Is Church Membership Antiquated?

8 trackMany churches this time of year hold membership or partnership classes. In fact, Evident Grace Fellowship, will be hosting one soon.   Culturally, however, one notion that continues to gain popularity is whether or not church membership, affiliation, or partnership is biblical.

There is a popular notion that church membership is an option for the believer. So, is it?

I bump into this idea that the structured, organized church is broken and can sufficiently be discarded for such reasons as style. So then, is the organized church antiquated and out of date? Can we just discard it and live more “robust, spiritual” lives?

I would answer “no” and not just because I’m a pastor. Many will say that you can’t find the context of church in any organized, structured way in scripture and that living church is simply living out Christ’s commands. But that is hard to do without the organized church.

How do you obey Christ and rebuke a brother and eventually take him to the church if it is not organized (Matthew 18)?

How do you appoint elders and deacons if the church is not organized (I Timothy 3 and Titus 1)?

How do leaders care for your soul and how do you submit to those leaders if you are not organized (Hebrews 13:17)?

How are pastors ordained to ministry if the church isn’t organized (I Timothy 5)?

Why would Paul warn the Corinthians to eat at home so as not to make pigs of themselves during the Lord’s Supper if the church is not organized (I Corinthians 11)?

These are all direct commands of scripture. Obedience and thus loving Christ is living out these commands. The church, however flawed she may be, is a wonderful gracious gift of God intended to nurture and care for souls while glorifying Jesus.

I agree that the church has structures that are traditional and formal by very nature of an organization that has met for 2000 years, but that does not mean the the organism as it exists today is non-biblical. Being a Christian does make you part of the church. But declaring to live a life outside the commands of scripture (which include the commands to organize the church) is an inherently non-biblical and non-Christian attitude.

My urging for folks who want to abandon the church? Don’t. Biblically challenge the structures that frustrate you. Love her, but don’t leave her. Love that does not desire Godly change will just become empty criticism. Love that desires Godly change is effectual love.

Gordon

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Taste and See if You Like Evident Grace on 09/12

taste_and_seeHave you ever been to a restaurant and seen a dish on the menu that interested you? Of course, but the way most restaurants work is that you don’t get a taste ahead of time to find out if you really like it. Your choices are either taking a risk and ordering the dish or skipping it for something that you know you will like. The problem is that you will just never know if the dish you skipped was good or not.

Churches can be the same way. Maybe you like the service or you like an event that they hosted, but often, there is not any venue where you can find out more about the church. Most folks have questions that they would love to have answered, but where can you do that with a church?

Well, Evident Grace will be hosting a “Taste and See” get together Friday, September 12th at 6:30pm, for anyone who would like to know more about the church. The idea is for Gordon, the pastor, to spend some time presenting the history and vision of the church, coupled with a hope for where Evident Grace might be going. Jeremy, our pastoral intern, will be there as well, so hopefully, between the two, most of your questions can be answered. There will be plenty of opportunities for Q & As, and as any good event should have, there will also be food.

This will be a completely non-pressure, casual get together much like friends discussing something they like or want to know more about. There will be none of this, “What will it take to get you in this car today?” salesmanship. In fact, it will be a great, low-key event to bring a friend.

If you would like to join us, we will have childcare, and we will kick off at 6:30pm. We will go as long as folks are interested, and you can head out whenever you want or need. We will be meeting at the Curtas home at

6601Turkey Run Drive

Fredericksburg, VA 22407

If you have questions or would like to confirm, contact Gordon at jgordonduncan@yahoo.com or call him at 919-412-8161.

Journey to Worship Preview

10654017_10100284510435919_1196740249_nOn Sept 7, Evident Grace begins its new series, “Journey to Worship – a Study of Ezra”.  As Ezra is not an often studied book, an extended preview might be helpful, so towards that end, here is the text of an important portion of the sermon.

You know how we grow in comfortable skepticism? We like to say things like, “Well, I know God can do anything, but I doubt anything is going to happen.” Or we will say, “Well, aint nothing going to change.  I mean I guess God can do something here.”

And in both cases, we have no hope that anything good or Godly is going happen. We should read Ezra and be reminded that God does what He will when He will, and as a result, we should stop being so cynical and skeptical.

Now, please hear me:  this isn’t junk theology that tells you to believe harder for what you want so God will do it.

I am not going to tell you that God can’t and won’t do things unless you change first.

God does what He will when He will, and you know what? I’m sure not going to tell you to go live life at a higher level while God has your back.

We should simply read Ezra and say, “God will receive glory no matter the circumstance.  And in that, we are transformed”

How do we know that? How can we be assured? The life and death and resurrection of Jesus show us that God will pursue His own glory and that nothing will stop it – not your sin, not your mistakes…nothing. God will be glorified, and God will be worshiped.

This study should take us up to the 2014 holiday season. The good thing about Ezra is that you can join it at any point and time and not be lost, but we encourage you to join us for worship on September 7th to experience our series launch. We meet each Sunday for worship at 1030am at the comedy club above Liberty Lanes, and you can find directions here.

