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August 21, 2008

The Living Church- Conclusion

The Living Church – Conclusion

This is the last post on John Stott’s excellent new book: The Living Church. Stott is a writer, pastor, and teacher who is well worth reading.

Stott titles this chapter: Looking for Timothys in the Twenty-First Century.

Timothy was young, frail, and far from a saint as is the case for most of us. As he we need Christ’s strength and power to move ahead in our faith. Timothy was to take care not to be swept away by the current cultural attitudes and this pertinent warning should speak to our hearts as well.

Paul writes in 1 Timothy 6:11-12:

11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

From these verses Stott highlights three appeals:

First, Timothy is to follow the path of goodness. There is an ethical appeal. Run from evil and into good. God does not intend to do it all and he gives us a responsibility to work this out.

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August 11, 2008

The Living Church- Chapter Eight

The Living Church – Chapter 8

This is the last chapter of John Stott’s excellent new book: The Living Church. Stott is a writer, pastor, and teacher who is well worth reading. Next week I’ll post his Conclusion.

What impact will Christianity have in today’s pluralistic culture and how will it fare? The terms salt and light are prominent in Matthew 5:13-16:

13 You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.


14 You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Stott builds off this passage and highlights the relevance of the metaphors salt and light for the living church.

First, Christians are and should be ‘radically’ different from non-Christians. Be holy, as God is holy.

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August 04, 2008

The Living Church- Chapter Seven

The Living Church – Chapter 7

In the next few weeks I’ll be posting on John Stott’s excellent new book: The Living Church. Stott is a writer, pastor, and teacher who is well worth reading.

This chapter brings Stott’s to a crucial, yet often ignored dimension of church: giving. The apostle Paul, in 2 Corinthians, saw giving as an extention of having received grace. Stott draws out ten principles from this letter at chapters 8&9.

First, Christians are to give as an expression of God’s grace. Paul starts with the generousity of God and goes from there. The Macedonian Christians gave themselves to Christ and then to the apostles; they gave as they were able and even beyond what they could afford. Question: Where is this happening in the Western church today and do you see any signs of this attitude?

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July 28, 2008

The Living Church- Chapter Six

The Living Church – Chapter 6

In the next few weeks I’ll be posting on John Stott’s excellent new book: The Living Church. Stott is a writer, pastor, and teacher who is well worth reading.

This chapter deals with preaching. Preaching, says Stott, is not considered to be ‘in’ today, but he still wants to encourage it as essential to the living church. He proposes a number of characteristics of ‘authentic’ Christian preaching that complement each other and that should be held in tension.

First, authentic Christian preaching is biblical and contemporary. This is shaped by an exposition of Scripture that resonates with today’s world. We need to listen to both. Be careful here, says Stott, not to make a false polarization between being biblical and contemporary. This is one of the great liberal – evangelical divides.

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July 21, 2008

The Living Church- Chapter Five

The Living Church – Chapter 5

In the next few weeks I’ll be posting on John Stott’s excellent new book: The Living Church. Stott is a writer, pastor, and teacher who is well worth reading.

Fellowship is a term that is overused, yet misunderstood. Taking fellowship as much more than a pleasant tea-time together, a re-definition is appearing today. Stott underlines that there are biblical (people are not to be alone), historical, (small groups can have an impact), and pastoral (all Christians are to be involved in caring for others) reasons for this development.

Koinonia – fellowship is something shared in common. There are three things that are shared.

First, koinonia is not a feeling of togetherness. Stott says it is an ‘objective fact expressing what we share together.’ We have received grace from the same God, Lord, and the same Spirit. We participate in community with God and have a ‘common inheritance.’    

Second, koinonia is not only receiving, but giving. Grace is to be passed on to others.

Third, koinonia is a ‘partnership’ of giving and receiving love. Questions: Do we really love one another and does it show? Have you been loved by the church and seen the impact and expression of koinonia?

Dr. Gregory J. Laughery

July 15, 2008

The Living Church- Chapter Four

The Living Church – Chapter 4


In the next few weeks I’ll be posting on John Stott’s excellent new book: The Living Church. Stott is a writer, pastor, and teacher who is well worth reading.

