•  — Edited

    Order of Service for Sunday, April 5th

    Take time throughout the week to be prayerfully reading through these passages of Scripture to prepare you and your family for worship on Sunday morning.


    For guidelines on how to conduct family worship on Sunday morning, read here.


    Order of Service for Family Worship

    Sunday, April 5th


    Sections with asterisk to be done at home.


    -       **Call to Worship: Psalm 68:1-6

    o   Think: God expels and overcomes all of His enemies—earthly and spiritual. We, who once were enemies, have now been made righteous—thus we should be glad, jubilant, and full of singing. We are under the care of the God who provides for the solitary, lonely, weak, and destitute.


    -      ** Sing

    o   Song recommendations: “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” “It Is Well

    §  Why These Songs? We chose these songs because they emphasize the battle that the Christian has not only with sin, the flesh, and the world, but also the devil. The text of the sermon focuses on Jesus’ authority over demons and His power to restore us from that bondage. These songs lead us to realize both the presence of Satan’s efforts, but also his utter defeat at the hand of our God, and our protection flowing from our faith in Christ.

    §  If you prefer, feel free to find other songs that exalt Christ, flow from Scripture, and prepare your heart to receive the Word.


    -     **  Scripture reading: Ephesians 6:10-20


    -       Word of Exhortation (video)

    o   Announcements

    o   Pastoral Prayer: Philippians 1:3-11

    o   Sermon: The Great Legion (Mark 5:1-20)


    -      ** Benediction: 1 Peter 5:8-11


    -     **  Sing Doxology

    1. published a newsletter

      ReadSermon & Discussion Questions for Today

      View Sermon Here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQ13txA5bh4


      Read Sermon Manuscript Here: https://qbc.org/blogs/2290669--the-great-storm


      Sermon Discussion Questions:


      1.     What stood out to you most?


      2.     “The true Christian can think calmly about the holy God whose eyes see all his or her actions and feel: he is my Father, my reconciled Father in Christ Jesus. I am weak; I am unworthy, but, in Christ, he regards me as his dear child and is well pleased. What a privilege it is to be able to think these things and not be afraid!” - J.C. Ryle, "Happiness"


      Day to day, do you find it difficult to believe that God sees all your actions, thoughts, and desires, but still are seen as a “dear child” who is well pleasing?


      3.     Sometimes when we are in the middle of the storm it is hard to see why God is leading us through it. Looking back at previous difficulties the Lord has led you through, what has He taught you? What unbelief has this current trial of COVID-19 exposed in you?


      4.     Why are the disciples so terrified after Jesus stills the storm? (cf. Luke 5:1-11)


      5.     How can God be both holy and loving? If you were tempted to see Him as more of one than the other, which would you tend to? Do you struggle with the idea that God is holy and just? Do you struggle with the idea that God is loving and gracious?


      6.     If you had to identify a particular “storm” in your life, what would it be? How does the promise of Romans 8:32 help you through this?

      1. Amazing. Thank you elders for leading so well during this time.
    2.  — Edited

      The Great Storm (Mark 4:35-41)

      Sermon Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQ13txA5bh4


      Sermon Discussion Questions:

      1.     What stood out to you most?


      2.     “The true Christian can think calmly about the holy God whose eyes see all his or her actions and feel: he is my Father, my reconciled Father in Christ Jesus. I am weak; I am unworthy, but, in Christ, he regards me as his dear child and is well pleased. What a privilege it is to be able to think these things and not be afraid!” - J.C. Ryle, "Happiness"


      Day to day, do you find it difficult to believe that God sees all your actions, thoughts, and desires, but still are seen as a “dear child” who is well pleasing?


      3.     Sometimes when we are in the middle of the storm it is hard to see why God is leading us through it. Looking back at previous difficulties the Lord has led you through, what has He taught you?


      4.     Why are the disciples so terrified after Jesus stills the storm? (cf. Luke 5:1-11)


      5.     How can God be both holy and loving? If you were tempted to see Him as more of one than the other, which would you tend to? Do you struggle with the idea that God is holy and just? Do you struggle with the idea that God is loving and gracious?


      6.     If you had to identify a particular “storm” in your life, what would it be? How does the promise of Romans 8:32 help you through this?


      ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


      Sermon Manuscript:


      In January, 1736, the good ship The Simmonds sailed from England to Savannah, Georgia. However, in the middle of the voyage across the Atlantic, a violent winter storm assaulted the ship. The wind roared; the ship cracked and quivered; the waves lashed the deck. The crew, powerless to steer the boat, only worked on pumping as much water out of the boat as they could to keep from sinking. After hours of being battered, a large wave crashed onto the boat, splitting the mainsail into pieces and threatening to break up the entire ship. On the boat was a young Anglican minister and the eventual founder of the Methodist movement, John Wesley. Wesley received an invitation to go the colony of Georgia in the Americas. There he would have an opportunity to be a chaplain and evangelize to the many native Americans who had never heard the gospel. Wesley was a man who took his religion with an unparalleled seriousness. He drew up meticulous (methodical) plans for Bible reading, prayer, self-examination, church attendance, and fasting. He regularly gave away so much of his own money to the poor that he often went without food himself. He committed every part of his life to “work out his salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12). But now he found himself staring the into the stark face of drowning out at sea.


      John Wesley, the paragon of devotion, religiosity, and fortitude, was absolutely petrified. He who had preached the gospel of eternal salvation to others learned that he was afraid to die. At that moment he realized that all of his religious efforts had not granted him any peace when faced with death. His zeal and confidence evaporated like the morning dew in the sun. His seemingly righteous deeds that had earned him such great acclaim—even scorn—from others, suddenly were woefully inadequate to protect him from the yawning chasm of judgment that opened before him, which he now teetered precipitously over. 


      However, Englishmen were not the only passengers on the boat. A group of German missionaries known as Moravians were also on board. Before the storm began, a group of these missionaries had begun a small worship service with one another, praying and singing psalms. As the storm came and battered the ship the Moravians calmly continued singing, untroubled. Eventually the storm subsided and the ship remained intact. Afterward, Wesley asked one of the Germans if he was frightened. “Thank God, no,” he replied.  “Weren’t your women and children afraid?” Wesley asked. “No,” said the Moravian, “our women and children are not afraid to die.”


      Upon finally arriving at Savannah, John sought out a Moravian leader and asked him advice about what to do with his doubts and fear. Wesley records their discussion in his journal:


      The Moravian leader said that he could give me no advice till he asked me two or three questions. He asked, “Do you know yourself?...Does the Spirit of God bear witness with your spirit that you are a child of God?” I was surprised and knew not what to answer. He observed it and asked, “Do you know Jesus Christ?” I paused and said, “I know He is the savior of the world.” “True,” replied he, “but do you know he has saved you?” I answered, “I hope he has died to save me.” He only added, “Do you know yourself?” I said, “I do.” But I fear they were vain words. (1)


      John Wesley, adorned though he was with much religious trappings and zeal, ultimately did not know God, did not know that Jesus had died for him. Wesley’s mission in Georgia was a total failure. In less than two years he returned back to England, full of shame and doubt. On his voyage home he wrote, “I went to America to convert the Indians, but, oh, who shall convert me?” (Shelley, Church History, 3rd ed., p. 335).


