Archive for January, 2010

A Great Little Book

February is fast  approaching, and with it my responsibility to preach on Jonah.  In my cold-induced haze, I went stumbling through my as-yet-unboxed commentaries looking to find my stash on Jonah.  There was one in particular I was looking for, one that finally became available in the U.S.  only recently.  Sinclair Ferguson’s Man Overboard! seemed to be just that- lost at sea!  I could not find it.

This morning, since we all have horrible colds and did not go to public worship, I was doing a bit of cleaning.  A thought came to mind of a few places it just might be.  I could not imagine putting it in a box.  I had 3 places in mind, and thankfully it was in the 3rd place.  I rejoice that I will be able to refer to Sinclair Ferguson’s fine little book on the wayward prophet.

Man Overboard!: the Story of Jonah by Sinclair Ferguson.  He is a theologian who writes with a pastor’s heart.  This little book is no different.  You are not overwhelmed with Hebrew (though there is some in important places), or tedious arguments for/against the historicity of Jonah.  That is not the purpose of this book.  It is to drive the message of Jonah into your heart.  Perhaps this first chapter will whet your appetite.

Salvation Through Judgment and Mercy: The Gospel According to Jonah by Bryan Estelle. This is part of the Gospel in the Old Testament Series which I love and recommend.  It keeps these Old Testament books within the larger context of the whole of Scripture- the message of reconciliation accomplished through Christ.

Hosea-Jonah (WBC Series) by Douglas Stuart.  I heard Dr. Stuart preach at my church in NH way back when.  I have pretty much all his commentaries.  Yes, I was impressed.  I have not read this yet, but have started the section on Jonah.  As is common in the Word Biblical Commentary Series, it is more academic.  It has lots of Hebrews and interacts with the various views put forth by scholastic liberals.  It is a very good academic commentary, though not all of them in this series are as solidly evangelical.

Here are some books I don’t have, but find interesting.

Jonah (Geneva Commentary Series) by Hugh Martin.  It is small, and published by Banner of Truth.  Based on reputation, I’d say this is a concise, solid commentary.

Jonah: A Study in Compassion by O. Palmer Robertson. Once again published by Banner of Truth, this book brings the perspective of the missionary-theologian to bear on the book.

Read Full Post »

Tim Keller has a recent blog post clarifying their use of a multi-site church model.  He laid out their reasons for following this model, and how their model will be changing in the years to come as local staff grows and takes more ownership.  Not all multi-site church models are the same or exist for the same reasons.

He briefly mentions the collegiate shift in the post.

We will then transition from a ‘multi-site’ to a ‘collegiate’ model. Though still under one unified board of elders, each church will have its own pastoral team, elder team, and set of lay leaders. Other collegiate models in our PCA denomination include Harbor Presbyterian in San Diego and Brooklyn Presbyterian here in New York City.

I’ve been able to witness on here in central Florida.  Trinity Presbyterian Church in Lakeland has been functioning as a church planting center for close to a decade.  Tim Rice planted the church in the mid-90’s.  They have planted two churches in Lakeland and just planted one in Winter Haven.


Read Full Post »

Yes, I still have not read The Shack (see Tim Keller was not the last person on earth to read it, I might be).  I personally know a few people who have.  I’ve tried not to engage them about it too much- things tend to get tense fast where this book is concerned.

For some reason there have been a spate of blogs posts & reviews of late.  They interact with the book in a variety of ways.  And the comments show the typical polarization taking place.

Tim Keller has a typically good number of impressions about the book.  He mentions some positives about the book (including the use of narrative to convey theology), and some concerns he has (including the theology conveyed in this narrative).  Those concerns center on ideas present in the book that undermine biblical, historic, orthodox Christianity.  One pertinent concern is that it really does not prepare anyone to meet the God of the Bible.  The god portrayed is a more post-modern, neutered deity who fails to recognize the relational nature of sin, and how the Law reveals love.  If we are expecting people to become Christians after reading this, the bait & switch tactic is unloving and unfair.  It is unloving to our neighbor, and to God (whose character is misrepresented, which sounds like bearing false witness to me).

