In Acts 4:32 we read that those in the Jerusalem Church (our blueprint for church-life) “were of one heart (kardia or spirit) and one soul (psychē or will).” In many ways the historian Luke is describing a unique unity that existed within this very first church community.
You see their unity was based in the simple fact they all possessed the same “heart” for Jesus as well as the singular will (“soul”) to further His Kingdom in the lost world around them! The cross and Christ-crucified had forged a bond between different individuals that transcended any of the trivial things that might have naturally separated them.
It’s an interesting study, but of all the characteristics of church-life the Bible speaks most about the importance of unity among the brethren! Jesus even prayed for the church before His betrayal and death that we all might (John 17:23) “be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent me and have loved them even as You have loved me.”
In 1 Corinthians 1:10 you will find the Apostle Paul pleading with a group of dysfunctional believers in Corinth, “In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, may you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions and you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.”
In his letter to the Ephesian Church the Apostle will again exhort believers to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:2-6) Finally, in writing to the Philippians, Paul encourages this healthy church to continue to be “like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.” (Philippians 2:1-4)
It’s interesting to consider, but do you know why the exhortation for church unity is so prominent in the Scriptures? Because people don’t naturally get along! It happens all the time, but it’s often incessant drama that stunts a churches ability to grow and be healthy. Constant complaining and bickering sucks the life out of a church and destroys community.
Because of sin we understand humanities struggle to get along. People naturally blame, feud, divorce, fight, war, separate, and segregate! This inherent tendency is why Jesus said in John 13:35 the world will know “that you are My disciples” by “your love for one another!”
When the secular world urges for greater unity more often than not it’s actually advocating for conformity. Instead of oneness with room for diversities, unity ends up being relegated to the pursuit of sameness. A unified world can only be achieved when all distinctions and differences are eliminated: monolithic thought, religious unitarianism, one-party government, the elimination of national boards and identity, binary genders, economic-commonism, etc.
And yet, sameness is hardly unity! When the Bible speaks of unity it’s describing something that is intrinsically unnatural to this fallen world and therefore can only be achieved through a supernatural working of the Holy Spirit. Unity in the midst of distinction is only attained when there is a greater commonality. For the church it’s God’s amazing grace!
While the world seeks unity through our conformity and the Holy Spirit seeks to produce unity within our diversity, dysfunctions tend to arises within a church when the lines are blurred between unity and uniformity. Though unity cannot exist without the conformity of passions (“one heart”), many assume unity also necessitates the conformity of activity!
Here’s the trap many churches fall into… Over time the vision (driving passion) for the church begins to narrow. Though it’s not always a cognitive decision, instead of the vision simply being Jesus and His Kingdom, it narrows to a few specific things the pastor and elders grow passionate about! The examples are many: politics, social reforms, home-schooling, homelessness, immigration, even moral stances on abortion or gay marriage.
While there is nothing wrong with any of these issues, since the vision for the church and what the leaders are now passionate about has narrowed, everything the church does begins to focus on fulfilling that singular vision. Tragically, at this point church members are forced to rally behind the vision and mission of a few or eventually find themselves being accused of fostering disunity. As many know firsthand, division quickly ensue!
Though these churches will claim to have a unity among the brethren, in actuality this ministry model only produces a uniformity of the brethren to the leaders setting the vision and establishing the mission! Because the bar for unity has been set on things other than a simple love for Jesus and His Kingdom, these churches end up being known as judgmental, legalistic, dominated by bullies, and lacking any form of ministry diversity. Unity ends up being nothing more than the manifestation of everyone shutting up and going along.
At Calvary316 we believe a simple and broad vision is the best way to combat this particular tendency so that we’ll avoid drama leading to disunity and disfunction within our church. Like this first church presented in the Book of Acts, we believe unity is ultimately maintained when our vision is broad enough to allow for a diversity in how the fulfillment of these things (the mission) might manifest through each person individually.
