Church Isn’t A Worship Experience

When church becomes more about having a Sunday morning worship experience, believers cease to be the church, and their spiritual lives are ultimately harmed.

I am not sure how many of you reading this will agree with that statement. But it has repeatedly proven to be true.

Here is how it unfolds:

As individual believers become primarily concerned that the Sunday worship environment “feed their spirit”, the goal of worship becomes a subjective experience. Did the worship music move me? Did the sermon feed me? Did I “feel” the presence of God’s spirit in worship?

Do you see it? The Sunday morning worship experience becomes a self-absorbed, self-serving model.  I have to ask, “If we didn’t feel God’s presence does that mean he wasn’t there or that I wasn’t in tune?” And when I am no longer “feeling it”, it becomes easy for me to come less often, drop out all together, or go somewhere else in search of the allusive “feeling”.

But what makes the church the church is not its worship! We can experience music and message without going anywhere.

What makes the church the church is its fellowship!

A church is defined by its “one another” relationships within community … so it isn’t about me as much as it is about us. The church is not so much the place where I get filled up as it is the place where God uses me to help fill others.

As we love, serve, grace, accept, forgive, encourage, correct, bear with, honor, and teach one another we are the church. That is why I often say that the most important time for our church is not necessarily the worship time, but the group life time where relationships are born and strengthened.

Yet we need to differentiate between being a “friendly church” and being the church. A friendly church is a church that is welcoming and glad to see one another on Sundays, and misses one another when people are absent. However, a “real church” develops relationships which reach beyond Sunday. A church invites and relishes opportunities to get together for prayer, for mutual service, or for just enjoying one another’s company. A “friendly church” is okay with Sunday interaction. A “real church” reaches out to engage with one another on other days of the week in order to build and strengthen deeper relationships.

We can only have these “real church” relationships when church people spend time with other church people. Are you ready to bring other believers into your life and family so we can be the church?
— Pastor Steve


Planning For Change

Undoubtedly you have heard the phrase, “Do what you’ve always done … you’ll always get the same results”, or the phrase’s idiot cousin, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.”

While over the last few years, we have not been adverse to change, we have also not been quick to change for the sake of change.

That hasn’t changed.

However, we will be changing some things up in order to seek some differing results as 2018 unfolds.

One change has already been implemented as we asked Ministry Team leaders to prepare budgets for each of their ministry teams. Never before have Ministry Team leaders been given the responsibility of financially planning for their own ministry.

That has caused a bump in our budget for 2018. All of the increase in the 2018 budget is attributable to the funding of the Ministry Teams. It is a bold step of faith.

We are also looking toward the implementation of some new ministries in the coming year. One of those is exploring the idea of a “coffeehouse worship” environment on Saturday evenings.

We have a growing number of FCC Chicago members who are unable to attend Sunday worship services regularly. We want to give them an opportunity to participate in worship.

However, we also want to offer a different kind of worship option that will increase the opportunity for us to reach a group that we are currently not reaching as effectively as we might. The younger generations have shown a higher receptivity to a coffeehouse environment for worship than a traditional service.

Planning is still in process, but we are looking at a soft launch for the Saturday coffeehouse worship sometime in the month of March. Be praying as we make preparations for this service.


Preachers and Politics

There is a somewhat common misconception about political talk, talk that considers an influential vocation is (or should be) excluded from the conversation.

Some people have fallen for a myth that preachers, pastors, or whatever you call a vocational professional that serves in the ministry cannot engage in conversation that critiques serving political leaders (or personally voices their support of particular candidates).

It’s become common to see memes and posts that say Preachers should have to pay taxes if they are going to talk politics. News Flash: Preachers pay taxes!

Now consider ministers have had a long and lofty role in American politics throughout. history. Preachers served as representatives in the Continental Congresses. One preacher served as President. Further, preachers have lended their voices to some of the most important cultural-transforming political moments in history.

It is true that ministers in an official capacity are restricted by the IRS from supporting particular parties or politicians. This prohibition of preachers and churches campaigning for parties and candidates was made law by the Johnson Amendment in the mid 1950s. Violation may result in rescending the 501(c)3 tax-exempt status of the church in which the minister serves or spoke (an action which has only happened once in 60 years).

However, the Johnson Amendment does not extend to forums in which a minister is not speaking in an official capacity as a representative of the church, but as a citizen. Preachers are people, and history has shown what they have to add to the conversations that occur around politics are as valuable as doctors and dog catchers, journalists and junk collectors.