Al Mohler laments the lack of evangelical discernment in this whole affair.  He addresses one of the defenses of the book- that it is a work of fiction, not a theological treatise- quite well.

The theology of The Shack is not incidental to the story. Indeed, at most points the narrative seems mainly to serve as a structure for the dialogues. And the dialogues reveal a theology that is unconventional at best, and undoubtedly heretical in certain respects.


Read Full Post »

With my search for a new pastoral call pretty much over, I would be remiss to not express gratitude for God and his many blessings through this long trial.

So, I’m grateful for:

  • Jesus my Great High Priest, who sits upon the throne of grace that I might receive mercy and grace in my times of need (Hebrews 4).  Indeed, a bruised reed he will not break, a smoldering wick he will not put out.
  • The Father was teaching me to rely not on myself but on Him who raises the dead (1 Corinthians 1).
  • The Father’s “manna” from heaven that sustained us, inexplicably, through a long period of un/under-employment.  He used so many people, in so many ways, to provide for us.  We never missed a meal or a mortgage payment.
  • For granting repentance regarding the idols He revealed in His occasionally severe mercy.
  • For my wife.  We were on the same page 97% of the time.  She was supportive.  I’ve seen many marriages really struggle in a time like this.  Ours didn’t.
  • For my kids.  During this time we adopted CavSon without incurring any debt, and saw him through 3 surgeries without incurring any debt.  They bring much joy to our hearts, often helping us to keep things in perspective (sorry daddy was so grouchy sometimes).
  • For brothers, past and present, who wrote books that encouraged me including Tim Keller, Sinclair Ferguson, Richard Sibbes, John Newton and John Piper.
  • For all the brothers and sisters who prayed for us, encouraged us and showed us kindness.  This includes the friends I made on search committees that chose someone else.  Some blessed our times of fellowship with good beer which didn’t ordinarily fit my budget.
  • For the worship music of Jars of Clay, Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman and Indelible Grace for reminding me of the gospel when I was prone to fix my eyes upon my circumstances.
  • For the many churches that welcomed me into their pulpits.  It was great to meet so many people, serve them and be encouraged by them.

Read Full Post »

Since I’m feeling ill, I’ve got a bit more time to poke around the internet today.  With the return of a book allowance I was interested in what books might be coming out soon.

He's a Cavman fav!

O happy day!  Sinclair Ferguson has a new book coming out.  If you’ve been on this blog much, you’ll soon discover that Dr. Ferguson is one of my favorites.  His new book is called By Grace Alone: How the Grace of God Amazes Me.  He addresses the sad reality that many in the church are no amazed by God’s love & grace.  A bit of that entitlement mentality that plagues us in many ways.  I look forward to reading this.

Sorry, that is just one book.  But it promises to be a good one that is worth reading often.


Scandalous: The Cross and the Resurrection of Jesus by D.A. Carson.  Carson is another one of my favorite contemporary authors.  This series to designed to simply and clearly present central doctrines.  With them under attack (again), this should be a good defense of historical orthodoxy.

Read Full Post »

We have learned the result of our recent trip to Tucson.  After a week to pray, the congregation had a meeting today.  I’m very grateful for the way in which the Search Committee and Session have handled this.  It is a big decision for a congregation.  Rather than just vote, they informed the congregation of the process they used, and why they thought I was the man God had chosen to lead them into the future.  They allowed time for questions, and then voted.

Classrooms & playground

This was great for them, but tough for us.  “We kept wondering, are they ever going to call?”  At one point we paused the movie we were watching to pray, again.  We were getting pretty anxious to be honest.

After about an hour and 40 minutes one of the elders called to let us know that they voted to extend a call as pastor of Desert Springs Presbyterian Church.  They were very excited about what God may have in store.

