What’s So Important about the Local Church?

“The local church is the authority on earth that Jesus has instituted to officially affirm and give shape to my Christian life and yours…Just as Jesus instituted the state, so he instituted the local church. It is an institutional authority because Jesus instituted it with authority…Just as the Bible establishes the government of your nation as your highest authority on earth when it comes to your citizenship in that nation, so the Bible establishes the local church as your highest authority on earth when it comes to your discipleship to Christ and your citizenship in Christ’s present and promised nation.” – Jonathan Leeman, Church Membership (p. 24-25)

October 20 2014 | Blog | Comments Off on What’s So Important about the Local Church?

What About Online Giving?

online giving_wide_tFor the past two years Cool Community has been thinking about offering Online Giving to our congregation as a way of supporting the ministry here in Cool. Just last month our elders, along with our finance team, met together and decided to go ahead and give Online Giving a try (www.coolchurch.org/giving). We signed up with a company called Clover Donations and just finished integrating their Online Giving utility into our website. Here are a few of the reasons we decided that now is a good time to offer Online Giving to our congregation.

People Do Finances in a Radically Different Way Today than Even Ten Years Ago

Over the past decade online bill payments have increased by 800%. At the same time paper check usage has declined from 61% of all payments made in 2000 to just 26% of all payments made in 2010. In fact, in 2011 the Federal Reserve processed barely 1/3 of the number of checks it processed in 1991!

All of these trends are a reminder of the fact that people are interacting and using money in a radically different way than they used to. During the Great Depression churches would often receive chickens, eggs, etc. from congregation members because that was the only currency that they could use. In today’s day and age much of our currency is found on the web, so churches need to be equipped to receive offerings through a medium that their congregations are willing to use.

Online Giving Gives More People an Opportunity to Give

For me one of the biggest turning points in this conversation was realizing that not offering Online Giving was actually denying the opportunity to give to a large number of people. Traditionally churches have received an offering on Sunday mornings when a plate was passed around the room. This gives about a 5 minute window of opportunity for members to give (assuming that they are there in the first place) in any given week. Offering Online Giving opens up an unlimited number of opportunities for members to give (i.e. Computers, Smart Phones, Tablets, etc.).

Online Giving Helps People to Give More Consistently

There are a number of advantages to Online Giving (i.e. flexibility in payment method, etc.), but I believe that the single greatest advantage is consistency. We live in a fast paced society and sometimes it can be genuinely hard for members to remember to bring their checkbooks to a Sunday morning, especially as they’re wrestling with their kids and/or just trying to get to church on time. Online Giving provides members with the option of making a recurring donation of any amount on any schedule. They can give weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, etc., which means that they won’t have to worry about forgetting to bring their checkbook ever again.

There are a lot more reasons why I’m excited about our church offering Online Giving, but the biggest reason is that I believe that this will help us to accomplish our mission of proclaiming the Lordship of Jesus Christ over all things for the joy of all people here on the Divide and beyond.

You can check out our new Online Giving tool at www.coolchurch.org/giving.

October 09 2013 | Blog | Comments Off on What About Online Giving?

What is the Purpose of Church Discipline?

In chapter 12 of the Institutes Calvin lays out three specific purposes for church discipline:

In such corrections and excommunication, the church has three ends in view. The first is that they who lead a filthy and infamous life may not be called Christians, to the dishonor of God, as if his holy church were a conspiracy of wicked and abandoned men.

The second purpose is that the good be not corrupted by the constant company of the wicked, as commonly happens. For there is nothing easier than for us to be led away by bad examples from right living.

The third purpose is that those overcome by shame for their baseness begin to repent. They who under gentler treatment would have become more stubborn so profit by the chastisement of their own evil as to be awakened when they feel the rod.

John Calvin, The Institutes (Chapter XII, Section 5)

September 25 2013 | Blog | Comments Off on What is the Purpose of Church Discipline?

You Can’t Win People to Christ without Winning them to the Church

Joe Thorn has a great post over on his blog about winning people to the local church. Here’s an excerpt:

65386410.aJ7doyey.OldChurchOnTheHillKayvilleSKOf course it’s possible to be converted and not be a part of the local church. Possible. And dangerous. You see, the goal–the mission of the church–is not to see converts, but to make disciples. Conversion is but a part of that process. The making of spiritually mature disciples who obey Jesus Christ can only fully happen inside the church. It is in the church where we discover and exercise our spiritual gifts; where we bear one another’s burdens, exhort, encourage, and rebuke one another; where we share in one body, one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one Father.

