Friday, October 24, 2008

Corporate Worship

I have been thinking about corporate worship. My thoughts have been centered around the idea of how best we can organize our worship on Sunday morning. What is the best way to organize a God glorifying, Christ exalting, Holy Spirit filling worship service? Well here is a rough outline of what I would like to see accomplished.

1.) The true Gospel needs to saturate the service.

2.) Christ' Lordship needs to be a prevalent motif.

3.) Prayer should take place, at the very least, before, during and toward the end of the service.

4.) Pastoral prayer for the congregation should apply to the congregation and be thought out before hand but done with flexibility.

5.) Music should have traditional hymns but arranged in a contemporary way and newly written songs. This allows the music to be culturally relevant yet still helps Christians understand the unity they have with believers of past ages. Some of the songs done in the service would be happy and there would be clapping. Other songs would be solemn. Too often services go from one extreme to the other. In the Psalms we find that there are a number of different emotional postures. Services might also incorporate psalms set to music but arranged in a contemporary manner.

6.) Worship service should have contemporary songs that are theologically accurate and that are centered around God.

7.) There should be a lot of scripture. It would be nice to see scripture selection done in a way that incorporates a biblical theological method. Biblical Theology in a technical sense is the study of the unity of the scriptures. So how this applies is that scripture passages from all over the bible, both Old and New would relate to the main theme of the sermon. They would be read at different parts of the service. However the opening scripture would be based around an attribute of God and/or an action of God. That is how the service would begin. There would probably be three, four or five scripture passages read during the service. Preferably each quarter of the service would have a passage read. The last passage would be the main text for the sermon. The many scripture reading would help impress upon the congregation the importance of the word of God. It would also show that the service is centered around God in that we place so much importance on Gods very words.

8.) The ordinances would be taken toward the end of the service every Sunday.

9.) Preaching would be Christ centered expository preaching as the norm. Topical preaching would be done on special occasions (national tragedy, etc) and also to teach major doctrines. For instance after preaching the book of Philippians the teaching elder might do a series on the doctrine of sanctification. Preaching should be biblical, theological and explicitly applicable.

Anyhow these are some of the ideas I have.

Written by Stephen Stanford

Monday, October 13, 2008

Book Review: According to Plan

According to Plan: The unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible. By Graeme Goldsworthy Downers Grove: Intervarsity, 1991. 251 pp


The bible is a collection of books with a variety of characters that existed over a long period of time. Some times we might think of the bible as simply Gods instruction manual for our life, but with so much diversity in the historical-chronological placement of the characters and the multiform locations how do we find any coherence and unity to apply the text of scripture to our lives. It is common place for many Christians to be confused on how the Old Testament relates to their lives. For instance, one might wonder how the story of the exodus relates to a non-Jewish Christian in 2008. Graeme Goldsworthy takes up the task of Biblical Theology. Biblical Theology in the technical or academic sense is the study of the bibles unity. In According to Plan he sets out to find the unifying elements between the Old Testament and the New Testament.


The book is split into four parts. The first part is entitle “Biblical Theology- Why?” In this section he sets out to inform us as to why Biblical Theology is necessary. He argues that Biblical Theology as a methodological approach helps us deal with a number of theological problems that occur as we read the text of scripture. Also, he argues that Biblical Theology helps us interpret the Old Testament properly. Moreover, biblical theology helps us interpret problematic passages. By understanding the grand narrative of scripture we can interpret the problematic particular parts.

The second part is entitled “Biblical Theology- How?” This part really deals with the epistemological basis for our ability to do Biblical Theology. In this section he explains the various theological disciplines that we use to know scripture. Then he looks at how the Christian world view informs our presuppositional basis for interpreting scripture. He also looks at the implications of Christ interpreting the Old Testament and how that informs out understanding of the grand theme that runs from genesis to revelation.

The third part is entitled “Biblical Theology- What?” This section is the largest of the four. In this section he goes through the main sections of the bible and shows how they relate individually to the flow of redemptive history. For instance, how does the covenant made with King David build upon the covenants of Sinai and with Abraham? Another way of looking at the question is: How does the history of the bible relate to the overall theme of the bible?

The fourth section is entitled “Biblical Theology- Where?” In this section Goldsworthy shows the reader how to do biblical theology. He lets the reader see how to take a topic and then look at that topic through the lenses of the redemptive history of the bible.


