Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Midweek Meditation: "Fitness Sign #3 - Community Engagement"

We continue with Gary McIntosh and Phil Stevenson's book "Building the Body" which is about the 12 characteristics of a fit Church. Last week, we talked about EFFECTIVE EVANGELISM. This week, it is COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT.

SIGNS OF FITNESS #3 - COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT

"Community engagement forces the church to interact with a world unlike itself. The first-century church was in a very unwelcoming culture. Yet the church thrived. What the church today must not do is allow the culture to dumb down its message. And the church must still move into society. The church must infiltrate culture as yeast does dough. This is the kingdom of God. . . . (Lue 13:20-21). Through community engagement the church becomes like yeast. When the church embeds itself into the community in which it is located, transformation begins. When the church inserts itself in culture as Christ's representatives, things begin to change.

Churches must move into the culture in which they reside. The culture is exemplified by the community in which a church body finds itself. In the four spheres of evangelism mentioned earlier, this would be Judea. Judea is the geographical area stretching from a one-fourth to a five-mile radius around a church's meeting location. A fit church will engage the community in this geographic area.

Community engagement involves three basic approaches: attractional, missional, or connectional. These three approaches can be summed up in the following phrases: come and see (attractional); go and be (missional); go and bring (connectional). " (McIntosh and Stevenson, "Building the Body", Baker Books, 2018, p53-54)

Tips: A church that engages community would have:
  • Defined where our Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the world are;
  • Regular meetings with community leaders to find out how we can be of help to them;
  • Encourage church members to be involved in community activities like coaching youth sports, joining service clubs, being active in forums, etc;
  • Studied the needs of the community;
  • Their pastors serving a day a week outside the church;
  • Engaged in service evangelism;
  • Community recognizing our church for our contributions. 

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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Midweek Meditation: "Fitness Sign #2 - Effective Evangelism"

We continue with Gary McIntosh and Phil Stevenson's book "Building the Body" which is about the 12 characteristics of a fit Church. Last week, we talked about OUTREACH. This week, it is EFFECTIVE EVANGELISM.

SIGNS OF FITNESS #2 - EFFECTIVE EVANGELISM

"Evangelism is one of the primary characteristics that help churches become fit. Evangelism provides oxygen to the body of Christ. New birth, growing believers, and an inflow of newly connected followers of Christ breathe life into faith communities.

Churches must be involved in evangelistic endeavors. Churches that do not make the effort to intentionally determine methods to share the gospel will erode in their fitness levels. Churchs that do not involve themselves in an evangelistic emphasis will find themselves aging with no kids or grandkids to carry on their legacy." (McIntosh and Stevenson, "Building the Body", Baker Books, 2018, p37-38)

Tips: A church that effectively evangelizes would have:
  • Regular training and mobilizing of members to share their faith;
  • Conversions as their primary source of numerical growth;
  • Specialized opportunities for members to invite friends;
  • Budgets set aside for church planting work;
  • Regular baptisms;
  • Constantly identifying and targeting unreached people in our communities;
  • Give guests a chance to accept Christ at worship services.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Midweek Meditation: "Fitness Sign #1-Outreach"

Starting this week and for the next 12 weeks, we will be looking at Gary McIntosh and Phil Stevenson's book "Building the Body" which is about the 12 characteristics of a fit Church. Each Wednesday, I will share one characteristic that we can use for ourselves personally and corporately. For this week, it is OUTREACH.

SIGNS OF FITNESS #1 - OUTREACH

"An outward focus is the beginning point for outreach. Churches that are inwardly focused neither sense their communities' needs nor are motivated to evangelize or engage their communities. Outward-focused churches, however, are aware of the culture in which their ministries take place. They recognize a need for fitness to effectively evangelize and engage with their communities.

