God and Evil

Todays blog may be a little different from many that I have posted…

This week as I was studying I began to ponder a question that many of us “church-goers” may get a lot from our friends or acquaintances that maybe do not yet believe.

“If God is so good then why does He allow so much evil?”

We have all heard it! It may not be worded exactly like that… but the sentiment is still the same. Let’s face it… the question is difficult. We may back away from it immediately… or we might stumble through an answer that has large gaping holes in it. But… how many of us have actually taken the time to think about it in depth? Probably not many of us.

Let’s face it, theology is a very practical and necessary discipline. Theology is absolutely necessary if we want to begin to know what we believe and why. There are many questions that we will wonder, or that will be raised, that are impossible to answer or understand without proper theology. Unfortunately, in the end we may not understand or know everything, but God’s sovereignty makes up for our lacking. One of these very difficult questions is: If God is all-good and omnipotent, then why is there evil in the world? As humans we perceive hurt, fallenness, and evil all around us and the first thing that comes to our mind is the normal questioning of why. We as believers have been taught about a perfect, “good” God and from that frame of reference we have faith even in the presence of “evil” and hurt, for non-believers it isn’t that easy. Let’s seek to find and understand the Biblical and theological viewpoints and implications to this question and work through, or think about some answers ourselves.

In his article “Why is There Evil and Suffering?” Michael Horner says,

It is always feasible that God could have a good reason for permitting evil; a reason of  which we are not aware. And as long as this is logically possible, there is no contradiction between the existence of an all good, all powerful God and the existence of evil. Just because we may not be able to figure out what that reason is does not mean it does not exist.

  • God is Perfect.

To approach our answer we first must understand that God is perfect. Deuteronomy 32:3-4 says,

For I will proclaim the name of the Lord; ascribe greatness to our God! The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is He.

If we hold Scripture to be true then we can affirm that God and His ways are perfect and above ours as Isaiah 55:8-9 says,

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

The lack of affirmation or belief in the truth and inherency of Scripture is part of the reason for misunderstanding and confusion on the ways of God and the existence of evil in this fallen world. No matter the circumstances God is still perfect and His ways are good, true, and above ours. Scripture says it!

God sets the standard for good.

Some Christian views would state that you cannot understand evil without first understanding good. You cannot have a gauge for evil unless you first have a standard for good. Therefore you need to understand that there is need for a standard for good, which is God. Former atheist C.S. Lewis wrote in his book “Mere Christianity” that,

My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of ‘just’ and ‘unjust’?…What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?…Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too–for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancies… consequently atheism turns out to be too simple.

So, we need to understand that angels and man were first created perfect, in the image of God- without evil. Genesis 1:27 provides evidence for this statement when it says,

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

The Bible records for us that pride became the reason for Lucifer’s downfall. His only reason for rebelling was that he wanted to be like God. Isaiah 14:12-14 shows us this when it says,

How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’

The Bible also says that he dragged a large portion of the angelic army with him, and is responsible for corrupting Man. Sin entered man in the Garden when Adam and Eve disobeyed the Lord at the enticing of Satan disguised as a serpent. We know this as the fall and it is described in Genesis 3.

Verses 22-24 of Genesis 3 describe the reaction of the Lord to man’s disobedience and sin. Those verses say,

Then the Lord God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever’— therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

Any disobedience to God is sin, therefore on that day Adam ate of the fruit, God put him out of the Garden, because he cannot dwell in sin. Or rather sin cannot dwell with God, because not only is God perfect… but He sets the standard for perfection!

So… where does evil originate? Where does it come from?

Scripture clearly portrays for is that evil exists because man is fallen. We are naturally and unavoidably born into sin with evil desires in our hearts from the disobedience of Adam and the deceit and treachery of Satan. I personally find C. H. Spurgeon’s Sermon #1387 entitled “God’s Thoughts and Ways Far Above Ours” very helpful when detailing man’s fallenness in light of God’s perfectness and grace, hear the words of the great pastor and theologian:

God’s ways are ways of love and tenderness. He is very loving and full of compassion. But our ways are not so—we are often very harsh to one another and we do not return a filial love to God. I mean not unless His Grace meets with us. And even then we fall far short of walking in the love of God as He walks in love toward us. God’s ways are ways of truth—He never lies, He has never been unfaithful to us or untrue to His promises. But we, on the other hand, have proved false to Him many times. “You have dealt very treacherously,” said the Prophet of old, and the charge lies against us to this day. We have been traitors to God, but He has been fidelity, itself, to us!

