If no Sunday School, what do you recommend?

HOW TO USE SUNDAY SCHOOL TO CHANGE A CHURCH’S CULTURE

Of course, not every adult Sunday school program is equally effective at changing the culture of a church. Here are a few lessons we’ve learned across the past ten years about how to make Sunday school into a tool for changing a church’s culture.

1. Teach each class on a recurring basis.

It was only in the fourth or fifth year of teaching the dating class that we began to see a real culture change take place. If you address a topic only when someone “has a burden” to teach it, or when your denomination publishes curriculum on it, you will most not likely make a different in your church’s culture.

2. Make your notes available to everyone.

Our church has always posted class notes (including the teacher’s manuscript and handouts) on our website. Our initial goal in doing this was to give other churches that chance to use our material, but along the way it has given our members’ the ability to study those notes when a class is not being taught.

3. Encourage discussion outside of class.

As they teach, our teachers suggest books to read alongside the class. They set up informal times of Q&A outside of the class, especially for controversial topics. And they put their email address on a class handout and encourage the class to ask questions throughout the week. Ideally, Sunday school is not merely an event but the instigator of a dialogue.

4. Take the time to comprehensively cover a topic.

An effective Sunday school class does not need to answer every question, but it must be thorough enough to provide a framework that could answer any question. We’ve generally found that six to thirteen weeks is long enough to develop and apply such a framework.

5. Reference adult Sunday school in your preaching.

As a pastor preaches through Scripture, they often hit upon sermon applications that cover the same terrain as a Sunday school class. In moments like these, the preacher has the chance to direct people to the class: “If you want to think about this further, consider attending…”

6. Use the class to teach Scripture.

One of the dangers of topical teaching is that the substance of the class becomes wise advice, with the Bible used merely as proof text. Of course, there is a time and a place for wise advice, and a time and a place for proof texts. But while your people may change their behavior in response to wise advice, they are more likely to change their thinking and attitudes in response to a better understanding of the Scriptures. So wherever possible, we have found it helpful to walk people through larger passages of Scripture related to the topic at hand.

Suppose, for example, that you are planning a class on why we must live lives that support our evangelistic witness. You could brainstorm six different guidelines with a Bible passage for each. Alternatively, you could spend the whole time walking the class through the book of 1 Peter. This will probably cover those same guidelines, but much more as well. Along the way, you will not only ground your teaching directly in Scripture, but you will help your class to see things they have never seen before (such as the fact that submitting to earthly authority helps the church’s witness to the gospel—a key theme in 1 Peter). What’s more, your church members will walk away knowing a section of Scripture better so that they can mine it for years to come.

By Jamie Dunlop

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Divine Support

Divine Support

Thou art the blessed God, happy in Thyself, source of happiness in Thy creatures, my maker, benefactor, proprietor, upholder. Thou hast produced and sustained me, supported and indulged me, saved and kept me; Thou art in every situation able to meet my needs and miseries.

May I live by Thee, live for Thee, never be satisfied with my Christian progress but as I resemble Christ; and may conformity to His principles, temper, and conduct grow hourly in my life. Let Thy unexampled love constrain me into holy obedience, and render my duty my delight. If others deem my faith folly, my meekness infirmity, my zeal madness, my hope delusion, my actions hypocrisy, may I rejoice to suffer for Thy name.

Keep me walking steadfastly towards the country of everlasting delights, that paradise-land which is my true inheritance. Support me by the strength of heaven that I may never turn back, or desire false pleasures that will disappear into nothing.  As I pursue my heavenly journey by Thy grace let me be known as a man with no aim but that of a burning desire for Thee, and the good and salvation of my fellow men.

Your Pastoral Calling: Paul Tripp

Psalm 73:12-17  12 Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches. 13 All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence. 14 For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning. 15 If I had said, “I will speak thus,” I would have betrayed the generation of your children. 16 But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, 17 until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end. 

There are two statements I find myself repeating over and over again. These are two things you need to remember about yourself and the people to whom you minister:

1. No one is more influential in your life than you are, because no one talks to you more.

2. Human beings do not live life based on the facts of their existence, but based on their interpretations of the facts.

Every human being is an interpreter. Everyone you pastor is as much a theologian as you are—most of them just don’t know it. In some way every person is asking and answering deeply spiritual questions. Every human being is a philosopher. Everyone seeks to understand the meaning and purpose of life. Every human being is an analyst searching for understanding of the people, locations, and situations they encounter every day. Every human being is an archaeologist picking through the past, looking to understand where they have been, what they have experienced, and what they have done. No one actually lives thoughtlessly. They may be unaware of their thoughts. They may not be intellectual or academic, but everyone pushes life through the sieve of the personal worldview they have built for themselves. This worldview is authoritative and life shaping. It does not determine what we see so much as it determines how we see it. Your calling as a pastor is to interrupt peoples’ private conversation with the clarity-providing, life-giving perspective of the gospel. This is hard to do if you aren’t actively looking at life through the lens of the gospel in the private places where you live.

