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Fletcher, I’d like you to reconsider.

You wrote an article for The Gospel Coalition where you shared about your church closing on Christmas. I would like you to reconsider. You don’t know me and I don’t know you so I’d like to introduce myself to you.

We went to the same school, have mutual friends, and even share the Send Network. What you need to know is I’m committed to seeing churches flourish in New England, especially in the Boston area.

I was born and raised in Florida but I have New England blood. Steve Grogan was my favorite Patriots QB until Brady brought us back from being down 28-3. For years, my grandparents would bring Fluff to us so I was able to trade Fluffernutters in elementary school at the lunch table. I may even consider church discipline if someone says marshmallow creme is the same as Fluff. I hate the Mets and the Jets. I am still trying to forgive Billy Buckner for 1986. Anytime someone says, “Number Four” I reply with “Bobby Orr.” I don’t care what anyone says, Bill Russell is the greatest champion and Larry is still underrated. The only proper donut is from Dunkin, sorry Krispy Kreme.

Steve Grogan the neck roll-wearing Quarterback of the Patriots. https://touchdownwire.usatoday.com/2020/03/19/these-14-quarterbacks-started-for-the-patriots-before-tom-brady-did-the-job-for-20-years-2/steve-grogan-calls-the-count-2/

I thank God for the work that is going on with Send Boston and the other networks of churches in the area. You started your article disagreeing with Kevin DeYoung. Usually, that’s not a good starting point. Sadly, I think it may be the strongest part of your article. Here’s why you should reconsider and meet on Christmas Day this year.

First, the counter to your argument is written by Dustin Messer, an Anglican. Both DeYoung and Messer are meeting on Christmas Day. Since you are a Baptist, I would encourage you to have better ecclesiology than them! Ha!

Secondly, you should meet on Christmas Day because it simply is what Christians do. In your article, you mentioned two reasons to not meet. You mentioned that 80 people in your church would be traveling out of town and the set-up would be challenging. You then mentioned the highly secular area of your church would not lead you to believe any neighbors would be joining for worship.

You gave a great counter to your arguments when you said if you had a service your members would attend. I’d like to look back at your points and think differently about them. Hopefully, by the end, you’ll have reconsidered.

Your church, mine, and every other church do not exist for their neighbors. We exist for the glory of God as the body of Christ. You have 20 people who would “almost certainly come to any service we (you) put together.” Brother, you have 20 people ready to worship King Jesus on his birthday!

Also, let’s think about the set-up and takedown.  I served for years at a church plant. Set-up and takedown are tough but it doesn’t have to be for 20 people. You don’t need smoke and lights. You don’t even need mics. You need a Bible and 20 chairs. I get that it is “uniquely difficult” but difficult isn’t impossible.

Thirdly, you mentioned the context of your situation and the context of Hebrews 10:25 and here I think you are mistaken. Hebrews 10:25 says, “not neglecting to meet together” you focused on the habit aspect of not meeting together. The problem is not meeting together, habit or not. The church in Hebrews and yours are neglecting, forsaking, and abandoning meeting together. I want to encourage you to meet. I think your context demands it. The spiritual darkness of Somerville needs it.

The last time Christmas was on a Sunday was back in 2016. I was a missionary in Ecuador at that time. I preached that morning and as I did, I looked out to an older lady who was fighting sleep. She was there though and I appreciated it. After service, I learned she traveled 8 hours on a bus overnight so that she could be in service that day. For the sermon, I dressed up like Joseph and ran into the church yelling, “I’m a father, I’m a father!” It was my favorite service I ever preached in Ecuador, maybe ever. The service was great. I was happy, we had about twenty that day.

If you don’t meet for worship this Christmas Day, maybe you will next time. The next time Christmas is on a Sunday is in 2033.

Fletcher, I’d like you to reconsider.  

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Uncategorized

A Historic Day

Church family it is with great joy that I send you this email. Today’s ruling of the SCOTUS has overturned Roe v Wade. Since 1973, an estimated 63,000,000+ lives have been taken through abortion. The Justices ruled the Constitution had no provision for abortion and is therefore not a federally protected right. For now, the issue of abortion has been pushed down to the States.

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

In Ohio, abortion is legal for up to 22 weeks. The ‘heartbeat’ bill is the proposed bill in our legislature now. Most people expect this bill to pass and be signed quickly. This bill will ban all abortions when a heartbeat is detected. There are two exceptions to medical conditions but nothing related to mental health.

For us as a church, what does the overturning of Roe v Wade mean? First, it means we rejoice. The Lord has shown great kindness to us as a nation after the scourge of abortion. We are as a nation, more fractured and separated from biblical ethics now more than ever. Yet even in this, God has shown his might in this decision. We can take no credit for this. God is the one who has defended the life of the unborn, just like he always has.

1 The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will. 2 Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart. 3 To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice. Proverbs 21:1–3 (ESV)

Second, we must mourn the loss of life of 63,000,000+ image-bearers. Each of these lives was made in the image of God. He formed them in the womb. He knew them. He loved them. He created them to live for his glory. Even in this, he knew their days. He knew the shortness of their life. The worth of their life is determined by God their Maker and being made in his image. The worth of their life is not determined by those who took their lives in the womb. God determines their life and with their deaths, we must mourn.

