Friday, October 19, 2007

Strauch on Why You Should Hug In Church

I have argued for several years now that a time of greeting ought to be regularly included in the corporate worship services of God's people. This seems to bug a lot of folks, especially those who like to show up 2 minutes after a service begins and leave during a closing song! Others feel it is a disruption to their own focus on the Lord. But I would argue that this is a much too self-centered approach to worship.

Consider, for example, the one reason the New Testament gives us to sing in our corporate worship - "teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom." Singing is to be to one another in our church gatherings... it is not for your pleasure alone.

In like fashion, we need to participate in all aspects of corporate worship... corporately. Think of all the times Paul sent greetings to local churches. Have you ever noticed how many times he told them to "greet one another?" This is a Biblical command for Christians.

I do think there is cultural latitude on the application of the command. My father-in-law used to be a part of a denomination that took this Scripture quite literally and every service began with some smooching. Men kissed the men, and women kissed the women - and never the twain did meet! (Yes, on the lips... think of it in European ways and it is not so threatening... maybe...). Anyway, we don't kiss at Grace, but we often include a time in our worship of God to greet each other - and we try to teach our folks that this is more than "make the visitors feel welcome!" It is another aspect of our worship of God who exists in Trinitarian relationship.

Now, all of this is to introduce this quote from Alexander Strauch's new book "Leading With Love." I have been slowly making my way through this excellent work and trying to work on some weak and sinful areas of my life. But I loved this little section on the physical expressions of love in a church. So I have reproduced it to bless you!

Showing Physical Signs of Affection

One physical expression of Christian love is the “kiss of love,” and it is “one of the beautiful customs of the early Christians.” Peter urged his readers to “Greet one another with the kiss of love” (1 Peter 5:14), which is a practical outworking of his earlier instructions to love one another fervently as brothers and sisters:

Love one another earnestly from a pure heart (1 Peter 1:22)

Love the brotherhood (1 Peter 2:17)

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly (1 Peter 4:8)

This “kiss of love,” which Paul also refers to as a “holy kiss,” is an outward, physical sign of “mutuality ... oneness of status and identity which all Christians share across divisions of race, class, and gender.” But it is a “holy” kiss, not a sensual kiss. It is to be expressed with respect and in all purity.

Whether we apply the “kiss of love” with an actual kiss, hug, or hearty handshake, we are commanded to greet brothers and sisters affectionately. Our greetings to one another should visibly express the reality of our family oneness and love. So let us not be impersonal, standoffish, or cold. Let us not take one another for granted. People need physical expressions of love as well as words of love. This physical expression of love is one concrete, practical way we live out the New Testament command to love “one another earnestly” (1 Peter 4:8).

John Stott, a naturally reserved and proper Englishman, has learned from his extensive world travels, especially to Latin America and Africa, to enjoy the affectionate physical embrace of fellow believers. In closing a letter to a friend, he quips: I “send you a greeting and a hug (I’m now a life-member of the Institute of Hug Therapy!).”

Paul too was a member of the “Institute of Hug Therapy.” At the end of Paul’s farewell message to the Ephesian elders, Luke records: “And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him” (Acts 20:37).

The children in our churches need to feel expressions of love too. Our Lord Jesus welcomed children. They were a joy to him. He was not too busy to pay attention to them. He touched, prayed for, and blessed them (Matt. 19:13-15). Mothers and children felt comfortable coming to Jesus because his nature was welcoming and affectionate. Let us also be protec¬tive of and loving toward children.

The local church is “the household of God” (1 Tim. 3:15) and should be filled with loving words and demonstrations of familial affection. Sadly, the atmosphere in some churches is more like a funeral home than a loving family home. There is little affection and warmth.

Legitimate emotional feelings are suffocated. People hardly know one another. They keep their distance, and the only display of affection is a speedy handshake before exiting the church doors. Such behavior is not authentic Christian brotherhood and sisterhood. It does not represent people who are faithful to the “new commandment.”

