Welch College at the Free Will Baptist National Convention

Last week Welch College participated in the annual Convention of the National Association of Free Will Baptists. This is significant, because Welch is the only educational institution owned and operated by the National Association. Welch was well-represented, and we had a great time in Fort Worth.

A Relationship of Accountability and Support

Welch’s relationship with the National Association is a wonderful relationship of accountability and support. We are accountable to the National Association to which we report, both to the General Board and the body of delegates gathered at the Convention.

Our report includes an update on the ministry and progress of the college, as well as a detailed financial audit prepared by an independent auditor. This process also gives me, as president of the college, an opportunity to respond to questions posed by delegates to the Convention.

The National Association also elects our board members every two years at the Convention. This year, we welcomed Dr. Eddie Moody as a newly elected board member.

A Great Time of Connection for the College

Last week was a great time of connection for Welch College. All things Welch College were abuzz. The college’s booths in the exhibit hall were packed. The alumni and friends luncheon was very well attended. Everyone I have talked with said it was the best convention for Welch in a number of years.

Much of this, no doubt, is because of the 24 percent increase in dorm enrollment we experienced this past year, and the fact that our financial situation is so much better than it has been the past few years. With our new name (which has been received so well by our alumni and supporters), a gradually increasing enrollment, and a new sense of unity symbolized by the welcoming of transfer students from Gateway Christian College, we are poised for great things in the future.

I ask my readers to pray for Welch College as we continue to be faithful to the mission to which God has called us. Check back for future posts in which I plan to post more about the National Convention, including my report to the delegates to this year’s meeting.

Welch College Announces Playwriting Contest

Welch College is seeking submissions for its 2014 playwriting contest, according to AnnaGee Harris, drama director. Entries will be judged through a blind judging process. First prize winner will receive $200 and have the possibility of his/her script toured by the Evangel Players.* Entries must be received by December 1, 2014. All entries should follow the enclosed guidelines and be emailed to scriptcontest@welch.edu. No entry fee required.

Rules

1.     Contest open to members of the National Association of Free Will Baptists, including students, faculty, and staff of Free Will Baptist colleges.

2.     Submissions restricted to unpublished plays only.

3.     Adaptations accepted if the playwright has complete rights to the work or the work adapted is public domain.

Guidelines

1.     Play must be 27-35 minutes in length.

2.     Play should be written for seven or fewer actors—gender flexibility a plus (scripts with more than seven characters are permitted if play is written for role doubling).

3.     Submissions must have a strong Christian message of discipleship or similar focus reflecting the doctrine and teachings of the Free Will BaptistTreatise.

4.     Play should take place in a single setting and be adaptable to the varying stage sizes encountered on a drama tour.

5.     Play should have minimal technical requirements.

Submissions

1.     Prepare submissions as a Word document.

2.     E-send submissions as a Word attachment to scriptcontest@welch.edu.

3.     Scripts should be typed, 12-point font, double-spaced, with pages numbered.

4.     Submissions should include two cover pages: the first cover page should include the play’s title, playwright’s name, address, and local church name. The second cover page should have only the play’s name.

5.     Playwright’s name and personal information should not appear anywhere except the first cover page, due to the blind judging process. Identity of the playwright will be withheld from judges until the winning script is chosen.

6.     If a playwright submits more than one script, send each script as a separate attachment, including the two cover pages.

7.     Co-authored scripts are allowed if the first cover page contains the specified information for all authors.

Questions

Email any questions regarding the contest to AnnaGee Harris, Welch College drama director, agharris@welch.edu.

*Welch College retains the right to produce the winning play royalty-free during the Evangel Players’ tour (This right is for one play season only). The winning playwright will retain full rights to the work, but Welch College reserves the right to make minor changes/adjustments to the chosen script for the purpose of performance. Any changes/adjustments made by Welch College reflect the needs of the tour, not the quality of the script.

