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    Elders' Blog - Entries from October 2016

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    WedWednesdayOctOctober26th2016 All Together Worship
    byWill Peycke Tagged Family Parenting Worship 3 comments Add comment

    Worship BC and AD

    I’ve heard this question several times over the past year: “Why doesn’t Kossuth provide a children’s church program for elementary-aged kids during the worship service?”

    My typical answer: “That’s a great question. How much time do you have?”

    Since long before my time here, Kossuth has believed that corporate worship is for children as well as adults. Instead of trying to create a parallel experience for children, our church encourages families to worship together. Nursery and preschool classes are available for little ones, but families are welcome to keep their youngest members with them in the worship service as well. There is significant value (not to mention biblical and historical precedent) for all ages worshiping God together.

    That said, worshiping together as a family is hard: it’s a long time for young kids to sit in one place, and there are big words that are hard to understand. We live in a culture of 30-second commercials, not 40-minute sermons. We are used to being entertained, and worship is not entertainment. Our life tends to be all about us, but worship is all about God.

    For all of us, genuinely engaging our hearts and minds in praising God is a challenge—and adding kids to the mix only increases the level of difficulty. Author Robbie Castleman sums up the challenges this way: “There is a big difference between worship BC and worship AD—worship ‘before children’ and worship ‘after diapers.’ I have heard more than a few parents confess, ‘I used to get more out of church before I had kids’” (Castleman, Parenting in the Pew, 24).

    As a result, our practice in this area often lags behind our convictions. The church settles for telling families to worship together instead of training them in how to do so. Parents and grandparents settle for telling kids to “sit still and be quiet” instead of training them to worship with us.

    But the hard things are usually the good things, and the easy way out is never the way forward. To borrow again from Castleman:

    Worship can be one of the times when we parents would like to pay attention to something other than our children. Kids can be distracting, aggravating and embarrassing in church. Parenthood can make sitting in a pew a lot of work. Paying attention to our children can make us less attentive to the service. . . . It’s hard to pay attention to God and children at the same time.

    Training children to pay attention to God, however, is one rare way to have your cake and eat it too. Parenting in the pew can help children and parents pay attention to what is really important. (Castleman, 17-18)

    Worship Training Tools

    Consider the original question again: “Why doesn’t Kossuth provide a children’s church program for elementary-aged kids during the worship service?”

    Another way to answer that question would be, “We do. It’s just not what you think.”

    You may have noticed the “Sermon Notes for Kids” sheets that started popping up a few months ago. We now have two versions: the main “Sermon Notes for Kids” bulletin features activities and questions for elementary age kids, while “Sermon Notes for Kids Junior” provides activities for preschoolers who are not yet proficient at reading and writing. Our desire is to see SNFK become our “children’s church program”—right in the middle of “big church”!

    To say I’m excited about the potential of these tools would be an understatement. Kay and I happen to be two of those parents who are trying to figure out this “all together worship” thing ourselves, and the SNFK sheets have already been a great help to us and our kids. However, it would be a mistake to simply hand our children an activity sheet and think we had done our duty. Remember, the goal is not to entertain but to train. As a parent, my goal is not to get my child to sit still so that I can participate in the service; rather, my goal is to help them to participate in the service alongside me. It takes work, but the end result is worth it!

    Parents, if you have tried using “Sermon Notes for Kids” with your family, share a story below—good, bad, or ugly! I’d love to hear how it’s going, what’s working, and what isn’t. We’ve also put together a few parent tips for using SNFK, mostly based on our own experiences as a family.

    “All together” worship is challenging, but the rewards are worth it. I’ll leave you with these words of encouragement from Robbie Castleman:

    Parenting in the pew can be a hot battle or a holy triumph of grace. It can consist of whispered commands: “Be quiet,” “Shhhhh,” “Sit still,” or it can contain the most intimate moments of life with God’s family together in his presence. Sunday morning with children in the pew can be the longest hour of the week, or it can provide the very best preparation for eternal joy.

    Teaching your children to worship—parenting in the pew—is entering the house of your heavenly Father and saying, “Daddy, I’d like you to meet my children.” Worship is seeing your Father’s smile. (Castleman, 23)

    WedWednesdayOctOctober19th2016 3 Myths of Singleness
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Church Singleness 2 comments Add comment

    If you conduct a search for “marriage” in the sermon series archive at SermonAudio.com, you’ll find some 300 results. Taking a conservative average of eight sermons per series, that comes out to roughly 2,400 total sermons. To put that in perspective, if you were to listen to one sermon per day, it would take you until the spring of 2023 to get through all of them.

