Posts Tagged With: church

Before We Debate About the Spiritual Gift of Tongues, How About This…

Amazingly, while many people speak about the gift of tongues, whether they exist or don’t exist, one aspect we tend to forget is how we use the language (i.e., tongue) that God has given us now?

Jump with me to 1 Corinthians 14:23-25:

23 If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds? 24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, 25 the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.

Tongues, Paul says, are a sign for unbelievers.  When Peter, skeptical that God would send his Spirit to all the nations to show them His glory and His work through Jesus, we read in Acts 10:44-47:

44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”

What’s the point? The point is that God used this sign (not the gift, the sign) to show the world that God was moving forward in bringing His message of the Gospel through the Spirit to the whole world.  And, friends, we are the recipient of that.  God used His messengers through the Spirit and the gifts that He bestowed to take the message of the gospel, of which we are a recipient.

Dear Christians, unbelievers will enter into your life and your church.  So how are we using the language God has given to us?  Let me show you how some use them.  In Romans 1:28-32:

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

How many times have we seen Christians come together, and use their tongues not for the purpose of building up believers in the faith, but to tear down other believers and leaders that God has put in their path. Rather than going and speaking directly to the person, they gossip and slander and become insolent, arrogant, boastful!  Many of these sins in place are right up there with the flow of the argument—God giving people over to their desires, their sexual sins.

Alan Redpath calls us to think when it comes to what we’re getting ready to say.  It’s an acronym:

T–Is it true?
H–Is it helpful?
I–Is it inspiring?
N–Is it necessary?
K–Is it kind?

If what I am about to say does not pass those tests, I will keep my mouth shut! And it worked!

But really, it’s not just about what we shouldn’t say, it’s about being clear regarding the person and work of Christ both in private, and in this case in public.  Prophesy and preaching and teaching about Jesus and His death and resurrection as the only hope for the forgiveness of sins and eternal must be crystal clear.  Intelligible.  Distinct.  Do we have that?  When we tell people phrases we’re used to like, “Ask Jesus into your heart” or “Won’t you walk the aisle?”

You see, I fear that many in our churches in America believe that the church exists for them.  The spiritual gifts exist for them.  God in heaven simply exists to meet our needs.  We can only worship if the music is just right, the curriculum is just right, if the money is spent just right.  Do you see what’s happening?  Everything can come down to the fact that many believe that everything exists for them!  But vv 24-25 shatter that.  Clarity about the gospel, about Jesus’ person and work will convict as worked by the Spirit.  We want to be clear to call everyone to repent and believe the gospel as Jesus said.  We want to be clear to our family and friends about the gospel—and that our words and our actions match!

The entire point of 1 Corinthians 14 is that of clarity so that the church would be built up!  Outward love toward others always trumps simply building up oneself, whether it’s speaking in tongues or in any other aspect of our Christian walk. But we all speak in a language–how are we using that for God’s glory and building up the church?

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Fellow Churches are Kingdom Partners, Not Competitors

We need to see fellow, like-minded, Gospel-centered, Word-driven, Christ-exalting churches as partners, not competitors.

This past Sunday, my family and I took a stay-cation and visited a church in the area.  I was due some Sunday vacation time, plus it was my wife’s birthday, so we decided to worship with the saints at Cornerstone Church in Lone Tree, CO.  Mike Atherton, the lead pastor at Cornerstone, is a good friend with whom I serve in the trenches in state convention work, along with other endeavors in our city’s Baptist association.  They have an impressive facility: a place to get coffee, nice children’s check-in, and even a fireplace–helpful on a single-digit-temperature morning!

But when it comes right down to it, it’s all about worshipers coming together, singing to the Lord, encouraging each other, and hearing the Word, and reaching the community creatively, consistently, and intentionally.  I’m thankful for such a gospel partner.

I make a big deal out of this because I haven’t always seen fellow churches in places where I’ve ministered as partners.  I’ve sometimes seen them as competitors.  When I was a youth pastor in South Florida, God allowed it to grow from about 15 kids to 50.  But I’d look at the church up the road and they brought in over 100 kids.  Sure, we had a basketball goal and an open field.  But they had ping-pong, video games, TVs, the works.  And yes, while we made some adjustments, our youth ministry couldn’t pull their numbers.