Our good resolves have dissolved in air. Our promises have been broken. Our vows have all been forgotten. God is all truth and faithfulness to us and we are all mistrust and doubt and treachery towards Him! Were it not for His Divine Grace we would have even fallen into apostasy—and been like the son of perdition who betrayed his Lord! God’s ways are ways of forgiveness and peace. He does not desire the death of the sinner. He is very patient, He suffers long, He bears continually with our provocations. He is desirous that men should acquaint themselves with Him and be at peace. His ways are ways of reconciliation, ways of forgiveness, ways of love and kindness! But you can see, can’t you, that the ways of the natural man are perverse? By nature we do not desire to be at amity with God.

  • What are the purposes of Evil?

From the onset that subtitle may make many of you uncomfortable. You may be saying, “You mean to tell me that evil serves a purpose!” To that I would say… yes.

For me I believe, and think Scriptures provide evidence, that God uses evil, suffering, and pain for several purposes. God is all powerful and easily could have made a world with no evil in it. However, that would have made God out to be a puppet-master controlling a world full of puppets. If we believe that God is sovereign and that everything works to His will including salvation then evil and sin may exist in order to glorify Christ and to lead us into consciously accepting His will, purpose, and salvation. When the world fell in Genesis at the hands of Satan, Adam, and Eve we know that everything changed, for all creation yearns and groans for it’s Creator.

Without the existence of evil in this fallen world it would be impossible for people to love God or anyone else. Everything points to Christ and works to honor, glorify, and magnify His name and work. Norman Geisler says in his article “If God Exists, Why Is There Evil?” that,

Love is possible only for free moral creatures; forced love is a contradiction. So, in order for the world to be morally good, it must be morally free. And free creatures are capable of free choices that bring disease, disaster and death. This is the world in which we live.

Man was created “free.” We are all free moral agents governed by our wills. God can however us our wills for His purposes, but God did not create any evil. We must each bear responsibility for what we ourselves do. God is not responsible for our “evils,” however God has already paid the price by sending His son Jesus to die on the cross as payment in full. The final sacrifice. The Holy Lamb slain on our behalf. Ultimately God can use our evil for His glory, and isn’t that what this life is all about?

It may seem radical to say that evil can bring God glory, but that is exactly it… we don’t have to understand the ways or purposes of Christ. An even more Biblical but radical truth is that God is more interested in our holiness than in our happiness, and He is more interested in our character than in our earthly comfort. His ways are above ours and mysterious to man, but perfect nonetheless. In “The Problem of Pain,” C.S. Lewis writes,

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

We know that God is not the author of evil. Genesis speaks to this in 1:31 when it says that on the final day of creation, God declared, “It is very good” and it was very good. It was at the work of Satan, and the rebellion of Adam and Eve against God in disobedience that introduced evil and sin. At that moment Adam and Eve died spiritually and God had to act accordingly; Ephesians 2:1-10 says:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

From reading Scripture I would say that sin, pain, evil, suffering, and death exist because of man for God’s glory in the work of salvation for us. Romans 5:12 says,

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.

Solomon knew of the fallen condition of man when he said in Ecclesiastes 7:29,

See, this alone I found, that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes.

When we comprehend God’s sacrifice and love for us, it puts the problem of evil in an entirely different perspective. We see clearly that the true problem of evil is the problem of our evil… our nature… our problem. Evil is not a problem with God… but rather it is a problem with man.

Filled with sin and guilt before God, the question we face is not how God can justify himself to us for the existence of evil, but how we can be justified before him in spite of our evil. And it is through Christ’s payment for our evil by his death on the cross that we can be justified before God. Through him we have forgiveness. It is quite possible that God uses the suffering to do good.

God is in control in spite of evil. He promises that he causes all things to work together for good to those who love God in Romans 8:28. We shouldn’t fret over evil or the things we don’t know or comprehend. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 proclaims,

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Controversial religious writer James Hervey wrote,

God is good when He gives supremely good, nor less when He denies. Even crosses from His gracious hands are blessings in disguise.

The Bible says in Romans 5:3-4 that,

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.