      The storm at sea exposed the doubts, the fears, and the lack of faith John Wesley had. So too, in our text today, a storm at sea exposes the disciples’ deep unbelief. But unlike Wesley and the Moravians, with disciples on the boat lay One who could control all oceans and all storms. Let’s turn now to look at our text in Mark 4:35-41:



      35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” 


      A Great Storm


      At the beginning of chapter four, Jesus stepped out onto a boat to teach to a “very large crowd” (Mark 4:1), leading to the telling of many parables. Now, at the end of a long, exhausting day, evening sets in and Jesus tells the disciples that they need to cross over to the other side of the sea of Galilee. Suddenly, we are told a great “windstorm” arose (this is the same word used to describe the “whirlwind” out of which God answers Job in Job 38:1, λαῖλαψ, it could mean “hurricane, storm, or whirlwind”). The sea of Galilee to this day is famously known for its sudden, violent storms with waves that reach up to 10-15 feet in height. The fact that this storm happens in the dark of night makes it even more terrifying. The disciples wouldn’t have had anything to illuminate the waters, let alone the ship. In the black of night, as the disciples are being tossed to and fro in the ship, they realize that the boat is beginning to fill with water. 


      The boat they were in was not a big boat that could plow through large waves or take on lots of water, or had any kind of pump system to remove water. But we are told that their boat is “already filling” with water. This is it, we’re going down, the disciples begin to think. Remember, a good majority of these disciples are professional fishermen. These are men who are very familiar with boats, seas, and storms. So, if they are beginning to panic, you know that things must be serious. 


      But, somehow, Jesus is sleeping through it all. How Jesus is able to sleep through such calamity may be due to the fact that He was just physically exhausted beyond comparison. Or it could be that He has such confidence in His power and His Father’s protection over Him that He is utterly unworried by the storm. Either way, Jesus remains asleep until the disciples in panic shake Him awake: “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38). You can sense the note of frustration in the disciples’ voice: do you even care?? Why on earth are you sleeping, we are going to die! To which are simply told: “And [Jesus] awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm,” Mark 4:39.


      A Great Calm


      Can you imagine being one of the disciples in the boat? Waves are pouring over the side; you are being bounced around as the ship rocks and reels in the dark; the wind whips the ocean spray against your face. And in all of that chaos, you see Jesus sit up and, somehow, over the howling wind, you hear Him say: Hush! Be quiet! And then *snaps* everything stops. The wind dies. The waves drop, and the sea suddenly looks like glass. The storm clouds disappear and the stars come out. Agamemnon, the villain of classic Greek tragedy, after accidentally angering the goddess Artemis, was forced to sacrifice his eldest daughter to silence the chaotic seas that prevented his fleet from sailing to Troy. Jesus offers no sacrifice to appease the gods. Jesus does not speak a spell or use a magical object to quell the sea. Jesus doesn’t even pray and ask His Father to act. He just speaks. And inanimate objects, nature itself, listens and obeys. There is a great calm. As great as the windstorm was, it has now been replaced with the same magnitude of calmness. Jesus then turns His eyes on you and says, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” Mark 4:40.


      In one sense, that question seems kind of ridiculous. Why were we afraid? We almost died! Jesus, if there was ever a time to be afraid, that was it! It is hard to imagine going through a storm like that and not trembling in fear. But notice that Jesus connects their fear to a lack of faith—they don’t yet believe. The problem wasn’t that they just lacked enough grit or stoic mastery over their emotions; the problem is that they need faith. If they believed, if they trusted that Jesus was who He claimed to be, there would be no panic. Faith is not a muscle; it is not something you exert. Faith is trusting that God is who has said He is and that He will do for you what He has said He will do. And when we possess that faith, there is no reason to fear. I have two young boys at home, and when you have two young boys at home you got to pick them up, throw them in the air, fly them around and what not. And every now and then I toss them maybe a little too high and they begin to panic. What do they need in that moment? They need to trust that Dad isn’t going to drop them, that their Dad wouldn’t be tossing them up in the air if he wasn’t confident that he could catch them—they need to trust me. 


      But, of course, this is precisely what the disciples lack. They are like a young John Wesley, horrified at the thought of death. And, like Wesley, it is the storm that reveals the unbelief. Friends, think on this: sometimes God will send you through a storm to expose what your heart trusts in. Remember, Jesus told the disciples to go over to the other side. He knew a storm was coming. And, He planned to go to sleep—we are told he laid down on a pillow. He didn’t just slump over in his chair. He found the pillow, stretched out in the stern, and went to sleep. He wanted His disciples to go through the storm with Him asleep through it. Friends, sometimes God will send you through a storm where it seems like He is absent, like He is asleep. He wants to bring you to a point where you cry out: do you care? As fire exposes the impurities in precious metals, so too will trials expose the hidden unbelief in your heart. And not only is the unbelief exposed, but is then brought to the Lord who can calm the storm and heal our unbelief.


      But, unexpectedly, after Jesus calms the storm the disciples, rather than being relieved, are filled with an even greater fear.


      A Great Fear


      “And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” Mark 4:41. One would think that the disciples would be breathing a sigh of relief or feel a wave of gratitude towards Jesus. Instead they are filled with great fear, “a fear which is greater than any fear of a storm,” (Schweizer, p. 110). While it would certainly be an awesome sight to behold this miracle, the “fear” the disciples are exhibiting here is not just awe or respect or a “wow” moment. However you quantify the amount of fear the disciples experienced during the “great storm,” seeing Jesus stop the storm brings an even greater fear. Why?


      Well, the disciples suddenly become aware that this man is not a mere teacher. He is something much, much more. The disciples would have known that in the Hebrew Bible there is only one Person who has mastery over the chaotic seas, who can make the storms be still with a simple word of command: Yahweh. From Genesis one, where the spirit of God hovers over the waters and Yahweh brings about orderly creation by His Word, to the story of the Exodus where the breath of Yahweh splits the Red Sea, to the psalms that repeatedly describe Yahweh conquering the sea, to the book of Nahum that explains that Yahweh “rebukes the sea” (Nah 1:4), over and over again in the Old Testament it is Yahweh alone who can speak, and the wind and the waters obey Him. Look at Psalm 107, a description of what it will look like when Yahweh brings His people back from their exile (Ps 107:1-3), which appears to be a near prophecy of this very event in Mark 4:


      Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the great waters; they saw the deeds of the Lord, his wondrous works in the deep. For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea. They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their evil plight; they reeled and staggered like drunken men and were at their wits' end. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven. – Ps 107:23-30


      This sounds almost like a play by play description of our text in Mark 4. There are two major differences here, though: (1) the people cry out to Yahweh and He stills the storm; in Mark 4, the disciples cry out to Jesus and He stills the storm. And, (2) in the psalm we are told that the people in their boats are glad when the waters grow quiet; in Mark 4, the disciples are terrified. They are terrified because they realize that, unlike the psalm where they pray to God who is in heaven, in their boat the God of heaven, Yahweh Himself, has come down and is now in their midst. Jesus is Yahweh. And this is a terrifying reality for them. One commentator explains, “Jesus is still a stranger to his own followers, for they are better able to handle the possibility of their own death than the possibility of the presence of God among them. In this instance, God’s nearness in Jesus is not something reassuring but something profoundly unsettling, even terrifying,” (Edwards, The Gospel According to Mark, PNTC, p. 152). 