The other fallacy that has led to the preacher don’t talk politics myth is the misinterpretation of the Jeffersonian doctrine of the separation of church and state, a phrase that is absent from the Constitution. It occurs in a letter to a Baptist church by Jefferson that states the church did not need fear the federal government due to the constitutional  protections which guaranteed the government could not interfere with churches.

Only in the 20th century was the second amendment flipped on its head from a protection for the church from state intervention to protection for the political from church involvement.

Jefferson never foresaw the time when his obscure statement in a private letter would become a phrase used to gag the church and preachers.
— Pastor Steve

How To Grow Church Attendance

Over the last month you have heard the Elders share a vision for 2017 of seeing our average Sunday attendance rise by 20% over 2016. I’d like to come behind what they have shared with a little more information and context.
The attendance average for FCC hit a significant snag in the spring and summer of 2015 when the average Sunday attendance dropped to 75. It then became a goal of seeing the attendance rebound by at least 20% over the next year (September 2015-August 2016) or 90 people. We actually saw a recovery and our average Sunday attendance increased to 92 people.
This year again, the Elders sought to see us reach a 20% attendance increase once more. However, we felt that we needed to make the congregation aware of this goal.
The reason informing the congregation was deemed important, was because we wanted the congregation to own the vision for growth as well. Congregational buy-in is necessary because it is the congregation that will ultimately determine whether we will reach our goal or not.
There are two determinants helping us achieve the growth that we dream of for each member:
1) If we attend ourselves … nationally, the average church attender now attends church only 27 times per year — that is only one Sunday over half. At FCC, we have noticed the national trend in our own attendance as choices of sports, sleeping in, and other things have squeezed out church attendance. 
Attending half of the time will do to you spiritually the same thing as eating half of the time will do to you physically. We can do better for ourselves spiritually.
2) If we invite others to attend … studies show that at best, 25% of church members ever invite someone to church. Yet, over 50% of unchurched Americans say they would attend church if a friend invited them.
Part of our mission is to help others know Jesus. Inviting them to church may be the best way of helping them know Him. Who have you invited? Keep inviting. Find new people and invite them too.

20% and Beyond


The Vision of Spanish-Speaking Ministry

At Pentecost, God tore down the linguistic walls that left the gospel inaccessible to some so that the message of Christ could indeed be spread to the ends of the earth.

At FCC Chicago we are blessed to have those who speak English, Spanish, French, Creole, German, Albanian and tribal languages of Nigeria as part of our ministry. God can use you to reach the nations.

About 2 1/2 years ago, the Elders shared the vision of establishing a Spanish-speaking ministry as an extension of FCC Chicago’s ministry. Some of you would have been here to hear about that before. Others of you are newer, and had probably not heard that vision verbalized.

The conversation about Spanish-speaking ministry began when we discovered that 20% of the Ashburn neighborhood (that’s 8-10,000 people) are Spanish-speaking, English-isolated, meaning that we couldn’t reach them even if we wanted to with our current English-only ministry. But God loves these people too and desires for them to be part of his family. On this, our heart should match God’s heart.

This is not a political issue of whether all Americans should speak English. It is a gospel issue of reaching every ethnic group with the gospel in order to see them become disciples of Jesus.

The need to write is due to some confusion and misunderstanding of what a Spanish-speaking ministry might mean for the church body. One concern was that we will be making the current Worship Celebration environment a fully bi-lingual context. Let me assure you that that is not the plan. The current English Worship service would remain English.

Actually, beginning the conversation with talk of a Worship service is premature. What we probably would do, before arriving at a Worship plan, is begin to expand our ministry to Spanish speakers through starting Bible studies or other programs that would meet felt needs of Spanish-speaking neighbors, such as English As A Second Language. This is where some of our members become vital ministry links. If you speak Spanish, you may be that person to start a Bible study or participate in a ministry in Spanish. We are blessed to have couple Spanish speakers within our congregation, and I have to wonder if God hasn’t placed you within our body to be used to reach those our English speaking family can’t reach.

If, or shall I say, when, a core group develops through a one of these ministries we could then consider how we would like to further develop that ministry. The foremost option is to plant a “church within a church”, which would see FCC Chicago have the Spanish-speaking worship birth under the umbrella of the FCC leadership. With the building that we have we could even have two services simultaneously, one in the Worship Center and the other in the Fellowship Hall.

