Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Church and the Future

Our church (Village Seven Presbyterian Church) has a Christian school called Evangelical Christian Academy (ECA). We do this in partnership with our mother church, Grace Presbyterian Church. In 1985, Grace was comprised of about 350 people. Today, it is less than 70, most of whom are over 70 years of age. The church is no longer capable of maintaining her property or providing for her pastor. Most likely, the church give the property over to ECA, which is an act of incredible generosity and grace.

I have thought about Grace Pres. a lot lately. Their pastor, Rick Fite, is a wonderful man and an excellent pastor. The congregation is full of people who love the Lord deeply and want to see God exalted. They have sacrified to support ECA even though they receive no direct benefit from it. They care about taking the gospel to the nations. For over 50 years, they have been a light in our community. I am so thankful for the tremendous ministry that Grace has had throughout the years. The ministry of Grace Pres. will continue for years to come through ECA, Village Seven, and the many lives touched there by the gospel. In this, we rejoice.

Yet, what is happening at Grace is the natural course for every church and should be a warning to us. We are seeing this all throughout my denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America. If the church is not intentional in reaching out--particularly in reaching the next generation--it will die. Even more, it is not enough for a church to have ministries to children, like Vacation Bible School or Christian school, it must be a place that is intentionally for the next generation without neglecting those who are present.

Dr. Bryan Chapell, in his wonderful book, Christ-Centered Worship, says, "A church also has no future if leaders only consider how to minister to the present generation. We are mistaken, of course, to let our children determine what our worship should be; we are also mistaken not to consider how their children may need to worship" (p. 131). Dr. Chapell is not advocating the "dumbing down" of worship. Just the opposite. Rather, like the Reformers, he is advocating rich, Reformed worship that is in the language and forms that the worshipper understands.

The church must continually think through all of its ministries to ensure that they are both biblical and effective. Programs that worked in 1970 will not always work today. Communication styles that worked in one era are not always effective in other eras. For example, read John Piper (21st century), Jim Boice (20th century), Charles Spurgeon (19th century), Jonathan Edwards (18th century), John Owens (17th century, and John Calvin (16th century) to see how different these great preachers were. All were biblical. None were shallow, but each fit in his own cultural context. The music and educational formats in each of these eras was different as well.

Our city needs more healthy, biblical churches, not less. Therefore, we must continue to work hard to ensure, not only our present health, but our future ministry at Village Seven. We must continually ensure we are effective in reaching the next generation and start new churches that will share in this vision. If we keep our eye on the Lord and put His mission before our desires, then I trust God will continue to bless us as we seek to be a life giving church to Colorado Springs, the West, and the World.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Recommended Summer Reading

It has been a while since I posted anything here. For posts related to my sermon series, check out the official Village Seven Presbyterian Church blog. Also, because of a very busy schedule, I haven't read as much lately. Still, I want to pass on some recommendations.

Recommendations Related To Ephesians

If you attend Village Seven, we are studying Ephesians. Ephesians focuses on the church. Here are a few books I would recommend that would be good companion studies.

Why We Love the Church by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck. This book actually praises the institutional church. A good read both for those who are not sure about the institution of the church and those who love it.

Life Together by Deitrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer gives a realistic view of what it means to live in true Christian community.

Everybody's Normal ('Til You Get to Know Them) by John Ortberg. Ortberg covers a lot of the same themes as Bonhoeffer. He is a very good writer who knows how to make his teaching accessible to all. I love his humor.

Ephesians (Reformed Expository Commentary) by Bryan Chapell. While this is a commentary on Ephesians, it reads like a devotional. If you want to get to know Ephesians but are intimidated by scholarly commentaries, this is a great help. Even if you like scholarly commentaries, this is very helpful.

More Recommendations

Knowing God by J. I. Packer. This is a modern classic. Christians will be reading this book 100 years from now. It is that good.

The Prodigal God and Counterfeit Gods by Timothy Keller. These are short reads, but give the foundations of the Christian life. Read these along with Jerry Bridges The Bookends of the Christian Life and you will get a good model of what it means to grow in Christ.

A Praying Life by Paul Miller. We recently read this together as a church staff. This book has made a real impact on how I pray. Another good book on prayer is Praying Backwards by Bryan Chapell.

The Holiness of God bv R. C. Sproul. I don't know how many books Dr. Sproul has written (it is a lot), but this is his best. Chosen by God is another good one, but make sure you read The Holiness of God.