Monday, June 26, 2006

A Great Definition of Worship

As promised in my sermon yesterday, here is the quote from William Temple on worship.

“Worship is the submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness; the nourishment of mind with His truth; the purifying of imagination by His Beauty; the opening of the heart to His love; the surrender of will to His purpose – and all of this gathered up in adoration, the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable and therefore the chief remedy for that self-centeredness which is our original sin and the source of all actual sin.”

The quote was taken from Readings in St. John's Gospel.

Feel free to ask questions or make comments on yesterday's sermon. I look forward to the discussion. Also, please note the links I have posted to the right under "Learn about Worship." These are great websites from individuals that share CrossRoad's passion for worship that is theologically sound.

Have a great day.


Friday, June 23, 2006

Raising Children with a Warrior Mentality

My good friend "Dewey" Brandon Wright called me today to discuss the arrest of seven Al Qaeda wannabes in Miami who were plotting to destroy the Sears Tower in Chicago. If you look at the photos of the men, one disturbing fact becomes clear rather quickly: these men were all young adults. Furthermore, the majority were American citizens and committed Muslims. Their goal? To wage jihad in the name of Allah and to "kill as many devils [American Christians] as possible." While this arrest was shocking for a number of reasons, Brandon was right to point out a lesson that should be learned by all evangelicals with regard to raising our children: there is little commitment to the cause of Christ in the church.

If you examine the typical evangelical youth group or parent, you will find that the focus is often on games, activities, daily quiet times, weekly attendance of corporate worship, etc. Education is often viewed (by parents and youth) as a means to an end. "If Johnny does well in these classes, he can get into a good college. If he gets into a good college, he can get a good job. If he gets a good job, he can live happily ever after." Christian education is viewed the same way. "If Johnny knows his Bible and is obedient to its teachings, he will be happier and a better father/husband. He will also stay out of trouble." There is a problem with this approach. Activities and games are nice - but they don't prepare children for the future. All of our chidren need education, but the goal should not be for them to live "happily ever after" or even to stay out of trouble (although we all want that to some degree).

The goal of parents, youth leaders, and pastors should be to train up a future generation of Christian Warriors with the same level of commitment to the cause of Christ that these Al Qaeda wannabes had for Allah, albeit with a different approach. We should be preparing our children to take the world for Christ, to engage the culture with a biblical worldview, and to carry the gospel of Jesus Christ aggressively to every nation of the world. Their weapons will not be bombs, guns, or suicide missions, but rather the gospel and the spiritual gifts with which God has equipped them.

When our children are young, we teach them that they exist for God's glory. Question two of our children's catechism is "Why did God make you? For His own Glory." Every child in our church can answer this question. We need to make sure they can also apply the answer. From the time they are young we need to help them view their future in terms of service to the kingdom of God. This does not mean that we push them all into vocational ministry such as the pastorate. Rather, we encourage our children to evaluate their strengths, weaknesses, and passions in light of God's Word and consider how they may use those gifts of grace to impact the kingdom of Christ.

If children are passionate about animals and want to be a vet, challenge them to go to a third- world country and teach their citizens how to be better farmers while using their expertise as a bridge for proclaiming the gospel. If they want to be doctors, challenge them to not only be the best doctor they can be, but to be a Christian doctor that works to proclaim the sanctity of human life and defend the innocent. If they want to be lawyers, challenge them to defend the rights of Christian students and professors in secular universities and public schools. If they are creative and want to be artists or musicians, challenge them to use those gifts to spread the gospel and teach the world that real beauty is found only in Jesus Christ. If they want to go into business and have an entrepreneurial spirit, challenge them to use those gifts for the kingdom. The world needs more Christian business owners who will bring the ethics of the kingdom to bear upon the world. The world needs more Christian newspaper editors, Christian publishers, Christian politicians, Christian judges, and Christian teachers. The world needs our children to grow up with the heart, knowledge, and desire to affect policy at the highest levels of society. The world also needs Christian engineers, mechanics, welders, construction workers, and yes, even coffee baristas who will view their jobs as opportunities to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who would otherwise not hear.