Probably?  Why probably?  Presbytery, that’s why.  I’ve seen enough to know that Presbytery is not a formality.  This Presbytery sounds like a good Presbytery with very few hot-button issues.  The elders think I’ll fit in pretty well.

So we are excited, and sad.  This will be a big change, and we have made many friends here in central Florida.  But we see ourselves going to be a part of a great community with lots of promise.  Our timetable is not set at this point, and there are many things for us to do before we leave.

Update:  Though dated (it is 10 years old) this article has some info for pastors who are moving.  Here is another brief article.

Read Full Post »

The topic of church discipline is a touchy one.  People tend to go to extremes.  They either try to discipline people for anything and everything, or they try to avoid ever doing it no matter how severe the sin.

My experience as a pastor has been mixed.  There have been times I’ve believed church discipline was required, but enough of the Session disagreed that we never pursued it.  I’m sure some of those times I may have been over-reacting since the people were attacking me.

I have been wanting to read The Transforming Community: The Practise of the Gospel in Church Discipline by Mark Lauterbach (that’s not a typo, but the British spelling of “practice”, I think) for a few years.  I finally picked it up.  I’m glad I did.  It is a great little book (so far, I’m only 1/2 done).  Mark sees church discipline as a part of how we live out the gospel and how God transforms us.  It is an essential function of church life- part of the church being the church.  Without it the church becomes a social club and lives are not really changed.  This was one of the issues I encountered.  Many in the church wanted it to be more of a chapel (nice service, not much else) rather than a place where the gospel was at work to make people more like Jesus (Romans 8), as Christ is formed in them (Galatians 6).

“… as the saving doctrine of Christ is the soul of the church, so does discipline serve as its sinews, through which the members of the body hold together…  all who desire to remove discipline or hinder its restoration- whether they do this deliberately or out of ignorance- are surely contributing to the ultimate dissolution of the church.”  John Calvin

Lauterbach rightly points to pride as one of the main problems in the church.  We  resist church discipline, thinking it unnecessary because we think more of ourselves than we ought.  We fail to recognize we are the biggest sinners we know (1 Timothy 1:15, as Paul uses the present tense).  If we are unwilling to face our sin, the gospel makes no progress in our lives.


Read Full Post »

Considering the Trip Home

Opening Track: Bad Attitude

Apparently they had enough.  Today was a day full of frustrations as we headed home.  We got up a little early so we could get some breakfast before leaving at the target time of 8 am.  I enjoyed one last waffle while the kids had cereal.  We grabbed stuff for our time on the plane and headed back to the room to load up and check out.  We left the parking lot a 8 am on the dot.  It was looking good.

The ride to the airport went smoothly.  There was little/no traffic so we arrived with plenty of time before our flight.  But first we had to say “goodbye” to the Sienna.  It was so easy to get the car seats in and out of the Sienna.  It rode well and was quite peppy.  We were sad to turn it in.

This is where things took a downward turn.  We didn’t do curbside check-in, obviously.  With 4 bags and a luggage carrier with 2 car seats, it was necessary for one of the kids to pull one of the small bags.  CavGirl, being bigger and older, seemed the best choice.  Oh, the crying began nearly instantaneously.  She cried nearly the whole way from the rental car return to ticketing giving new meaning to “trail of tears”.  But she wasn’t pulling the suitcase.  CavSon was doing an admirable job, even with his backpack on much of the way.  He took a short rest while on a ramp (sitting to rest), but he was quite the trooper.  She, on the other hand, seemed incapable of even carrying her own backpack, trying to pawn it off on any number of people.

At ticketing one of the bags got knocked over.  I was frustrated at this point, so I roughly uprighted it.  Over-correction as it fell the other way, bonking CavSon in the head.  More tears!

While waiting in line for security, CavSon made a new friend (the proverb about strangers being friends you’ve yet to meet was written for him).  Soon, he’s riding on her luggage bag.  Then CavGirl starts whining and crying that it’s her turn.  Yeah, this is special stuff folks.

