Another Reason to Love the Church

Gresham Machen Reminds Us of Another Reason to Love the Church

“Is there no refuge from strife? Is there no place of refreshing where a man can prepare for the battle of life? Is there no place where two or three can gather in Jesus’ name, to forget for the moment all those things that divide nation from nation and race from race, to forget human pride, to forget the passions of war, to forget the puzzling problems of industrial strife, and to unite in overflowing gratitude at the foot of the Cross? If there be such a place, then that is the house of God and that the gate of heaven. And from under the threshold of that house will go forth a river that will revive the weary world.” (Christianity and Liberalism [1923], 180-81)

Gresham Machen Died 72 Years Ago Today, January 1 – He was fifty five. Darryl Hart remembers this compelling and insightful statement,

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Ways to Close Out 2009 and Begin Again

Here are three helpful tools for looking back on 2009 and forward to the new year.

For my favorite, see Doug Phillips on, “How to End the Year 2009”

For a wonderful way to guide all of the New Year see, The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards

Here are some creative questions from Michael Hyatt for looking back at 2009, “Seven Questions to Ask About Last Year.”

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How Do I Find Time for This Elder Discipleship?

I know from some conversations that some are thinking, “How do I make time for this?”

Here are five points to consider:

First, your heart has to be in it. You have to be convinced that this is what you need at this time in your life. If it is, don’t let the opportunity pass. All good things require discipline, difficult decisions and energetic stretching of the hours of the day. It is worth it, but your heart has to be in it or the efforts will fall off.

Second, we would want you to be able to set aside 3-4 hours per week to read the books and meet with the group once per week. Some will finish the books and some will not. The books are generally not very thick so the book list is really not as massive in terms of sheer reading as it looks. There are more books than there is reading. Having the books as resources will also be a valuable asset for many years to come.

Third, for many men, it is easy to find 3-4 hours of reading per week if they refrain from surfing the internet, looking at blogs and chasing news stories one link at a time and watching funny video clips and other things. These things really add up. You may actually have more time in your schedule than you think because of misplaced priorities, time wasters and lawful research that may be better put aside.

Fourth, I recommend that men set aside specific times to do the reading. Two hours twice per week with no interruptions would be a nice way to do it, or some variation of that.

Fifth, have your children do the reading with you as part of their school. This will give lots of opportunity for you to discuss meaningful things around the dinner table and while you are sitting in your house, walking by the way, lying down and rising up.

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Elder Discipleship Update – What about Time and Money?

There are two major questions about the elder discipleship program that we are asked: “how will I find the time” and “how will I pay for it.”

First, how will I have enough time? We estimate that the reading will take 3-4 hours per week. How will you find that time? One thing to consider, is whether or not you can reduce time spent online or find other activities that might be set aside for a season. Most men spend a few hours online each week looking at web sites and such. A recent study indicates that the average person spends 13 hours per week online excluding email.

Second, how will I be able to pay for it? We calculated the time allocation of our staff to provide this program, and have established a $395.00 cost for the entire year. However, we want to be flexible and are willing to receive this in different ways. First, the easiest way is to pay the full amount upfront as advertised. Second, an alternate method is to pay 100.00 per month in Dec, Jan, Feb and 95.00 in March. Third, you can pay $33 monthly for the twelve months of the program. Lastly, we have several scholarships available. If you are experiencing significant financial difficulty and are not able to to pay monthly, please write a brief note describing your situation and desire to participate and we will consider you for one of the available scholarships.

We look forward to you joining us for the introductory online meeting this coming Tuesday to begin the Elder Discipleship Program.

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Free Online Copy of “Charity and its Fruits” is Available

Check out this free online version of “Charity and it’s Fruits” by clicking on this link.

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Family Tensions and Holidays – Check this from Russell Moore

Here is some very practical wisdom from Russell Moore on “A Word about Family Tensions and the Holidays.”

He says, “human depravity doesn’t go into hibernation between Christmas Eve and New Year’s.” I liked how he identified how temptation comes to us at holiday gatherings,

God will allow you to be tested. He’ll refine you, bring you to the fullness of maturity in Christ. He probably won’t do it by your fighting lions before the emperor or standing with a John 3:16 sign before a tank in the streets of Beijing. More likely, it will be through those seemingly little places of temptation—like whether you’ll love the belching brother-in-law at the other end of the table who wants to talk about how the Cubans killed JFK and how to make $100,000 a year selling herbal laxatives on the Internet.

Read the whole article and be improved.

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Elder Discipleship Update

Next Tuesday evening at 8:00-10:00 Eastern Time, we will be having our first online “Elder Discipleship” discussion. We are starting with a focus on Jonathan Edwards collection of lectures on 1 Corinthians 13, “Charity and it’s Fruits.”

If you have not yet signed up, click here to register.

I would like to give you some details for our meeting.

First, let me direct you to the updated detailed reading schedule we have posted here. You will notice that we have scheduled discussion for each book on the reading list. Each reading assignment is identified by the date corresponding with Monday of that week.