The world needs more missionaries. Not passive men and women that are afraid of dialogue and confrontation for the sake of the kingdom, but men and women that exude the confidence that comes from the gospel and was modeled by the Apostle Paul's ministry. Consider the words and example of Russell Moore in a blog from June of 2005...
"Why I’m Raising Violent 4 Year-Olds"
"A reader sent along an objection to my mention that I took my two 4 year-old sons to see the new Star Wars movie. The reader is upset because the Star Wars film is “way too violent for children.” Now, I did check out the Star Wars film first. I would not take my children to see Kill Bill or The Silence of the Lambs for instance (nor would I see them myself).

"Nonetheless, this is the second movie my children have ever seen in their lives. One was a tender, touching Christmas movie about a little boy who discovers that Christmas is all about believing in the miracles within. The second was a cartoonishly violent movie in which men go face-to-face with evil aliens; often chopping off limbs in the heat of battle. As I think about my film choices for my children, I will admit that I repent....of taking them to the Christmas film.

"This is because of my overall philosophy of childrearing. I am aiming to raise up violent sons.
I am not seeking to raise sons who are violent in the amoral, pagan sense of contemporary teenagers playing Grand Theft Auto video games or carjacking motorists. I want them to be more violent than that.

"I want them to understand that the Christian life is not a Hallmark Channel version of baptized sentimentality. Instead, it is a cosmic battle between an evil dragon and the child of the woman, an ancient warfare that now includes all who belong to the Child of the Promise (Rev 12). I want them to forgive their enemies, not because they are good boys, but because they understand that vengeance against the Serpent comes not from their hand, but from that of the anointed Warrior-King (Rev 19), whose blood-soaked garments don’t often transfer to the imagery of a Precious Moments wall-hanging. And I want them to exercise self-control of their passions, not because it is polite, but because they are called to struggle against the Evil One, even to the point of cutting off their own limbs rather than succumb to devices.

"The Star Wars movie offered the opportunity to talk through these issues of cosmic struggle with my boys. And to place such themes in context of what they already know from the most blessedly violent bedtime stories they hear every day: the Holy Scriptures."
To that I say "Amen and Amen!"
I look forward to your comments.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Do Dying Infants Go to Heaven?

Last night our men's Discipleship Challenge Group concluded their look at the doctrine of election with a question and answer time. During that discussion (led very well by Pastor Brandon Wright) the question of dying infants was raised. The question specifically related to how the doctrines of election and salvation by grace through faith alone bear on the eternal fate of infants who die.

This question is a great one. Consider the clearly revealed teachings of the New Testament:
1) We are born marked by the stain of original sin (the imputation of Adam's sin).
2) The wages of sin are death and eternal separation from God in Hell, a fate that awaits all who do not receive the benefits of Christ's substitutionary atonement on the cross.
3) Those benefits are received by grace through faith.

In light of the these truths, what happens to an infant who dies? Many wonder how an infant, who by definition cannot have saving faith, could possibly go to heaven? The same question could also be applied to those who are mentally challenged, who never reach the point where they can discern right from wrong or comprehend the gospel.

CrossRoad Church believes that all dying infants go to heaven, but we cannot reach that conclusion because we cannot bear the thought of an infant going to hell. We must consult the Scriptures to see whether or not this is taught. Several years ago, R. Albert Mohler and Daniel Akin co-authored what is the most accurate and succinct article I have ever read on this topic. In the article they deal with the tough question and do an excellent job bringing the Scriptures to bear on those questions. I have included a link below. I invite you to read the article and then return with your questions and comments.

Enjoy your reading: The Salvation of the 'Little Ones': Do Infants who Die Go to Heaven?