While waiting we tried to figure out what to buy for lunch.  Meanwhile the kids are playing “kitty”.  CavSon has decided to pretend that he really can’t listen to anything I say.  I have to put him in time out for slapping me (even though he was playing it still isn’t appropriate), and then again for knocking down his sister’s bag of markers while she was doing some homework.  This is all while CavWife is buying us food, so he and I can’t have a real meaningful conversation about all this.

The first leg of the trip was largely uneventful.  I sat, as usually, with CavSon.  He was a tad wound up, continued to practicing his lack of listening skills.    He was preoccupied with the tray, moving the catch with his foot, and wanting to kick the seat in front of him occupied by his sister.


Read Full Post »

Oh, the joys of preaching after a lousy night’s sleep.  Yeah, I had a headache and was anxious.  I finally broke down and took some ibuprofen around 4:30.  I reluctantly got out of bed around 7:20.  While CavWife and the kids went to get some breakfast, I reviewed my sermon notes, worked on the prayer list and did some praying before hitting the shower.  Oh, and ironing my clothes.

We arrived just after 9 am and sat in on Sunday School.  The men’s class was studying The Westminster Confession on Justification (they were utilizing G.I. Williamson’s book).  They had a good turn out.  I’m glad to see that they have a number of younger men interested in learning more about their faith.  Many of them did not grow up in the Reformed heritage, so they are growing into it.

After praying with the elders, we were ready to start the worship service.  They utilize a traditional liturgy with blended music.  We sang some traditional hymns, an RUF song (Come and Mourn with Me Awhile) and In Christ Alone.   The various instruments used were organ, electric piano, violin, guitar, and bass.  They loved to worship, singing loud and coming in on time.  They seemed interested in the responsive readings as well, rather than barely droning thru them.

My sermon was on Colossians 1:28-29 covering the message, means, goal and power of gospel ministry.  It laid out my aspirations over the course of about 30 minutes.  I was concerned I would go longer since I had not preached in nearly a month.  They received it well, and showed good interest while I was preaching.

After the service, we had a Family Feast from noon until about 1.  Then we had an hour and a half of Q & A.  We talked about worship, ministry to children, outreach, prayer and other topics you’d expect.  CavWife, who had taken the kids back to the hotel to nap, wondered if I would ever get back since I strolled in about 3:30-4, dead tired.  It has been a good, and long week.  But I’m glad we were able to get plenty of interaction with members of the congregation so they can get a good feel for us and be better prepared to vote next Sunday about whether or not to extend a call.  We also saw a group of warm people with servants’ hearts who accepted people who didn’t have it all together, and who were quite different.  They have a great mix of backgrounds and personalities that is far more reflective of the Body of Christ than many churches.

Read Full Post »

It finally happened today- the kids woke up at 7 am MST.  We had a busy day ahead of us.  We needed to get the kids alittle something to tide them over to the brunch at the church.  You know kids can’t really wait when they are hungry.  So we went down and had “first breakfast”- a bowl of cereal.  I went retro with Corn Pops while they had the Special K with berries.  Then I took the stir-crazy mob of 2 on a walk to the local golf course.  They love looking at the cacti.  I also pulled a super ball out of a palm tree and they spent 5 minutes tossing it into the netting by one of the holes.  Gotta love kids!

We then headed to the brunch to meet more members of the congregation.  It was a good time.  I enjoyed some yummy salad and hash browns, and the first time I’ve had Quiche in about 20 years.  The kids then went outside while CavWife and I interacted with people.  I enjoyed talking with a World Harvest missionary from London who is home on furlough.  Then (as CavWife says) I held court, talking with a bunch of guys about R.C. Sproul, Cornelius Van Til, apologetics, the Marrow Controversy and a variety of other subjects they brought up.  Before we knew it it was after noon and time to head back.

The kids were tired from running around, but we knew they would need something to tide them over until dinner since second breakfast was at 10.  We picked up some popcorn chicken at KFC, ate and put those nubbers down to sleep.  I took a nap too.