Preach the gospel. Preach the hope of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection for sinners. Preach it with the aim of reconciling people to God and receiving them into the fellowship. The local church (in all it’s ministries and meetings) is “where it’s at,” not because it’s cool, entertaining, or perfect, but because that it is where Christ stands with his people, fellowshipping with them, and leading them through this life into the life to come.

You can read the rest here.

September 18 2013 | Blog | Comments Off on You Can’t Win People to Christ without Winning them to the Church

What is God Doing at Cool Community?

Two weeks ago Cool Community experienced a historic day as we baptized 17 believers in the American River. This is the largest number of baptisms our church has ever seen and it was truly a uniquely moving experience. Here’s a video to give you an idea of what God is doing at this very special church.

Cool Community Church River Baptisms from DrewBuell on Vimeo.

August 23 2013 | Blog | Comments Off on What is God Doing at Cool Community?

Playing the Numbers Games

J.I Packer shares some powerful thoughts on the danger of trying to quantify spiritual things in his book A Passion for Faithfulness.

I have found that churches, pastors, seminaries, and parachurch agencies throughout North America are mostly playing the numbers game—that is, defining success in terms of numbers of heads counted or added to those that were there before. Church-growth theorists, evangelists, pastors, missionaries, news reporters, and others all speak as if

(1) numerical increase is what matters most;

(2) numerical increase will surely come if our techniques and procedures are right;

(3) numerical increase validates ministries as nothing else does;

(4) numerical increase must be everyone’s main goal.

…Orienting all Christian action to visible success as its goal, a move which to many moderns seems supremely sensible and businesslike, is thus more a weakness in the church than its strength; it is a seedbed both of unspiritual vainglory for the self-rated succeeders and of unspiritual despair for the self-rated failures, and a source of shallowness and superficiality all round.

The way of health and humility is for us to admit to ourselves that in the final analysis we do not and cannot know the measure of our success the way God sees it. Wisdom says: leave success ratings to God, and live your Christianity as a religion of faithfulness rather than an idolatry of achievement.

HT: Justin Taylor

July 30 2013 | Blog | Comments Off on Playing the Numbers Games

What Should You Do If You’ve Been Hurt by the Church?

One of the most common reasons I hear for “Christians” not attending a local church is that they have somehow been “hurt by the church.” I’ve often wondered what exactly this phrase “hurt by the church” means. It seems like it could refer to anything from “I was assaulted in the foyer by a mean-spirited deacon” to “I didn’t like what the pastor had to say about my sin,” which makes it very difficult to know how to help someone who has been “hurt by the church.”

Thabiti Anyabwile has an excellent post over at the Gospel Coalition’s blog on how we should think about this phrase “hurt by the church” and on what someone who has been “hurt by the church” should do with their hurt. Here’s an excerpt:

Most people “hurt by the church” were hurt by individuals in a local congregation. Once we establish that, then we’re then left to help them think through whether the offense occurred knowingly and intentionally or unknowingly and accidentally. I’m surprised how often the individuals or churches that “hurt” someone have no idea an offense has occurred. They’re bopping along rejoicing in the Lord while unbeknownst to them dark clouds of anger and resentment swirl over their names and reputations.  And I’m always grieved for the person experiencing the hurt. It’s never pretty to be dominated by pain. So here’s one pastor’s simple plea:

1. Take your pain to the Lord who bore your pain and bore the sin of those who offended. In His arms are 10,000 charms.

2. Take your hurt to the ones who actually offended you and seek reconciliation–and if necessary take godly, impartial help.

3. Stop saying, “The church hurt me.” It’s affecting your heart toward an entire congregation, many of whom are likely unaware and uninvolved in your hurt, and possibly affecting your heart toward all Christians everywhere. Don’t blame “the church.” Don’t spread your “hurt” over a wider area. If you do, it will dominate you. But if you target your pain and your reconciliation efforts–making it as small and specific as you can–you’ll experience greater control over and freedom from the hurt.

