A wife watches a cheesy, action movie with her husband.
A husband goes on a walk with his wife at the end of a busy day.
And on and on. What do all of these have in common? They are examples of showing love by enjoying something that another person loves. Oh, the sister, the wife, and the husband may very well enjoy Barbies, actions movies, and walks, but in these instances, they are playing, watching, and walking purely to show love.
What the other person values, they will value, because that is loving as they want to be loved.
This is not an easy skill to learn. Many a child, and even adult, have said, “I don’t care about that. I don’t want to do it.” And that may be true. People we love have interests that we don’t have. But nothing shows love to another like spending time doing what the other wants to do.
It is a skill long lost.
It is a passion that needs to be revived.
At first, it is discipline.
In the long run, it is an act of love.
How can you love what someone else loves today to show them you care?
Your joyful presence will say more than many words.
This is our second post of worship observations. You can find our first here. This week, we talk about when things don’t go well – a common challenge for young churches.
At Evident Grace, we have been meeting for a year and a half. For church planters and church plants, a year and a half feels like five regular years. Each Sunday, you feel like you are taking giant leaps forward as you become more efficient in everything from setup/takedown, greeting, music, children’s ministry, etc.
And then there are the Sundays where you feel like you take giant steps back. It feels like you have never met for worship before. No one seems to get anything right.
Here is my encouragement, fellow planters and young churches: While each good Sunday feels like five years ahead, an off Sunday is not a five year setback. Let me give a painful example.
This past Sunday, we were launching a new series, “Journey to Worship – a Study of Ezra”. Excitement built fairly well, and several folks joined in to help with a decent amount of web/social media promotion. While I am given to hyperbole like many church planters, I could realistically say that folks were pretty excited.
But things didn’t go as planned.
For some reason, from the onset, I stumbled over my words. Apparently, I said that, “Christ was circumcised for our sins.” While true in one sense that was far away from my wanting to say that He was crucified for our sins.
I was leading our music as well. Leading a crowd in singing is something that I have comfortably done for over 25 years now, but apparently, comfortable was not yesterday. I couldn’t get into a groove no matter what. In fact, the team finally stopped one song and just began again.
My sermon was never was comfortable either. I felt rushed. I felt the need to over-explain everything, and I continually lost the ability to pronounce most every world.
We made plans to take the Lord’s Supper, but our elder wasn’t able to make it, so the elements remained lonely on the table – something we had to explain to our congregations and visitors.
I left assured that no one was ever going to show up ever again.
But here is the encouragement to my heart and to yours, young planter and young congregation. Our worship is not about professionalism and perfection. While starting songs together and ending them together is preferable, while a commanding sermon delivery is helpful, neither of those are necessary for worship. Worship must always be about grace. Worship must always be about the lifting up of Christ. Grace and Christ equal worship. Preciseness is a bonus.
Yes, you seek to improve in every area. You learn from things that go both well and poorly. You practice and study more. You offer areas that continue to struggle to God in prayer. And then you give thanks for what happens.
So, this week, we will work towards getting the songs right and pronouncing the words correctly knowing that Christ will once again meet us on Sunday. If we make mistakes, we haven’t stepped back five years.
Christ will be lifted up, Christ will be honored, and we will be transformed. We will wait for eternity for mistake free worship.
Sunday, August 3rd, will be the final worship service for Sovereign King Church in Garner, NC.
Much like many of you, I wept when I heard the news.
Unfortunately, ministries, churches, and pastors come and go. As one friend reminded me, “Everything in this world has a lifespan.” And though death, endings, and even graduations are something we grow comfortable with, they are never pain-free. While numbers vary, some estimate that between 3,000 and 4,000 churches close their doors each year. The question I wrestle with (and I imagine others do as well) is, “How is the death of a church redeemed?”
Towards that end, individual stories make up the end of a church. This is my portion of SK’s.
Redeemer Church and Eastern Carolina Presbytery sent me and my family to Garner in 2005 with the commission of an evangelist to do what is called scratch planting. Scratch planting, also known as parachute planting, is when you move onto the field without anyone previously committing to help start a church. You start from scratch after you parachute onto the field.
We launched quickly with coffee shop bible studies, blogging, and community service. Soon, we gathered 20 or so people together and huddled with Christ our Comfort, PCA (now Christ the King) as they replanted. The 40 to 50 of us gathered each week in the old YMCA building (also now non-existent) on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh, NC. Eventually from those humble beginnings, SK grew to a consistent 70-80 in worship with vibrant chaplain ministries to the police and EMS in addition to service ministries to a local women’s shelter.
In hearing that, one might ask, “Well, what happened?”