We see laced throughout nature, history, and Scripture that both God and evil exist. God is everything we have described Him to be. Evil exists now… but not forever. Suffering is the result of human sin. The current world is not in the state that God created it; and because of that, all are vulnerable to the effects of sin in the world. Why does one person suffer and another does not? Why do catastrophes happen to some and not to others? It is because sin is in the world. But there will come a day when the Lord will return and cleanse this world of all sin and all suffering.

Ultimately, God promises victory over sin, suffering, death, and evil. Those who genuinely choose to accept and receive his forgiveness will rise from the dead with a transformed, immortal, imperishable body to be with him forever. Revelation 21:4 says,

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

Evil exists because of man for God’s glory. Evil is momentary and restricted to this life and this world. God is all powerful and good and desires to rid his followers from evil and will when it is time according to His plan.

So… God is not anything less than what Scripture makes Him out to be because of the problem of evil, rather God himself is the solution to that evil. All things are meant to bring Him the ultimate glory!

Do NOT Compromise on the Truth

We live in an age of compromise.

The world has somehow slipped in and changed our definition of truth and our distinction between wrong and right. Suddenly wrong is now right and right is now wrong and wildly unaccepted and politically charged/ incorrect.

Think about it… politicians will do or say anything to secure votes and rise to power.

I’ll say it again. We live in an age of compromise.

The distinction between the sexes is broken down. The importance of authority at all levels is broken down. The sanctity of marriage is broken down. I could keep on going but I will digress.

In this day and age and mangled culture one question has become harder and harder to answer: What is Truth?

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines truth as:

  1. the quality or state of being true
  2. a true or accepted statement
  3. the body of real events or facts
  4. agreement with fact or reality

What is true to us as Christians and what does that truth mean to us?

For us as Christians it is of absolute importance, especially in our current cultured state, that we know the truth of what we believe. The truth provides for us answers and insight as to how we can better live for and serve Christ daily. So… where do we learn about this truth?

  1. The first and most important is the Bible. In order to learn the truth behind what you believe you have to read the only perfect and truthful book. The Word of God.
  2. From prayer and the seeking of God.
  3. From Christian leaders and mentors who believe in the errorless Word of God and who love it with all of their hearts.

After we have begun learning and memorizing this truth what can it do for us? Let’s think together below.

  • The Truth can set us Free.

In John 8 Jesus is teaching and preaching on the Mount of Olives and in the temple for the people as well as the Scribes and Pharisees.

John 8:31-36 says,

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

Jesus thought that truth was very important. He said we must know the truth, because it can make us free.

Free from what?

These verses show us that He was talking about freedom from sin. Being a slave to sin is the ultimate bondage, and the freedom that Jesus offers is a spiritual freedom from the bondage of sin.

Verse 35 is interesting where Jesus continues with an analogy,

The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.

The people Jesus was addressing would have understood Jesus to mean that they were not members of God’s family as long as they were slaves to sin. Only Believers would be freed from their bondage and brought into the family of God.

In fact, Jesus establishes this in John 14:6 where He says,

I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

So knowing Jesus is knowing the truth… and we know that knowing the truth will set one free from sin, free from condemnation, and free from death. Romans 6:22 says,

But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.

But if truth is necessary to free us from sin, then how can we please and serve God if we believe error instead of truth?

  • The Truth is what we build upon.

Where else in the Bible do we see “truth” spoken of and applied to us as believers?

Ephesians 6:10-18 says,

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put          on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.

The KJV puts Ephesians 6:14 this way,

Stand therefore, having your loins girded about with truth, and having on the                      breastplate of righteousness.

It says to have “your loins girded about with truth.” We see a word there that we may not hear everyday. Girded.

Merriam- Webster defines the word gird or girded in this way:

  1. to encircle or bind with a flexible band (as a belt)
  2. to make fast (as a sword by a belt or clothing with a cord)
  3. to surround
  4.  to provide, equip
  5. to prepare (oneself) for action

Back in the times of Jesus, Roman soldiers would “gird” their waists with a belt. This belt served many purposes. Their uniforms would include a helmet, shield, sword, short sword/ dagger, a breastplate, what we would consider a dress or skirt in today’s times, and a pair of boots. A soldier going into battle/ long march, or at alert position would take the bottom of their skirt and tuck it into their waistline and belt. If their waist was not girded with a belt a soldier was vulnerable because they couldn’t move as fast and their feet would become entangled in the bottom of their skirt.