We have had some informal talks with Lance Hurley, the Executive Director of Ignite Churchplanting about partnering with FCC Chicago in this endeavor to start a Spanish-speaking ministry. The initial conversations have shown promise that Ignite would partner with us in this journey.

If you have further questions, I would be glad to answer them.

— Pastor Steve

Do Christians Share Responsibility For The Dispossessed?

Do we as the people of God have any responsibility to the dispossessed; the poor, the under-served, the oppressed and the powerless?
I ask that because a recent thread lead me to believe that we no longer believe that we share any of that responsibility. More particularly, those of us with less skin pigmentation have no share in the responsibility as it relates to the plight of people of color. More than once statements where made in the thread that suggested black people should just fix themselves. Their own actions got themselves into the morally and socially corrupt culture they have developed for themselves.
Yet, I would seriously challenge the premise in that last statement:  in a historical context, consider the following implication from the development of African-American culture. When in slavery, most slave-holders did not allow slaves to marry. Couples, if identified, might be intentionally separated. The slave-holders promoted promiscuity because it would advance the owners wealth by producing saleable offspring. When children were weaned they would often be removed from their parents and sold to other owners. Is it possible that generations of slavery was instrumental in forming this Black culture that is said lacked “character” – particularly promiscuity and fatherlessness?
A ministry acquaintance expressed recently that “we can’t escape two other realities – One, the land was stolen. Two, labor was stolen for approximately 200 years. Those sins create deep systematic and enduring poverty that only can be addressed by deep repentance.”
Following slavery, the conditions of African-Americans only changed marginally. They were no longer slaves held under the whip. Yet, economically the situation did not provide much relief as former slaves found themselves in a new form of slavery as share-croppers under the hands of the landowners.
Is part of our struggle here that we have adopted a minimalist perspective of the Fall (sin is a problem between me and God), rather than seeing the Fall as a ripple effect that affected every corner of human existence and culture?

In the first salvation can also be minimized to a God and me thing. But in the second, redemption also includes seeking correction of the damage done by the ripples.
God summed up, through the words of Micah, his concern for His people to engage in taking responsibility for the poor:
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Over and over God expresses his concern for those caught in the clutches of poverty; the fatherless, the widows, and the aliens in the land. Repeatedly he offers words of judgment on those who turn their back on the plight of these cultural groups.
The story of Ruth is the story of a poor foreigner who takes advantage of the God ordained provisions of leaving the edges of the field unharvested, and the spillage untouched, so that the poor and the stranger may be able to provide for themselves out of these.
James comes back to exprSDess similar sentiments in James 1:
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
When you can chart an ethnic median wage gap of $20,000 over a 45 year period that has never gotten any better it ought to raise our level of concern, and not just our level of suspicion. How are the under-classed, regardless of color or social position, supposed to deliver themselves from the economic pit they are in? They don’t hold the keys to the businesses. They are unable to give themselves a wage increase, or even give themselves a job.
These are the same groups that tend to be at the poorest schools as well — to which it was suggested that they should start better schools of their own. How are they suppose to do that without financial means?
Shame on us for misusing Jesus’ statement that “you will always have the poor with you” (as I have heard used – I mean misused) as an excuse for not seeking economic justice, of not standing beside those who have been burdened with systemic issues that have exiled them outside of the concern of others.
That doesn’t mean that we have to become the support agent for those on the dole. The answer is not to give more hands outs, but more hand ups. It, also, doesn’t imply approval for the poor choices that the underserved are presently making for themselves.
But it doesn’t have to be one way or the other. Solutions are usually more nuanced than this way or that way.
No, the social gospel does not displace the gospel message. However, to disengage social concern from the gospel that advances “shalom” is to miss a huge piece of the healing peace God desires to see manifested in His Kingdom.
How can we do that? … Do you have any ideas?
–Steven Chapman Read more…