This interpretive function is called hermeneutics. You and everyone you pastor carries around a personal life hermeneutic—that is, a particular way of making sense out of life. Let me take this one step further. Our functional hermeneutic is what gives sense to our behavior. Everything we do and say has underlying meaning and purpose when understood from the vantage point of our worldview. For example, if I was raised believing that a certain race of people were dangerous, it would make sense for me to be afraid of them and to do everything I could do to avoid them. If I was convinced that coffee led to cancer, then it would make sense that I would restrict my intake of coffee. Our thoughts tend to precede and determine our behavior.

Defective Hermeneutic

Asaph (the author of Psalm 73) had a bigger problem than jealousy and discouragement. His problem was rooted at a deeper level. Asaph’s problem was a defective hermeneutic. His view of life lacked a crucial ingredient, so he could not make sense out of what was going on around him. Everywhere he looked it seemed that the bad guys were winning. The arrogant, proud, and lawless guys seemed to have all the wealth, health, pleasure, and ease. How could a just and holy God allow the bad guys to prosper and the good guys to suffer? Asaph began to wonder if it was worth it to obey God. There are times when we are tempted to do the same. He says in the psalm that he got so embittered that he was like a beast before God (Psalm 73:22). It is important for you to understand that many of your struggles you experience and see in others are also rooted in a defective hermeneutic.

Asaph was making a devastating interpretive error, and so often do we. His view of life was missing a piece that must be included in order to understand correctly what God is doing. Asaph’s view of life had no destiny to it, no eternity it was marching toward. Without eternity, Asaph was right. If this present physical world is all we have, then all life is about what you can experience, acquire, and enjoy in the here and now. If this life is everything, then you would expect a good God to bless those who follow him right here, right now, and curse those who mock him right here, right now. But this is not all there is. From day one the world has always been marching toward a destination. Life was never meant to be understood and lived apart from this final destiny in view. You can only understand your life and help others understand theirs by acknowledging that this world is not meant to be a destination. It is a place of preparation for a final destination.

Preparation Mentality

You can’t live with a destination mentality expecting to experience all of God’s good things right here, right now. You can’t pastor others well if you have a destination mentality that forgets God will do whatever he needs to do in the here and now to assure that you will be prepared for then. You can’t live well or minister well with a destination mentality that tempts you to envy people who have what you don’t, right here, right now, but who are marching toward an eternal disaster.

Pastor, you must must live with a preparation mentality and teach those under your care to do the same. The trials, injustices, and hardships of today do two things for you and me. They remind us every day that this is not our final destination. When you look around at all the personal and societal brokenness, you must remember that the God who made this world and everything in it is the definition of everything that is good, wise, loving, and true. He could not be satisfied with the world as it is. The trials of today remind us that our God has promised to one day make all things new. But there is another thing the difficulties of today do for you and me. They drive us to the end of ourselves. They drive us and those we pastor beyond our autonomy and self-sufficiency. They drive us beyond our own righteousness, strength, and wisdom. And in so doing, they begin to mold us for what God intends us to be doing: preparing for our final home.

Today, you and the people under your care will look somewhere, and it will seem as though the bad guys are winning. When this happens, you need to put on your destiny glasses and look again. Grace has given you and those you serve something better than “winners” are now experiencing. Grace has given you eternity—a destination so glorious the most eloquent words could not do it justice

Sense of Wealth According to Paul-John Piper

When the apostle Paul thinks about “wealth” or “riches” what springs to his mind? What should spring to ours? Where should our efforts at enrichment be invested?

Here are all the uses of Paul’s favorite word for “riches” (ploutos). Taste and see what he lives for.

  • The riches of God’s kindness and forbearance and patience. (Romans 2:4)
  • The riches of God’s glory for vessels of mercy. (Romans 9:23)
  • The riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! (Romans 11:33)
  • A wealth of generosity on their part. (2 Corinthians 8:2)
  • The riches of God’s grace. (Ephesians 1:7)
  • The riches of God’s glorious inheritance in the saints. (Ephesians 1:18)
  • The immeasurable riches of God’s grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:7)
  • The unsearchable riches of Christ. (Ephesians 3:8)
  • The riches of God’s glory. (Ephesians 3:16)
  • God’s riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)
  • The riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27)
  • The riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ. (Colossians 2:2)
  • The rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. (1 Timothy 6:17)

God is in Control …but ?

Here are the three questions Joe Rigney  answers in a recent sermon:

  1. First, what does the Bible say about the sovereignty of God, and the significance and power of prayer? This is the biblical question.
  2. Second, how does what the Bible teach about these things fit together? This is the philosophical question.
  3. Third, why does God do things in this way? This is the theological question.

Here’s a fuller outline of the message

I. Biblical: What Does the Bible Teach?

Point 1: Scripture teaches that God knows and ordains everything that comes to pass.

Point 2: Prayer moves the hand of God.

Principle: The Christian life is like being drawn and quartered.

II. Philosophical: How do these two biblical truths (the sovereignty of God and the significance of prayer) fit together?