Embodying the Mind of Christ in Relationships, Part Three

In the last post, we talked about unity—the need for members of Christ’s church to be of one mind, having the same love, in one accord. Today we are going to discuss the greatest enemy of unity, the biggest thing that keeps us from embodying the mind of Christ in our relationships: Pride.

Crucifying Pride

We will never achieve unity with other believers if we do not deal with the pride in our hearts that is endemic to our human condition. So Paul stresses that having the mind of Christ means crucifying our pride (vv. 3-4).

Paul stresses that the unity of which he speaks is not possible if pride gets in the way. Most of the time in human relationships, pride is the main problem. Pride was the original problem in the Garden of Eden. When we sin, it’s always ultimately a problem of pride because we are putting our self and our account of things before God and his account of things.

Pride destroys unity. It makes it impossible. Pride produces strife in the church, because it is characterized by what Paul calls selfish ambition and vain conceit (v. 3). Think of the sorts of attitudes and behavior that pride produces:

·       Striving

·       Ambition

·       Self-promotion

·       Thinking you’re always right and never wrong

·       The inability to be self-critical

·       Self-focus

Too often our pride, when it’s all said and done, is what gets in the way of our unity with other believers.

A Frowning Man, Pride, and a Pocket Knife

A couple of decades ago, I was pastoring a church in Connecticut, and there was a middle-aged man who attended the church. He had a long pony-tail and looked like he stepped out of the pages of a magazine from the late 60s. As a young minister, I would preach my heart out, only to be met with blank stares from this man. Sometimes, his forehead would wrinkle up as he frowned broadly while looking straight at me. At the end of the service, he would always greet me cordially as he left but never bragged on the sermons like the rest of the congregants.

Pride began to set in, and it seemed the more I worried about the look on his face and his reaction to my sermons, the worse his reactions seemed to become, and the more my inflated ego began to be bruised. I managed to develop a real dislike for this man.

Then one cold winter day, I was standing in the parking lot with this man and several other men. Standing there in the snow, I pulled out my pocket knife, which was old and had a broken tip. He saw it, and pulled out his much nicer, newer pocket knife. I just knew he was going to boast about his knife. But instead of bragging about his fine knife in comparison to my bedraggled one, he said, “What’s say we trade knives.”

I was in shock. Not knowing how to respond, I muttered, “Sure,” and handed him my knife, and he handed me his. Then he said, “When people ask me about this knife, I’m going to tell them, ‘This knife belonged to a preacher I once knew . . . [long pause] and he was a great preacher!’”

That day the Lord taught me a big lesson on pride and humility, and the danger of allowing pride and ego to make us think we have others “figured out.” I will never, ever forget that day, and that lesson on pride.

Humility: The Essence of the Mind of Christ

Pride will always destroy unity with other people. Instead of being prideful, we should be more concerned about others than ourselves. That’s what real humility is. Paul stresses that in humility—in lowliness of mind—we should esteem others better than ourselves (v. 3 b). And this humility—this lowliness of mind—should make us put others’ interests above our own. (4)

This is the essence of the mind of Christ.

Let us pray that Christ will conform us to his image as he enables us to embody his mind, motivated by our life in him, coming together with believers in unity, and crucifying our pride.

Embodying the Mind of Christ in Relationships, Part Two

In the last post we meditated on what Philippians 2 can teach us about the implications of the mind of Christ for our relationships. We emphasized that the mind of Christ motivates us to love, humility, and unity, and that it necessarily involves unity.

What does this unity mean? For St. Paul, it means embodying unity of mind, unity of love, and being in “one accord.”

Unity of Mind

If we’re going to have unity in the body of Christ, we must haveunity of mind (understanding, doctrine): “being like-minded . . . of one mind” (v. 2). “Mind” is from the Greek word froneo. In other places in Paul’s writings, this word is translated to think, to set your mind on something, to formulate views on something, to be concerned or feel strongly about something.

