Church Casual

Recently I read an article in the Birmingham Newchurchsigns titled “More Birmingham-area congregations going casual on Sundays”. The article described how area churches have declined in membership over the years and are trying “new techniques to encourage membership.” One of those new techniques is a “come as you are, come causal” approach.

Many churches have adopted this approach as their slogans testify: “Relaxed and friendly atmosphere,” “We’re the church for those who don’t do church so wear comfort-able cloths and enjoy a no pressure environment.” “We want you to have a great time with your family” “Church-casual” “Even Jesus wore sandals.”

In Thicket Magazine we read, “One congregation that certainly exemplifies the current trend is Church of the Highlands, a non-denominational church {that} features energetic music, a heavy use of technology, a café that serves Starbucks coffee, and a casual, come-as-you-are attitude. Founding pastor Christ Hodges encourages worshippers to bring their mocha Frappuccino into the service if it makes them more comfortable. ‘We’re trying to make church fun and for people to want to be there…’” – Thicket Magazine, “Podcasts and Praise Songs”

This is the thinking of many churches today: “We’re the church for people who don’t want to do church, we don’t want you to have to dress up or anything like that, and you just come as you are!”


churchcasual Members and guests at Crosstown Community Church in Brandon may choose to sit in-formally — and even finish their coffee and doughnuts — at tables in the back of the sanctuary during services. 


What exactly does church-casual mean? How can anything be casual that involves the worship of All Mighty God? In the book of Exodus, Moses is told to get the people ready, to be prepared. “The Lord said to Moses, Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments 11 and be ready for the third day.” (Exodus 19:10-11)

Moses introduced an entirely different approach to worship than “come as you are” so prevalent in our society today. Moses told Israel to “Consecrate your-self, make preparation”. The children of Israel were to put limits on their behavior, they had to change their dress, they had to do some preparation if they were going to come in before All Mighty God and worship Him.

Of course we are not under the Old Testament regulations today, but the principle still applies. Men don’t just go to worship God on his own terms. We are to worship God on God’s terms! Nadab and Abhiu learned that one’s attitude and demeanor in worship is of critical importance (Lev 10:1,2).

We need to ask ourselves: Am I casual in my attitude towards worship? Do I think somehow that I can worship God however I may please to do so? Can I worship God whenever I please? Doing whatever I please? Or is worship to be a meeting of the heart and the soul of the very Creator, something of such significance and importance that I will make preparation to offer my worship to Him?

How much preparation do we make towards our worship of God? How often do we allow life to interfere with proper worship? Sometimes we’re so busy in the hurry and scurry of everything we don’t prepare ourselves properly to worship. How often on Saturday night we don’t get our clothes ready, don’t find our Bibles, don’t reflect on what we are going to engage in the next day? Do we stay up too late watching the late movie? Sunday morning comes and we’re a blizzard of activity, “Where’s my Bible? Where’s my lesson book?   Where’s my tie? I can’t find my shoes.” We come flying in 3 minutes late and our thoughts are everywhere but where they need to be! Our worship is unacceptable because we have not taken our obligation to worship God seriously.

Is all the preparation we do prior to the Lord’s Supper is the song we sing before the communion? Is that it? Is that all we need to do to get our minds ready? Are we that casual in partaking of the emblems? We need to think more seriously about what it means to worship our God.

Some will mistakenly believe that this is about clothing and dress. That is not our stated purpose. We are not trying to impose some sort of artificial dress code here, instead we’re talking about an attitude of heart. An attitude that says worship matters, the very opposite of casual, this is so important I’ll properly prepare myself to do it.

That casual mindset will not work in worship. God is to be reverenced and His worshippers are to approach Him with the proper demeanor. That is the very opposite of that, “It’s no big deal, It’s all casual” mentality.

In Psalm 95:6, the Psalmist says, “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!” That talks about getting serious with the Lord.

Do you remember that old hymn, “Take Time To Be Holy”? It takes time to prepare ourselves to be holy and to make the right decisions about worship even on Saturday night so that our spirit will be rested, and calm, and ready on the Lords’ Day.