Church leaders often believe their churches are outward-focused when they actually are not. Many church people perceive themselves to be kingdom-minded, concerned for reaching the lost, and connected to people in their communities. Gary remembers consulting with a church in the Midwest. The results of a church-wide survey revealed several areas of strengths and a few dominant weaknesses. One of the church's areas of strength was community outreach. Conversations in five focus groups revealed people believed their church was effective in reaching the community for Christ. Closer examination found otherwise. Five hundred dollars was budgeted for outreach but had not been spent in the past year. A full 99 per cent of the church's identifiable programming was directed to the present congregation. The only identifiable program listed for outreach was VBS. The church was not outward-focused at all. How could a church be so wrong in its assessment of its strengths?" (McIntosh and Stevenson, "Building the Body", Baker Books, 2018, p23-24)

Tips: A fit and outward-focused church would have:
  • At least 20% of budget for outreach activities;
  • Events held in locations other than our church property;
  • Knowledge of what businesses are in our neighbourhood;
  • Our members attend and participate in community events;
  • Board meetings discuss how we can reach our communities;
  • More discussion on fulfilling the Great Commission rather than maintaining our programs and buildings;
  • New people from our community attending our worship services;


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Monday, June 04, 2018

BookPastor >> "The Heartbeat of Old Testament Theology" (Mark J. Boda)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on July 27th, 2017.

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TITLE: The Heartbeat of Old Testament Theology: Three Creedal Expressions (Acadia Studies in Bible and Theology)
AUTHOR: Mark J. Boda
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2017, (240 pages).

It has always been challenging to tackle the Old Testament. Not only is it of an ancient culture, the language can seem quite primitive when compared to contemporary times. Even if the language barrier can be overcome, there is the challenge of size and contexts. That is why the Old Testament are preached and taught relatively less than the New Testament counterpart. Various approaches have been used to study the 39 books of the first testament. A popular method is the genre approach, which subdivides the books into Law; History; Poetry; the Major and Minor Prophets. Some would use the Christ-centered interpretation, which sees every Old Testament book from the perspective of Christ. More recently, there are books about using the New Testament as a lens to view the Old Testament. There is also the seminary approaches of biblical and systematic theology, albeit used for different purposes. All of them have their merits and weaknesses. Enters the "Three Creedal Expressions" approach by Mark Boda. Before going into his heartbeat framework, he reviews four major approaches to the OT:

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Midweek Meditation: "Counsels on Discernment 4" (Meister Eckhart)

Continuing our series of meditation about counsels for discernment by the German mystic, Meister Eckhart, we look at why our tendency to worry about what to do, especially when it is more important to focus on what we want to BE. 


Eckhart (1260-1328)

TITLE: Meister Eckhart: Selections from His Essential Writings (HarperCollins Spiritual Classics)
PUBLISHER: New York, NY: Harper-One, 2005, (166 pages).

"Of the profits of self-abandonment, which one should practice inwardly and outwardly"

You should know that there was never any man in this life who forsook himself so much that he could not still find more in himself to forsake. There are few people who see this to be true and stick by it. This is indeed a fair exchange and an honest deal: By as much as you go out in forsaking all things, by so much, neither less nor more, does God go in, with all that is His, as you entirely forsake everything that is yours. Undertake this, and let it cost you everything you can afford. There you will find true peace, and nowhere else.

People ought never to think too much about what they could do, but they ought to think about what they could be. If people and their way of life were only good, what they did might be a shining example. If you are just, then your works too are just. We ought not to think of building holiness upon action; we ought to build it upon a way of being, for it is not what we do that makes us holy, but we ought to make holy what we do. However holy the works may be, they do not, as works, make us at all holy; but, as we are holy and have being, to that extent we make all our works holy, be it eating, sleeping, keeping vigil or whatever it may be. It does not matter what men may do whose being is mean; nothing good will come of it. Take good heed: We ought to do everything we can to be good; it does not matter so much what we may do, or what kinds of works ours may be. What matters is the ground on which the works are built. (6-7)

Monday, May 28, 2018

BookPastor >> "40 Questions about Church Membership and Discipline" (Jeremy M. Kimble)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on July 19th, 2017. 