To accomplish this the corporate gathering of Calvary316 as well as all of our official activities are crafted with the singular vision of equipping the individuals who make up our church to fulfill their unique ministry in their world — that’s our mission. To accomplish this Sunday morning is our service to the church designated for the teaching of God’s Word — with every other activity intending to help relationships develop organically.
While our collective unity is founded upon a heart for God’s Word and a love for Jesus, we intentionally allow for a diversity in the way these things manifest individually by refusing to complicate our core vision with anything that isn’t essential. Just because a church is busy doing a lot of “things” doesn’t mean they are successful or for that matter faithful to the call.
Let me give you two examples… It would be easy for someone to browse through our church calendar posted on calvary316.tv and conclude we aren’t engaging in enough community outreach. And yet, the problem with this criticism is that it fails to consider the way in which we seek to reach the community! Instead of allocating resources to facilitate an official outreach, we spend our time equipping you to reach out to your community organically.
Here’s another example… Some might claim Calvary316 isn’t involved in enough formal evangelism. In fact, they’re likely to point out I never give an altar-call and we’re not setting up opportunities for you to witness to others! Again, the problem with such a perspective is that it’s woefully incomplete! You see the evangelistic outreach of Calvary316 occurs every single day when you share your faith with those in your specific sphere of influence.
Ultimately, we do not believe the corporate gathering of our church (our vision) should focus on anything other than equipping you to fulfill the ministry God has called and given you (our mission)! Yes, it’s a simple vision, but it leads to a very complex and diverse mission.
While the understanding of our vision makes it clear why our Sunday service focuses on the teaching of God’s Word, worship, corporate prayer, and communion, I want to take a few minutes and explain why every other official church activity is social in nature!
In the Book of Acts we find this word “fellowship” used over and over again to describe this first church community. In Acts 2:42 Luke tells us this church “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.”
In the Greek the word we have translated as “fellowship” is koinônia. The truth is the translation of koinônia into English as fellowship is rather poor. The word is so complex it can be translated as association, community, joint-participation, togetherness, or oneness.
The best way to define koinônia would be life-sharing. The word describes sharing life in a Christ-centered community and spoke to the reality this Christian experience was designed to be lived out with others and not alone. In fact, the early church found koinônia to be of such an importance it became one of their defining characteristics.
Today one of the great issue facing the church in a generation of socially-inept individuals is how to foster koinônia within a church community. The first thing to keep in mind when pursuing a remedy for this conundrum is to always remember real koinônia cannot be artificially manufactured — it can’t be faked. Genuine koinônia is only yielded through an organic manifestation of the Holy Spirit working naturally in a church community.
What I like to call Organic Koinônia happens when people come and congregate together on Sunday — move beyond personal inhibitions and fears to make a simple connection with another person as the Spirit leads — only to then exert the effort to develop that connection outside the walls of this building by meeting again sometime throughout the week.
As just one of many personal examples I could use… My family and the Entrekin’s have very few natural commonalities. Joe and Theresa are older than Jessica and I. Their children are approaching adulthood and we’re trying to break free of diapers and pull-ups. Theresa is a working mother. Jessica is a stay at home mom. Joe recently retired and I’m just a few years into my career. Ironically, Joe would never spend a Sunday watching the Masters and I would never be caught dead watching NASCAR. Aside from these things maybe our greatest difference is that the Adams’ are Georgia Dawgs and the Entrekin’s hail from Rocky Top.
And yet, one Sunday after church Joe came up and invited our family over to his home for dinner. We obliged, had a delightful evening, and in spite of all of the differences over the years we’ve grown to become more than friends, but family. I can attribute this to nothing more than a work of the Holy Spirit and am so grateful they invited us over many years ago.
Whether it’s grabbing lunch with someone, inviting a family to your home for dinner, setting up a play date with the kids, getting together to watch a ballgame, or grilling out with a few guys from church all of this can be forms of sharing life with one another — building koinônia!
