Archive for February 6th, 2008

In this episode I interview Brandon Piety from XXXChurch about their ministry and the work they do.

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Last Sunday my family and I attended a United Methodist Church in a nearby community. My grandmother attended this Church up until her death in 1995.

The Church is pastored by a retired couple in their 70’s. The wife does most of the preaching and she preached the Sunday we visited.

The only children in the Church were my own! There were 4 or 5 people under the age of 50, but everyone else was retirement age and older. Most were women. My wife commented that this Church was a good example of the fact that women live longer than men.

Much of the discussion on the Internet relating to the Church and ministry focuses on young adults and youth. Few would disagree that the emerging Church movement is primarily a young adult movement. Emergents like me, at age 50, are the exception rather than the rule.

How do we bring the declining, dying Methodist Church and the youth, young adult oriented Church together?  Is it even possible?

Is this divide really all about music? Or is it more than that?

The Methodist Church  we visited must bear the responsibility for losing two whole generations  of members. Where did they go?

There is an immaturity present in some youth/young adult oriented Churches. They surely would benefit from having some gray haired, old geezers around.  These battle scarred warriors of life still have a part to play in God’s Kingdom.

The American Church is often divided by age. Many Churches now have separate services, with each service catering to the "needs" of that particular group of congregants. Different strokes for different folks. Is this "good" for the Church? Does it build Church unity? Surely, each generation has something to offer the other?

What are your thoughts?

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Mark Dever spoke recently to the Acts 29 church planting network:

Our differences are enough to separate some of my friends — your brothers and sisters in Christ — from you. And perhaps to separate them from me, now that I’m publicly speaking to you. And I don’t want to minimize either the sincerity or the seriousness of some of their concerns (things like: humor, worldliness, pragmatism, authority).

But I perceive some things in common which outweigh our differences — which the Lord Jesus shall soon enough compose between us, either by our maturing, or by His bringing us home. I long to work with those, and count it a privilege to work with those whom My Savior has purchased with His blood, and with whom I share the gospel of Jesus Christ. I perceive that we have in common the knowledge that God is glorified in sinners being reconciled to Him through Christ. This is not taught by other religions, nor clearly by the ancient Christian churches of the East, or by Rome, by liberal Protestant churches, by Mormons, the churches of Christ, or by groups of self-righteous, legalistic, moralistic Christians. And not only do we together affirm the exclusivity of salvation through faith alone in Christ alone — we agree on the sovereignty of God in life and salvation, the regenerate nature of church members, the importance of church membership and discipline, the priorities of expositional preaching, and evangelism, the importance of authority and a growing appreciation for the significance of complementarianism. These are not slight matters. And they only fire my desire to encourage you and cheer you on, until you cross that finish line that the Lord lays down for us.

Nothing really to add to that.

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 “Hey, ya know you have dirt on your face?” I felt sorry for her, having to endure the good, if not highly repetitive intensions, of those in line. I wonder how many times she heard that on that Ash Wednesday?

For all its conservative Bible-believing strengths, one of the greatest weaknesses of our Low Church-Evangelical-Nondenominational system is our lack of ceremony, our lack of tradition, our lack of praxis that bonds us with believers across space and time. The High Church on the other hand, they know how to do tradition, they have the ceremony thing down pat. Maybe you grew up with the terms like I did: “Ash Wednesday,” and “Lent,” and of course, “Giving something up for Lent.” In my house my father always suggested I give up television for forty days, I always countered with an offer to give up practicing the piano. It was our annual stalemate. On the other hand, maybe these terms are as foreign to you as the ash smudge was to those Good Samaritans in line.

“Lent” is the forty days leading up to Easter. The word itself simply means “Spring” and finds its etymology in some Teutonic phrase for lengthening days. There was a time when the forty days were called “Quadragesima” (forty-days); but fortunately, “Lent” won out. “Ash Wednesday” is the first day of Lent. Now, if you are astute – or really bored – and you do the math, you’ll find there are 47 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. For some reason the Sundays don’t count, subtracting them out gives you forty days. These forty days have the obvious parallel with Christ’s time in the wilderness – hence the idea of fasting, or giving something up. It also finds a parallel with Israel’s wondering wilderness – it is a time of preparation and repentance.

Lent is probably the oldest tradition in the Christian calendar. The Council of Nicea (A.D. 325) noted that two provincial synods should be held each year, “one before the 40 days of Lent.” Athanasius (d. 373) in his “Festal Letters” implored his congregation to make a 40-day fast prior to a more intense fasting of Holy Week. So the forty days before Easter were a “special time” as far back as the 4th Century. Gregory the Great, who is regarded as the father of the Medieval Papacy, is credited with the ceremony that gave Ash Wednesday its name. Some time in the late 6th Century the Church started marking the foreheads of Christians as they came to their churches on the first day of Lent. The ashes reminding them of the biblical symbol of repentance (sackcloth and ashes) and their mortality (dust to dust).

On the one hand we share very little in common with those in the congregation of Athanasius who observed forty days of penance, sacrifice, and good works sixteen hundred years ago. We share very little with the Medieval believers who first had ashes smeared on their foreheads fourteen hundred years ago. We do not even share much in common with the two-thirds of today’s believers who live in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. On the other hand, we share with all believers of all times and locations, languages, traditions, and cultures, the celebration of the Resurrection of our common Lord. Maybe next year we’ll share the smudging of ashes as well.

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