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Our Direction as a Church

Over the next few days, we will review the mission and vision for our church. I invite you to review the text below and ask any questions you like about their application in our specific setting of Southern Indiana, specifically Floyd County.

Our Mission Statement (This is why we exist - our purpose)
“Crossroad Church exists to glorify God by making disciples.”

CrossRoad Vision Statement (This is how we hope to accomplish our purpose).In submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and his Great Commission imperative, we as members of Crossroad Church share the following vision, expressed in the seven core commitments of our fellowship:

CrossRoad Church is committed to expository preaching. As a church, we absoultely are committed to the inerrancy of Scripture and affirm the words of the Apostle Paul who taught that all Scripture is “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3.16-17). We will develop a preaching and teaching ministry based on the historical, grammatical, and Spirit guided study of the Scriptures in their context, with an eye toward contemporary application. We are committed to expository preaching which seeks to honor the authorial intent of every passage of Scripture.
CrossRoad Church is committed to aggressive evangelism. In order to participate in the fulfillment of the Great Commission, we intentionally will seek to proclaim the gospel throughout Floyd County, southern Indiana, and the entire world, so that God might glorify himself by drawing lost sinners to faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. This evangelism will take place through:
o Intentional evangelization strategies directed toward the unchurched members of our community.
o Service ministries intended to address felt needs (counseling, literacy programs, family coaches, etc.) in order to build relationships that afford us the opportunity to proclaim the gospel to those who would otherwise not hear.
o Church planting as a means of evangelism. We will seek to plant other churches in Southern Indiana for the sake of reaching as many people as possible with the gospel.

CrossRoad Church is committed to equipping all believers. We will develop an environment in which all believers are fully equipped for the work of ministry with the goal that every person in the church will be presented complete in Christ. Such training will include, but not be limited to, discipleship in the areas of:
o Baptistic Doctrine – CrossRoad Church is a Baptist church, which, by conviction, is committed to historic Baptist distinctives. Accordingly, we will labor to insure that all of our members are trained in sound doctrine.
o Personal Bible study – all members should be able to nourish themselves spiritually through proper study of the Word of God.
o Personal Evangelism – All Christians are called to participate in the fulfillment of the Great Commission of Jesus Christ, therefore all members should be equipped to share their faith (1 Peter 3.15).
o Servant Leadership – Our goal as a fellowship is for every member to reproduce themselves in the lives of others (following Christ’s model of duplication and discipleship). We will therefore approach discipleship with that goal in mind.
o Christian Parenting – Given that we live in a society that is growing in both its opposition to the traditional family revealed in Scripture and its dysfunction as a result of its ignorance of Scripture, CrossRoad Church will make it a priority to equip parents to raise their children in the nurture and the admonition of the Lord.
o Christian Stewardship – We will be a church in which all members are taught the basic principles of good Christian stewardship and are expected to employ them. We will commit our time, talents, spiritual gifts, and financial resources to the church and the mission of Christ.
o Vocational training and mentoring for future ministers of the gospel – As a part of our discipleship ministry, CrossRoad Church will partner with students of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary to help provide mentoring and equipping opportunities for those called to vocational ministry.

CrossRoad Church is committed to engaging worship in spirit and truth. We will strive for excellence in every aspect of our private and corporate worship. Our worship leaders will teach members to seek to glorify God in every aspect of their lives – a life of worship. While our corporate worship experiences will be designed to be understood by unbelievers, its primary purpose will be to lead believers to encounter the living God of the Bible.
CrossRoad Church is committed to the ministry of prayer. As an affirmation in our firm belief in the sovereignty of God over all areas of life, a significant portion of our corporate gatherings will be devoted to a ministry of prayer that is based upon the Word of God.
CrossRoad Church is committed to authentic fellowship. As a church, we will teach and model mutual accountability and support among the membership. We will help each other bear our burdens (Gal. 6.2) through prayer, friendship, encouragement, material resources, and where necessary, loving church discipline.
CrossRoad Church is committed to cultural engagement. We believe that the church stands in continuity with the people of God in the Old Testament and as such, the cultural mandate should apply to our ministerial objectives. As a result, we will work to engage the culture with a biblical worldview as God presents our fellowship with opportunities to do so. We will seek to infiltrate and change our culture by living as salt and light in obedience to the Sermon on the Mount.