      R.C. Sproul, in classic book, The Holiness of God, wrote a chapter where he looks at this account in Mark 4 and fittingly titled it “The Trauma of Holiness.” All throughout the Bible, when God reveals Himself there is a uniform response from men: fear. Why? In Eden, Adam and Eve had perfect communion with God. God would come to them, speak to them, bless them, all without any fear. It is only after Adam and Eve sin that they then hide in fear from God (Gen 3:8-10). From Israel (Ex 20:18-21), to Isaiah (Isa 6:1-6), to Daniel (Dan 10:7-10), to Peter (Luke 5:8), to John (Rev 1:17), over and over again when sinners come into the presence of God they are frozen with fear. It is a traumatic experience.


      This may seem odd to you. Isn’t God’s presence what we want to experience? Why would we be afraid of God? Well, let me tell you very plainly why sinners should be afraid of God: God is holy. What is God’s holiness? It is His perfect righteousness and purity; His “total other-ness” that He as the only God, Creator, and Lord possesses that makes Him a being in a class by Himself. And because He is holy, He has a perfect and total hatred of anything that is unholy, that is, sin. Listen to Psalm 5:4-6, “For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers. You destroy those who speak lies; the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.” This is why the disciples are more terrified of Jesus than they are of the storm—it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb 10:31). They are like criminals who become suddenly aware that the man they have been casually making conversation with is actually the chief of police—the Law has found them out and will now hold them to account. The stormy sea is just a crude shadow of the far greater storm of God’s holy wrath aimed at sinners, and now this God, the holy judge of the living and the dead, is sitting in the very boat with them.


      What will they do?


      Jesus is the reason and the remedy for fear


      While Jesus has revealed Himself as the Son of the living God—which leads disciples to fear—He also has provided the remedy and solution to our problem. The disciples ask Jesus, “Do you not care that we are perishing?” They, of course, are speaking of the storm—which Jesus deals with. But they speak better than they know. Jesus has not come to only save these fishermen from a storm on the sea of Galilee—He has come to save them from a much worse storm; a storm that lays at the pit of all of their fear: the judgment of God. 


      I wonder if you have noticed the many parallels between this story in Mark 4 and Jonah. In Jonah, there is a terrifying storm, threatening to destroy a boat (Jonah 1:4). Jonah, like Jesus, is somehow sleeping through the storm and is rudely awakened by the sailors, questioning him how he could be asleep at a time like this (Jonah 1:5-6). And, like Mark 4, God supernaturally stills the storm and saves the boat from being destroyed. However, unlike the story in Mark 4, the storm comes from Jonah’s rebellion against God; there is no indication that the storm in Mark 4 is from anyone’s rebellion. Further, the storm is stilled in Jonah by Jonah being thrown into the raging sea (Jonah 1:15). In Mark, no one is thrown into the stormy sea, or at least not yet. Later, Jesus will explain that in the same way Jonah spent three days and three nights in the heart of sea, so too would he spend three days and three nights in the earth (Matt 12:40). When Jesus goes to the cross, dies, and is buried, He is being thrown into another kind of sea. He is going to die in the place of sinners—He is going to absorb the wrath of God directed towards sinners. You see, Jonah was thrown into the sea because of his sin; Jesus was thrown into the raging sea of the wrath of God for His people’s sins.


      Jonathan Edwards, the great puritan theologian, once described the wrath of God like boiling water held behind a dam. But, he warned, “If God should only withdraw his hand from the flood-gate, it would immediately fly open, and the fiery floods of the fierceness and wrath of God, would rush forth with inconceivable fury, and would come upon you with omnipotent power; and if your strength were ten thousand times greater than it is, yea, ten thousand times greater than the strength of the stoutest, sturdiest devil in Hell, it would be nothing to withstand or endure it,” (Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God). 


      Picture yourself standing before Edwards’ dam. It extends up so high that you cannot see its top, and shoots sideways so wide that you cannot see where it ends. Suddenly, the dam detonates; the concrete fractures, the leaks spray out, and the face of the dam cascades downward in an avalanche of rock and water. The day of judgment has come. You are utterly helpless to do anything to keep from being destroyed. But before you stands the cross, and as the waters of judgment fall, the cross somehow absorbs them into itself, leaving you protected as it sweeps by. This is what John Wesley came to believe. After returning to England he went to a meeting where these truths were being taught from the book of Romans, John Wesley felt his heart “strangely warmed” and came to trust in Christ and Christ alone for salvation.


      Friend, take shelter under the shadow of the cross. Don’t let the waters of judgment overtake you—the God who will judge you would rather deliver you. Do you still have no faith? Trust in Jesus. And when you do, this radically changes how you go through the storms.



      Application


      Jesus has power over chaos


      Not uncommonly in the OT wind and waters symbolize hostile forces over which God prevails (Ex 14:21ff; Job 12:15; 28:25; Ps 33:7; 65:7; 77:16; 107:23-30; 147:18; Prov 30:4; Amos 4:13; Nah 1:3ff). When Jesus silences the storm we are seeing more than just a nature miracle, we are seeing a theological point being made: all of the forces of darkness, chaos, and entropy that want to unravel our lives—all of them are under the mastery of our Lord Jesus. Their proud waves go only as far as the Lord determines. 


      So, friends, wherever you are in this storm we are all weathering: 


      Stay at home parents, trying to learn to work from home.

      Extroverts dying to spend time with people.

      Grandparents scared to go the grocery story and fighting off loneliness

      Business owners afraid their companies might have to cut workers to survive

      Employees who have been cut

      Spouses and parents feeling at their wits end


      Remember this: “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” Rom 8:32. If Jesus can silence the storm of the judgment of God, then He will not abandon you through the storm of quarantine, through the storm of isolation, fear, and death. Friends, you will go through storms in your life, and at times it will feel like you are perishing—but remember, there is One in the boat with you who has power over every storm, who can be trusted, and who loves you.


      Thou art the Lord who slept upon the pillow,

      Thou art the Lord who soothed the furious sea,

      What matters beating wind and tossing billow

      If only we are in the boat with Thee?


      Hold us quiet through the age-long minute

      While Thou art silent and the wind is shrill :

      Can the boat sink while Thou, dear Lord, are in it;

      Can the heart faint that waiteth on Thy will?

      -       Amy Carmichael

      ---------------------------------------------

      (1) https://www.jstor.org/stable/41179412?read-now=1&seq=10#metadata_info_tab_contents


      1. Praise the Lord for his grace to us in Christ Jesus! Thank you pastor Mark and everyone involved with making the sermon available like this while we are unable to gather together. How sweet it will be when can worship together again.
    3. published a newsletter

      ReadOrder of Worship 3/29

      Song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=58LVnt_PIs8


      ~Text version if image doesn't load~


      Order of Service for Family Worship

      Sunday, March 29th


      Sections in red to be done at home.


