just on special occasions.

GOOD REASONS TO GO TO CHURCH . . . REGULARLY!

Years ago, there was a television program called Cheers, about a bunch of people who met in a bar. I mention this not to promote drinking alcohol, or to endorse the show– whose characters often behaved immorally. But the theme song for the program was striking. It said, “Sometimes you want to go / Where everybody knows your name, / And they’re always glad you came; / You want to be where you can see / Our troubles are all the same; / You want to be where everybody knows your name.” Should this welcoming atmosphere not be something the local church provides–along with many other good things–for those who gather there?

Sadly, polls reveal that while some three quarters of North Americans identify themselves as “Christian,” church attendance has been declining steadily for many years. Perhaps some of the fault for this can be laid at the door of churches that are spiritually weak, or that have failed to be responsive to the needs of the communities around them. However, it should also be said that the church is people, not buildings or a programs. We each have a responsibility for its welfare. If we are trying to identify and solve the problems with the church, the first place to look is in a mirror.

I am reminded of a cartoon picturing a pastor after an Easter Sunday service. He is shaking hands with departing worshipers, and one says to him, “How come every time I come to church you preach on the resurrection?” Attending once a year at Christmas or Easter does not fulfil our obligation to Christ and His church. But let us raise the question: Why go to church–and go regularly? Some have very limited reasons for attending, and therefore their attendance itself is very limited. But there are many values in God’s people assembling as a body of believers week by week.

A 2007 Gallup poll in the United States brought the following responses as to why people attend church regularly. (Multiple responses account for the total being more than 100%.) For spiritual growth and guidance (23%); Keeps me grounded/inspired (20%); It’s my faith (15%); To worship God (15%); The fellowship of other members/the community (13%); Believe in God/believe in religion (12%); Brought up that way/a family value/tradition (12%).

Well, that's a start! But there are more reasons to go than that. Regular church attendance is beneficial because:

1) It follows the example of the apostolic church, which God abundantly blessed. Believers shared their lives together in a substantial way back then–often daily–and the church grew and had a powerful witness in the community (Acts 2:41-47; 4:32-35). God blesses the assembling of His people.

2) It obeys the command of God that Christians continue meeting together (Heb. 10:24-25). On the other hand, unless it is for some legitimate reason beyond our control, failing to attend the house of God is disobedient to the Lord, and sinful.

3) It honours the Lord when the faithful to assemble for corporate worship and praise of God, who is infinitely worthy to be praised (Acts 2:44, 47; cf. Rev. 5:11-13). There is something especially powerful in a community of believers uniting to worship God with one voice. But we can’t do this together unless we are together!

4) It involves a meeting with the Lord Himself who promises to be present in the midst of His people (Matt. 18:20). Who would not want to put a priority on that? Some would go to a service if “Dr. So-and-so” was the visiting preacher. But they will not attend to meet with the Lord. There is something wrong with this picture!

5) It brings us into a classroom for instruction in the truths of God’s Word, which we need to know for a life and service that pleases God (Acts 2:42; cf. II Tim. 3:16-17). And regular attendance exposes us to “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) so that we see the scope and interrelationship of various doctrines, as one truth builds on another.

6) It provides an opportunity for fellowship and a “family reunion” of God’s people where we can celebrate our common heritage and those things that connect us (Acts 2:42; cf. Ps. 122:1). An important part of church attendance comes before and after. That is when personal ministry takes place, as we seek out others and ask how they are doing. This should be done with a desire to help where we can, and with a promise to pray for needs that are expressed.

7) It allows God’s people to share testimonies of what God is doing in their lives and service for Him, for the encouragement of others (Ps. 107:2; Acts 2:42; 14:27; III Jn. 1:3, 6). Of course this can be done one-on-one. But at some service in the week it is of great value to give time for people to share with the group.

8) It can be a spiritual refuge, instilling new hope in us, when the week has been a struggle against daunting challenges. The church can be a clinic where the spiritually sick and sore find remedies for what ails them (Rom. 14:19; 15:1-2; I Thess. 5:11).

9) It can enable others to administer spiritual discipline and correction when it is needed. Sometimes, in isolation, we can get off on the wrong track, or come to wrong and unbiblical conclusions. Meeting together provides a check on such things (Prov. 11:14; Gal. 6:1; Heb. 10:24). And yes, sometimes it is the preacher who needs correcting (I Tim. 5:19-20)! Be sure to take your Bible with you, and open it to the relevant passages during the sermon (cf. Acts 17:11). Make sure what is being said from the pulpit is true to God’s Word.

10) It is a witness in the unsaved community to the important place we give to the things of God. Our neighbours should see us dressed up, Bibles in hand, on our way to God’s house. But what if visitors drop by on Sunday? If folks come to call on us unexpectedly Sunday morning, we can invite them to church, or encourage them to make themselves comfortable until we return. (It does not say church is a priority with us if we just stay home when someone comes.)

