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Christian, Bring Your Bible to Church

Employees carry badges.

Students bring their protractors to geometry class.

Fans wearing the team gear to the big game.

The artist always carries a pad to doodle on. 

Powerlifters always have a big belt in their gym bags.

You get the picture: People prepare themselves for the right occasion. 

Now, this isn’t where I’m going to say that a certain dress code for Sunday worship should compete with a funeral or black-tie event. No. Nor am I going to codify a new statute for ASCC members. 

But I must say, the number of Bible-less church attenders is staggering— and disconcerting. One wonders if there’s a correlation between that and the rise of nominalism in American Christianity. It’s not that they don’t own a Bible. In the age of the printing press and digital content, we have access to multiple copies of the Bible. My guess is that there are probably about 10 copies in my house right now. That’s an average of two per person. So, need isn’t the problem. Is it that church attenders just want to be free of carrying anything on their commute? Have they gotten into the mentality that the church will provide everything when they arrive there?

“Old” churches used to be equipped with pews which had racks to hold Bibles or hymnals. Now, since many churches are projecting songs and sermon notes on big screens (not a sin), the participation factor seems to have significantly waned. You can come to church and just watch. You can just use a pew Bible. Don’t get me wrong: it’s a good thing to provide copies of Scripture around the seating in a church worship service. But those Bibles aren’t replacements for your own Bible, and they are more often there to help the unchurched who attend connect with what we’re doing and not feel more strange or left out than they already do. 

There is nothing magical or extra-spiritual in bringing a Bible to church. There’s no direct command about it in the Bible itself. In fact, there were periods in Judeo-Christian history when they didn’t have access to Scripture. Sometimes, a town’s only copy was locked up in a church. 

But, nor is there anything less spiritual in using a mobile device to read from at church. In fact, sometimes—yea, often— appearances can be deceiving. This isn’t about maintaining an appearance. Some who tote their Bibles to church hardly live by it, and some who don’t bring a physical copy to worship might be very studied in the Word, close to the Lord and loving others. 

My hunch is that Christians who really are growing in love with God’s Word and are in it during the week willingly or naturally carry their Bibles to church as they would an inhaler or a diaper bag. Bringing a Bible to church—and using it!— can be a visible sign that you are spiritually attentive. You want to have the copy that you spend time in during the week with you in Lord’s Day worship so that you can mark it up and make connections all in one place. There are multiple good reasons. But showing off or getting a monkey off your back isn’t one of them. There are no Bible “police” at ASCC, and you won’t be judged. 

What’s more important than bringing a Bible to church or even opening the pew Bible up to follow along with the preacher? It’s bringing God’s Word home, in your heart. 

This is exactly what Colossians 3:16 directs: “Let the word of Christ dwell richly among you…” So, whether it’s your copy, a church copy or a screen, Christian, bring the Bible home in your heart and let it have a comfortable residence. 

Posted by Will Pareja with
Tags: church, bible

Why a Benediction?

Christian worship is no secret. The Church is not a private society with our own clandestine practices. We are a family trying to grow, and our family ways may be strange to some. With love and truth being at the core of who we are, we do well to have reasons ready (1 Peter 3:15). But as it goes sometimes in a family, we get too familiar with each other and our practices. To some, our gathered worship could be strange. Some people are completely new to Christian worship. While others may come from another tradition or from a more “freely” expressed style of worship. Whatever the degree of unfamiliarity, we the family should know why we are the way we are and do the things we do so we can be all the more hospitable and thoughtful when we do them. So for starters, what is the ditty at the end of the service often referred to the ‘benediction’?

 Simply broken down, benediction is ‘a good word’. It means ‘blessing’ and is especially a blessing given to others  in the context of a religious service. When you reply to someone’s sneeze, technically, you’re giving them a benediction. But spiritually, it’s not true at all. It’s just a common courtesy which probably even has a superstitious origin. Maybe it’s just best to say gesundheit; unless, of course, you want to turn a ‘God bless you’ into a jarring  evangelism opener. =+)

It also differs from a doxology which is a liturgical formula of praise to God.  You see the difference?

Biblically speaking, there is no mandate on churches or their worship leaders to give a benediction at the end of a worship service. The words of benedictions are often found in the Scriptures, but the practice, per se, is not. That, however, has not stopped churches over the majority of the Church’s history to employ these spiritual “formulas” as public pronouncements or prayers. The benediction is not merely a signal that the worship service is over. If we think of a benediction like movie credits, then, we’ll check out or leave. The benediction isn’t a sermon recap or even a continuation of the sermon. It’s more like the liturgical echo to the ‘call to worship’ (at the beginning of the service). This ‘sending blessing’ from God is offered by the minister topping off the congregation's tank as they scatter to their diverse vocations as Gospel ambassadors. Mike Cosper in his book Rhythms of Grace nails it this way: “The benediction has a centrifugal force to it— spinning us out from the gathering to our scattered lives where worship continues as before, but in our varied corners.”

The Bible has several benedictions that  are less obvious in the Old Testament than they are in the New Testament letters. While there is no strict formula for a benediction, you will notice language of conferral or wishing (“may…”); or, matter-of-fact, direct statement of God’s promises and presence. And often, they are trinitarian. The two most well-known biblical benedictions are:

  • “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26, ESV).
  • “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ [Son], and the love of God [the Father], and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14 NIV).

 It also isn't uncommon to paraphrase a biblical benediction or to even fuse a couple together, but it should be done carefully,  respecting their original contexts. This benediction based on Philippians 4:7 comes from Anglican and Presbyterian traditions:

  • “The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord; And the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen.”

 Again, no hard and fast rules on the ‘who’, but most of the time, the benediction is offered by the elder who has just preached or officiated the communion sacrament.  He will often do so with an arm (or both) outstretched over the congregation as a symbol of priestly service and shepherd-like generosity.  So then, it isn’t uncommon or inappropriate for congregants to respond to the benediction by reaching out their hand(s) as a visual way of receiving the blessing.

Would a congregation somehow be less blessed or slighted if the minister didn’t offer a benediction from God on their behalf? Probably not. We have all the blessings we need in Christ (Ephesians 1:1-4). The value of a well-planned benediction is worth the  extra minute in the worship service. 

Just think about this: You're not just leaving a worship service week after week; you are being sent. You have not just earned your weekly church attendance badge. Brothers and sisters, you are King Jesus’ servants being recharged and receiving a blessing for the road; a road that for you winds  Monday through Saturday and leads right back every week to the blessedness of Lord’s Day gathering.

 “Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

-Hebrews 13:20–21 ESV

 

(See the article length version of this post here

Posted by Will Pareja with

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