      -       Call to Worship: Psalm 107:1-2

      -       Sing

      o   Song recommendation: Christ, the Sure and Steady Anchor” by Matt Boswell (lyrics in the video description)

      -       Scripture reading: Psalm 107:23-32

      -       Word of Exhortation (video)

      o   Announcements

      o   Pastoral Prayer: Psalm 29:10-11

      o   Sermon: The Great Storm (Mark 4:35-41)

      -       Benediction: Psalm 107:43

      -       Sing Doxology

      1.  — Edited

        The Peculiar Assembly

        What is the Church?


        Is it a denomination?

        A hierarchy of old guys in funny hats?

        Is it a building?

        A liturgy?

        Is it a club?

        Is it a set of traditions, values, or political commitments?


        Hopefully the answer to those questions seem transparently obvious--No.


        A Mostly Right Answer


        But what about this: the Church is the people of God.


        That sounds a little more accurate, right? The Bible in places refers to all Christians in general simply as the "Church" (Gal 1:13; Acts 8:3; Acts 20:28 1 Cor 10:32; 1 Cor 11:16; Eph 5:25). If you are a Christian, you have been baptized into the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:12-13)--to be a "Christian" is, in one sense, to be the Church.


        In the current COVID-19 world we are living, where nearly every local church around the world was unable to meet on Sunday, we have seen many Christians encourage one another to simply be the Church. We can't get together on Sunday, but that doesn't stop us from being the Church. And by this they mean something like: we can still faithfully follow Jesus, love one another, and serve our community if we cannot all gather together in a building on Sunday morning. To which I give a hearty, Southern-Baptist: Preach it, brotha!


        A Fly in the Ointment


        But, I wonder if there might be a fly hiding somewhere in the ointment. While the Bible does sometimes refer to all Christians across time and space as the "Church" (capitol "C"), more often it uses the word "church" to refer to local assemblies of Christians. For example, whenever Paul writes a letter he addresses it to "the church at Galatia, Ephesus, Rome, etc." This is the distinction that is often referred to as the Universal Church and the Local Church, or the Invisible Church and the Visible Church. Since we are not God, we cannot see the Invisible Church (all Christians across time and space). But, the Invisible, Universal Church is made visible here on earth through the local church. In other words, the only way we can know who is a part of the Invisible Church is by their association or membership with the visible, local church.


        More significantly, there appears to be a unique, peculiar dimension of the church's church-ness when it gathers together corporately. "Church" in the New Testament, of course, literally means assembly, or congregation. So, just like the members of your family are still family even when dispersed, there is an element of your family-ness that is unique to when you gather together. A family who never sees each other is a family in letter, but not in spirit.


        However, the family analogy is an imperfect one. There is no Biblical warrant for families enjoying a peculiar dimension of covenantal fellowship when corporately gathered--but there is for the church. In Matthew 18 we are told that it is when the church is gathered in Jesus' name that Jesus' presence is there (Matt 18:15-20). Of course, since Jesus is God He is omnipresent--everywhere, always. Thus, this must refer to a unique covenantal presence of Jesus--we are gathered in Jesus' name. In the Bible, to bear God's name is synonymous with being in a covenantal relationship with Him. And, therefore, we who have been baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who then gather in Jesus' name (read: are in a covenant with God) experience an aspect of His presence that is unique. In other words, Jesus is present with His church in a way that He isn't present with the rest of the world.


        We see this in practice in the Corinthian church. In 1 Corinthians 5 we are told that it is when the whole church is "assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus" that they then possess a unique, heavenly authority: "the power of the Lord Jesus (is present)," (1 Cor 5:4). In chapter 11 we are told that the Corinthians partake in the Lord's Supper--the meal of the covenant!--when they "come together as a church"--something that is repeated 5x (1 Cor 11:17, 18, 20, 33, 34). Jonathan Leeman writes, "[It's] as if they are somehow more "a church" when together than apart," (Church Membership, p. 44).


        A Stick in the Mud


        Why am I making this point? Am I just trying to be a stick in the mud? No. Or, at least, I hope I'm not. I realize that we have been given a difficult providence from the Lord. We cannot meet right now. Further, we cannot just have church online. So, why am I trying to sweep the legs out from another attempt by well-meaning Christians to make lemonade out of lemons? What's wrong with saying that we can just be the Church?


        Well, the problem with nearly all pithy, proverbial statements isn't that they are wrong, but that they are often unclear.


        When you say be the Church, what exactly do you mean? Do you mean that we should obey Christ, love neighbor, and seek to still follow our covenant oaths of church membership, despite being temporarily unable to gather for corporate worship? Then, verily, verily, I say unto thee: Amen!


        But, do you mean that we can "be the Church" in the exact same way as we could when we could still gather? That gathering for corporate worship was just a nice, added bonus, but not essential? If that's what you mean, then I am going to say: Actually, no. We cannot "be the Church" in the same way if we cannot corporately gather with the rest of our covenant members, hear the preaching of the Word and partake in the ordinances. There is a peculiar, unique, and non-reproducible element to our assembling together that no Facebook live video stream can recreate.


        So, Can We Be the Church?


        What am I getting at? Don't cheapen the glory of corporate worship. Don't denigrate the unique covenantal presence of Jesus we get to experience when we gather together in his name on the Lord's Day by claiming, "It's okay! We don't have to gather for church, we can just be the Church!" How we talk about the church now--especially by pastors and leaders--is telling people what the church is. So, let's be careful.


        Of course, the Lord's sovereign hand has led us here. He knows that this virus has prohibited His people from gathering. Therefore, we can assume that we can, in a way, still be the Church even if we cannot gather. By our obedience to the Lord, love of neighbor, and love for one another we still live as members of the body of Christ. Our citizenship is ultimately in heaven and local churches are simply embassies of heaven, here on earth. Though the embassy has temporarily closed, that does not render our citizenship void nor our duty to live in accordance with its laws. No matter what, we are sojourners and strangers in this world, passing through on our way to the Celestial City where our final resting place lies.


        But, while we remain here, as we await that day, we long for the foretaste of that heavenly city to be brought to us again through our gathering. We long for the glories of corporate worship, the place where we get to be the Church in a way that we never can be alone, separated from one another.


        May the Lord bring that day soon.

        1. Great encouragement, thank you!
        2. I am looking forward to the day when we can all gather together again and worship our Lord and Savior, together!!
      2. The Parables of the Seed (Mark 4:26-34)

        Watch sermon here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HVw8WOCU1Aw


        Questions for Discussion:

        1.     What was one thing that stood out from the sermon?

        2.     What things in life did you assume were “certain” before this new crisis? Read through James 4:13-15. What has this taught you?

        3.     What is the kingdom of God?

        4.     Why do you think the first parable (Mark 4:26-29) emphasizes the sower’s inactivity?

        5.     What do you currently feel impatient with God about?

        6.     In what ways does the gospel bring about the kingdom of God in surprising ways? 


        Sermon Manuscript:


        Is there anything in life that is certain? Anything in your life? Death and taxes, the only things certain in life, the old quip goes. But, we don’t really believe that. Most of the time, we basically assume that much of life is certain. Tomorrow will be similar to today, next week will likely look like this one. We will get up, go to work, take care of the kids, make dinner, go out with friends, finish our homework, go to church. Each day rolls in after the other with a kind of marching similarity and mechanical exactitude. In fact, life can often seem so certain that it can lead to a dreariness—we get bored. We need some variety, some excitement. But, of course, all it takes is one tragedy to insert itself into our lives to dispel this mirage—we control very little in our life. As James warns us, “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that,” James 4:13-15.