There is no scandalous story here. There is no corrupt tale of money-laundering or sordid affairs. It appears that through God’s providence, things have just come to an end. People moved on to new jobs. Some preferred a different music style. Vibrancy of ministries became lukewarm. Things just came to an end.
I can’t speak to the philosophy of ministry presently at SK as I left to plant Evident Grace Fellowship in Spotsylvania, Va. nearly two years ago, but I know that their pastor, their elders, their families, and all the congregation have been faithful. Perhaps, and hopefully, many of them will add their voice of thanks to what has God has done in Garner through Sovereign King because there is so much to celebrate…
Relationships with Christ deepened.
The homeless found Christ, education, employment, and even marriage.
Broken marriages were restored.
A young man and his family suffered a tragic car crash and were loved and served.
Police officers came to know Christ.
Children in the church made professions of faith and took their first Lords Suppers.
And most significantly, the saving faith of Jesus Christ was raised and defended in the marketplace of ideas in that small town.
This apparent death is not a useless, hallow shoveling of dirt on the casket of yet another church. In Christ, all death is redeemed. Some of those redemptions may not be seen immediately, but in God’s grace, many of them will be apparent (even in this lifetime).
I’ve been a pastor in some sense for over 10 years now. Redeemer Church sent me out to plant Sovereign King. I left Sovereign King to plant Evident Grace. Most of our children will leave their home church to prayerfully worship and work at another when they become adults.
The death of Christ and His glorious resurrection mean that the curse of death and ending is redeemed with continuity and eternity.
While SK won’t be gathering in its present form each Sunday in Garner, the pastor, elders, and members will be sent as missionaries to points on the compass that aren’t even known at this point. And that truly is the hope of this applied resurrection. As another friend reminded me, the worship of Jesus is never restricted to a specific address. Out of the death of this church, countless others will arise, and Christ will be glorified…now in even more places each Sunday.
In death, it is right to mourn, but that mourning is not pointless, nor is it morose. It need not be comforted with platitudes and moronic, thoughtless expressions. Christ is risen, and His church and His people are risen with Him. His fame goes forward.
God did so much for His glory in His people’s heart and in the town of Garner. He still will beyond SK. His name is forever praised in the heart of many, and the legacy of Sovereign King is one drenched in the hopeful Gospel of Jesus resurrection.
I hope other people add to this story. So much needs to be shared and even learned from it because where Christ is lifted up, you will find His people. Where you find His people, you will find the hope of the resurrection. Those stories deserve to be told.
And I can’t wait to learn what happens next.
Thank you for the incredible response. Now, you can purchase the limited edition, two-in-one “I am my father’s son” and “Bedside: A Memoir of Care” hardback in honor of Thom and Ann Duncan just by clicking the button below or the photo to your right. Thanks.
I’m thankful that I know a bunch of Godly, Gospel-grounded, and bright pastors. I also have the privilege of bumping into some incredibly wise and astute folks in my congregation and in the day to day. You guys have a lot to say, but beyond Facebook, Twitter, and blogs, very few people get to hear your wisdom.
Since, I have been publishing for the last year or two, I wanted to encourage and enable lots of folks to join me in writing and publishing beyond social media.
Don’t get me wrong; social media is strong, but the larger population often misses out on your practical wisdom because of their lack of access to it.
To bridge the gap, I’ve published a little $.99 book, 5 Steps to Publishing Your Own Books.
The goal is to encourage and promote my wise and gifted friends to begin publishing books easily and more often. This book will walk you through how you can go from manuscript to publication to promotion. And as you do, lots of folks (including me) will benefit from your efforts.
You can find 5 Steps in two formats:
Why Another Book about Men, Elders, and Leadership – AKA The Genesis of “Is a Good Man Hard to Find?”
The genesis of “Is a Good Man Hard to Find?” came about in 2009 as I was preaching a series of sermons about the qualifications of an officer. SK Church was preparing to nominate, and I was preparing to train men from among the congregation to become elders in the church.
By the end of 2010, elders were installed, and throughout 2011 – 2013, I transitioned from being a solo church planter to leading a session of elders. In every way, I moved from the theoretical to the practical.
All along the way, I discovered deficiencies in my own leadership, gaps in my convictions, and perceived desires of doing it differently the next time. God’s grace shown through, the church continued to grow, and my thoughts progressed.
By the end of 2012, I was transitioning from SK to plant Evident Grace Fellowship in Fredericksburg, VA. My thoughts covered everything from building up the men in my future church, sharing mission and vision with families, and starting the process of training officers again.
