Turning Church Inside Out

It happens every Sunday. The sermon is over. The benediction has been received. The doxology has been sung. The doors at the back of the auditorium are opened. People begin to flow into the lobby. Lively conversation and the aroma of good cake and even better coffee fill the air. Children zigzag around adult legs to make it to the snacks and back to their festive kid’s table. They catch up with one another, discussing another week gone by. Their parents and the other adults have no time to sit. They duck in and out, jumping from one conversation to the next, engaging one another with smiles, handshakes, and hugs. It’s joyful, delightful, and wonderful, and it happens every Sunday. There’s only one problem. No one else sees it! It’s inside, behind the heavy doors of a rented public school building in Fresh Meadows, Queens, New York. It’s the best party of the week, but very few people realize that they are also invited. It is a community—a loving community—in the middle of a city ... Read more

Outreach—Where Church and Community Intersect

“Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man,” says John Piper. Human beings were created and designed for worship. More accurately, human beings were created and designed to worship the Creator. Unfortunately, men and women embrace sin and choose to worship created things rather than the one and only Creator (Rom. 1:21–23). That basic fact about the human race calls the church to a lifetime of missions, outreach, and evangelism. “Missions exists because worship doesn’t,” says Piper. He goes on to say, “So worship is the fuel and goal of missions” ( Let the Nations Be Glad! 3rd ed., p. 32). The apostle John records an interaction between Jesus and a Samaritan woman in which Jesus makes a similar point. The Lord masterfully directs the conversation throughout by answering the woman’s questions in surprising ways. When she asks a question about the proper ... Read more

Solid Comfort from a Familiar Verse

Many pastors have heard, even frequently, “Pastor, we don’t need all this theology. Just tell us what to do.” I have a standard answer: “Sure. Rejoice always. In everything give thanks.” These are biblical commands, but the point is that you can’t really do these things without theology. These commands, like many others, cannot simply stand by themselves. A pasted-on smile is fake, not really rejoicing at all, and not obedience. And these commands don’t mean that we should rejoice about happy things and give thanks for happy things in spite of bad things that may be happening too. That’s a pretend game that tries to ignore real pain. Rather, Christians are taught realistic rejoicing and giving thanks while fully acknowledged pain and sorrow. Only a sound doctrinal understanding enables someone to obey commands like this. Theology is eminently important and practical. Romans 8:28 is an excellent example of how theology supplies the needed doctrinal foundation for practical living—in ... Read more

What Is a Retreat?

According to Webster, a retreat (in our sense of the word) is “a period of group withdrawal for prayer, meditation, study, and instruction.” The Machen Retreat and Conference Center exists to be just that. It is the only center owned and operated by the OPC that is dedicated to achieving that purpose. So both the property and the schedule of its use are ours! The MRCC came about as follows: In July 1995, Paul Cunningham and his wife Jane invited me, my wife Jean, and our daughter Natalie for breakfast at their home in Highland County, Virginia, which is tucked away between the Backcreek and Allegheny Mountains, just west of the Shenandoah Valley. I was at that time General Secretary of the Committee on Christian Education. Mr. Cunningham had a startling proposal. He desired to give the OPC approximately fifty acres of wooded property to develop as a retreat and conference facility. We accepted it, with thanks to God! Both the property ownership and the direction of its use landed upon the ... Read more