         Of course, we are living in remarkable, unprecedented days. Our entire global population, the human race as a whole, is collectively learning this lesson right now. The regular rhythms of life for men and women, what once seemed so certain, around the globe have been interrupted by a mysterious virus that is currently beyond all of our control. The very fact that you are watching or listening to me via the internet right now is itself a testimony to the turbulent and uncertain nature of our lives. Three weeks ago, at the beginning of March, I doubt you anticipated being advised by your government to not leave your home. James was correct: we do not know what tomorrow will bring. Nevertheless, in these tumultuous times there are some things that are absolutely certain. God is in control. Jesus loves you. The Holy Spirit will never leave you. God’s Word will never fail. And, what we will take time to consider today, the kingdom of God has come and is coming.


        The Kingdom of God


        What is the kingdom of God? It was what was forfeited at the Garden of Eden. As image bearers of God, Adam and Eve were charged to exercise royal rule over the earth, on behalf of God—this is the kingdom of God. It is where God’s rule and reign are exercised here on earth through His relationship with His people. When Adam and Eve disobeyed, they disregarded God’s authority, His rule. Thus, they were then expelled from God’s Kingdom. But the whole story of the Bible after this is how God is seeking to reestablish His kingdom here on earth through His relationship with His chosen people. The Bible traces this narrative through God’s dealings with the nation of Israel right up till the arrival of Jesus Christ, who then provocatively announces that the kingdom of God has now arrived (Mark 1:14-15). This is what all of history has been waiting for!


        But, Jesus brings about this kingdom in strange and surprising ways. Which Jesus’ parables here explain for us. These two parables demonstrate that the coming of the kingdom of God is inevitable, but slow; inevitable, but surprising.


        The inevitable kingdom of God


        In the first parable we are given an interesting picture of the kingdom of God. What is the kingdom of God like? “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how,” Mark 4:26-27. What is the kingdom of God like? Like a sower, casting seed on the ground. Sound familiar? Back in 4:1-20 Jesus tells the famous parable of the sower where the “seed” is identified as the Word of the gospel (Mark 4:14). Mark has recorded these parables right next to each other for us to compare and contrast them. In the parable of the sower, the emphasis is on the diversity of responses to the Word—here, the emphasis is on something else: the inevitable result of the Word. 


        It’s interesting the details we are told in this parable: the parable seems to emphasize the sower’s inactivity. “He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” Mark 4:27-29. What is the farmer doing? Of course, a normal farmer does much more than just plant, sleep, and then harvest. But we are only given these details about the farmer to emphasize his inactivity to make a theological point: God’s sovereign hand in bringing about His Kingdom. The farmer has two roles in this parable: planting the seed and harvesting. Everything else is simply out of his control. The actual growth of the seed is something that is taking care of itself. What does this mean? He is just going to sleep, waking up, and the seed grows. He knows not how. He cannot explain exactly how it is the seed is growing, but, lo and behold, it is! Out of the earth the plant pushes upward, apart from anything the farmer is doing. In this parable, you’ll notice that the seed is not identified with the kingdom of God—it most likely is the Word of God. The kingdom of God is also not the growth of the seed, nor is it the sowing of the seed or the reaping by the farmer. All of it, we are told, is like the kingdom of God. What does this mean?


        The Kingdom comes through the Word: Notice that God’s kingdom comes from the sowing of the seed, the Word. The kingdom of God does not arrive through campaigns, programs, or governments. It does not come from medical research, economic policies, education opportunities, free school lunches, the eradication of poverty, or the digging of wells—though all of those things may very well flow from the kingdom of God manifesting itself here on earth. Those, however, are the fruit, not the root. God’s Kingdom does not come through those things. It comes through the casting of the seed, the sowing of the gospel. 


        So, if we want to see the kingdom of God expand, then we will sow the seed. We will prioritize raising our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph 6:4) by teaching them the Bible. We will not just talk in general about God or spirituality with our co-workers and neighbors, but we will open up the Bible with them and share the good news of the gospel. When temptation rears its head, we will cling to the promises and warnings of God’s Word to help us bow the knee to God, not the desires of the flesh. We will demonstrate the kingdom of God here on earth through our good works by caring for others and will, as the Lord permits, couple those good deeds with the words of eternal hope found in the gospel. This means if we want to be Kingdom people we must be Bible people, friends.


        The Kingdom comes by the will of God. The emphasis in this parable is on the seed growing despite the ignorance and inactivity of the farmer. The coming of the kingdom of God is not dependent upon our skill, knowledge, or efforts. We do not build God’s kingdom for Him; He does not need us, but builds His kingdom Himself and graciously invites us in to His work—He has given us the task of sowing and reaping. Does that mean God needs us? Of course not. It is up to God to make the growth. This is why we pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done.”


        The Kingdom coming cannot be stopped. God has ordained that His kingdom will come—He has promised it, thus it cannot be stopped. The kingdom of God has arrived with Jesus—when Jesus came, through His life, death, and resurrection He established God’s Kingdom. By His death and resurrection He defeated Satan, sin and death—the challengers to His rule—and then ascended to the Father’s right hand where He now sits on His throne, ruling and reigning—all authority in heaven and earth has been given to Him (Matt 28:18); the battle has been won. But, you may be thinking, if Jesus established God’s Kingdom, why does the world look so bad? Why are there so many people still resisting His reign? Well, the Kingdom has been inaugurated, but not yet fully consummated (cf. Heb 2:5-9). God’s kingdom is now manifested on earth through the Church—the place where people happily bow the knee to Jesus. But one day, it will not only be some who bow, but all. That will come when Jesus returns. That day will look like Habakkuk’s promise, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea,” Hab 2:14. So we do not yet see the kingdom in its fullness, but this outcome is inevitable. God has promised it! God is working to make the seeds of the gospel grow. 


        After D-day (1944), where the Allies punched through the German line of defense on the continent by their harrowing assault of the beaches of Normandy, they decisively broke the wall of resistance of the Third Reich. Though V-day (1945) was over a year away, the outcome of Germany’s demise and the end of WWII was inevitable. The Axis powers could do nothing to stop it. Friends, the Christian now stands between D-day and V-day and nothing can stop the great, heavenly victory day of the arrival of the New Heavens and New Earth and the final destruction of Satan, sin, and death. Jesus has already defeated the biggest enemies that stood in His way: Satan tries to tempt Jesus, but failed; the world tried to silence Him by nailing him to cross, but failed; sin tried to condemn His church, but His blood cleansed us from all our guilt, so it failed; death itself tried to hold Jesus down but even death couldn’t hold him, and it failed. Jesus has slain all of the biggest monsters and dragons, He has punched down all of the heavyweights—there is nothing that can stop Him! So the final installment of His kingdom is coming, there is no one to prevent it from coming. 