    On the other hand, if you do another search, this time for “singleness,” you’ll find exactly six results. Even if we naively assume that all the sermons in these six series are exclusively about the unique challenges and joys of singleness (which is unlikely since three of the series include the word “marriage” in the title as well), that would still only be 52 individual sermons. Tackle one of those per day, and you’ll be done by early December.

    Now this isn’t exactly the most scientific form of research. But nevertheless I think the data is fairly indicative of what many church-goers could confirm through personal experience. In general, the church talks much more about marriage and family than it does about singleness. And considering the fact that over 50 percent of the adult population is single (according to a 2014 Bureau of Labor Statistics report), this imbalance is problematic.

    One of the regrettable results of this collective silence is the fact that many Christians have unknowingly bought into misleading myths about singleness in the church. Although our intentions may be good, our lack of conversation about singleness has led us to believe things that simply aren’t true. And although this isn’t the time or place to make an exhaustive list of such myths, I’ll briefly highlight three. Hopefully these will spark some of your own thoughts about how we misconstrue singleness in the church.

    Myth 1: Single people joyfully embrace the gift of singleness. The fact of the matter is that singleness is hard. And many single people genuinely struggle with their position in life. It’s easy to romanticize singleness and think that every single person lives in a perpetually serene state of “Jesus-is-my-husband” satisfaction. But many battle bitterness and resentment. To expect them to be perfectly content in their singleness is dangerous and unloving. The church should be a place where our single brothers and sisters can be open about their struggles, free to speak honestly about their experiences and their longings.

    Myth 2: Single people aren’t trying hard enough to get married. Sure, there are rare cases of apathetic, unmotivated single people who are cavalier about potential relationships. But the single people I know aren’t lazy. They’re not letting opportunities pass them by. They’re not fluttering their lives away on frivolous activities. They’re prayerfully and submissively following God. And at this point in their lives, God hasn’t led them to a mate. So instead of burdening them with guilt for not scrounging up a spouse, we should celebrate their faithfulness, purity, discernment, and patience. And perhaps more importantly, we should be seeking to learn from their example. In an “I-want-it-now” culture, our single brothers and sisters can be some of our most needed teachers.

    Myth 3: Single people are missing out on relational intimacy. Marriage is a wonderful thing, and it represents a bond between two humans that is truly extraordinary. But the Bible repeatedly affirms that there is a higher relational reality than even the marital or familial bond, and that reality is our communion with Christ and his church. Whether you’re married, widowed, or single for life, this bond of faith is readily available to you. And frankly, I’ve found that many single people are more tuned into this reality than their married brothers and sisters. Yes, singleness is hard. But I don’t know many single folks who are looking for pity. They don’t need it. Their relationships are meaningful, their friendships are deep, and in many cases they’re miles ahead of the rest of us in experiencing God’s beautiful design for community.

    What other myths about singleness in the church are you aware of? What are some of the false narratives you’ve been exposed to? Feel free to leave a comment and share your thoughts.

    ThuThursdayOctOctober13th2016 Bringing Joy

    “Happy, happy, joy, joy.” It was a song from a cartoon I grew up watching. In fact, I owned the soundtrack of the show and listened to the song over and over again.

    The best part is when the artist stops the song and yells, “I don’t think you’re happy enough!”—after which, the singers belt it out with twice the volume and intensity.

    It’s a funny thought—working hard to create joy, as if we can muster it from some inner depth at will. For me, that most often translates to a lame attempt at having control. If I can just control people and circumstances, then I’ll experience joy, I often think. But that monster is never fed enough.

    So, where does joy come from? My Care Group recently studied the topic of joy, searching for what the Scriptures have to say. And, while there are multiple avenues of joy from a biblical perspective, the one that struck me the most was the joy that comes through relationship with other believers. 

    Paul connects joy to those he invested in: “Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved” (Phil. 4:1). These disciples were his joy. He had been a part of their conversion and spiritual growth, and they were joy to him.

    Paul connects joy to fellowship: “Though I have much to write to you…I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete” (2 John 1:12).

    Paul associates joy with seeing disciples remain connected to the truth of the Gospel: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1:4).

