Congregations Gone Wild – Bending the Church to the Cravings of Man

The New York Times recently reported on a phenomena – Congregations Gone Wild – in church life that is causing turmoil in churches and hardship among ministers. The author, Jeffrey MacDonald says that the heart of the matter is, “congregational pressure to forsake one’s highest calling.” It stems from churches which have become so user and consumer friendly that they bow to pressure to provide what the consumers want – entertainment. It is marked by “theater-style seating and giant projection screens in churches and in mission trips that involve more sightseeing than listening to the people.

The result is pastors often have to choose between the calling of God and the preferences of people who have corrupt affections. It is problematic because you have churches that are not governed by the affections of God, but by the affections of men who cry out for specific cravings, “give us the comforting, amusing fare we want or we’ll get our spiritual leadership from someone else.”

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Our Marriages and the Marriages of Our Sons and Daughters

We are fast approaching this retreat on August 20-21 and registration is almost full. Click here for more information on this wonderful conference.

 

For a wonderful place to stay right here in Wake Forest, check out the Lions Gate Inn.

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A Controversial Film on the Way: IndoctriNation

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IndoctriNation from IndoctriNation on Vimeo.

Check out the website of an upcoming film, IndoctriNation: Public Schools and the Decline of Christianity in America, which exposes the true nature of our public education system.

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George Whitefield on Education

“When I was about twelve, I was placed at a school called St. Mary de Crypt, in Gloucester – the last grammar school I ever went to… And I cannot but here observe, with much concern of mind, how this way of training up youth has a natural tendency to debauch the mind, to raise ill passions and to stuff the memory with things as contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ, as light to darkness, heaven to Hell. However, though the first thing I had to repent of was my education in general…”

 

The life and Times of George Whitefield, by Arnold Dallimore, p48

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In Times of Awakening, Some are Slower

“Others have awakenings that come upon them more gradually; they begin at first to be something more thoughtful and considerate, so as to come to a conclusion in their minds that ’tis their best and wisest way to delay no longer, but to improve the present opportunity; and have accordingly set themselves seriously to meditate on those things that have the most awakening tendency, on purpose to obtain convictions; and so their awakenings have increased, till a sense of their misery, by God’s Spirit setting in therewith, has had fast hold of them.”

 

(Pg. 68, The Jonathan Edwards Reader, Yale Nota Bene)

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Taylor Tsantles and Blair Brown – Betrothed to be Married

 

Last Friday, our daughter Blair was betrothed to Taylor Tsantles. The wedding has been scheduled for November 6, 2010.

Many of you have met Taylor because he has traveled extensively with me over the past four years and was the best man in my son David’s wedding. He and I have been very close partners in ministry ever since he arrived in Wake Forest. God has given us a very special unity of heart in matters of church and family life and he is always a joy to be around – he is a cheerful and gregarious young man.

He was only thirteen years old when he came to Hope Baptist and from the moment he arrived he and I worked closely together. He is in the web and graphic design business, Steadfast Designs. He has been an intern at Hope Baptist Church and has always proven himself to be consistent with what Paul said young men should be, “in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you.” Titus 2:6-8

This is a very special time of joy for the Brown and Tsantles families. Our church family is especially giddy as they have been watching these two seek to glorify the Lord in the days of their youth.

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For Temporal and Eternal Security

This past week our family read Psalm 47:4 which tells us of our temporal and eternal security,

He will choose our inheritance for us.

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Persecution – NOT for Righteousness Sake

Mike McKinley of 9 Marks has an important post on persecution that comes for the wrong reason,

He responds to Acts 5:41, saying,

“We read that after the apostles had the tar beaten out of them: Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.

As believers, we are necessarilly going to have a lot of distance between us and those who don’t follow Christ. We live differently, love differntly, hope differntely. We’re citizens of a different country.

But it might be helpful if we limit the distance between us and the world in a lot of other ways. We don’t have to flaunt our lack of a TV and be weird and preachy about grinding your own grain. That only serves to put unnecessary distance between us and the people we’re trying to reach. Instead, we should try to engage the world around us, know what our neighbors care about, and try to inhabit the same universe they do.

