Tag Archives: christ followers

The results are in – people prefer short sermons followed by discussion.

To me this is ideal! What do you think?

Posted on January 18, 2014 at Church in a Circle

This week, I conducted some research on Twitter. I asked which people would prefer; short sermons with the opportunity for discussion, or long sermons without. The results of my poll were resoundingly conclusive – 100% of respondents would like to have short sermons or even long ones followed by the chance to respond and explore the topic together.

Now, I’m not going to pretend these are statistically significant results. This was a small sample group, and a very biased one. But I still think this is a simple and easy-to-implement strategy most pastors and churches can take on board, with the potential to equip and empower God’s people.

Next time you are preparing a sermon, think about stripping it back to the essential points, then letting people break into groups of 4 or so to discuss what they have learned. They could answer questions such as;

What stands out to you?

What did you learn about God?

About people?

Any life-lessons to apply?

How do you plan to apply them?

How can we pray for one another?

The advantages to this approach are huge. You are training God’s people to have spiritual conversations. You can give them the tools they need to think for themselves, and to communicate their knowledge to others. You are sending the message that the church is an equal laity under the headship of Christ, not artificially divided into “professionals” and “consumers”. You are giving them a chance to respond to God’s Word and message, and to teach one another.

However – please take note – this suggestion comes with the following warnings;

WARNING 1: Once people get used to participating and having a voice, they’re not going back. They will find it difficult to sit passively through lengthy monologues, once they realise they can be actively involved.

WARNING 2: Some people won’t like this. They think the current format for church is the way it has always been. They don’t realise the early church meetings were interactive, multi-voiced and participatory.

WARNING 3: Dialogue is an open floor, not a pop-quiz. People are allowed to give any answer at all. Pastors may have to go through a period of “unlearning” – instead of having all the answers, they have to learn to shut up and listen. Get used to a whole new way of thinking as you move away from performance towards facilitation and empowerment.

Don’t rely on the results of my not-very-reliable research – conduct a poll of your own. Ask your congregation whether they would prefer a 40 minute lecture next Sunday, or a 10-15 minute presentation followed by a chance to explore and discuss it together. Your ego may take a bruising if they tell you to shorten your sermons – but it could be the start of a new journey for you and your church community.

Read more great articles via Church in a Circle.

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the heresy of orthodoxy

This is from Josh over at the blog ‘In Search of the City’. I found it quite intriguing as well as challenging, perhaps you will too.

Strictly speaking, a “heretic” is someone who causes division. That is what the word actually means.

In the first century the term was applied to certain people whose teaching stood at odds with the testimony of the apostles concerning Christ. Their “false gospels” brought division to the church as they chose their own opinion over the eye-witness testimony of those who had been with Jesus.

Interestingly enough, the first visible threats of division in early Christian history were not over any kind of teaching whatsoever. The first threat, in Jerusalem, was over the alleged favoritism shown by Jewish brothers to their own kin in the food distribution line see Acts 6. The second threat, in Antioch, was over Peter’s hypocrisy in bowing to the pressure of James’ friends and refusing to eat with Gentiles Galatians 2:11-13. It wasn’t until the Judaizers arrived in Galatia and tried to undermine the disciples’ faith that any issue of “false teaching” came into play.

Much has changed over the ensuing centuries and much has remained the same. Christians still deal with the issue of false teaching, there is no doubt about that, but something even more insidious has crept in to try the hearts of the faithful. Something I like to call the heresy of orthodoxy.

WHAT HAPPENED

In the second and third centuries the churches began to institutionalize, a trend that swept south from Rome and north from Jerusalem. Apostolic leadership gave place to the consolidation of power in the office of the bishop, and as a result the assemblies lost both their local character and organic nature. The decline was gradual. A bit of mixture here, a little compromise there. Over time the ways of the church began to look more and more like the ways of the world.

In the first century it had been the religious man–the Judaizer–who threatened the life of the assemblies. That battle was fought and won by men the likes of Paul, men in whose hearts the daystar had risen, who knew the full meaning of Christ crucified and who warred not in the flesh but with mighty spiritual weapons.

Centuries two and three brought an onslaught of a different kind with the influx of Greek philosophy into the Christian fellowship. Little did the….read the entire article via John MacArthur, Strange Fire, & the heresy of orthodoxy | In Search of the City.

Words!

