Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Reformation Project: Visiting The Village Church

FLOWER MOUND, Texas, February 2, 2014 -- The Village Church is one of only two visited for this study in which the main campus is not in a building originally built to be a church.  The church facilities are found in a strip mall.  The church’s portion has been significantly renovated.  After parking in the busy lot, those attending make their way into a fairly narrow entry way before making a right turn into the sanctuary.

The worship area is a large, simple auditorium with beige, theater style seats and carpeting.  A large video screen is located above the stage.  On one side of the stage, there are musical instruments along with a large wooden cross.  There is no podium or pulpit of any kind.

This is the earlier of two morning services – there had also been two services on Saturday evening.  As the Connections Pastor came on stage to begin, the auditorium appeared to be about half full.  We were urged to complete a “Connect Card” to help us become more connected with the church body or receive answers to questions.  This was followed by a videotaped advertisement for an upcoming “Revive Weekend,” a large scale evangelistic event directed toward middle school and high school students.

During the announcements, which continued to emphasize the importance of involvement in a community group, the band and singers came on stage.  As the music began, we were asked, “How many of you came to get after the Lord?”

The lights were lowered, and the band began to play, but instead of singing, varied voices read passages of scripture that were also posted on the video screen.  The scriptures used highlighted various gifts given to believers by virtue of the work of Christ. The selections and their presentation was well done.  This was a moving part of the service. Following the readings, the band led in a song for congregational singing.  The band was loud and the music fervent, but the lyrics were repetitive and forgettable. With that – at this point the service is barely 15 minutes old – the first portion of the service is done, and Pastor Matt Chandler walks to the center of the stage.

Dressed casually and speaking rapidly, Pastor Chandler began with a largely self-referential account of the church’s history going back to his calling to the church at age 28.  The church had grown rapidly, and the pastor pointed out, at times to laughter, that over the years he had encouraged people living more than 20 minutes from the church to attend other congregations closer to their homes.  That counsel had frequently gone unheeded, but the pastor emphasized that The Village Church had never sought to create one large church, but that they were more concerned about the expansion of the church eternal. 

From this historical background, the pastor then talked about plans for their satellite campus in Denton. The elders of the church had recently voted to release the Denton group so that it could become a separate church, and church members would be asked in the future to ratify that vote.  Pastor Chandler wanted to emphasize that this was a change in direction, but it was not a change in the overall strategic vision of the church.  He also stated that while they might do the same with their other satellite campuses in the future, that as of now the elders had only addressed the Denton campus. Other satellite ministries would be considered on a case by case basis.  Thus, while they were looking at releasing the Denton campus to form as an autonomous church, this action did not constitute a wholesale rejection of the satellite church model.

Pastor Chandler related these developments to the twelve week sermon series that he was beginning this morning in the book of Acts.  While the actions with regard to the Denton campus would be looked at in light of these sermons, the pastor wanted the congregation to know that his sermon was intended to look well beyond that single issue.  He would not be talking about what their approach should be to the Denton campus or other satellites; rather, the series would be addressing the mission of the Village church.

For the sermon this week, the pastor read the first eight verses of Acts, but the sermon was designed to be more of an introduction to the series as a whole than an exposition of these particular verses. Nonetheless, the pastor gave some helpful principles for understanding Acts, particularly emphasizing that some of the events described in the book were prescriptive of what the church should always be doing, while other sections of the writing were merely descriptive of what happened then and not necessarily things that we should look for in our churches today.  He indicated that he would write further on his blog about how to tell the difference between descriptive and prescriptive intent when reading Acts.  Focusing on verse eight, “you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you,” he also provided some helpful discussion on understanding the work of the Spirit in the lives of individuals. He acknowledged that “covenant members” of the church had varying understandings of the work of the Spirit, including some who held charismatic views.  

Nonetheless, he emphasized that the Holy Spirit comes upon or dwells in all who know Christ as Savior while also noting that at times the Spirit provides periods of increased delight in God’s assurance to us.  He warned, however, against seeking miracles as a means of attaining spiritual growth. Arguing that “the supernatural [meaning miraculous events] has never anchored anyone to long term faithfulness,” he pointed to the experience of Israel’s unfaithfulness in the aftermath of crossing the Red Sea as evidence of that principle.

He additionally warned against Christians imagining that they could manipulate the Spirit, relating the way some erroneously speak of the Spirit to the story of Aladdin and his magic lamp. Nor does the Spirit guarantee success as an evidence of God’s blessing. Rather, the Spirit’s power is related to power to witness to others and for ministry, and it functions to remind us of Jesus (Jn. 14:26).

Without knowing that the Denton campus would be the subject of much discussion this morning, I had made plans to attend the 10:45 service there. The facility was crowded on a rainy morning, forcing me to park down a busy side street. The satellite had its own announcements and music before showing Pastor Chandler’s sermon live by video.  Following the sermon, the campus observed the Lord’s Supper, which they did using the practice of intinction. Communion was opened to believers in good standing with any church, but I did not participate due to what I regard to be an unbiblical practice.

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