October 17, 2011 § Leave a comment
One thing that our church has begun is mentoring. I am currently mentoring another woman in our community who is a younger Christian than myself. God has given me tons of grace in this endeavor, and has enabled me to grow leaps and bounds as she grows to know and love Him more; it is an amazing process to be a part of. This has proven helpful for others in our community as well in the endeavor of better discipling our body. In lieu of this positive impact on our church, I can continue my mentor relationship and pour greater effort into it while also advocating that others be involved in such relationships of mentoring.
Directly addressing one of the areas of less purity mentioned above—that of unity with other churches—my husband and I and our community group can intentionally get involved with some of the smaller Baptist churches in our area. Those that immediately come to mind have congregations made up mostly of immigrants. Within a couple miles of our home there is an African church, a Vietnamese church and a multi-ethnic Spanish-speaking church plant. We could aid them in their evangelistic efforts and ideally could meet en masse on perhaps a quarterly basis for worship.
Our church is also less pure in the area of evangelism and missions. Although we have begun to be involved more in international missions—and are sending a family this next year (via the IMB)—we are not intentionally involved in evangelism on a local level. Some things we could do include having an evangelism class/instruction and time to practice sharing our faith with one another as a sort of practice. Also, as we are partnering with people groups in Ethiopia and Bangladesh overseas, we can seek to reach those people here in Louisville, as I know there are some 200 Ethiopians living in the metro area and certainly some Bangladeshis.
This is not conclusive, and I will continue to be pensive on how our church is more and less pure and how our members—specifically my husband and myself and our particular community group—can be more intentional following the Biblical model of church and thus, become more pure to the Glory of God and Christ Jesus our Lord!
October 16, 2011 § Leave a comment
In 1 Corinthians 1:2 Paul states the reality that those believers in Corinth are to be together with other believers:
“To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours.”
Here we see Paul’s encouragement to the Corinthian Christians that they are to be united with other believers and other groups of believers—churches. This is an area addressed by Wayne Grudem in his Systematic Theology. Grudem enunciates several scriptures, those of which that stand out most clearly to me being the first couple chapters of Ephesians. Here, it is clear that the local church is “one body”, but it is also affirmed that the local church is only one portion of a much greater body that we are to be in communion and in community with. This is an area where Sojourn falls short. Although we are very welcoming to the incoming visitor, we may also seem exclusive or elitist to the outsider; I find at times that we may be intimidating without even recognizing it. Also, our affiliation with other churches is basically nil. We have one partnership with a church in the Iroquois housing project area, but the majority of our membership is seldom intentional about being in community with this church. In addition, although we are a southern Baptist church—and actually a NAMB church plant—we rarely associate ourselves with the convention. All of these add up to explain that while we may be great at community with one another as a congregation, we fall short when it comes to being unified with other churches. This is most definitely a less pure area for Sojourn.
Second, our “giving” is an area of weakness. It seems that our attendance keeps increasing with a small percentage of givers each week. Our elders encourage us to give—not appealing to a simple 10% obligation—but to do so generously as the Lord blesses us. As I understand the Scriptures, we should be giving of our time, our resources, and ourselves. The area where our church body is weakest is that of financial giving. It seems very difficult for our attendees and at times even for members to truly take ownership in the church. Our age range likely has much to do with this; in seems that our generation is very non-committal and wishy-washy. The difficulty then lies partly in our young members, but also in a lack of correct understanding that God has given us all things and what we think that we ourselves own, in reality is not ours, but God’s!
October 15, 2011 § Leave a comment
In Dever’s book he says the following about one mark of a healthy church, expositional preaching:
“Generally, I do not choose series of expositional sermons because of particular topics that I think the church needs to hear about. Rather, I assume that all of the Bible is relevant to us all of the time (Dever 40).”
“Expositional Preaching is not simply producing a verbal commentary on some passage of Scripture. Rather, expositional preaching is that preaching which takes for the point of a sermon the point of a particular passage of Scripture. That’s it. The preacher opens the Word and unfolds in for the people of God (Dever, 40).”
This is exactly the preaching/teaching that we receive at Sojourn. This is definitely one of our ‘purity points’. We are strong in this area precisely because that mentioned in the above quotes is the spiritual food that is delivered every Sunday evening when we gather together. It is our teaching pastor’s conviction that he teach and instruct us in the work of God through expositional preaching and this ministry of God’s Word is food to the souls of our membership. In addition, it is our pastor’s conviction that the cross must be the center of all teaching and thinking and living, etc. For this reason, it seems that whether believer or seeker, each person cannot walk away the same and without having been ministered to by the Truth of the Word of God Almighty!
A second area in which we are more pure is that of community. A strong focus of Sojourn is what we call “community groups” that are essentially small groups that meet in homes throughout the week, led by lay leaders. In these times, we discuss the sermon of the previous Sunday and seek to better understand and apply the teaching to our lives. We pray for each other and with each other. We listen to each other’s ups and downs. We share meals together. It is in these times that we enjoy a genuine fellowship. We are meant to sojourn together in our Christian walk in order to encourage, admonish, love, counsel and care for one another; this is what our church terms “soul care”. Also, our congregation is challenged in general by our elders to open our homes in hospitality, to share meals together with others in our congregation and to get to know people we don’t, to meet together with other men or women or couples and pray for those in the church, community and those in one’s specific community group. Each week after our gathering (Sunday service) we have what we call “hospitality” which involves snacks of some sort while we all mingle and talk, and simply know one another more deeply over time. There is also—especially visible in community groups—a deep concern and care for our sisters and brothers in Christ. For example, two other women and I get together regularly and pray for the women in our group and then we choose to be intentional that week in connecting with certain women in our group and praying for them. My husband and the leader of our community group also meet regularly to go over the sermon notes and the plan for our community group meeting for the week as well as pray for all of our members and for our elders, etc. It is this sort of intentionality that has enabled our community group—by the grace of God—to grow and to really be involved in one another’s lives. It has blessed us tremendously.
October 14, 2011 § Leave a comment
In the preface of his book, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, Mark Dever refers to his church with these words: “And I think that I’m seeing something of the health that God intends us to experience in a congregation (Dever, 16).” I can only agree with this statement in our church, Sojourn Community Church. Actually a bit skeptical at first, now as members, my husband and I are certain that not only is this where God wants us, but this is a place where he is regularly being glorified and lifted up! It is very exciting and exhilarating to feel like you are a part of a church that you really do believe is following the New Testament as a church model! Recently celebrating 5 years as a congregation, we are a fairly new church.
Our congregation is also a very young in another sense: we consist mainly of singles and young-married couples with children, the average age ranging from 18 years—30-something. But God is blessing us as our elders strive to keep the cross of Christ and the gospel central to our life as a church—this is realized in the teaching as we meet each week as a congregation, throughout the weeks in community groups, in monthly leadership meetings, in discipleship and in mentoring within the church. In regards to the purity of Sojourn, we will now delve deeper with the following questions: 1) In what areas is Sojourn more pure? 2) In what areas is Sojourn less pure? 3) What can I as a member do in order to work for greater purity within Sojourn?