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Thursday, September 6, 2012

Who, What, When, Where, Why?

(The following is primarily a message to the Bethany Place church body but I believe you will find benefit in it as well. I needed a place where I could post it online.)

Why we do what we do matters. God created us so that we will willingly suffer hardship if the “why” behind the suffering is strong. Mothers have babies, soldiers lay down their lives, some students study rigorously, and Olympic athletes totally orient their lives so that their minds and bodies are optimally tuned to perform.

It’s important to ask this why question regarding church life. Why do we exist as a church? Furthermore, what is a church? Is it a club? A relief organization? Is it primarily for giving children moral instruction? Is it meant to focus on the people already attending or people not yet attending? What about cooperation with other churches? Are churches in competition with each other or are they on the same team? Is it not so that a church’s competition is really a mortal enemy that intends our harm? If we answer these general questions, there are more questions about our particular church. What are we to do specifically? Should we try to do a whole bunch of things, or should we be intensely focused like a laser?

If Bethany Place Baptist church were a bus, it would be good to know where that bus is going. Frankly in the last 10 years the ride on the bus that is Bethany Place got rough and a number of people got off, deciding either that the ride was too bumpy or that they didn’t like the destination any longer.

We are in a new season. About a year ago you did some serious soul searching and made big adjustments in the way we now drive the bus. You did some important work: perhaps we could say you tuned up the engine, replaced the transmission, put on some new tires, and changed the oil. You put in place a team of drivers instead of just a single driver. Now, there are signs of new life and a sense of anticipation that God is at work. I hope you are encouraged by all of this.

I am starting a message series Sunday called, Who, What, When, Where, Why in which we will explore those questions about our church. We don’t get to make this up out of whole cloth. We are not like other organizations free to pursue whatever objectives suit their fancy. The bible is clear that Jesus is the head of the church so we will seek out what God says and see if we can discern how we uniquely fit into that here at Bethany Place.

The text, title and discussion questions are below. You can watch the video of the message here.

PS. One other thing: On Wednesday evening, September 12 we are starting fresh with a new approach to mid week at Bethany Place. The deacons will serve dinner at 5:30, you can sign up for that on Sunday, send an email or call the office. It’s $5 per adult $3 per child. At 6:30 each Wednesday I will  lead a corporate prayer experience I’m calling Prayer Lab. At 6:55 we will divide  into five different study and/or work teams. Youth and Children will have their own activity from 7-8. That's all i can say for now, we will have more information on Sunday morning. On Wednesday the 12th we will give  an overview of the classes and then the classes themselves will begin on the 19th.

The Key
Psalm 95
Part 1 of Who, What, When, Where, Why?

1.   Worship passionately

Psalm 95:1–2 (ESV)
95 Oh come, let us sing to the Lord;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
   Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!

2.   Draw from the greatest motives

Psalm 95:3–7a (ESV)
   For the Lord is a great God,
and a great King above all gods.
   In his hand are the depths of the earth;
the heights of the mountains are his also.
   The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.
   Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
   For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.

3.   See that our worship leads to love and obedience

Psalm 95:7b–11 (ESV)
   . . .
       Today, if you hear his voice,
       do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,
   when your fathers put me to the test
and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.
10    For forty years I loathed that generation
and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart,
and they have not known my ways.”
11    Therefore I swore in my wrath,
“They shall not enter my rest.”

Questions for further exploration and discussion:
How might passionate worship affect passing the faith along to others, especially to our children?
How do your motives for worship compare to the motives listed in verses 3-5?
How does the Psalmist appeal in verse 6 compare to typical invitations to attend church?
To what extent do you attend corporate worship anticipating that you will hear a word from God requiring your repentance and obedience? How might such anticipation change your experience of worship?

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