A Solemn Assembly is Needed…

Photo by Sarah Noltner on Unsplash

Recently, a pastor friend of mine gave me a document called, “A Solemn Assembly is Needed…”. It was a list of conditions, or symptoms, of a local church that when observed, a solemn assembly of repentance and renewal needs to be called.

Inspired by such a list I’ve adapted my own for the local Christian community. These symptoms point to the need for a community-wide solemn assembly. Read this list and see if you can relate to some of this symptoms. I know I do.

A Community Solemn Assembly is Needed…

  • When we find ourselves walking by sight instead of walking by faith
  • When prayer is the last resort instead of the foundation of our community
  • When events for evangelism are preferred over one-on-one evangelism
  • When our passion to build the biggest church overshadows our passion and pursuit of God’s kingdom in the community
  • When the ministry of God in our community does not include the poor, the widows, and the fatherless
  • When there is a greater emphasis on pleasing people, looking good in the community, and having the greatest influence, than pleasing God
  • When we find ourselves being more excited about building our own church than the health of our community
  • When the pastors of our churches do all the evangelism and discipleship in our community while our people spectate from their chairs
  • When we seem to be producing “converts” instead of “disciples” in our community
  • When growing our attendance is more important than the spiritual health of the community, and the spiritual health of other churches
  • When most growth in churches today is transfer growth
  • When there is disunity among the churches or ministries in the community
  • When there is no community vision, and no cooperation to see that vision through
  • When we see the other churches as competition, instead of partners in the kingdom of God
  • When each church exists as an isolated island unto itself, and we work within the community as if we are the only church

Which symptoms resonated with you? What would you add to the list?

Why Have A Solemn Assembly

Photo by John Price on Unsplash

Consecrate a fast;
call a solemn assembly.
Gather the elders
and all the inhabitants of the land
to the house of the Lord your God,
and cry out to the Lord.
Joel 1:14

The term “solemn assembly” comes from the verse in Joel 1:14. A calamity had befallen Israel—an invasion of locusts. Locusts are a grasshopper-like insect that can be devastating to a region. Swarms can contain millions of locusts. They eat every form of vegetation, including all the crops that people are meant to feed on. Locusts leave behind a barren land: famine, hunger, and devastation. In Joel, God is calling upon Israel to repent. But if they continued in their idolatry, another invasion will come into Israel: a great army. In its wake will be complete devastation.

Therefore, God asked Joel to call a “solemn assembly” in order to gather together in unity, to turn from their wicked ways, and return to God.
In our area, there is another type of calamity: having a plentiful harvest but with a famine of laborers.

Many in my region are unaffiliated with any religion. In the 2010 census, 69% of the people in Lapeer County are unaffiliated with any religion. We have a harvest. The Lord said, “Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.”

With so many churches in our area, I wonder, are we truly being effective in our ministry?

The call for a solemn assembly is not a “so we can judge each other” on the lack of action in our county. But it is a call to the Church, and individuals, to pray, repent, and re-consecrate ourselves to the Great Commission Christ has called us to.

It will also be a time of encouragement. When we see each other, multiple churches come together, we will see that we are not alone in our work for the kingdom of God. We will be like-minded, partnered together, striving side-by-side for the gospel. Together, we can impact our communities in ways we could not do it alone. We can work together, to put a dent in that 69% in our county.

I pray you will be there on March 11!

You can find the Facebook event page by going here: www.onechurchlapeer.org

You can download a flyer to print for your church here: Flyer

Solemn Assembly

Towards the end of last year, I was burdened for the community of Lapeer. Looking at the demographics of our city and county, I discovered that many in the population do not attend church. A staggering 69% of the people marked they had no religious affiliation.

With 88,373 people in our county, that means almost 70,000 people are unreached. 6,000 unreached souls live within the Lapeer city limits alone. The harvest is huge; the harvest is white. We need to pray and get to work.

So, I met with local pastors and leaders to discuss how we can work together in order to reach the lost in our communities. We felt the need to call an assembly, a solemn assembly. One in which the churches and the people would come together for prayer, for repentance, and for consecration. Just as our Lord has said, “Pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

We will pray for God to send laborers. We will pray that He will prepare the hearts and minds of the lost to receive His gospel. We will repent of our inaction in evangelism. We will consecrate ourselves to being fishers of men as the Lord has called us to be.

There will be worship, prayer, and scripture reading throughout the service, all relating towards evangelism.

We are inviting every Christian in Lapeer County to this solemn assembly. It will take place on Sunday evening, March 11 at 6:30 pm. Hillside Discipleship Church has graciously offered their building for this assembly.

