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9Marks Explained : A Letter From Mark Dever

Service Planning

Is Sunday the End or the Beginning?

A couple weeks back, my deacon of finance commented over lunch: "How different do you think things would be if Christians treated Sunday as the first day of the week rather than the last?"it was a great question.  The question puts its finger on our entire approach to the Lord's Day.  Far too often we approach Sunday as the day we rest from the week gone by rather than the day of first fruits, of beginning with the Lord and shaping our hearts and souls for the week ahead.  When that happens, God gets the leftovers and the world gets the best part of us.On Sunday nights, most of us will begin routines designed to help us get off to a good start for the week.  We'll select the children's clothes for school.  We'll perhaps pack lunches.  Spouses will coordinate schedules, being sure important meetings and outings are highlighted.  Thoughts will turn to work: tasks to get done, meetings to attend, and so on.  In short, we prepare for the week now that Sunday is over.How would it affect our souls and our weeks to simply back the preparation up one day so that Sunday is the first day of the week and the Saturday the night of our preparation for all that's ahead?  What if we invested considerable energy planning to get off to a good start with the Lord and His people, and planning to give the leftovers to lesser lords?  How would we benefit if we lived for the Lord's Day rather than living for the weekend?  I think the effect would be noticeable and almost immediate.

Special Services?

iMonk has a brief reflection on special services in Christian churches and the ways the culture pressures the church to do or not do certain things during this time of the year.  He makes two observations:1.  The way people approach these seasons is defined more by individual and family traditions than by church traditions.2. Patterns of worship in some congregations vary little from the way worship is practiced during other parts of the year.Here's his conclusion:In my experience in evangelicalism, whenever the church calendar has
a face-off with the family calendar, school calendar, or community
calendar, the church calendar usually loses.

How far should we go in accommodating culture? On the other
hand, are there times when the church should simply insist that “this
is what we do to fulfill God’s calling in Christ,” and exhort the
people in our congregations to make the services of the church their
priority? And if we do this, how do we avoid becoming legalistic or
domineering over our congregations?
Join the conversation there.But these are some questions I've had as well.  Cayman is a lot like a college town when it comes to summers and major holidays.  With half the island's population coming from other countries, it's inevitably that significant numbers of people will travel home to see family, etc.  How do we respond/do we respond to such ebb and flow in the congregation's life?  Are the church's observances dictated more by family and cultural traditions than by biblical customs?

Help With the Lord's Supper

Hey guys,I am asking my elders to re-examine the way that we celebrate the Lord's Supper in our congregation.  I'd like to put together a list of resources (both theological and devotional) for us to read and reflect upon.  I've got a couple of titles on my shelves, but wanted to get more input.  Any suggestions?  What has been helpful to you?People in the comments, I'd like your help as well!

From the "Laugh or Cry?" File

Check out this article from yesterday's Washington Post. Above the fold there is a large picture of a man dressed in camoflague holding up a Bible. Following is a long story about Christ Mountaintop Chapel in the DC suburbs, where Pastor Rob Seagears has committed to preaching on whatever the highest grossing movie for the week happens to be.

A few choice quotes from the article:

The Summer Cinema series... seeks to attract those who don't ordinarily attend church while making the experience more fun for those who do.

Seagears bases each week's message on the highest-grossing movie the previous weekend. He sees the movie, then prays about how to extract a biblical message.

Creative services can provide an edge in a tight "religious marketplace," said David Roozen, director of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research in Connecticut. "There's a lot of experimentation going on in worship these days," Roozen said.

He removed his cap and aviator glasses, led a prayer, then preached on the importance of relationships with God, other believers and non-Christians. (He also urged people not to see the movie.)

"It's all about engaging your audience," he said.

Our King

OK, it's been a little slow around here, so I wanted to share a gem with you all. "Our King" is a song that not many people know, but our church has come to really love. Michael Tinker, the guy who wrote the words and music, is part of The Crowded House network.

It's a simple tune (my kids love to sing it) and the words bring tears to the eyes. The words of the chorus are based on the words of John Newton at the end of his life. If you're looking for a gospel-centered song for your church to learn, you couldn't do better.

Our King
Our King is a king of mercy
He gave the blind their sight and the dumb their speech
He healed the sick and raised the dead
Our King is a king of mercy.

Even though our memories may fail us
May we always remember this:
We are great sinners
But we have a great Saviour in Christ.

Our King is a king of cruel scars
He was beaten, stricken, whipped and condemned to die
Though he had done no wrong at all -
Our King is a king of cruel scars.


Our King is a king of passion
‘It is finished!’ he cried out and gave up his life
So we could be his family:
Our King is a king of passion.


Our King is a king of glory
Even death could not keep hold of this king of life
He rose triumphant from the grave
Our King is a king of glory.


Download a PDF of the music here.

The 4th of July in Church

Let's poke the bear with a stick. It's a holiday week in the Summer, so no one is reading this anyway.

What are you guys doing for 4th of July in your church? Color guard? Singing "God Bless America"? Draping a giant American flag around the pulpit?

We won't be doing anything at our church. We'll pray for the government in our service, but we do that every week. I might include thanksgiving for the freedoms that we enjoy, but that's not unique to this weekend.

I choose not to make a big deal out of Memorial Day and the 4th of July for a couple of reasons:

First, I don't want to have an American church. I want to pastor a church in America. We have members from 20 different countries. More than one in three of our members were not born in America. I don't presume that they consider the American military "our" military. I don't even presume that they think of America as "our" country. I want them to come to church and experience great unity with their brothers and sisters in Christ. Scripture makes it clear that our unity is not to be based on nationality or culture.

Second, I think in our culture the evangelical church (especially the Southern Baptists with our God and Country celebrations) is often synonymous with right-wing patriotism. So I think it doesn't serve the gospel well to make a big show of patriotism in our worship gatherings. My fear is that it will hurt the Christians ("I must be a good Christian, I am a patriot and have a yellow ribbon sticker on my car") and the non-Christians ("Being a Christian means being a good American").

To be clear, I'm not anti-America. And I'm not saying that it's sin to do differently that I choose to do. But I wonder what you think...