Paul is saying here that unity presupposes feeling strongly about the truth. The historic teaching of the church is that unity and theological truth go together. When unity is absent in the church, Satan is more apt to come in and stir up false doctrine, and vice versa—when false doctrine gets a foothold in the church, unity becomes worthless because it’s no longer unity in Christ and his truth.

So true Christian unity cannot exist if people aren’t settled on Christ and his truth. This means that unity is not something that has to do only with touchy-feely emotions and nothing to do with the mind and doctrine and theology. We can never have true Christian unity at the expense of truth—at the expense of Christ’s own view of reality.

Unity in Love

But unity in the truth is not enough. To embody the mind of Christ in our relationships, we must achieve unity in love: “having the same love [agape]” (v. 2).

Love is what makes unity possible. It’s the glue that holds people together. 1 John 4:20-21 says: “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.” We must exhibit behavior that shows that we love our brothers.

What is love? In 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7, Paul gives us 13 characteristics of agape love: It is patient and kind; not jealous; doesn’t brag; isn’t arrogant, rude, selfish, irritable, or resentful; rejoices in the truth, not in wrongdoing; is protective, faithful, hopeful, and enduring. This is the kind of love that Paul believes is necessary for Christian unity.

In One Accord

If we are together in truth and love, we will be in one accord—sharing the same feelings, being intent on the same Christ-centered vision. Unity means being in one accord” (v. 2), laboring together with the same heart, the same depth of feeling. Unity means being intent on the same purpose—what we are working for, what we are trying to accomplish.

What we have here is a unity that involves the total personality.  We are to be united in our minds (what we think), our hearts (how we feel), and our wills (what we do).

In the next post, I’ll discuss the greatest enemy of unity, the greatest thing that keeps us from embodying the mind of Christ in our relationships: Pride.

Embodying the Mind of Christ in Relationships, Part One

In my next few posts, I want to meditate on the implications of the mind of Christ for our relationships, as gleaned from the first four verses of Philippians 2. As we put on the mind of Christ, we will realize in community what it means to be the people God designed us to be, and the people he is recreating us in Christ to be.

Motivation

We will never be able to have relationships that glorify God without the proper motivation. Putting on the mind of Christ gives us the ultimate motivation for the sorts of virtues we need to embody as we relate to others.

The mind of Christ motivates us to love, humility, and unity (v. 1).Paul mentions four motivations in particular:

·       Consolation (encouragement) in Christ

·       Comfort flowing from Christ’s love

·       Fellowship (koinonia, community) made possible by the Spirit in us emanating to others

·       Affection (tenderness) and mercy

Since these qualities exist, because of Christ, Paul says, make my joy complete by living in oneness or unity. In other words, these truths make unity possible, and they make it necessary.  There is no way we can exhibit Christian unity without these Christlike traits. And there is no way we can keep from exhibiting unity if we embody these Christlike traits.

These are things that come from Christ through the Spirit, and they emanate from the true follower of Christ to others. Those who really have encouragement or consolation from Christ of necessity encourage and give consolation to others. Those who receive the comfort flowing from Christ’s love extend that comfort of love to others. Those who are beneficiaries of the community orkoinonia of the Spirit seek to foster that fellowship with others. Those who have been on the receiving end of Christ’s tenderness, his affection, and his mercy, are tender with others, they show their affection to others, and they’re merciful to others. If these things are true—if they are really true, Paul says, make my joy complete by living in unity with each other.

The mind of Christ motivates us to work toward Christlike relationships with others. And Paul says that this motivation, these first principles for Christian relationships, demand unity.

Unity

Having the mind of Christ means being united (v. 2). The unity of Christians needs to be an outward unity that is observable by the watching world. If we expect to be believable to the watching world, we must exhibit observable behavior that shows that we love our brothers.

Remember what Jesus said: “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). In John 17:21, Jesus prays “that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent me.”