The belt that “girded” the soldiers waist was what held the rest of the system together. Without it the soldier would be lucky to move and fight efficiently. This idea is similar to a police officer or soldier on today’s times. They have tons of gear and quite a bit of weight to pack around. If anybody reading this has ever carried just a holster and a gun before they will understand the importance of a good rigid belt to support the system.

The belt is their foundation. The truth is our belt. The truth is our foundation.

  • The Truth can help us to Fight.

Ephesians 6:10-17 says,

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

The belt we use to “gird ourselves” that we spoke of above was not only was used to tuck in the lower portion of a soldiers uniform, but it was also used to hold the sword at a ready draw position and to hold the shield during times when it wasn’t needed. So if a soldier was to lose their belt it would make the use of the sword (of the spirit) and shield (of faith) harder as well. So if we lose truth other parts of our walk with Christ become harder, and we become more and more vulnerable to the ways of the world and to the attacks of the devil.

In Matthew 7:15 Jesus warns against these attacks and the perversion of truth by saying,

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

Colossians 2:8 says,

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

No one wants to learn that they have been misled by a false teacher, but Jesus warned us to be weary of this very thing. Why would He warn us if there were no danger? 1 John 4:1 says we should examine religious teachings closely because “many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

1 John 4:1 says,

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

This basically telling us as Christians to not be quick to accept everything we hear without looking into the subject ourselves. This is why knowledge and memorization of the Word is key. We MUST know the TRUTH.

If you don’t know the Word how are you supposed to know if someone is being truthful or simply misleading you?

Often today one teacher will teach one thing and then another will teach just the opposite. How can both be right? How can we know which is telling the truth and which is speaking error? God gave us the Bible exactly for this reason. Like the people of Berea being taught by Paul we should follow teaching with examination of the scripture to see if the things you are being taught are true. Acts 17:11 says that the people of Berea being taught by the apostle Paul and Silas searched the scriptures daily to learn if we are being taught the truth.

Acts 17:11 says,

Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.

Remain alert and hold onto the truth of God. Keep your waist “girded” with truth in order to remove your vulnerabilities from the devil, and be bold in sharing the truth with others so that they may not be vulnerable to the ways of the devil.

To please God, we must know and hold onto the truth, and that truth is found in God’s word.

2 Timothy 3:16 says,

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.

Can Our Music be Evangelistic?

I was reading an article recently that was attacking the idea that our music in church can be evangelistic in nature pretty harshly. On that article I found a comment that I enjoyed from an ECLA pastor. It read,

Jesus made it very clear in the great commission what the church is to be about. Go everywhere and make disciples, baptize and teach. Throughout his ministry Jesus was constantly battling with any religious custom or “tradition” that kept people away from God. He physically touched the ritually impure, broke the sacred Sabbath laws, threw over the Temple sanctioned system of money changing, ate with sinners and tax collectors, just to name a few. The church always exists first for those who haven’t found it yet. When the church loses this mission focus it risks becoming what our bishop has called “a country club with a religious flavor”.

The bishop also recently shared some troubling statistics about youth and young adults in the Lutheran Church (which is presumably similar to other mainline denominations). “If we are satisfied with losing 92% of our youth, then let’s not change anything,” the bishop told the synod council. Citing research that found that 84% of Lutherans between confirmation and age 24 do not attend church, and that half of the rest attend non-Lutheran churches, the bishop told the council, “the absence of young people between the ages of 18 and 35 is the single largest challenge facing the Lutheran church in this region.”

Hundreds and hundreds of mainline churches close in the U.S. every year. Many of them are right in the heart of growing communities. Most of the long established congregations in our fast growing county are in decline. Who will be the church leaders twenty and thirty years from now? What are we willing to compromise in order to attract unchurched people so they can experience the church’s relevance in their lives?

What a great response! The line that rattled me to my core was: The church always exists first for those who haven’t found it yet. Have we lost sight of that? I know there are times that I have. Sometimes we approach church with our expectations, our preference, our baggage, our wants, our needs, and our desires… and we forget our purpose.

We know that we live in a culture of change and with shifting ideas and relevance. We also know that music has always been at the center of such shifts, and often brought controversy within the church. It seems as if there is nothing that rallies a congregation to grab their pitchforks and torches like a change in the music they are accustomed to. This goes for both young and old generations! In fact, every generation tends to dislike the music of the next generation and the generation before them.