13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. Psalm 139:13–16 (ESV)

Third, we must continue to do business as usual. It is a blessing to be part of a church that has a history of caring for the unborn. As a church, we support A Caring Place a pregnancy resource center that leads the way in our area. Keep them in prayer as centers similar to theirs have been vandalized since the Dobb’s opinion leaked. We support children in our area through our sewing ministry where blankets, clothes, and other items have been donated by the thousands to the Cincinnati Children’s hospital. We donate backpacks for kids in foster care who are in need. These are the regular things we do as a church. Some of you work individually in various ways in our community. As a need arises, we have always cared for people in need. Recently, we have supported families, single moms, and even older adults who are in need. For us as believers in Jesus, caring for the needs of others is the most natural thing we can do. We agree with and model ministry was given to us by James, the brother of Jesus.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:27 (ESV)

 Fourthly, we must renew our efforts in sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. We must recognize the enemy has blinded the eyes of many who try and justify abortion. If their eyes are not open to the atrocity of abortion and the seriousness of their sin there is no hope. God will not be mocked. He alone is the author of life. He will not let sin go unpunished. Their only hope is the life-saving message of the gospel.

The message is this: God has made man in his image. He created them but they rejected him in sin. Man has lived contrary to God’s law and sought to usurp his power and his place as supreme in this world and their life. Their acts of rebellion against God deserve God’s wrath. They are unable to appease God because they have positioned themselves as God’s enemy. The only hope man has is in God’s intervention. In his great kindness and love, God sent his one and only Son into the world. Jesus came to earth and lived in perfect agreement with God’s Law but in a great reversal, he was sent to the cross to die. In his death, he died for our guilt. The innocent died for the guilty. He paid for our sin and guilt. On the third day, he rose from the grave. Anyone who calls on his name will be saved. When this message is heard in the heart of man, if they will call out to God for salvation, his wrath is appeased because of the death of Jesus on the cross. This is the message we must share. It is our only hope and this hope is more than enough.  

11 Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. 12 If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work? Proverbs 24:11–12 (ESV)

We must share the message of the gospel and pray for a mighty move of God. Man cannot be saved by persuasive speech. No one comes to the knowledge of Jesus as Savior unless the Father draws them and the Spirit reveals it to them, so we must pray. Prayer must be accompanied with sharing the message of Jesus. The world may see it as folly but for those who hear it through the work of the Spirit, it is the very words of life.

21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 1 Corinthians 1:21–24 (ESV)

Today, we celebrate life. We mourn for the loss of life. We press on in our efforts to care for the lives of those in need. We do all this so we might share the message of the gospel.

Until everyone hears,

Pastor James

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Church Issues

To attend or not attend?

The outcome of COVID-19 remains to be seen. We do not yet know when the world will get back to normal, whatever that is. I have no interest in adding to the many hypotheses and analyses. There are more competent and qualified people than me to address the subject. I want to speak about something more important and more dangerous. I want to talk about the church.

Churches still have not returned fully after months of quarantine. More troublesome is one-third of people have not returned and may never come back. What happened? There are different theories. Some pastors I have spoken to see it as a salvation issue, while others see it as pseudo committed people getting out of the rhythm of church attendance.

Church attendance is a salvation issue and it is also not a salvation issue. The pastors I have spoken do not believe going to church makes one saved. Their argument is as stated: The gathering of the local body is an issue of obedience to Scripture, to reject the biblical command to gather together is a sign up an unrepentant heart. Because repentance is a sign of a believer, those who willfully reject gathering together are in unrepentant sin and not truly converted.

I am sympathetic to their line of reasoning. Everyone I have spoken to understands those who, for medical reasons, do not feel comfortable attending. We are not talking about those in that type of situation. Those who find other things to do, created new routines, or found out they liked having an extra weekend morning are the ones causing the concern.

Hebrews 10:24-25 gives clear direction to believers to gather together, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” I do not think this is a time to pile on people who have enjoyed time away from church. Rather, these verses teach us that the struggle to gather together for believers is not new.

Believers then and believers now need encouragement to gather together. The writer of Hebrews tells us to consider how to encourage others. The idea of consider in the text carries with it the idea of careful, thoughtful, contemplation for the sake of others. We are supposed to use our minds to think of ways to encourage others to love, do good works, and gather together. This encouragement comes as believers gather together.

When believers gather together there are numerous benefits. They are strengthened as they worship together. The work of God is magnified through their prayers. They are comforted as they minister to one another, especially those who are suffering. They grow in holiness as they listen to the Word preached. They help send gospel missionaries and care for the poor as gather offerings. Their witness is benefited as a socially and economically diverse group of people fellowship in unity. More could be said for the benefits of gathering for mental health as it pertains to loneliness, depression, and other results to staying away from fellowship. At the very least, many people have long-standing deep friendships that are cultivated through in-person gatherings over Bible study and prayer.

Consider then, how you might encourage others to gather this Sunday. Find that friend that you haven’t seen at church in a while, check on them, invite them back. If they are concerned about health reasons, reassure them and encourage them that they are not in sin. We are living in crazy times. We need another. We need you there.