When Anger Sets A City On Fire




For a week, Baltimore has been embroiled in the chaos of riots, looting, military guards, and angry people. Innocent shop owners were victimized by young people breaking out windows and/or walking off with merchandise, while cars and places of business were being set aflame. People became captives in their own homes for fear of being caught up in the violence if they left that refuge.
Yet, the problem in Baltimore is much larger than what is commonly being portrayed as an issue of “racist cops killing black young men”. The powder keg was lit by the unfortunate death of Freddie Gray. However, it is wrong to assume that this death (or any similar recent happening, like Ferguson, MO) is really the event that led to this outburst. The powder kegs have been loaded and compressed over decades.
I wish we knew what happened to Freddie Gray, but we do not. We may never know (But someone does, and He will serve justice in due time). But in the meantime, how do we understand this situation, and is there anything we can do to diminish the possibility of its happening again?
I have got to ask: Where did all of this anger come from?
Some have made a point of emphasizing that when a white young man is shot white people do not resort to rioting. Repeatedly, I have seen a meme of a CNN graphic with data on the “Killed by Cops” racial breakdown in 2014. It shows the following:
  • Whites – 414;
  • African-Americans – 233;
  • Hispanics – 138;
  • Asian – 15;
  • Unreported – 311.
Before going any further, let me make clear that one unjustified killing is too many.
However, the fallacy that is purported with this data is – more whites are killed by police than blacks, but whites don’t respond violently. While the actual number of whites killed by police officers is higher, that far from tells the entire story. You also need to consider the demographic data:
  • White, non-Latino – 62.3%;
  • Latino – 17.1% – (just under 1/3 of Whites);
  • African-American – 13.2% (just over 1/5 of Whites).
If you weigh the demographics, and look at the per capita numbers a starkly different picture arises. If all of the population groups were the same, death tolls between these groups would be:
  • Whites – 414;
  • African-American – 1095;
  • Hispanics -483.
In other words, the comparison of blacks-to-whites killed moves from about half the actual to 2 1/2 times per capita. Do you see the problem there? I see how looking into these numbers can be a painful thing.
So do we place all of the blame on those “racist cops”? They have become the target of choice. The cops are the easy fall-guy. But pinning the blame on them doesn’t help us really get to the heart of the problem.
Blaming “racist cops” doesn’t for starters address the real problem of crime in African-American neighborhoods. While the disproportionate numbers of African-American men in prison does give us reason to pause and question the fairness of the judicial system, can we say that it is the reason that so many black men are behind bars? While we can admit that there is strong data that says African-American men are likely to receive stricter punishment than their white counterparts, does that gives us a full diagnosis? Or shall we blame selective enforcement that targets people of color more frequently than whites? Again, that could be part of the problem.
But we have to be more honest than that. We can’t choose to remain unflinchingly blind to the real problem of crime that is disproportionately higher in black neighborhoods. The differentiation in the amount of crimes being committed is not fully explained by racial profiling or unfair prosecution. We do have a problem with black crime — the question that needs to be explored more fully is WHY? What causes young, African-American men to act out in this way?
When we dig further here, I think we will also begin to see some of the reasons for the angry responses that destroy African-American young men’s lives. We will discover that finding scapegoats will not help, and taking the time to resolve it will not be found in a quick fix.
When I moved to Chicago 18 years ago, I took the time to wander through the city. I noticed that in many African-American neighborhoods houses would be in shambles and streets would be lined with litter. It simply looked like everybody stopped caring long ago. I asked a ministry partner on the southside of the city, why it appeared that African-American households didn’t seem to take pride in their homes and neighborhoods. His response was telling, “They have simply lost hope. When you lose hope other things just don’t seem to matter.”
Lost hope! I have never been there. I always could catch a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel (and usually it wasn’t the light of an oncoming train). I can’t even begin to imagine what it is like to see a desperate situation is “as good as it gets.” Yet, I do have an idea of how being in such a situation could make me act out in anger at the system(s) that culminated in me being so desperate.
So what has led to this sense of hopelessness within the African-American community?
I don’t think we will ever be able to completely catalogue all the decisions and events that have eaten away at any sense of hopefulness that young men of color might have otherwise had. At the same time, I don’t think that we have to go all the way back to slavery and the “Jim Crow laws” of the south for by doing so we run the risk of placing all of the blame on previous generations, and convince ourselves that “blacks just need to get over it.”
First of all, consider the effects of systemic poverty. Census data on wages by ethnicity each year since 1967 show a $20,000 gap in median income between whites and blacks present at the start of the period. It has never gotten smaller, and on occasion has gotten larger. During that time period, White incomes rose on average nearly $8,000. However, black incomes only increased by about $6,000. As of 2012 the median income was whites $57,009; blacks $33,321. According the government threshold, an African-American family of 6 with a median income would be below the line of poverty. Add to that consideration that African-Americans live predominantly in the high cost urban environment.
Nearly 1 in 4 families in Baltimore neighborhoods in which the riots broke out are in poverty. Needless to say, those are prominently black neighborhoods.
Some would offer the advice to just raise the minimum wage. However, the net result could be the further loss of employment by some who currently have some job. Those cities, like Seattle, which have already raised minimum wages have seen the food industry particularly hit by lay-offs as the cost of going out to eat has costed some restaurants needed business. The net result is some of the entry-level jobs that young people used to get into to begin an employment record are drying up.
That brings us to the second consideration – lack of jobs. When the economic downturn of 2008 swelled, in some ways those hardest hit by the employment collapse were the young urban men. As adults nearing retirement age were unable to find employment many turned to filling  jobs that were traditionally entry-level jobs for young people. As the unemployment rates dropped to nearer normal levels, young people were left out of the recovery. By 2012 young white men still had an unemployment level of 12%, however, black men 16-30 still had a 25% unemployment rate.
As of the most recent estimates in Chicago, African-American young men still have an unemployment rate of 25-28%. But that doesn’t just include the high school dropouts. It includes young men who have completed a college degree, but are unable to secure employment. They are left to wonder what was the use of all of the college expense if it didn’t help them to get a job. I could quickly record a list of numerous young black men who have come through our youth ministry program that are struggling to find employment with a living wage.
