Friday, October 27, 2006

Biblical Priorities for a Healthy Church

We started a series on this last Sunday morning (October 22, 2006) that will run, with a few intermissions, from now through early April. Here's a sketchy outline. This sermon is already online. The next message in this series will be on November 12, 2006, DV.

Where in the world is the church?:
Biblical Priorities for the Life of Our Church (1) Our Contemporary Context
2 Timothy 3:1-5
1. Just last Sunday morning, we completed our series on "What it means to be a member of First Presbyterian Church."
2. Today, we are beginning a new, but related series of topical-expository messages on Biblical Priorities for the Life of Our Church
3. This is a significant time of transition here at First Presbyterian Church. Lord willing, in a matter of just a few months, we will be moving our new sanctuary. The renovation and expansion project is slated to be complete by June 2007. At the same time it is very likely that there will be an officer election soon after that time. It is a time for us to take stock of who we are, what we believe and what we will do, by God’s grace, to glorify him in our own place.
4. We are also in the midst of a transitional time for the churches in American culture in general and Jackson in particular. Many mainline churches around us have fallen prey to liberalism of various types, while many evangelical churches look more like the culture than the church. On all sides there is a sense that the message of Christianity is not being received as it once was in our land. In response to this, many are modifying the Gospel message to make it more attractive to the world around us, others (who don’t want or mean to change the message) are trying new "methods" of "doing church" and see this as the answer to our conundrum. But we believe that God has given us both the message and method for spreading the good news of Christ and building up his church. Our job, then, is to remain faithful to him and to his vision for the church. The church must again become distinct from the world if she is to fulfill her mission (Matthew 5:13-16, John 13:34-35).
5. On Sunday mornings, we have just finished considering what we have vowed that we believe, are and aim to do as members of First Presbyterian Church. Now we are going to ask, what is the situation in which we as the church and living and ministering? What is the church called by God to do, to believe, to be? What are the characteristics, marks, attributes, qualities and priorities of a healthy church? For the weeks leading up to the Christmas season, and for a few months immediately thereafter, we will focus on the Bible’s teaching about the church and its priorities and commitments.
6. We want to be a church that is faithful to the following: expository preaching, biblical worship (both in all of life and in gathered praise), biblical doctrine, a biblical pursuit of godliness, a biblical approach to family life, a biblical understanding of the Gospel, a biblical understanding of conversion, a biblical understanding of evangelism, a biblical understanding of discipleship, a biblical understanding of church membership, a biblical understanding of church leadership, and a biblical view of how the church relates to the world.
7. This morning, we want to consider three factors that are part of our current culture’s outlook on life, and how they impact us as Christians.

This morning, I want to do three things: (1) show that God teaches us in the Bible that he is concerned that we understand our times, that we realize the context of our life and ministry; (2) suggest three important aspects of our current times that have significantly influenced the American church; and (3) suggest some ways that faithful Christians and churches should respond to these trends.

I. The Bible teaches us that it is important for us to be aware of our contemporary context, to understand our times.
1 Timothy 3:1-7
1 Chronicles 12:32
Matthew 16:3 and Luke 12:56

II. There at least three huge factors impacting the church in our day: individualism, relativism, and consumerism
Individualism - The individual is self-sufficient, sovereign, and fundamental. Society is secondary. "I am the master of my fate, the Captain of my soul." Hence, society is simply a voluntary bond between individuals, self-interest is the supreme motivation, and self-expression is an inalienable right. I have my rights! In individualism the self becomes supreme.
Relativism - There is no such thing as absolute truth. We have "beliefs" not truth, "values" not universal rights and wrongs. We cope with the multiple options we face in our society by declaring them all to be equally valid. Hence, I can believe anything to be true as long as I do not expect others to believe it.
Consumerism - the seeker approach is always vulnerable to problems entailed in the prevalent consumer mindset of our culture. The customer is always right, being one of them (in terms of Christian evangelistic appropriation of that idea, there are problems with both the subject and predicate, "sinners" do not equal "customers" and they're certainly not always right, whatever we might learn from them).

III. These things impact the way we participate in the life of the church and the way we engage the culture

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