Whitefield often preached to massive crowds, and report after report revealed that these crowds were often overcome with pangs of conviction or the heights of joy. His first public sermon proved no exception. Delivered on June 27, 1736, in his hometown of Gloucester, England, Whitefield believed the Holy Spirit enabled him to speak with “gospel authority” that day as many people in the audience were “struck” by his remarkable oratory. In fact, some worried Whitefield’s sermon had driven fifteen congregants “mad.” Whitefield himself was elated with the sermon and its effect: “Glory! Glory! Glory!” he wrote upon reflection.
I really dig this series on the LifeWay Pastors blog, and glad to have been able to take part in this edition.
In short, online communities present us with a noble temptation that stems from our inherent desire to actively love and share our lives with our neighbors. But our local congregations, however faulty and underwhelming they may be, remain the primary community that God calls us to invest ourselves in. This is the community where Christ in fullness dwells (Eph. 1:22–23), where we “become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13), so that “the whole body . . . grows and builds itself up in love” (Eph. 4:16). The New Testament speaks of the church as a gathering of believers who pray together, who eat meals together, who submit themselves to one another, who often find themselves in uncomfortable situations. The epistles speak of face-to-face interaction as normative, refusing to rely solely on the social media of the day (letters) to talk about crucial issues. “I have much to write you,” writes John in his third epistle (3 John 1:13), “but I do not want to do so with pen and ink.”
If we are thirsty, we don’t head to the oven to find something to quench our thirst. No, we run to the faucet. We find a water source that will meet our need. Similarly, if we are dead, dry, and weary, we don’t run to a desert land of self-pity and work-harder. No, we run to Jesus who says, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink” (John 7:37). He invites us to come because he is the only source that will provide true and lasting satisfaction. He refreshes and meets our deepest needs.
God’s goal for me is maturity. I recall as a child complaining to my mother about random pains in my legs or arms from time to time. “Sounds like growing pains” she would say. She was not dismissing my pain, but calling my attention to the fact that my body was on a journey toward maturity. The same is true of our lives. The goal is nothing other than maturity.
My congregation sings better than they did a year ago. I’ve been their worship leader for a little more than a year, and I’ve seen progress in their participation in worship through singing. They sing louder, they sing more heartily, and more of them sing than they did a year ago.
This realization occurred to me as I was reading an article on the decline of congregational singing, and it caused me to wonder why we’re not part of the trend.
A favorite from the archives:
I don’t currently have any student debt. Lord willing, I won’t accumulate any as I complete my seminary degree (and if you’d like to be a part of making that a reality, I’d surely appreciate it). And if the Lord allows, our children will not have to worry about student debt (though they may need to make some concessions to make that a reality).
But I am concerned for many out there who are going to college and university. And I am greatly concerned about many young people who are going to seminary. What I’m concerned about is that too many of us are failing to consider the cost of our decisions. We are becoming slaves of the lenders (Proverbs 22:7) for degrees that may not actually help us move forward in our future goals and ministry—or worse, in some cases may actually hinder us!