However, the problem does not originate with difficulty getting a job that pays a living wage. The roots of anger begin much earlier. The course for angry young black man is often established in the halls of urban schools. Urban schools have a remarkably poor record. Try as educators may, the results for urban schools as a whole do not seem to improve. The state by state drop-out rate, for 2011-12, shows black students dropped out of school on average 15% more often than white students.
Suburban schools, with budgets that are often much more flexible because of the property values of community residence compared to the values of property in the cities, have tremendous opportunities and are able to secure high quality teachers. The urban poor often have to settle for poorer quality teachers providing poorer quality instruction in poorer quality facilities. Because of the union jobs contract schools, there same struggling schools find it hard to dismiss poor teachers. Many students are so concerned about their own safety that they can’t give their attention to their education.
This does not intend to suggest that all urban teachers are terrible. Some urban schools have been able to develop a collection of high quality teachers that are giving their students a great education. Other schools, particularly in some of the worst neighborhoods, have not faired so well. When given the chance it makes sense to leave some of those schools for the relative safety of schools in other neighborhoods.
But sometimes, the problem is not as much with the teachers as it is with poor management and oversight at the level of local school Principals. Can it be the best decision to that tell teachers that disruptive students cannot be disciplined because it harms the school’s attendance rates upon which funds are distributed? So teachers are made subservient to class clowns, or worse yet, classroom bullies with no recourse.
Even then, if the school gets good teachers and a good Principal, the system is stacked against them. During twelve years as a member of the Local School Council, of which 10 were served as the Chairman, far too often the school would be on a path to improvement only to be sent on a detour by changing curriculum, decreased classroom sizes, and new unfunded or underfunded expectations sent down for to the local level from the educational behemoth downtown or in Washington.
The poorer quality of their education then becomes a road block for them getting the highest quality college education. The average 16.9 ACT score for African-American students, compared with the 22.2 for whites, keeps many of them from qualifying for admission to highly ranked academic institutions.
If the doors of opportunity will ever open allowing a rush of hope to flood into their hopeless existence, part of the solution will be found in overcoming the educational disparity that currently exists. We need to find means to equalize the funding disparity, but we also need to loose the grip of the educational monopoly on the urban schools, and replace them with systems that place the welfare of students at least on par with the welfare of teachers. Imagine what could happen if good Christian teachers and school administrators would accept a mission challenge to serve as teachers and Principals in under performing urban schools.
Yet, we still have not exhausted the list of life issues that make these young black man so angry. The problem of education has shown a link to the next issue that has created this angry environment. Fathers at home have a correlation to higher grades in school.
African-American youth are more than twice as likely to grow up in a single-family household as white students. Over half of these young people grow up in a mom-only home. Seven percent grow up in a dad only household. And 1 in 10 grow up with neither parent.
One Baltimore mother, Toya Graham, became a viral sensation for pulling her son out of the rioting while proceeding with her motherly beat down (of course others criticized her). Honestly, as I saw that mom in action, I was caught between cheering her on and asking,  “But where are the dads?”
Identifying this issue is not meant to demean the single mothers of these young people. They are often doing their best.  It simply is meant to identify that the absence of fathers in the household, or other strong male role model has had devastating effects.
Over the last decade numerous studies have been released that show the adverse impact that young people raised in single-parent families endure, particularly those who are raised without their fathers. The absence of fathers has demonstrated a 3 times higher rate of poverty, higher crime rates, incarceration rates that are 70 times higher. Single-parent family children are at higher risk of abuse and neglect. They are more likely to be sexually active, and users of drugs and alcohol at an early age.
Bill Cosby made headlines when he came out with a statement that absentee fathers are one of the biggest reasons for the problems in the African-American community. While some have sought to discredit Cosby’s assertion because of other life issues which have allegedly been exposed about Cosby more recently, the studies of negative consequences for single-parent family children cannot be ignored.
One of the best things that could happen to this generation of young African-American men is for their fathers to take seriously their role in the home. But since the decline of the black family has become a generational problem, it will take mentors for the current fathers to equip them for the task.
Yet, the African-American family is not the only thing that is broken.  Often the African-American community is broken.
The African-American community commonly advances the notion that “it takes a village to raise a child.” With the development of housing for the poor in the 50’s and 60’s the fabric of that urban village began to be dismantled. The poor were dislocated from neighborhoods into units that warehoused others with limited prospects and even less hope.
That dismantling was accelerated in the 70’s and 80’s as cornerstones of the community, teachers, doctors, lawyers, and businessmen, joined the exodus from these neighborhoods and moved into suburban communities, leaving the previous community in the grip of an economic tailspin. But as those cornerstone members of the family relocated it also left an absence of mentors and models for the ensuing generations.
Without people from the community to look out for each other, and as families themselves collapsed, youngsters found it easier to be drawn into the destructive community of gang involvement. In these groups they found others who shared their anger.
This is the place where Christians could possibly have the greatest impact. What if Christians were to move back into urban neighborhoods with a mission of being a light in the darkness of some of these communities? What possibilities could present themselves if Christians provided mentors, and environments to experience family community so young people aren’t left looking to only find the worst options?
As I consider all of the cultural trends and issues that play on the anger of young African-American men, I feel as if I would also struggle under the hopelessness that has generated such anger.
 If we are going to bring lasting calm to Baltimore, and overcome youthful anger by resurrecting hope for other African-American communities and individuals, we have a lot of work to do as a nation, as churches, and as Christian and non-Christian individuals.
Or we can stand still and wait for the next city to be set aflame.
–Pastor Steve

