God's Ordinary Means of Grace and Growth
March 1, 2018 by Trent Hunter 0 comments
How does God get his extraordinary work done in us and through us? He gets his work done through the ordinary things of the Word, fellowship with believers, singing, our weekly gatherings, and of course prayer.
In Sunday's sermon, "Christ-Filled Prayer," we began by exploring this idea of God's ordinary means of grace and growth. It's an important paradigm as we think about our church, what we're doing, why we do it, what we should do, etc.
Ligon Duncan explores this paradigm for thinking about chruch health and growth in his article, "The Ordinary Means of Growth."
We are living in a confused and confusing time for confessional Christians. ... It is not uncommon today to hear certain buzz-words and catch phrases that are meant to capture and articulate new (and presumably more culturally-attuned) approaches to ministry: “Purpose-driven,” “missional,” “contextualization,” “word and deed,” “ancient-future,” “emerging/emergent,” “peace and justice.” Now, to be sure, there are points, diagnoses, and emphases entailed in each of these terms and concepts that are helpful, true, and timely. Sadly, however, the philosophies of ministry often associated with this glossary are also often self-contrasted with the historic Christian view of how the church lives and ministers. That view is often called “the ordinary means of grace” view of ministry.
The fundamental assumption underlying these new approaches is that “everything has changed,” and so our methods must change. ...
In sum, there are basically three views of Gospel ministry. There are those who think that effective cultural engagement requires an updating of the message. There are those who think that effective ministry requires an updating of our methods. And there are those who think that effective ministry begins with a pre-commitment to God’s message and methods, set forth in His Word.
Thus, liberalism said that the Gospel won’t work unless the message is changed. Modern evangelicalism (and not just in its “seeker-sensitive” and postmodern permutations) has often said that the Gospel won’t work unless our methods are changed. But those committed to an “ordinary means” approach to church life and ministry say the Gospel works, and God has given us both the method and the message. ...
Ordinary means of grace-based ministry is ministry that focuses on doing the things God, in the Bible, says are central to the spiritual health and growth of His people, and which aims to see the qualities and priorities of the church reflect biblical norms. Ordinary means ministry is thus radically committed to biblical direction of the priorities of ministry. Ordinary means ministry believes that God has told us the most important things, not only about the truth we are to tell, but about the way we are to live and minister — in any and every context.
Ordinary means ministry believes that the key things that the church can do in order to help people know God and grow in their knowledge of God are: First, emphasize the public reading and preaching of the Word; second, emphasize the confirming, sanctifying and assuring efficacy of the sacraments, publicly administered; and third, emphasize a life of prayer, especially expressed corporately in the church. These things are central and vital but sadly often under-emphasized, under-appreciated, and undermined.
These are the main ways God’s people grow. ... Nothing else we do in the church’s program of ministry should detract from these central instruments of grace, and indeed everything else we do should promote and coalesce with them.
This means, among other things, that ministry is not rocket science. Gospel faithfulness does not require the minister to be a sociologist.
What will a church look like that is committed to the ordinary means of grace?
That's the question for us. Brothers and sisters, let's press deeper into the old things together. Then, let's do it again.
Read Ligon's whole article here.
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