CATECHISMS, THEOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT AND HABITS OF SPIRITUAL GROWTH

26281_Highlighting_BiblesAs a church, we will be utilizing a tool to help us cultivate habits of spiritual growth and theological development: The New City Catechism. To help us understand this tool and how we will be using it, I’ve put together this blog post answering three questions:

Why use a catechism?

In every age, it is important for the church to know and love God’s Word as it has been passed down and delivered to the saints throughout every generation. It’s all the more critical when the culture around the church is asking the question, “What is truth?” Catechisms help ground the church in the foundational and formative truths of Scripture in the form of focused study and dialogical discussion in a question and answer format.

Our goal as the church is to know and love God. We do that through knowing and loving His Word. Catechisms help us to first memorize and then meditate on those aspects of God’s Word that are foundational to understanding God and His ways. This then proves formative for shaping us as His people in His world.

Sinclair Ferguson writes in Faithful God an insightful observation about one difference between the modern and historic church:

Christians in an earlier generation rarely thought of writing books on guidance. There is a reason for that (just as there is a reason why so many of us today are drawn to books that will tell us how to find God’s will). Our forefathers in the faith were catechized, and they taught catechisms to their children. Often as much as half of the catechism would be devoted to an exposition of the answers to questions like the following:

Question: Where do we find God’s will?

Answer: In the Scriptures.

Question: Where in particular in the Scriptures?

Answer: In the Commandments that God has given to us.

Why were these questions and answers so important? Because these Christians understood that God’s law provides basic guidelines that cover the whole of life. Indeed, in the vast majority of instances, the answer to the question “What does God want me to do?” will be found by answering the question: “How does the law of God apply to this situation? What does the Lord require of me here in his word?”

In this way, catechisms help us to know, understand, and thoughtfully and confidently apply God’s Word to our particular life and situations. 

Take the first catechism as an example:

Q1: What is our only hope in life and death?

A1: That we are not our own but belong, body and soul, both in life and death, to God and to our Savior Jesus Christ.

In a world and age where we are faced with rival claims to our physical and spiritual lives (“You belong to the State.” “No, you belong to your own determinative will; pick your fate and spiritual preference.”), or threats to our person (“Your body is not your own, it belongs to your boy/girl friend, abusive person or threat to your well-being, etc.,” or “Your suffering and experience as a person of particular color is part of life and not my/our problem”), or a form of spirituality that says only the interior life/world matters (“Your mind is all there is”, “This world doesn’t matter”, etc), this question on its own affirms that our bodies, our lives, our skin, our flesh, as well as our minds, our hearts, our inner life not only matter but they are in fact rightfully God’s alone!

It’s an encapsulation of Scripture: 

“For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.” – Romans 14:7-8

“The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein,” – Psalm 24:1

Everything we do or don’t do; everything that is done to/for us or against us is either an act of rebellion against God and deserving His just judgment, or a response of gratitude and worship to God because of His mercy, forgiveness, and love towards us in our Savior Jesus Christ. In Christ, we belong to God no matter what anyone else says or does.

Catechisms then are tools to help us know and love God and his Word as well as to help us apply it in timely ways in our lives.

Why the New City Catechism (NCC)?

The NCC is a modern catechism formed by the members of the Gospel Coalition. Some of it’s distinctives are that it is a simplified version of longer historic catechism namely the Heidelberg and Westminster Catechisms. In this way they serve as an introduction as well as a gateway or stepping stone to the other catechisms. It uses modern and simplified language to help communicate clearly the truths of Scripture that can be hard to sift through older and less common language of the historic catechisms.

Some of the features of the NCC also lend itself to easy use in simple family and personal devotional practices.

  • Full version and Children’s version
  • Scripture references for each questions and answer
  • Accompanying commentary in written and video formats
  • Scripted prayers in response to each catechism
  • Some even have accompanying songs or tunes to help assist in memorization

Our hope is that the NCC would be a useful tool to help introduce us to theological training by easily developing the habit of spiritual growth; specifically the habits of focused study of God’s word, prayer, along with memorization, meditation, discussion, and application of God’s word in our everyday lives.

