I Can’t Wait for Sundays

No really — I can’t wait for Sundays to roll around. As a pastor, most everything that occurs during the week comes to a fine point on Sunday morning. As I consider Acts 6:4 where the disciples gave themselves primarily over to “prayer and the ministry of the Word,” I find that my main ministry is that of connecting with God in prayer and ministering the Word of God through preaching and teaching — everything else stems off these two ministries.What is it about Sundays that excites me so?

(1) I get to see my church family. I have been here at Arapahoe Road for almost eight years, I have noticed various transitions. I started out as “the new guy” with everyone anticipating in the first year but staying at arms length, to becoming “the preacher” to now becoming their “pastor.” I am now being seen as one of the family. This takes time, trust, and lots of love in Christ.

(2) I get to preach God’s Word to God’s people. What a privilege! What a calling!  To be able to open up His Word and know that this is His revelation to the world in general and to His people specifically is a thought I can scarcely contemplate.  And to know that the Holy Spirit will take that Word and apply it to hearts and will make sure it accomplishes all that it desires to accomplish — goodness!

(3)  I get to hear stories of what God is doing in hearts and minds of his people.  One person receives Christ, another person grasps a truth God reveals, another shares their faith, another asks questions trying to understand how God lives and moves and has his being … and the list goes on.   That is exciting!

(4)  I get to pray with my people.  We get to connect with God together, linking arms and advancing his kingdom during this spiritual warfare.  Praying for those who are lost, who are sick, in the military, our government officials, our church staff and deacons, our college students, our outreach ministries, our churches with whom we are partnering, and on top of that praising God for who he is and what he has done!These are just four of many. 

What other things make you look forward to being with your brothers and sisters on for Sunday morning worship?

(Adapted from a Facebook post from September 30, 2007.)

Three Levels of Word Ministry

In his book Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism, Timothy Keller at once outlines three levels of the ministry of the Word in the Introduction of his work. The terms proclaiming, preaching, prophesying, Keller notes, “cannot mean that every believer was standing up and preaching sermons to audiences” (1).

Level 1: “Every Christian should be able to give both teaching (didaskalia, the ordinary word for instruction) and admonition (noutheo–a common word for strong, life-changing counsel) that convey to others the teachings of the Bible. This mus be done carefully, though informally, in conversations that are usually one on one. That is the most fundamental form of ministry of the Word” (2).

Level 2: “When we map [1 Peter 4:10-11] over Paul’s gift lists in Romans 12, Ephesians 4, and 1 Corinthians 12 and 14, we see that there is a whole category of Word-ministry gifts that function in ways beside public preaching to the assembled Sunday congregation. It includes personal exhortation or counseling, evangelism, and teaching individuals and groups. . . . In this category of ministry, Christian men and women aren’t preaching per se; they prepare and present lessons and talks; they lead discussions in which they are presenting the Word of Christ”(3).

Level 3: “At the more formal end of the spectrum are sermons: the public preaching and exposition of the Bible to assembled gatherings. . . . Acts gives us so many of these public addresses that we could almost say that, from the point of view of Luke (the author), the development of the early Christian church and the development of its preaching were one and the same” (2).

My Youth Leader and I will be going through this book this Fall, and when our church begins a leadership training curriculum called ARBC Equip, this will feature in the preaching track.

Keller shows us that ordinary conversations, preaching in the assembly, but also structured times of outside of the assembly which are structured times of discipleship and ministry. These pieces need to be in place among the people of God. We must have a desire to teach and share, but also have a desire to be equipped for this task.

We are called to be led by the Word in order to lead others in the Word! Let’s make this a priority in our churches.

Discipleship is Powered by the Gospel

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek (Romans 1:16, ESV).

Paul writes that it is the power of God unto salvation. That word power in the Greek is the word dunamis which is where we get the word ‘dynamite.’ There’s a power to the gospel unlike any other power on earth.

I remember in middle school when I lived for those 18 months in Michigan that we would have drills.  They weren’t fire drills, but drills of what to do in case of a nuclear attack.  We would watch films and documentaries on what would happen if an atom bomb or a hydrogen bomb went off.  We would see clips of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. (In fact, the pilot who dropped the bomb on Hiroshima, Paul Tibbets, was my father’s commander in Korea.) They would test bombs in the desert in Nevada, attracting spectators–before they realized the danger of the fallout of those bombs.  I remember being enthralled and nervous, because the power of those bombs were so explosive.

But there’s no bomb, no weapon, nothing invented or contrived by the mind of man that compares to the power of the gospel to change lives. Those bombs can bring one from life to death, but this gospel has the power to bring from death to life. The gospel is that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and on the third day rose again.  That reality that began in the counsels of heaven, manifested itself in history on the cross of Calvary and the empty tomb, and now travels to the hearts of all who would believe, the apostle Paul called in another letter that of first importance (1 Cor 15:3-4).

But the gospel is not only powerful, but it is also revealed His righteousness.  God’s righteousness was not obtained by our works, but revealed to us through Christ’s works. In Romans 3:20-22:

20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. 21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.

By His Word, through fruition in Jesus, through the Spirit in the church with changed disciples, God reveals His righteousness to us. God gives us the faith needed for eternal life. Revealed from faith for faith. He gives us the ability and strength to believe so we can keep on believing.