        This, therefore, makes us very confident. Victory is certain; God’s promises will stand. They will come to fruition. As certain as the sun rises day in, day out, so is the certainty of the coming of the kingdom of God. God is the one doing the work, He creates, He brings the growth. What do we do? We simply scatter the seed and trust in our omnipotent God to bring about the results. “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it,” Isa 55:10-11.


        The unhurried kingdom of God         


        If the inevitability of the arrival of the kingdom of God should excite us, the timing of the kingdom of God should temper us. One commentator explains the parable of the seed growing as such: “The first parable, then, is a message about rightly interpreting and responding to the period of the apparent inaction of the kingdom of God. Despite appearances to the contrary, it is growing, and the harvest will come. But it will come in God’s time and in God’s way, not by human effort or in accordance with human logic.” Why does God’s kingdom take so long to come? Why does it sometimes seem like God isn’t really doing anything? The two parables tell of the process of a crop and a tree growing. Trees grow slowly. If you walked out to your yard to examine the oak tree growing there, morning after morning, you would be tempted to think: this thing isn’t growing at all! But, of course, you’d be wrong. And, friends, when we look around the world today it may be tempting to think: God, are your promises really true? Are you really in control? Is your kingdom coming really certain? Yes the promises are inevitable, but they do not happen on our own time table. God’s Kingdom moves at God’s pace. 


        Peter warns us of scoffers in the last days, “They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation,” 2 Pet 3:4. Things don’t look like they are changing—is Jesus really coming back? Peter encourages us, “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed,” 2 Pet 3:8-10. Notice the juxtaposition of slowness and then suddenness. “A thousand years is as a day,” “patience” and then suddenly, “like a thief” Jesus will return, to the roaring destruction of the heavens. Just because God’s kingdom is moving at His own pace does not mean He is hindered or sleepy, like a grandparent having a hard time waking up from a nap. No, God is patient and moves at His own pace for His own good reasons. Perhaps we need to hear the Lord’s admonition to Habakkuk as he impatiently demanded a response from God: “For still the vision awaits its appointed time;

        it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay,” Hab 2:3. Luke Short was a farmer in the 1700’s who lived to the remarkable age of 100. Luke Short, also remarkable for his time, was not a Christian but had remained skeptical. “One day as he sat in his fields reflecting upon his long life, he recalled a sermon he had heard in Dartmouth as a boy before he sailed to America. The horror of dying under the curse of God was impressed upon him as he meditated on the words he had heard so long ago and he was converted to Christ– eighty-five years after hearing John Flavel preach.” Imagine if you were to judge the effectiveness of John Flavel’s preaching or the power of God by looking only at those 84 years and 364 days leading up to that day in the field. You would certainly think: Flavel must have been an ineffective evangelist or God clearly is not at work. Let’s be slow to judge whether or not God is working by the speed of God’s response, friends. Do not confuse patience with inaction or absence.


        The surprising kingdom of God


        In the next parable Jesus compares the kingdom of God with a mustard seed which is “the smallest of all the seeds on the earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade,” Mark 4:31-32. This parable illustrates the surprising nature of the kingdom of God in two ways. First, the second half of the parable is echoing an Old Testament picture from the book of Ezekiel: “Thus says the Lord God: “I myself will take a sprig from the lofty top of the cedar and will set it out. I will break off from the topmost of its young twigs a tender one, and I myself will plant it on a high and lofty mountain. On the mountain height of Israel will I plant it, that it may bear branches and produce fruit and become a noble cedar. And under it will dwell every kind of bird; in the shade of its branches birds of every sort will nest,” Ezekiel 17:22-23. This is a prophecy of the coming Messiah, the righteous branch and offshoot of Jesse (Isa 11:1-2), the sprig that is planted on the mountain height of Israel that grows into a noble cedar. Jesus is the son of David, the righteous branch, the noble cedar; thus, Jesus is the mustard tree described in the parable—it is through Him that the kingdom of God comes. But, in Ezekiel (and elsewhere in the OT) birds “of every sort” is a prophetic image of Gentiles, non-Jews (Ez 31:6). Thus, for Ezekiel and Jesus to say that this great tree that grows up and gathers together birds under its shade would have been a way to say that God’s Kingdom will be a kingdom that includes both Jews and Gentiles, all nations. This would have been surprising for most contemporary Jews of Jesus’ day to understand. They hated Gentiles and Gentiles hated them. But, in God’s Kingdom, ethnic and religious enemies are made into brothers—Jesus welcomes the outsider in.


        Secondly, we see the surprising nature of the kingdom by the description of the tiny seed. It is from the smallest of seeds that the massive mustard tree grows. When holding the small granular seed in your hand it is difficult to see how it will somehow transform into a whole tree, but so it will. And this is precisely what the kingdom of God is like. It comes in a humble, unassuming manner. A baby born in a manger. A carpenter with no formal training. A teacher opposed by the elites. A Messiah nailed to a cross. A group of twelve doubting disciples. This is how the kingdom of God comes into the world. If you were inventing a religion, you would likely try to stack the deck a little more in your favor from the get go. But God’s Kingdom doesn’t come the way our kingdoms do. And friends, the simple truth is that this humble mustard seed that was planted 2,000 years ago has now grown into a massive, hulking, noble cedar. Christianity has spread its roots and branches into every continent on the planet, and to nearly every country. The Bible has been translated into nearly 700 languages and missionaries have gone into thousands upon thousands of people groups. 


        Morning and evening, sow the seed,

        God’s grace the effort shall succeed.



         France, R. T. (2002). The Gospel of Mark: a commentary on the Greek text (p. 215). Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press.

         Michael Boland, “Introduction” in John Flavel, The Mystery of Providence(Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1678/2002), 11.


        1. published a newsletter

          ReadOrder of Worship 3/22

          What will tomorrow morning look? Read through the Call to Worship together with your family before you begin to watch the video recording of the rest of the service. We will post the video recording of everything else to our Facebook page, to Youtube, and send it via email to everyone tomorrow morning around 10 AM. For guidelines on what to do, make sure to read this: https://qbc.org/blogs/2235368--guidelines-for-family-sunday-worship


          -       Call to Worship: Isaiah 55:8-11 (read at home before watching the video)

          -       Announcements

          -       Scripture reading: Revelation 12:7-11

          -       Pastoral Prayer: Habakkuk 2:1-4

          -       Sermon: The Parables of the Kingdom, Mark 4:26-34

          -       Benediction: Rom 16:20

          1. published a newsletter

            ReadGuidelines for Family Sunday Worship

            With our church unable to gather for corporate worship, what should your family do on the Lord’s Day? Below is a brief guide to get you started. This can be implemented by single moms, families with young children, families with no children, empty nesters, singles, you name it!


            Explain to your family ahead of time what you will be doing

            This will be a big adjustment for everyone, so explain a few days ahead of time what Sunday morning will look like. Don’t wait for Sunday morning. Get everyone on the same page ahead of time. Explain that though we cannot meet for church, we still want to devote our time to worship the Lord as a family.


            Sometime after breakfast, gather the family

            Around the kitchen table, in the living room, everyone piled on your bed—wherever you all can comfortably gather together with your Bibles open.