And I began to realize that that’s OK.  Was that church teaching the gospel?  Yes.  Were kids coming to Christ?  Yes, they seemed to be from my vantage point.  Then, that’s a Kingdom partner, not a Kingdom competitor.

It was then that God started a maturing process that I’m grateful for to this day.  Cornerstone runs twice as many as my church, has Upwards, a sweet new facility, and more.  Another church nearby have three services, run 3-4 times our count, and are planting other churches.  Fifteen years ago when I was early in ministry and more insecure with who I was in Christ, I would look at them with envy and say, “I wish we could be like them!”  There’s a danger.

One, God brought me to my church, and as for me, I couldn’t be happier with the people with whom He’s called me to serve.

Secondly, God has called us to be the most faithful Arapahoe Road Baptist Church, not a copy of another.  Sure, those other churches are churches to learn from and emulate in their gospel faithfulness, but our aim is not for us to say, “Let’s be like them because they are awesome!”  The goal is to say, “Thank you, Lord, for those partners–now let’s work to where we may be a faithful example and Kingdom partner to others.”

Do you have a story about seeing other churches as competitors?  Are you still struggling with that, or has God brought you through?  Share your story in the comments section.

Thanks again, Mike, for your hospitality and warm welcome at Cornerstone.  Give us South Denver, or we die!

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How I Plan to Navigate an Established Church Through Change

Change  in a church or any organization is scary–and not just for those of the older persuasion.  I mean, that’s the stereotype: the senior adults of a church usually take umbrage with change.  Not so!  Change is scary for many in the church.  The unknown is all that’s known during the process.  The younger generations wonder if the change will really help the cause of Christ, and become anxiety-filled in wondering if this process will really move things forward or find resistance to such a degree that it’s not worth it. 

Our church called me as Lead Pastor (I know, the title is ‘senior’ pastor, but, hey, I’m 42–I’m not a ‘senior’ anything yet) and for the first 18 months, I kept my word and didn’t change much.  I spent time loving and getting to know our people as best as possible (not perfectly, but that was my ambition), and preached the unvarnished Word of God being led by His Spirit in using this earthen vessel (2 Corinthians 4:7). 

Yet, all churches and church members need to grow (we can’t stay put, can we?) and all churches need to God (Christ said so, didn’t He?), and so we continually evaluate what we could do better, what we must begin doing, and what is an obstacle to what needs doing.  How do we navigate through change in a church?  Let’s use the acronym CHANGE to help understand this process.

Here’s my plan:

Christ and community:  Do the changes help us better connect with Christ  and connect with the community around us? 

Head and heart:  Do the changes connect with us personally in our head (yes, we need these changes) and our heart (are we emotionally and spiritually ready to make these changes, or do our spirits resist these? If so, why?  What challenges arise?  What threat do they pose?  Is the end result in our hearts worth the process of losing some of what we have now?)

Approachable and applicable:  Are the changes achievable (to use another ‘a’)?  Are they something that we can do?  Are there short-term, easier changes we can make now to gain momentum for changes in the future?  Are these changes for changes’ sake, or do they apply to a true obstacle or issue the church is facing? 

Navigable:  Are we as church leaders ready to communicate where we shall navigate?  Are we as church leaders ready to help you navigate through the calm and/or stormy waters in this sea of change–or are we as leaders wanting to stay docked in a safe harbor?  When we do (notice the word ‘when’) pull out of the safety of the harbor, will we as church leaders recognize the needed pace by which to navigate?  And will we all be willing to be led by the Spirit and have ears to hear what he is saying to the church (Revelation 2-3)?

Gradual with gravity:  Pace.  That’s the word.  Will we recognize the necessary pace, finding the tension between being gradual (not glacial) and conveying the gravity of needed change? 

Edifying and engaging:  Are we willing to grow on the inside (edify–which means to build up) to go on the outside (engaging)?  We’ve come full circle to Christ (growing in Him) and culture (going for Him, in His name). 

Whatever change takes place, may we do so by

(1)  Engaging His Word
(2)  Engaging Him in prayer
(3)  Engaging His people.
(4)  Engaging the lost. 

What think ye?  How does change in your church affect you? 

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What If Our Church Was a Church Plant?