Above all we pray that God would glorify Himself by using CrossRoad Church to bring revival to Southern Indiana.

I look forward to your comments.


Friday, June 09, 2006

What is a Mature Christian?

Earlier this week we discussed the importance of discipleship in the church. In the post I clarified what should be a primary aim of all churches: to help all Christians grow in to spiritual maturity. That post, however, begged a very serious question: what is a spiritually mature Christian? Do we judge spiritual maturity by knowledge of the Scriptures, length of time a person has been a Christian, Christlike character, or offices held in the church? Is it even possible to judge whether or not someone is a mature Christian?

The answer to the last question will help us answer the previous questions. Yes, it is possible to judge whether or not someone is a mature Christian. In fact in several passages of Scripture, we are commanded to do so. Scripture is clear that we are to carefully examine prospectve candidates for the positions of pastor/elder, deacon, and teacher in the church. When those passages are considered, three primary areas of measurement are provided.

First is chronology. An example of time's importance can be found in 1 Timothy. When Paul advised Timothy about pastor/elder selection, he stated that the candidate should not be a recent convert, because a recent convert would not be mature enough for the position. These qualifications (with the exception of ability to teach) are not unique to pastors. Men were to be selected that exemplified Christian ideals for the rest of the church, so we can learn a universal truth from this passage. The emphasis on time does not mean that everyone who has been a Christian for twenty years is mature. It merely reminds us that we do not mature as Christians over night. It takes time to grow in grace. Sanctification is both instantaneous and progressive for the Christian. That is, there is a sense in which we are "set apart" for God's purposes at the time we are saved (instant). The Christian also grows in sanctification over time. As individuals grow in their relationship with Christ, they are increasingly set apart (intentional split infinitive for you grammar nazis) for God's purposes. This reality is accomplished in two ways. First, as we grow in both our understanding of what God desires for us and our obedience to those desires we mature. Second, as we encounter trials in life and persevere through them we mature (See James 1). Just because one has been a Christian for a long time does not imply that they are spiritually mature. This short statement by Paul just reminds us that growth takes time. If you are a young Christian struggling in your walk with God, just continue to invest yourself in the practice of the spiritual disciplines and persevere through hardship. Growth will come.

A second area of measurement when considering the question of spiritual maturity is knowledge of the Scriptures. We must be careful when we discuss this topic. Scripture does not teach that knowledge of God's Word is equivalent to spiritual maturity. In fact, the New Testament is replete with examples of of men who knew the Scriptures well but were, in fact, a long way from a close relationship with God. One need only read Jesus' numerous critiques of the Pharisees to see that knowledge does not equal maturity. The fact that someone can know the Scriptures and not be mature does not alleviate the importance of learning the Scriptures. The Word of God is central to our growth as Christians (Romans 12.1-2; Colossians 1.25-29, etc). We must grow in our knowledge of God's Word, but we must resist the temptation to become Pharisaical in our approach to such knowledge. This last statement leads us to the third are of measurement when considering the question of spiritual maturity.

The third area of measurement is spiritual fruit. Jesus taught us that we would be able to tell the genuine from the counterfeit by spiritual fruit (Matthew 7). Jesus taught that someone that does not produce Christlike fruit is not a Christian! Spiritual fruit is produced over time as the Word of God is learned, applied, and internalized by those that have been redeemed. This reality is what separates the Pharisee from the mature Christian. Both have knowledge of the Word of God, but the mature Christian has internalized it and begun to produce the fruit of a Christlike character: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5.22-23). These character qualities are not the only ones mentioned as spiritual fruit in the New Testament, but they definitely give us a head start in developing an understanding of what fruit looks like. If we were going to try to visualize what the process looks like, we can imagine an equation:

Knowledge of God's Word + Internalization + Obedience + Time and Trials = Spiritual Maturity (The production of spiritual fruit).