HILLSIDE Discipleship Church
4025 North Lapeer Rd.
Lapeer, Michigan 48446

You can find the Facebook event page by going here: www.onechurchlapeer.org

You can download a flyer to print for your church here: Flyer

Seek Kingdom

Opera stars were a thing, believe it or not. John Maxwell told this story:

In recent years, opera superstars Jose Carreras, Placido Domingo, and Luciano Pavarotti have enjoyed singing together. They’ve done it frequently, but prior to their first performance the three world-class tenors had never sung together on one stage.
The November 1994 issue of Atlantic Monthly reported that prior to their performance in Los Angeles, a journalist tried to press the issue of competitiveness between the three men. But they quickly disarmed him. “You have to put all of your concentration into opening your heart to the music,” Domingo said. “You can’t be rivals when you’re together making music.”

What a powerful statement. What Domingo said was essentially, we are too busy working on music, the language of the music, the movement of the music, the beauty of the music, that they could not be rivals if they were to perform the best that music can be. Together, they can bring out the best music the world has seen.

Imagine what the Church could do if it had the same mentality. Imagine, if every church was so busy seeking the kingdom of God, living the kingdom of God, and building the kingdom of God, so much that rivalries are not even thought of. If all the churches were truly working for the kingdom of God, there would be no rivalries amongst local churches.

But alas, we are still fallen creatures. We still have pride issues, envy issues. We need to remember the work of Christ in our hearts to weed out these fruit of the flesh and to grow in our spirit fruits of the Holy Spirit. It is a daily sacrifice to live for Christ. It is a daily sacrifice to live in unity in Christ.

Let’s seek out the kingdom of God with such fervency that the lines that divide us blur with our love towards one another.

Have This Mind

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus… Php 2:3–5

I believe the key to the Christian life is found within the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Only when the divine is one with man can man even to think to achieve the abundant life that Jesus promised us.

But, this is not a means to boast, being one with the divine. But, it is a means of humility.

Jesus himself, who is one with the Father, united in substance and holiness, did not count his greatness with God has something to keep. Rather, he humbled himself in obedience.

And Paul tells us to have this same mind.

Pastors teach from these verses exhorting their people not to seek their own glory, their own welfare, above anyone else. As Christians, we are too out not only for our own welfare but also the welfare of others.

It is good that pastors teach these Scriptures, they should be taught more often. However, how pastors usually preach (I am guilty of this myself) is to preach service to those in our immediate local fellowship right along with the world that is lost.

In other words, we preach as if we are the only church in our community – we preach as if we are a monochurch.

But our own fellowship is not the only church in our own community. There are other churches, co-churches for the kingdom of God.

We teach each person represents Christ in the world. The Bible also teaches that the church represents Christ in the world too. Just as multiple individuals represent Christ, so too can multiply churches represent Christ.

Each church is to have the mind of Christ! And what is that mind? Paul tells us here in Philippians.

Do nothing from a selfish ambition. What is the ambition of your church? Do you want the largest church in the city? Do you build it at the expense of other local churches through transfer growth?

Do nothing from conceit. Do you speak ill of other pastors, other churches? Do you live within the idea your church is the only church? The only church worth serving the community? Do you use other churches and community events as a means to build your own church? Your own kingdom?

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Let each church look not only to their own interests, but also the interests of other churches. Some would say this is impossible. You are right. But with God, all things are possible.

In order for churches to live the divine, incarnation life that Jesus Christ has called us to be, we must look to each other, serve each other, in humility and respect.

How Do We Work With Others – Part 2

Recently I have been responding to a post from The Gospel Coalition’s website titled, “When Should Doctrine Divide?” Gavin Ortlund gives us four guiding questions to ask ourselves before we work with other churches.

These are:

  1. What kind of partnership or unity is in view?
  2. What kind of partnership or unity will best serve to advance the gospel?
  3. Do I naturally lean toward a separatist or minimalistic spirit?
  4. Even when I must formally divide from other Christians, is the attitude of my heart gracious, humble, and inviting toward them?

I’ve previously talked about the first two. Here are the final questions.

Do I naturally lean toward a separatist or minimalistic spirit?
This is a question that you need to ask yourself. We each have our own tendencies towards minimalizing doctrine in order to appease those around us, or, making our beliefs a matter of contention and a means of separating ourselves from others.

Do you strive to live peaceably with everybody? Or do you find areas of contention and hammer out your 5 point argument why you are right?
Do you speak the truth in love? Or do you avoid speaking the truth in order to not offend?

Examine yourself against the Lord himself, who still ate and drank with both sinners and Pharisees alike.

Even when I must formally divide from other Christians, is the attitude of my heart gracious, humble, and inviting toward them? There comes a point in our Christian lives when we do have to separate in order to keep the peace. But, when we do part ways, we want to be as gracious and loving to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Never should our doctrines and traditions move us to hate, to belittle, or to minimize one’s standing with Jesus Christ.

If we continuously ask ourselves these four questions I believe that we will stay on the path of loving our neighbour and our God as we look to partner with each other in this dark world.