Francis Schaeffer, in his wonderful little book, The Mark of the Christian, says: “This is the final apologetic [the final defense of the faith]. In John 13 the point was that if an individual Christian does not show love toward other true Christians, the world has a right to judge that he is not a Christian. Here [in John 17], Jesus is stating something else which is much more cutting, much more profound: we cannot expect the world to believe that the Father sent the Son, that Jesus’ claims are true, and that Christianity is true, unless the world sees some reality of the oneness of true Christians.”

In the next post, I will discuss what this unity looks like.

Lockert Named Flames Volleyball Coach

Ashley Lockert has been named Welch College Head Volleyball Coach, according to Athletic Director Gary Turner. Lockert is a 2007 Welch College graduate and one of only a few volleyball players to have competed all four years as a member of the Flames.

As a student at Welch, in addition to volleyball, Lockert was involved in several areas of campus life. She was a student council representative, Charlotte Bronte Society Events Coordinator, Assistant Director of Musicals, and Concert Choir President.

Lockert has two things critical for success–a love of volleyball and a love for Welch College. She is determined to come in and advance the program. “I love volleyball,” Lockert stated. “Being able to return to my alma mater in this new position is very exciting. I am truly honored and humbled by this opportunity.”

“I am looking forward to working with Coach Lockert,” said Gary Turner. “Her enthusiasm and knowledge of the sport will definitely continue moving our program in the right direction.”

Lockert is currently a legal assistant/paralegal at Feeney & Murray P.C. She enjoys spending time with her family as well as musical theatre and “play” with the Cheatham County Community Theatre.

Ashley is married to Will Lockert, and they have two sons, Liam and Loghan. They attend Bethlehem Free Will Baptist Church where they are youth leaders and Ashley teaches pre-school children’s church.

T. David Gordon on Youth Ministry and Youth Culture

A few weeks ago, I recommended four podcasts on youth ministry from the White Horse Inn. I didn’t know at that time how many more podcasts they would post on youth and youth ministry-related topics. They ran four more such podcasts, which I highly recommend to youth and family ministers as well as other pastors and church leaders.

Particularly interesting was the last podcast in the series, “Youth Ministry and Youth Culture,” an interview with media ecologist T. David Gordon. A religion professor at Grove City College in Grove City, Pennsylvania, Gordon is one of the most savvy and perceptive cultural critics in evangelicalism today.

He has recently published two penetrating books that focus on how contemporary culture is shaping Christian faith and practice in sometimes unsuspected ways: Why Johnny Can’t Preach: The Media Have Shaped the Messengers and Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns: How Pop Culture Rewrote the Hymnal.

One of the things that struck my wife Melinda and me as we were listening to this podcast was Gordon’s reaction to clips from interviews conducted at a ministry conference. Some of the interviewees remarked that teenagers have a short attention span and think in 3-minute segments. So we have to de-emphasize content and the word and emphasize experience and the visual, putting everything into 3-minute segments to keep their attention.

Gordon says that this approach fails to reckon with the established phenomenon of “neuro-plasticity”—the brain’s ability to rewire itself. “People can change. It’s cynical, it seems to me, to say, ‘Well, this person can never think more than three-and-a-half minutes.’ It’s really unjust to say such a thing about a person, because if there are any humans who can pay attention, this person could become one.”

Gordon believes, in short, that it’s unfair to treat the younger generation in such a way as to deprive them of the sort of deep attention to truth that is essential to biblical faithfulness. His comment that, when we dumb things down for younger people, we are being cynical about them and unfair to them, is very poignant.

Gordon, unlike a flood of voices in conservative evangelicalism calling for moving away from age-segregated youth ministry altogether, believes that church ministries specifically for youth can be a golden opportunity to prepare young people for Christian adulthood by training them how to be spiritually mature.

I encourage my readers to listen to this podcast, which can be found here.

Three other White Horse Inn podcasts in the month of June have also discussed youth ministry and youth-related topics:

Giving Up Gimmicks” (This is a discussion with Brian Cosby, author of Giving Up Gimmicks: Reclaiming Youth Ministry from an Entertainment Culture.)