While it’s impossible for the church to create koinônia for you and it’s not our responsibility to find you friends, we do know not everyone has the ability to make meaningful connections at church on their own. Introverted personalities have a difficult time connecting with others.
This is why everything we do at Calvary316 — Moving Beyond the Service — is designed to give you a social venue to develop organic koinônia. Potlucks, Sisterhood Events, Band of Brothers shoots, Connecting Point, the Sunday Cereal Bar all exist to foster a more personal environment in order to help you develop real friendships outside the walls of this building.
I should also add all the church can do is provide you with opportunities. Until you see koinônia as something you need and are willing to make a personal effort to be friendly, these type of relationships will never happen! I can’t tell you how often I hear someone leave the church because they didn’t have any friends when the truth is they never made an effort.
This is one of the reasons we have a Church Membership? You see it is our conviction Jesus did not institute the local church to be a place you simply attend or come to be severed. Instead, Jesus designed the church to be a community of fellow Christians you belong too! While it’s true we’re all members of the universal church, joining a local group of believers has always been an essential component of the larger Christian experience.
Not only does the very concept of membership fundamentally oppose the rampant Church-consumer mentality we see permeating our culture, but we believe formal membership challenges a Christian to view their local church as being much more than a place they attend by creating a practical mechanism whereby that person can choose to belong.
Aside from these things, as you examine the structure and organization of the early church two realities become impossible to ignore: The people recognized who their leaders were and the church leaders knew who they were responsible for and accountable to. The only way this dynamic is possible was for there to have been some form of membership.
With this in mind, we believe membership centers on two basic conditions: First, are you a Christian? And secondly, do you want Calvary316 to be your church home? If you answer yes to both questions, we’d welcome you as a member of Calvary316!
Now that I’ve gotten a few of the larger The WHY’s behind The WHAT’s out of the way, with the time we have remaining let’s dive into a bunch of various topics in no particular order…
Why does Andy (the worship leader) always wear a hat on Sunday? If I took a stab at an answer, my guess would be he didn’t take a morning shower and his hair is a mess! All joking aside if someone wearing a hat to church or dressing causal bothers you, I’d simply ask that you come up with a Bible justification for your consternation. Spoiler — you can’t!
Why do we leave the baptismal pool in the sanctuary even when we aren’t using it? First, leaving the baptismal set up with the stage extension enables us to have a baptism next week if someone were to give their life to Jesus this morning. The other reason we leave it set up is so that a new attendee interested in being baptized knows they can. Lastly, while the tub is portable, storing it outside was causing to much wear and tear.
Why do we have a free Coffee and Cereal Bar open on Sunday? There are two reasons: First, we felt providing breakfast would make the morning a little bit easier on mom’s. “Get um up, dress um, wrangle them into the car, and get to church. We’ll feed them when you get here and have your coffee ready as well!” Secondly, because people are notoriously late to church we also felt like a small incentive to get to church earlier also wouldn’t hurt.
Does church begin at 10:30 AM or 10:35 AM? While we advertise online that our service begins at 10:30, in actuality the service begins with a 5-minute countdown. In theory the 5-minute buffer intends to give those who arrive right on time a few moments to settle, in addition to affording those running behind a chance to make it before the worship starts.
Why does the worship team not have a drummer? The simple answer is that God hasn’t provided one. Unlike churches who financially prioritize the rock-show aspect of worship to the point they hire musicians when needs arise, we don’t share that conviction! Trust me… We would love to have a drummer, but until God mets the need by bringing to our church the right person we’ll be content by creatively utilizing the team God has provided.
Why does Pastor Zach play bass on the worship team — wouldn’t the quality of the music be better without him? It’s true when you factor in the incredible talent of Andy and Brian there is a significant drop off with the bass-player. That said… I play bass on Sunday to keep me preoccupied and out of everyone else’s business. Seriously, I’m a doer and keeping me busy playing bass allows others to serve on Sunday without my intrusion.