Real worship begins with an understanding that we are coming into the presence of God, and we want to make the right preparations so we can do that in the very best way possible.

   “Take time to be holy, the world rushes on;

Spend much time in secret with Jesus alone.

Abiding in Jesus, Like Him thou shalt be;

They friends in thy conduct His likeness shall see.”

Aaron C. Andrews – The Gospel Power, May 2014

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In Summer!

   Can you feel it? Spring is in the air! Winter is slowly but surely departing, the trees are blooming (and of course the allergies) in short, summer is on its way!

summerSummer time is a great time of year when the outdoors become alive and buzz with activity: Everyone comes out from their hibernation, Gardens are planted, yards are mowed, and kids are out of school, 4th of July, watermelon and iced tea on the back porch. Summer is great!

With the summer though come some unique and difficult challenges that every Christian needs to deal with in this warm summer time of year. Let’s look at a couple of those:

THE CHALLENGE TO NOT BECOME LAZY

How do we often describe summer? We call them the “Lazy days of summer.” Author James Dent said, “A perfect summer day is when the Sun is shinning, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing, and the lawn mower is broken.” That about sums it up, doesn’t it? There is a great tendency to get lazy in summertime.

The Wise man in Proverbs tells us to look at the Ant. Is the ant lazy? “Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.” (Proverbs 6:6–11, ESV) While its good to have some time off, let’s not use summer as an excuse to leave undone things that require our attention.

That is especially true when we think in spiritual terms and our Christian walk. “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15–16, ESV) As Christians we must use our time wisely, even in those lazy days of summer.

We’re off being lazy and having so much fun in summer that we forget to set time aside to read our bibles and to pray, even our worship and church attendance wanes because we’re off enjoying the sun, vacation, ballgames, etc… We need to be careful that our spiritual commitments don’t take a back set to those sunny, summer days.

That doesn’t mean we can’t have fun in summer, (we certainly should enjoy the time and seasons God has given us) but while we are enjoying our summer vacations, let’s make sure we don’t take a vacation from the Lord.

THE CHALLENGE TO BE MODEST

“likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.” (1 Timothy 2:9–10, ESV)

In reading Paul’s instructions for modesty I have never found an exception for summertime. Paul did NOT say, “Adorn yourselves modestly, unless it’s hot or you’re at the beach!” No! Adorn yourselves modestly. Period.

This is an increasingly difficult challenge for the people of God. His standards never change while societies standards increasingly decline. Too many Christians have listened to the lies the world says about dress. You can tell because of the excuses they make:

  • “It’s MY body, I’ll wear what I want.”
  • “If my outfit makes you uncomfortable, don’t look!”
  • “It’s better than what others wear”

On, and on, and on the excuses come when we try to compare ourselves to the world’s standards instead of living up to God’s standards! Don’t use summer as an excuse to dress immodestly.

So many challenges to our Christianity in our world today, and with the changing of seasons those challenges become increasingly difficult. Remember the Lord always and your commitment to Him. Enjoy the good weather and the sunshine the Lord provides, but remember that our God is the God of all seasons. “You have fixed all the boundaries of the earth; you have made summer and winter.” (Psalm 74:17, ESV) (END)

Aaron C. Andrews – The Gospel Power, April 2014

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Are You Glad To Be Here?

“I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!”” (Psalm 122:1, ESV)

I have observed lately an attitude among Christians that is very concerning. It seems like many have forgotten to delight in coming together as a church to worship our God and to mediate and study His Word. They are only here on Sunday morning and that’s only in a dutiful “clock-punching” way.

Now it’s hard to tell by simply talking with them on Sunday morning. They are here and they have pleasant things to say about the weather, or the ballgame last night or what their kids are doing, (they may even tell the preacher he had a good lesson) but it is apparent that they are only here because the “have to”, and that one hour of Sunday morning worship is all you’ll see of them for the next 7 days. They have (in their eyes) fulfilled their obligation to God and to their brethren for the week and they are ready to get on with the rest of their daily life.