Stott’s next chapter is on ministry. He looks to Luke’s narrative in Acts and highlights the Holy Spirit and the work of Satan (see Acts 5). The latter he says is out to persecute, corrupt, and distract. Stott draws our attention to Acts 6:1-7 to focus on the tactic of distraction:

1 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, "It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word."
5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch , a convert to Judaism. 6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.

The point Stott wants to make here is that there are different ministries for different people in the church. No one should or can do everything, and this is crucial, because all Christians are called to a variety of ministries.

After having made this important point, Stott turns to explore the pastoral ministry. We have either elevated or regulated pastors, and both these orientations create problems. Pastors are to have oversight in teaching and participate in shared leadership. Those who pastor are to value people, deeply care for them, and show them increasing love as they are part of God’s church, not the pastor’s.

Dr. Gregory J. Laughery

June 23, 2008

The Living Church- Chapter Three

The Living Church – Chapter 3
 
In the next few weeks I’ll be posting on John Stott’s excellent new book: The Living Church. Stott is a writer, pastor, and teacher who is well worth reading.
 
This chapter is on Evangelism. Stott points out three types of evangelism: personal, mass, and local church, which he sees as the most ‘normal, natural, and productive.’ In order for the local church to follow through on its task it has to meet four conditions:
 

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June 16, 2008

The Living Church- Chapter Two

In the next few weeks I’ll be posting on John Stott’s excellent new book: The Living Church. Stott is a writer, pastor, and teacher who is well worth reading.

Stott now takes up worship. This, he says, is the church’s primary obligation. But what is worship? Four points:

First, true worship is a ‘response to revelation.’ Public Scripture reading and study therefore are central to worship.

Second, true worship is in community. Granted, there is a place for individual worship, but the biblical focus is most often on the corporate.

Third, true worship is ‘spiritual worship’ and spiritual worship is connected to Scripture, the Eucharist, and praise and prayer.

Fourth, true worship is moral. Living Christ like lives both in our hearts and relations is to practice holiness.

Dr. Gregory J. Laughery

June 08, 2008

The Living Church- Chapter One

The Living Church – Chapter 1   In the next few weeks I’ll be posting on John Stott’s excellent new book: The Living Church. Stott is a writer, pastor, and teacher who is well worth reading.  

This chapter sets out what Stott calls God’s vision for the church. Question: What would you see as necessary marks or traits of God’s church? Stott is a person who is about church through and through. His vocabulary for the church is ‘God’s new community.’ Stott argues that all believers should be committed to church, its mission, and its renewal because God is committed to these. Each of the three are essential.  

But what is a living church and God’s vision of church? Stott offers us a picture from Acts 2:42-47:  

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.  

‘The early church,’ Stott states, ‘was radically stirred by the Holy Spirit.’ In following Luke’s recounting we notice four marks of this Pentecost event, which will help us in shaping the church today.  

First, a living church is a learning church. ‘Devoted to the apostolic teaching,’ according to Stott, didn’t mean that people left their intellects behind in exchange for a mystical experience or that because the Holy Spirit had arrived they no longer needed a teacher. True, says Stott, the New Testament apostles are no longer with us, but we do have in the New Testament their teaching and witness.  

Second, a living church is a caring church. ‘Fellowship’ is to be taken seriously and we’re to make a difference in extending generosity wherever possible.  

Third, a living church is a worshipping church. Joy and reverence are to be combined in a mixture of both formal and informal structures.  

Fourth, a living church is an evangelistic church. Mission and outreach are to identify the people of God.

June 04, 2008

The Living Church – Introduction

The Living Church – Introduction

In the next few weeks I’ll be posting on John Stott’s excellent new book: The Living Church. Stott is a writer, pastor, and teacher who is well worth reading.

Stott begins his account with a Preface entitled ‘Emerging Churches.’ In spite of all the books today about church, Stott thinks we are in a time of crisis and that the church may be way out of step with the culture in unhelpful ways. He finely balances the need for Christians to be attuned to culture and to also be counter-cultural. ‘Scripture is unchangeable,’ Stott writes, ‘culture is not.’ We are to conserve Scriptural teaching, yet be radicals. Traditional and emerging churches need to be open to dialogue and learning from each other. Persitent practices of both types of churches are to identify with Jesus, avoid the sacred-secular divide, and be authentic communities.

Dr. Gregory J. Laughery