God has called Arapahoe Road Baptist Church to help all peoples (ourselves included) take that next step in their journey with Christ. We are called to cultivate, to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18) in taking those steps in helping others come to Christ, connect with His Church, and contribute to His Kingdom. This must sink deep into our hearts, our minds, our souls, and our strength to be a vibrant, flourishing organism for Christ.

God birthed Arapahoe Road Baptist Church in 1960, almost 54 years ago. For a church in Colorado, this is considered a very established church (the equivalent of the 225 year old church from which I came in Lexington, Kentucky). How wonderful that God has provided such perseverance and fortitude. God has used ARBC mightily and has fantastic things in store!

I know a number of pastors who have planted churches in the last few years. Having been a pastor of established churches my entire 22 years of ministry, I watch how they live and move and have their being with fascination. I do not do so because I wish I was in their shoes—I have no desire to be anything else but your pastor. Yet, I look at fascination at their DNA.

Here’s what I’ve gleaned:

  1. The whole DNA of church plants is a decided mix of discipleship and outreach. The new ones that come to Christ are invested in so they will become the leaders and contributors that the church desperately need. And they spent a great amount of time, money, and resources on bringing others to Christ, then growing them in Christ into Kingdom-minded contributors. 
  2. Their ministry is not building-centric. As a result, church plants go to where the lost are, not simply expecting the lost to come to their building. 
  3. Along the lines of #2, their small groups meet outside the building of the church, not always inside. Part of this has to do with many not having a permanent facilities, but, again, it’s another door for unbelievers to walk through that’s more inviting and less intimidating than coming into a big church with scads of strangers. And the plus for us is that we grow to understand the unchurched better—the ones to whom we are to ‘go, and make disciples’ of.
  4. They don’t do things that only Christians want to do. A lot of times in our churches, we set up things for those far from God to come to, but usually they are things that only Christians want to do. They get to know their community and then look to provide something that others can’t. We know we have the gospel, but we also need to recognize the bridges that need building to the gospel.
  5. As they are out and about, they invite, invite, and invite some more. They carry around the love of Christ and His church in their hearts, and often carry around cards in their pockets about the church. We have a number of cards in the office that we can make available to you—but a caring smile and word of mouth do very well indeed.
  6. They identify big days, sharing with those already coming that the gospel will be shared from the pulpit. While we have Big Days (musicals, harvest festivals, special speakers, summer picnics, etc.), we will start setting aside the first Sunday of each month for testimonies from our people. You need to hear the Word from your pastors, yes. That’s primary and necessary. Yet, God is working in and through our people, even in the midst of the most harrowing of circumstances. How are they navigating through it? You need to hear their stories of how Christ is moving and working in them as a source of encouragement for all of you to persevere.

Friends, this isn’t what a church plant is all about, this is what the church must be about. Be praying that God would change our hearts individually to change the culture spiritually that the Word matters, the lost matters, and growing in Jesus matters. Keep an eye out for how we shall put feet to this.

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Three Reasons Why Leaders Must Equip the Church

Ministries-Equipping-2.10 Why did God give leaders? “To equip the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ” (4:12). We must take the step from realizing God has given leaders, to the next step of realizing why these leaders were given—to equip. It goes back to the acronym we’ve given for equipping: engaged in a quest to invest in people. God sent leaders on a quest to invest in the people His Son bloodily redeemed.

Now, let’s take another step. That God has not only given you the opportunity to be equipped, but He saved us and called us to His work. We were not born nor born again completely ready to move forward in our faith. We need equipping—the bones of the body of Christ need setting so they may be whole. Our leaders of our churches must engage in a quest to invest. Saints that have come to Christ and connected with His church most be on a quest to be invested in out of a thirst to contribute to their King and His kingdom!

Why?

First, for the sake of unity in the church. The reason we are equipped is to keep the church unified. How? I read a lot of leadership materials that help with organizational structure, but none of these structures and practices can change a heart. You have all the right structures and operate well within those structures, but you are unifying around the wrong thing.

Leaders were called to focus on “prayer and ministry of the Word.” This shows the primacy and sufficiency of these two items. We can surely be unified around lots of things. Our entire city last week rallied around two phrases: Time to Ride and United in Orange. We can be unified for lots of reasons: denominational loyalty, sweet fellowship in loving each other, tax brackets, how we dress, age and other types of demographics.