The book was very helpful in many was. His discussion of the exodus account was particularly interesting. He helped me meditate about how God, in his sovereignty, often will set up the redemptive context in ways that man can only credit God for the accomplishment of redemption. Abraham had to trust that God would provide an heir even when physically it looked impossible. So also, Israel in its captivity had no way to save themselves. The promises given to Abraham looked empty. God said that he would make them a great nation but instead they are slaves in Egypt. Yet God chose them as his people not because they were better than Egypt or any other people group on the earth, but so that God would glorify himself through the coming messiah. The people of Israel simply had to trust the promises of God on Gods intrinsic authority. Not only do Gods promises look hopeless because they are slaves, but also God hardened pharaoh’s heart. God sets up the hopeless situation so that the redemption could only be traced back to the handiwork of God.

This is particularly what he has does even with us. We are children of Abraham (Gal 3:7) but, like the nation of Israel was not chosen because of its wealth or the greatness of its numbers so also we as individuals were not chosen because of our inherent goodness or decision making abilities (Rom 9:11-18). Just like Israel was subject to the Egyptians so also we (Christians), albeit willingly, were subject to our lord: the world, the flesh and the devil (Eph 2:1-3). Just as God redeemed his people with his mighty hand, plaguing and destroying the Egyptians so also God redeemed us by sending his son to die for our sins and giving us faith to believe (Eph 2:4-8). The point is that it is God alone who gets the credit for the work of redemption. God saves us in such a way that it is God dishonoring to see man as anything else but as completely needy upon his grace and authoritative sovereignty.

Use for Ministry

I think that this book will be very useful for anyone who seeks to understand the scriptures in their entirety. This book will be particularly helpful for those who want to see the deep significance of the Old Testament narratives. As for those, like myself, who desire to preach and teach Gods word. It will be particularly helpful as I seek to prepare sermons on the Old Testament. Moreover, it will be helpful for me as I prepare sermons so that I can relate the Old Testament narrative to its ultimate telos, the Gospel.

Written by Stephen Stanford

Monday, October 6, 2008

Evangelistic Opportunities

In the last post I mentioned three ways that we can engage people in evangelistic conversation. We should be opinionated (in the way that I described in the previous post), inquisitive and compassionate. Several good comments were added in response by others. Now, I want to think of a few ways that we can create opportunities for conversations about the gospel. We are around the unbelieving all the time, and if not we should make it a point to spend time with the unbeliever. The fact is that wherever we are we have the opportunity to evangelize, at work, at play and at church. Yes, even at church. Not everyone is converted there, and besides we ought to speak of God's word often with those at church.

At work we can, and I think, ought to evangelize. The mere fact that there may be consequences is not sufficient to excuse us, for it is not great than the commission from Christ. I don't mean to say that the consequences are not significant; they should be considered, but they are not more important than God's command. It should also be remembered that evangelizing those at work need not be all at once, but done gradually. It will come about that people will discuss what they believe and why, an opportunity is presented at that time. Share what you believe, and connect it to the gospel which is your reason. Gain their respect as much as possible be open to opportunities. Evangelism is not something that we do at a certain time and in certain places. Use the ideas discussed in the previous post at work.

The most basic idea I have for evangelism is to get involved in something that you are interested in where there will be unbelievers. Examples of this are abundant, I have heard of a pastor that joined a rowing team in order to evangelize, another person uses a book club and another befriends those on the bus. Do you like music? Join a music club. Do you like sports? Join a team, invite people over from work. Meet people with common interests and use that as a vehicle for creating opportunities for evangelistic conversations.

Another idea is to start evangelizing the people around you. Do you live in an apartment? Talk to your neighbors. Do you go out to eat? Become a regular at a local restaurant and befriend the workers. Be friendly.

Some less popular methods are still valid. Handing out tracts and preaching to groups. I recommend that the latter be done in an environment that facilitates this. Say in formal debates, in meetings and classrooms. If your a student, make it clear what the gospel is and correct the ignorance of unbelievers appropriately. I knew an RUF intern that regularly attended the UT atheist club meetings. There he made his belief known and made friendships with the people involved. By the end of the year they have decided to put on a debate to which atheists and rufers were invited. After the debate they went to eat and talk. Out of this I remember hearing of fruitful conversations. This is perhaps one of the best examples I know of evangelism. In regards to tract evangelism, the point is not so much to be effective in a singular moment, but to spread information about the truth as much as possible. It is basically advertising. Believe it or not people learn things form the media and its advertising. Advertising is an excellent way for us to spread the knowledge of the truth. Using brief, but well thought out arguments about christianity can be useful. Spread them around whether you talk to a person or not, it is likely that someone will ready it and learn something.