Second, notice that on the reading schedule, we have identified one scripture memory assignment for each quarter. We will begin each meeting reciting this text of scripture during the specified time period.

Third, regarding the time of meeting monthly. We have established Tuesday evening from 8:00-10:00 pm, Eastern time. We may change this from time to time, but our consistent pattern will remain the same.

Fourth, we will launch our password protected collaborative web site on Tuesday before we meet. We will walk through it’s capabilities and how to use it on Tuesday evening during our meeting.

Fifth, I would like to explain why we would begin with the book, “Charity and it’s Fruits.” We must acknowledge that we live in an era where people often lose sight of the importance of love in the church. It is clear from scripture that love fulfills the whole law. We have a tendency to make the church an encyclopedia of theology, rather than an epistle of love. Often, as we take care of the church of God, we forget the laws of love that are meant to govern everything else that happens in the church. In a time of transition and reform, love is often left out of the equation of church life, when Christ meant it to be central.

I am looking forward to our times together over the next year and that God will continue to sanctify us and teach us how to “conduct” ourselves “in the household of God.”

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Register Now for Elder Discipleship

Time is Running Short to Sign Up for Elder Discipleship.

Our first Elder Discipleship session is December 29th. You can sign up here.

The purpose of the National Center for Family Integrated Churches is to “promote and facilitate healthy family integrated churches.” One of the critical components of this is equipping elders because a student becomes like his teacher (Luke 6:40) and the church will become like the elders that lead it.

A critical need

One of the greatest needs in the church today is the supply of qualified elders. When I ask leaders what their churches need most, four out of five say, “qualified elders.” Everywhere I go, this is the cry.

In the same way that healthy families spring from healthy fathers and mothers, healthy churches are the result of godly elders. The appointment of godly elders is critical because they have a reforming influence on the church, for they “set in order the things that are lacking” (Titus 1:5).

A new generation of church reformers

The ultimate purpose of this elder discipleship program is to contribute to a rising generation of gospel centered leaders who will take care of the church of God – God’s way. For, without qualified gospel centered leaders, how will we have gospel centered God pleasing churches?

A local opportunity for your home church

This program is designed to be used in your own church, by gathering a group of men who desire to grow in this area. It is a strategically packaged course that exposes participants to the biblical directives for church life.

Establish study groups poised for action

We pray that study groups will be formed and that the principles will be applied in real church life in order to “take care of the church of God” (1 Timothy 3:5) This should not be used simply as an academic exercise but as a resource to stimulate fruitful service within the local church.

Local church application

Application in the local church should be the focal point of our study. The books we will read and the discussions we will have, are meant to be applied in your local church setting. Elder training without a local church context, falls short of the biblical purpose.

The enormous importance of this is shown in Paul’s words to the elders of the church of Ephesus on the beach of Miletus, when he said, ‘Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). This shows us the value of the actual work of an elder. It is valuable because a blood bought people are a valuable people.

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John MacArthur on the Dangers of Pragmatism

John MacArthur, writing about the dangers of pragmatism, points out that it comes from within the church,

“Unfortunately, there is at least one other parallel between the church today and the church in the late nineteenth century: many Christians seem completely unaware—if not unwilling to see—that serious dangers threaten the church from within. Yet if church history teaches us anything, it teaches us that the most devastating assaults on the faith have always begun as subtle errors arising from within.”

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Out of the Emergent Church – A Testimony

Today you are looking at a former emergent, missional, conversational, tolerant, and unifying waste of pulpit space. By God’s grace I stand before you a redeemed wretch, kingdom member, and a profoundly changed man.

Not too much more than a year ago, I could be found among the small gatherings in coffee houses reading books by Rob Bell, Brian McClaren and Phyllis Tickle. Part of a movement? Not really. It was more of a conversation that never ended, maybe you could call it a rebellion against movements, but deep down I thought of it as an introspective glimpse into the wonders of God’s greatest creation. Me.

How did I end up there amongst the black rimmed faux glasses, hair highlights and eggnog latte’s? I suppose at the time I would have told you I landed there because of zeal. I wanted to create a new church for a radically new generation. I saw the statistics in my schooling that warned us that the Church was losing this generation, and unless we made the necessary unlearning of “church” we would lose this generation. I was willing to do anything necessary to make sure young people weren’t needlessly going to hell over a worn out approach and irrelevant presentation of the gospel. I could go on and on with excuses, but from the objective perspective I have now been given, I realize I was sitting there because I was simply depraved. I had not in mind the things of God but the things of men.

God began to speak to me one day as I sat down to read an article by Christianity Today, which quoted Rob Bell as saying, “We are rediscovering Christianity as an Eastern religion…” And something sparked in me, and all of a sudden I suspected the crowd I was following might just be playing for the other team. I wanted to dismiss these thoughts, after all, I had devoted years to building my ministry around the teachings of these Emergent leaders. I couldn’t just throw it all away now could I? I opened my Bible, and read these words, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God ” (2 cor. 6:14-16) It was not so much the verse that made me start to weep at that point, but my initial reaction to it scared me. I did not like that verse. It was so judgmental, and intolerant. The thought crossed my mind that Paul really did not sound like Jesus at all, and I wondered whether he was really a Christian.

