I’ve went to extreme measures to prove a point or stand on principle, but I don’t think I’d ever go this far.
Church is fascinating to me. The way a church service is run especially catches my attention. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Church (God’s people). I love (mostly) every aspect about a local church (fellowship, evangelism, small groups, etc), but I think Sunday morning says a lot about what a church represents, believes, teaches, and treasures.
In the next six weeks, I am going to visit local churches in my city (Lincoln, Nebraska). There’s three immediate goals I have in mind. One, I want to see what God is doing in the larger picture of Lincoln, instead of my own church. I hope to grow my appreciation and love for other denominations and brothers/sisters — even if my theology is different than theirs. Two, I want to observe how each local body does church. What do they do that I like? What do they do that I don’t like? As someone who wants to plant churches someday, I need to formulate a philosophy of how a service should be run and it’s never too early to start. Third, I want to see how much a single visit to a church service reveals about a church’s beliefs through the sermon, music, announcements, etc. What is important to them will implicitly and explicitly come out during the service.
There will be objective and subjective parts of the posts during this “church tour.” There’s really not much structure though. I’ll simply be blogging my thoughts and observations. My point isn’t to criticize or offend anyone — it’s just to observe. I’ll be visiting six churches of different demoninations, sizes, styles of worship, and theological beliefs. Each week I post, I won’t name the church, but I’ll let you know the denomination and size. We’ll start the church tour blog posts next week. I hope this will be as fun for you all to read as it will be for me to write!
We should learn to love and practice Jesus’ hard truth when speaking to others. On top of that, you can’t help but laugh when the disciples talk amongst themselves when they are around Jesus.
In a previous post, I wrote about whether or not God calls us to be faithful or fruitful. In that post, my contention was that God calls us to both. In being faithful to Jesus, I argued, we will see fruit in life, ministry, and our relationship with God.
So, to dig a bit deeper into this issue, we need to know what the word “fruit” means in New Testament language. After a survey of the usage of “fruit” in the New Testament (using the ESV Bible), I found that the word “fruit” (and its derivatives “fruits” and “fruitful”) occurs 66 times. The Greek word most frequently used is καρπός (karpos). This word can be used literally or figuratively. Most often (41 times), it is used figuratively. Karpos, in the figurative way, is defined as “being the visible expression of power working inwardly and invisibly; the character of the “fruit” being evidence of the character of the power producing it” (Vine’s Dictionary of NT Words). In simpler language, we can say, “[Spiritual] fruit is an expression (or overflow) of what is happening in a person’s spirit that translates heart-level affections and motivations into external actions, words, and attitudes.”
From my study, I think we can make six categories for how the word “fruit” is used in the New Testament. The categories are: 1) Conduct; 2) Salvation; 3) Literal or Analogy; 4) Organic Production; 5) Evangelism; 6) Reward.
The point of this study was to answer Andy’s question on the previous blog’s comment board. He asked, “What does ‘fruit’ refer to when the New Testament writers use it? Then see if it is ever linked to the effects of evangelism, namely salvation.” I found three specific verses relating to fruit and our goal in evangelism. I found three others relating to fruit and Christ’s role in salvation. Continue reading
I don’t naturally tend toward humility, in any sense, but I know that that is where my highest joy lies. O, that Christ would increase, and that I would decrease.
Quite often lately, I have heard the phrase, “God calls us to be faithful, not fruitful.” Working as a campus minister in the Midwest, we can pull that statement out to make us feel good about ourselves when moralistic college students don’t respond to the gospel. There are two ways to interpret this sentence. One is biblical; the other is not. The non-biblical interpretation says, “Just do what God calls you to do, but don’t worry about results. You don’t have to bear fruit.” The biblical interpretation of this phrase is simply this: “Our faithfulness to God’s service will produce eternal fruit, proving that we are truly God’s people.” This has to be the case, because after all, God does call us to be fruitful.
Every branch of mine that does not bear fruit [my Father] takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit…By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.
- John 15:2, 8
John makes it pretty clear. If you don’t bear fruit, you will be cut off. In other words, if you don’t bear fruit, you prove yourself to not truly be in Christ. However, who is the one actually causing the fruit to sprout, blossom, and mature? It’s Jesus.
[Jesus said,] I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
- John 15:5
If we look in Paul’s epistles, we see this same theology of faithfulness and fruitfulness. Paul would say, “God has called me to be faithful. If I am faithful to his kingdom’s work, he will bear much fruit in and through me.” Look at how he puts it in 1 Corinthians 3:5-7:
What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives growth.
If you are a sower, then plant. If you are a sprinkler, then water the ground. Be faithful in your work, then expect with faith, in the power of the Spirit, that God will give the increase. He will grow the fruit and he will credit that fruitfulness to your account and not cut you off. In this, God is glorified and it proves you to be a true disciple of our Lord and Savior.
From Bob Kauflin:
1. Aim to write the next worldwide worship hit.
2. Spend all your time working on the music, not the words.
3. Spend all your time working on the words, not the music.
4. Don’t consider the range and capabilities of the average human voice.
5. Never let anyone alter the way God originally gave your song to you.
6. Make sure the majority of your songs talk about what we do and feel rather than who God is and what he’s done.
7. Try to use as many Scriptural phrases as you can, and don’t worry about how they fit together.
8. Cover as many themes as possible.
9. Use phrases and words that are included in 95% of all worship songs.
10. Forget about Jesus and what he accomplished at the cross.