If they are going to persecute us, let us at least be for things that really have something to do with being a Christian.”

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Safety throughout 36,000 miles of travel

The Road Trip for Reforming Church and Family took us over 12,000 miles – half the distance of the circumference of the earth. My uncle who has always owned motorhomes says that they break down every 300 miles… We had 3 motorhomes. Do the math. Even though we had no “major” problems, we replaced lots of parts at almost every stop to keep us running down the road. But, we were grateful that the Lord always had a mechanic nearby or a church or an individual who fixed them for us. In this sense, the Road Trip was the NCFIC’s stimulus package for the small mechanics of America. We had something to fix at every stop along the way.

We were astonished to look back and see that we had no accidents, no dents, no flat tires, no major repairs (like blown motors and transmissions), and were never stuck in a bad place on the road. We made it to all of our appointments.

I marvel at the safety God has afforded us. These lumbering, swaying old motorhomes are much safer than the Mayflower and the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria. But, they still scared me when we were passed by eighteen wheelers with what seemed to be only inches of margin. We have traveled all these miles without any mishaps and I am praising God for this.  Safety was my only real concern about the trip.

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Rising Trend – Home Church: Skip the sermon, worship at home

AP Writer, Linda Stewart Ball recently reported on a rising phenomena – leaderless unstructured, do as you please home churches. The NCFIC has consistently spoken against these kinds of churches – click here to listen to this audio message, “What about Home Churching.” While scripture makes it clear that the location of the meeting may be in a home, it is the structure and practice that defines a true church.

She writes of this increasingly common situation,

“To get to church on a recent Sunday morning, the Yeldell family walked no farther than their own living room to greet fellow worshipers.

“The members of this “house church” are part of what experts say is a fundamental shift in the way U.S. Christians think about church. Skip the sermons, costly church buildings and large, faceless crowds, they say. House church is about relationships forged in small faith communities.

In general, house churches consist of 12 to 15 people who share what’s going on in their lives, often turning to Scriptures for guidance. They rely on the Holy Spirit or spontaneity to lead the direction of their weekly gatherings.”

The author quotes church leader Ed Stetzer who speaks of why this might be happening. He says, “I think part of the appeal for some in the house church movement is the desire to return to a simpler expression of church,” said Ed Stetzer, a seminary professor and president of Lifeway Research, which is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. “For many, church has become too much (like a) business while they just want to live like the Bible.”

Perhaps this is true for some, but my view is that in many cases, the real reason is that they have one – or more – of several critical problems. First, it may be that they possess a very unbiblical understanding of the local church as Scripture defines it. In this case their real problem is ignorance. The biblical ignorance in the American church is legendary. It is filled with people who have never sought out important matters that are explicitly described in Scripture. Second, it may simply be rebellion – a rejection of the jurisdiction and authority of the local church which God has established. Or, perhaps they are really unbelievers who really care nothing for the pattern God has instituted in the Bible because they ultimately care nothing of God Himself, but instead seek what makes them feel  happy and at ease.

Whether it is ignorance or rebellion, our counsel is that people involved in these kinds of gatherings should flee to the institutional churches which maintain biblical practices, appoint biblically qualified leaders and who practice biblical discipline.

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Remarkable Forces Operating in Church and Family Life

We have been asked many times to sum up what we saw and learned on the NCFIC Road Trip. Here are nine unusual realities we faced that reflect some of the forces at work around the nation.

I. Massive changes are taking place in many lives

There are seismic lifestyle shifts that are taking place in people’s lives all around the nation. They are megashift level transformations. People are changing the most significant areas of their lives – education, family life and church life. When you change the way you educate the younger generation, rejecting the government school method, everything about your life changes. If a father begins to conduct family worship, his whole schedule and value system for time allocation changes. When a family begins to be part of a church more than just on Sunday, but begins to show hospitality and mercy in the community, the whole priority system of the family schedule changes. We saw these massive lifestyle changes everywhere we went.

These changes are so profoundly transforming that those who are experiencing them are living lifestyles totally unrecognizable in the mainstream population.