Is that you? If it is, can I remind you of a couple of things?worship

1) We Miss You! – Your attendance is important to us. We want to see you, talk with you, spend time with you, pray with you, and sing praises to our God with you! You are our brother and sister in Christ. You are part of our family, and when members of the family are gone everyone feels the absence. So while you’re off doing other stuff while we are together at worship you send the message that we are not as important to you as whatever has your attention.

2) Was It Worth It? – Did whatever you were doing bring you more gladness than worshipping with your fellow Christians? If so, don’t you see that as a problem? Our goal is to go to Heaven one day, and we encourage each other to stay the course by coming here together. Being with the Saints then can only strengthen your Christian walk. Was “skipping church” strengthening or weakening you?

3) Did It Please God? – Did you stop and ask yourself, “Will God be pleased that I didn’t show-up to worship because I wanted to do something else?” God sent His Son to die on the Cross for you and me, what does it say about my attitude to that great sacrifice when I can’t be inconvenienced enough to “go to church” more than 1 hour a week?

There is much more that could be said about forsaking the assembling of ourselves together (Hebrews 10:23), but I wanted to take a moment and ask you why you aren’t glad enough to be here every time we assemble? What’s more important on this planet then our Christian walk? Nothing! Won’t you spend more time on that? As part of that, will you say with Gladness in your heart, “I can’t wait to assemble with the saints!” (END)

 Aaron AndrewsThe Gospel Power, March 2014

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Going for Gold

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.” (1 Corinthians 9:24, ESV)

Sochi_Gold_Medal.PNGI love watching the Olympics. It’s incredible to see world-class athletes competing for that coveted Gold Medal. During the coverage of the Sochi Winter Olympics, NBC ran some background stories on a few of the members of Team USA. The stories consisted of where they were from, how they got into their sport, what motivates them, etc… What I found interesting about these stories was even though they all come from different places and whether they’re competing in hockey, bobsled, speed-skating, figure-skating, or even curling, they all had one thing in common: they are all motivated by their determination to win. That means they will practice hours and hours every day, work-out hours and hours every day, literately eating, breathing, sleeping, and thinking about and working toward their goal of a Gold Medal. They are going ALL OUT for the gold.

Can we make a parallel here of the Christian life? That’s the parallel Paul makes in First Corinthians 9:24. As Christians we are all running the race. Are you running in such away to win? Are you putting the time in each day, working toward the goal of Heaven? How much of your life revolves around your Christianity? Too many Christians are “Sunday Morning” Christians who’s entire Christianity is wrapped up in going to church on Sunday. Just as an Olympic Athlete has no chance of winning the Gold Medal by only practicing once a week, so it is for the “Sunday Morning” Christian who does nothing else the rest of the week.

Just as the Olympic athletes have coaches and training partners to help and assist them in their training, we also do not run the race alone. Our great God has promised to help us along the way. He has given us His Word that we may know how to run. He has promised to hear us in our prayers. He has given us our fellow “running” mates, our brothers and sisters in Christ to help cheer each other on and if necessary to pick us up if we are falling down. We have all the tools necessary to run this race.

I love watching the Olympics. I especially like seeing the expression on the faces of the athletes when they win. In the sparkle of their eyes you can see the satisfaction of knowing that all the hard work, blood, sweat and tears has paid off. In that moment, it was all well worth it. One day, I long to be with that host in Heaven who endured so much but in the end it was well worth it. Paul calls it a “light affliction” compared to the glories that await. I want that. Therefore, I am determined to run the race with endurance. Will you? (END)

Aaron Andrews

 – The Gospel Power, February 2014

 

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R-Rated Entertainment

IMG_1067 copy

In James 1:27, James tells us to keep ourselves, “unstained from the world.” I want us to consider that for a moment in regards to the choices we make with our entertainment.