Read Full Post »

Some days just don’t turn out like you thought they would.  This is one of those days.  It started well, with a good night’s sleep.  We had a leisurely breakfast, though CavSon couldn’t seem to stop playing with his bagel or apple.  I hit the Make-Your-Waffle machine for a waffle again this morning.

The morning sort of slipped away, and we got to our friend’s home later than I wanted to.  But the real estate agent hadn’t arrived yet.  The plan was for us to go see some homes while our friend watched the kids.  Then perhaps CavWife and I could enjoy a quiet lunch together without kids.  Paperwork and computer snafus conspired to gobble up the morning.  It was lunch time before we were ready to head out.  So we had lunch there with the kids.

Yeah, that was a coyote we saw.

CavWife went out to look at properties while I took the kids back to the hotel for naps.  After playing a game with CavGirl, and reading her a book about desert wildlife, it was time for her nap.  I read some more of The Transforming Community and finished off the David Hagberg novel I’d been reading since before the trip began.

CavWife returned with a good report of the homes she looked at.  Lots of notes for me to look at.  She was not wild about the Sante Fe style home.  The ceilings were all very high, which probably makes the A/C work harder (and the electric bill higher).  Yeah, watch us end up in a Santa Fe.  One of the homes was poorly treated and would require a good amount of work.  But there were some promising things in our price range.


Read Full Post »

The day began before I wanted it to.  Actually, I had sleeptus interruptus as CavGirl would wake up and begin rocking in her bed.  I felt bad for the person under us- who probably thought something completely different was going on.  And CavSon woke me up at one point, crying because a stuffed animal fell on the floor.  So when they woke up in Central Time instead of Mountain Time, I was greatly disappointed.

Rather than give CavGirl the sugar-laden Apple Jacks (the first time she’d ever had them) we settled for Special K with red berries for everyone.  A pleasant little surprise that I think was enjoyed by everyone.  No magic globs of syrup either.  Sadly, CavSon enjoyed his hard boiled egg too much and yolk ended up nearly every where.  I am beginning to call him The Destroyer, for in his hands nothing is safe.

After breakfast the meltdowns began.  So, while CavWife showered I took the kids for a walk.  We checked out the golf course behind the hotel, enjoying the variety of cacti on display.  I had hoped to drive around before our morning engagement, but that just didn’t happen.  As we used to say in Mexico, “Be flexible.”


Read Full Post »

My fleeting prayers, quite selfish, were answered.  The kids were not up at 4:30 or 5 am.  Nor was I.  We “slept in” until about 6 am, so I guess we are on Central Time.  Maybe we’ll be on Mountain Time tomorrow.

Shortly after getting out of bed (which differs from when I woke up) I saw an awesome sunrise from the window of our hotel suite (hey, there are 4 of us).  The outline of the mountains and the red clouds made for quite the sight.

Just as good, my back was feeling good.  I was pleasantly surprised, especially since it was sore when I woke up around 3 am.

Mmmm ... waffles

We had our “free” continental breakfast and were delighted to discover we could make our own … waffles.  Sadly, no peanut butter to spread on my waffle but still good.  Both kids got syrup on the front of their shirts, and CavGirl managed to get a blob in the hair on the back of her head.  That’s one magic glob of syrup, folks.

CavGirl's Car Seat


Read Full Post »

CavFamily got an early start on Tuesday morning.  An early start on a long day.  CavWife was up at 5:30, while I got up at 6 to shower and finalize the packing for our trip. While bringing the luggage into the garage, I see all the frost on my car. I won’t miss the cold.

By 6:45 our friend had arrived in their mini-van to drive us to Orlando International Airport. I chose to fly on Tuesday, hoping that the flights would not be a full. We had never flown this far with kids. It is very different when you have kids on a cross-country flight. Actually, we had 3 flights. Thankfully, we did not have to change planes.