These changes are so jarring, and so socially unusual to those who exhibit them, that they are almost always met with disdain and slander, even though they are explicitly Christian patterns.

One clear sign of a revival is that people’s lives change. A mark of true conversion is that people repent of pagan ways and turn to the living God by changing the way they live. 

II.  “Power families”

Everywhere we went we saw a particular kind of family in action. I am calling them “power families.” These families dedicated significant resources to serving the church in their communities. They cared about their communities, friends, pastors, and former pastors. They invited their whole community to come and then worked like beavers to make it a pleasant experience.

They advertised, organized, set up, and cleaned up. They fed hordes of people delicious food. We saw whole families working together to furnish these meetings. Instead of outsourcing these things to catering companies and other professionals, they did it themselves with every family member shouldering responsibility.

When we arrived we saw these hospitality machines cranking up. It was inspiring to see what an influence a family can have on a whole community. They organized events where people drove as far as eight hours to participate.

It was faithful, diligent families in local churches that made our regional meetings work.

These families are like beacons of light in their regions. They worked hard. They had a vision for reaching the people in their communities.

III.  Progressive sanctification

It became clear to us that many of the churches that affiliate with us are getting stronger. This was one of the great joys of the trip. We saw that churches are adopting the principle of the sufficiency of Scripture and applying it to their church and family lives.  As a result, they are working to progressively establish churches on the Word of God alone. They are adopting historic confessions of faith, engaging in expository preaching, implementing biblical church discipline and are growing in their understanding of how to apply the regulative principle of worship in their churches.

Some churches in these regions used to be what we have called “unbiblical, leaderless house churches.” Others were practicing what some call, “home churching” where a family or a loose collection of people meet yet without the marks of a biblical church. For many years, we have attempted to speak to these unbiblical expressions in Christian culture.

What encouraged us was that some of the churches we were at were in this condition even three years ago. But since they have adopted the principle of the sufficiency of Scripture, they have become biblical churches by patterning themselves to biblical practices.

IV. Leaders Heeding Biblical instruction regarding ecclesiology

We met many men along the way who are involved in our online webinar elder discipleship program. It was a joy to meet these men face to face. But our joy was supercharged by the fact that these men are attempting to put the things we are teaching into practice.

Our elder discipleship program attempts to cast a vision for biblical church life by reading books and discussing critical issues of church and family life.

V.  Relationships bound together across America

We saw how God has knit a people together across the whole nation around biblical principles of church and family life. We saw how people were being connected via our web site and yearly conferences. While one of the motorhomes had to stay behind for repairs, our young men were able to stay with two families listed on the NCFIC web site – one in Wyoming and the other in Arkansas. One of those young men, Ryan Glick says, “one of the best parts of the Road trip was getting left behind… there was always a family within fifteen minutes or less. Most of them had never been to an NCFIC conference and had only seen our info online.” They ministered to Ryan by showing him hospitality giving him a place to stay, and feeding him until the vehicle was repaired. These families, though they had never met any of us personally, were kind enough to shower us with blessings.

VI. Hunger for answers

Extended times of personal interaction were the norm. We had many hours of Q&A time that revealed the longings, trials, and challenges that people are facing in matters of church and family life. Unfortunately, we never had enough time as the nights did not contain enough minutes for all of the questions people had.

Everywhere we went, the people were extremely attentive and interested in the message. I was surprised over and over again at the passion which was expressed.

There was significant diversity among the attendees. Some were thoroughly familiar with our message. Others were just realizing these things. Some had concerns and others were upset by the message and were not afraid to say so.

My prayer for these times was that Proverbs 15:28 would be fulfilled, “The heart of the righteous studies how to answer,” and that the experience would reflect Proverbs 15:23, “A man has joy by the answer of his mouth, and a word spoken in due season, how good it is.”

VII.  Bonds of love with young men across America

We were privileged with wonderful reunions with our former NCFIC interns from around the nation. This was such a happiness for us. We saw all except one of our former interns on the Road Trip. Our hearts burned within us that we could be together again. Our love for these young men was born out of service together in Wake Forest and at Hope Baptist Church. The memories flooded our minds and we were so thankful to be with these faithful and dear young men.