 

How is this going to work for Christ Church Mansfield?

We will be incorporating the NCC into the two aspects of our life together: as a gathered church on Sundays and as scattered households throughout the week.

As a church

For the next year we will incorporate the NCC into our Confession of Faith segment of our weekly worship liturgy. The liturgy leader that day will provide some brief explanation of the specific truth highlighted in that week’s catechism question and response to better serve our understanding of the truth. Likewise, our children will be working through the same catechism questions in the Christ Church Kids Ministry environments (Infants, Pre-school, and Gospel Journey Elementary Ages).

As families/individuals

In addition to our Sunday worship gatherings, we envision and want to encourage each household – whether you’re a family or individual – to set aside some time each week to study and discuss that week’s catechism question. We recommend designating one meal each week as a “family and/or friends” meal where you sit down, eat together, and open up God’s Word and the NCC to work on memorizing and meditating on each question.

We will send out links and resources to the catechism each week in our Week In Review email (the WIRe) to help you lead in these family and friends discussions. You can also purchase the two physical resources to have in book format if you so choose; they are The New City Catechism: 52 Questions and Answers for Our Hearts and Minds and The New City Catechism Devotional: God’s Truth for Our Hearts and Minds. All of this material is available for Free in digital format, on their website and as downloadable apps for your phone or tablet.

 

26601_Family_Bible_StudyLinks to Resources

New City Catechism (NCC) web page and web app.

Youtube channel with video commentary on the NCC.

Tim Keller on Why We Should Catechize our Children (Gospel Coalition).

Promotional video of NCC in use as home and personal devotion practice.

Songs for the NCC (not complete yet, but a start).

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The Blessing of Divine Intrusion

New sermon video from last week is up! Share your thoughts, comments, and questions – I’d love to hear what’s on your mind!

 

The Blessing of Divine Intrusion
Ephesians 1:3-14
Part 2 of the series, Wondrous Mystery: Exploring the Depths of our Union with Christ

Sermon series through Ephesians at Christ Church Mansfield

Lost and Found in Luke’s Gospel

Lost & Found - Prodigal God, pt 1 (Social Media Post)This is part one of our three-part series at Christ Church Mansfield called Prodigal God: Sitting at the Table of the One who Seeks the Lost, the Least, and the Last.

Would love to know what your thoughts are after watching this sermon. Leave a comment and let’s talk about them!

Prodigal God, part 1 – Lost and Found

 

 

 

The Importance of Community for the Church

Why is community so important to the church? And why do we too often neglect it?

I was reminded earlier this week of one of my favorite parts of the Cormac McCarthy novel, The Road. It’s where the father is trying to impart some encouragement to his son, as they journey through the bleakness of the post-apocalyptic wasteland of the United States,

road-cormac-fs-aug-03

F: You have to carry the fire.
S: I don’t know how to.
F: Yes, you do.
S: Is the fire real? The fire?
F: Yes it is.
S: Where is it? I don’t know where it is.
F: Yes you do. It’s inside you. It always was there. I can see it.

Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Many have speculated about the significance of “the fire” to which McCarthy refers. Is it a reference to Prometheus’ gift of knowledge to humanity in Greek mythology? Or perhaps a reference to God Himself, and the importance of faith and religion in making us human in an inhuman world? Is it simply the life that is still existent in the love of the son and his father contrasted with the death and chaos around them? These would certainly fit the narrative of The Road.

But what I find interesting is that this particular exchange shows us how community – or, fellowship – functions.

There is a goal, or mission, and a very real struggle. What sustains us through the struggle is having someone be in it with us. What helps us when we cannot see something is to have someone else see for us. What keeps us from quitting or falling into despair is the presence and performance of another.

In other words, life is too hard to go it alone; we need others. We need others to not only accomplish the work, task, mission we have been given to do, but also to make it through any given day.