We checked our bags and moved quickly through security. It was there that we learned the TSA considers yogurt a liquid. Bye-bye part of our lunch. We had time to get some breakfast. Since the McDonald’s at the airport didn’t have the McCafe, it was Au Bon Pain instead. CavWife needs her coffee. I settled for an incredible chocolate crossiant over grits. Why they have grits is beyond me, but not even their grits will entice me. We had a nice meal and it was on to our gate.

There was that one time, with that one guy.

The first flight (to St. Louis) went well. As usual, I sat with CavSon. We watched most of Veggie Tales’ Jonah on the way. He refused to wear headphones, so those around us got to hear songs like “The God of Second Chances”.  I could barely hear the dialogue, but CavWife kept telling me “that’s too loud”.  I’m not sure what she was listening to. CavDaughter was able to watch some Babar (scary), the Veggie Tales Christmas Star (also surprisingly scary to her) and something else on a borrowed i-Pod.

Yes, he used PEDs


Read Full Post »

A few weekends ago, CavWife and I watched District 9.  It was certainly different, part pseudo-documentary and part sci-fi action adventure.  It was dark and portrayed an ugly world filled with prejudice.  CT puts it well in calling the look “gritty and gruesome.”

Last night a friend and I saw Avatar in 3-D.  It portrayed a beautiful world that was being marred by humanity.  It looks lavish and slick.  But in many ways, it was the same movie (though it also has elements of Dances with Wolves, The Mission, Alien Resurrection and a nod to Apocalypse Now as well).

Both movies are about the conflict between humans and aliens.  District 9 takes place in this world (supposedly from 1982-2002).  Avatar takes place on Pandora.  The former has ugly aliens that look like, and are derisively called Prawns.

In Avatar the Na’vi are beautiful, sensual “aboriganies that live in trees.”  The technology is amazing, as Sigorney Weaver’s avatar looks like a huge, blue, hot version of her with a tail.  The facial structure is similar enough that you can recognize her.

Prawn- definitely not sensual


Read Full Post »

I picked up Switchfoot’s latest disc, Hello Hurricane, with a gift card I received for my birthday.  Of the numerous discs I received with it, this is the best one in my book.  I even liked it more than U2’s No Line on the Horizon.

This may mean I’m a sucker for arena rock, but I don’t care.

In some ways this is typical Switchfoot, or perhaps I should say what I like most about Switchfoot.  They are more consistent in their portrayal of their faith than Bono is, but like Bono they avoid the “beat you over the head with Jesus” trap (contrast that with worship music which should be all about Jesus).

This album is more aggressive musically than No Line on the Horizon.  I want driving guitars and pounding bass to accompany songs about the state of the world and my heart.  Switchfoot has more of that going for it (“Mess of Me”, “The Sound” etc.).  They are younger, and have not yet mellowed out.  U2 appeals more to people my age, and has mellowed some in recent years.

Don't let the vest fool you.

Another big difference between them is the focus on the problems we experience.  Switchfoot is far more willing to own up to our part in the conspiracy.  Jon Foreman knows that the world won’t change unless I change (and a whole lot of others too).  So, he’s a tad more personal and existential than Bono at times.  He also screams a bit more (which CavWife doesn’t like) on songs like “Bullet”.

Hello Hurricane picks up that idea that hurricanes change life irrevocably.  In 2004 we saw our community changed by 3 hurricanes.  They also had a personal effect on us.  We weren’t quite the same.  Switchfoot’s idea is that this change is a welcome thing because I’ve made a “Mess of Me.”  This song is followed by the more thoughtful “Your Love is a Song”.  I can choose to hear the roar of the hurricane (or modern life) or the love of my Creator and Redeemer.  It is this love that enables me to stand in the storm as my life is deconstructed and reconstructed.  It is this love that fuels our love which cannot be silenced even though everything may be taken away sort of connecting Job and Colossians 2-3 (“Hello Hurricane”).

They start off with the obligatory “boy meets girl” in a messed up world song.  But “Needle and Haystack Life” is a satisfying song.  It brings back shades of The Beautiful Letdown.

