Why Family Night Matters To Me

This Sunday evening, June 14, at 5 PM, OGC will have its second Family Night Member’s Meeting. I wouldn’t dream of missing it. And not just because I’m one of the shepherds of the flock. I’m pretty certain I would make this a priority, if I were a “mere” regular sheep of the fold.

Why? Because I made promises before God and His church about being in covenant community with the rest of the membership at OGC. And that means commitments of love spelled out in a place like 1 Corinthians 13.

I love how Jonathan Leeman, in his book The Surprising Offense of God’s Love, grabs back the pretty lyrics of that passage from weddings (not that it doesn’t fit there, of course) and reads it to the local church:

Do you want to exercise, practice, embody, and define the glorious love of heaven, he asks us? Then do it in a local church, a church where factions are pitted against one another (1 Cor. 1:12-13), where people have big heads (4:8), where Surprising Offensemembers are sleeping with their fathers’ wives (5:2), where members are suing and defrauding one another (6:1-8), where members are getting drunk on the communion wine and not leaving enough for others (11:21-22), where spiritual gift one-upmanship is rife (chaps. 12 and 14), where the meetings are threatened by disorder (14:40), and where some are saying there is no resurrection from the dead (15:12). Bind and submit yourself and your gifts to these kinds of people. Love them with patience and kindness, without envy or boasting, without arrogance or rudeness, not insisting on our own way, not irritably or resentfully, not rejoicing at wrongdoing but rejoicing at the truth. 

People often complain about the sinners they find in the local church, and with good reason. It’s filled with sinners, which is why Paul calls Christians to love one another by bearing all things, believing all things, hoping all things, enduring all things. If you won’t love such backstabbers and defrauders like this, don’t talk about your spiritual gifts, your vast biblical knowledge, or all the things you do for the poor. You’re just a noisy gong. Don’t talk about your love for all Christians everywhere; you are just a clanging cymbal. But if you do practice loving a specific, concrete people, all of whose names you don’t get to choose, then you will participate in defining love for the world, the love which will characterize the church on the last day perfectly because it images the self-sacrificing and merciful love of Christ perfectly.”   

Family Night gives us one of the many ways to grow in love for those with whom He has called us into covenant commitments of membership. Here we learn to grow in that which is greatest and put the glorious gospel of the Lord Jesus on display.

 

 

Where Was This When We Were Raising Kids?

We start a new round of Equipping Hour classes this Sunday. I’m excited about all four offerings.

I get to teach another newcomers class. You can read my blog post about that here.

James Harvey will tackle the church history elective. I expect that will be a rich journey through the ages of God’s work among His people.

Pastor Mike and Ben Hamilton will lead the evangelism and mercy ministry class, always a gospel-shaped, practical treatment of our calling to bend the gospel outwards as followers of Jesus.

For our parents, we have Chuck and Pam Mitchell facilitating the Paul Tripp DVD curriculum entitled Getting to the Heart of Parenting. I was moved by the video promo shown on Sunday and included it at the top of this post for any who missed it. May I strongly encourage our Dads and Moms to take advantage of this unique teaching content? How I wish I had thought and acted in these categories when Nancy and I were bringing up our sons.

Hope to see as many of you as possible this Sunday, April 26, at 9:30 AM!

Top Ten List for Teaching a New Member Class

membership class

Not sure how many times I’ve taught Discover OGC over the years, but I get to do it again starting April 26. My excitement for the task never lessens. Here’s my own version of a top ten list as to why I look forward to teaching the same stuff every time.

Number Ten: I know the content cold so there’s no additional preparation I have to do!

Number Nine: I get to meet a bunch of people who are new to the church and begin to forge pastoral relationships with them. One of the highlights of the class, a recent innovation, is a luncheon one Sunday after church where we hang out and get to know each other.

Number Eight: I get to practice my vision casting as a pastor. This is a perennial weakness for which I need all the help I can get.

Number Seven: I make a case for why church membership matters. I’ve blogged about a theology of church membership here, in case anyone is interested.

Number Six: I unpack our church’s core values starting with the one that matters the most in my mind–passion for God at the core. I exist as a pastor to labor for my sheep’s joy (2 Cor. 1:24)!

Number Five: I expose people to the rich tradition of the Protestant Reformation and the God-glorifying Solas and Doctrines of Grace that it gifted to Christ’s church.

Number Four: I argue for the necessity of the baptism of disciples alone (credo-baptism) as the only appropriate application of the sign of the New Covenant.

Number Three: I teach biblical peacemaking to prospective new members so they are prepared to eagerly preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3), if they choose to covenant with OGC, or not for that matter.

Number Two: I exegete each and every word of our treasured mission statement: engaging peoples everywhere for pursuing ultimate satisfaction in Jesus.

And the number one reason I delight to teach Discover OGC each and every time?

IT’S A BLAST!