For the next couple of months I was in a daze. I could not concentrate well, I could not bring myself to study for my sermons, which caused a lot of people to wonder whether I had gone off the deep end. But there was one evening, after my family had gone to sleep that I began to surf the Internet, and I ran into a sermon by brother Paul Washer. I listened to about five minutes of it before calling him a pharisee and turning it off. But something kept telling me to listen to the rest of it. So, I forced myself to listen to the whole thing. Then I listened to it again. I sat down and read the book of 1 John, then Romans, and it seemed as if it was for the first time. It is hard for me to describe it to you, but the Bible describes Saul’s conversion in such a way that seems fitting for what happened to me. Something like scales fell off of my eyes, and I was struck by how vivid and fulfilling the scriptures were. The next day I decided that I could not continue to preach the way I had. By God’s grace, I preached a sermon for the first time to my congregation that lifted up the Holiness of God, and did my best to shed light on their depravity. I repented publicly of my sinful pride and flippant use of the scriptures. There were a lot of tears that day, but there was also Glory being given to God through those tears. People wanted to be saved, they were cut to the heart, and desired to be forgiven.

Since then, so much has happened that I do not have time to tell it all, but to give a few examples, as a church we are family integrating, we have families taking part in home worship groups, Bible studies are actually about the Bible, and the scripture is being lifted up as our sole authority in faith and practice. For me my faith is now by scripture alone, by faith alone, by grace alone, through Christ alone, to the glory of God alone!

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SoS Closing Remarks from Scott Brown and Doug Phillips

 

 

 

Doug and I closed the conference together this afternoon offering words of pastoral care. We spoke about the “comfort and patience of the scripturees,”  a had a discussion of what the future may hold for the family-integrated church movement. Doug asked me where I would like to see the NCFIC be in the next 10 years.

I answered that I hope to see a spreading awareness of the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture and a response among Christians which turns them to the church and to the family. In response to those who would destroy our freedom, we should build strong families and strong churches. Is the economy collapsing? Build strong families and strong churches.

Satan is pouring out his malice on the church and family. I want to see an upwelling of love for the church. I pray for the planting of Gospel preaching, God centered, Christ exalting, expository preaching family integrated churches.  As this happens, I expect that we will see an escalation of distinction. As the world grows darker, the church will shine brighter.

We also spoke of the importance of building strong friendships that will be used of the Lord to continue the reformation of the church.

Here is something exciting: This whole conference was put on by young people—an army of 17-year-olds. This is a testimony to the Deuteronomy 6 methodology. When you walk with them from a young age, they become capable of great things. The three people who made this conference happen are my son-in-law, Peter Bradrick, my son, David, and my daughter Blair. Then we had an army of young volunteers eager to take responsibility and ready to do real work.

Here is what I wanted to ring in the ears of our attendees as we walked away—Romans 15:4: “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.”

 

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Final Keynote – The Sufficiency of Scripture in the Discipleship-Making Ministry of the Church and the Home

 

 

Voddie Baucham opened the Word of God to us in Titus 1 and 2 during our final keynote this afternoon. He did not just teach us about the sufficiency of Scripture, he demonstrated it by a line-by-line study of this blueprint for godly life.

He used the illustration of a three-legged stool to describe the three vital aspects of age-integrated discipleship: godly, mature men and women; godly, manly elders; and godly, biblically functioning homes. This is the key to harmony between church and home.

He said, “Give your life to the Bride of Christ until you die.” Then, he powerfully showed that Titus 1 contains the list of qualities to which every man must aspire.

Point after point, he spoke directly to unbiblical practices and habits which are so easy to fall into or be immersed in unconsciously. Please order the conference audio and let it be a help in your own church and family reformation.

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The Network Hall

 

 

Throughout the day, on breaks and during meals, families have been taking advantage of the networking room in the upper level of the conference center.

We have set up tables, organized geographically by state, so that families from the same area can meet each other and make connections that can be sources of encouragement and strength long after they return home from this weekend.

 

 

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Doug Phillips – The Sufficiency of Scripture for Culture and Aesthetics

 

 

Doug Phillips just spoke on the sufficiency of Scripture for culture and aesthetics.

Doug made the case that cultural and aesthetic elements all flow from people’s basic religious assumptions. To quote Henry Van Til, “Culture is religion externalized.”

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The Sufficiency of Scripture and Family Integration

Kevin Swanson shared how the battle for the family and the church is being fought on issues of Biblical jurisdiction.

Scripture delegates to the family, the church, and the state certain spheres of authority, and they can exercise no authority outside those spheres. Tragically, however, the church has usurped authority from the family by training youth through Sunday schools and youth groups, whereas the Bible commits the training of children to their parents. Relationships may be ‘slow’ and ‘inefficient,’ but discipleship is God’s method.

As we reject this unbiblical usurpation, families and churches must be integrated with humility, law, and love.

He closed by reminding his listeners that we are fighting for the life of the family and the church in the twenty-first century. Every battle in this war is important. By God’s grace, these battles will be won.

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