Providence Church Blog A gospel-centered church in Austin, Tx


Archive for January, 2012

The Church Guards the Gospel

To guard the gospel means to uphold it as true and defend it against whatever is contrary. The very thought confronts one of our deepest cultural values: individualism.

This value makes us feel that “I” am the final authority on what I believe and do. It passes as inclusivism, but it is really just individualism. Far from promoting community, it promotes autonomy and surface relationships.

This value has shaped our view of church as well. Christians love concepts like “organic church,” and we say things like: “When I am with my friends serving people, that is church.” I continue to hear church leaders say that we need to stop talking about what we believe and start focusing on doing what we believe. Such sentiments reflect our individualistic desire to define church and spirituality on our own terms. When someone is confronted by a pastor with regard to his doctrine or conduct, he is likely to hear it as good advice from a respected friend, but not as admonishment from godly authority. His “right” is to proceed however he wants because the individual is the final authority.

So this is an important question for our day. What does it mean that the church guards the gospel?

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Why and How We Worship Together

Worship. If we’re honest with ourselves, we can easily have a reductionist view of that word. That is, for most American evangelical Christians, worship is primarily about music and preaching. Like it or not, all of us are in some way shaped by this cultural ethos in the American church. So, when we evaluate a worship service, we typically ask ourselves questions like, “Did I like the music and was I moved by it? Did I like the sermon, and was I personally challenged, motivated, convicted, and (as a plus) entertained by it?” In other words, knowingly or unknowingly, we tend to evaluate worship based on our private or personal experience of it. What did I get out of it? How did it make me feel? The problem with this is that a worship service of the church is not private worship. It is corporate worship. It is the gathering of God’s people. The focus of the worship service in the New Testament is not upon self-edification and self-gratification but upon worshipping God and building up the church (edifying others). Gathered worship on Sunday is not something for us to consume or observe or from which to seek a “feel good” experience. Rather it is something we enter into and in which we participate by faith.

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The Gospel and the Church

For the most part, people in our culture have written off the church as a necessary or even a helpful institution. The result is a movement, even among Christians, toward decentralization and individualism. That which has historically been central to the church is now being pushed out to the individual so that “I” am the authority when it comes to what I believe and what I do. I see why we are like this, but honestly, it is just another swing of the pendulum from our experience of ineffective or abusive churches to a definition of church that really isn’t church at all, historically speaking. The answer, of course, is not to do away with the church, but to be the church, truly.

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