Answer: God ordains means as well as the ends

Principle: God is a Storyteller. This world is his novel. We are his characters.

III. Theological: Why would God do it this way?

Answer: For His Glory

Principle: God glorifies himself by inviting us to participate in his own trinitarian fullness, by extending his own glory so that the triune life comes to exist in creaturely form.

IV. Application

Application 1: God is sovereign. Prayer moves the hand of God. The Christian life is like being drawn and quartered. Therefore, don’t allow the ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions to prevent immediate, glad-hearted obedience.

Application 2: God ordains means as well as ends. God is the Author. This is his story. We are his characters. Therefore, Be a faithful character in God’s story.

Application 3: God glorifies himself by inviting us to participate in his own triune fullness. Therefore, join God in knowing, loving, and rejoicing in his own fullness and extending that fullness as far as the eye can see.

Post original from Justin Taylor-Gospel Coalition

Intrusion in the Bedroom by Ed Welch

When someone states an idea more loving than I am able I will gladly place their idea before mine.~DW

Excuse me for barging in, but it might be time for more people to intrude into the marital bedroom. Though there are some good Christian books on marital sex, most of them repeat two basic mantras: (1) Christians are not sexually reserved. Behind closed doors we are incredibly frisky and uninhibited, and (2) let your conscience be your guide. If a particular form of sexual expression is acceptable to both spouses, it is okay with God. Let’s not get legalistic in matters where we have freedom of conscience.

I’m not so sure about either of these.

On point number one, maybe we are really frisky, maybe not. It is more likely that we are similar to most married people—sometimes we are sexually motivated, sometimes we would rather take a nap.

On point number two, a conscience, when it comes to sex, can get seared very quickly, so maybe conscience alone cannot be your guide. Better to take the Apostle Paul’s admonition. “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil. 4:8).

Years ago I became aware of a pastoral situation involving a married couple. While another elder and I were trying to understand what was happening, someone quietly informed us that the husband and wife occasionally indulged in bondage scenarios. Our response? Nothing. We might have asked a follow-up question, but, if we did, the couple made it clear that the bedroom was their domain, and we had no right intruding. So we didn’t. We obeyed law number two and it was probably a mistake. Two years later the husband was outed for extramarital sexuality.

God cares about our sexual imaginations, even married ones. The limits of what is okay to imagine (or do) is not up to our discretion. Yes, a godly sexual imagination can drift off to a tryst in an edenic secret garden, but it should never drift off to a person other than your spouse or to anything that approaches bondage, power or pain scenarios.

The godly sexual imagination is fundamentally animated by the most sensual principle of all: “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” (Song of Solomon 6:3).

Exclusivity. Sex is something we share with each other and no one else. I belong to you alone. You belong to me alone. This should be enough to fuel the most anemic imagination.

Christian bedrooms, I suspect, are doing less well than we think. Friskiness, when it exists, too often relies on illicit imaginations. Our consciences can be sexually reckless. So we aim for a sanctified sexual imagination, which means we are not aiming for the sexuality that we see in our culture. Instead, we find pleasure in exclusivity and openness.

So How do you feel? How do you feel?- Derek Wadsworth

So how do you feel?

Presently in my own life I have some serious sin that needs to be addressed. I am working on it with a core group of brothers and with God. I need some serious help. God is so gracious and I do believe now more than ever that sin hurts God. There is no bad sin or good sin and there is for sure no such thing as a little white lie.

Many people misquote scripture and always say “Don’t Judge” whenever confronted with truth.

So to my friend who left her husband and kids for another man and is upset that her Pastor wanted to help her and her husband have a Biblical marriage….You are wrong according to God’s Word….Not judgement but truth.

To my other friend who is having a relationship and sex with a married man. Stop it!… Facebook is not the place to write that you don’t feel supported. Truth is Truth.

On his blog, Andrew Rosenthal of the New York Times writes, “Abortion is legal. It is a safe medical procedure. And it is rare. That’s exactly how it should be. Government has no business violating women’s privacy rights and making decisions about their reproductive rights. It is the worst kind of ‘big government’ imaginable.”

On the claim that abortion is a “safe” medical procedure: it isn’t a particularly safe medical procedure for the unborn child being aborted. As for abortion being rare, there are roughly 1.2 million abortions performed in the United States each year, meaning more than 3,000 per day, and approximately 50 million since the legalization of abortion in 1973.Nearly half of pregnancies among American women are unintended, and about four in 10 of these are terminated by abortion. Twenty-two percent of all pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) end in abortion. Sorry again…Truth is Truth….When do you draw the line that abortion is wrong…When the baby is breathing?  8 Months? In Utero?  Now who is playing Judge.  When the Baby boomers cry that there is no money is social security..Please note that is because a whole genration of living breathing human beings were murdered for the sake of birth control.

As I write this I am fully aware that if all my sins were under the spot light I would be disqualified from this post. However that is untrue…..Why? Because I am just a messenger and truth is truth!