Trying to Greet my Neighbor

I don’t know the author of this blog but this really made me thing about how we get to know our neighbors in our modern world. Share your thoughts. Link to original.

There’s the November rain. It held off through the last dying gasps of October, to my total amazement, as I was expecting to be standing at the Trunk and Treat, soaked and angry, handing out cups of cocoa to other angry parents and their crying children.

Instead the afternoon was balmy and the rain, though threatening, never kept its fitful promise. And so the highways and byways were filled with people—children, parents, friendly dogs on leashes, grandparents, teenagers. My cocoa station was well traversed and I nearly ran out of cups.

The whole time I wondered to myself what was the point—not in a brooding disconsolate way, but in the praying, how should one go out into the world way. After decades of Christians warning against the relative dangers of witchery and evil on a night apparently devoted to just that thing, it seemed a reasonable moment to look sideways at oneself and consider one’s own Christian witness.

What surprised me last night was the sheer number of people I got to say hello to. ‘Hello! Would you like some cocoa?’ I said it over and over. And then got to chat about the costumes and the weather and how nice it was that we were all together and what a fine night it was. Children wandered away with buckets and bags full of sugar and that was that. And then my children went out with friends, and people came to our door through the evening, and we just kept saying, ‘Hello.’

There’s so much talk these days, and I’m sure it is all needed, about loving one’s neighbor, and going on from there to love one’s enemy, but the thing I find hard about American culture is the total absence of being able to say hello at all, of the possibility of greeting another person. There is no formal way to offer a greeting to any of the people I pass by. If I go for a walk, I can trudge by people on every corner of every street and I must go by them without saying anything. When my actual neighbor walks in and out of his house day after day, not only is there nothing culturally required for me to say, but it is inappropriate, usually,  to do anything more than nod, even a smile sometimes feels out of the way. Though I always smile, rebelliously, under the unfriendly glare of the other. This is a function of being in an urban—I hesitate to say city because we have fallen to the population level of a town—context, of course. But it is also because the west threw away its complex system of manners and greetings ages ago.

So there is no way to find yourself standing on a dusty path asking about the health of the other person’s mother, grandmother, father, grandfather, sons, daughters, husband, and then going on to ask if she herself slept well and is well. And then, because you are already talking, finding out her family name and where she is going. The next time you see her you would do all the greetings again, and find out more. In this way, without too much trouble, you get to know all the people who live around you. Whereas in America, even in the grocery aisle, let alone any other place you might go, while you may cheerfully comment about the weather, you aren’t allowed to say, ‘How are you? How is your family? Do you have a family?’

So what I want to know is, how are you to love your neighbor if it is not culturally appropriate even to greet that one? And if there aren’t some ways that makes cultural sense, then Christians should, if at all possible, rush out at least on Halloween and say hello to as many people as possible who aren’t normally there, who are usually shut behind their doors and their screens, uninterested in social engagement. We worry about how to share the gospel with a dying world, but my more basic worry is how to even say hello. If you can’t say hello, your gospel presentation will be said to someone who is not even standing there any more.

8 Reasons to Preach Through Books of the Bible

Originally found here:

The resurgence in commitment in many evangelical circles to expository preaching is a very encouraging sign as the contemporary church navigates so many shifting cultural trends with so many shifting stylistic trends of its own. As many younger churchmen have begun to look not at the latest preaching styles but at what evangelicalism’s elder statesmen have been doing for years — not to mention, as they’ve begun studying the homiletical practices of the gospel renewal movements throughout church history — we’ve fortunately seen a rise in expositional preaching. Many of us have maintained a commitment to this kind of explication even when our sermons happen to be topical!

While there’s no need to be dogmatic about this kind of sermon delivery, and while I think taking time for short topical sermon series or strategic “stand-alone” messages can be good and helpful, I do think it is generally wise for a pastor not just to preach expositionally, but to preach expositionally through entire books of the Bible. I think every preacher ought to endeavor to feed his flock this way. And here are eight reasons why:

1. It’s biblical.
Contrary to what some have said, expository preaching through books of the Bible has biblical precedent. The two most notable examples can be found in Nehemiah 8, where Ezra preaches through the book of the Law, “giving the sense” (v.8) as he goes, and of course in Luke 24, where “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, Jesus interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (v.27).

2. It helps people learn their Bible.
It is a sad reality that most Christians get most of their Bible at church. We want them to spend daily time in the word, of course, but too many don’t and won’t. Preaching through books of the Bible, then, over time exposes churchgoers to the fullness of God’s counsel. This is even true for Christians who do study their Bibles but who tend to do so like their preachers tend to preach, favoring certain books or certain stories or certain devotional emphases. If a preacher will preach through whole books, he will eventually get to more “obscure” books that even some studious Christians haven’t spent much time in.