But our unity is based on the truth of God’s Word (its truthfulness, it’s eternal nature, its inspiration, but now the days is our sufficiency). If we continue to pull from other resources rather than Scripture, then the ‘church’ will be centered around something that we deem more sufficient or as sufficient as Scripture.

Secondly, for the sake of maturity in the faith. We are called to grow into Christlikeness. We are called to be like Christ. This is why God saved us and connects us to His church—movement toward Christlikeness. And how did Christ walk? Again, we beat the drum of prayer and ministry/obedience to the Word. Why? Because we are not intended to be children anymore.

Children. What does he mean here? Jesus told us to become as little children. That seems like a good thing. Isn’t Paul contradicting Jesus in saying being a child is bad? When Jesus spoke of a child, he meant in dependence. This is the stage of young children, completely dependent on their parents. But children also struggle with focus. During the Christmas season, you take them to a toy store or they see commercials on TV—“I need that! I gotta have that!” They grow up and older children in their teenage years want independence.

Paul here is talking of an unfocused, unlearned child who runs to everything that’s shiny. That’s bad. What is needed is the child Jesus speaks of—dependence on Christ through prayer and ministry of the Word, but also an independence where we seek Him on our own. John MacArthur gets it right.

“Even the most biblical and efficient of church organizations will not produce spiritual maturity without the leadership of God’s gifted ministers who are continually in prayer and in His Word. Administration and structure has its place, but it is far from the heart of spiritual church growth. The great need of the church has always been spiritual maturity rather than organizational restructuring. All the books on leadership, organization, and management offer little help to the dynamics of the church of Jesus Christ” (John MacArthur, Ephesians, p. 154).

Lastly, for the sake of purity in knowing Christ. “The knowledge of the Son of God.” Children are being tossed around. By what? The picture is that of one on the stormy sea being knocked about by the high and destructive waves that threaten to bring them under. These waves are kicked up by the wind. What does the wind represent? The wind of the false teachers preaching a false doctrine.

With our vision, this knowledge is not simply a “come to Christ” knowledge, but a “connected to Christ” knowledge. This serves as a deep desire to dig into all that Christ is. After all, he is “the treasure of all wisdom and knowledge.” When does this learning stop? After you graduate seminary? I tell you, even though I have a degree, it was then I realized how little I really knew.

So pray for your leaders that (1) they would seek Christ with all they have, (2) that they would see a need for themselves to be equipped, and (3) that we all would take advantage of the opportunities for equipping and growing and see this as a blessed privilege Christ has given us.

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Three Ways God Changes Our Hearts to His Vision

As you read through Nehemiah, you do not see much organizational or even spiritual drift. God planted a vision in him, and the intentionality by which he come, connected, and contributed to that vision kept him on course. A lack of intentionality and enthusiasm toward accomplishing God’s vision for His people will subtly shift the hearts of the people, and bring on the not-so-subtle drift of the organization.

ARBC, from the pastors to the leaders to the team members to the members of the church must be decidedly intention with Christ and His purpose. God raises up leaders with a special call, who bid others to come, connect, and contribute.  What ways and means does God use to change our hearts to His vision?

First, we must have our eyes open to reality of the situation.

Go to Nehemiah 1:1-2:

The words of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah. Now it happened in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Susa the citadel, 2 that Hanani, one of my brothers, came with certain men from Judah. And I asked them concerning the Jews who escaped, who had survived the exile, and concerning Jerusalem.

What happened with Nehemiah? God providentially brought Hanani his brother across his path. The key phrase is, “Now it happened.” Nehemiah could simply have been conveying an actual event. Yet, he could also be saying that this happened by chance. We shall see that nothing about this was by chance, and as Nehemiah went on, he recognized how God’s good hand was upon him.

Nehemiah had two issues of concern: the Jews who escaped, and Jerusalem itself. He has a passion for His people and he has a passion for the land God promised to His people centuries ago. It was no secret among that generation of Jews that they lived in Babylon/Persia because of God’s judgment. Deuteronomy 28 lays it out clearly. Obedience brings blessings in family and land. Disobedience brings curses to family and land.

He had his head firmly grounded in reality. He knew their predicament.  Are churches willing to examine theirs?  Is ARBC willing to examine ours?

Second, we must have our eyes open to the quandary of the congregation.

And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire” (Nehemiah 1:3).