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Gangs, Clubs & the Church

Blog Gangs Clubs ChurchWhat do gangs, the “club” culture and the church have in common? Now before you say, “Nothing!”, I want you to look past the violence, the drug culture and the general pandemonium of the gang and club culture. Look even deeper than the fact that these are groups of people who get together. Take a moment, and I want you to see that there is something fundamental which is shared by gangs, the club and church members.

The thing that these three groups share is a common need and desire for a sense of community – real friendship where there is no relational pretending. The problem is that those who are seeking community in gangs and at the club have concluded that they won’t find community in the church.

Yet one of the hallmarks of the early church was that they “continued steadfastly in … fellowship”, and cared for each other’s needs. What has happened to the average church?

Perhaps our biggest problem is that we have so narrowed the definition of fellowship to potluck dinners and other meals that we have missed the real meaning of the term as community for the church.

So let’s review what fellowship really looks like:

  1. Fellowship is acceptance. As believers we can accept one another no matter how different we are or deep our struggles with sin because God in his grace and mercy has already accepted us.
  2. Fellowship is authenticity. We, as believers, can put away the masks and pretentions because none of us can hide the fact that we are sinners struggling to live lives consistent with Christ’s will.
  3. Fellowship is accountability. We cannot go it alone. We need other believers, not to gossip or pick or cajole, but to help us grow and mature in faith through encouragement, teaching and correction.
  4. Fellowship is availability. Communities make individual resources available to help with the needs of others.

The whole character of the church is wrapped up in the issue of community. Love one  another. Pray for one another. Encourage one another. Serve one another. The church is “one-another” community.

When you begin to get a grasp of what church is meant to look like, would you be satisfied with a potluck dinner? I know I wouldn’t.