Come as you are. We are neither formal nor casual. And if you desire, we have both a nursery, and we also offer an individual teaching time for children aged 2-5.

Blessing Bags

blessing-bag-1Ladies, we have talked a bit about how Evident Grace could help out and serve the very large homeless population that is around the bowling alley where we meet.  It is hard to know what to do when someone is standing outside your door while you are at a stoplight.  In fact, it can be pretty scary or even awkward.

Lots of thoughts go through our heads:  “Should I give them money? Should I take them out for a meal? Should Ii just ignore them?” In light of so many around us, and in light of Evident Grace’s mission to serve the community, we thought we should try to put something together.

In light of all of that, Amy Duncan has been speaking with Heather O’Hara from New Life in Christ (NLIC)  about what we might do, and they thought it would be good to gather our resources and put together something called “Blessing Bags”’.  Basically, a Blessing Bag is a ready-made gift to give to someone in need with a few basics like water, gum, a few toiletries, and some food contained in a Ziplock bag easily stored in your car.

The ladies of NLIC have graciously opened up their monthly women’s breakfast this coming Saturday, October 19, for all of us to gather and work on assembling these bags together.

This is a great opportunity for us to physically share the love of Christ with someone in need, so let’s gather EG there in full force. Please invite friends to come along. Also, this is a great activity for moms & daughters to do together. So please join us!

Below you will find a link to the sign-up of what is still in need to help complete these blessing bags. If you are unable to attend you are welcome to sign up for something and drop it off at NLIC or at my apartment anytime this week.

http://www.timetosignup.com/nliccwm/signupsheet/18164

Thoughts on Worship in Song

crowd 4 editAs always, I had a blast on Sunday.  One of the wonderfully redemptive things that I see God doing in us at Evident Grace each week is pulling together all of our various backgrounds, talents, and commitments and creating a unified desire to see God’s people worship.  We can see this step by step as we prepare each week.

On Thursday, we run through our songs for Sunday for the first time.  We then find spots that need more attention, and we run through them again.  We add textures and agree on moods for different portions of the songs.

Sunday run-through is a complete 2.0 where we remember what Thursday sounded like, and then either add new elements or reinforce ones that we agreed on in practice.

And then, as our service begins, God creates something altogether unique for that moment as the voices of the people unite with the Holy Spirit to create praise to Jesus Christ.

Our songs are not and never should be about perfection (they can’t be if I’m the music leader).  They are about making every effort of faith to lead the people of God in praising Him through song.  The Holy Spirit meets us, guides us, and transforms all of us in this wonderful moment.  Thanks for being a part of that.

I love it, enjoy it, and take great comfort in what God is doing through our efforts.

Resources for our Come on Back Series

study_of_joel-tall-black-taglineThanks to everyone for the tremendous launch of our “Come on Back” series on the book of Joel.

In our second sermon in the series, we explored this Big Idea:  True Joy is Calling out to the Lord.

All of us cry out in some way.  We either cry out in need or we try to present ourselves as someone who doesn’t need help.  Both are cries of help.  But true joy is calling out to the Lord, and even better yet, true joy is being heard.

What we hope is that we can continue the conversation that was begun on Sunday throughout the week.  So whether you were able to make it or not, we want to help you and your family dig a bit deeper.

Towards that end, you can download the first “Come on Back” devotional pdf for free at https://gumroad.com/l/piQu (just type in $0.00 at checkout).

If you would like devotional #1 it on Amazon Kindle, you can find it at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00FI1SXOG

The second sermon devotional from 10/06 can be downloaded for free at https://gumroad.com/l/APiY (just type in $0.00 at checkout).

If you would like devotional #2 on Amazon Kindle, you can find it at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00FNTDCF8

If you would like audio #2, you can find it at https://gumroad.com/l/DONZY (just type in $0.00 at checkout).

Details about our (EG)Groups Launch

egg groupsEvident Grace Fellowship is ridiculously, insanely, and lots of other adverbs excited to announce our Evident Grace Groups (EG)Groups for the Fall of 2013.

While we may be meeting in what appears to be traditional small groups stylings, (EG)Groups are intended to do much more than just get the church together in smaller settings (though that in and of itself has great value).  Our hope is that (EG)Groups enable us to live out our commitment to Community.Worship.Service. in a greater and deeper capacity.  Here is how.  Our (EG)Groups will give you the opportunity to do several things:

Our gathering will deepen and grow our community as we get to know and care for each other. 

Our gathering will extend and develop our worship on Sundays into the day to day of our lives.

Our gathering will help us discover areas of service both within EG and outside our community.

We are going to launch in the Fall with two groups (details below), and prayerfully look towards multiplying these in January.  The plan is to meet up until Thanksgiving, and then we will take a break so our efforts can be joined as one in service to our neighbors and community throughout the holiday season.

As we walk in this, we ask three things of you.  We ask that for a commitment to these three things:

Let’s commit to gather together.

