Why Online Church is Helpful But Not The Church.

In our right desire to reach more people with the gospel, we have made faith relevant, accessible, and easy. I am not advocating for unnecessary barriers to getting people to church at all. The question I am raising is this “What is the True Church.” Can I sit at home and with a bag of Cheetos and pull up an “online campus” on Facebook and “have church?”

Most people say yes. I say no.

The problem comes down to how we define the church. Historically the church has been understood as comprised by three realities.

  1. The Gospel is Proclaimed. – Very little controversy here. Are we preaching the gospel of Christ or are we meeting to swap recipes and sell each other essential oils? As good as those things may be if we are not proclaiming the gospel of our sin and Christ sufficiency we may be a lot of things, but we are not being the church. This can be done over the internet very easily. The reason that we believe that online church is a viable way to live in community is that we have over personalized our faith and have reduced the church to gospel proclamation. Gospel proclamation can and should happen over the internet, but we must not believe that the transmission and the reception of the gospel message alone constitute a church.
  2. Where the Sacraments are given – This is where the idea of online church breaks down. You can not partake of communion by yourself, and you should not be baptized in private either. The sacraments of communion and baptism are communal graces for our good and God’s glory. This is something that can’t happen over the internet and shouldn’t happen in private. In most churches, the sacrament of communion doesn’t happen as often as it should. We must continually be reminded of what Christ has done and look forward in anticipation of the marriage supper of the lamb. This cannot be done over the computer and can not be done alone.
  3. When church discipline is administered Across all types of church and denominations of the church this aspect of the true church is most lacking. In wanting to not offend members and be sensitive to seekers we have lost this aspect of the church altogether. This is something that can’t be done over the Internet but must be done in the context of relationship. The goal of church discipline is not primarily to teach someone a lesson but to walk alongside them and continually apply the gospel to their hearts and minds until they see their need and Christs sufficiency.Are online church services helpful and convenient? Yes. Should we provide them as a way to temporarily connect those who are sick or away from their church family? Yes. Is online church, church? No. Can you love Jesus but not love his Church. Biblically speaking I don’t think you can. My encouragement to you is to find an imperfect local body of believers, get to know them and allow them to get to know you. You need to hear the gospel proclaimed weekly but you also need people in your life walking with you to loving apply the gospel to your heart. Find a church where you can commune spiritually and physically with local believers and hear the gospel proclaimed and applied. Love the church. Be the church.

Why we praise even in bad situations

Update on Sandra.

One of the things  we are grateful for is what the writer of Lamentations knew about God. He has new mercies for us every morning. His love is steadfast and unchanging. It seems each day has a new challenge to it, but each day is met by grace that far exceeds anything we could provide.

After Sandra’s first Chemo treatment she responded better than we had expected. It’s hard to know what to expect when your expectations for chemo are set by Hollywood movies. The next couple of days Sandra was tired, but they were mostly uneventful, as the week progressed Sandra struggled quite a bit with tiredness and various other symptoms. The past few days have been much much better. Your prayers are felt and are doing more than you know. Sandra today felt good enough to get out of the house for a few hours. We have much to be thankful for.

One of the prayers we pray is we don’t want to waste this season on self-pity and trying to understand the incomprehensible. One of the things we are learning is how God turns bad thing into good things. In the Dec 8th section of Tim Keller’s devotional on Psalm he has you read Psalm 135 and says this about it:
Why should we praise God? We should praise him…
1.  Because He is good
2. Because it is good to praise him
3. Because in his grace He finds us
4. Because he works all thing together for good.

Why you should read old books.

Old books

I love to read. Even with my passionate desire to grow I sometimes find reading a challenge. What is even more difficult than reading books? Reading old books. I have been more intentional about reading books and reading lots of them in the past two years. One of the things I have been most intentional about lately is reading old books. I started by accident and by necessity reading old books but most recently I have done it on purpose. This is largely due to a C.S. Lewis quote I stumbled upon a few months back.

Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books. All contemporary writers share to some extent the contemporary outlook—even