I have recently been having several conversations with people about multi-site churches and it reminded me of a paper I wrote in seminary about this topic. I hope it is useful in getting us thinking about what is a church.
I grew up outside of Washington D.C and until recently my old neighborhood was the home of some serious tobacco farming. For several years of my childhood our house was literally surrounded by a tobacco farm. I remember walking home from school and seeing farmers tilling the soil, planting the seeds, and gathering the tobacco leaves. It was clear to me that my neighbors knew what they were doing. If I asked them anything about tobacco farming they could have told me more than I ever wanted to know. Imagine if one day while I was walking home I asked each of the different farmers what they were planting in the ground. What do you think are the chances that I would have got a different answer from each of them? Each farmer may have different farming methods, but they would never even slightly disagree about what they are planting, right?
Yet, I wonder if I could say the same thing about most pastors and church planters. If I went and asked a large group of pastors and church planters what they are planting, would I get different answers from each one of them? Now, I know that defining and identifying a church is much more complicated and subjective than defining and identifying a tobacco plant. However, I am concerned that many pastors and church planters today are redefining what is a church. All you need to do is begin listening to those pastors and planters who have been advocating the recent multi-site church planting model. If you listen closely to what they are saying about the church and then compare it to what the bible says about the church the differences will be clear.
What I hope communicate in this post is twofold:
1) Provide a biblical and historical definition of the church.
2) Compare that definition with a definition of a multi-site church by quoting the men who are advocating the practice. Continue reading
The following is my notes of Kevin Deyoung’s sermon on heaven. Click HERE for the audio of this sermon.
Where we go when we die is such a fundamental question in our lives. There may not be a more fundamental question then this. Also as a church we will be facing death and all the more as we grow older together.
When you think about heaven we need to get into our mind two different stages. The first stage is heaven the new heavens and new earth when Christ returns. This is the primary thing that the bible talks about when it speaks of heaven.
The second stage is sometimes called the intermediate state. It is not the final goal of our life, but it is the place we go when we die immediately after we die and before the new heavens and new earth are established.
What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.
Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. Continue reading
When Jesus preaches His most famous sermon, the Sermon on the Mount, He does not present an easier law. Instead He hammers the crowds and His disciples with the truth that God demands perfect obedience.
Consider the six “you have heard it said…but I say to you” statements in Matthew 5:20-48. Then try and figure out how the following two statements, which function as bookends of that section, make the law any easier: “unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven…You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:20, 48). How is this easier or gentler? Continue reading
Some people have said law and gospel “is just a Lutheran axiom.” Martin Luther was without a doubt one of the most influential spokesman God used to teach the world about the double use of the law in his commentary of Galatians.
However, “when discussing Law and Gospel in connection with systematic or dogmatic theology [John Calvin] is in perfect agreement with Luther’s approach.” Calvin is one of many in the Reformed tradition who is in agreement with Luther.
Zacharius Ursinus, the primary author of the Heidelberg Catechism, states: “The doctrine of the church consists of two parts: the Law and the Gospel; in which we have comprehended the sum and substance of the sacred Scriptures…The law and gospel are the chief and general divisions of Holy Scriptures.”
Additionally, in Louis Berkhof’s “Systematic Theology” he explains this was the norm ever since the Reformation began. “The churches of the Reformation from the very beginning distinguished between the law and the gospel as the two parts of the Word of God as a means of grace.”
This preaching continued from some of the great Puritan preachers like Richard Sibbes, Thomas Cartwright, Thomas Watson, John Owen, and Thomas Goodwin. [The law-gospel distinction] is replete in the sermons and theological treatises of Episcopal Puritans such as Perkins, Richard Sibbes, and Archbishop Ussher; Presbyterian Puritans such as Thomas Cartwright and Thomas Watson; and Independents such as John Owen and Thomas Goodwin.”
In 1884 to 1885, every Friday evening C.F.W. Walther gave lectures on preaching that have now been published and become a classic work for those in Lutheran and Reformed churches. Walther may have said it best, “The true knowledge of the distinction between the Law and the Gospel is not only a glorious light, affording the correct understanding of the entire Holy Scriptures, but without this knowledge Scripture is and remains a sealed book.”