I realized that the hopes within the Biblical qualifications for officers in the Bible were actually the hopes that should be instilled and developed within every man in the church. So, my mind returned to the series in 2010. By December of 2012, I had developed those sermons into a draft, and in the past three months, they have been edited again into “Is a Good Man Hard to Find?”.
My hopes in publishing this book is that God will use it to encourage families, develops men’s programs, and enable pastors to train and install Godly officers. High hopes indeed, but they are no less than what God promises in the scriptures. In all humility, I pray that God brings those hopes to fruition.
You can find “Is a Good Man Hard to Find?” in several different formats.
Why another book about men, Godly men, training Godly men, elders, and all of that stuff? The simple answer for another book is that we need to keep looking at the scriptures, looking at what we’ve done (and not done), asking good questions, and then we need to look at the scriptures again.
And hopefully, in the process, we will see Godly men grow, be raised up, and reproduce themselves for the church, for the good of everyone involved, and ultimately to the glory of God.
This book is a humble attempt at just those things. Available July 9th everywhere, “Is a Good Man Hard to Find?” hopes to be an honest confession and guidebook to help us get there.
The cover art was designed by the ridiculously talented Jay Holmes, and any errors within are mine. I’ve included the Introduction below to give you an idea of where things may go. Thanks for considering this.
I’ve been through leadership training in a bunch of different arenas. I’ve been to public school teacher training. I’ve been to sales meetings. When I managed an eye doctors’ office, I went to the optometric national conference every year. As a seminary student, I was trained to death.
In the church, I was trained to be a lay ruling elder and a pastor teaching elder. All of those involved tests, both written and oral. Once I became a church planter, I was entrusted with the task of training elders and deacons.
I don’t tell you all of that to say that I know what I’m doing. I tell you because at this point and time, I wonder if any of us do.
But this book is my attempt to explain things as I see it, and I hope that it will be of some benefit to you, to my church, and to the larger church nationwide. You see, throughout pastor training (both for me and to others), I’ve noticed a couple of temptations:
Churches often ordain influential, successful men thinking that their earthly success and wisdom will result in spiritual success and wisdom. That’s possible, but it doesn’t always work out.
Another temptation is to completely focus on doctrine thinking that a right thinking man is a Godly leader and shepherd. That is possible, but that is not always the case (and it doesn’t always work out well).
Sometimes elders and leaders move from one city to another and think that they should already be made leaders in any new church that they attend. Again, it might work out, but that kind of assumption doesn’t take into account context or mission.
So what do we do? What do we emphasize while seeking to be fiercely biblical?
Well, in my humble opinion, I would suggest three essential qualities and one really strong recommendation in a Godly elder. Now, let me say this. These should be qualities that every Godly man aspires to, so they should apply to deacons, leaders, and men in general, but this book’s emphasis is on elders.
First, that man must have a personal holiness that enables him to lead his family in a self-sacrificing manner like Christ led the church. We will call that Home Life.
Secondly, that man must have a firm and deep theology that is consistent with the body to which he hopes to lead. We will call that Thought Life.
Thirdly, that man must have the ability to perform the office to which he aspires. If he seeks to be an elder, he must be able to shepherd. If he seeks to be a deacon, he must be able to serve. We will call that Church Life.
And finally, I would suggest from both practical and Biblical example that that man should have non-wavering agreement with the specific mission of that church. We will call that Community Life.
To get us there with these thoughts, we look at the biblical qualifications of a leader in scriptures. Those qualifications will expound on the ideas surrounding our first two qualities (Home Life and Thought Life). Then we will look at the ability to shepherd (Church Life), and then we will conclude by discussing the mission of the church (Community Life).
Hopefully, in the end, we will all walk away with Godly men who lead their families well, have a firm and consistent theology, who own the mission of their church, and have the ability to live out the office to which they take vows.
Thanks for taking the time to even consider these things.
At Evident Grace, we create a unique children’s bulletin customized to each service and sermon so that our younger children can track along with what we are talking about each Sunday. And as some of our kids get older, they can do those bulletins quickly and then they must begin learning how to take in the sermons as a maturing believers in Jesus.
When it comes to taking notes, everybody has their own system. There isn’t one fool-proof way to digest what is being talked about. My good friend, Jonathan Grauel sketches his notes into beautiful works of art. My wife, Amy’s notes are quotes and observations written in various sizes and on various areas of the paper in a way that enables her to remember better.
My form is pretty boring. I write down what I hear and casually make observations. The good thing is that there is no right or wrong way to note taking. What works, works.
Recently, my daughter, Meredith, has developed her method as well. It involves pictures, writing in 3-D, and creating ways in which she can emphasize what she is learning. She uses different colored markers to make her the notes her own, and when I talk to her about her the sermon, I can tell she is learning and taking in lots of good stuff.