The wall of Jerusalem, as it was with all other cities, protected the cities from enemies and allowed those on the inside to flourish in peace. All through their history, they had shown how Yahweh had protected His people—and they let all others know that God is the God and their God.

But where was their God now? Do you see how the walls being down was not simply a structural issue or a political issue? This presented to the world that this God was (1) not able to protect after all (wrong), or (2) this God brought this blight on them in judgment (rightly so).

Nehemiah’s vision blossomed in helping to see the beauty and strength of the living God.  And that must be the aim of our church.  Churches and Christ are connected, but the church has been so inept in moving forward in a Christ-centered, gospel-driven vision, that they begin to disconnect Christ from His church.  So churches begin to see this quandary, resolve to partner with Christ as His bride so she will be spotless to Him and to a watching world.

Thirdly, we must have our eyes open to the sovereignty of our God.

As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven (Nehemiah 1:4).

The bigger our God, the bigger our prayers should be. Keep in mind, God’s greatness and majesty is never based on our views of Him. Our views of Him are deduced from His Word.

Ed Welch wrote a wonderful book entitled, “When People are Big and God is Small,” and set the course when he said:

Regarding other people, our problem is that we need them (for ourselves) more than we love them (for the glory of God.).  The task God sets for us is to need them less and love them more.[1]

Jesus said, “I will build my church” (Matthew 16:16).  He will build His church His way.  He will add whom He adds, He will remove those whom He will.

And He uses us.  Yes, He ordains the ends, but He also ordains the means in using His church and the gifts therein to accomplish His will.

May God change our hearts to His vision.


[1]Ed Welch, When People are Big and God is Small (Phillipsburg, PA: P & R Publishing, 1997), 19.

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The Joys of Pastoring a Multigenerational Church

Hi.  My name is Matthew Perry, and I pastor a semi-traditional, multigenerational Baptist church.

Before you say, “This sounds like an AA meeting—are you lamenting your situation?”  Far from it. 

When I interviewed at my current church back in October 2011, one of the questions that was asked me in various ways was basically this:  “What do you think of pastoring a church with a good amount of senior adults in it?”  My response surprised them:  “Senior adults need pastors, too!”  And what a tremendous blessing they’ve been to this pastor and this church. 

You see, I have a number of colleagues who look at my semi-traditional (translate: you still sing hymns with a piano and organ?), multigenerational (translate: you have a good number of senior adults at your church), Baptist (translate: they are so rigid in what they believe—ew) church and want to avoid this scenario. 

But this scenario is a blessing if that church seeks to follow what Scripture says and seeks to disciple the saved and witness to the lost about the glories of salvation through the cross and empty tomb of Christ.

I have a number of church planter friends who have planted churches of various sizes.  Some have maintained a modest size, while others have churches which have exploded—so good to see! 

Yet, when I go to these churches, I notice something distinctly missing.  No, I’m not talking about an organ.  I’m not talking about pews.  I’m not talking about a traditional choir. 

What I distinctly miss seeing is the gray haired people!  And I believe that, without realizing it, many of these younger churches will miss that as well.

Titus 2 speaks of the beauty of a multigenerational church:

But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. 2 Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. 3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.6 Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. 7 Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, 8 and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.9 Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior (Titus 2:1-10, ESV).

Titus pastored a multigenerational church where the older members would teach the younger members how to put their sound doctrine into sound living in all facets of their lives.  A church simply wishing to reach the 20s-30s demographic of their particular culture should read and heed this—we need all generations represented in our churches for the sake of putting the gospel on the frontburner as we live and move in our jobs, our homes, and yes, our churches as well.

Some pastors may have been burned by older people who may be hanging on to the tradition and the former ‘feel’ of the church of days gone by.  As a result, many pastors believe that the senior generation is the problem—so the fewer we have in our churches, the smoother the ride.

While I know this is often the case, especially in more established churches, if the pastor is honest, every generation has their particular ‘druthers’ of what they believe a church should be and wish to see that vision imposed executed to their desires.  That older generation may have lived during a time in the church when the church was flourishing, and associate the flourishing with the methods with growth. 

This is where the younger generation may teach the older generation about their times.  When the various generations listen to one another, they may each glean a bit of wisdom from the other.  The older generation has raised their children, worked at a job all their life, know a bit more about how to handle finances, and even better, know how to grow and sustain their Christian faith through all the seasons of life.