There are some ambiguities, like on “Enough to Let Me Go”.  Is it a human romance, or something like the story of the Prodigal?  There are plenty of allusions to faith here: “I’m walking the line that will lead me home”,  “a seed must die before it grows”).  This song is a bit more pop-oriented, with a bit of haunting keyboards hanging in the background.

But “Free” is clearer.  He longs for redemption from the prison cell within his shell of a man.  He’s living in Romans 7, doing what he hates, hurting those he loves.  (“come set me free, down on my knees, i still believe you can save me from me”  “i had a dream my chains were broken, free…”).  This all to some great bass and guitars.

He revels in surrender and second chances in “Always”.  It has a bit more anthemic feel to it with the guitar work reminding me a bit of The Verve.  “Sing it Out” is another cry for Someone to work in him, to change him.  It is a longing for God, and is a bit haunting before it moves into more of an anthem-like song.  But the haunting elements return for a slow fade with guitar feedback and strings.

I’ve missed Switchfoot.  I’m glad they are back.  Let’s hope it is not nearly 3 years before the next release.

Read Full Post »

Bryan Chapell is not content to let history speak in Christ-Centered Worship.  He sees the historical pattern in many places in Scripture.  He points to such places as Isaiah 6.  There Isaiah sees the exalted God, which makes him aware of his sinfulness.  God provides for his forgiveness which results in his commitment to serve.  God then instructs him in service and essentially sends Isaiah off with blessing.

The pattern we see is one that reflects the gospel’s work in our lives.  We behold the glory of God in some of His attributes.  Struck by His glory, we apprehend our sinfulness.  But God has invited/called us into His presence to bless us, not curse us.  He makes known His mercy and graciousness toward us in Christ the Substitute.  As redeemed people, we express gratitude and commit ourselves to follow Him.  We hear instruction to help us to follow, and receive God’s blessing that we might be able to walk in His ways.

“Understanding worship as a love response to the truths of the gospel does not merely shape the contours of the worship service; it also shifts the focus of our hearts in worship.”


Read Full Post »

Bryan Chapell’s Christ-Centered Preaching is one of the better books on preaching.  It would be easy to get worn down in the nuts and bolts of that book and miss the big picture that Chapell is trying to convey.

The same could be said for his newest book, Christ-Centered Worship.  It is not a nuts and bolts book (unlike his book on preaching).  It focuses on the big picture of worship, which is becoming quite rare these days.  His goal is not to advocate any particular form of worship- but rather to communicate that the gospel should shape our worship so that it shapes us.  If the gospel is not shaping our worship, then our worship (which really won’t be worship after all) is shaping us into something it should not.

“We consider the history because God does not give all of his wisdom to any one time or people.  Slavish loyalty to traditions will keep us from ministering effectively to our generation, but trashing the past entirely denies God’s purposes for the church on which we must build.”

So, Chapell tries to walk that fine line of being instructed by not enslaved by the past.   Chapell begins by comparing the liturgies of the Western Church to show how alike they tend to be.  He doesn’t want to ignore the differences between them, but focuses on the big picture- that the liturgies themselves are designed to present the gospel each week.  It is because we have forgotten that the gospel is to shape our worship that we have some many problems with worship.

“Because they have not been taught to think of the worship service as having gospel purposes, people instinctively think of its elements only in terms of personal preference: what makes me feel good, comfortable, or respectful.”

The particular liturgies he examines are that of Rome (pre-1570), Luther’s, Calvin’s, the Westminster liturgy and one proposed by Robert Rayburn in the late 20th century.  To most American evangelicals, these will seem quite foreign because we have mostly abandoned liturgies of the past.  We have done this not realizing they were intended to communicate the gospel.  As a result, worship in America is often devoid of the gospel.  It becomes more about styles and preferences.

The pattern they had in common is one of Adoration => Call to Worship=> Confession of Sin => Scripture Reading=> Sermon=> Singing of a Creed, Psalm or Hymn=> Offering=> Communion => Song of Response=> Benediction.


Read Full Post »