11) It enables us to use spiritual gifts God has given each of us in personal ministry, thus making a unique contribution to the body of Christ. In fact church attendance and involvement is required by the uniqueness of each Christian’s gifts. No one in the body of Christ is an unneeded extra. We each have a place to fill (I Cor. 12:4-7, 12; I Pet. 4:10).

12) It sets an example for our own children, and other young ones growing up around us as to what is most important. Regular church attendance is a means of strengthening the family. We learn things we can share together as a family, and we learn how to build a God-honouring home. Some parents take the laissez-faire attitude, “The children can go to church if they want to. We don’t want to force them.” But would you take the same approach toward school, or a needed trip to the hospital? Faithful attendance at God’s house should be a family affair, and it should be taken for granted that all are to be there.

13) It gives us an opportunity to have input in the planning and operation of the church. As noted earlier, the church is people. Even though certain ones are called of God to provide leadership, decisions regarding policies and programs benefit from the input of the entire congregation. How can we sit back and complain if we are not there to share our concerns?

14) It can provide an emotional boost. A meeting of the congregation can be a kind of pep rally. Unfortunately, in some churches, this seems to be the major focus. Services become “happy clappy” entertainment, designed to get people excited and send them on their way all charged up. While this is not the chief reason to attend church, rejoicing together in the presence of the Lord can be wholesomely uplifting.

15) It is a great place to form relationships. Whether we are thinking of adults forming supportive friendships, or children discovering new playmates, or a fellow or girl seeking God’s will regarding the one to be a life partner in marriage, the assembly of God’s people is a great place to make these connections. Our lives will be influenced for good or ill by the company we keep (I Cor. 15:33; Ps. 119:63).

16) It encourages the pastor and others. Can you imagine trying to preach passionately to empty wooden pews? Wood is not very responsive. And the more wood that is showing the weaker will be participation in the singing and other aspects of the service.

17) It builds a wholesome habit into our lives. The New Testament does not set down strict laws for Sunday behaviour as was done for the Jewish Sabbath. In fact we are told that each person is responsible before God to decide such things for himself (Rom. 14:5). However there is great benefit in making the Sunday “the Lord’s Day,” and dedicating it to activities which especially honour Him. On the other hand, the bad habit of missing church, once formed, can be difficult to break, to our greater detriment.

18) There’s no better place to be. (If this is not true of your church, you need to examine the reasons why and work with others there to apply some correctives!)

SEEKING A NEW PASTOR for your church? Check out the Pastoral Questionnaire.


BIBLE STUDY: Available now on the Wordwise website is a discussion Bible study on The Lord's Prayer. Why not check it out at The Lord's Prayer.


REVIEWS & IDEAS

The Church Building Sourcebook, 2nd Edition, by C. Ray Bowman
At some point (or points) in their history, many churches will consider a renovation of their current facilities or the construction of a new building. The decisions involved in such a project are many and complex. This book is a wonderful resource to have when you are getting started. Though it is geared to an American readership, and produced for the benefit of one denomination (the Church of the Nazarene) there is much here that can be applied quite broadly.

A look at a few of the subjects covered will show the scope and value of this resource. There is something for you here whether your church is large or small. Articles and sections include:

Buildings That Help Us Grow; Why Buildings? History as a Guide to Church Design; First Decisions; Professional Building Services; Committees; Public Relations; Finances; Site Selection and Development; Building Program Procedures; Contracts; The Sanctuary; Acoustical Design; Communications in the Church; The Organ; Interior Design and Furnishings; Small Church Design; Energy and Engineering; Handicapped and Elderly; Security; Administration; Education; Construction and Contracting; Metal Buildings; Maintenance; Requests for Approval.

This is a recommended resource. It can be purchased at Church Building Sourcebook 2.

2) THE BEST BIBLE STUDY TOOL EVER. At least, the best one I have ever discovered, is fully described on the website. Strictly speaking, this is not an idea for your church program but for you, personally. However, if you try it, you may want to share it with your Sunday School class or Bible study group. If a number of you begin using it and trading insights, you may be amazed at what will happen! See Best Bible Study Tool.

3) Is your church thinking of purchasing A NEW HYMN BOOK? Check out Choosing a Hymnal for Your Church on the website, for nearly three dozen excellent tips and ideas to help you make your choice.

4) Check out EXPLORING CHRISTIANITY, a Wordwise Bible study series to help seekers, or new Christians! A wonderful "review" for long-time believers as well! The free 10-part series is now available at Exploring Christianity.



If you have a question or an idea to share, please go to the Wordwise website and use the question form.
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