Category Archives: reblog

Reflection on: Why We Are Going From Small Groups to Sunday School by Jim Davis

The points that Jim Davis presents are well worth considering. While I understand the intent of small groups and see them as historically sound, from Zinzendorf to Wesley, I believe that the points that Davis presents here are dead on where many churches have dropped the ball: Biblical knowledge, Developing of Teaching Gifts, Deeper Community, Cultural Engagement, and fulfilling the Role of the Chruch.

1) Biblical Knowledge – Do a quick search on Biblical Illiteracy and more than 71,000 results come up. The first three listed are “The Epidemic of Bible Illiteracy in Our Churches“, “The Scandal of Biblical Illiteracy: It’s Our Problem” and “The Crisis of Biblical Illiteracy.” It is recognized across the board that Biblical Illiteracy is a problem in the church today. Davis presents why the small group model is often not enough to counter this.

2) Developing of Teaching Gifts – Romans 12:6 – 8 tells us “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” While small groups have a reason for existing, they do not allow the opportunity for those with teaching gifts to truly exercise and develop them.

3) Deeper Community – As Davis states, this one seems counter intuitive. Most churches will tell you that one of the purposes of small groups is to develop community.  Yet while it can produce relationships within the group, there are two clear negatives that seem to arise. First is that these relationships need to be organic to truly grow, yet most small groups are artificial in their development, put together by the church leadership. Second, when these relationships do flourish, it is very easy to not become a community of the church, but little communities (or cliques) within the church.

4) Cultural Engagement – Here is the purpose of gathering on Sunday morning. Ephesians 4:11 – 13 tells us, “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Sunday morning is the time to “equip his people for works or service.” Here God’s people come together to learn, to fellowship, to be built up, so that they can, in turn, take Christ to the world. Yes, small groups can prepare members for this, but too often it is just a time to gather with their group of friends, thinking inward and not outward.

5) Fulfilling the Role of the Church – This is a natural follow-up to the previous point. The role of the church is to teach and build-up the body for service. It is not to entertain or to, as Davis puts it, play matchmaker. When the church fulfills its God given role, we may just find that what the small groups have tried to manufacture, God will grow organically.

Final Thoughts

Am I saying that this will solve everything? Am I giving a guarantee that what Davis has presented is indeed the answer to any challenges in the church? Of course not. No one can do this, and I certainly do not have all the answers. Yet I believe that we need to be open to honestly evaluate our current practices. Are we doing them because it has become what everyone else is doing? Is our current model truly accomplishing what we intend it to do?

Is there a place for small group? Yes. But are small groups the miracle answer that many have come to believe? No. Whether we choose to use small groups or not, I think Davis’ point of the importance of Sunday School can not be dismissed.

Grace Applied

This fall we are going to do something that will seem crazy to many. We are going from a small group model to a Sunday school model (under a different name). Most church growth material over the past 20 years would advise against this move. We are a young, growing contemporary church. Why would we make that change? Here are five reasons.*

To Grow in Biblical Knowledge

The average committed evangelical today goes to church twice a month. Many churches don’t have an evening service so that means two times a month people are being taught the Bible. Couldn’t they just open a book? Yes, but most don’t.

Small groups are rarely times of Bible teaching, but Sunday school is. Small group leaders prepare for about 10 minutes while Sunday school teachers study and prepare all week. Beginning Sept. 10th, we will replace discussion groups about the sermons (which tend…

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Why They Don’t Sing on Sunday Anymore

As you search the internet it is amazing how many articles you can find on this subject. What strikes me about them is that my experience confirms what they say. And while some may want to say that we are making an issue over contemporary vs traditional, I think they miss the point. The reasons that Thom Schultz gives in his article are clearly not a stylistic preference issue, but an issue of application and presentation. (Schultz does a fair job of further explaining this in his follow-up article listed at the end.) It is this application of the music that has driven people from their involvement, not the style of music. People want to be engaged in the worship and not simply observers, but to often the music is presented in such a way that it discourages people from joining in. Maybe it is time we re-evaluate how we are presenting the music portion of the worship service, and some times the rest of the service as well.