This are some ideas that I have thought about, though they are not entirely my own. I would like to mention a few things as a side note. Whenever we talk about evangelism, especially relationship evangelism it is important to remember that the way act and live is exceedingly important. It will show how much we really believe in Jesus and Love him. Our passion can be seen. It also means that part of setting a good example is being honest about our imperfection and sin. Believe it or not sinners will see us sin (they may hold it against us or think that it is okay), but rather that excuse ourselves or deny things, or stand proud or whatever we do, we should use it as an opportunity to explain the gospel. We are sinners, they are sinners and both need the forgiveness of Christ. Tell them about the promise of the Spirit who does his sanctifying work. We can not avoid unbelievers seeing us sin, so use it as an opportunity to explain the gospel when possible. Obviously that won't always be possible, but we must do what we can. And of course, remember that you should live as uprightly as possible because you love Christ and you will faithfully represent him in this way. We must not forget that representing christ in our action is not the gospel, and that it must be coupled with speaking the word of truth. Finally, I want to remind the reader of what has been on my heart. We will neither pursue nor see evangelistic opportunities, nor be ready with the gospel, nor able to set a good example if we are not in Prayer and bible study and most of all if we are not loving and dwelling on Christ as first and foremost in our lives.

I hope that these ideas are helpful to everyone. Let me know what you think, I really appreciated and enjoyed the comments that were made on the other post.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Evangelistic Conversation

Lately, I have been thinking about evangelism. I haven't been thinking about the specific content of our message; I have been thinking about how to do evangelism. What do we do that we consider evangelism. Wherever Jesus and Paul went they evangelized. Books and sermons analyzing John 4 and Acts 17 can be found in abundance and they are great examples of the masters at their work. First, I think that evangelism is most affective when it comes from the overflow of the heart. When we are familiar with the scripture and have been wrestling with it we are far better prepared to evangelize. Understanding is of great importance, and so is personal application. Having the gospel close to our hearts and fresh in our minds makes us ready to evangelize. So, that is what sets the stage for evangelism, but what about doing it? Ideas are endless, churches plan visitations and work at soup kitchens and various ministries, like campus ministries,tract evangelism and helping internationals. At some point I have done most of these, and I like them. But what I really want to consider is what should be the most common form of evangelism, simple personal evangelism. If every Christian was involved in the above ministries, I still don't think that we would see the results that we would hope to see. Personal evangelism, then, is the most important for the lay Christian. Lets consider conversing about the gospel. How do you start a conversation?

When virtually any issue comes up, political, social, emotional, intellectual, etc., there is an opening. Giving your opinion on a issue, and state the Christian motive behind that. This is applying our christian worldview to the issue so that others see it and can consider it. Of course, this means we had better think about things beforehand. Making it explicit allows people to connect it and you to Christianity. People can and will disagree with you, but as time goes on they will (if the relationship is long lasting) be able to see a comprehensive worldview, and rationale. When people see the rationale, it gives them more reason to consider it. The goal is for them to be informed about what you believe and be challenged by it. Avoid starting an argument, state what you believe and why, if the conversation is with a friend you will have more opportunities to discuss it. If someone starts arguing with you about your position, give a defense and make it clear that there is a fundamental reason for the disagreement, namely that you are a Christian, but don't continue arguing. The idea is, don't start it but don't fear it.

Another suggestion is to be inquisitive, ask questions, let people tell you what they think. This shows interest and respect, so don't be condescending. If their position is lame they will reveal that. Learn from them, and hopefully they will start asking you questions too. Be prepared to answer questions and defend against attacks.

The third thing is to be compassionate. Listen to their struggles and show interest. Listening shows respect and wins trust. If appropriate ask them questions that allow them to think about things, and when you can give advice be sure that you show its connection to the gospel. When we do this we show an ordered rationale that rightfully becomes associated with Christianity and not our own wisdom. In compassion we can be most winsome to those in need and most offensive to the angry. But it is helpful for both to see that Christ is compassionate, and just. The fact is that when they reject it they'll know in their hearts that you are right.

So, their are three things to keep in mind: be opinionated, be inquisitive, be compassionate. None of these will make a difference if not connected explicitly to the gospel. Assuming that people will think that you do things because you are a believer is a bad idea. Let them know the reason and the rationale for your action or belief. This shows that you are conscious of it and that you are passionate about it (you really believe it!). Unbelievers don't understand Christians and don't piece things together correctly, which is understandable, so be explicit about how things work. All of this assumes that you are thinking about how things work and are prepared.

There are some other things I really wanted to mention in addition to this, but I will have to save it for another post. In that post I will talk more about what I mean by personal evangelism and creating opportunities for it. Let me know what you think of my ideas, tell me yours I am interested in finding out what you think.

by Samuel Gantt