Results tagged “community” from Reformation21 Blog

Several weeks ago a dear friend sent a lecture to me, titled, "Theology of Presence in Missions." While I do not recall all of the details of the lecture, I was especially struck by the way in which the lecturer is going about planting a church. He is using all of the standard tactics (e.g., prayer, evangelism, Bible studies, advertising, etc.). Along with these things he enlists what he calls a theology of presence. He said that one thing that has helped him in his church planting endeavors is being there for those in his community.

In an age of Facebook, Twitter, and text messages, we may define differently what being there actually means. For some it is sending a text message amid tragedy. For others, it is liking a post on Facebook. These things are not bad in and of themselves, but these versions of being there should never replace a flesh and blood presence. Soft words spoken, gentle hugs provided, tears shed together, laughter, and meals eaten with families will never be as valuable as emoticons and personal emails.

In my short time in church planting, I have realized more and more that, as a pastor, being there (what Scott Moore calls, "a theology of presence") is of great consequence, but it is equally significant when the saints involved in the church plant are there for each other. In other words, there is a need among church plants (and churches in general) to truly embrace the magnitude of community life. Meeting on Sundays alone, as well as sending the occasional text message and post on Facebook, will restrict the community life of the local body. Unfortunately, it is easy to get to this place. It is necessary, therefore, that we strive, in the midst of our busyness and technological advances, to meet with others and spend time with them face-to-face.

I do not want to spend too much time boasting on those from our church plant, but those committed to Crown and Joy Presbyterian Church (that is our name) are clearly demonstrating that spending time together truly matters. They have embraced a theology of presence, and while they still send text messages and correspond via Facebook, they admit that those modes of communication cannot replace a warm embrace and face-to-face interaction. They are embodying the exhortation provided in Hebrews. 

"...let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near" (Heb. 10:24-25).

This makes church planting so much easier. When the people love each other and are further embracing the promises of Christ in the gospel, my work, as a pastor, is less difficult. Perhaps this is why my first Bible study series in our church plant was on community. Community life in the church is invaluable.

How are you doing in this area? Are you physically there for those in your congregation? Are you embracing a theology of presence? If not, and I am sure there are multiple reasons for your absence, consider, as soon as you are able, reaching out to those in your congregation. Spending time with the saints is precious!
On Wednesday, April 3, 2014, we had our sixth church plant Bible study. Currently, I am teaching a series on community from the book (or epistle) of Philippians. At this point, we have not escaped the first 2 chapters, but we have been able to discuss some important matters nonetheless (e.g., the composition of our church ethnically, culturally, and vocationally; service toward one another; the gospel, as well as the overwhelming effects of the gospel; conflict resolution; witnessing). From what I gather, people seem to enjoy it.

Last night we tried something new. During our first 5 Bible studies, the children remained with the parents as we opened our time in prayer and sang one song. Moments after we sang, the children normally went to play as we, the parents and singles, continued in our study of Philippians. Once our study was complete, the children returned, we prayed and sang once again. However, after a brief discussion with the parents about one week ago, we decided to require our children to stay during the entire study. 

Why? 

Since we will not have children's church (although we will have a nursery) at our church plant, we wanted to set a precedent that as adults gather, children and youth are a part of that gathering. In other words, this is their Bible study, too. They are a part of the covenant community and as such should be present. The parents welcomed the suggestion.

While I have a long way to go in terms of learning how to more effectively incorporate the children in our Bible study, it was a great blessing to have them present. I had the children and youth read scripture; I spoke to them directly (e.g., "children/youth, this is what we mean when..."); and I asked for their prayer requests. I am sure there are other ways to get them involved. I simply need to do some research. Nevertheless, it was a blessing to see them (all 18 or so ranging from 1 to 17) sitting with their parents seemingly engaged in the study. 

Much of church planting is new to me. I am learning as I go. Thankfully, I have plenty of fathers and brothers in the faith who are instructing me. They guide me through my questions and provide practical ways to implement my ideas and teach my people (to name some: Wy Plummer, Irwyn Ince, Lance Lewis, Russ Whitfield, Randy Nabors, James Ward, Bob Becker, Gordon Duncan). I should also add that I have godly women in my life (number 1 on my list is my wife) who provide their input. Taking all the information that I receive from them into account has been, and I hope will continue to be, helpful. The people in our Bible study also provide their input, which has been beneficial. I am thankful the people feel an openness to share their ideas.

So what is next?

Once I complete this series on community from Philippians, I will teach a short series on hospitality. Quite frankly, I could skip this series because the people are already spending time together apart from any exhortation from me; nevertheless, I think it will be encouraging for my people to see the biblical basis for our hospitality toward each other. 

Prayer requests:

Please pray for me as I continue, by the grace of God and in the power of the Spirit, to instruct this group. Also please pray that God would provide as I continue to fundraise. We need funding. Lastly, pray for the continued growth vertically and horizontally of my people (me included) in this study.

Until next time...