We have all heard it said, “The music we play in church ultimately isn’t for us.” In fact, our worship isn’t limited to a genre or style at all!

So, if we acknowledge that to be true then why are we holding so dearly onto our preferences at the expense of missing an opportunity for evangelism, kingdom-building, and multi-generational “churching?”

Ed Stetzer has said,

In our generation, formality and traditionalism is shifting out of general church practice. According to research from a few years ago, churches were moving to contemporary (verses traditional) at an 11-1 ratio.

I personally don’t find this shocking at all. With the rise of multi-site churches and mega-churches it seems as if many other churches have followed the trend of cultural relevance that seems to be getting unchurched people through the doors of churches that never would have entered previous to the musical and stylistic changes. I would bet that we will continue to see that trend grow and that eventually most churches are going to make the transition to feel more contemporary rather than traditional.

Along those lines our Pastor has used the example of a minister standing before his congregation and asking the simple question, “How many of you would do anything to get your child in church and keep them there as they age?” Every hand in the church shot up without hesitation. Then the minister turns the question around and asks, “then why do we hold our musical preferences so dear at the expense of them walking out the door?”

I believe that the contemporary church has done a great job of recognizing shifts and patterns in culture. They have stylistically engaged culture in relatable forms. They have reconnected with those disconnected from the “traditional” church culture. With this change unbelievers aren’t required to navigate or appreciate an unfamiliar musical style before they grasp the words that they are singing. Think about it! We have all experienced a moment where we are so taken back by trying to understand the melodies and presentation of a song that we have missed the content entirely. That is exactly what we don’t want to happen for a first time church visitor! We want them to catch the words and be comfortable with the presentation in hopes of moving any distractions away from them hearing the Gospel proclaimed.

Many would argue for a lack of theological depth in contemporary music in comparison to other styles or presentations. I for one don’t believe modern worship (necessarily) “dumbs down” the music, but makes it makes it more accessible to those unfamiliar with church, church music, and maybe with God. Many people that are new to church are only used to what they have heard in the secular world. Beginning to walk in faith is hard enough without having to learn a new style of music in order to worship God. As long as the theology is rich and the words are pointed directly at Christ then I don’t see an issue with us teaching them in a way they can understand.

Now, having said all of that many would believe that I am just trying to usher in a contemporary style and point fingers at those who have yet to move in that direction. That isn’t it at all! All of this being said is “context” and “culture” sensitive. My hope is that we aren’t changing just for the sake of change… but instead we are changing because of the needs of our people and the particular context we are currently in. A 5-piece rock band may not fit a rural congregation but a banjo or organ may! Hymns may work for a primarily older (in age) church, whereas they may not engage a college town congregation. Ultimately, styles matter less than worship and depth.

The writer of the original post stated,

Getting butts in the seats is not evangelism. It’s not discipleship.

I actually agree with that statement… but it is certainly a start! A song or style alone can’t be it. So, can our church music be evangelistic?

You’ll have to answer that for yourself. I am going to approach it from my context and say yes. The greatest tool for evangelism is not a song. It is a broken person in need of a Savior recognizing their need for Christ through an avenue that we as a church provide to them through the guidance of the Spirit. But… an avenue for that recognition can certainly be in lyrical content. Content that an individual doesn’t need a deep and extensive theological background to decipher.

So… what is your context? In that realization you may find your answer.

Where’s the Map?

What is the plan for our ministry? Where are we going… and how are we getting there

Have you asked yourself these questions? I hope so!

Mark Dever once wrote,

It would be patently stupid to start construction on a building without first knowing what kind of building we plan to construct. An apartment complex is different from an office complex, which is different still from a restaurant. They all have different blueprints, different kinds of rooms, different materials, uses, and shapes… The same goes for building a church… It only makes sense, then, for us to revisit God’s Word to figure out what exactly He wants us to be building. Only then will we understand how to go about building it.

Today we are talking about three things that are absolutely necessary in any ministry, a theology, philosophy, and methodology of ministry. Obviously my direct application is in congregational worship… but it applies directly across the board for whatever ministry you are involved in. Having a theology, philosophy, and methodology for a ministry has been compared by some to having blueprints for the construction of a building, just as it would be a disaster to work on a building without a carefully thought out plan, it would be disastrous to a ministry to not have a philosophy of ministry.

