The Church: Identity, Mission, & Cultivation

The below is a Gospel Life Course taught during May 2018 at CrossWay Community Church.

Week 1 — Introduction, Identity, & Mission
May 6th, 2018

Week 2 — Cultivation, pt. 1
May 13th, 2018

Week 3 — Cultivation, pt. 2
May 20th, 2018

Week 4 — Cultivation, pt. 3
May 27th, 2018

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RECOMMENDED: On Recovering a Practice of Devoting Ourselves to the Public Reading of Scripture (Article by Scott Newling)



I just read/listened to this article by Scott Newling, “Devoted to the public reading of Scripture,” advocating a recovery of the actual practice of devoting ourselves to the public reading of scripture in our churches.

As 1 Timothy 4:13 says,

Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture….

Scott Newling says,

Let me be blunt: when we reduce the Bible reading in order to privilege something else in our meetings we are shifting the congregation’s understanding of what church is. When we choose not to read some bits because we deem them inappropriate, we forget that God wrote them—and that in his wisdom he knew what he was doing when he did. When we choose not to read parts because they seem irrelevant or unclear, we teach our congregations and ourselves that God’s word isn’t eternal or understandable. When we choose to not read the Old Testament because it is ‘unfamiliar’—how else are we going to get familiar with it? The non-Christian world certainly isn’t going to help us. If we find Scripture to be boring, it’s not God’s fault, and the solution isn’t to silence God! If we find a part boring, we must ask God to give us interest in it, because we love him and want to know what he has to say. The Bible is well aware that some bits are harder to understand than others (2 Pet 3:16-17). But where did we get the idea that the solution to this is to stop reading?

When we choose to reduce Bible readings for something else, do we then in effect say that our means, our words, are better than God’s to grow people?

I loved this article. It reflects a lot of my own convictions on the matter and thoughts I’ve been having for a little over a year now.

You can check it out over at Matthias Media’s The Briefing. Click here.

“What Can Miserable Christians Sing?” (Carl Trueman)

In Carl R. Trueman’s book The Wages of Spin: Critical Writings on Historical and Contemporary Evangelicalism, he included a chapter entitled,”What Can Miserable Christians Sing?”

The answer to that question, Trueman answers, is the Psalms and specifically the Psalm’s model of lamentation.

Of this short chapter Trueman states,

This little piece which took minimal time and energy to author has garnered more positive responses and more touching correspondence than anything else I have ever written. It resonated with people across the Christian spectrum, people from all different church backgrounds who had one thing in common: the understanding that life has a sad, melancholy, painful dimension which is too often ignored and sometimes even denied in our churches.

He describes his purpose for writing as

to highlight what I saw as a major deficiency in Christian worship, a deficiency that is evident in both traditional and contemporary approaches: the absence of the language of lament. The Psalms, the Bible’s own hymnbook, contains many notes of lamentation, reflecting the nature of the believer’s life in a fallen world. And yet these cries of pain are on the whole absent from hymns and praise songs.

CarlTruemanHe sums up the thrust of that chapter as follows:

There is nothing in the typical book of hymns or praise songs that a woman who has miscarried a baby, or a parent who has just lost a child to cancer, can sing with honesty and integrity on a Sunday.

The desperation and heartache of such moments are things which we instinctively feel have no place in a religion where we are called on to rejoice in the Lord always. Yet there is a praise book which taps such emotions and gives the broken-hearted honest words with which to express their deepest sorrows to God.

It’s called the book of Psalms; and its recovery as a source of public praise in the Christian church can only help the church overcome its innate triumphalism and make room for the poor and the weak.

In short, he says, in the Psalms “one finds divinely inspired words which allow the believer to express their deepest pains and sorrows to God.”

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Review of Desiring the Kingdom by James K. A. Smith

Summary

Desiring the KingdomJames K. A. Smith sets out to present a vision of what a distinctively Christian education should look like. Without discarding the importance of what Christians think (worldview), he argues that authentic Christian learning ought to focus primarily on the formation of Christian desires (‘social imaginary’). In short, Smith argues that Christian education is more about formation than information, more about what one loves than what one knows. Practically speaking, distinctively Christian education should mean much more than merely teaching what is taught at any other university, but just from a Christian worldview. Rather, Christian education should be fundamentally rooted in liturgical worship as that discipline which forms students’ desires. Thus, he describes this educational ideal as ‘ecclesial,’ rooted in formative liturgical worship.

Smith’s philosophy of education is based on an understanding of worship, which is rooted in a specific anthropology. Therefore, although his main goal is to present a philosophy of education, his work has much broader implications for areas such as anthropology and corporate worship.

Smith begins his case by presenting an anthropology, because one’s view on education (and worship) is intrinsically linked to one’s understanding of the nature of man. Whereas the prevalent Christian anthropology seems to view man as primarily a thinking or believing creature, Smith argues that man is primarily a lover or desirer. Man’s decisions and behavior is primarily oriented by desire, what he loves, a vision of the ‘good life’ and a corresponding longing for it.

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