It’s been said that “you are what you eat”, or put another way, “garbage in, garage out”.  I think that’s especially true regarding what we voluntarily feed our minds by what we watch on TV, or what we click on the internet, or even what we buy a movie ticket for.IMG_1067

I’ve heard Christians make the excuse that it’s okay to watch an R-rated movie with all it’s sex, violence, and language because it doesn’t really affect them.  I have never understood that line of reasoning.  Why, as New Testament Christians who are seeking to serve Jesus, who are striving to be LIGHTS in this DARK world, why would we be willing to say that watching all that filth doesn’t have an effect on us? We are in a battle for our very souls, why would I want to give opportunity to the devil by willfully subjecting myself to wickedness?  James tells us to keep away from the things of the world, to not allow them in our lives. Why? Because he knew that they would stain us. It DOES have an affect on us.

With that in mind, I would like to offer a few suggestions that might help you make good choices regarding the kinds of entertainment you chose.

1) Check the reviews!

Hollywood does a great job of drawing us towards their movies with flashy previews.  Previews are designed to bait us in and are made for “All Audiences”. If you only rely on previews to make a decision about whether a movie is suitable or not, you’re going to end up making a bad choice. A good place to turn to if you want to know what to expect when deciding about a movie is website called: dove.org. You don’t have to go to the movies anymore and be “surprised” by some form of filth. Dove will not spoil the plot for you, but it will tell you about the kind of language to expect, if there is any nudity or sex, and the level of graphic violence in the film. (Dove also reviews DVD’s as well).

2) TV Security

With all the filth that’s on TV today, we need to make sure we don’t expose our home (our family) to things that are inappropriate. I don’t want my child to pick up a remote control and “accidently” change the channel to something that’s not suitable.  Some Christian families are deciding to turn the TV off all together. That certainly is commendable and it will definitely keep the garbage out, but if you don’t want to go to that extreme then allow me to suggest the following:

  • PARENTAL CONTROLS. Lots of cable boxes and Satellite providers have software already available to you that would “LOCK” the channels and ratings that you choose to be inappropriate. (Check with your provider for more information).
  • TV GUARDIAN. Lots of families are deciding to buy this inexpensive device that “scrubs” the language that comes in thru the TV.

Remember, it’s our responsibility as parents to choose what our kids see and hear.

3) Discernment          

Above all though, we must use good discernment when deciding on our entertainment. We need to apply the principle that Paul uses in Philippians 4:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  (Philippians 4:8)IMG_1068-2

We need to ask about our entertainment choices: Does God approve that I am subjecting my mind to this? Would I be embarrassed if the church knew I was watching this? Does this help me with my Christian walk? Is it pure? Is it commendable?

The stain of the world is all around us. It is a constant daily battle to keep ourselves from it. Don’t fall into the trap of letting your guard down when you sit down to a few moments of entertainment. Keep the garbage out! (END)

Aaron Andrews

The Gospel Power – January 2014

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Daily Bible Reading in 2014

Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts. (Jeremiah 15:16)

2014-happy-new-year-1600x1200   The New Year is fast approaching and with the change in calendar comes the opportunity to make some New Year’s Resolutions; the chance to reset our priorities and goals. Are you making any New Year’s Resolutions this year? What kinds of New Year’s Resolutions are you making; eat less, work out more, watch less TV, spend more time in prayer, and read your Bible more? Do any of these sound familiar?

What usually happens to New Year’s Resolution? Usually by the time January 31st rolls around our resolutions are long forgotten. Does that happen to you? Most of us have been there. New Year’s Resolutions are often hastily made and easily forgotten.

If you are resolving to read your Bible in a better and more meaningful way in 2014, then I would like to offer a few suggestions to help you along your way. How many times have you resolved to read your Bible more only to find that after a few weeks you’re bogged down in Leviticus and too busy anyway to get thru it?

As New Testament Christians, we should be committed to the reading and studying of God’s Word. Our life depends on it! We must, like Jeremiah, delight in God’s Word. I want to help you make Daily Bible Reading a lifetime commitment not a rash New Year’s Resolution.

