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Archive for the ‘Church’ Category

A Sermon

“Friends: The one with the gardener”

– John 15:9-17

The intended audience is a rural Friends church of about 65 in eastern Illinois. The Society of Friends (more commonly known as Quakers) was founded by George Fox in seventeenth century England. It was founded on the principle that all persons had the ability to directly experience God; a priest or other church officiant was not required to communicate with God.

The Society of Friends took their name from John 15:14. In that passage Jesus says, “You are my friends if you do what I command.” Friends would later be branded with the name Quaker. This pejoratively intended name was first used in 1650, when George Fox was brought before Justice Bennet of Derby on a charge of blasphemy. According to Fox’s journal, Bennet “called us Quakers because we bid them tremble at the word of God.” (more…)

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Throughout this paper I hope to focus through the lens of worship on the two ideas of (1) Spiritual development and (2) the dichotic need for both solitude and community in a healthy spiritual life. In this paper I am going to suggest that worshiping through Fowler’s stages of faith might be an effective way of meeting our spiritual needs.

There is a certain integration that naturally occurs between Fowler’s stages and the ideas of the dichotomous need for both solitude and community. Approximately half the stages tend to lead us to worship more in community and half lead us to worship in solitude. If we are able to worship through each of the stages, rather than just the stage we find ourselves in, then we become able to meet our spiritual needs for both solitude and silence. (more…)

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One of the greatest problems I have observed in churches has to do with the issue of generational transitioning, that is, how you transition the next generation into positions of leadership. Most churches take one of three routes in attempting this. The first is the funeral method; when someone dies his or her leadership chair is filled by the next person in line, death is the only way into leadership. The second method is the coup; the group out of power works to destroy an individual in power and replace that individual with one of their own. The third method is the ostrich method; the group in power blinds itself for the need for the next generation to have a leadership role and pretty soon the problem resolves itself – the younger generation leaves.

I would argue that none of these methods is an effective way for transitioning power between generations. This brings up the question that will be addressed in this paper: how do generations effectively transfer leadership? (more…)

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Evangelism

Evangelism is a journey. This journey starts when an individual is introduced to the concept of sin and comes to the realization that they have sinned. As Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Sin separates us from God and introduces us to death. Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (NIV).

The second part of Romans 6:23 tells us that God loved us, and wanted us to be with him so he sent the gift of eternal life into the world in the form of a man named Jesus. This Jesus was fully God and fully human. Jesus lived a sinless life but chose to die. Death, however, had no right to claim him, because he had not sinned, so Jesus came back to life. Because he chose to die when he did not have to, Jesus can substitute his death for the death we deserve, if we ask. John 3:16-18 says:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (NIV).

After Jesus left this earth, God sent a part of himself to live in whoever is willing to humble themselves and ask God to take leadership of their life. This part of God is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives guidance and offers direction to those willing to listen. (more…)

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Sometimes it seems as though life is an endless series of traditions. Every nation, culture, tribe and family engages in a wide variety of traditional and ritualistic behavior. These traditions are passed from generation to generation. Often the original meaning of the tradition is lost and the ritual may change over time, but there is something about repeating a familiar act that is comforting to each of us.

When I was a boy growing up, one of my family’s thanksgiving traditions was to sit around the television on thanksgiving eve and watch “The Mouse and the Mayflower.” This short cartoon told the story of the pilgrim’s crossing the Atlantic Ocean on the ship Mayflower all through the eyes of a small mouse. I am not going to argue the historical accuracy of the cartoon, but I mention it because approximately one third of the way into the movie the pilgrims sing a song called, “Elbow Room.” This song spoke specifically about the cramped quarters on the ship, but it also spoke metaphorically about the pilgrim’s hope to find a space in the New World where they could be free to follow their spiritual leadings. As we study how religion was imported into the American colonies in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, it becomes apparent that many people and people groups came to the colonies in search of “elbow room.” (more…)

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Facilitating Growth: Acts 2

The focus of today’s message stems from the second half of Acts 2:47. Luke writes, “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” We’re going to look a little closer at this passage later, but I want you to focus for a few minutes on that one sentence: the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

How many people has the Lord added to our number today? Anyone? No one that I know of. How many has the Lord added to our number in the last week or even the last month? In the last year how many have been added to the number of saved here at this church? Maybe twenty? Maybe ten? Maybe five? Maybe one?

I don’t know the answer to that question; I’m new here at this church. But for the early church Luke writes that the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. I would suggest to you that we need to allow the Lord to add to our number, and if we are effective followers of Christ then that addition should and could occur daily. (more…)

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Protestant Christianity was a great influence on the United States in the early and mid nineteenth century. However, it could also be truly said that the United States of the early and mid nineteenth century was a great influence on Protestant Christianity. Over the thirty years before the civil war, both pro and anti slavery groups attempted to use their religion to support their views on slavery. Abolitionists turned to the Biblical passages which spoke of all followers of Christ as brothers; supporters of slavery turned to the passages which required slaves to obey their masters. It was a time when Christianity did not so much shape the morals of society as the society shaped the morals of Christianity. (more…)

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