Are We Doing Church Right?

A friend (thanks, Pat) recently loaned me a copy of David Platt’s latest book, Something Needs To Change. If you’ve read anything by him, I’ll go ahead and suggest you haven’t read anything like this one. Platt chronicles his week-long journey through the Himalayas where he came face to face with some of the most difficult questions and challenging needs in the world. Because he’s reacting, you react. Because he’s questioning, you question. And nothing is outside the realm of analysis. Even the church.

In chapter six, Platt shares the lives of church leaders in the Himalayas. Their work is not easy. And it’s quite different than the majority of church leaders in other countries-vastly different from American churches. At the end of the day, he was asked to do some teaching and training. Here’s an excerpt of his thoughts about that time:

Over the coming hours, we walk through all kinds of pictures and passages in the Bible describing the church as God designed it. As I’m teaching and we are all discussing what we see in God’s Word, I am struck with a fresh realization.

Looking at the Bible to see how God has designed the church is exactly what needs to be done. As I had reflected a couple of days ago, these villages needed the church in them, but they don’t need an American version of church; they need a biblical version of church.

As I walk through the Word with these leaders, it hits me that so many of my conversations about the church in America are often focused on cultural traditions that are extrabiblical at best and unbiblical at worst.

For example, as I read the Bible with these brothers and sisters, we don’t see anything about constructing church buildings or organizing church programs or managing church staffs, topics that so many church conversations in America revolve around. It makes me wonder, Why are Bible-believing, Bible-preaching churches in America so focused on what is not in the Bible? As I ask myself this question, I can’t help but think that one of the greatest needs not just in the church in the Himalayas but in the place where I live is for us to open our Bibles with fresh, unfiltered eyes and ask, “Are we really doing church the way this book describes it?”

American Christian, it’s a fair question. If you aren’t convinced, get a copy of this book. After you’ve read it, come back to the question. We must be open to the possibility that we are not doing it right. And if that’s true, what are we going to do about it.

Offensive Praying

(Day 9 in a 28-day series from First Bradenton)

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. (Matthew 6:13)

How easy is it to be caught up in our amoral culture of constant stimulation and instant gratification? When we visit a local restaurant where large screen televisions in every corner are projecting bigger than life images of supermodels, sports heroes, the latest electronics gadgets and medicines, how can we focus on the person sitting across the table from us? On a trip down the interstate, the billboards have become graphic, scrolling, electronic, multi-media message boards touting the newest liposuction or a happening nightspot. We don’t have to go to the movies to see the exotic imagery. We don’t even have to turn on our television anymore. We don’t need to open an evening newspaper. Our once innocuous cell phones have become a prime marketing tool and daily we are bombarded by text messages, advertisements, unwanted email, social feeds, videos and more stimuli than we can possibly sort through in 10 lifetimes. Movies, television, Internet, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Amazon… the deluge never ends.

Peter warned us that our enemy prowls about like a roaring lion seeking who he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). This has become a horrifying reality in our day. Now more than ever, we need to put on the full armor of God and pray the offensive prayer as Jesus instructed us. “Lead us not into temptation that surrounds us and cries to us with every chirp of the phone and Facebook ad. Deliver us from the clutches of the evil one who has his trap set out for us.” We need to fix our eyes on Jesus, remain vigilant in our quest for purity and ask God daily for protection as we pursue the Kingdom adventures.

As we pray our offensive prayer, we can take courage in the fact that Jesus also prayed for our deliverance from the enemy. He told His Father,

“My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” (John 17:15)

I cannot imagine that we will ever return to the simpler times before the daily deluge of Internet marketing, phishing scams, instant pornography and the vile onslaught of immorality. Our alternative is to squirrel ourselves away from media devices and make time for quiet communion with our Lord where we ask Him to put a hedge of protection around our hearts and minds and deliver us from this rampant evil of our time.

Dear Father, lead us not into temptation and deliver us from the evil one.

By Lisa Fulghum

With is better than For

With is better than for. This is true in marriages, in families, in business, in organizations, in friendships, in life.

In the concept of leadership, consider these principles:

  • Good leaders nurture a with culture not a for culture.
  • Any form of isolation encourages for thinking. 
  • If you view those under your leadership in a for view, you’ll be tempted to be more about the work than the person. This may lead to you consciously or subconsciously offload your work to the for people.
  • If you view those under your leadership in a with view, chances improve that you won’t be tempted to offload your work. You and your team will own the work together.
  • Cultures of for are more prone to be fractured and competitive. Cultures of with are more prone to be unified and supportive.

In any setting, consider these actions to nurture a with culture:

  • Be a delegator. Give others the chance to work with you. Give others the opportunity to own their role on the team.
  • Be approachable. Literally leave your office door open more often. Go to other’s offices spontaneously or even schedule meetings in their space.
  • Go to lunch with each other. You may even need to calendar intentional with lunches.
  • Check your prepositions. Delete fors as much as possible. Be deliberate in saying with.
  • In meetings, ask more questions, give space for everyone at the table to interject. Balance your amount of talking and listening. Listen for any indicators of for thinking and perceptions and immediately address the need to change them. Be a leader in withing.