Now I know the equation is not perfect, but it does provide a little help for someone that may not have considered previously the question of spiritual maturity and growth. One last note, although we are required to study and obey and to place ourselves in a position to grow spiritually, ultimately spiritual growth is grace gift from God. We will not all grow at the same rate or in the same way. God is sovereign and He will graciously decide how He will bless in accordance with our obedience to His commands.

What do you think? Have I missed anything? I have tried to keep the post short, so I could not go into as much depth as I would have liked. Has this post raised any questions you would like answered? Feel free to ask. I look forward to the discussion.


Tuesday, June 06, 2006

No Child of God Left Behind

You are probably familiar with the education initiative that President Bush helped enact for public schools: No Child Left Behind. The premise of the initiative was that too many children were falling through the cracks of our schools and were not being prepared to contribute to life in American society. Whether or not the program is working is a topic for another post. Bush's assessment of the state of public education was correct.
In my small group this past week, we studied a passage of Scripture that reminded me of the sad state of affairs in many Southern Baptist Churches, the first chapter of Paul's letter to the Colossian Church. Paul wrote in Colossians 1.25-29:

I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you
the word of God in its fullness--the mystery that has been kept hidden for
ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. To them God
has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this
mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim him,
admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present
everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his
energy, which so powerfully works in me.
Paul's goal for the Colossian church was to admonish and to teach the whole counsel of God so that everyone would be presented perfect (spiritually mature) in Christ. In other words, Paul was adamant that no one would be left behind in his effort to disciple the Christians in this church. By implication (from this text and a host of others) we can conclude that God desires every Christian in every church to grow into spiritual maturity. At a time when approximately 50% of Southern Baptists do not even attend corporate worship on a weekly basis (the numbers don't lie - attendance in worship is usually around half the total membership on any given Sunday across our convention), it is obvious that we are a long way from accomplishing the goal Paul elucidated in this passage of Scripture.

If that is God's desire that every Christian should grow in to spiritual maturity, then it should be the desire of every church. That includes CrossRoad Church. That is why CrossRoad Church took the radical step of requiring every member to participate in a discipleship program when we launched as a church in September of 2005. We want every member to grow into spiritually strong, mature disciples of Jesus Christ. Spiritual growth does not happen by osmosis. It happens as the Spirit works through the Word of God when it is preached, taught, studied, and applied. You will not grow if you are not studying the Word of God, hence the requirement for membership. We want all of our members to be growing Christians.

I have counseled a few prospective members that initially were a little intimidated by CrossRoad's membership expectations. "Aren't your requirements a bit extreme?" We don't think they are. First, we do not have a Sunday evening corporate gathering, because we do not want to overwhelm our members with "meetings." Second, what is extreme about expecting all of our members to grow in Christ's likeness? If you do not want to grow, our church probably is not the best fit for you. "What if I don't have time to participate in a discipleship program?" If you do not have time to grow in Christ, practice the spiritual disciplines, and meet with your brothers and sisters in Christ then you are too busy. We understand, however, that sometimes our schedules providentially hinder us from participating in the discipleship programs of the church. That is why all of our pastors are available for one-on-one discipleship. If you cannot attend at one of the set times we have established, we will rearrange our schedule to fit yours! "Can't I grow sufficiently in your corporate worship service?" That is a great question. As much as I would like to think that my preaching satisfies all of your spiritual needs each Sunday morning, I know that that is not the case. We all need to participate in a small group environment in which we will be able to ask questions about specific issues. Those opportunities just are not provided in a large group setting such as corporate worship. Additionally, you will never get to know your fellow church members well enough to encourage them and receive encouragement from them if your only exposure to the church is on Sunday mornings.