Let’s offer those who are looking for community within social clusters that give them a false sense of belonging a real place to belong.
— Pastor Steve

Toward A Biblical Understanding of Women In Ministry

One of the most divisive issues in Christendom over the last century has been defining the role of women in teaching and leadership within the church. As women have risen from positions as administrative support to executives within the business community, churches have either chosen to embrace the cultural trend or further bar the doors to women in key leadership roles.

In this document, we share some observations concerning the question about whether women are given Biblical authorization or restricted from the principle teaching role (Sunday messages) within the church. Yet, actually the fuller question is “Does Scripture draw a line that limits a women’s role in the leadership of the church? And if so, where is that line?”

Those who argue that Scripture disallows women to do the principal teaching (preaching) during church worship marshal two passages of Scripture to defend their position:

As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church. 1 Cor 14:33-35

A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But woman will be saved through childbearing – if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety. 1 Tim 2:11-15

From these two sets of verses, it seems clear enough that Paul is teaching that the normative practice is that women should “sit down and shut up” in the context of worship. However, if there are any other verses in scripture that do not so nicely fit into this theological package, we need to question if what these verses seem to say is really what Paul is saying.

One such verse would be 1 Cor 11:5, just three chapters prior to Paul seeming to close the door on women teaching ;

And every woman who prays or prophecies with her head uncovered dishonors her head – it is just as though her head were shaved.

An honest wrestling with this verse does create a hurdle for those who read scripture to say that women are completely barred from the worship teaching role. Paul in this verse is talking about propriety in the worship setting, and mentions women praying and prophesying. Now if the rule for women’s silence was universal and transcultural, he could have simply affirmed that women are to be silent. However, what he does is take time to instruct women on the proper manner of speaking before the church.

At this point some would give a little ground, and suggest that Paul was speaking about prophesying, not preaching the Sunday sermon, yet that position relies on a serious misunderstanding of Biblical terminology. We hear the words preaching and sermon, and think the main message during worship. We hear teach, and we think Bible school or class environment. And prophecy, well that is something that has gone the way of the do-do bird.

Biblically, preaching is the presentation of an evangelistic message to people far from Christ to persuade them to draw near to him. Teaching is the instruction of believers which informs their ongoing walk with Christ. Neither term is limited by the context in which it is performed, and leaves open whether it could be sharing a testimony, leading a Bible study or even sharing a prophetic message, which is not so much forecasting the future as it is applying God’s word and promises to the present and future. Both could occur in worship, but normally worship would entail teaching since it is principally the gathering of believers.

Well, then, is the prohibition to women teaching men? Once again this is a position that is impossible to support Biblically. Particularly in light of:

    • The Samaritan Women leading her entire community to Christ through her testimony;
    • Women, serving as the first witnesses of the resurrection, were sent to tell the apostles;
    • Priscilla, along with her husband Aquila, provided further theological instruction to Apollos.

Clearly there is little to support the idea that women cannot teach the Sunday message. So, if Paul is not telling women to “sit down and shut up”, what is he teaching them?

The key to unlocking the 1 Cor 14 and 1 Tim 2 texts is the same key that we find underlying the 1 Cor 11 text.

In 1 Cor 11, Paul’s emphasis is on the submissive role of women as determined by the created order of things. This text is not really about hair styles and hats. Those practices are cultural expressions of a transcultural principle. As God has authority over man, since man was created in God’s image and for his glory, woman is to respect the authority of male leadership.

The same lesson, with a slight twist, underlies the 1 Cor 14 text. Here the women are told to respect the orderliness of worship, by not speaking out during the service, but by waiting until they are able to discuss the matter with their husbands following worship.

The normative principal in both texts is that women are to be submissive (note the italics in 1 Cor 14 and 1 Tim 2), recognizing their position as one under the responsibility and authority of Godly men.

Does that principal extend to 1 Tim 2? As we look closely at the text on 1 Tim 2, one item of importance is that Paul uses an unusual word for authority here. This is the only time that it is used in scripture. The root of the word is “murder,” and here, as well as elsewhere in Greek literature, carries the idea of “seizing or usurping authority which belongs to someone else.” What Paul has in view, as he addresses Timothy, is women who are revolting against the authority of male leadership, and leading the church into theological error.

The problem with false teaching is why Paul emphasizes that Eve was the one deceived, and not Adam. Eve usurped Adam’s role as leader of the home and introduced sin into the world, while Adam surrendered his leadership role within the family.