How to Get Started

To create a more loving atmosphere in your local church or in a group you lead, start by regularly praying for growth in love. Use these Scriptures as a guide in your prayers:

  • And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more. (Phil. 1:9)
  • And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all. (1 Thess. 3:12)
  • [I pray] that you ... may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. (Eph. 3:18-19)

Even if your church or group is a loving body, you always can excel still “more and more” in love (1 Thess. 4:10,). Teach what the Bible says about love. How often do people hear a careful exposition of 1 Corinthians 13, Ephesians 3:14-19 and 4:1-16, or 1 John 4:7-21? Most church-goers do not know the biblical demands of love and need in-depth teaching on this subject. Challenge the people you lead to grow in love.

An atmosphere of love doesn’t come by teaching alone. Church leaders need to model love. There are teachers, musicians, and others in the church who have voluntarily served for years. They need to know that their faithfulness to God and the congregation is appreciated. Express your gratitude to them and encourage others to do the same. There are people who clean, repair, and maintain the church building; don’t let them go unnoticed. They should be thanked verbally or with a gift or card. Don’t take anyone for granted. God doesn’t!

Don’t allow your church to be a place where members of the body of Christ have only superficial interaction, or worse, where they come and go without even speaking to one another. Again, it is your responsibility to lead by example. The church is not a business corporation, military institution, or government agency. It is the “household of God,” so act accordingly. Reach out to others in love. Greet them with a “kiss of love,” an affectionate hug, or a “holy handshake.” Make it a point to remember people’s names.

The church is to be a close-knit family of brothers and sisters who express Christ’s love to one another. It is to be a life-transforming community where people grow and become more like their loving Lord. Your church can become a more loving community and experience greater unity as you teach and lead with love.

From: A Christian Leader's Guide to Leading With Love by Alexander Strauch. (Lewis and Roth, 2006). Another critical work for pastors is Strauch's Biblical Eldership - I highly commend it to you!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Pray For These Boys, Too!

One of the real joys in my ministry is teaching pastoral theology courses at Toronto Baptist Seminary. Every semester I like to post a picture of my class and ask you to pick one of these men for whom you will pray. Most of these fellows are still in preparation for pastoral work, and a couple are already in the middle of it.
I thank the Lord for these men. They are a great group of guys and the Lord has been with us so far. Pray that He uses every class to bring glory to His Name and to shape all of us more into His likeness.
Spain, Hong Kong, the Bahamas, China and Canada are all here in our little class... remarkable when one considers what the Lord might do!

Posted by Picasa

I think my tie was too short that day.

It's an early morning, man!!

Michael Haykin says, "Sweet," "Awesome," and "Jars of Clay" All in One Post


MAGH is always full of surprises!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Westminster Bookstore Has a New Look!

Westminster Bookstore

Great to see that our friends at WTS Bookstore have a smart new website up and running! Be sure to head over and take a peak.

Military Missional Work Available!

Pastor Perry Edwards is a friend of mine leading a church beside the enormous Canadian military base in Oromocto, New Brunswick. CFB Gagetown is the second largest military base in Canada and one of the largest in the world. Almost every Canadian soldier does time at “Gag Town.” Sovereign Grace Baptist Church is about 3 minutes away from the front gate.

When I visited there this past winter, I got cold. But I also got a feel for the unique ministry opportunity facing Perry and the good folks at SGBC. The longest most military families stay at Gagetown is 3 years. Then comes a transfer to another base or a tour of duty. That means that any families or individuals that join the church will not be there for long.

Perhaps that is why not many churches have made inroads into the base. I was delighted to see that was not the case with SGBC. Oromocto itself only boasts about 8400 people, so you can imagine there are not many mega-churches with that small population base. But the 70 people of SGBC are faithful givers and have a desire to evangelize as many soldiers as they can for the short time they reside on the base. And they know this will not result in swelling numbers at their assemblies over the long haul. In other words, this is true, servant-hearted, self-sacrificing mission.