But the older generation, if they have a Bible-based, Spirit-driven motive, want to leave a legacy.  They know that the times in the culture have changed.  They know that church is not on the radar of the average person.  So deep down, they want to see the legacy and gospel-witness of their church continue on.  So they learn from the ‘young folks’ to see where they are and where the culture stands so that the church as a whole can look for more effective ways to connect with the surrounding neighbors, all the while staying firm and true to what the truth of Scripture speaks. 

Hi.  My name is Matthew Perry, and I pastor a semi-traditional, multigenerational Baptist church.

And I thank God for it daily!

 

 

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A Colorado Pastor’s Office View—Hope-filled and Heartbreaking

2013-05-31 15.12.40

The picture to my right is a view from my office looking toward Arapahoe Road.  How appropriate since the church I pastor bears the name (Arapahoe Road Baptist Church).  As I look out this window, I see a number of things:

  1. A parking lot:  On Sunday these spaces will be mostly filled.  Christians, seekers, skeptics from all backgrounds, ethnicities, and spiritual journeys will come.  This fuels my prayer and fires up my study in the Word—they are hungry for the Word (whether they know it or not) and need to be nourished on the Bread of Life.  Some will come out of hunger, some out of habit, some out of heartbreak, all out of hope!  May the Spirit show up and bring all of us who are far from God near through Christ.
  2. Arapahoe Road:  Many travellers drive on this major thoroughfare of Centennial.  Where have they been?  Where are they going?  From work to home?  From store 1 to store 2?  Are they going to pick up their children?  Whatever their earthly journey, without Christ, they are destined for judgment and hell because their sin is still held against them.  Christ came to put His righteousness to their account by taking their sin.  We do not know where they are going in an earthly sense—but pray that God would put someone in their path to send them on the right path for eternity’s sake.
  3. Residences:  Within a mile radius of our church is 13,000 people—85-90% of whom do not know Christ nor go to a church.  As John Knox aptly replied:  “Give us this or we die!”  We are at 780 E. Arapahoe Road in Centennial, CO for a reason.  God, help us to pour into their lives the love and hope of Christ in a dark and dying world.
  4. The sky:  This is not the end and this is not all.  Past the atmosphere (the first heaven) and outer space (the second heaven) is the abode of God—HEAVEN (the third heaven—see 2 Corinthians 12).  Christ will return for His church.  Are we ready?  Are we getting others ready—desperately telling them the Good News of Christ?  As we see this clear sky, may we also see the clear mandate to GO (Matthew 28:18-20).

Look out your window!

 

What do you see?

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You Say Jesus Never Ministered in Denver—I Beg to Differ

Some say, “Jesus only ministered in a tiny territory in Israel—and the disciples were the one to carry on His name to the ends of the earth.”  In one sense that is true, but in another sense Jesus has ministered all over the world—even in my new home and beloved city of Denver, Colorado.  You didn’t get the memo that He made it?  Think again!

Have you ever been around someone that you’ve taught and taught and taught, and you think they should have it by now—but they just don’t? Maybe your children, whom you’ve told not to do something every day of your life—but they still do it?

Jesus spent time teaching them much, but many of the same truths kept coming to the fore. John MacArthur put it so well: “He is not merely a manifestation of God; He is God manifested. That truth, a constant theme in John’s gospel, is the watershed that divides true from false views of Christ.”

Jesus continues to comfort the disciples—even as he chides them. You had to work hard to seek after the Father. You had to keep the Law of Moses in every point. You had to offer the sacrifices for the forgiveness of the sins of the flesh. Keeping the Law of Moses left many frustrated. They had a significant ladder to climb in order to make it to heaven—and the ladder (the Law of Moses) they kept breaking.

So Jesus pressed the point. Only by me can you get to the Father. Philip ignorantly said, “Show us. That’s all you need to do.” Keep in mind, they had heard his teachings, seen miracles accomplished. Remember what Steven preached on last Sunday?

2 Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers[a] are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. 6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me” (Matthew 11:2-4).

Jesus repeatedly connected Himself with His Father. In fact, John 1:14 says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the ony Son from the Father full of grace and truth.” The whole intent of Christ coming was make the Father known, and in return for the Father to glorify His Son (John 17). How?

