There are many different ways to order a worship service. In case it’s helpful to you, here is how Colin Dobrin (Worship Director at Garden City) and I order our Sunday gathering:
Part 1: Preparing to Hear the Word of God
Part 2: Hearing the Word of God
Part 3: Responding to the Word of God
This simple format centers on the Word of God (listening to our God who has something to say to us) and allows for great variety and creativity.
Part 1 typically involves a call to worship, singing to God (beginning with songs of adoration), and a brief greeting time to foster community/new connections and prepare the community to transition into hearing from God’s Word.
Part 2 is preaching. Our church has a prophetic culture to our preaching, a sense that the preacher has spent the week listening to God and listening to our context, arriving with a message from the Bible that has a sense of urgency to it, a sense of “God said this to me.”
Part 3 involves a variety of different means of responding to God’s Word. Each week can look different, but the elements often involve: offering (giving back to God to fund the mission of our church), communion, singing, prayer stations where people can receive prayer, corporate sharing of how God is at work in our church and city, baptisms, and a final charge that sends us out for a week of mission in our city.
Here is a video about the series, and some endorsements below.
“This Knowing the Bible series is a tremendous resource for those wanting to study and teach the Bible with an understanding of how the gospel is woven throughout Scripture. Here are Gospel-minded pastors and scholars doing Gospel business from all the scriptures—this is a biblical and theological feast preparing God’s people to apply the entire Bible to all of life with heart and mind wholly committed to Christ’s priorities.”
—Bryan Chapell, Chancellor, Covenant Theological Seminary
“Mark Twain may have smiled when he wrote to a friend, “I didn’t have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long letter.” But the truth of Twain’s remark remains serious and universal, because well-reasoned, compact writing requires extra time and extra hard work. And this is what we have in the Crossway Bible study series Knowing the Bible—as the skilled authors and notable editors provide the contours of each book of the Bible as well as the grand theological themes that bind them together as one Book. Here, in a 12-week format, are carefully wrought studies that will ignite the mind and the heart.”
—R. Kent Hughes, Author, Disciplines of a Godly Man; Senior Pastor Emeritus,
College Church, Wheaton, Illinois
“Knowing the Bible brings together a gifted team of Bible teachers to produce a high quality series of study guide. The coordinated focus of these materials is unique: biblical content, provocative questions, systematic theology, practical application, and the gospel story of God’s grace presented all the way through Scripture.”
—Philip Graham Ryken, President, Wheaton College
“These Knowing the Bible volumes introduce a significant and very welcome variation on the general run of inductive Bible studies. Such series often provide questions with little guidance, leaving students to their own devices. They thus tend to overlook the role of teaching in the church. By contrast, Knowing the Bible avoids the problem by providing substantial instruction with the questions. Knowing the Bible then goes even further by showing how any given passage connects with the gospel, the whole Bible, and Christian theology. I heartily endorse this orientation of individual books to the whole Bible and the gospel, and I applaud the demonstration that sound theology was not something invented later by Christians, but is right there in the pages of Scripture.”
—Graeme Goldsworthy, Visiting lecturer in Hermeneutics, Moore Theological College;
author, Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture
“What a gift to earnest, Bible-loving, Bible-searching believers! The organization and structure of the Bible study format presented through the Knowing the Bible series is so well conceived. Students of the Word are led to understand the content of passages through perceptive, guided questions, and they are given rich insights and application all along the way in the brief but illuminating sections that conclude each study. What potential growth in depth and breadth of understanding these studies offer. One can only pray that vast numbers of believers will discover more of God and the beauty of his Word through these rich studies.”
—Bruce A. Ware, Professor of Christian Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
It’s easier not to lead.
To not do anything.
To not say anything.
To go with the flow.
To accept the status quo.
To just sit there.
To criticize instead of create and solve.
To watch things happen instead of making things happen.
To play it safe.
It’s easier not to lead. You have to decide whether you want easy, or you want leadership.
Here is a free download of a sampler for my new book (coauthored with my friend, Dr. Stephen Um), Why Cities Matter: To God, the Culture, and the Church. Read Tim Keller’s foreword, the Introduction, and Chapter 1 of the book in PDF format here. The book just launched on Amazon and is currently available on Amazon for 48% off. Please help spread the word about this important new resource!
The city is more important than it’s ever been. Right now, more people live in cities than at any other time in human history. Never before has the majority of the world’s population been an urban population.
Cities have always played a central role in human history and in God’s redemptive plan for the world. Cities have long stood as powerful places of cultural development, influence, and invention—offering hope, refuge, and new beginnings. But never before have cities been as populated, powerful, and important as they are today.
The world is changing. Our world is experiencing the largest movement of urban growth in history. Our world is now predominately urban, and there’s no going back. This new reality, this new world, presents a historic opportunity for Christians.
Cities shape the world. What happens in cities doesn’t stay in cities. What happens in cities spreads—as the city goes, so goes the broader culture. Think of cities like you think of a factory. What is produced in the factory (city) gets shipped outside the factory and distributed throughout the world. The products shipped by the factory shape life far beyond the walls of the factory. Cities ship and shape. Cities are so important because they possess a far greater “shipping” and “shaping” power than other human settlements, such as a suburban community or a country village.
Cities are the center of cultural and economic development in our 21st century world. Cities produce the people, economic resources, businesses, the arts, universities, political policies, research and development—the cultural goods—that shape and define our modern society. What happens in London or Beijing today will effect the American financial market more than what happens in the suburbs of Chicago. Tomorrow’s technological innovation in Silicon Valley will soon impact Manila, Tokyo, and Cape Town along with their respective countries and neighboring communities.