Sustainable Discipleship

Taking Every Thought Captive” (This is a more-educational podcast about teaching young people to how to engage in critical thinking.)

They have also provided a study kit to go along with these episodes, which includes resources and material not included in the podcasts.

The Theological Integrity Seminar at the 2014 National Convention

For more than four decades, the Commission for Theological Integrity of the National Association of Free Will Baptists (of which I serve as chairman) has sponsored an extended Theological Integrity Seminar at the annual session of the National Association. In these lengthy sessions, we have a speaker address theological trends and issues facing evangelicals and Free Will Baptists. Then we follow up with a time of Q&A and dialogue.

The Theological Integrity Seminar will be Monday, July 28, at 2:00 p.m. in Hall CD of the Fort Worth Convention Center. Because it is lengthier than a typical seminar at the convention, we hold it only one time. I hope you will “save the date” and make plans to be at this seminar.

This year we are discussing a very important topic: the need to revisit ministerial licensure and ordination standards to be more serious about our confessional commitments (the beliefs or doctrines we confess) as Free Will Baptists. The speaker will be Tim Campbell, Executive Director of Arkansas Free Will Baptists, and his presentation will be entitled “A Solemn Appeal for a Serious Approach to Licensure and Ordination.”

Tim is uniquely suited to make this presentation. He brings together a hunger and thirst for theology and a practical ministry among Free Will Baptist churches, associations, and pastors.Through various means in Arkansas such as the Thomas Grantham Society, the Pillars Conferences, etc., he is pioneering theological and ministry mentoring among pastors across generations, and his efforts are meeting with great success. It’s because he sees theology not just as being a book on a shelf, but rather lived-out theology, theology for everyday life and ministry.

This is a seminar we need, and it’s a topic we need to be discussing in this age when the secular culture around us is becoming more and more secularized, and when much of the evangelical culture around us is becoming less and less concerned about doctrine and theological integrity.

So I encourage you to mark this on your calendar and attend this year’s Theological Integrity Seminar at 2:00 Monday afternoon in Hall CD of the Fort Worth Convention Center.Bring your notepad or tablet and be ready to take notes and engage in the conversation.

The Commission for Theological Integrity has been in existence since 1962. Its historic purposes are: (1) to alert our people to theological trends that could threaten our theological integrity as a denomination, (2) to prepare materials that will contribute to the continued preservation of the theological integrity of the denomination, and (3) as need and opportunity arise, to conduct seminars on subjects which are pertinent to the purpose of the Commission.

The members of the commission are myself, Kevin Hester (secretary), Randy Corn, and Jackson Watts. A fifth member will be elected this year at the convention.

We look forward to seeing you at this year’s Theological Integrity Seminar!

120 Welch Students Make President’s/Provost’s List

The Spring 2014 semester at Welch College ended with 120 students earning academic recognition, according to Provost Greg Ketteman. Twenty-eight students made all A’s and were placed on the President’s List—six seniors, eleven juniors, eight sophomores, and three freshmen. Ninety-two students earned a B average or higher and were placed on the Provost’s List—16 seniors, 23 juniors, 30 sophomores, and 23 freshmen.

President’s List: “A” Honor Roll

Barthelemy, Kaleigh (So.) GA
Brown, Charity (Sr.) TN
Brown, Reese (Jr.) TN
Cominskie, Derek (Jr.) VA
Congleton, Jacy (Jr.) NC
Conley, Jason (Fr.) TN
Dell, David (Jr.) VA
Douglas, Bethany (Sr.) TN
Grimsely, Anna (So.) GA
Henley, Lindsey (So. Post-Baccalaureate) TN
Hill, Elizabeth (Jr.) VA
Hollis, Michael (So.) NC
Lewis, Casey (Jr.) NC
Nelson, Melissa (Sr.) NC
Outlaw, Carson (Fr.) TN
Parrish, Emily (Jr.) NC
Riggs, Laura (Jr.) MI
Sample, Kayla (Sr.) IL
Scott, Benjamin (Fr.) TN
Sexton, Leah (So.) GA
Smith, Candice (Jr.) NB, Canada
Thomas, Larissa (So.) AR
Trotter, Audrey (Sr.) TN
Tucker, Gregory (Jr.) TN
Tuttobene, Cherish (So.) TN
Tuttobene, Jeannine (So.) TN
Wilkerson, Reid (Jr.) TN
Williams, Samantha (Sr.) AR