How Do We Work With Others – Part 1

In a recent post, I pointed to an article on The Gospel Coalition’s website titled, “When Should Doctrine Divide?” I wrote that our different traditions should not keep us from partnering together for the good of our city.
But, the question remains, how are we to partner with other churches of other traditions? Gavin Ortlund gives us four guiding questions to ask as we partner together.

  1. What kind of partnership or unity is in view?
  2. What kind of partnership or unity will best serve to advance the gospel?
  3. Do I naturally lean toward a separatist or minimalistic spirit?
  4. Even when I must formally divide from other Christians, is the attitude of my heart gracious, humble, and inviting toward them?

In this post, I will talk about the first two.

What kind of partnership or unity is in view?
Ortlund talks about relational partnerships among groups and individuals. But, this works also with churches. When partnering with other traditions, it helps to understand the other traditional distinctions that different churches have. You don’t want to partner in a baptismal service if you disagree on immersion versus “sprinkling.” You don’t want to partner in an “End Times” conference if you differ regarding the Millennial reign of Christ (unless of course it is meant to be a multi-view conference). But, you may be able to partner together for a Good Friday service creating a meaningful experience to highlight a Christian holiday celebrated by most Christians.

What kind of partnership or unity will best serve to advance the gospel?Ortlund rightly says this is a hard question to answer. And even more, that we need the Holy Spirit’s help to answer it. Many churches would first ask the question, “How will this advance my church?” But, the real question is, “How will this partnership advance the gospel?” We need to start thinking in terms of kingdom growth, not church growth. How will our partnership best serve the community? How will they see the light of Christ best in our partnership?

Doctrine Divides

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “doctrine divides,” doctrine has become a bad word. But, pick up a KJV Bible and you will find the word doctrine 56 times. Our modern translations simply translate the word as “teaching.” Doctrine is not a bad word. And division is not entirely bad.

The reason we have differences of doctrine between the many different traditions is beyond the scope of this post. But, at the least, the reason is that the Bible is a hard book to understand. And we are a fallen people prone to error even when reading and interpreting the Bible. In another light, the differences of doctrine are proof we take the Bible seriously, and that’s a good thing.

Gavin Ortlund asks the question, “When should doctrine divide?” over at The Gospel Coalition. He warns of two extremes many people take when partnering with other churches of other traditions: doctrinal minimalism, and doctrinal separatism.

Some would discount doctrine altogether, saying it is too divisive. They would say we should all come together regardless of tradition or creed. But, you would need to draw the line somewhere. There are churches who claim to be Christian but are wholly outside confession Christian of the last 2000 years. The extreme of doctrinal minimalism would lead us to partner with religious traditions that are antichrist or even with secular institutions that have contrary to the gospel of Christ.

Separation of the traditions is often lamented. I’ve even asked the question of why there are so many Protestant churches. But, sound doctrine is important. And sound doctrine separates one from unsound doctrine. For example, the Reformation itself was a separation from what the Reformer believed to be unsound doctrine concerning the nature of how one is saved. But, the extreme of doctrinal separatism would cause one church to fail to partner with other churches in the area to reach those who are in need. The larger issues of the city would be missed because we were too prideful to partner with churches that disagree with our doctrine.

When partnering with other churches, we need to avoid these two extremes. We need to work together in ways that do not minimize our traditions and respects them.

Two Heads Are Better Than One

“Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” Proverbs 15:22

The old adage, “two heads are better than one,” is true in most situations. Unless you’re trying to decide what restaurant to go to. But in ministry, this truth runs the whole of Scripture.

God said that it was not good for Adam to be alone.

Moses sought out leaders from the people to help him judge the people of Israel.

The kings of Israel would surround themselves with “wise men.”

Jesus sent out the disciples two-by-two.

Paul never worked alone. And when he was alone he didn’t want to be.

You can see over and over again, in Scripture and history having many advisors often leads to success.

So, let’s take a look at the current monochurch culture that we live in. We have many different churches, with many different types of services, with many different types of organization, leadership styles, and administrations, big churches, small churches, different worship styles…etc.

We live in a culture where you can find any church that will suit your style. You can find whatever flavour you want. The consumer-driven culture as gave us cool churches, cooler churches, and the coolest church to choose from.

And yet, much of the population remains unchurched, unreached, and not interested.

If the church is to succeed, maybe we should look to Scripture (Pr. 22:15). Maybe, the “two heads are better than one” adage can be used to succeed in reaching the lost in our communities. If we put our collective heads together, with our years of experience in ministry, it is possible we could reach our communities with the gospel more effectively.

A multichurch culture brings together multiple perspectives about how to meet needs, reach goals, and solve problems. A multichurch provides alternative views that can be more insightful, and deeper than a monochurch culture offers.