I read a challenging article today on Ann Voskamp’s blog that reminded me of the song ‘Words’ by the group Hawk Nelson‘. In her piece she wrote,

“Whoever said sticks and stones may break your bones but words will never hurt you? Was dead wrong. Ask a bearded guy from Louisiana or a tweeting PR exec en route to Africa to comment on that. Don’t ever forget it, kids: There is nothing more explosive than words. Words are nitroglycerin. Words can literally ignite a heart, detonate like a global bomb — or explode in your face.” Go ahead and check out the entire article here…. A Holy Experience

Yes, there are too many times we say things without thinking, things we regret. We say hurtful words, both intentional and unintentional, that can never be retrieved and, quite often to the people closest to us, to the ones we love.

Why do we do this? I think simply, for the most part, [in our sub-conscience] we feel we can get away with it and feel we shouldn’t need to be careful around them. However, if we truly love and cherish our family and friends then we will guard our tongues. Scripture tells us in James,

The tongue is like a fire. It is a world of evil among the parts of our body. It spreads its evil through our whole body and starts a fire that influences all of life. It gets this fire from hell. Humans have control over every kind of wild animal, bird, reptile, and fish, and they have controlled all these things. But no one can control the tongue. It is wild and evil, full of deadly poison. We use our tongues to praise our Lord and Father, but then we curse people who were created in God’s likeness. These praises and curses come from the same mouth. My brothers and sisters, this should not happen.
(James 3:6-10)

I hope and pray this will touch all of our hearts and cause us to really “think before we speak”.

Here is the song I mentioned. I hope you listen, watch, and apply the message it gives us.

Why I’m Not Always Positive and Encouraging

Another great essay from Chip Brogden over at ‘The School of Christ‘. When I read the article it resonated with me. Why? Simply because Chip has put into print what I have thought through the recent years. I hope you take a few moments to read the entire piece and be challenged in your spirit too.

Will a steady diet of positive and encouraging words cause me to see myself as I am, or will it seduce me into thinking I’m better than I really am? Do I wish to be entertained into spiritual dullness or challenged into spiritual maturity?

At first blush there would appear to be nothing wrong with something labeled “positive and encouraging.” Three Christian radio stations service my area, and all three of them make the same claim: that they offer positive and encouraging programming for the whole family. The appeal is obvious: no one wants to spend a lot of time dwelling on things that are negative and discouraging.

But I have discovered a flaw in this positive and encouraging, family-friendly environment that should be addressed. This desire to provide people with a positive and encouraging experience whether it is by radio or by television or by church service or by website creates an unrealistic expectation in the hearts and minds of the audience and congregation who have come to rely on “the ministry” to keep them properly fed. Content is judged not according to Truth, but according to how I feel about it. Do I feel good, positive, encouraged, uplifted, and happy afterwards? If so then all is well. Or is it?

We must seriously question things that pass themselves off as “ministry”. It is clear that the practice of “ministry” – whether it comes in the form of a sermon or a song – is becoming synonymous with “Christian Entertainment.” It is not so much what they say as what they fail to say. The most glaring omission in this positive and encouraging Christian sub-culture is meaningful reference and teaching along the lines of taking up the cross and denying self, and I would suggest this one thing sums up most of what is lacking in Churchianity today.

Finish reading via Why I’m Not Always Positive and Encouraging.

Sort of Matrix-y

From Marc Winter over at Church Expatriates on Facebook

The Holy Spirit: At last. Welcome, Neo. As you no doubt have guessed, I am the Holy Spirit sent to teach you the Truth.
Neo: It’s an honor to meet you.
The Holy Spirit: I imagine that right now you’re feeling a bit like Alice, tumbling down the rabbit hole? Hm?

Neo: You could say that.
HS: I can see it in your heart. You have the heart of a man who can not accept what he sees in church because he knows it is not right.
Neo: I know something is really wrong.
Holy Spirit: I know exactly what you mean. Let me tell you why you’re open to me. You’re open because you know something. What you know you can’t explain. But you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life. That there’s something seriously wrong with church. You don’t know what it is but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I’m talking about?
Neo: The entire subjugation of Christianity?
Holy Spirit: Do you want to know how it was done? Church is an illusion. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.
Neo: What truth?
Holy Spirit: That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage, born into a prison that you cannot smell or taste or touch. A prison for your mind…. Unfortunately, few can comprehend the world and its church system, the enormity of the deception. You have to see it for yourself. This is your last chance. After this there is no turning back. You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed in the morning a get dressed for church, and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, and your spiritual eyes will be opened, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes…. Remember, all I’m offering is the truth, nothing more…. Follow me