IVP - Online Pulpit - Why Do We...?

November 1, 2006

Why Do We...?

Will surprises never cease? Immanuel Baptist Church, where I’ve served for six years, is a traditional church—or at least it used to be. The church was formed in 1909, so you can imagine the traditions that have become a part of this congregation. It is a large, multi-generational congregation. We have many longtime, older believers as well as many new, younger believers. We also have many people who have been involved in church since they were born; and many others who have not come to church with any real consistency as adults. We attempt to be intentionally seeker-sensitive Sunday morning and seeker-targeted Sunday night. OK, that gives you a snapshot of who we are.

Our ministry team often hears questions about why we do the things we do as a church. After evaluating our recent sermons, we decided to do a very basic teaching series. We thought about concepts that seemed second nature to us but which might be confusing or misunderstood by unchurched people. So we framed a six-week morning series titled “Why Do We …” which included the following questions:

1. Why do we talk about Jesus? (Acts 4:12). In this inaugural service our primary focus was the doctrine of the incarnation—Jesus was not only fully human but he was also fully divine.

2. Why do we baptize? (Matt 28:19-20). In this service our thesis was that baptism, commanded by Jesus himself, becomes one of the first steps of obedience for a follower.

3. Why do we study the Bible? (2 Tim 2:15; 3:16). This service described why the Bible is our guide to faith and practice as a church. The Bible, written by men divinely inspired by God, models the incarnation. The Bible reveals and records God’s revelation of himself to humanity.

4. Why do we pray? (James 5:16). Jesus said that his house would be known as a house of prayer. We described God’s purposes for prayer and probed questions like: Does prayer change God’s mind? What is the difference between private and public prayer? Does God always hear prayers?

5. Why do we walk by faith? (Heb 11:1). This question focused on faith: We talk about having faith, walking by faith, and believing. Why is so much of following Jesus about faith?

6. Why do we tithe? Unchurched people often think all the church ever talks about is money. We examined a healthy, biblical understanding of what it means to be a manager of all that we own as provisions from God himself.

That brings us to the surprise. We were hoping that seekers would appreciate our attempt to open up the inner workings of our church to them. However, we were afraid that we would get yawns from those who had “been around” for a while. The response surprised our entire team. Seekers responded in droves. They even attended the evening series called “Coffee Talk,” where we follow up the morning series with dialogue and a question-and-answer time. And surprise: longtime members said it was a refreshing reminder that helped them answer their acquaintances’ questions. We have been persuaded to offer the series as a tape package.

Why were we surprised? Because we thought it might be too basic—too plain vanilla. Then I was reminded: vanilla remains one of the most popular ice cream flavors. We learned that people want to know why we do—and ask them to do—the things we do in church. They are not interested in merely going through the motions. They are hungry to be authentic. The series has helped us address these issues.

Posted by Craig Loscalzo at November 1, 2006 10:45 AM Bookmark and Share

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