Why do we not print and hand out a weekly announcement sheet? Because we publish a digital version every Sunday posted on c316.tv, we don’t see a need to spend the money. At the previous church I worked for between services it was literally the job of an usher to walk around the sanctuary and collect announcements sheets people left behind.
Why do we have communion available every Sunday during worship? In recounting the Lord’s instructions that final Passover the night before His death, the Apostle Paul not only records Jesus exhorting His disciples to partake “in remembrance of me,” but He adds (1 Corinthians 11:26) “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.” For us it’s not a matter of why do you, but why wouldn’t you!
While a lot of churches choose to serve communion on a quarterly basis specifically because they don’t want the act to become ritualistic, we see no harm in simply having the elements available so that if you want to include communion in your worship you have the ability too.
Why do we offer communion with the option for either grape juice or wine? While I addressed this topic in great detail in a sermon I taught in our John series, let me summarize things this way. Historically, we know grape juice was invented by prohibitionist Thomas Welch in the late 1800’s as a way to eliminate alcohol from being apart of the Eucharist. As a result we offer wine because that’s what Jesus offered His disciples and the church used for 1800 years. Grape Juice is still available for anyone who has a hangup with alcohol.
Why does Chad normally do the welcome and not Andy who’s already on stage? There are two reasons: (1) Have you ever heard the expression, “He can’t walk and chew gum at the same time?” Well, Andy struggles to talk before he leads worship. He can pray and wax poetic while doing so, but only after he’s finished playing. (2) I think we can all agree that of all our Elders there is no question — with those golden locks — Chad is the prettiest.
Aside from these two reasons, we do find it important all of our Elders are as publicly involved in our service as humanly possible. While my involvement is obvious and Andy leads worship, this is why Kyle gives the announcements — Chad the welcome and when he’s not available Joe — and Larry handles what we affectionately call the awkward chair.
Why do we have an Elder available to the right of the stage during worship? As pastors we believe it’s one of the primary jobs of our Elders to be in constant prayer for you. In James 5:14 we also read that if “anyone among is you sick let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” Knowing the burdens many come to church carrying we believe having an Elder available if you’re in need of prayer or to confess sin is not only beneficial, but consistent with their Biblical duties.
Why do we have a Scripture reading from the Psalms during the worship set? Practically, the Psalms are ancient songs of praise so it’s only natural they be included in our worship. Secondarily, the reading itself provides an easy transition from the first set of worship where you stand to the second set when you’re asked to be seated. Finally, because I don’t know when I’ll teach expositionally through the Psalms, having them included in this formate provides a way these texts can be a blessing to our corporal gathering.
Why do we have five songs in the worship set? While some churches overemphasize worship by having more time dedicated to singing than the actual Bible study and others have fewer songs making it difficult to connect before transitioning to the study, after a few years of trial and error we believe five songs (25 minutes) seems to be a sweet spot.
Why are you instructed to stand for three songs and then sit for two? Before I answer that question it’s important you know we want our sanctuary be a place you feel free to have your physical posture immolate the posture of your heart before God. During any song of the set if you want to sit — sit, if you feel led to stand — stand, if you feel compelled to raise your hands — lift them high, if you desire to kneel — by all means the altar is open.
In the end the only reason we invite you to stand at the beginning is that it makes it less imposing for those who show up a few minutes late to find a seat. The reason we ask you to sit is so that you know you don’t have to keep standing for the entirety of the worship set.
Why does our children’s ministry end after 10th grade? First, it is a priority for us that our children have the opportunity to encounter Jesus on their individual level. We want church to be relevant, instructive, and fun for our kids. This is one of the main reasons we prioritize utilizing our children’s ministry as opposed to your children sitting through the adult service. Not only is the subject matter I address sometimes inappropriate for certain age groups, but we believe it’s a travesty when a kid grows up associating church with being boring.