So now you know one of the reasons why CrossRoad Church approaches membership the way it does. Our goal is "No Child of God Left Behind."

What do you think? Did I miss something? Still disagree with our approach? We have several members that have been involved in discipleship groups for close to a year now. We would love to hear what YOU think about our efforts to help you grow in Christ's likeness. I look forward to the discussion.


Friday, June 02, 2006

A Word About Gossip, Part II

Last week, I posted a brief article about gossip with the intent of providing a definition for our readers/church members that would help them distinguish between what is acceptable in our speech/actions and what is unacceptable. In that article I promised to provide some biblical guidance about wholesome speech. Although this list is by no means exhaustive, I hope it proves helpful.

Characteristics of Godly Speech

Godly speech should be truthful. Ephesians 4:25 reminds us that we are to "put off falsehood and speak truthfully to [our] neighbor, for we are all members of one body." To save space, I contemplated leaving this first characteristic off the list. Afterall, we all know that God expects us to speak the truth don't we? Yes, truthfulness would seem to be an obvious choice, but given the age of relativistic morality in which we live, it helps to have a reminder of the importance of truth. Godly speech does not lie - either about someone or to someone.

Godly speech should be loving. Scripture not only compels us to speak the truth, but to speak to the truth in love (Eh 4.15). Truth by itself can be caustic. It must be tempered with love. For example, we have experience times in church life when a well-meaning but misguided young Christian embarked on a ministry assignment in a less than ideal manner (think of a new Christian woman working as a greeter that has dressed inappropriately). There are three ways to handle that situation. We can ignore it and say nothing. This response actually fails the young Christian because it is a failure to disciple the person and teach all that Jesus commanded. Second, we could walk right up and address the issue in a cold, heartless manner. This would qualify as speaking the truth, but it would be done in a way that would probably create discouragement and hesitancy in future ministry. That would be the truth without love. The third response, would be to gently sit that person down, away from the situation, and lovingly explain what was wrong and how they might do it right in the future.

Godly speech should be edifying. I have already alluded to this point in the previous paragraph, but it deserves additional focus. Paul's letter to the Ephesians provides additional guidance on this topic. In 4.29, Paul wrote, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." Later he would say, "Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving (5.4)" The point is clear. Godly speech builds others up; it edifies. If you are concerned about whether or not something qualifies as gossip or godly speech, just ask whether or not you think it will build someone else up in the Lord.

Godly speech should be encouraging. Encouragement should actually be a goal of our speech! It is one of the primary reasons I established this blog. I wanted to encourage our members as they continued to grow in their understanding of what it means to be an authentic family of faith! In Hebrews 10, the author of that text commands his readers to "consider how [they] may spur one another on toward love and good deeds," and again says "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-- and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Encouragement and edification are related, but they are not the same. It is possible to edify someone by teaching them what is correct or appropriate, but to do so in a way that does not inspire them to greater service in the church. Scripture actually compels us to encourage one another to love and good deeds.

So when we are faced with a question of whether or not my speech is appropriate, I have to ask myself, "Will this encourage the person I am speaking with to greater use of their giftedness in the kingdom?" Don't misunderstand me here, this last characteristic does not mean we should all turn into Christian versions of Stuart Smalley: "I'm OK, you're OK, and doggone it, people like us!" It does mean, however, that we keep our goal in mind when we speak. Even a rebuke for a public sin should be given with the intent of drawing (and encouraging) that person to forsake their sin and return to the fold of God's fellowship from which he or she has strayed. The goal is to produce repentance, reconciliation, and eventual restoration, not to publicly lambaste them and make them think God or the church will not have them back.

Well there you have it. Four short guidelines for godly speech. What do you think? Did I miss something? Was there a stronger passage of Scripture I could of included?

I look forward to joining you in the discussion.