Friday, April 22, 2011

New Sermon Series Begins Sunday

The Bible says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have, yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). Challenges from sincere seekers and challenges from unbelievers confront us everywhere. That’s why Cedar Creek is beginning a new series called Why I Believe. Whether you are a new believer or longtime Christian who wants to deepen your own grasp of the truths of God’s Word, this series can be a great resource to strengthen the foundations of your faith.

April 24 Why I Believe in the Resurrection
May 1 Why I Believe in the Bible
May 8 Why I Believe in Creation
May 15 Why I Believe in Jesus
May 22 Why I Believe in Baptism
May 29 Why I Believe in Communion

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Restoration Movement – an Informal Analysis

Recently, I was asked to write an opinion piece, giving an informal analysis of the current state of the Restoration Movement. I gladly agreed to do so, and I want to share it with my blog readers.

When I use the term Restoration Movement, I am referring to the Independent Christian Churches and Churches of Christ (not the a capella Churches of Christ or the Disciples of Christ denomination).

Among the positive things I have seen in recent years is a renewed interest in church planting.. Researchers consistently document the fact that new churches are reaching non-Christians with the gospel more effectively than established congregations. Generally speaking, new church plants grow at a faster rate than traditional church models. Another positive sign is the emphasis on world missions. The National Missionary Convention has become one of the premier conventions among our people. Bible colleges are sending more students on short-term mission trips than ever before. There seems to be a genuine desire on the part of the younger generation to minister cross-culturally. I believe these are positive trends that honor the Lord as believers seek to fulfill His Great Commission.

I do, however, see some dangerous trends among us. One of those is a de-emphasis on biblical doctrine and a heavy reliance on pragmatic church growth principles. These need not be mutually exclusive, but our forefathers pointed people to the Bible, believing that the truth of God’s Word is what changed lives and caused the church to grow. They promoted unity, and they also pleaded for an adherence to truth (“union in truth” was the term they used). Historically, there has been a doctrinal distinctiveness about our movement. This came as a result of a genuine study of the Scriptures. Perhaps the most well-known distinctive is our understanding of the place of baptism (immersion) in God’s plan of redemption. Some have made a case that this particular doctrine was over-emphasized. They may be right, but I wonder if the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction. Our churches do not seem to have the unity of belief and practice that they did a few decades ago. We seem to be on a path toward blending in with a generic brand of evangelicalism. Other issues like church polity, gender roles, and the authority of the Bible have also come under scrutiny in recent years.

We may be approaching another crossroads in our history. Will we continue to preach the Bible, believing that our forefathers’ “restoration plea” to call people back to the Bible, and wear the name “Christian” is still valid? Or will we morph into something other than what we have known in the past?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Gospel Coalition

This week Tracy and I attended The Gospel Coalition Conference in Chicago. There were a lot of things that were great about it. First, the fact that we were able to go together. I am privileged to attend things like this on a fairly regular basis, but it was really special attending as a couple. Second, the preaching was outstanding, and very challenging. Third, the worship was tremendous. Fourth, the resources were plentiful (there were lots of freebies as well as discounted books).

This conference, like its cousin Together for the Gospel is attended primarily by folks who adhere to Reformed theology. However, they do allow non-Calvinists (like us) to slip in. Honestly, I heard nothing preached that could not have been preached at Hillsboro Family Camp or the North American Christian Convention. The theme, Preaching Christ from the Old Testament was executed very well. If you download messages from the website, be sure to check out the messages by Tim Keller and Don Carson.