VIII.  Eye opening personal testimonies with a common thread

We conducted many interviews with people in the cities we visited. These were stories of individual, family and church reformation. We interviewed pastors, youth pastors and individuals. The most consistent story we heard in the interviews went like this. A father is saying, “5 years ago we started reading the Word of God to my family and now our family is completely changed.” The testimonies bore witness to the power of the Word of God to change lives.

IX. The exegetical arguments against age segregation are gaining traction nationally

We spoke to many pastors and youth pastors who have come to the conclusion that age segregated youth ministry is unbiblical and should be abandoned. The discussion on this issue has been broadened significantly in the past three years. Two things have happened. There has been broad recognition that youth ministry is severely broken. Nearly everyone agrees with this proposition. This was not the case several years ago. Second, the exegetical arguments against age-segregation are being recognized. Now, for the first time in my lifetime, there are many within mainstream evangelicalism who are recognizing the difficulty of skirting the exegetical argument.  The argument is this: there is not a shred of evidence for age-segregated ministry anywhere in the Bible. We were thankful to announce and show the trailer of our upcoming youth ministry film – Segregation! – A Critical Analysis of the Modern Youth Ministry Movement during the road trip. We hope to release the film this fall.

 

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The Seven Signs of True Revival

Iain Murray in his very helpful book, “Revival and Revivalism” shows what genuine awakenings look like. We read this book for our “elder discipleship” webinar program during the month of July.  He offers these seven signs.

1. The revival has made its appearance in various places, without any extraordinary means to produce it.

2. As far as I can see, there appears to be in the subjects of this work a deep, heart humbling sense of the great unreasonableness, abominable nature, pernicious effects and deadly consequences of sin…

3. They appear to have a lively and very affecting view of the infinite condescension and love of God the father…

4. They seem to me to have a very deep and affecting sense of the worth of immortal souls, ardent love for them, and an agonizing concern for their conviction, conversion, and complete salvation….This love, this compassion, this ardent desire for the salvation of sinful men and for Zion’s prosperity, far exceed any thing I have ever seen.

5. A considerable number of individuals appear to me to be greatly reformed in their morals.

6. A number of families, who lived apparently without the fear of God, in folly and in vice, without any religious instruction or any proper government, are now reduced to order, and are daily joining in worship of God, reading his word, singing his praises, and offering up supplications to a throne of grace…

7. The subjects of this work appear to be very sensible of the necessity of Sanctification as well as Justification, and that ‘without holiness no man can see the Lord.’

Iain Murray, Revival and Revivalism: The making and Marring of American Evangelicalism 1750-1858, (Banner of Truth Trust, reprinted 2004), p. 157-158

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We Gave Many Messages Related to the Reformation of Church and Family Life

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Here were the messages we brought:

Common Infections in Family-Integrated Churches, Scott Brown

We Are in a Time of Reformation, Scott Brown

How to Build a God-Centered Family, Scott Brown

What Happens to Those Who Tear Down Their Father’s Idols, Scott Brown

Preparing Sons and Daughters for Marriage and Dominion, Scott Brown

God Forbid that I Should Boast Except in the Cross of Christ, Scott Brown

Family Worship, Scott Brown

The Glory of God is the Center of the Church, Scott Brown

Biblical Youth Ministry – What It Is and What It Is Not, Peter Bradrick

A Charge to Young Men, Peter Bradrick

Be Fruitful and Multiply, Craig Houston

Fitly Formed Together, Craig Houston

Members of One Another, Dan Horn

Why Doctrine Matters in Church Life, Dan Horn

The Indispensable Center of Church and Family Reformation, Dan Horn

Reforming Worship, Exodus 32 Jason Young

Do the Word, James 1:21-25, Jason Young

Always Reforming, Steve Gruitzius

Living Stones Built Together, Gary Powers

A Discussion for Applying Proverbs 31, Deborah, Monica, Blair and Claudia Brown and Kelly Bradrick

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Affirm One Another, Share with One Another, and Serve One Another in a Local Church

How do you affirm one another, share with one another and serve one another in a local church? Justin Taylor passes on a helpful way of understanding the various categories of the “one another’s” in the New Testament, by citing Timothy Keller’s categorization, Gospel in Life Study Guide.

