Thursday, November 15, 2007

We Owe It To Our Children

Today I submitted a letter to the editor in the Grants Pass Daily Courier. It's an experiment. Since local citizens openly opine and moralize on their favorite issues, I figured, why not me? Let the conversation with the culture begin.

We Owe It To Our Children

Family restoration is one of the most urgent needs of our day. As the family goes, so goes the nation. The home is the foundation of faith and virtue, and when the family crumbles, the entire structure of society is at risk. Today divorce and dysfunction are so common as to appear normal. Is it any wonder that a nation of broken vows and broken homes has produced so many broken contracts and broken laws and broken lives.

But here’s a note of optimism. It’s never too late for parents to turn their hearts toward home. A spark of conscience may yet ignite the hearts of fathers, and prompt them to pledge their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to their families. Men and women may yet devote themselves to honoring their God and their country through faithfulness in marriage and a commitment to train up virtuous sons and daughters.

The prophet Malachi declared God’s promise to “turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest [He] come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction” (Malachi 4:6). Clearly, God is serious about families; and fathers in particular.

Parents, let your marriage and your family be your most important earthly project. Men and women, let your faith in Christ be the uniting focus of your home. Moms and dads, let your career path, your finances, your leisure, every choice you make be consistent with your commitments to lead and guide your children into the next generation. You owe it to your kids. You owe it to your country. You owe it to your God.

Pastor John Sleadd
Coram Deo Church

Monday, November 12, 2007

Thanksgiving Tribute

Three cheers for the English Pilgrims who founded the Plymouth Colony in America and celebrated their first harvest with a Thanksgiving Feast.

We know them as a group of English Separatists who broke from the corrupt, state church to form a “civil body politic” based upon steadfast Christian principles. Their efforts in self-government and private industry flourished, and the foundations of a new, freedom loving, Christian nation were laid. Independence from an oppressive English empire followed, as did the formation of a constitutional republic, based on the rule of law rather than the will of a human monarch. We celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday in remembrance of God’s blessing upon these Pilgrims and this nation at the outset.

Benjamin Hart describes the Pilgrims in his book, Faith And Freedom: The Christian Roots of American Liberty.

A group of separatists, under the leadership of John Robinson, formed a house-church congregation in the home of Postmaster William Brewster in order to avoid arrest and execution. Many of Robinson’s followers were at one time, well-to-do Englishmen, with good educations from Cambridge University, and had bright futures ahead of them if they had merely conformed themselves to the English Church. Instead, they lost their homes and all their possessions to tax collectors, officers of the state, and unscrupulous shippers. They were unwelcome in their native country because they believed that the Bible, not the king of England, should be the final authority, not only on matters of faith, but in all areas of life. In their view, James came under the rule of Christ, Christ did not come under the rule of James. Their insistence on this one point caused them many personal hardships—but in the end would make possible the emergence of the freest, and most fervently Christian society in the history of man.

It is fitting that we give thanks to God for His hand of mercy and care upon those who established our nation. The flight of the Pilgrims from persecution in England and from moral corruption in Holland reminds us of the plight of Christians today. On the one hand the antagonistic, secular state seeks to marginalize sincere faith through its persistent campaign of multiculturalism and moral relativism in the public schools and legal institutions. On the other hand the American cutlure is awash in self-absorbed materialism. The Evangelical Church has all too often compromised the Gospel call of redemption in order to be “seeker friendly” and relevant. Rarely do we hear about taking up our cross these days.

Perhaps it is time to call the saints out of the culture again. The Bible warns us to not be unequally yoked with unbelievers, and commands us to be separate from them (2 Corinthians 6:14-18). It states that those who accommodate the world system act as enemies toward God (James 4:4). It’s important to not equate separation from the world with isolationism, however. The Pilgrims certainly didn’t view things that way. Plymouth Plantation Governor William Bradford wrote,

Thus out of small beginnings greater things have been produced by His hand that made all things of nothing, and gives being to all things that are; and as one small candle may light a thousand, so the light here kindled hath shone to many, yea in some sort to our whole nation; the glorious name of Jehova have all the praise.

Puritan Governor John Winthrop of Colonial Massachusetts wrote,

For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken...we shall be made a story and a by-word throughout the world. We shall open the mouths of enemies to speak evil of the ways of God...We shall shame the faces of many of God's worthy servants, and cause their prayers to be turned into curses upon us til we be consumed out of the good land whither we are going.

