Thursday, July 31, 2014

Prioritizing Church Attendance

Let’s just face the facts. Today, many Christians do not think attending church is that important. In the past, Christians believed that actively being a part of a church body was absolutely necessary to one’s faith. There used to be an understanding in Christian families that unless one was deathly ill or there was a family emergency, you just never ever missed church. So what has changed and caused so many people to view the church as a disposable good instead of as an intricate part of one’s spiritual life?


Pastor Kevin DeYoung is right. Our lives really are “crazy busy.” There is no doubt about it. Whether you are a college student, a newly-wed couple, or have a family of seven, we live in a day and age where the mentality is simply: go, go, go! This is one of the main reasons why church attendance is viewed as optional. Most people work 40-hour a week jobs in the United States, and so once the weekend hits the mindset of rest and recovery sets in. Trust me, I get it. Everybody wants some downtime. But why do we think that rest and recovery should take place outside of the confines of the house of God?
Recently, Trevin Wax wrote an article titled: “Are You A Part-Time Church Goer? You May Be Surprised.” Wax explains various reasons why people miss church in today’s society. There are 52 Sundays a year. If you only attend 25-30 Sunday services, you are a part-time church goer. Congratulations!
Do you recognize what is clearly wrong with this? Our jobs, which of course we must have to be able to support ourselves and our families, are seen as absolute necessities, while church attendance is simply seen as a dispensable activity. Brothers and sisters, this is not how it should be. Of course, the mindset of just attending church, getting your church attendance ticket punched, is absolutely wrong as well. Pastors and church leaders should preach against this mentality as well. However, think about this for a second. Just like you gather with your biological family, shouldn’t you also desire to gather with your spiritual family?


I know the arguments that are going to be raised about what I have said thus far. People are going to say: “Does he really believe that attending a local church, going to its building, and doing this once or twice a week is what the Bible is suggesting?” Well yes and no. Kevin DeYoung explains, “I know we are the church and don’t go to church (blah, blah, blah), but being persnickety about our language doesn’t change the exhortation of Hebrews 10:25.” I couldn’t agree more.
Fellowship with your spiritual family is a sign of maturing in the faith as a disciple. Hebrews 10:25 says, “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.” Have we really become so “new-agey” in our thought that we now think that we have matured past the need to attend church? Lord, let it not be so.


There is no doubt that what we need to recover in the life of Christians today is a gospel-motivated church attendance. What might this look like? Well, in my opinion its demonstrating the fact that when the church gathers on the Lord’s day, she proclaims the gospel, meditates on the gospel, and rehearses the gospel. By doing this, lives will begin to fundamentally change. It really is just that simple.
When the gospel is at the center our focus shifts. We no longer view church attendance as something we just need to check off, but as an intricate part of our spiritual lives. Instead of serving the god of individuality, we will be serving the God of Scripture. The gospel changes everything. However, we must first let the gospel change our low views of the church, and recognize that the house of the Lord is absolutely vital to the Christian life—to the life of a mature disciple. Should not the good news of Jesus Christ dying for our sins motivate us enough to enter into God’s house on Sundays? I would say so.
We are all at different points in our spiritual walks with the Lord. No matter what point you are at on your journey, I hope that you will come to see the importance of attending church. Do not be so narcissistic and self-consumed to think that you do not need the body of Christ. That is simply a sign of spiritual immaturity and a straight-up lie from the Devil.
I am not trying to guilt anyone into attending church regularly either. However, I am issuing a challenge to those who consider themselves Christians. If you consider yourself to be a part of the bride of Christ (Rev. 19:7-921:2), tell me why would you separate yourself from the body of Christ (Rom. 12:51 Cor. 10:17)? Logically, that makes no sense at all.
So Christians, live in light of the fact that you have been redeemed and do not have to earn your acceptance before God through your church attendance. The community of Christ needs you because it cannot function without all of its body parts. This is not condemnation, but rather an exhortation. Attending church is a blessing that should not be taken for granted.
Matt Manry is the Director of Discipleship at Life Bible Church in Canton, Georgia. He is a student at Reformed Theological Seminary and Knox Theological Seminary. He also works on the editorial team for Credo Magazine and Gospel-Centered Discipleship. He blogs regularly