It is no accident that Paul immediately proceeds to define the role of Elder in terms of male leadership (1 Tim 3:1). What Timothy is facing is a “feminist revolt” that is resulting in heretical teaching, and to combat that Paul reminds the women that they are to be subject to a clearly defined male leadership, which is the way God created things.

What then do we learn from this exploration? Can women speak during worship? Certainly. Is the door open for them to teach the principal message during the worship gathering? Yes, if they are have deep enough spiritual roots to correctly handle the word of truth, while also respecting the authority of male leadership found in the Eldership.

Does this mean then that there is no line that limits a woman’s role in ministry? On the contrary, that line is drawn by the transcultural principal of a woman’s submission to the authority of male leadership, namely the Elders. Since Elders hold the “buck stops here” responsibility and authority over individual congregations, accountable directly to the Lordship of Christ, women are excluded from that role.

As to “why” women should not serve as an Elder, I do not have an answer beyond the reasons in 1 Tim 2-3 and Titus 1:5f, as well as the practices of the early church (Acts 20:28-31). The churches of the New Testament era knew of no women Elders and the qualities of Elders are phrased in terms of men.

Doesn’t that then arbitrarily lock women out of leadership within the church? No it doesn’t. Perhaps the confusion over the role of women in leadership in ministry is due to confusion over the role Elders play in the life of the congregation. Elders are not the only leaders in the church, but they are the ones who have ultimate responsibility for the welfare of all its members. Numerous other opportunities for women to serve in leadership are present within the church body.


Respectfully submitted,

Steven Chapman


Adopted by the Elders – November 2012


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I Don’t Do Thanksgiving In November



All across FACEBOOK people are tracking us through the 30-days of Thanksgiving during the month of November. The items for which they are thankful include the predictable spouses, children, jobs, homes, etc., and some not so predictable a battle with cancer, a forced relocation and a number of other circumstances of which we could easily understand not being thankful. But I have resisted writing these lists.

Now, before you get me wrong … let me clarify … I do not have a problem with people sharing things for which they are thankful. I believe that such a list can be a nice testimony declaring the trustworthiness of God’s provision. So do not take me to say, “I don’t do thanksgiving.”

Just think: thanklessness is near epidemic in our society. It seems that the more we have been blessed with the less we have to be thankful for because we have come to presume privilege … that which we possess we deserve. As this thanklessness expands there is no thank-you granted to those who hold the door, say a kind word, or give a gift, because they should … they owe it to us.

We definitely need to reorient our thinking to include giving thanks … to God, but also to others as well.

So what am I saying? It is about putting the emphasis on the right syllable. It is not, “I don’t do thanksgiving,” but “I don’t do thanksgiving in November.”

There has been a national reservation for Thanksgiving even since our first President, George Washington, was asked by Congress to proclaim such a day dedicated to “publick thanksgiving” following his first inauguration. That first Thanksgiving was November 26 of 1789. Over the next 70 years, a day of Thanksgiving was celebrated annually on unpredictable dates in the fall, usually in November. Abraham Lincoln codified the month with the official proclamation that cemented one day of November and Thanksgiving together in his proclamation that the last Thursday of November was Thanksgiving. Then Congress officially changed the Thanksgiving Day commemoration to the fourth Thursday of November in 1941.

So what is my problem with November? I don’t have one. Great things happen in November. My birthday is in November. I started dating my wife in November (but she wasn’t my wife at the time). College basketball season gets rolling in November. Election Day is in November (okay that my be a reason to not give thanks).

Here is my point: Thanksgiving should not be restricted to one day or even one month a year. Paul instructs us to “give thanks in all circumstances.” Thanksgiving should constantly be expressed. It should ooze from our lives and flow from our lips, not according to the calendar, but according to the graciousness of God.

It seems to me that the only time of year that the necessity of giving thanks to God for the waves of blessings that we find ourselves swimming in every day occurs to us is just before we put ourselves into a turkey-induced tryptophan coma.

I don’t do thanksgiving in November because 30-days is an insufficient amount of time to catalogue the things for which God deserves my thanks. I want God to wake me to the beauty of His blessings throughout the year, and to have a heart that wells up with gratitude to such a great God.

I don’t want to restrict that to a day, or even a month. Maybe we could try a year of thanksgiving … or a lifetime would even be better.

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