There are a lot of good ideas and methods out there to help with daily Bible reading, I’d like to offer you some things that have helped me along the way and I think could be of benefit to you as well.

1) HAVE A PLAN - Lot’s of times we fail to follow thru with our commitments because we just didn’t plan very well. The one who says, “The diet starts Monday” has not planned well as to what will happen on Monday when he walks into work and there to greet him in the break room is box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts! Before the day is out he has broken his diet, shrugs his shoulders and announces, “Next Monday. The diet starts next Monday.” Need to plan better.

Whether you decide to read the entire Bible in a year or just one chapter a day you need to sit down and plan your Bible Reading. There’s lots of Daily Bible Reading plans out there to choose from, I’d like to offer you two that I find helpful:

If you are planning to read the entire Bible in a year, let me suggest a 5-day reading plan instead of a 7-day one. A 5-day plan gives you a couple of days built in if you miss a day. My favorite 5-day reading plan can be found on the web at: bibleclassmaterial.com. The Bible Reading plan is free of charge. You can download it, print it, and keep it in your Bible or get it on your electronic device. It’s an easy to read plan.

The plan that I’m currently using is the Grant Horner Bible Reading Plan. The plan is a little different than your typical daily Bible reading plan. It requires that you read 10 chapters a day from 10 different sections of the Bible.

I like this plan for the busy individual because it is extremely forgiving. You don’t have to read the whole thing in one sitting to stay in context. You can, for example, read a couple of chapters in the morning when you wake up, a couple of chapters at lunch, and finish it all up before bed. Whatever works best for you.

I also like the free Bible app that goes with it; it helps keep my place in the readings. Check it all out at: ingodsimage.com/?p=13490.    

If you would like a straightforward checklist for Bible Reading, I put this one together. (Click on the image to go to download page). 

biblereadingchapterchecklist

  2) SCHEDULE YOUR BIBLE READING TIME – Another problem in keeping our Bible Reading commitment is that we try to “fit it in” to our already over packed schedule. It won’t happen if you don’t purposefully schedule the time. aecbfe6b4362663d3ba6caa2afd251bf

The same schedule doesn’t work for everybody; therefore you will need to figure out what’s best for you. Will it be early in the morning, before bed, or maybe four 15 minute sessions a day? No matter how you do it, just make it a real part of your daily life.

  3) MAKE IT A TEAM EFFORT – It’s very hard to follow thru with our commitments when nobody else knows about them and they can’t help cheer us on. Better yet, when multiple people are striving together for the same goal, we can be lifted up by that. A team effort is much better than going at it alone. Why not make Bible reading a team effort? Whether that’s 2 friends deciding together, or a Bible reading group that meets once a week for encouragement and accountability. Or better yet when the family decides to turn off the TV for an hour and read the Bible together. Whatever you choose to do, if you want to be successful, make it a group effort.

   4) THE “PEW” GUIDE TO READING – We need to read our Bible’s for more than just reading.

Bible reading isn’t just about reading to get the facts. The Bible is more than just a history book and more than a fascinating non-fiction novel. The Bible contains the road map to Heaven, shows us the best way to live life and to be found well pleasing to God and how we get along with our neighbor. Let me suggest the “PEW” reading guide to help as along with that.

PRAISE – As we read our Bible’s, we need to be looking for areas to praise God in. God is deserving of our praise. He created us, He sustains us, and He sent His son to die for us. It would be hard to read the Bible each day and NOT find something to praise God.

ENCOURAGEMENT – The Bible is filled with encouragement as we live here on earth and struggle with sin and temptation, persecution and trials. It’s good to read our Bibles and see God’s children struggle with the same things we struggle with and to watch them overcome with the help of God’s tender loving kindness. That’s encouraging to us!

WARNED – Finally, I need to read my Bible and be warned of Satan’s pitfalls and what can happen if I do give in the world and its wickedness. I need to see God’s admonitions and when I find reproof and correction in the pages of scripture; I need to change my life accordingly.