January 12, 2014 at OGC

front-prayer

Big day tomorrow!

Note: it’s a name tag Sunday. Grab one on your way in and help make community easier for all.

8:30 AM – Prayer time in the conference room. Always up for newcomers to help us with intercession.

9:30 AM – Equipping Hour for all ages. Adult discipleship classes include Reformed Theology, New Testament, and Biblical Finances.

10:45 AM – Worship Service. I’m preaching on 1 Thess. 5:16-18, a message called “The Jewelry of Grace.” I plan to focus on v. 17 and what it means to pray without ceasing. Here’s how Charles Spurge0n tied joy, prayer, and giving thanks together:

When joy and prayer are married their first born child is gratitude. When we joy in God for what we have, and believingly pray to him for more, then our souls thank him both in the enjoyment of what we have, and in the prospect of what is yet to come. Those three texts are three companion pictures, representing the life of a true Christian, the central sketch is the connecting link between those on either side. These three precepts are an ornament of grace to every believer’s neck, wear them every one of you, for glory and for beauty; “Rejoice evermore;” “Pray without ceasing;” “in everything give thanks.”

At the end of the service we will receive twelve new members into the body. Be sure to greet them in the receiving line after the service and join us for a reception in the fellowship hall.

6:00 PM – Concert of Prayer in the conference room. We will resume our monthly times of intercession. Special emphasis on Japan given the Homestay ministry coming up next month.

Looking forward to a great Lord’s Day with God’s people!

Reasons to Attend Our Annual Meeting

Gotta love church marquees (and yes, I spelled it wrong in the e-news today!)  Truth be told, attending a church business meeting might seem to many an unpleasant duty at best, a beastly punishment at worst.

May I suggest some things to give you hope that such won’t be the case this Sunday evening at 6 PM when we have our annual congregational meeting?  Let’s begin by dropping the word “business.” I prefer the word “member.” Romans 12:5 says that in the body of Christ we are “individually members one of another.” While we permit visitors to observe our normal member meetings, especially those exploring the possibility of joining with us, these occasions, especially the first one of the year, give those of us in covenant community at OGC the opportunity once again to get on the same page about the priorities of our mission as a body of believers.

And we have some exciting things to report! Deacon Paul Hunt will review the state of our church finances. It will blow you away how good God has been to us!  Elder Chuck Mitchell will cast a vision for the retirement of our mortgage debt so we can do even more ministry in the future. By the way, another benefit of member meetings is keeping leaders accountable. What we do in stewarding the resources God has entrusted to us has a direct impact on the welfare of each of our households. Please shoulder your share of this responsibility by participating if at all possible.

Finally we will hear from various ministry leaders about what God did in 2012 and their vision for 2013. God did some great things for which we want to give thanks. We also want to believe Him for more this year. If you aren’t yet plugged into a ministry at OGC, this will be a terrific way to explore options for the use of your gifts for the sake of the body. I too will share a brief “state of the church” assessment that I hope will encourage you, especially as we wait on God for the changes in our staff situation and our ongoing rebuilding of the walls. Please be in prayer for this Sunday evening. And remember, an hour long prayer time will take place at 4:45 PM in the conference room in preparation for our time together.

A Strategic Opportunity We Must Not Waste

As published last week, we aim to dedicate our new facility on July 29 at 6 PM in the evening. The occasion for dedicating a building to the glory of God provides an ideal opportunity for a rededicating of the people of God to their covenant commitments to Him and one another.

I take my cue for that notion from places like Nehemiah 9 and 10 where the people of Israel rededicated themselves to Yahweh upon completing the rebuilding of the walls surrounding Jerusalem. In the spirit of just such a renewal, our leadership has crafted a written covenant for the membership of OGC to sign as those who have helped build the facility and will worship and serve within it for years to come. The covenant and the various names will be framed and displayed in the entry way of the building as a testimony to God and His faithfulness through His people for this endeavor.

Here is how the covenant reads:

On this July 29, 2012 for the occasion of dedicating to the glory of God our church’s first facility constructed for worship and ministry, We, the members of Orlando Grace Church, bound together by gospel love in covenant membership and having undertaken in recent years to rebuild the “walls” and repair the “gates” of our beloved fellowship, in order to gladly and solemnly renew this firm covenant in writing, do hereby reflect the following commitments with God’s help as fully-devoted followers of our Lord Jesus:

  • We will relentlessly pursue our joy in God by abiding in Christ through the practice of the means of grace that are the spiritual disciplines (John 15:1-11).
  • We will diligently manifest our godliness of character by obeying God’s word through the power of His Spirit (2 Peter 1:5-11).
  • We will consistently fulfill our roles in society by embracing God’s design for functioning in each of the ordained spheres – home, church, and state (Colossians 1:18-21; 1 Peter 5:5; Romans 13:1).
  • We will lovingly share our faith with unbelievers by engaging them through a wise combination of gracious words and merciful works (Colossians 4:5-6).
  • We will strategically do our part in global missions by maximizing our investment through praying, sending, and/or going (Matthew 28:18-20).
  • We will zealously accomplish our ministries to others by using our spiritual gift(s) in the domain(s) of God’s calling (1 Peter 4:10-11).
  • We will faithfully manage our resources from God by utilizing them according to the principles of biblical stewardship (1 Timothy 6:17-19).
  • We will fervently demonstrate our love for believers by engaging in fellowship through keeping the covenants of church membership (Romans 12:9-13).