A church’s theology explains what the church believes, a church’s philosophy explains the practical ramifications and outworking of those beliefs, and their methodology provides the roadmap for how the church is going to get there. Invariably, these things will inform and affect each other in this sense, a church’s philosophy of ministry is also her theology of ministry. What the church believes will ultimately determine how its ministry is carried out.

Now… we have to be careful and thoughtful when putting these things down on paper! Unfortunately the tendency is for us to make up our own philosophy of ministry, based on our own concept of what the church is supposed to do and what the church is supposed to be. The truth is, however, that God has clearly laid out for us in Scripture what the ministry of the church is!

The weight has been lifted off our shoulders!

We don’t have to decide why the church exists or what it’s purpose is… in the same way, we don’t have to determine what it is supposed to do. The mission is clear and laid out for us already! God has already established these things because the church is His institution on earth and not ours! We are just the custodians or caretakers. It is our responsibility, however, to determine how to most effectively and appropriately achieve our biblical mandate in our local context.

So… you may be saying, “Everything here is going fine. Why do I need to do these extra steps?” To that I want to offer you these practical benefits that flow from defining a biblical theology, philosophy, and methodology of ministry.

  • First, it forces you to be B Sometimes we treat our preferences in ministry as if they are Biblical and they just aren’t. Having a guide on paper helps us to cut through the fallen human aspect of ministry and keep our eyes on “the prize.”
  • Second, it just makes practical sense. You wouldn’t construct a building without a plan the same way that an army wouldn’t head off into battle without a strategy! Having a theology, philosophy, and methodology laid out helps us set actual goals that are consistent with our biblical
  • Third, it heightens our effectiveness, and improves our efficiency by preventing us from spending time on activities or beginning ministry efforts that are not part of the biblical mandate for the church. If we don’t have a road map we won’t know where we are going, and, consequently, we probably won’t get there.
  • Fourth, it helps us to be faithful to our call to ministry. Remember that call? Having a theology, philosophy, and methodology before us helps us to cut through the fog that comes with everyday ministry and pursue that particular call that the Lord put on our hearts at the beginning.
  • Fifth, and definitely not last, it motivates the church or ministry because they collectively know and are able to clearly see the direction in which they are heading. Nothing can be more frustrating for members than following a leader or leadership blindly.

So… we have talked about the benefits. Now, let’s lay out the plan. Below I have supplied an example by providing my theology, philosophy, and methodology for worship at the church in which I serve, New Hope Community Church. Take a look, copy and paste, and modify to fit your needs in ministry.

  • Theology

Theology of worship is simplistic in one nature but very involved and complex in another. The center of all Christian worship is Jesus Christ. It is Jesus Christ who fulfilled the Law and the Prophets, establishing a New Covenant with the Father through His death, burial, resurrection and ascension. It is because of the redeeming work of Jesus that we worship. Therefore our worship is to be formed by our relationship with God the Father through God the Son, as led by God the Holy Spirit. We are merely responding to His revealing. Our worship is an outpouring of our gratefulness to God our creator for the grace he has lavished upon us.

  • Philosophy/ Vision

My philosophy of worship is one that places values on things that exemplify Christ and His nature. If we are attempting to honor and glorify Christ in all that we do, including our public and congregational worship, then our worship needs to place the focus on none other than the Biblical attributes, characteristics, and principles of Christ. God-centeredness is of upmost importance and is the primary reasoning for all items listed and discussed below. Our services must be both vertical and horizontally oriented, and our worship should be both glorifying and edifying. We must draw near to Christ in our worship and in return He will draw near to us (James 4:8).

My philosophy of worship contains many values, the first being that our worship communicates the supremacy of God. Which in turn causes all worship to be shaped by and focused on God and encourages an expectancy and eagerness to encounter and engage with God in worship.

We should strive to provide and partake in worship that values and encompasses the Word of God, causing our worship to be reflective of the Word and reinforce Biblical teachings. Worship that places value in Biblical teaching through both proclamation and song will encourage believers to interact with Scripture and to make connections while applying it to their own lives and personal worship. I believe that often we overlook the foundational impact that our music plays in the lives of our congregations. We are forming their beliefs about God and the Gospel on a weekly basis through what we sing. The things we proclaim through song are taken out of the church within the hearts and minds of the people every week.