Let’s commit to grow together.

Let’s commit to go and serve together.

So, towards that end, here are the details of our two groups:

The Jany (EG) Group will launch on Sunday, October 6th from 6:00pm – 7:30pm.
The Murray (EG)Group will launch on Wednesday, October 9th from 7:00pm – 8:30pm.

Each group will discuss how often they will meet at that first gathering, and each group is going to be working through a study called “Gospel-Centered Community”.  Though you won’t need it for the first get-together, we encourage you to purchase the study guide for that study here.

Here the particulars for each group:

The Jany Group will meet at 5820 E Copper Mountain Dr.  If you want to bring your children, the Jany Group will have childcare just around the corner at 10509 Edinburgh Dr.  They just ask that you try to drop the kids off at 5:45pm.  They will have 2 babysitters for childcare and ask for a $5 donation to contribute towards paying the babysitters.  This week, they will have chicken nuggets and fruit for children to eat for dinner for those who would like to have their children eat dinner there.  Families are welcome to bring alternate food for their children if they would prefer. They are just asking that any food that will be shared be tree nut free, as we have children that are “go to the emergency room” allergic to tree nuts (peanuts are ok).  If you could, would you RSVP to them at pjjany@juno.com

The Murray group will meet at 9549 Evergreen Circle.  If you want to bring your children, the Murray’s will provide a room in their house for the kids to play.  At this first study, the Murray’s will provide coffee and cupcakes.  If you are going to be able to attend, please RSVP to littlecap25@hotmail.com

Please know that all are welcome whether you RSVP or not, but respond if you can.  Also, please feel free to invite in friends and bring visitors.  All are welcome.

Resources for our “Come on Back” Series on the book of Joel

Joel 1.1-12 coverThanks to everyone for the tremendous launch of our “Come on Back” series on the book of Joel.

In our first sermon in the series, we explored this Big Idea:  Mourn for your sins before you have to mourn for your sins.  In it, we looked at the context of the book of Joel and looked at the prophet’s call for the people of God to weep and mourn.  That may seem like an odd message for our day, but as we discovered, the book and its message are amazingly practical.

What we hope is that we can continue the conversation that was begun on Sunday throughout the week.  So whether you were able to make it or not, we want to help you and your family dig a bit deeper.

Towards that end, you can download the first “Come on Back” devotional pdf for free at https://gumroad.com/l/piQu (just type in $0.00 at checkout).

If you would like it on Amazon Kindle, you can find it at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00FI1SXOG

Evident Grace Offers Men & Women Events 9/27 & 9/28

men and women eventEvident Grace is excited to offer two distinct opportunities this weekend for encouragement and friendship for our women and men.

On Friday evening (9/27) at 7:30pm, at Amanda Murray’s home, we will be launching our first kafasoto event.  kafasoto is the Greek word for a trellis that supports a vine.  That’s what we hope for at Evident Grace Fellowship for the women.  We hope to create a structure to encourage and support women in their growth in all areas of their lives.  You don’t have to bring anything but yourself, but you are always welcome to bring a friend.

Then, on Saturday morning (9/28) at 7:00am, at the Evident Grace offices above Liberty Lanes, the men will be hosting their next Bushiban event.  What is Bushiban?  Well, in Japanese culture, the Bushido was the school for Samurai.  The Bushiban was their home.  Bushiban is going to be the home where our men have a place to be honest, to be encouraged, and to find brothers.

We hope to see you at these events.  We hope they are fun and an encouragement to you.

Come on Back with Evident Grace Fellowship

study_of_joel-tall-black-taglineBeginning September 29th and running until the end of November, Evident Grace Fellowship is going to be studying the book of Joel.  You might ask,

“The book of what?  “Why in the world would you study that?”

Well, Joel is a wonderfully unique book in the Old Testament with special ties to the New Testament and the formation of the church.  In it, the prophet Joel urges, exhorts, commands, and pleads for folks to come on back.  Again, you might ask,

“Come on back to what?”

Well, as it was true for the people of Joel’s day, the call to “come on back” is relevant for today as well.  We are being called back to God.  Everyone is being called.

The people of God need to come back to God in many ways.  We need to come back to God in honesty and repentance.  We need to come back to Him in worship and service in the church.  And the world needs to come back to Him in cries of faith.

And joyfully, we will celebrate God’s enabling of us to come back to Him through the wonderful work of Jesus Christ.

Please join us at Evident Grace these next two months as we pursue Joel line by line and word by word.  And as we do it, and as you join us, we trust that God will bring all of us together back to Him in joy and worship.

If you would like to know more about Evident Grace, you can find us on the web at www.evidentgrace.com, on our blog at https://newspotsylvaniachurch.wordpress.com/, and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/evidentgracefellowship.

And if you would like to speak to someone personally, don’t hesitate to contact Pastor Gordon at jgordonduncan@yahoo.com or at 919-412-8161.

We are looking forward to being brought back together.