            Follow along the weekly worship guide

            The elders will send out an order of service each week, so check your email or Facebook. Read through the Scripture that will be read, prayed, and preached on ahead of time. Encourage your family to do the same. Maybe read through some of the passages during your dinner time Friday or Saturday night.


            Read the Call to Worship

            Which will be in that week’s order of service email. This could be a great element to allow one of your children to participate in.


            Sing together

            This may feel strange if you are not musically inclined. But there are many options: you could look up songs on YouTube to sing; if someone in the house can play an instrument, ask them to play; or just sing a verse or two of a simple hymn or song, acapella. Sing as many or few songs as your family is capable of—but sing. We will be exploring our capability to record music for Sundays and let you know.


            Simple songs to sing acapella:

            The Gospel Song

            The Lord Bless You and Keep You

            Hallelujah, What a Savior!

            Holy, Holy, Holy


            Tune in and focus

            We will be recording our time of announcements, Scripture reading, pastoral prayer, sermon, and closing benediction. We are still exploring whether this will be pre-recorded or a livestream. While it may be easier for families to get distracted while at home, set an example and encourage your family to honor this time.


            Sing the doxology

            Per our church’s tradition, close with singing the doxology.


            If helpful, go through discussion questions

            Maybe over lunch or dinner, walk through some of the discussion questions with your family to apply the sermon to your life.


            Fight the imposter syndrome

            Depending on your experience of practicing family worship at home, you might feel like an imposter conducting family worship. Just tell yourself that that feeling is normal. Whenever we try to take on a new role or responsibility there is always this feeling of fear and uncertainty. It will take time to get used to this. Keep it simple and don't stress out too much if it feels difficult to adjust to. Who knows! Maybe God was desiring all of us to become better spiritual leaders in our home by prohibiting us from gathering on Sunday!


            And, of course, family worship need not be restricted to only Sunday morning. While worship as a family on Sunday morning may look a little longer and more robust, this is something that can take place every morning (or evening)! It is a practical way that parents (and especially dads) can be heeding the call to raise their children in "the discipline and instruction of the Lord," (Eph 6:4).


            If you have any questions about how to do all of this well in your particular setting, please reach out to the elders or your community group leader for more advice.


            Helpful resources on family worship:


            Family Worship by Donald Whitney

            This is a very short booklet (67 small pages) that is my go-to guide for family worship. It provides a biblical, historical argument for, and practical guide to lead family worship (read, pray, sing). Very simple and easy to access. (There is even a whole chapter on what to do if one parent isn't a Christian, there's no father in the home, the children are too young, and all sorts of other practical questions).


            For a brief article from Whitney on this, read here.


            Scripture Type Coloring Pages

            Something for the kiddos to do while listening. Download and print out their coloring pages for free.


            Robert Murray M’Cheyene’s Family Worship plan

             https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/bible-centered-family-worship-mcheyne/


            Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening

            These are short devotionals written by Spurgeon that could be read out loud to the family, one for each day of the year, morning and evening.


            Joel Beeke’s message on the importance of family worship

            From the 2011 Desiring God conference


            10 Tips on Family Devotions from Tim Challies

            1.  — Edited

              Guidelines for Family Sunday Worship

              With our church unable to gather for corporate worship, what should your family do on the Lord’s Day? Below is a brief guide to get you started. This can be implemented by single moms, families with young children, families with no children, empty nesters, singles, you name it!


              Explain to your family ahead of time what you will be doing

              This will be a big adjustment for everyone, so explain a few days ahead of time what Sunday morning will look like. Don’t wait for Sunday morning. Get everyone on the same page ahead of time. Explain that though we cannot meet for church, we still want to devote our time to worship the Lord as a family.


              Sometime after breakfast, gather the family

              Around the kitchen table, in the living room, everyone piled on your bed—wherever you all can comfortably gather together with your Bibles open.


              Follow along the weekly worship guide

              The elders will send out an order of service each week, so check your email or Facebook. Read through the Scripture that will be read, prayed, and preached on ahead of time. Encourage your family to do the same. Maybe read through some of the passages during your dinner time Friday or Saturday night.


              Read the Call to Worship

              Which will be in that week’s order of service email. This could be a great element to allow one of your children to participate in.


              Sing together

              This may feel strange if you are not musically inclined. But there are many options: you could look up songs on YouTube to sing; if someone in the house can play an instrument, ask them to play; or just sing a verse or two of a simple hymn or song, acapella. Sing as many or few songs as your family is capable of—but sing. Here are some.


              Simple songs to sing acapella:

              The Gospel Song

              The Lord Bless You and Keep You

              Hallelujah, What a Savior!

              Holy, Holy, Holy


              Read the Scripture Reading

              Again, this would be a great chance to get different members of the family involved.


              Tune in and focus

              We will be recording our time of announcements, pastoral prayer, and sermon and posting them early Sunday morning. While it may be easier for families to get distracted while at home, set an example and encourage your family to honor this time. If you have a smart TV, consider streaming the video via Youtube on that so that it feels a little more demanding of everyone's attention.


              Read the Benediction

              Since this is to a final word of blessing and exhortation, this would be appropriate for the fathers at home to do.


              Sing the doxology

              Per our church’s tradition, close with singing the doxology.


              If helpful, go through discussion questions

              Maybe over lunch or dinner, walk through some of the discussion questions with your family to apply the sermon to your life.



              Fight the imposter syndrome

              Depending on your experience of practicing family worship at home, you might feel like an imposter conducting family worship. Just tell yourself that that feeling is normal. Whenever we try to take on a new role or responsibility there is always this feeling of fear and uncertainty. It will take time to get used to this. Keep it simple and don't stress out too much if it feels difficult to adjust to. Who knows! Maybe God was desiring all of us to become better spiritual leaders in our home by prohibiting us from gathering on Sunday!


              And, of course, family worship need not be restricted to only Sunday morning. While worship as a family on Sunday morning may look a little longer and more robust, this is something that can take place every morning (or evening)! It is a practical way that parents (and especially dads) can be heeding the call to raise their children in "the discipline and instruction of the Lord," (Eph 6:4).


              If you have any questions about how to do all of this well in your particular setting, please reach out to the elders or your community group leader for more advice.


              ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

              Helpful resources on family worship:


              Family Worship by Donald Whitney

              This is a very short booklet (67 small pages) that is my go-to guide for family worship. It provides a biblical, historical argument for, and practical guide to lead family worship (read, pray, sing). Very simple and easy to access. (There is even a whole chapter on what to do if one parent isn't a Christian, there's no father in the home, the children are too young, and all sorts of other practical questions).


              For a brief article from Whitney on this, read here.


              TGC's List of Family Worship resources:

              https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/melissa-kruger/today-the-perfect-time-to-start-family-devotions/


              Scripture Type Coloring Pages

              Something for the kiddos to do while listening. Download and print out their coloring pages for free.


              Robert Murray M’Cheyene’s Family Worship plan

               https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/bible-centered-family-worship-mcheyne/


              Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening

              These are short devotionals written by Spurgeon that could be read out loud to the family, one for each day of the year, morning and evening.