Provost’s List: “B” Honor Roll

Seniors
Bell, Victoria (NC)
Cloninger, John (TN)
Coker, Daniel (TN)
Coker, Taylor (TN)
Colvin, Nathan (TN)
Cyrus, Andrew (TN)
Deel, Austin (TN)
Easley, Phillip (MO)
Forlines, Joel (TN)
Fry, Katherine (TN)
Hutchinson, Tim (MI)
Manning, Jake (NC)
Montero, Julie (FL)
Mouser, Matthew (TN)
Pugh, Daniel (TN)
Truett, Cody (FL)

Juniors
Alexander, Loren (AR)
Bozeman, Stephen (GA)
Brimer, Nathaniel (VA)
Dunbar, Joshua (AR)
Fondren, Brooke (MS)
Greer, Taylor (VA)
Jackson, Matthew (TN)
Jenkins, Lesley (TN)
Lindsay, Deandra (TN)
Lute, Derreck (OH)
Mouser, Amanda (TN)
Nelson, Kelsey (NC)
Newland, John (TN)
Petty, Maria (IL)
Reeves, David (KY)
Snow, Elizabeth (TN)
Stox, Kevin (NC)
Taylor, Sean (VA)
Trimble, Alyssa (CA)
Trussel, Kristin (FL)
Walker, Brittany (FL)
Walters, Dustin (MS)
Zuniga, Zuri (AR)

Sophomores
Campbell, Anna (TN)
Clarke, Staci (TN)
Driggers, Camille (SC)
Driggers, Hannah (SC)
Droll, Morgan (IL)
Dunham, Hanna (OH)
Ford, Celeste (TN)
Forlines, Jared (TN)
Foust, Corey (TN)
Freeman, Shelby (VA)
Hampton, Rachel (TN)
Holdon, Trevor (AR)
Marable, Albert (TN)
Martin, Joshua (NC)
McDonald, Amy (TN)
Melvin, Jessica (TN)
Merkh, Caroline (TN)
Milling, Caleb (TN)
Morgan, Rebekah (TN)
Nichols, Leslie (TN)
Norris, Tyler (AL)
Owen, Melissa (GA)
Pate, Chris (TN)
Pope, Eric (NC)
Sample, Hunter (IL)
Skaggs, Hannah (KY)
Stonerock, Paula (OH)
Thorton, William (TN)
Thrasher, Emily (MI)
Vickery, Zachary (AL)

Freshmen
Blades, Autumn (TN)
Blake, Allison (TN)
Carey, Christian (OK)
Chandler, Jordan (TN)
Coleman, Nicholas (AR)
Crawford, Alexander (AR)
Dell, Daniel (VA)
Ferguson, Joslin (TN)
Forlines, Anna (TN)
Gedeon, Matthew (TN)
Guzman, Damaris (WV)
James, Megan (TN)
Johnson, Ashton (OK)
Kim, Daeun (TN)
Kimbrel, Kayla (SC)
Madden, Dakota (AL)
Montgomery, Caleb (AL)
Parrish, Ellen (NC)
Persinger, Travis (IN)
Romain, Akelam (Virgin Islands)
Saunders, Matthew (TN)
Strickland, Lauren (NC)
Walker, Hope (IL)

A Visit to Chuck Swindoll’s Church, Part 2

In my last post, I began talking about my family’s visit to the church Chuck Swindoll planted in suburban Dallas, Stonebriar Community Church. I discussed how he began to see the church drift into a market-driven approach, and the renewal he believed was necessary, which he outlined in his recent book The Church Awakening: An Urgent Call to Renewal. I conclude in this post with some brief impressions from our visit.