3. It spiritually stretches the preacher and deepens his understanding of God.
If a preacher will commit to preaching through entire books of the Bible, he will find himself dealing with difficult and complex passages he might otherwise have avoided. Systematically working through a book means you can’t skip the confusing parts or the scandalous parts or the “boring” parts, the study of all of which is helpful to the preacher’s own devotional life — since all Scripture is breathed out by God and useful (2 Tim. 3:16) — and consequently helpful to the congregation.

4. It puts controversial or “hot topic” issues in their proper place.
A preacher committed to preaching through books of the Bible can’t hobby-horse or camp out on one political, social, or cultural issue he feels most important. His preaching isn’t being driven by Hallmark or the headlines. Thus, he gets around to the “social issues” when the Bible does and ends up correlating his concern and energy about them to the Bible’s concern and energy about them.

5. It helps Christians see the full storyline of redemption. 
The gospel announcement of Christ’s sinless life, sacrificial death, and glorious resurrection for the salvation of sinners is a grand plan foreshadowed and echoed throughout all of Scripture, and preaching through entire books of the Bible helps churches see the epic story God is telling about his Son from the foundation of the world. Similarly:

6. It more greatly magnifies the glory of Jesus Christ.
As my favorite children’s Bible storybook says, “Every page whispers his name.” As Jesus himself says to those disciples on the road to Emmaus, even the old covenant Scriptures are “about himself.” And as Paul says, all the promises of God find their “yes and amen” in Jesus (2 Cor. 1:20). To not preach through as many biblical texts as you can is to withhold certain aspects of Christ’s glory from your church. To preach systematically through books of the Bible – laboring faithfully in the work of Christ-centered exposition — is to show the glory of Christ in surprising, fresh, and God-designed ways.

7. It fosters congregational patience, endurance, and commitment to the word.
Hopping from one topic to the next, jumping around according to pastoral interest or current devotional mood, has some advantages to be sure, but a commitment to a book more befits the plodding needed for faithful, long-term ministry. Preachers who preach through books of the Bible logically think in more long-term ways, which is beneficial for pastoral fruitfulness. And the way preachers preach shapes their church. A pastor who commits to showing Christ week after week through book after book re-wires the short attention spans of modern congregants to the Spiritual fruit of patience, the Christian virtue of endurance, and the church’s mandate to be “people of the book.” Nothing shows a pastor’s and a congregation’s fidelity to and reliance on the word of God alone like preaching the whole counsel of the word of God alone.

8. It creates a longer pastoral and congregational legacy.
As C.S. Lewis once said, “To go with the times, is to of course go where all times go.” Or, alternatively, also from Lewis: “The more up-to-date a book is, the sooner it is out of date.” Substitute “sermon” for “book,” and I think we’re on to something here. To preach with the times is to go where all times go. Now, sermons ought to be applicable and relevant to the Christian’s daily life and the world we live in. But the great thing about the Scriptures is that they are remarkably applicable and relevant to the world we live in without our help! And while sermons fashioned toward the tyranny of the now may be of some help for some time, sermons preached from the eternal word can be of help for all time. In the long run of pastoral ministry and the life of the church, a pastor who resources his congregation with faithful, plodding biblical exposition is providing a body of work that will live much longer after his own departure. What a milestone it would be to get to the end of preaching through the entire New Testament to your church, or even, should God grant you this length of tenure, the entire Bible! Wouldn’t that be a finish line worth shooting for?

Planting Gospel Churches in Small Towns

Our denomination's magazine, By Faith has a recent article that was very encouraging to me.  The article was titlet, Planting Gospel Churches in Small Towns.  Here are some take aways:

  1. “Wherever there’s the curse, there needs to be the Gospel, and the curse is very much present in small towns.”
  2. Small towns are never “financial hubs,” Coyer points out. And numerical growth is limited. That brings financial challenges, which often require the church planter to be bi-vocational. 
  3. “You need to figure out what you can do well and keep it simple. It’s a more organic than programmatic approach to ministry.”
  4. Another common challenge is relationships. People tend to stay in small towns because of lifelong friends and family, which means long-time residents don’t need new friends. That makes it hard to create small groups and build community.
  5. Church planting in small towns is a long-term process. “These are not areas for someone with a short-term view of growth,” Coyer advises. Herrera agrees. “You have to think, ‘This is going to be my home, it’s where I’ll serve long term.’ [We’re planting] a church that will be here for generations.’”  

Would love to hear your thoughts!