On Sunday, April 19 there will be a Sojourn Church Baby Dedication during all four regular services. Parents, you will have the opportunity to express your thankfulness to God for the gift of new children, declare your commitment to gospel transformation as parents, and request the help of Christ and his church as you seek to carry out your joyous calling. Email Kelsey Barnes at email@example.com by Wednesday, April 8 for more information and to sign-up your child. Baby Dedication is for children of members and those currently going through the membership process.
A few weeks back, Sojourn Community Groups Director, Mike Crowe, placed a copy of a Modern Reformation article in my box. The article, Simple Grace, Simple Growth by Kate Treick (March/April 2009, vol. 18.2), contains some faithful encouragement for busy mothers. Here are some best excerpts:
I’m not a monk, I’m a mother! In fact, I am a mother of two children under the age of two. My days are filled with sippy cups, bottles, diapers, Elmo, crayons, chores, church activities, and occasional moments of coveted nap-time solitude. My individual spiritual practices? Let’s just say they don’t involve hours spent alone under trees with my Bible imagining myself as Mary Magdalene. A few moments reading Scripture, and prayer for friends and family as they pass through my mind.
Sanctification is not a work we undertake through various methods and disciplines, but an amazing act of God’s grace. We simply turn to him in our brokenness and receive from his this treasure of grace as he makes us more like Christ. This is fundamentally different from believing that it is up to you to cultivate spiritual growth through the faithful practice of spiritual disciplines.
As the Old Princeton theologian Archibald Alexander affirmed, our spiritual growth is no found in our own attempts at devotion. Instead, “To be emptied of self-dependence, and to know that we need aid for every duty, and even for every good thought, is an important step in our progress in piety.” I don’t know about you, but I find comfort in this fact, even as it sobers and humbles me.
If I see retreats or even time for personal Bible study as the fundamental component of my spiritual growth, it is easy to become self-absorbed in my spirituality. But if my spiritual life is shaped by meeting with God in the presence of his people and hearing the Word preached by someone set apart to preach it, then the chance of me focusing only on what I want to hear is somewhat lessened. There I am reminded that it was not something I did that made me part of God’s people, any more than any other Christian person; rather he chose me to be part of his people (1 Peter 2:9-10). I am part of his Bride. The gathering of his people is to his glory, and to spend time with his people is to my great benefit.
I experienced this last Sunday. I had rushed to get to evening church, setting up my toddler with a few bites of supper while I fed our three-month old baby. After a drive bombarded with the sounds of Elmo and his Sesame Street friends, I deposited my daughter in the nursery, and, finding my usual side-door entrance locked, hurried up the long hill to the front of our church. I careened into the foyer, my beeper from the nursery falling out of the diaper bag and sailing across the floor… And then I encountered God. Not with flashes of light and angels singing, but in the sweet voices of the men and women around me as they began to sing his praise… [Our pastor] reminded us that we often seek that which only gives temporary satisfaction, and Jesus would draw us to be satisfied in him. We turned to the Lord in prayer, asking him to help us find our satisfaction in him. Then I came forward to receive the Lord’s Supper… I knew that my satisfaction is in Christ alone, and that I need this time with his people to remember that. I can count on the Lord to use these means of grace to bring his spiritual work in me to completion and to glorify himself in the midst of it all.
Be encouraged. Christ is our sufficiency and satisfaction.
Tim Chester and Steve Timmis. Total Church: A Radical Reshaping Around Gospel and Community. Wheaton, IL: Re:Lit/Crossway, 2008. 224pp. $15.99.
Tim Chester and Steve Timmis believe that the gospel is a word that works. And this word works in church community. They state clearly in the introduction to Total Church that these two principles, gospel and community, must shape the way we “do church” (15).
Total Church‘s dual message of gospel and community addresses two major audiences. On the one hand, there is conservative evangelicalism, which places “a proper emphasis on the gospel or on the word” (16). On the other hand are proponents of the so-called emerging church, who “emphasize the importance of community” (16). Both groups suspect the other is weak where it is strong:
Conservatives worry that the emerging church is soft on truth, too influenced by postmodernism. The emerging church accuses traditional churches of being too institutional, too program-oriented, often loveless and sometimes harsh (16).
Chester and Timmis are clear that there is a need for change on both sides. They agree with the emerging church that conservatives often do not ‘do truth’ well because they neglect community: “Because people are not sharing their lives, truth is not applied and lived out” (17) They also agree with conservatives that emerging churches “can sometimes be bad at community because they neglect the truth” (17)
The result of this dual critique is a volume dedicated to understanding how both the truth of the gospel and the life of church community intersect in all of ministry–and all of life. Total Church has two major sections: (1) Gospel and Community in Principle, Chapters 1-2, and (2) Gospel and Community in Practice, Chapters 3-13.
Part 1, Gospel and Community in Principle.
The Gospel. For Chester and Timmis, being gospel-centered means being both word-centered, “because the gospel is a word–the gospel is news, a message,” and mission-centered, “because the gospel is a word to be proclaimed–the gospel is good news, a missionary message” (16): Continue Reading…