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TITLE: 40 Questions About Church Membership and Discipline (40 Questions & Answers Series)
AUTHOR: Jeremy M. Kimble
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2017, (272 pages).

What is the purpose of Church membership? Is it enough to just attend Church? Why should anyone bother about some official papers just to be a member? Biblically, we are already members of the Church of God, so why even mention Church membership? What about Church discipline? This book covers these topics in a Q&A manner, giving a broad range of perspectives and implications. It is divided into three categories of questions: Theological; Ministry; and Practical. The author's conviction of Church membership is this: Church membership and discipline is critical to the life of a Christian. Membership is about community and responsibility. Discipline is about authority and accountability. Kimble provides three basic reasons for Church membership:
  1. The Perseverance of the Saints is about community development
  2. The Church is the invisible spiritual community made visible
  3. The Church is a people in covenant with God to one another.
He also gives three reasons for Church Discipline:
  1. It's instructed by Scripture
  2. It is biblical love
  3. It facilitates the perseverance of the saints.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Midweek Meditation: "Counsels on Discernment 3" (Meister Eckhart)

Continuing our series of meditation about counsels for discernment by the German mystic, Meister Eckhart, we look at why it is so difficult for some of us to discern God's will. It comes down to the very basic call of God to us to deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and to follow Jesus.


Eckhart (1260-1328)

TITLE: Meister Eckhart: Selections from His Essential Writings (HarperCollins Spiritual Classics)
PUBLISHER: New York, NY: Harper-One, 2005, (166 pages).

"Of people who have not denied themselves and are full of their own will"

People say: ‘O Lord, how much I wish that I stood as well with God, that I had as much devotion and peace in God as others have, I wish that it were so with me!’ Or, ‘I should like to be poor,’ or else, ‘Things will never go right for me till I am in this place or that, or till I act one way or another. I must go and live in a strange land, or in a hermitage, or in a cloister’.

In fact, this is all about yourself, and nothing else at all. This is just self-will, only you do not know it or it does not seem so to you. There is never any trouble that starts in you that does not come from your own will, whether people see this or not. We can think what we like, that a man ought to shun one thing or pursue another – places and people and ways of life and environments and undertakings – that is not the trouble, such ways of life or such matters are not what impedes you. It is what you are in these things that causes the trouble, because in them you do not govern yourself as you should.

Therefore, make a start with yourself, and abandon yourself. Truly, if you do not begin by getting away from yourself, wherever you run to, you will find obstacles and trouble wherever it may be. People who seek peace in external things – be it in places or ways of life or people or activities or solitude or poverty or degradation – however great such a thing may be or whatever it may be, still it is all nothing and gives no peace. People who seek in that way are doing it all wrong; the further they wander, the less they will find what they are seeking. They go around like someone who has lost his way; the further he goes, the more lost he is. Then what ought he to do? He ought to begin by forsaking himself, because then he has forsaken everything. Truly, if a man renounced a kingdom or the whole world but held on to himself, he would not have renounced anything. What is more, if a man renounces himself, whatever else he retains, riches or honours or whatever it may be, he has forsaken everything.

About what Saint Peter said: ‘See, Lord, we have forsaken everything’ (Matt. 19:27) – and all he had forsaken was just a net and his little boat – there is a saint who says: ‘If anyone willingly gives up something little, that is not all which he has given up, but he has forsaken everything which worldly men can gain and what they can even long for; for whoever has renounced his own will and himself has renounced everything, as truly as if he had possessed it as his own, to dispose of as he would’. For what you choose not to long for, you have wholly forsaken and renounced for the love of God. That is why our Lord said: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit’ (Matt. 5:3), that is, in the will. And no one ought to be in doubt about this; if there were a better form of living, our Lord would have said so, as he also said: ‘Whoever wishes to come after me, let him deny himself’ (Matt. 16:24), as a beginning; everything depends on that. Take a look at yourself, and whenever you find yourself, deny yourself. That is the best of all." (4-6)

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