“PEW” – It’s a good day to read scripture. In the New Year, will you read the Bible with a readiness and willingness to make the Word of God real in your life?

Aaron Andrews

The Gospel Power – December 2013

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Happy 10th Birthday Laura!

Today our daughter, Laura Elizabeth Andrews turns 10. As I think about that day a decade ago the feelings of that day rush back: the joy of a new child, the warmth of love for this precious baby girl, but also terror and fear followed by disbelief and shock. I would like to take a moment to briefly share with you some of our story:

Laura was born on December 15th 2003 at 5:00 PM 0816290-R1-043-20 by Caesarean section. She weighed 8 pounds, 13 ounces and was 22 inches long. Everything seemed to have gone well. Tammy had a tough time of it but everyone was positive that Mommy and baby were healthy and fine.

That night however about 8 hours later, I was awaken by the nurse who told me they were going to take Laura into the nursery to do vitals, picture in her outfit, etc…I was welcomed to come along or I could just stay and rest. I opted for rest. A few minutes later the nurse came back and woke me again and said, “we have a problem.” I raced to the nursery with her and there was my daughter surrounded by medical staff, I was told that Laura was having seizures and apnea episodes. (She would stop breathing and a nurse would shake her leg to get her to breath again). Somewhere in the conversation the hospital staff told me that they were not equipped to handle this and Laura would be moved to another hospital.

Several hours later, sitting in a little room in this different hospital awaiting the results of a CAT scan and with my wife recovering across town, the neurologist came in and said, “I’ve never seen this much damage in an infant before.” He went on to say that Laura had suffered 3 strokes prior to birth. 2 on her left side and a major on her right. I was floored! Of all the things Tammy and I were concerned about and prayed about, I had never heard that before. How could this happen? I think of stroke and I think of old people not little babies!

I don’t remember much about that day after that. I do remember the pain on my wife’s face as I told her the news, and I remember kneeling by Tammy’s beside, holding her hand and praying for strength. I also remember the love and support by our family, friends, brothers and sisters in Christ.

001 067Ten years have gone by and each year seems to have it’s own set of challenges where Laura is concerned. I will admit that I spent the first couple of those years in denial about Laura’s condition. (I remember being upset at her 2nd birthday that she couldn’t play in her cake like other 2 year olds).Yet Tammy has been a rock through it all. Several years ago when a helicopter landed on our front lawn at 1 AM and Laura had to be rushed to the hospital, Tammy was the one that was cool, calm and collected. DCP_3178It wasn’t until later when the emergency was over and Laura was given a good report that she finally broke down and cried. As I have observed this unique mother/daughter relationship I’ve never seen Tammy bemoan the fact that she’ll never be able to do the “normal” kinds of things that mothers and daughters do together. I see her taking care for Laura’s every need and doing all she can to give her a full life and I love her for it.

100_3981 On Monday, the day after her birthday, Laura will have VNS surgery at Children’s Hospital in Birmingham. A VNS is like a pacemaker, but this one will potentially curb her many seizures. The doctors have high hopes that this well be a life changing event in her life. I pray for a successful surgery.

IMG_1160Through it all, I can’t imagine our lives without our special daughter. If you know Laura then you know that she loves to jam to Michael Buble’ music and pink is her favorite color. You also know that Laura has a smile and a laugh that lights up the room which she inherited from her mother…and a stubborn streak a mile wide which she inherited from her daddy. :)

Laura has taught us so much. She has taught us that love goes beyond simply hearing those words spoken aloud. She has taught us how precious each moment is. She has taught us that you don’t have to be like everybody else for life to have real meaning and purpose.

Laura is such a blessing in the lives of all who know her. Thank you for being there for her and caring about her and most importantly for remembering her in your prayers. I thank God for Laura and her first 10 years. We have been surely blessed. May the Lord grant her many more years in our lives. Happy Birthday Lou-Lou, we love you!DSC_1644

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