4. Do realize that not every church hurt you and people are not “all the same.” Find a local church you can join. Start slow if you need to. But let the Lord’s manifold grace come to you in the fellowship of His people. That’s normally how He comforts us in our trouble and pain (2 cor. 1).

5. Live in hope. Your Lord is also Lord of the Church. He cares for your brokenness but also the brokenness of the Church. And guess what? Your pain is the means He will use to teach the church to grow in love and their love will be the means of your healing. The church needs your hurt and you need the church’s love.

You can read the rest here.

July 03 2013 | Blog | Comments Off on What Should You Do If You’ve Been Hurt by the Church?

What is a Healthy Church Member?

membership MATTERS_tOver the last couple of years I have become increasingly convinced of the importance of membership in the local church. To be honest, church membership was something that I’d never really heard about growing up and so the first time I was exposed to the doctrine of church membership I balked at it completely. My thought process was something along the line of, “Why do I need to become a member of a local church if I’m already a Christian? I don’t need the church to tell me that I’m saved!” The truth is that church membership is a biblical doctrine and one that I now hold dear, so much so that I recently preached a sermon about the fact that it is the will of God that every Christian become a healthy member of a local church.

At Cool Community we define a healthy church member in five ways. In other words, a healthy church member is someone who is:

Attending

The first sign that a believer is in spiritual trouble is when they stop attending Sunday morning services, which is why one of the criterions of health at Cool Community is regular attendance on Sunday mornings.

Fellowshipping

Since the Christian life is not a solo venture, but a community project is it imperative that we gather together on a regular basis for fellowship. At Cool Community, the primary place this happens is in our Home Groups.

Serving

Jesus said that “even the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve…” If spiritual maturity is growing to be like Christ, than serving in a consistent, regular, ongoing ministry is one of the most important ways that we can grow in our faith.

Giving

Jesus said, “Where you treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Randy Alcorn has rightly said that every time you give, you are signing your declaration of independence from the god of money. Likewise, Jim Rickard of Stewardship Services Foundation has said that next to the decision to follow Christ, our decision about what to do with our money is the most important one that we will ever make. At Cool Community we believe that giving isn’t about how much you give, but rather it is about how generous you are. Not everyone can write large checks to building fund, etc. but everyone can be generous with what God has provided.

Reproducing

Finally, we understand that God has planted our church here in Cool for the specific purpose of making disciples (reproducing ourselves). A healthy church member is someone who is actively engaged in discipling someone and is actively being discipled by someone else.

Of course, there are other good traits that Christians are called to in our Christian lives (i.e. prayer, fasting, bible study, etc.). I’ve basically assumed these under the heading of “healthy”. If someone is a “healthy” church member, I’m assuming that they’re already actively involved in prayer, bible study, etc.

My hope is that these five distinctives of a healthy church member will provide more of a rallying cry for what church membership should look like in our day to day lives until Jesus comes.

July 01 2013 | Blog | 1 Comment »

Membership Matters

Last Sunday we welcomed in nearly a dozen new members at Cool Community, which inspired me to preach on the biblical doctrine of church membership. The big idea is that it is the will of God that every Christian would become a healthy member of a local church. Furthermore, a healthy church member is defined as one who is 1) Attending, 2) Fellowshipping, 3) Serving, 4) Giving, 5) Reproducing (I.e. making disciples).

You can listen online here.

You can listen in itunes here.

 

June 25 2013 | Blog | Comments Off on Membership Matters

The Problem with Looking Back

a_No_Looking_Back

Looking back can be dangerous. Church’s can idealize the past to the neglect of the present. Parents can reminisce about how easy things were back when the kids were younger, forgetting that trouble is not bound by time.

It’s easy to idealize the past because we live in the present so we don’t have to deal with the troubles that haunted us back then. Parents forget that even the cutest newborn demands to be fed every couple of hours, not to mention that the end result of feeding a child is changing their diaper. Church’s forget that no season has ever been without it’s troubles.

Solomon talks about this tendency to look back with nostalgia on days gone by. “Say not, ‘Why were the former days better than these?’ For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.” (Ecclesiastes 7:10) Rather than looking back on “better days” perhaps wisdom is to enjoy each and everyday that God has given us in this life under the sun.

February 20 2013 | Blog | Comments Off on The Problem with Looking Back

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