Worship should value both traditional and modern worship styles. If we approach our worship in this manner it will in turn cause us to continually “seek out” a “new song” to sing unto the Lord (Psalm 96:1). The equal value placed in both traditional and modern worship keeps us from becoming complacent in our worship and/or all consumed with being the most cutting-edge in our worship.

My philosophy of worship also values heart, mind, and spirit. Worship should not be purely emotional in the same way that it should not be over thought or criticized. We should place importance in both heart and head in our worship. The head should inform the heart and inspire the mouth. Our worship should cause us to think, evaluate, contemplate the things and ways of God, but we cannot disconnect that aspect from our emotions and heart. We should also put emphasis on expressing ourselves and our emotions for Christ. A husband who speaks love to his wife and doesn’t show it would cause her to wonder, the same goes for us in our worship to Christ. This mindset causes us to approach worship in an open non-judgmental state and with an openness to worship however we feel led, although this isn’t meant to provide an open excuse for chaos or distraction. We are given Biblical instruction and example of worship, we are to seek to build up and unify the body of Christ not distract or tear down.

Our worship should value authenticity and inclusion. If we value both authenticity and inclusion then it should cause us to lay our own desires and preferences down at the foot of the cross and to lift up Christ alone. This also should encourage congregational singing in a “unifying” and “body-building” way. We aren’t worshipping merely for ourselves… we are worshipping for the edification of our Brothers and Sisters in Christ also.

Our worship isn’t limited to proclamation or song. Our worship should also value other artistic elements within it, whether it is sound, staging, lights, projection, drawn or written art, etc. We will strive to use our strengths to glorify while keeping the distraction of our weaknesses minimal. We will pursue un-distracting excellence in our worship and never go beyond our means or range of gifts or blessings. This should cause us to be diligent in honing our individual crafts, and well-rehearsed but open to the Spirit.

Lastly, our worship should value the work of the Spirit. We will plan and rehearse our services and programs prayerfully and with diligence but maintain openness for the Spirit to move, change, and lead. We must worship in a way that values Christ and the work of the Spirit more than our schedule.

  • Methodology

My methodology is one that was formed because of my theology and philosophy of worship. I believe that our reasoning for worshipping Christ is constant but many times the method can change freely. I believe that my method primarily includes, but is not limited to, the following discussed ideas:

I believe that we should be prayerfully planning and rehearsing our services. The Spirit isn’t limited to moving and leading only within a service, the Spirit can just as easily lead in the planning of a service or program. We must be prepared and rehearsed to the point where we can lead with excellence and without distraction. It also helps the musicians/ band/ choir to worship more freely in the service if they prepare adequately beforehand. Preparation isn’t limited to planning and practicing, but we should be prepared to worship spiritually ourselves. Every service should be approached with expectancy to see Christ move amongst our congregations. We should prepare spiritually before all.

I believe that an important aspect of our method of worship has to be creativity. As born-again-believers we should be even more creative than the secular world because we serve and know the ultimate mighty Creator. Replication of things that work or that are popular isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but we shouldn’t always resort to that. We should use our creativity to honor and glorify Christ the Creator.

Our worship should also provide opportunity to engage the congregation. We should provide the opportunities in our worship for people to dwell in the Spirit of the Lord and in order to do that effectively we must provide sing-able songs (in keys that are applicable to a wide variety of people) and we should attempt to remove and discourage distractions amongst our churches. We should teach biblical ways to worship and provide the opportunity to utilize those in our services.

We should be appreciative and balanced in our worship. Just because something is “old” doesn’t mean it is “out-dated” and just because something is “new” doesn’t mean that it is “groundbreaking” or superior. We should strive for quality of content overall and as far as sound or preference goes it’ll come along for itself. We must be plugged into the heart of our church and provide worship that is beneficial to the congregations needs instead of always going with our own preference.

In all things that we do we should approach with excellence. We serve a great God and He deserves great worship. In some cases that doesn’t mean sounding like a professional band, in some cases it does. We are to serve and worship with what God provides for us. We should be authentic, transparent, and excellent worshippers. Our striving from excellence shouldn’t distract from the purpose of excellence, but hopefully a balance can be found there as well.

In the end I believe that worship theology, philosophy, and methodologies should work together with the primary goal of providing excellent worship to God. Scripture provides examples, reasons, and instruction for worship but in the end it has to be personal and consistent. We serve a God who is faithful to us even when we aren’t always faithful to Him, that alone is worthy of more than we can give.