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Repost: Preach with the closing prayer in mind

…and then the preacher says, “lets pray”.

I think this point of the sermon (nay – the church meeting) is the pinnacle. This is the moment when you’re asking people to turn what they’ve heard into gospel centred action…

The action of prayer.

This is the moment of instant application. Your flock can respond to their God’s words right there and then.

Surely the first application of any Bible talk is praying, right? So do you preach with the closing prayer in mind? Are you spending that 20, 30, 40 minutes building up to that moment, when people can depend on Jesus and speak to the Father and say…

What do you want them to say to God at the end of your sermon?

Got it? Good. Now write your talk with that in mind.

Should Church meetings be like AA meetings?

“Hi, My name’s Dave and I’m a sinner. Yet by God’s grace I’ve been forgiven for more than 20 years.”

“Keep going Dave!”, “Make it through the next week Dave!”

People who will tell you that groups like AA helped them deal with their addiction will also tell you that they had to get to breaking point. They all had to get to the point where they realised they couldn’t do it on their own… that they were lost, empty, powerless, impotent to control themselves. And their AA groups helped them grapple with what they were – addicts. And they know how hard it gets when you don’t go to meetings. They have a code when they meet outside of meetings… not “How long since you’ve had a drink?” it’s “How long since you’ve been to a meeting?”.

Now… how much more addicted to sin are we compared to their addiction to alcohol? Can we even go a day without sin?

A right understanding of our fleshy – though slowly transforming – hearts should help us better understand why simply attending church and GrowthGroups is so important. We’re just not that strong on our own.

If you are saved by grace, and you stay in by grace, that means you can’t keep yourself in – you’re dependant on God’s grace.
And if one of the means of God’s grace is the fellowship of other Christians under the stewardship of faithful teachers and elders, then that seems like something God has made you dependant on…

23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 10:23-25

Why would you even consider missing that?

Are your songs articulating your God?

The other day I heard this phrase on Triple J, “the more songs we hear, the more we will be able to articulate our culture”. And I began to think about the phrase, not in regards to culture, but in regards to music and God.

What if we changed the phrase above to, “the more biblical church songs we sing, the more we will be able to articulate our God”? If you look at most old hymn books, you’ll see church songs listed in a huge range of categories and themes about the attributes of God, his world and his church.

In your church or at home, what do you spend most your time singing about? Is it biblical? Is it just focused on God’s love, justice or the cross? Maybe you don’t sing about God. You spend more time singing about yourself? If you spend most your time singing about God’s love, you will think God is only about love. It’s like those guys who go to the gym and just work the right bicep. They’re lopsided.

As Christians we want to keep asking ourselves the question, whether involved in music ministry in church or not… “what are we saying (or not saying) about God in the songs we sing in church?”

The only things you should advertise at church are…

Churches seems to have such a quandary about saying no to advertising things out the front. Its hard when someone runs up to you and says they need, really really need to you advertise their thing today!!! When the reality is that, if you said yes to everyone, you’d have no time for bible, singing or sermon. There’s just so much that goes on that legitimate church stuff, let alone the other things. I’ve had one guy come up to me 5 mins before a meeting and insist they get up and invite people to join their soccer team!

So, rather than just avoiding those people so they can’t ask you, have a clear basis for why you advertise things… here’s ours (courtesy of our brilliant Magnification Pastor – that means he cares more about making meetings good environments for hearing and responding to God  – Pete Witt).

Only things that tick all three boxes:

  1. They affect a huge number of people (at least over half)
  2. They are significantly urgent
  3. They are closely aligned to your visions and values as a church.

If it hits all three, go for it. It’s worth advertising.

Who should you design your church meetings “for”

At one level, this shouldn’t be a hard question… surely you design your meetings for the people who are meeting with you.

So, since the meeting is for everyone – especially Christians (see the last post) – you have to think about the different types of people in the room, and there’s really only two types of people: people who are not Christians who need to hear the gospel, and people who are Christians who need to hear the gospel.

So proclaim the gospel. Proclaim it in the welcome, in the songs, in the reading, in the sermon, in the prayers, in the invitation to hang around for supper. Christian or not, they need to hear it and be reminded of it.

But, since the gospel is the power to save from God’s eternal wrath, there’s a right priority to make the most of the opportunity afforded by the non-Christian in the room. Don’t do everything for them, but don’t ignore them as though they’re not meant to be there… they are meant to be there! They just don’t know it yet.

Who should church be “for”?

This is a question that seems to cause grumbling, but that’s usually because those discussing it haven’t defined their terms, and the preposition “for” is very slippery. As such, these are all true…

  • Church is for everyone!
    It’s a gathering to sit under and respond to the word of the living and true God. The God of the universe. When Jesus comes back and raises everyone from the dead, they’re all going to be gathered (churched) around him and respond Philippians 2 style. So they should be in local churches now too.
  • Church is for Christians!
    This is a true, although narrow, use of the term “for”. Technically, church “is” Christians. Church is the family/community/flock-of-an-under-shepherd gathering of those who hear and respond to Jesus as Lord. It’s a Christian “thing”, so yeah, it’s for them by the simple fact it is them.
  • Church is for Christian encouragement and perseverance!
    This takes the previous point and gives it some flesh. If church is the gathering of those under Christ, then that gathering should support and equip those very ones to remain in Christ, in a fully Heb 3:13 way. In other words, if you’re going to get people together who exist on the basis of Jesus’ words, REMIND THEM to keep going!!
  • Church is for gospel proclamation
    See, this is really the common thread. The gospel is a message of the global king. Its content describes its extent. It’s a message for everyone, especially those who have already believed it.

So, if church is for everyone, especially Christians… how should you design your meetings?

Quality should be motivated by love

Some Christians just want quality for quality’s sake, or they think we need to match the world around us. Some Christians are wary of quality because they think its about manipulating feelings and that its all smoke a mirrors. But the true motivation for Christians and churches doing things well is love.

Doing things with a high degree of quality is part of making sure people don’t fall through the cracks. If you don’t welcome people to church “well” (read “with a certain degree of quality”) they won’t know how to connect. If you don’t run the Sunday meeting well, they won’t know what’s going on. If you don’t ask for feedback cards or follow them up, or run evangelistic courses well, people will fall through the cracks.

But some people will say something like, “But you don’t need to exert effort to make these things quality, you don’t need to create quality systems and programs… The Christians at church can do a quality job just on their own. You don’t need feedback cards if the individuals are just loving the new people.”

Yep, and who’s going to train them to do a quality job?

And who’s going to oversee that, when 30% of your congregation is new? Surely they need to do a quality job?

Can you see how that same love that starts with wanting to look after people, as the number of people grow and the number of people to love grows, requires and motivates love-fuelled quality in Christian ministry?