OK, so the next verses in Psalm 40 are what I could use for my excuse…
“I didn’t keep the news of your ways a secret, didn’t keep it to myself. I told it all, how dependable you are, how thorough. I didn’t hold back pieces of love and truth For myself alone. I told it all, let the congregation know the whole story.” (Psalm 40:10)
So there! And it’s a good introduction for what I’m going to do next, not that anyone’s listening… but just in case! :P In fact, the Psalmist mentions “the congregation”, and the Perspectives notes I was planning on starting with, are the ones I’ve highlighted as being especially applicable for… well, not just my church–any church. And some especially for churches in the City.
Trouble knowing God’s Will?
Remember that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”:
- worship first (part of the “listening” that we talked about yesterday), which brings awareness of God’s presence (since he “dwells in the praises of his people” Ps. 22:3);
- begin to act on the light you have already, and more will be revealed. As John MacArthur says, “Obey God fully and then do what you want.” Because then, what you want will be what he wants.
Speaking of worship…
As far as missions/evangelism goes, worship is SO key. “You can’t commend what you don’t cherish.” If worship is weak, missions is weak. Worship stirs up the Holy Spirit, and since it really depends on the work of the Holy Spirit to bring people to God, grow them, etc.–evangelism should arise kind of spontaneously from a Spirit-filled church.
Unfortunately, various concerns in a church can distract us from missions, when we make them our focus. Churches sometimes worship “church” more than Jesus, and then become dead, and very inward-looking. We need to remember that we’re in a global partnership. (We can also celebrate the victories of other churches.) “The Western world may soon be in deep trouble, spending 10 times more on cosmetics, rather than on missions.”
Now, to get specific–
Which really means talking about the culture we live in. Because the “clarity of the gospel is usually only seen in the worship and life… of a fellowship that reflects the culture.” Makes sense! But we have to accept that the Church in the 3rd millennium is a pilgrim community. Not permanent, always in motion. Always changing.
You see, new believers have trouble fitting into existing churches, making that cultural leap to “inherited churches”. As a church ages, it becomes more and more internal, trying to look after itself. New churches reach the non-churched far more effectively than longer-established churches. They also renew existing churches. SO, church planting is not only for “frontier regions” or “mission fields”! And cities is actually the “new frontier of Christian missions”–both here in the West, as well as in the Third World.
Now, here’s my KEY quote from the Perspectives book, that applies to US:
The vigorous, continual planting of new congregations is the single most crucial strategy for reaching a city. Nothing else–not crusades, outreach programs, para-church ministries, mega-churches, consulting, nor church renewal processes–will have the consistent impact of dynamic, extensive church planting. This is an eyebrow-raising statement. To those who have done any study of the subject, however, it is not even controversial. (Tim Keller, p. 619, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement; emphasis mine)
Here’s the positive thing:
“The vital faith of some immigrant populations is reinvigorating stagnant mainline denominational churches. In some cities, multi-ethnic mega-churches are emerging as the dominant expression of urban evangelicalism.” (p. 363) Strong ethnic churches can be building blocks for strong multicultural fellowships.
AND: I just read this morning, in the secular news, about a lot of church planting that is happening downtown–of Youth churches!