Pertaining to this specific question… The truth is this idea of adolescence is largely a Western construct with zero Biblical basis. In Scripture humanity is divided into only two classifications: adults and children. In the end the vision for our children’s ministry is twofold: (1) See our kids come to know and love Jesus, and (2) Prepare them to become functioning members of the larger church community when they reach adulthood.
While the 10th grade designation is more of a suggestion leaving the decision largely to the individual child and parents, we believe 11th grade it a good time to begin this transition to the adult service. This is why upperclassmen are encouraged to join the church on their own, get involved in various ministry capacities on Sunday, and participate in our adult events.
Why has the building been constructed with colors and materials that possess an overt masculine feel? Though I could teach an entire message on this important topic, the truth is many men have come to associate church with femininity and for good reason. Even Jesus — who was the kind of man men were willing to die for — has been largely neutered.
It’s an amazing thing to study, but research reveals that when a mom comes to Christ and joins a church the rest of her family follows roughly 17% of the time. And yet, when dad comes to Christ and joins a church the rest of the family follows 93% of the time. The simple truth is when a man comes to church statistically speaking his entire family typically follows.
From the inception of Calvary316 it has been our desire to create an environment and larger church culture that men not only felt comfortable with, but found appealing. That’s not to say we don’t place an equal value on reaching and ministering to women. It’s just the data suggests most women don’t mind attending a church trying to help their husbands engage.
Why do we not offer a mid-week service? The short-end of the answer is that because of the in-depth, hearty nature of our Sunday service with a lengthy Bible study we don’t believe it’s necessary for your Spiritual health and vitality. If you make Sunday morning a priority, we believe you have more than enough to supplement your own personal study of God’s Word.
Beyond that, we also ascribe to what we call a Sunday+1 view on people’s time availability. In our current cultural environment where most husbands and wives commute to work, coupled with all kinds of secondary extracurricular activities for the kids, most families don’t have any available time to make a secondary trip to church for an additional service.
What is the overall multi-media strategy of Calvary316? We place most of our time and energy into the cataloging of our sermon content. Not only do we feature the sermon notes on c316.tv in order to enhance your learning experience on Sunday morning, but the site doubles as our media archive. In addition to the notes, video and audio of every message is archived on c316.tv so that if you miss a Sunday you can easily stay current. Aside from this we also have The C316 Podcast available on iTunes and Google Play. If you subscribe, the audio automatically downloads onto your phone or tablet when posted on Mondays.
In regards to calvary316.tv we’ve intentionally structured the church website to be mainly visitor-focused. It’s simply a truth that a prospective visitor will determine whether or not they’re going to attend a church after they’ve mined the website. Aside from the “Beyond the Service” section of the website where we post our calendar information, the site also has a password protected section for our members where we can disseminate information we don’t necessarily want made available to the larger community — like our quarterly financials.
While we have a Facebook page located at facebook.com/Calvary316 as well as a Twitter handle @Calvary316, at this point these platforms are primarily used as an RSS feed for newly posted sermon content, announcements, prayers requests, and for our livestream.
Speaking of the livestream… First and foremost, providing a way for members who are sick, pregnant, or out-of-town to remain connected to the Sunday service has tons of merit. In fact, a livestream of our entire service is worth having for this reason alone. Additionally, there is something to be said for those who want to experience the service online before they visit.
That said, we never want our livestream to facilitate someone’s compulsion to not attend. In order to walk this particular tightrope, our livestream has been specifically crafted to be an inferior experience than waking up, putting clothes on, and coming to church in person.
While there are so many more aspects of Calvary316 I could address, I hope you realize nothing is done at your church without there being a clear reason. The other Elders and I discuss and think through everything we do — sometimes painstakingly so. We seek the Lord’s leading, weigh the pros and cons, and in the end we rely on a consensus (unity emerging from our diverse perspectives) before implementing change.
If you take anything from this morning’s “The WHY behind The WHAT” message I pray you recognize the Elders of Calvary316 take our God-ordained responsibilities to lead His church very seriously. I pray this fact is made evident by the way we go about doing our jobs.
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