Cities no longer shape just their surrounding regions, cities now shape the whole world. This new world presents Christians and the church with an unprecedented opportunity to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ into every dimension of human life. God is doing something new and big in our cities, and he’s calling some of us to participate in it.
For more, download the foreword, introduction, and first chapter here.
Ask God to do what only God can do.
Many years ago Habbakuk, the prophet, prayed a simple prayer to God and asked one big thing of him:
O Lord, I have heard the report of you,
and your work, O Lord, do I fear.
In the midst of the years revive it;
in the midst of the years make it known;
in wrath remember mercy.
May we all pray for God to do in our years and in our cities what he’s done in times past.
We pray for many things. Let’s never forget to pray for revival.
Leaders, don’t forget to celebrate with your team.
On Saturday night we held our 2nd annual Leaders’ Celebration Dinner with the deacons and staff of Garden City Church. It’s a night for me to thank our leaders for what they do, celebrate all that God has done in a year, have fun together, and cast vision for what’s ahead.
Our church plant is now 17 months old and since throwing this celebration dinner last year (when we were just 5 months old) our church has doubled in size and doubled the number of Neighborhood Groups our deacons lead. It’s exciting. But for many of us, it’s all to easy to not celebrate the exciting work that has been done.
Why don’t we celebrate? Because leaders are typically future-oriented.
As leaders it’s easy to skip celebration, to keep charging the hill and moving onto the next big challenge. Don’t do that. Take time to stop and celebrate. Make celebration an important part of the culture in you church or organization.
Evelyn Stringer is our Kids’ Director at Garden City Church. Her story is a remarkable and redeeming one. Evelyn was born and raised in Uganda, East Africa. In Uganda she was orphaned, losing both of her parents to AIDS. At the age of twelve Evelyn’s aunt adopted her and her brothers, bringing them to the states and shortly after Jesus got a hold of Evelyn’s life.
Holding a Master’s degree in Criminology, Law and Society, Evelyn most recently worked as an Investigator with the Orange County Public Defenders Office. I officiated Evelyn’s wedding last year as she married John, a Garden City deacon who I’ve known since he was a fifteen year-old punk (now he’s an amazing man of God) who was part of the youth group I used to lead back in my youth pastor days. Evelyn has a big heart for kids and I’m thrilled about how God is using her in our city. The former orphan is spreading the gospel and bringing the good news of a church family to the kids of our city.
Evelyn recently shared with me the story of her half-sister (same dad, different mom), Lydia Teera, who was also raised as part of Evelyn’s family and also orphaned when their dad and Evelyn’s mom died. Lydia has remained in Uganda all these years and now works for Wycliffe, serving as Wycliffe’s first Ugandan missionary.
Here is an article that was written a few years ago about Lydia’s story.
And here is a video about Lydia’s story and the work she’s doing in Uganda:
Grace is free.
Grace is undeserved love. Grace is the undeserved love God gives to us, and it’s the undeserved love we can give to others. Both of these types of grace, the grace given by God to you and the grace given by you to others is free. If it’s not free, it’s not grace. Undeserved love is a gift to the undeserving requiring nothing in return. You will never find grace in a store. It’s not for sale. It can’t be bought. It can only be given.
And this gift, this potent weighty reality of free and undeserved love, changes people’s lives (all the way down to the deep root system of their life; I’m talking change that changes everything, not just the color of a few leaves). Grace is probably, I’ll go ahead and say it is, the most powerful force in the universe.
Grace is free. And, grace costs.
The grace God gives us is free for us, but so costly for God. The Son of God bore the full weight, consequence, shame, humiliation, guilt, and cost of our sin and failures so that we could be forgiven, loved, and free. This is how God works. This is how true love works. This is how forgiveness works. God took the hit so that we could be healed and whole.
It’s the same dynamic for us and our relationships. The grace you give to others is free for them, but costly for you. Have you ever forgiven (truly and completely forgiven) someone who has deeply wronged you? When you gave them that gift of undeserved-forgiveness-love, you decided to pay for the cost of the wrong instead of making them pay. You took the hit.
Why did you do that? Because, like I said, grace is the most powerful force in the universe. As God’s never-stopping grace for you slips deeper and deeper into your DNA you discover that you can’t help it. Your own life becomes so infected with the joy of undeserved love that you must spread it. Grace doesn’t stay put. Grace must spread.
Grace is free. Graces costs. And grace is contagious.
Yesterday I had the honor of preaching the 3rd anniversary service of Redeemer Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. It’s thrilling to see how Jesus is at work here in the Middle East.
Redeemer Dubai is a sister church of Garden City. We are partnered with Redeemer Dubai, praying for them and giving them financial support. We have encouraged Garden City people to move to Dubai for the sake of the gospel and to be involved in further church planting efforts here in the Middle East. Please join me in praying for Redeemer Dubai and praying that Garden City/Silicon Valley people would leave behind their Silicon Valley life and spend it in the Middle East for the fame of Jesus.
It’s amazing to see how Jesus is at work in this church and this city. Started just 3 years ago, the church has grown like crazy. It’s the most diverse church/community I’ve ever seen. In an even more concentrated way than Silicon Valley, the nations truly do come to Dubai. Yesterday I was worshiping next to people from the Philippines, Lebanon, Nigeria, Ireland, South Africa, India, America, Iran, Russia, China, Singapore, Ethiopia, Australia, Pakistan, Denmark, and beyond.