              Joel Beeke’s message on the importance of family worship

              From the 2011 Desiring God conference


              10 Tips on Family Devotions from Tim Challies

              1. published a newsletter

                ReadWhy You Can't Have Church Online

                Churches around the world have had to make very difficult decisions in the past week due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Out of love for neighbor (Matt 22:39) and a desire to obey the governing authorities (Rom 13:1-7), many churches (ours included) have temporarily suspended their Sunday services, small groups, Bible studies, prayer meetings, and so on. Though difficult, I believe this is wise and loving in these extraordinary circumstances.


                But, because of the common grace of technology today, many churches can record or livestream their music and preaching and put them online for their members to still be fed and ministered to. This is a great blessing from God and would have been impossible a mere fifteen years ago.


                However, there has been an unfortunate consequence. Many churches have advertised something like:

                Church isn't cancelled, we're just moving online!

                Or, Join us for church in your pajamas!

                Or, We are still gathering together, just virtually!


                I believe this is a mistake and would implore other Christian leaders to not speak this way.


                Why?

                I understand (I think) why pastors and ministry leaders have spoken like this. Every church around the world has been dealt a difficult hand and are trying to make the best of it. They don't want to discourage their church members and feed into the feel of "doom and gloom" that is hanging over many right now. "So," they say, "we aren't cancelling church; just changing how it is experienced." It's a keep calm and carry on mentality, one that I deeply sympathize with.


                However, leading people to believe that they can still attend "church" at home, by themselves, just by listening to a sermon or music online is mistaken.


                "Church” is not something that can be recreated digitally. It is an analog reality. The very word for “church” in the New Testament (ekklesia) literally refers to a public gathering or assembly of people. For example, in Acts 19:39-41 the same word (ekklesia) is used to describe a mob. How can people "assemble" together if they are not with each other physically?


                There are so many elements of church that cannot be recreated unless there is physical proximity to one another:

                • Sharing in the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor 10:17; 14:17-20)
                • Celebrating baptism
                • Singing to one another (Col 3:16; Eph 5:19)
                • Admitting new members into the church or (sadly, if necessary) dismissing members from fellowship (Matt 18:15-20; 1 Cor 5:4)
                • Fellowshipping together and sharing in the contextually appropriate greeting that embodies the command to “greet one another with a holy kiss” (Rom 16:16; 1 Thess 5:26)
                • Praying corporately as a body (Matt 18:19; Acts 6:4, 6)
                • Further, as anyone who has listened to a sermon online knows, hearing God’s Word preached in person is an entirely different experience than listening online. As I am preaching and praying I am looking at the faces of my congregation, thinking specifically about their lives and how God's Word particularly applies to them. That can't be recreated through a computer screen.


                The Importance of Presence


                My wife and I spent the majority of our dating relationship with her in Seattle and me in the Tri-Cities. We would call each other daily, do Skype dates, and write letters. We wanted to continue to grow our relationship even if there was hundreds of miles separating us. But nothing compared to being physically present with each other. Holding hands, going on walks together, and just having conversations in person was exponentially better. Physical presence is not just an unnecessary "bonus" for relationships--it is vital. And while our modern technology can ameliorate the problem of distance, it will never replace actual physical proximity. Texting someone a "I'm sorry for your loss" is nothing compared to saying the same thing with your arm around them at the hospital.


                Our gathering together on Sunday morning is itself a foretaste of the heavenly assembly we will all one day participate in (Heb 12:22-24). The church is, before it is anything else, fundamentally a gathering created by the Gospel--"where two or three are gathered in my name," (Matt 18:20). What if we can't gather? What if we cannot "assemble" (ekklesia)? Well, we have to think creatively about how to still "stir up one another to love and good works" even if we cannot "meet together" (Heb 10:24-25).


                But we should not cheapen the uniqueness of what happens in our Sunday gatherings by equating it with someone listening to a sermon online. In short, you (literally) cannot have "church" online.


                So, What Should We Do Then?


                I hope it doesn't seem like I am trying to kick churches while they are down. I realize that this is an extremely difficult time for many churches, and pastors need to be thinking hard about how to minister to their congregations. Churches also need not feed into people's fears (CHURCH IS CANCELLED! THE SKY IS FALLING!). Like I said earlier, I profoundly sympathize with churches desire to serve their congregations through this season.


                I believe there is a better way forward. While the Bible does not tell us that we can recreate "church" online, it does give us examples of what Christians do when they are prohibited from gathering together: they still should strive to encourage one another with prayer and with the Word.


                Paul often longed to visit various churches in person but was unable to—so, instead he wrote them letters to encourage, exhort, inform, and pray for these different churches (ex. 1 Thess 2:17-18; Rom 15:22). Paul can even speak of having a form of fellowship with churches he was not physically present with through his letter correspondence (Col 2:5; 1 Cor 5:3). In many of his letters, Paul talks about being eager to hear reports from the churches and will often send delegates to go deliver and receive updates (1 Thess 3:6-7) and he always goes out of his way to send personal greetings to people he is separated from (Rom 16:1-23).


                Churches today should seek to emulate this model. We are temporarily separated from one another. And, like Paul, we eagerly long to see one another "face to face" (1 Thess 3:10). But, as Paul used the common grace of letter-writing to still minister to churches, we can use the common grace of technology to minister to our churches (recordings, blog posts, livestreams, texts, emails, phone calls, FaceTime, etc.). We can encourage our members to still do "the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ," (Eph 4:12) as best as they can with the technology given them. Further, if practiced wisely in accordance with social distancing policies, pastors can recover the lost art of pastoral/home visitations (Acts 20:20).


                However, we sadly cannot (nor should we make it seem like we can) still have "church" without gathering.


                The Danger


                Despite being biblically unwarranted, there is also a pastoral/discipleship problem lurking here. If churches continue to advertise that people can just "go to church online" I fear that many less mature Christians may think: Hey, this is convenient. Why don't we just do this all the time? What will happen to these people after the restrictions for gathering are lifted? If they have been told they can "go to church online," what is the point of getting changed out of their pajamas and driving to the building down the street? How will they obey Hebrews 3:12-14 or Hebrews 10:24-25? How will they partake in the sacraments? What message will be communicated to them about the nature of the church, Christian discipleship, Christian fellowship, and church membership? How will churches work to not reinforce the common "consumer" mentality already prevalent in many American churches?


                These are questions that pastors need to be asking themselves as we strive to love, serve, shepherd, and feed our flocks in these extraordinary days. Perhaps our language should center more on "discipling," "family worship," or "exhortation" via the internet rather than having "church online."


                The Privilege


                My prayer is that, through this hiatus of gathering, our churches would come to see the remarkable privilege and joy it is to gather on the Lord's Day for corporate worship. One pastor, writing in the New York Times, explained: "Recently, I came home from a trip out of state and my son ran to the door to greet me shouting, “Daddy, daddy!” He jumped into my arms and gave me a hug with all the strength his 5-year-old body could muster. The absence had made the return home that much sweeter...I do not know when I will be able to take the bread and wine without hesitancy with the members of my church, but when I do I hope that I match my son’s joy."


                May it be so for us all.


                "But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face,"

                - 1 Thess 2:17 -