The church has approved a new budget to hire a part-time “military evangelist” – a man who will be a member of SGBC but spend 10 hours per week or so developing relationships with military personnel in order to preach Christ and Him crucified. If you know of a man who might fit this assignment, then feel free to email me and I will put you in touch with Perry.

May the Gospel of Christ go forward with power from Gagetown! What a wonderful testimony for SGBC, if at the end of many years there were a whole host of soldiers living all over the world who could point to them as the means of their salvation!

Australian man survives nine-storey fall in his underwear

Australian man survives nine-storey fall in his underwear:

"PERTH, Australia - A 35-year-old man wearing only his underpants survived a 30-metre fall from his ninth-floor apartment after trying to walk to a neighbour's balcony while balancing on a plank, police said Tuesday. A garden gazebo broke the man's fall, and he was taken to a hospital in serious condition. Ros Weatherall, a spokeswoman for Western Australia state police, said rescue workers found the man, who was not immediately identified, wearing only his underpants. 'He was skylarking around, building planks across to his neighbour's place, when it happened,' she said. 'He was very lucky.'"

There are many things I would like to say about this.

1. Who puts planks between balconies and walks across them for fun?

2. Who puts planks between balconies and walks across them for fun in their underwear?

3. Who actually thinks the man who "broke his fall" by hitting a gazebo before the ground and is in critical condition... was LUCKY!?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Football in Bremen!

This past week I loaded up the van with my family and took the 9 hour drive to Bremen, Indiana to watch some High School football. Call me crazy.

Two of my nephews start for the team – one is quarterback and the other a wide receiver. Proud uncles can’t resist a combination like that!

Bremen has a proud football tradition. I was there in Indianapolis when they won the state championship... not a bad feat for a little town with a total high school population of some 400 or so (including the girls!).

The boys were picked to lose this game against the rival John Glenn team from Walkerton, but I never believed it. The day began with nephew Matt announcing to the school via morning announcement video feed that “the relatives from Canada are here to see the game... so let’s win one for Canada!” That got him 5 bucks.

Later that night, we walked to the stadium with hats and gloves and grabbed our spots high up on the bleachers on the 50 yard line. Some Miller kid ran the opening kick off back for a touchdown – which is always a pleasant way to start a game. The kick was good and it was 7-0 Lions with barely a minute (17 seconds to be extremely precise) off the clock. Bremen kept the lead throughout, although Glenn was threatening in the fourth quarter when nephew Matt perfectly timed a clutch tackle that popped the ball out of the receiver’s hands making for a very incomplete pass!

Matt's Amazing Tackle

Nephew Chris was rock solid tossing the pigskin, although this was primarily a running game. I never saw the totals, but he must have rushed for about 40 yards himself... with some stunning dish offs ("the option" to purists). Enough to make his uncle cringe in fear! There he was, all wrapped up by some hulking Glenn defender and in the process of falling to the ground when – boink – he would toss the ball to a teammate for some extra yardage. He must have done that 723 times in the game! And it worked. Chris is the king of the little shovel pass in my books.

Chris with the Shovel Pass

After the victory, the whole team gathered before the stands and sang a sweaty rendition of the school song. Chris spotted me in the crowd and gave me the shout out. That got him 5 bucks.

My kids loved the game and while everyone was playing football, Mrs. Kerux was meeting up with all kinds of old friends from school days. (She saw most of the game, though!)

Best of all, I watched a couple boys I used to throw passes to in the backyard of Grandpa’s house acting like men. And not just on the field either. Both Chris and Matt have given good testimony to a work of God in their lives and these fellows live for Jesus. An uncle could not feel much prouder.

Chris taking off on another fantastic rush!

Matt lining up on defense... he plays both ways.

Still curious?


And Saturday morning we got up and drove 9 hours home so I could preach today. What a nice few days!

(Photo Credits: Aunt Karen)