Getting a Glimpse

So I wanted to attend Stonebriar Community Church when I had an opportunity, to get a glimpse into what this might look like on the ground. There I was very encouraged by a very Word-driven worship service with expository preaching as its centerpiece.

But it wasn’t just the sermon that was Word-driven. Everything in the service was geared toward letting the Word of Christ dwell richly (Col. 3:16) in the worshippers. This Word-drivenness was by no means the caricature of an arid “academic” approach, but was rather a winsome, fervent, reverent, prayerful service geared to building up the body and fueling spiritual growth. The worship was reverent and structured yet felt natural and free, not stilted, with a sense of vibrancy and zeal (much of it no doubt owing to Swindoll’s natural charisma).

The excellently done music, both traditional hymns and contemporary songs by artists like Keith Getty and Stuart Townend, led by Pastor of Worship and Music Ministries Don McMinn and a choir and accompanied by an orchestra, served to undergird the sermon and inculcate the Word. We sang from a hymnal when singing hymns that were printed in the hymnal, and a screen when singing modern songs that weren’t.

I found it interesting that Swindoll did not use PowerPoint during his sermon (not that he would say pastors ought not project their outlines), although a beautifully printed outline of the sermon with space for writing notes was included with the state-of-the-art printed “Worship Guide” that was distributed to each worshipper by the friendly greeters at each door. No visual images were used in the worship service. Swindoll preached a longer sermon than I had expected (perhaps, I surmised, because most of the sermons I’ve heard him preach have been edited for radio).

Some people were dressed in suits and ties and dresses, others were dressed in “business casual” dress, and others were dressed in jeans (some of the older people were dressed more casually, and some of the younger people were dressed up, and vice versa). The congregation was richly multigenerational and multiethnic.

Several thousand people were in attendance, so there were two morning services. But I read on the church’s attractive and user-friendly website that both the church’s morning services are identical in terms of the music, sermon, and other features of the service. Everything was done with the highest standards of technical excellence and care.

Refreshing and Encouraging

It’s refreshing to see a minister of Swindoll’s stature questioning the status quo of much market-driven evangelicalism. And he’s not just questioning it but actually repenting of the ways he himself has been involved in it, and making appropriate changes to return to a more New Testament oriented church life away from the entertainment- and image-drivenness of much present-day evangelicalism.

Attending Stonebriar was also encouraging and confirming of the sort of approach we’re attempting to foster at Welch College. We don’t do things exactly like they do (for example, our choir does not wear choir robes, and while we use a variety of musical instruments in worship, we do not have the large orchestra they have). But at Welch we’re trying to nurture an attitude to being the church that is pertinent to modern life yet refreshingly different and transcendent.

We want worship and church life to be saturated in the Word and shaped by the Word. We hope for worship and church life that is in continuity with, not divorced from, the Christian tradition. But we don’t want churches to stick slavishly to habits they’ve sometimes acquired in the mid- to-late twentieth century that have too often become non-negotiable “traditions” to them.

I encourage you to read The Church Awakening. Like me, there will be, as with any book, things you agree with and things you disagree with. But it will be rewarding to hear the wisdom of this servant of God who himself is attempting to bow to the Lordship of Christ in the way he is leading his congregation.

By the way, after the service, Melinda, Anna, Matthew, and I went and greeted Dr. Swindoll and introduced ourselves, and I told him a little about our ministry at Welch. I told him how much I appreciated The Church Awakening. He gripped my hand and said, “That right there tells me a lot about you.” Those words warmed my heart. I thank Dr. Swindoll for his deep wisdom, his steadfast courage, and his inspiring example.

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