By words and by works. His teaching and His doing. His doing validated His teaching. This is nothing new to them:

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father[a] does, that the Son does likewise. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel (John 5:19-20).

So Christ says that He is the only way to the Father. He also says that, if you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father. The Father sent Christ to bring heaven down to earth.

Christ returns to heaven for us to do heavenly works here on earth (John 14:12-14).

The disciples wondered what they would do in the here and now. Jesus is going, but will return at some point. They would be without him. They followed him for 3 ½ years, seeing the works and the words that seemed to either change or harden hearts. He worked with such power. Such purpose! Can you see another layer of trouble needed? This isn’t getting much better. They get that Jesus will be leaving and preparing something great for them in the hereafter—but what about now?

Ever felt unqualified for a job? One time when I was first getting into serious piano playing in college, I tried out for a play that the drama department was doing called No, No, Nanette. If you’re familiar with the song Tea for Two, that’s the musical from which it came.

My job was to be a keyboard player who would provide improvisation and extra filler to help round out the pit band. Kristen Conn was the main piano player—one of the most incredible pianists I’ve ever heard. She was always there to keep it all together—she could look at an orchestral score that had lines for all the instruments and be able to play them all at once and provide all the music from all the parts for rehearsal. Unreal!

One day, she couldn’t make it. So Chuck asked if I could fill in. I played the good sport but at the time, I was way over my head. I tried to help—it hadn’t clicked in yet. Needless to say, we had an incredibly short rehearsal that night.

Jesus had been the foundation for the disciples. His works, His words, His influence—it was amazing to be a part of that ministry and to even be of use. But he would leave—now what? Jesus gives them the answer!

12“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

Again, Jesus says he is going to the Father (v. 12). And because of this, they will do the works that He does—and even greater! Did you catch that? We will do His works! We will do greater works. In what way? We will do what He does in greater scope.

Where did Jesus minister? In a small piece of territory in Israel, with an excursion or two into Samaria. He didn’t journey far. But where did the disciples go? The book of Acts shows that they made it all the way from Israel, through modern day Syria and Turkey, even to Rome. Historians say that Paul could have made it all the way to Spain. Philip influenced and led an Ethiopian to faith. Thomas went to India. Andrew went into the western part of the former Soviet Union and even into modern day Bulgaria. Bartholemew went to India. Jude went into Mesopotamia, near modern-day Iraq and Iran before his execution. John died on the isle of Patmos.

The disciples passed the baton down through the ages. And we have taken that baton. We are in Denver, Colorado. We are doing the works of Him—greater even! How? Jesus never made it physically to Denver! He never made it to our part of the world.

Isn’t that exciting? We will be presenting soon some great things to do for the cause of Christ. Do we realize the greater works He’s called us to? He has called us physical presence with a spiritual purpose.  While Jesus has never been to Denver—Jesus has and is in Denver through His body, the church.  He has not left us alone, but through the Spirit He is still with us to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20).  Whose works are we doing? The one in whom we believe. The only one worth believing!

So would Jesus leave them? Yes! But that’s a good thing! Because Jesus said He would send the Spirit who would teach us all things. Comfort us. Convicting us! But also connecting us to the Father and the Son. So Jesus was leaving them, but he wasn’t leaving them. And He was as close as the mention of his name (v. 14).

7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged (John 16:7-11).

Those who deny that Jesus is the only way believe it will be about their works. But we understand it’s about His exclusive, unique atoning work.

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The Importance of Befriending New Attenders to Your Church

It would be nice to think that your church is full of members who will take the initiative to pursue and nurture friendships with newcomers. The reason this is unlikely, however, is that most people in your church:

● Already have friends, and don’t feel a great desire for more.

● Consider themselves quite busy, with little or no time for additional activities.

● Believe their church is already friendly and it will be easy for newcomers to get connected.

● Are not aware of the importnat need for new members to make friends quickly in their new church.

… The new member who stays beyond the first year has made an average of seven new friends in the church. It is our conviction that the responsibility for initiating and nurturing these new friendships among new members rests primarily with the church. In other words, it is not the responsibility of the newcomer to take the initiative to make friends.

— Gary McIntosh and Charles Arn, What Every Pastor Should Know: 101 Indispensible Rules of Thumb for Leading Your Church, p. 99.

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