Landry, my second of three daughters, wanted to understand what Meredith was doing, so graciously, Meredith created a template so that Landry could begin to take notes and understand more of the sermon herself.
I can’t tell you how excited I was when I found out all of that was going on. So this past Sunday, I asked Landry to give me examples of her notes. In Landry fashion, she has taken in the guidance of Meredith and made the process her own. Even my youngest daughter, Emma, is beginning to tinker with note taking. I couldn’t be happier.
The big takeaway for me is that I need to be more actively mindful when I’m listening to sermons, teaching, or instruction. I don’t remember everything like I used to, so actively engaging the sermon would be a good idea for me. I won’t be able to be as creative as all you see above, but I do hope to recreate a more active participation in what I’m learning.
In the Book of Acts, we receive a sense of what a vibrant church community looks like. In looking at this passage, we get a sense of what a new church might strive for. Please take a moment and read Acts 2.
Acts 2:42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
To help us understand this passage, let’s answer a few questions:
How was the early church’s Fellowship described? They were devoted to the fellowship of the church. They were bound together by having Christ in common. They were willing to make personal sacrifice to meet other’s needs. They ate meals in each other’s homes. And God grew them in number.
How was the early church’s Worship described? They were devoted to the Apostle’s teaching, the Lord’s Supper, and prayer. God answered their prayers and did great things among them. They met together often for worship and praised God.
How was the early church’s Service described? They gave generously at their own personal expense to meet the needs of any that came to them. Their worship, fellowship, and service earned them a good and Godly reputation even among those who did not believe in Jesus, and God blessed their service with the fruit of seeing many people come to know Christ.
How would our Fellowship be described? To reflect the early church’s Biblical example of fellowship, we would need to cultivate vibrant home communities that extend the fellowship of our Sunday worship into the homes of our members. These communities would be both formal in announced gatherings and hopefully informal in reflection of a desire to be among one another. Here the needs of the gathering are shared, addressed with Gospel hope, and met with practical and spiritual support.
How would our Worship be described? To reflect the early church’s Biblical example of worship, we too would devote ourselves to being people of the Apostles teachings desiring to make sure that every thought, word, and deed of worship be Biblically faithful. Our services prior to, during, and even afterwards would bathed in prayer for God’s glory and our transformation. We would celebrate the Lord’s supper each Sunday and ask that God would be evident among us in both our great petitions to Him and His great blessings poured out to us. Our music would seek to glorify God by celebrating that He has worked with His people for many ages now, so our music would honor the past while representing the present.
How would our Service be described? To reflect the early church’s Biblical example of worship, we too would give generously at our own expense to insure that none among went with unmet needs. We would extend this service in acts of mercy to the community around us as a demonstration of the Gospel so that God would be glorified in our service to others in hopes that He might be pleased by our name in the community. Our service is not a growth plan, but we do desire for many people to come to know Christ and added to our number by the testimony of Christ represented in our service.
Join us as we pray that God might do these things among us in the Spotsylvania Massaponax area. If you would like to know more about New Spotsylvania Church, feel free to join our Facebook group or contact Gordon Duncan at email@example.com or call him at 919-412-8161.
When you get a promotion…
When you sell your house…
When you solve a problem at work…
When your child gets good grades…
When you achieve your time running in a 5k…
When you find $20 in old pair of pants…
When you wake up from a good night’s sleep…
When you fall in love…
When you get pregnant…
What goes through your head and heart? You really only have a few options.
Impersonal randomness caused these things.
Other people caused these things.
You caused these things.
Or God caused these things.
When the absolute worst happens, what kind of thoughts go through your head and heart then?
When you get sick…
When you lose a loved one…
When you lose a job…
When you bounce a check…
When you can’t achieve your run time in a 5k…
When you couldn’t get a good night’s sleep if you had to…
When you can’t solve a problem at work…
What goes through your head and heart? You really only have a few options.
Impersonal randomness caused these things.
Other people caused these things.
You caused these things.
Or God caused these things.
Typically, if you have faith in God, when things go well, you want to thank Him. We say, “Thank you God for giving me this raise,” or “Thank you God for letting that officer not give me a ticket.” But when things go poorly, well that’s a different story.
We might yell at God, “Why did you cause this to happen?”
We might yell, “Why didn’t you stop this?”
Maybe we blame ourselves for making a mistake.
Maybe we blame someone else or some impersonal force in the universe.
The million dollar question though is, “Can you rise up and call God blessed and thank Him for every and any circumstance in your life whether good or bad?”
These and other thoughts are pursued in “Joy in Trials”. These meditations from the Book of Ruth are intended to strengthen our love and faith in God…no matter what.