Holy Soup

Looking around the church last Sunday I noticed that the majority weren’t singing. And most of those who were singing barely moved their lips. The only voices I actually heard were those on stage with microphones.

That’s been the case for years now–in churches large and small. What used to be congregational singing has become congregational staring.

Even when the chipper “worship leader” in contemporary churches bounds on stage and predictably beckons everyone to “stand and worship,” the people compliantly obey the stand command, but then they turn into mute mannequins.

What’s behind this phenomenon? What happened to the bygone sounds of sanctuaries overflowing with fervent, harmonizing voices from the pews, singing out with a passion that could be heard down the street? I suspect it’s a number of unfortunate factors.

Spectator set-up. Increasingly, the church has constructed the worship service as a spectator event. Everyone expects the people on stage to…

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An article to consider – 5 Reasons to Keep the Organ in Worship

A well played organ is an incredible thing to hear. In college one of our professors had received his Doctorate in organ and was amazing. There are those who view it as an ancient instrument that is out of date, but these people do not realize what they are missing. In college we had mandatory chapel, but the minute it was over everyone scattered. Yet I remember one time when he began to play the organ for the postlude and almost no one moved.  They sat their and listened to the entire piece. The music filled the room in a way that no electric instrument could. And to sing a piece of music accompanied by an organ is beyond compare the blending of a human voice with the organ is unmatched. It is sad to realize how much people today do not understand its beauty. I remember one day standing at the back of the chapel, during some remodeling, speaking with a student.  The student expressed how he thought the organ should go as well because is was dated and no longer fit in. I was appalled at the thought.  Thankfully, wiser minds won out and the organ remains to this day. Yes organs have been sadly silenced in recent year, but there is still a place for them.  Some great point are made for keeping the organs in the blog:

5 Reasons to Keep the Organ in Worship.

Modernized hymns: Are you singing hymns, or just contemporary songs with old words?

My problem is not “contemporary worship.”  Yes, I have a preference for the traditional style, but my issue is not style but genuine worship. There are contemporary songs that I believe still maintain a strong sense of worship such as “In Christ Alone.

The argument for contemporized hymns is that they keep the substantive words but give it an updated sound that the people “like” and want to sing. But you see, the substance of worship as found in a song is not simply the words, but also in the music and how they blend and compliment each other to communicate the message.    Many of the old hymns, when you silently listen to them, you can not help but hear the words, for the music itself portrays the message.  Listen to the hymn, “Rock of Ages” for an idea of what I am talking about. The music needs to fit the words.

In the same way, simply adding a chorus to the middle of a hymn does at best little to aid the meaning and at worst causes it to become disjointed and confusing.  In the case of what people know today as “O The Wonderful Cross”, Chris Tomlin adds the chorus, “O the Wonderful Cross” to the middle of the hymn “When I survey.”  The problem is that the music completely changes it tone from solemnly reflective to joyous and feel good.  In addition, the words themselves become disjointed as the words “wondrous” and “wonderful” are two very different things, with very different meanings.  Now I have non question that the cross has become a wonderful thing to those who believe, but this is not the message of “When I Suvey” and takes away from that message.

Now, while I could continue, I would rather share with you the following blog post from “Ponder Anew”.  I think that Jonathan hits the nail right on the head.

Modernized hymns: Are you singing hymns, or just contemporary songs with old words?.

Dear Traditional Worshipers,

3603902954_f1747d7601_bDear Traditional Worshipers,

I know how you feel. . . I hear you. I’m am one of you. I get it. . . But here’s the deal. We’ve become part of the problem.

Read more at, “Ponder Anew.”


 

This is from a blog that I follow regularly.  I think Jonathan clearly lays out the import role of true worship over simple preference.