We Believe in the Church

1 Corinthians, 1 Peter, Acts, Church, Ephesians No Comments »

Maybe you’ve noticed that people are leaving the Church. Not just your church, not just your denomination — people are leaving churches all across this board all across this country. The numbers are slow, but they are steady. Church attendance and church membership are on a decline. And the shifting attitude can be summed up like this: “Jesus, Yes. Church, No.”

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“I love Jesus, but I don’t like the Church.” “I follow Jesus, but I don’t go to Church.” “I don’t go to Church because they’re all sinners, the Church is full of hypocrites” (which is like saying, “I don’t go to the health club because of all the out-of-shape people there). “I serve the Lord every day, but I don’t do Church.” “You can’t organize spirituality.” “Jesus, Yes. Church, No.”

Let me confess right here that I know the Church is a mess. What else could it be? Have you looked at the people who sit by you when you’re there? Yes, the Church is guilty. We’re all guilty of being smug, complacent, self-righteous, racist, misogynist, impersonal, unfeeling, dated, and stuffy — all these things and more.

But Scripture —and the song — says our Lord Jesus purchased the Church of God with his blood. Ephesians says Jesus loves the Church and gave himself up for her. Church is a pretty big deal.

But even “church people” are struggling. All the research and surveys show that the Christian Church and its message do not significantly matter in the lives of its members. Attitudes about sex, marriage, and divorce; ideas about race, poverty, and war; thoughts and actions related to recreation, work, and money — in all areas of life you can’t tell the difference between church members and people who aren’t church members. Lots of people see the Church as really good as long as it gives me personal comfort or meets my needs or confirms what I already think about myself and other people and the world around me. That’s it.

A lot of Christians pretty much ignore the Church as harmless or irrelevant and live their lives like it doesn’t even exist. Christians are increasingly just going through the motions on the inside of Church and, on the outside, the Church is ignored and laughed at for its irrelevance.

I think one of the main problems is that we don’t have a robust theology of the Church. We think the Church is where the theology is packaged. We think church is where religious people with religious things in common go to get their religious stuff. Church is just a place to get your spiritual needs met.

No! Church is theology! Thinking right about the Church is directly tied to thinking right about God.

From the Day of Pentecost right up until this hour Christians have always believed in the Church. That line about the Church in the middle of the Apostles’ Creed — I believe in the holy, universal church, the communion of saints — comes from a baptismal confession from the middle of the second century. Only a few years later, it was being recited together by all Christians every time they assembled. A belief in the Church has always belonged right in the middle of our theology. Just like we believe in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; just like we believe in the dead, burial, and resurrection of Jesus; just like we believe in the forgiveness of sins and the second coming; we believe in what God is doing in and through his Church.

The Church is an utterly indispensable part of what God is up to in the world. Followers of Jesus have never believed anything less.

The Church can’t be treated like an optional extra. It’s not like ordering a side salad to go with your steak: I can take it or leave it, it just depends on what mood I’m in. The Church is the family of God, the called-out people of the Messiah, the baptized, sanctified, Spirit-indwelled, disciples of Jesus who become something together they can never be as individuals. Y’all are the Body of Christ and each one of you is a part of it. Our identity in Christ cannot be understood outside our membership in his Church. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God. To him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations for ever and ever!

This week in this space, I want to take a look at the three descriptors in that line about the Church in the Apostles’ Creed. These three words/phrases give us a great outline to point us to what the Bible says about the Church and what Christians have always believed. These three words/phrases — holy, universal/catholic, communion of saints — will give us a better Church theology.

Peace,

Allan

Hello, Division Champs!

Texas Rangers No Comments »

rangersclinch2016For the seventh time in franchise history and the fourth time in the past seven seasons, the Texas Rangers have won the American League West! Cole Hamels pitched seven shutout innings and Adrian Beltre hit a two-run homer in last night’s win in Oakland, clinching the back-to-back division championships.

Today the Rangers hold a slim half-game lead over the Indians and a one game lead over Boston for the best record in the American League and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. So there’s still plenty to play for over the last eight games. rangerswinwest2016

I think I’d like to see Toronto again when the division playoffs begin October 6.