Affirm

1. Affirm one another’s strengths, abilities, and gifts.

2. Affirm one another’s equal importance in Christ.

3. Affirm one another through visible affection.

Share

4. Share one another’s space, goods, and time.

5. Share one another’s needs and problems.

6. Share one another’s beliefs, thinking, and spirituality.

Serve 7. Serve one another through accountability.

8. Serve one another through forgiveness and reconciliation.

9. Serve one another’s interests rather than our own.

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The Road Trip Team and What They Did

The Road Trip Team was a wonderful picture of the body of Christ functioning together. The division of labor worked very well as we had what seemed the perfect team with all the right skills mixing together.

Here is how the team members functioned.

Deborah Brown spoke at the ladies teas and coordinated the messages that her daughters delivered. She bounced her grandsons on her knees while preparing food for all the motorhomes on the road so we could keep moving. She kept everyones spirits alive with her natural cheerfulness, mercy and love. And… hardly breaking a sweat, did laundry for seventeen travelers on the weekends.

Claudia Brown spoke at ladies teas, helped Deborah with everything, and ran the book table. She was our supreme booktable sales person because she had edited most of the books and could tell customers what the books were all about.

Blair Brown ran registration, took lots of pictures, spoke at ladies teas and helped Deborah with her duties.

 

 

David Brown was the administrative mastermind. Every day, we reaped rewards for David’s forethought many months before departure.  He set forth a fantastic logistical program. The equipment, the schedule, the team was very well conceived.

Monica Brown, David’s wife of three months Spoke at ladies teas, had her hands full with her husband… gets the flexibility award for having to share her new husband with a bunch of grungy guys in her motorhome, and carried her new baby with joy.

Peter Bradrick was the jack of all trades as a speaker, Master of Ceremonies, interviewer, singer, and front man for coordination with contacts up ahead.

 

Kelly Bradrick: was busy speaking at the ladies teas, and keeping her little boys functioning.

 

 

Triumph Perseverance Bradrick, age 3 was the Memory Verse Guy, who also gets the award for being the happiest when the sickest.

 

 

Knox Defender Bradrick, age 2 popularized his trademark by greeting and hand shaking everyone within five feet, in a way only Knox can do.

 

 

Loyal Cromwell Bradrick, age 6 mos:  was the sweetest, blue eyed, happy, loyal baby there ever was.

 

 

Nic Ruiz was our tireless videographer, shooting interviews, main sessions at the meetings and editing during the drive times in between. He also had opportunity to share the testimony of his conversion.

 

Juan Ruiz was busy with setting up, videotaping, and transcribing messages and Q&A Sessions at the speed of 90 wpm.

 

 

Tyler Dorin our Fall intern, joined us early to help us with logistical needs including driving almost 12,000 miles, setting up, maintaining motorhomes, taking pictures and just being Tyler, a delightful conversationalist.

 

Ryan Glick was another of the three tireless drivers. He was our nature photographer, roadie and blogger.

 

 

Matthew Jackson flew into Chicago to be our mechanical genius. He kept every vehicle checked at each stop.  Not only did he keep the vehicles hydrated and oiled, but he also pulled some of the better practical jokes along the way.

Taylor Tsantles was my personal assistant blogging and making and changing my powerpoints. He was another of our tireless drivers who drove approximately 95% of the miles. He was a faithful servant, conversationalist and photographer.  He spoke at the meetings, wrote blogs for me, led singing and all manner of platform responsibilities.

Stephen Bradrick was a constant help, by fixing and servicing and hauling and doing whatever was needed until he swapped places with Matthew Jackson in Chicago.

 

 

Stephen Sides held down the fort for us in Wake Forest, greasing the skids, shipping packages, handling online orders, and keeping the book and CD sales going.

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