Weekly Communion Project

As part of my dissertation research, I’ve fired up The Weekly Communion Project!  (I had started to put it together a couple years ago, but now it looks like I’ll actually be able to move forward.)

Please tell any pastors or elders you know about it!

Does Unity Matter?

As a follow-up to my review of John Armstrong’s new book, Your Church Is Too Small, here are some verses to provoke more discussion, prayer, and concrete actions towards visible church unity:

Jn. 17:20-23

20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” (ESV, emphasis added)

Now, some maintain that Christians already have “spiritual” unity, and that is all the Bible requires. My big question is, “How will an unseen, spiritual unity convince an unbelieving world?!”

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Review – Your Church is Too Small

Your Church Is Too Small: Why Unity in Christ's Mission Is Vital to the Future of the Church Your Church Is Too Small: Why Unity in Christ’s Mission Is Vital to the Future of the Church by John H. Armstrong

I have an advance copy of John Armstrong’s newest book. It looks spot on so far. Armstrong is a Reformed teacher, with over 20 yrs. of pastoral experience. He now heads ACT 3, and I really need to check otu their web-site.

I haven’t read much of the book, but I like it already. Here’s the outline of Par 1 to whet your appetite:

The Biblical & Historical Basis for Christian Unity
1. the road to the future
2. my journey to catholicity begins
3. searching for the elusive truth
4. the jesus prayer for our unity
5. our greatest apologetic
6. christ the center
7. the four classical marks of the church

It looks like Armstrong is going to present a clear brief on what “reformed catholicity” might look like. Check back for reviews!

View all my reviews >>

Advent & Liturgical Colors

I love Advent and Christmas!  It’s the one time of the year when Christians remember the importance of liturgy, symbolism, ceremonies, feasting, sharing with the poor, and aesthetics in the home.  I suppose dour Puritans just sit through the season, frowning at all the joviality, but for the rest of us, it’s a reminder of what really matters.  Deep down, we know that high and important holidays call for a high liturgy.  I dare say even the most contemporary, seeker-sensitive church does something different in their worship service to mark this time of year.  And even though we loath the self-centered commercialism of it all, deep down we know that birth of a King should be honored with ceremonies, feasting, and decorations, and gift-giving.  We know this at weddings, we know this at Christmas and Easter, but we forget it for the rest of the year. 

As Douglas Wilson says about much of American worship these days: “The problem with contemporary worship music is not the kind of music it is, but rather the kind of occasion everyone seems to think the service is,” (Mother Kirk, pg. 130).  We realize that Christmas and Easter are really holy-days, and so we treat them differently.  But, the rest of the year, Sunday is just a time when we come to church to be entertained, to socialize, to hear an inspiring sermon, and get our spiritual “fix” for the week.

Now, to the main point.  Caleb Roberts (check out the promising new blog he contributes to) asks: “I am fortunate enough to attend a PCA church that embraces the use of the colors but doesn’t seem to draw them in and establish them in the life and heartbeat, if you will, of the church. I am still learning, but is there not some significance to the assignment of various colors to the different periods of the Church Year? If so, what was the historical way in which the colors were woven into the fabric of the liturgy?”

For starters, The Voice  has a good summary of how liturgical colors are used (both in the past, and currently).  And this is a good place to make my main point–there is no fixed pattern for liturgical color use.  There are general patterns, which have become standardized over time (just as there is no one liturgy that Christians have always followed, but there are liturgical patterns that have become standardized over time).  We should be wary of adopting any color scheme, thinking that we are somehow returning to the practice of the ancient and universal church.  It just ain’t so.  This is, however, a useful area to explore, because it forces us to consider some deeper questions.

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Special Need for the Slavic Reformation Society

From the chairman of the Slavic Reformation Society:

“Greetings in the Lord Jesus Christ! As chairman of the Board of the Slavic Reformation Society, I wanted to give you a year-end update on our ministry in Russia. In September, ten pastors from Russia, the Ukraine and Kazakhstan attended our pastors’ training session in St. Petersburg. Another six ministers applied for this two-week intensive course but for one of the first times we had to turn qualified men away because we were unable to pay their travel/living expenses.

Currently, we have 18 pastors applying for our March 2010 session! This as an encouraging endorsement of our teaching and mentoring. The American professor who taught in September reported that these men were the most mature men he had witnessed in his fifteen years of ministry in Russia. The pastors we are mentoring represent more than 1,000 congregants, so your investment in the ministry multiplies 100 times. As you may know, Blake Purcell is in Texas this year and is visiting churches and supporters with a goal of raising our ongoing monthly support. But, we have a special need to raise $25,000 by the end of this year to meet our short term budget requirements.

This amount will cover our operating costs in St. Petersburg and meet our obligations to the Purcells. Additionally, it will provide the foundation to expand the March 2010 intensive course to include the 18 pastors desiring to attend. Help SRS see the Word of the Lord multiply and prevail in the Russian-speaking world by giving a special end-of-year gift of $100 to $1,000 or more.

You may mail your tax-deductible contributions to SRS PO Box 794 Louisville, MS 39339 or contribute via PayPal on our website.

 If you have any questions or would like to have Blake share the ministry with your congregation, you may call him at 940.613.9611 or write blakepurcell2000@yahoo.com.

Yours in Christ, Mike Forster, Chairman Slavic Reformation Society

Stop Child Trafficking Now!

Stop Child Trafficking Now! – Slavery still exists. Sexual exploitation of children is rampant throughout the world. Each year, thousands of enslaved and sexually exploited children are brought into the USA! Virtually no one in the US has been convicted of child trafficking in the last 10 years. Get involved–your salvation may depend on it (Matt. 25:31-46; Rev. 20:11-13).

(Regular readers know I don’t often post on topics outside the parameters of our mission statement, but I thought the magnitude of the problem deserves the widest possible exposure.)

“On the Road to Rome?” (3 & 4)

John Allen Bankson continues his helpful series on how Reformed types really need to study liturgy more.

“On the Road to Rome?” (Part III)
“On the Road to Rome?” (Part IV)

On the “road to Rome”?

Contributor Rev. John Allen Bankson (PCA) has started a new series at his personal blog which is highly relevant to the issues we are sorting through:

On the “road to Rome”? (Part 1)

On the “road to Rome”? (Part 2)