Peace,

Allan

The Least of These

Church, Lectureships, Ministry No Comments »

From this week at ACU Summit:

“The homeless and addicted do not primarily need what the Church can bring them (although they may); rather, the Church needs what the homeless and addicted bring her. They bring the brokenness of their humanity, crushed by the structures of society, as the very sacrament of God’s presence.” ~Andrew Root

elvisandrus1Peace,

Allan

Scoreboard Watching

Texas Rangers No Comments »

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It Was Only a Matter of Time

Allan's Journey, Carrie-Anne, Valerie No Comments »

seniordiscountWe ate at the Town Crier here in Abilene last night, a traditional stop in our rotation of local eating joints for us every year while attending the ACU Summit. But it wasn’t until I was sorting through my receipts this morning when I noticed that, for the very first time ever in my short life, I was given a Senior Discount. She didn’t ask. She apparently just punched it in. First time ever. Humiliating. Depressing. The only explanation is that the Town Crier must give the senior discount to those 40-years-old and over.

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Our daughter Valerie is posting pictures of her friends and herself attending last week’s Delta-Theta Luau at Oklahoma Christian University. I reminded her that we have a picture of her mom and me at the same Delta-Theta Luau back in 1989. That’s kinda cool, huh? Weird. Seeing the two pictures side-by-side kinda got up in my feels. And I realize maybe the senior discount thing isn’t so far-fetched.

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markmclemore3The Rangers’ magic number is 3.

Peace,

Allan

Can These Bones Live?

Central Church Family, Ezekiel No Comments »

sundaybonesboardYesterday at Central, we concluded a two-month study of Ezekiel with a look at the well-known Dry Bones Vision in Ezekiel 37. The Lord shows his prophet the dead, dry, lifeless, hopeless, valley of bones. The bones represent the people of God who have rebelled against him. They are dead: no salvation, no relationship, no life, no hope. These are not dead corpses; these are dry skeletal remains. No pulse, no blood, no organs, no hope.

And the Lord asks his prophet, “Can these bones live?”

I’m sure Ezekiel’s first thought was, “Of course not! They can’t live! They’re bones!”

But then he remembers to whom he’s speaking. He’s talking to the almighty Creator of Heaven and Earth. So he replies, “O Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”

And then God raises the bones back to life. He breathes his Spirit into the bones and they come together and stand, living, breathing, walking, talking, fully alive  — a vast army! God shows Ezekiel that he not only has the power to make the dry bones live again, he has the will to make it happen. See, there’s a big difference between knowing God has the power to bring dead people back to life and knowing he WILL bring dead people back to life. Of course, God can. Praise God, yes, he will! “You will come back to life,” he says!

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Because of God’s power and his grace and his will, the prospect for life in the middle of death is real. In fact, it’s very, very real. Because this is what God wants to happen. And the neat thing about being God is that he always gets what he wants. And he wants to give dead people life.

So, yesterday we spent a good deal of our time together writing the names of people we love who are spiritually dead and placing them on a big dry bones mural that was painted last week by one of our members. Our kids and grandkids. Our spouses. Our nephews and nieces. Our best friends and former college roommates and next-door-neighbors. We pout them on the board and we lifted them up to God in prayer and in faith that he really wants to breathe brand new resurrection life into our loved ones.

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Our God is the One who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were. Our God looks at death and he sees possibility. He sees hope. He sees life.

Thank you to our Central family for your heart-felt participation in yesterday’s worship assembly. Thank you all for you open hearts and confessing spirits and willingness to be vulnerable and transparent in front of one another. And thank you for the honor, the rich privilege, of being your preacher for five blessed years.

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summit2016A tradition at Central is that when the ministers go to Abilene for the ACU Summit, we always take our Central kids at ACU out to lunch. And today was the day. We were honored to be joined at Sharky’s this afternoon by Matt, Brooke, Slade, Taylor, and Mikayla. What a joy! Thank y’all for spending the hour with us, for sharing your stories and your laughter and your lives with us. Now, get back to class!

Peace,

Allan