    This is good news for us. It means that community as a church family is key to experiencing real joy. This points us not only to Sunday morning, but to all opportunities that take place throughout the week. As a believer, I contribute to other’s joy and they contribute to mine.

    I’d like to suggest three simple, practical ways to help bring joy into the lives of others.

    1. Initiate time together. We live in an over busy culture. Time is a commodity. To some, it is of more value than money. You can have an immense impact by making time for others. Initiate time with other believers. Connect over coffee, lunch, or a walk with the strollers. Share what God is doing in your life and be a source of joy.

    2. Give testimony. If Paul was stoked about disciples walking in the truth, any time we do the same we bring joy to others. Give testimony about what God is doing in your life. Make it public. Brag about God and what he is doing in your life. If there is an opportunity to tell others what God is doing, do it. Whether that be at an open share time, in your Care Group or Connection Hour, don’t hold back. Bring joy to others.

    3. Encourage and affirm. Recently, at a retreat, we took some time to publicly encourage and affirm fellow believers. It was awesome. Each comment came like rapid fire on the heels of another. One after another, men kept encouraging one another and acknowledging that God was at work. Bring joy to others by sharing what you see God doing in and through them.

    Don’t waste another moment. Be a source of joy to those around you.

    ThuThursdayOctOctober6th2016 How To Be Irrelevant

    Have you ever thought to yourself, “I wish I could be more aloof and unapproachable as a Christian”? Have you ever wondered how you might make your faith more disconnected from reality? Have you ever longed to be just plain irrelevant to those around you who are lost and hurting without Christ?

    If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you’re in luck! It just so happens that I have some simple, practical pieces of advice for you. I believe that if you take these suggestions to heart and implement them in every aspect of your life, you’ll be well on your way to irrelevance in no time!

    1. Take personal offense whenever unbelievers sin. If you want to be truly irrelevant, you’ll need to make sure that you express horror and disgust whenever someone in the world acts like you used to before you met Jesus. Even if it’s a minor offense that doesn’t affect you at all, make sure you respond in unbridled outrage, so that others can know just how holy you are. Jesus may have come to seek and save the lost, but it’s your job to condemn and rebuke them.

    2. Steer clear of all ungodly influences. Nothing says “I don’t care about unbelievers” quite like a concerted and strategic effort to avoid the things they care about. This is why you need to make sure that you only participate in Christian organizations and watch Christian movies and read Christian magazines and hang out with Christian friends and shop at Christian businesses and wear Christian t-shirts. Make sure everyone around you understands that your faith isn’t about following Jesus as much as it is about retreating into a well-manicured and meticulously protected Christian subculture.

    3. Never let others see your weakness. What could possibly be more humanizing than a Christian who actually admits to struggling with things? This must be avoided at all costs. Irrelevance demands that people see your life as being perfectly sterile and sanitized. If you must share a weakness, at least make sure it sounds spiritual. Perhaps something like, “Occasionally I struggle to stay focused when I have my daily 3-hour devotional time before sunrise.” That will ensure that others see you as some sort of freakishly un-relatable spiritual robot.

    4. Don’t talk about Jesus. Here’s the scary truth: the moment you start talking about the one and only source of hope and redemption for this dark and dying world, people will start to get curious. Some of them might even want to hear more. And in the end, you might find that people will actually resonate with a Savior who suffered and died to bring them spiritual life. Before you know it, you’ll lose all sense of irrelevance that you’ve been carefully cultivating. So by all means, talk about morality and politics and social issues you feel strongly about. But be sure to leave Jesus out of the conversation.

    In all these things, it’s vital to recognize that relevance doesn’t mean having flashy church programs or watering down the message or wearing skinny jeans when you’re 65 years old. True relevance is about Christians acting like Christ. It’s about caring for people, rubbing shoulders with the lost, being transparent, and pointing others to the gospel.

    So if you want to be irrelevant, these are the very things you need to avoid. Don’t focus on matters of style. Instead, simply look at the average, everyday Christians in all walks of life who are faithfully following Jesus and sharing his love with the lost. Study these men and women. Take note of their simple yet bold posture of love. And then go do the opposite. In other words, be as unlike Christ as you possibly can.

    If you’re able to do that, I truly believe that you’ll be able to radically transform your life into one that non-Christians will never want to be a part of.

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