I thank God for the work of the Pilgrims and the Puritans who labored before us to build a Christian nation founded upon the principles of freedom. They are part of the great cloud of witnesses who surround us and cheer us on in our walk of faith (Hebrews 12:1). I pray the legacy of freedom we received will be cherished and advanced until our Lord returns.

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Missional, Family-Integrated Church

John Sleadd, November 5, 2007

What does it mean to be a missional, family-integrated church? It means that families are equipped as a team to live a Great Commission lifestyle. As families study the Bible, worship, pray and serve together, they are molded into ambassadors for Christ. Their homes become places of ministry for the Gospel.

Family-integration is not an end, it is a means. It is a method by which we further God’s kingdom through discipleship. A family-integrated church strives to teach sound doctrine to all ages inclusively in order to fulfill the Great Commission. This is wonderfully suited for training new believers and the un-churched as well. The establishment of household embassies, led by disciple-making fathers, creates a missionary network able to minister to people all over a community.

Family-integration is more than establishing a like-minded community of believers. Pastor Mark Driscoll, in his book, Confessions of a Reformission Rev, writes: “Without a clear definition of what a missional church community is and does, tragically, community will become the mission of the church. Consequently, the goal of the people will be to hang out together in love, like the family they never had. While this is not evil, it is also not sufficient. If taken too far, this can lead to the heresy of participatory redemption, in which the goal is to have authentic friendships and a loving community instead of repentance and personal faith in Jesus Christ as the means of salvation.”

Evangelism is the short term work of proclaiming the Gospel to all who will hear. Discipleship is the long term training of those who come to faith by hearing that Gospel. The beauty of a family-integrated model of discipleship is that it carries the work of ministry to the next generation.

Coram Deo is committed to uniting church and home, with a missional purpose, for the benefit of both. We believe God has strategically placed men in the crucial discipling role of leading their families and raising their children in the fear and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). When men recognize the missionary potential resident in their homes, a fuse is lit that leads to a powder keg of ministry, against which the gates of hell cannot prevail.

Coram Deo Church is calling men into the Lord’s service in obedience to the Great Commission. Our goal is to equip ambassadors. May God stir the hearts of men into the glorious service of expanding His kingdom.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Failing Forward In Church Planting

When I was asked to take over as pastor of Coram Deo Church I was told to expect turnover in the congregation. It happened. It was painful. I decided to do some research on church planting and survivability to help me put things in perspective.

It appears that most new churches in America never make it to their third birthday. The ones that survive often end up with a different group of people from those who started it. I discovered some interesting advice online to help me, copied and pasted below.

Are You Called To The Extreme Sport of Ministry?
Start with a crowd, not a core group.
The larger the seeker crowd, the more potential impact of the Word of God.

There are two inexcusable things people will not tolerate for more than two weeks – guaranteed. You need ...
1. a healthy and safe nursery (you knew that already)
2. a kick a%$ message at least 80% of the time.

The church planting reality is quite different from the rosy picture promised. The Church Growth Movement may not have done anything to change membership growth for most congregations.

Learning from failure is a key concept in life and successful church planting. When asked about his hundreds of failed attempts to invent the lightbulb before experiencing success, Thomas Edison simply said that he had discovered all the ways not to produce the lightbulb. Church planting is no different. It needs to be seen as a process of 'failing forward.'

On the one hand, it seems that Coram Deo needs a nursery, a celebrity speaker and a crowd to be successful. On the other hand, perhaps the church growth hype should be ignored. Maybe it’s best to stay true to our vision. So what exactly is the vision?

Coram Deo is called to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. We delight in the things of God and in the fellowship of one another. We call ourself a family-integrated, disciple-making church. Our passion is to release the power of the God’s Word and Spirit in the heart and home of every Christian. Our goal is to equip the saints to do the work of ministry. We regard our homes as multigenerational embassies of discipleship, hospitality and ministry where the Gospel is lived out. We believe Christian fathers are an undertapped spiritual resource for the advancement of the Lord’s kingdom. We believe the faith that flourishes at home has the power to transform and restore the culture.

Such a vision is counter to the latest church growth marketing strategies. It may seem like a recipe for slow growth or failure. But I am optimistic. Revival may be on the way. “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” (Malachi 4:5-6). I invite you to join me as we “fail forward” together.


Pastor John