Church & Ministry

Bored with Church

From the archives. Appeared at SI originally on July 27,’09. Reprinted with permission from Dan’s book Spiritual Reflections.

In the past two decades, a broad swath of Christendom has undergone a radical transformation in the way church services are conducted. Somewhere in the late 1970’s or early 1980’s, it would seem, word leaked out that a most sinister disease was eating away at the foundations of the church. Self-appointed ecclesiastical physicians arose to sound the warning sirens. With impassioned concern they assured us that nothing less than radical measures had to be taken immediately and that nothing less than the survival of the church was at stake.

The malignant scourge that threatened the church, we were told, was boredom. North Americans in particular were becoming scandalously bored with church, and any local assembly that ignored the warning signs of this advancing disease, or refused to resist it, was destined to wither and die.

So with straight faced earnestness the experts prescribed the healing balm. “Make church fun and relevant to all” was the new mantra. One expert counseled me in his book that my sermons should be limited to twenty minutes, peppered with warm, affirming stories and free of “heavy theology.” Church music needed to be “updated” so that it immediately appealed to the visitor and skits and movie clips, you must understand, would communicate truth much more effectively than preaching. (And be sure to go light on that “truth” bit!).

We live in an age of information in which the sound bite is the trade language. We live in an entertainment saturated world of which fun and recreation are the warp and woof. There was only one hope for the church’s survival, we must eliminate boredom at any cost. Like an immoral affair, the partnership between church and boredom simply had to end immediately.

This counsel from the “boredom-killers” had a thread of truth woven into it. Many churches can be justifiably criticized for rendering boredom an art form. Bereft of spiritual vitality, sedated by dead ritual, and shackled by meaningless traditions, many churches have proven utterly bankrupt of all interest to even the most forgiving visitor. In this sense the warning sirens should be heeded. Read more about Bored with Church

Christian Education's Greatest Challenges, Part 1

Republished, with permission, from Voice magazine, Jan./Feb. 2012.

The Bible places great emphasis upon the need of the local church to educate its adults nd children in the Scriptures. Christ Himself was a teacher (“teaching in their synagogues,” Matt. 4:23; “taught them as one having authority,” Matt. 7:29) and the title “Teacher” was used for Him at least forty three times in the Gospels. The apostles taught (Acts 5:21, 42; 11:26). Paul commanded the Ephesian elders to teach “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). He testified to the Colossians that he admonished and taught every man (Col. 1:28). The Romans who were gifted to teach were urged to concentrate on teaching (Rom. 12:7). Elders of the church must be able to teach (1 Tim. 3:2). Timothy was to give particular attention to reading, exhortation and teaching (1 Tim. 4:13). The heart of Timothy’s ministry was to be teaching training, with the goal that the teachers he trained should train others as well (2 Tim. 2:2).

The ministry of Christian education within the local church is a crucial ministry! And I believe the greatest need we have in local church Christian education are teachers who are devoted, knowledgeable, competent, Spirit filled leaders seeking to sincerely serve the Lord through their teaching ministry.

But any pastor can attest that finding teachers like this is not easy, keeping them seems even more difficult, and training them is especially difficult (if it is even attempted in the church). But recruiting, motivating and training workers are the three greatest challenges in local church Christian education. Read more about Christian Education's Greatest Challenges, Part 1

Toward Word-Centered Ministry

quoteboxReposted, with permission, from My Two Cents.

I recently finished teaching through Acts 20:17-38, one of the most influential passages in my life and ministry. In Paul’s lecture to the Ephesians elders he provides for us what I call “an inspired philosophy of ministry.” He explains what his ministry looked like, providing a pattern for the church throughout the ages. We need to know this passage well and apply it to our churches intentionally, especially in a day when there are so many competing voices regarding the nature of Christian ministry.

Paul speaks often in this “seminar” of the importance of character and affection (as I noted in this post). He roots spiritual influence both in the leader’s integrity (“you know me” type comments in v. 18-21 and v. 33-35) and relationships (“I wept over you” comments in v. 19 and 31; cp. v. 37-38). But example and engagement are far from sufficient. The genius—the essence—of Christian ministry is the teaching and preaching of Scripture. Paul emphasizes the centrality of the Word in a variety of ways: Read more about Toward Word-Centered Ministry

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