Signed believing only in the hope of the gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit for the strength and ability to do any and all of the above,

May I ask you to begin to pray now if the Lord would have you embrace this gesture during this strategic season and that you might be among those who will sign the document? More information will come as to how and when we will facilitate this, but we wanted to plant the seeds for this as soon as we knew when we would finally take ownership of our facility.

This is a terrific opportunity to examine our hearts and lives and rededicate ourselves to God’s glorious purposes as part of OGC!

What We Need from OGC

On Sunday I shared what I believe OGC needs from Nancy and me and the rest of our officers and their spouses. For the next two years, arguably among the most strenuous in our history, the church needs us to stay the course. OGC needs us to persevere through the hard work, the late hours, the difficult conversations, the tough decisions. The buck stops here in terms of leadership responsibility and we can’t afford to weenie out just because things get hard.

But now let me turn the tables and suggest a few things we need from our covenant members. First, and foremost, we need your prayers. Pray for our staying power over the long haul. Lord willing, we will get through this season of building a facility and all the challenges that come with it. A new normal will arrive in due season. Pray we hold on and excel in our duties.

Second, we need your participation. Paul called the Philippians partners in the gospel (Phil. 1:5). That’s what we are. We need to partner together in service. It’s every hand on deck. Find a need and fill it. Sacrifice when you must. Let’s pull the load together. We need to partner together in giving, BOTH to the capital campaign/Each One, Seek One and to the general fund budget. On the latter we have been slipping of late. Chuck Mitchell will bring a report this Sunday during the offertory.

Lastly, we need your perseverance and patience. I’ve said all along that we and we alone in the history of this church get to do this stewardship of building a facility. It’s an enormous privilege that will bring multiple rewards. But the endeavor is not for the faint of heart or weak in knee. So join Nancy and me when necessary in having that little talk over the kitchen table when things get dicey: What OGC needs from us right now is to keep the oars in the water and keep on rowing.

Help for Expositional Listening

In his little book on healthy church membership, Thabiti Anyabwile promotes expositional listening as the first mark of a healthy church member. He defines expositional listening this way: listening for the meaning of a passage of Scripture and accepting that meaning as the main idea to be grasped for our personal and corporate lives as Christians (p. 20).

He gives six suggestions for cultivating this habit:

  1. Meditate on the sermon passage during your quiet time. FYI, tomorrow’s text is Galatians 5:13-15.
  2. Invest in a good set of commentaries. These would aid your study in your quiet time prep.
  3. Talk and pray with friends about the sermon after church. I supply discussion questions in every bulletin to help with this.
  4. Listen to and act on the sermon throughout the week. We upload the audio recording normally every Sunday afternoon after the message is given that morning.
  5. Develop the habit of addressing any questions about the text itself. Be active not passive in your reading and study.
  6. Cultivate humility. Beware knowledge puffing up as opposed to building up.

Will you seek tomorrow to develop this mark of a healthy church member? Pray that all who attend will.

The Insignificance of the External

Last Sunday we kicked off yet another edition of Discover OGC, our newcomer orientation series.

Per usual I started by presenting a brief apologetic for why church membership is biblical. I took the group to 1 Peter 2:4-5.

[4] As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, [5] you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Peter uses the word picture of a temple, borrowing from Old Testament imagery of the Jews’ place for worshiping God, to describe the nature of the church. God is building a spiritual temple out of living stones. This describes the true nature of the church, not the sticks and bricks of a literal building.

This imagery remains a pertinent reminder as we draw now one month closer, Lord willing, to the opening of our facility on Maitland Avenue. Someone recently sent me this quote by J. C. Ryle that expresses the truth well:

Let it never be forgotten that the material part of a Christian Church is by far the least important part of it. The fairest combinations of marble, stone, wood and painted glass, are worthless in God’s sight, unless there is truth in the pulpit and grace in the congregation. The dens and caves in which the early Christians used to meet, were probably far more beautiful in the eyes of Christ than the noblest cathedral that was ever reared by man. The temple in which the Lord Jesus delights most, is a broken and contrite heart, renewed by the Holy Spirit.

Well said. May we not forget it even as we look forward to the fairest combination of materials we can assemble in a building to house our assembly of living stones.