And yet we so often miss out on the presence of others in our lives due to so many reasons. Busyness. Work. Play. An “always-on-and-available-except-to-the-people-that-matter-most-to-us” mentality. Living in a constant age of distraction and disruption.

What would happen if we chose to disrupt the disruption? What could happen if we gave time, energy, and attention to the relationships that need it most? What if we as a church collectively regained our sense of purpose in “carrying the fire” – the light of the world – out of our buried baskets and frazzled lives and out into the world that’s desperately dying from not having it?

Might we just see that fire spread to others? Could we perhaps get a glimpse of what it looks like when the world starts to be healed, redeemed, restored, and renewed and brought back into life and alignment with God? Would we not see the knowledge of the glory of God cover the earth, as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14)?

Could we perhaps get a glimpse of what it looks like when the world starts to be healed, redeemed, restored, and renewed and brought back into life and alignment with God? Would we not see the knowledge of the glory of God cover the earth, as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14)?

Would we not see the knowledge of the glory of God cover the earth, as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14)?

“Our collective holiness is a witness to our Holy God. How we live, then, not only expresses our calling but also narrates a story to the world. It tells others something about who Jesus is and what he is doing in the world. If our life together is focused on fulfillment from “one another,” we will quickly devolve into a dysfunctional community marked by disillusionment, silent record-keeping, or unrealistic demands. We are called into community but not for community. We exist for Christ and in Christ. He is our all in all. If this is true, we will live together in a gracious, forbearing, truthful way. This way of living is a counter-cultural witness of Christ to the world. Our community becomes part of God’s greater mission for us. We are not only conceived in the church, but also called into God’s mission—to redeem social ill, make good culture, and share a whole gospel. We are sent together, called to carry the good news to people and into cultures.”

– Jonathan Dodson and Brad Watson,

Called Together: A Guide to Forming Missional Communities

 

 

 

 

How Grace Works

There’s a reason why God has to save anyone by grace, and grace alone, and not anything we can do.

The apostle Paul uses two “heroes” from the OT to prove this point in Romans 4, Abraham and David. He shows through their lives that even they were made right – justified – through God’s act of grace, not their efforts and achievements. They lived by faith and stood on grace, because only God can “make beauty out of ugly things” (U2), or in Paul’s words, “God justifies the ungodly.”

The good news of the gospel is that grace and life comes to screw-ups and failures. In other words, God justifies the wicked, not the winsome; the ungodly, not the unblemished

Quotable/Tweetable Thoughts

“God justifies the wicked, not the winsome; the ungodly, not the unblemished.” – Chris Gensheer

“Not only am I completely incapable of making God love me more, I’m equally incapable of making him love me less.” – Scotty Smith

“An idol is pursuing something you want, but don’t possess; your boast is holding on to something you have, but don’t want to lose.” – Chris Gensheer

“To “credit” righteousness is to bestow a positive, not merely forgive a negative.” – Chris Gensheer

“I’m much more interested in grace because I’m really depending on it.” – Bono

“Grace makes beauty our of ugly things.” – Bono

Christ Church Mansfield exists to love God, connect people, serve the city, and reach the world with the transforming power of the Gospel in Mansfield, Arlington, Midlothian, Burleson, Cedar Hill, Fort Worth and Dallas TX, and beyond.

Member of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), the Southwest Church Planting Network, and The Gospel Coalition.

Skeptics, curious, misfits, and mavericks welcome!

For more go to http://www.christchurchmansfield.com

A Way to Be Good and Right Again

Two weeks ago, I preached and unpacked Romans 3:19-31and the two greatest words possibly in all the Bible, but definitely in Romans so far:

But now.

One secular writer has said that “… the problem with justifying my own existence…is not that I’m such a bad person, but that I could be, and that I should far better than I really am.” In Romans 1-2, Paul has established that every single person does understand – through conscience – that they ought to be living in a certain way, and yet no one does it. Everyone is struggling for righteousness, and no one is getting it.

This is where we get the two greatest words in the Bible, “but now”. But now in the Gospel there is a new reality, a new possibility, a new way to be righteous, to be “good again” (Kite Runner).

The “but now” of the gospel is more than mere forgiveness, it’s justification. Instead of saying, “You may go”, justification says, “You may come!”

The Heidelberg Catechism puts it like this:

60. Q. How are you righteous before God?

A. Only by true faith in Jesus Christ.

Even though my conscience accuses me of having grievously sinned against all God’s commandments, of never having kept any of them, and of still being inclined toward all evil, nevertheless, without any merit of my own, out of sheer grace,God grants and credits to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner, and as if I had been as perfectly obedient as Christ was obedient for me.

All I need to do is accept this gift with a believing heart.

This is the essence of faith in Christ.

Part of the sermon series Romans: Unlocking the Gospel | Unleashing the Power  at Christ Church Mansfield, from Lead Pastor Chris Gensheer. For more content or to know more about the ministry of Christ Church, go to http://www.christchurchmansfield.com.

New Sermon video – True Grit: Fight. Flee. Fulfill!

How do you deal with pressure? When the going gets tough, what do you do?

All human beings have the tendency to either fight through, or flee the other way; the classic Lizard brain “fight or flight” response. And this is good for survival purposes, but what if the stakes are even greater than just simply preservation of our lives or the mere status quo.

For all of us, it’s only when the roof caves in that the truth comes out, and despite our best efforts and tough talk, all of our strength and might fails us. Our only other option would seem to be to flee and run away. But in the gospel, we see another way – fulfillment. When the blow of God’s judgment against sin – the ways we fail God, others, and even ourselves – it falls hard on all.

But for those who put their trust in Christ – the Shepherd who was struck for His people and later vindicated and raised up in glory – can be redeemed, restored and renewed, and so fight the fight of faith to cling to Jesus through all of life’s ups, down, failures and successes.

Christ Church Mansfield is a worshiping community on mission to make to reach this and the next generation with the transforming power of the gospel.

We exist to love God (worship), connect people (community), serve the city (mission) and reach the world (discipleship) with the transforming power of the gospel. We serve the communities of Mansfield, Arlington, Burleson, Midlothian, Cedar Hill, Grand Prairie and Fort Worth, TX.

A member of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), we stand in the reformed tradition that celebrates that the church is always to be reformed; meaning, we are to be reshaped and molded into the image of Christ as declared in the scriptures.

For more free content, or to make a contribution to the ministry, go to http://www.cpcmansfield.org (soon to be http://www.christchurchmansfield.com)

Gospel Centered Giving: Grace Made Visible

Here is the video to my latest sermon at Christ Church Mansfield, Gospel Centered Giving: Grace Made Visible from Mark 12:38-44.

This is part 29 of our series The Way of Paradox: Following the Right-Side Up King in an Upside-Down World, a Study in the Gospel of Mark.

In this sermon, we explore the extraordinary giving of woman of humble means but full faith, contrasted with the meager giving of the wealthy, established and religious elite, and exposes a fundamental principle we often overlook when it comes to giving of our resources…

Giving is first a heart issue, before it’s ever a money issue.

The widow in Mark 12 shows us what gospel centered giving, grace made visible, actually looks like.

Only those who first give all that they are can give all that they have. And we can fully give all that we are and have because we have received from God all the best that He could give us in Jesus His Son.

Tweetable Thoughts:

“Giving is a reflection of the health of your heart, not the wealth of your wallet.” @ccmansfieldtx #wayofparadox

“Only those who give all that they are can give all that they have.” @ccmansfieldtx #wayofparadox

“Our money & where it goes betray what our hearts find most valuable.” @ccmansfieldtx #wayofparadox

References in the Sermon

Ann Voskamp’s article on Waging Love in Iraq with Preemptive Love Coalition Link:

Ann Voskamp on Twitter (@AnnVoskamp)

Relevant Magazine article “What Would Happen if the Church Tithed.” 

Christ Church Mansfield is a gospel centered worshiping community on mission to reach this and the next generation with the transforming power of the gospel.

We exist to love God (worship), connect people (community), serve the city (mission) and reach the world (discipleship) with the transforming power of the gospel. We serve the communities of Mansfield, Arlington, Burleson, Midlothian, Cedar Hill, Grand Prairie and Fort Worth TX.

A member of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), we stand in the reformed tradition that celebrates that the church is always to be reformed; meaning, we are to be reshaped and molded into the image of Christ as declared in the scriptures.

For more free content, or to make a contribution to the ministry, go to http://www.cpcmansfield.org/

When Small Gifts are Significant – Give to our Church Planting Work and Share with your Friends

[To watch a video version, click here. Otherwise, enjoy the post below!]

When Small Gifts Make a Big Difference

I want to share a story of something that happened tonight. You see, we went out and saw our neighbors doing some yard work – moving rocks from the front to the back yard. We decided to all pitch in and help as a family. Maggie could pull some weeds, and I could do some of the heavy lifting of shoveling and transporting the rocks to the back yard.

But our little guys pitched in too. Alex, Jack and Luke each grabbed a rake or shovel from time to time and each contributed their part in the process. Here are some pictures.

Everyone with a gift pitching in

Everyone with a gift pitching in

No gift too small

Now, none of their “scoops” was as big as mine. But it would be wrong to judge their contribution as being less significant than mine. Their contribution, though smaller, was just as significant because it was part of a greater work, or end. We had to get the rocks from the front to the back, and every “small” scoop they contributed, was one less scoop I or someone else had to tackle.

Their contribution – though small – was significant.

This reminded me of a story in the Bible where Jesus went out and was teaching a group of people who had followed Him. After several hours, everyone started to get hungry, but no one had thought of a plan, let alone brought provisions to feed everyone who showed up – over 5,000 people in total. When Jesus asked His closest followers about a solution, their response was to simply tell the people to go elsewhere and find food. They had nothing. There was nothing they could do or provide that would have made a difference.

But there was someone – a little boy in fact –  in that crowd who heard what was going on and decided to step up to Jesus and offer what he had – five loaves of bread and couple of fish. It would have been the equivalent of an elementary school kids packed lunch from his Mom. But this kid was willing to offer his small gift to contribute to the need.

Then this is what happened:

“Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten.” – John 6:11-13 (ESV)

What I witnessed tonight with my own kids reminded me of this simple, yet profound fact: there is no such thing as a small, insignificant gift when it’s put in the hands and in the service of Jesus. Because Jesus is the one who makes even small gifts significant.

Asking You to Respond

Which is why I want to ask each of you who are reading (or watching) this, to respond in two ways. You see, as some of you may already know, we have been in the process of raising funds for a church planting work in a growing city in the Fort Worth metro area, Mansfield, TX.  So far, we are at 33% of our 2 year financial goal. Now we are excited about that, and so thankful for everyone who has already jumped on board and contributed. But we still have a ways to go, and I leave for Mansfield this Saturday (May 31, 2014).

The first response I want to ask you to make is to give a small financial contribution to our church planting work in Mansfield, TX.

If every one of you who are my friends on Facebook, or followers on Twitter or my blog, or a connection on LinkedIn, in my circle of Google+, or someone who received this because a mutual friends shared it with you, were to contribute a small one time donation of $50 (or a monthly donation of $4.17 for 12 months), we would reach our 2 year fund raising goal of $100,000. These funds will go to the operational budget of our church planting work.

Some of you may have already been thinking about supporting us, or perhaps you could support at a greater (or lesser) amount, and I want you to know that we would love to have you come on board at whatever amount you are comfortable with giving.

Please know that 100% of your donation will go to this work directly, and is considered a tax-deductible gift. To give, go to www.frontiermissionproject.com and choose the best option for you and your situation.

Now some of you who are my friends, followers or connections online, don’t share my same belief as a Christian, and you’re probably thinking, “Why should I get behind and support you planting a church?” I’m glad you asked, and I will be posting a second post (and video) explaining why I believe that even if you do not share my same belief as a Christian, or are skeptical, maybe even hurt by your experience of organized religion, that there is a legitimately good reason to support this kind of work. Watch for this tomorrow sometime.

The second response I want to ask you to make is to Like, Share, Retweet, and send this post (or video) to your own network of friends, followers and connections.

When you do, please give a quick word or two as to why you’re sharing it. It could be something as simple as, “Check out what my friend Chris Gensheer is doing and be a part of it. I just did!” or whatever else you may want to say. But it would be very helpful, and meaningful, to help spread the word about what we’re doing and give others the opportunity to jump on board.

A Truly Grassroots Crowdfunding Campaign

I also want to offer you all something in return for jumping on board and giving any donation you want to give to this work as a small token of my appreciation. Like any good crowd-funded campaign, I have a series of gifts, or offers, to give you for your partnership and participation in this work.

Any gift of any amount = Enrollment in our Ministry Updates and Prayer Newsletter, an opportunity to go out for coffee or some other drink whenever you’re in Mansfield (and I’m available to meet), and my undying love and gratitude.

Any gift of $50-$99 – A short essay (PDF) on the intersection of the Christian church and public good (original work of mine, to be completed by August 15, 2014), enrollment in our Ministry Updates and Prayer Newsletter, an opportunity to go out for coffee or some other drink whenever you’re in Mansfield (and I’m available to meet), and my undying love and gratitude.

Any gift of $100 or More – A small group Lenten devotional through the Gospel of Mark (original work of mine, to be completed by August 25, 2014), a short essay (PDF) on the intersection of the Christian church and public good (original work of mine, to be completed by August 25, 2014), enrollment in our Ministry Updates and Prayer Newsletter, an opportunity to go out for coffee or some other drink whenever you’re in Mansfield (and I’m available to meet), and my undying love and gratitude.

To receive these gifts, please email me at frontiermissionproject@gmail.com and let me know that you are jumping in and wanting to support this work and at what amount.

And please go and Like us on Facebook (and share with your friends), Follow us on Twitter (and RT please), and +1 on Google+ to stay up to date on what’s going on, receive informative and entertaining updates related to our work, and be part of our online community

Thanks guys. Now lets see what King Jesus can do when we entrust Him with our small gifts and look for Him to do significant things with each one!

Chris Gensheer is the Lead Pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church, Mansfield, TX, a growing suburb of Fort Worth. Find out more about his vision for ministry in reproducing worshipping communities on mission and give your prayer and financial support to the work of Frontier Mission Project.

Why plant churches?

As some of you may know (and for those of you who don’t, please take this as my apologetic catch-up on all things related to the Gensheers and ministry update), we will be joining a church plant in progress as the new Lead Pastor, starting June 1, 2014 in Mansfield, TX. You can read about it here in its entirety.

Tim Keller

Tim Keller on Need for Church Planting

One question I get with plenty regularity is, “Why plant more churches? I mean, don’t we have enough, especially in the Bible Belt?”

I typically respond with a stat that shows maybe the Bible Belt, especially where we’re going in the greater Fort Worth part of the DFW metroplex, is not as “Christian” as we think. In 2010, only 54% of the nearly 1.8 million people living in Tarrant County espoused any religious affiliation whatsoever. In 2012, that number dropped to 52%. That’s just a little more than half, of almost 2 million people, who generally care enough about religion (of any kind, mind you) to respond on a survey asking about such things. The overwhelming worldview of Fort Worth is one that is largely self-centered – whatever works for me, myself, and I, suffices.

But here’s another great response from Tim Keller in his book Center Church on that question.

“Studies and anecdotal evidence indicate that if there is one church per ten thousand residents, approximately 1 percent of the population will be churchgoers. If this ratio goes to one church per one thousand residents, some 15 to 20 percent of the city’s population goes to church. If the number goes to one per five hundred residents, the number may approach 40 percent or more. The relationship of the number of churches to churchgoing people is exponential, not linear”. – Tim Keller, Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City (p. 362).

To get Keller’s book, Center Church, click here.

To find out more about Frontier Mission Project, check out our website, signup for updates and follow our social media channels, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram.