home > Pastor’s Desk > 2022 > JUNE 24> BUILDING A MOODY CHURCH

The three things that make the Christian life exciting and enthralling are the same three things that enable a believer to develop a closer relationship with God. The combination of these supernatural gifts gives the child of God an awareness that there is more, much more, to this world than we can see, touch, taste or feel. When the Christian’s faith is grounded and buttressed in God’s Word, godly prayer, and God’s house he or she flourishes. But there are forces at play that are determined to stop the believer from reaching their spiritual destiny. While we might think these enemy forces only use the fiery darts of doubt to hinder the believer’s journey to glory, there is something that they successfully use far more often: our mood. This is why, for any church to be successful, it must discover how to build a moody church.

¶ Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Philippians 2:12-13

There are three things essential for any Christian to have in their spiritual foundation with Christ as their cornerstone <(Acts 4:11; Eph. 2:20). Firstly, a devotion to know, understand, and apply God’s Word. Secondly, a devotion to prayer – to know, obey, and love God. Thirdly, a devotion to a Christ-centred, Spirit-filled, Word-based, church. The enemy of our soul continually seeks to undermine each of these foundational sources of our spiritual strength. This undermining is nearly always done subtly and barely without the believer even noticing what is happening.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith.
First Peter 5:8-9a

THE ROLE OF FAITH FOR A CHRISTIAN

The Apostle Peter told the young Christians of Bithynia to “stand firm in your faith” (1Pet. 5:9a). Some critics of Christianity assert that faith is “believing things that are not true.” You either have facts or you must have faith, they claim. But this is not true. Faith, including the Christian faith, is not mere wishful or fanciful thinking. As if J.M. Barry’s famous line from Peter Pan – “I do believe in fairies” – could ever make the existence of fairies reasonable.
Faith is always grounded in reasonable evidence. Faith is trusting that evidence. Life is therefore not possible without faith. We have faith that the road we have driven over hundreds of times – or on the road we have never driven over but others have driven over hundreds of times – will not collapse under us as we drive over it. We have faith that when we sit on our favourite chair it will hold us. This functional faith is grounded in good reasons and so is Christian faith.
The Apostle Paul described Christian faith as being based on facts and good evidence – particularly for the physical resurrection of Jesus the Christ. If Christ was not raised from the dead then there is no salvation from sin for anyone. If this was the case, then life itself would be meaningless (“vain”). This is how he stated it:

But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.
First Corinthians 15:13-17

C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, that if someone was not persuaded by the evidence for Christ and His resurrection, then they should not accept Christianity:

“Now just the same thing happens about Christianity. I am not asking anyone to accept Christianity if his best reasoning tells him that the weight of the evidence is against it. That is not the point at which Faith comes in.”
Mere Christianity 2017 (1942), pg. 140

Perhaps surprisingly, C.S. Lewis states that even the person who has become convinced by the evidence for the truthfulness of the Christian message is still susceptible to fall away if something separates them from the three essential faith-sustainers. You would be forgiven for thinking that he is referring to the devil. After all, Lewis was very aware of the devil and his schemes to undermine the believer’s faith because he wrote a book about it, The Screwtape Letters. But he is not talking about the devil’s direct attacks as the most dangerous peril to be faced. Rather, Lewis describes our moods as our greatest peril to being established and flourishing in our faith in Christ.

But supposing a man’s reason once decides that the weight of the evidence is for it. I can tell that man what is going to happen to him in the next few weeks. There will come a moment when there is bad news, or he is in trouble, or is living among a lot of other people who do not believe it, and all at once his emotions will rise up and carry out a sort of blitz on his belief. Or else there will come a moment when he wants a woman, or wants to tell a lie, or feels very pleased with himself, or sees a chance of making a little money in some way that is not perfectly fair: some moment, in fact, at which it would be very convenient if Christianity were not true.

Lewis was not dismissing the inevitable doubts that creep into a believer’s mind. He wrote, “Those have to be faced and that is a different matter. I am talking about moments when a mere mood rises up against it ” (140). He goes on to say that the way to tame our moods so that the enemy can not exploit them, is to tame them by disciplining them in the three essentials for the Christian journey: God’s Word, godly praying, and commitment to God’s House.

Now Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes…That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue unless you teach your moods ‘where they get off,’ you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion. Consequently one must train the habit of Faith.

This is why a commitment to attending church is essential for maintaining a vibrant faith in Christ. Is it necessary for a Christian to attend church? When we understand just how influential our moods are to our walk with Christ, we might phrase this question differently. How does neglecting church effect our mood to continue in the three essentials for Christian growth? Lewis states:

“The first step is to recognise the fact that your moods change. The next is to make sure that, if you have once accepted Christianity, then some of its main doctrines shall be deliberately held before your mind for some time every day. That is why daily prayers and religious readings and churchgoing are necessary parts of the Christian life.”
Pg. 141

For any church to grow and be healthy, it needs members who have learned to tame their moods, which Lewis describes as telling them “where to get off”! He states in very straightforward language why the believer needs to tell their mood to get used to the idea that they would now be going to church, rain, hail, or shine. “We have to be continually reminded of what we believe. Neither this belief nor any other will automatically remain alive in the mind. It must be fed” (141). 

 

A MOODY CHURCH

A church is comprised of those believers who have tamed their moods to delight in the things that Christ says are good for their souls. It is in the regular devotion to God’s Word that we are reminded of the truth. It is in regular devotion to praying that we are reminded of God’s presence. It is in regular devotion to church that we, encouraged by our worship, the ordinances of communion and baptism, and the ministry of God’s preached word that we are taught and encouraged in our understanding of and walk with Christ. This is what I mean by building a moody church. (And I apologise to all my brothers and sisters in Chicago who already attend “Moody Church” in honour of the great evangelist D.L. Moody.)

¶ Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Matthew 16:13-18

Your Pastor,

Andrew

Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.

2 Comments

  1. LYDIA

    Early this morning as I watched the news from overseas I couldn’t help being touched by a small group of people who prayed before they went out to rescue the vulnerable in the Ukraine. Its a miracle that the news media showed this action of dependability on the living God to go before them, which I might add He is doing for this group as they testified. As the news rolled around for the second time it again touched my soul in exactly the same way.
    Holding that thought of ‘no place to worship’, here as you clearly pointed out Andrew ‘moods’ are fickle. Emotions are unpredictable. But God’s Word, godly prayer and attending church as you wrote, are the basis of a believer’s faithfulness to their Saviour.
    If I marry both things together, the Pastor’s Desk and no where to worship, I could ask the question, “What on earth is the world, this country, this island, this city doing?” Does it take a war to activate the people to flocking the buildings of the churches to overflowing?
    Why should a two year plus, Covid experience, which is world rampant, stop folks all over the world from doing a retake on what it meant and means to attend church if they physically are able to? Meaning to worship together in a building.
    In Matthew as you rightly pointed out “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” This is true. On Jesus Christ, the Rock, His church was built and continues still to this day, because He conquered and rose again from the dead, otherwise Jesus would just have been another prophet.
    I really love this quote from you “A church is comprised of those believers who have tamed their moods to delight in the things that Christ says are good for their souls.”

    Reply
    • Wendy Williams

      Beautifully iterated Lydia. Thank you.

      Reply

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THE PRODIGAL FATHER

 Does anyone know what the word prodigal means? Perhaps most people assume that it means: “wanderer”, or “rebel”, or perhaps even “backslider” or that it only applies to sons. This seems to be based on the story that Jesus told in Luke 15 to which most Bible Publishers assign the division title – The Parable of the Prodigal Son. But the word prodigal does not occur in this parable. Interestingly, there are three lead characters in this shocking and famous parable: the father and his two sons. One of these was genuinely ‘prodigal’, and, as Tim Keller points out, it was neither son! To appreciate what Keller means we might need to take another look at what the word prodigal actually means. It comes from the verb prodigious which means remarkably great in extent, size, or degree (New Oxford American Dictionary). It is a word often used to describe an author who regularly writes books – John Grisham is a prodigious author. A prodigal person is therefore, prolific, extravagant, excessive, and, lavish. Keller points out that even though most people ascribe this to the wayward son in the parable, it is more appropriately a designation for the lead character in the story, the father!

SUPER SUCCESSFUL CHRISTIANS

Spare a thought for those people who are often overlooked by churches—and if they are Christians—they frequently struggle to even find a suitable church where they can deepen their relationship with Christ. Often we think of those who struggle with life as those who are “down and out” and blighted by impoverishment, or destitution, or ill-health, or family breakdown, or poor mental health. But surprisingly, even those who are seen as super-successful because of their wealth, social stature, public acclaim or amazing achievements, are actually struggling with loneliness, emptiness, and poor mental health — even if they are a Christian. These super-successful Christians are CEOs of large companies, or world-class or national sporting champions, or internationally renowned performing artists, or A-lister actors, or media personalities, or highly sought after professionals such as surgeons or barristers. They often pay a high price for their success, including, long work hours, constant stress, public criticism, extended time away from their families, fierce competition, and strained marriages. These pressures are exacerbated by their constant travel associated with their work which also makes them vulnerable to exhaustion and extraordinary temptations. This is why these super-successful Christians need to join the kind of church that can provide them with the kind of support, counsel, and accountability that every Christian needs. Here’s how a church can become this kind of church.

MAKING CHURCH A WELCOMING HOME

For many people, making a decision to attend a church is a significant and potentially daunting decision. As they come through the front door they are entering an unfamiliar environment. It is also an environment that may be associated with preconceived ideas of what the expectations and rules of the church community may be. These people probably will not know anybody and they might have concerns that relate to their previous or current lifestyle. For those of us who are regular church attendees, it is possible that we may not fully appreciate the challenges a new attendee may be facing. When we can relate to these concerns, I believe we are better equipped to provide a warm and patient “welcome” to what we hope will become their new church home.

LOVE IN ACTION

Physical illnesses and stressful events are endemic in our society. They can be likened to the thorns that cause both pain and damage. It doesn’t take much for them to impact a person’s life in ways that they did not expect. I believe that we can become more resilient as followers of Jesus by applying an appropriate solution to a known problem. I believe that an appropriate and important part of the solution is for us to show love the way that Jesus demonstrated love during His ministry on earth.

THE TOOLS OF REMEMBERING

I like to think I have a pretty good memory.  I like to think I’m organised.  Generally, I am – I don’t double book appointments, I keep track of what I’m doing and when, I mostly turn up on time. But, on reflection, I’m not so sure this means I have a good memory.

TRUTH vs SOMETHING BIG AND HAIRY

“You were lying in your bed, you were feeling kind of sleepy.
But you couldn’t close your eyes because the room was getting creepy.
Were those eyeballs in the closet? Was that Godzilla in the hall?
There was something big and hairy casting shadows on the wall.
Now your heart is beating like a drum, your skin is getting clammy.
There’s a hundred tiny monsters jumping right into your jammies”!

These are lyrics from a song on the very first Veggie Tales video every made. The title of the song?  “God is bigger than the Boogie Man”. Junior Asparagus was lying in bed frightened, and Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber appeared to tell him that he doesn’t have to be scared of the imaginary monsters because, “God is the bigger.” My childhood night-time fears weren’t so much about big and hairy monsters, aka boogie men, or Godzilla in the hall. My fears were house fires – our home burning down, and “burglars” or “robbers”. But I certainly identify with lying in bed, my heart beating like a drum, my skin getting clammy, my imagination in overdrive.

CLOSING THE DEAL

In 1871, the American evangelist, Dwight (“DL”) Moody was preaching to huge crowds each night in Chicago. At the end of each message he would give an appeal for people to either respond immediately to the gospel message he had just presented, or at least go home and consider it. But on Sunday October 8th, 1871, a huge fire broke out in Chicago. It burned through the city for days and became known as The Great Chicago Fire. Around 10,000 people were homeless as a result, and hundreds of people lost their lives. Moody was heart-broken when he realised that many of the people who had died were the people who had attended that Sunday night meeting where he had urged them to consider accepting Christ. His deep grief over this tragedy led him to make a vow that he would never again merely urge people to simply consider accepting Christ. From now on, he vowed, he would plead with all those he preached to – to immediately turn away from their sins and turn to the Saviour. DL Moody committed his life and ministry as an evangelist to be someone who would always strive to close the deal because he was now aware—more than ever—that people’s eternal destinies were in jeopardy! 

PRAYING PRAYERS

The amazing thing about prayer, is that nearly everyone does it – but hardly anyone thinks they do it well. If you visit any Christian bookstore you will notice that the largest display of books is about prayer. And it’s not just Christian bookstores where you’ll find books on prayer. Regular bookstores also sell a wide range of books on prayer (even if they do classify them as books on ‘meditation’!). One of the most frequently searched questions on Google is, “How to pray” (which then points enquirers to over 2.3 billion web pages answering their question). But in all of human history – and two thousand years before anyone but one had ever heard of Google – there was just One person who was supremely qualified to answer this question. And fortunately for those of us who really want to know the answer to this question (without having to peruse more than 2.3 billion web pages!) He gave us the answer.

WHY SOME BELIEVE

Why is it that two people can look at exactly the same evidence and can come to completely different conclusions about it? Even more puzzling is how two equally qualified scientific experts can look at the same data and utterly disagree about what it means. This happens many times in court cases where the prosecution will call their “expert witness” to give his or her professional opinion to verify that the defendant is guilty only to have the defence to present their “expert witness” who gives his or her professional opinion as to why the prosecution’s expert witness was wrong and to prove that defendant is innocent! This at least illustrates why it is not always the quality of the evidence that leads a person to accept or reject a claim. This especially apply to the claims that Jesus Christ made. Of the four accounts in the New Testament written about His life, three of them were written by eye-witnesses and the other one (Luke’s) was written by someone who interviewed many eye-witnesses. It is with interest that we turn to the last one to be John’s Gospel, where he describes dramatic proofs that Jesus was who He claimed to be. Yet despite these otherwise inexplicable proofs that at times thousands of people witnessed, many still wouldn’t believe. But it seems among those who did believe they all had one thing in common.

UNPACKING CHRISTIANITY

home > Pastor's Desk > 2022 > JUNE 3rd > UNPACKING CHRISTIANITY UNPACKING CHRISTIANITY I have a thing for bags. Not shopping bags or lady’s handbags, but manly bags - functional bags. A few years back I became fed-up with the number of bags I was...