Saturday, July 26, 2014

11 Differences between a College Football Fan and a Church Member

I am reposting this article by Thom Rainer... It does speak ....
Warning: The article below is a bit of sarcastic humor. I am speaking in hyperbole to make a point. The football fan noted represents a very rabid football fan. The church member represents some, but certainly not all, church members.
Disclosure: I tend to be a rabid college football fan. I see my allegiance as an area of devotion that needs significant adjustments downwardly. So I don’t necessarily practice what I preach. For example, even as I type these words, I am reminded that the kickoff for my team’s first game of the season is exactly five weeks from today.
Caution: While I do write these comparisons with some humor and a lot of hyperbole, you might get just a bit uncomfortable reading them. That may indicate there is some truth in each of them.
  1. A college football fan loves to win. The typical church member never wins someone to Christ.
  2. A college football fan gets excited if a game goes into overtime. A church member gets mad if the pastor preaches one minute past the allocated time.
  3. A college football fan is loyal to his or her team no matter what. A church member stops attending if things are not going well.
  4. A college football fan is easily recognized by his or her sportswear, bumper stickers, and team flags. Many church members cannot even be recognized as Christians by people with whom they associate.
  5. A college football fan pays huge dollars for tickets, travel, and refreshments for games. A church member may or may not give to his or her church.
  6. A college football fan reads about his or her football team every day. A church member rarely reads the Bible once in the course of a week.
  7. A college football fan attends the game no matter how bad the weather is. A church member stays home if there is a 20 percent chance of rain.
  8. A college football fan invites others to watch the game every week. A church member rarely invites someone to church.
  9. A college football fan is known for his or her passion for the football team. A church member is rarely known for his or her passion for the gospel.
  10. A college football fan will adjust gladly to changes in kickoff time. A church member gets mad if his or her service time is changed by just a few minutes.
  11. A college football fan is loyal even if he or she never gets to meet the coach. A church member gets mad if the pastor does not visit for every possible occasion.
Yes, I admit I do enjoy college football. But I really love Christ’s churches even more. I need to demonstrate that reality more readily. Do you?
So . . . what would you add to my somewhat sarcastic list? Do you see the humor? Do you see some truth?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

When same-sex attraction hits home: How families can help


Posted on Jul 22, 2014 | by David Roach
NASHVILLE (BP) -- It's a moment many Christians have had to face: a family member's announcement that he or she is gay.

Amid feelings of sorrow, guilt, fear and anger that families may experience surrounding such an announcement, biblical counseling experts say believers must have hope and realize that Jesus always changes those who come to Him in repentance and faith.

The "lie" that "change is impossible" for people who experience same-sex attraction "is an offense against the Gospel because change is Jesus' gig," Heath Lambert, assistant professor of biblical counseling at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, told Baptist Press. "We need to be infusing people with hope. We need to be infusing them with the deep conviction that Jesus has been changing people for 2,000 years and He will change you if you have faith in Him."

Lambert; John Babler, associate professor of counseling at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; and Sam Williams, professor of counseling at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, suggested several ways Christians can help family members struggling with same-sex attraction.

Develop a culture of honesty where family members can confess their sins and ask for help.

"In view of the mercy of God, if there is a Gospel, it makes no sense to avoid, deny or minimize same-sex attraction," Williams, a member of the SBC Executive Committee's Mental Health Advisory Group, told BP in emailed comments. "I would like to propose that there is a properly Christian form of 'coming out of the closet.' Should we not all come out of the closet with anything we find inside that is broken and wrong? We do this so that we can repent more thoroughly, and receive all the help and healing that comes through authentic Christian relationships."

It's important for families not to act more "creeped out" by a confession of same-sex attraction than they are by confessions of other sins, Lambert said.

"Christians forget that sin is sin," he said. "We have to be really careful not to move someone beyond hope and beyond help or think that they have a higher 'ick' factor with their struggles than we do with ours."

Express love and explain that homosexual lust and behavior are sins.

Families must avoid the twin mistakes of either blowing up at a confession of same-sex attraction or avoiding conversation about the topic for fear of damaging relationships, the biblical counselors said.

A statement of unconditional love is a good starting point for any conversation about a family member's homosexuality, Babler told BP, but that must not be the only thing said.

"Say that homosexuality is clearly a sin issue, as the Bible teaches," Babler said, although it is not "some ultra-sin that is worse than anything else."

Speaking truth about homosexual sin is difficult, Babler conceded, but the consequences of being silent are far worse.

"Ultimately this loved one's eternal destiny may rest in" their family's willingness to confront sin, he said. "Even if they have made a profession of faith, they're at least blinded enough that they're not following godly counsel from Scripture."

Clarify that our identity is not determined by our sexual desires.

"We want to help people understand that while those same-sex desires -- just like opposite-sex desires -- can be strong, they don't define who you are," Lambert said. "God defines who you are, a person who's made in the image of God. And if you are a saved person, [you are] a person who is being redeemed into the image of Christ."

Babler noted that culture "frequently encourages people to find identity in something beyond themselves -- whether it's 'I'm gay' or it's 'I'm obsessive compulsive.'" But true identity "is in regards to being created in God's image and a person that God desires to have a relationship with."

Teach the Gospel truth that Jesus changes sinners.

"Real and substantive change can be expected for people with same-sex attraction and same-sex orientation, as it can and should be for all who have chosen to follow Christ," Williams said.

As with other sins though, God does not always change a believer's inclination to same-sex attraction overnight, Williams said. Much change involves "a long obedience of faith down a narrow and often difficult road."

"As it is with many root sins that are lodged deeply within us, change may or may not be associated with a complete elimination or reversal of same-sex attraction, for now," Williams said. "But make no mistake about it: under the cross and in Christ neither the past nor our desires determine our identity or our future. Paul's instruction in Romans 6 is to be who you are, in Christ."

Use the same ministry techniques you employ to help people struggling with other types of sin.

Accountability relationships with godly people of the same gender, confession of sins, trust in the Gospel, participation in a local church and meditation on Scripture all help individuals struggling with same-sex attraction, the biblical counselors agreed.

"As much of a problem as homosexuality is, it can be dealt with in the same way as if they had a family member who was dealing with heterosexual sin outside of a marriage relationship," Babler said. Ultimately a concerned family needs to "call their family member to the pages of Scripture."

It can be helpful to send a struggling individual brief Scripture messages through email and social media, Babler said. All of the Scripture shared should not focus on sexual sin but cover a variety of topics from God's character and the Gospel to the Great Commandment and personal purity.

Talk to a pastor or godly counselor if you find that helpful.

It's a myth that only professional counselors and clergy members are equipped to help people with same-sex attraction, Lambert said, although some biblical counselors and pastors can provide spiritual guidance.

"There are plenty of professionals who don't know how to appropriate the Gospel of Jesus in the change process," Lambert said. Such counselors "may have some helpful tips that somebody can use, but they're not going to be able to help someone change in a way that honors Jesus Christ."

The choice "isn't between a professional and a non-professional," he said. The key is to find a godly Christian "who knows the biblical dynamics of change and how Jesus uses His powerful grace in practical categories to see people be different than they were."

Even when families give the best help possible, the sad reality is that not all homosexuals repent and follow Jesus, the biblical counselors noted. Husbands sometimes leave their wives for other men. Wives sometimes leave their husbands for other women. And godly parents have children living a homosexual lifestyle.

In such cases, it's important for families not to blame themselves for their loved one's sin, Lambert said, adding that dealing with a homosexual spouse generally is more emotionally difficult than coping with a gay child or sibling.

"Sin doesn't happen in a simplistic way; it happens in a complex way. It could be the case that very faithful parents who love their kids and talk with them about the Gospel and were present with them and directed their behaviors and interests toward gender-appropriate things" still have a homosexual child, Lambert said. "In a world full of sin, people go off the rails and parents need to not have an instinct of blaming themselves."

Whatever the outcome of a family's ministry efforts, they must hold to God's truth and not let the experience of having a homosexual loved one distort their interpretation of God's Word, Babler said.

"One of my concerns in working with family members is that I want to encourage them to keep their theology and their biblical belief intact," Babler said, "and not accommodate due to the fact that it's one of their loved ones and say, 'Now I'm going to change the way I look at the Bible and I'm going to redefine my conclusion about what Scripture says in regards to homosexuality.' That's a big temptation."

Additional resources for families of those struggling with same-sex attraction include the Restored Hope Network, a group of ministries that address sexual and relational issues, and the books "Understanding Sexual Identity" by Mark Yarhouse and "Is God Anti-Gay" by Sam Allberry.

David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally