I recently came across a quote by David Wells, one of my professors at Gordon Conwell. He has long lamented the decline of the church in America, and sought to diagnose the issue. One of his diagnosis is that we are not people who think, who reflect, who study, and that has led to our decline, as we have not been people of the book. This quote, from his book, The Courage to be Protestant, struck a nerve with me.
“Christianity is described as the faith, the truth, the pattern of sound words, the traditions, the sound doctrine, and what was delivered in the beginning. This is what the apostles taught, it is what they believed, it is what they “delivered” to the church, it is what is “entrusted” to the church. Christians are those who “believe” this teaching, who “know” it, who “have” it, who “stand” in it, and who are “established” in it. The New Testament letters were written to remind believers about their responsibilities in relation to this teaching, this faith that has been delivered to the church in its final and completed form. The apostles, we read, write to “remind” them of it, urge them to “pay close attention” to it, to “stand firm” in it, to “follow” it, to “hold” onto it, to “guard” it as one might a precious jewel, and to contend earnestly for this truth. Can we see the most basic point here? It is that the church in its earliest days was a learning community. What it was learning was the ways of God, his character, his acts, through the truth he had given and was giving them. This they knew was indispensable for a life of obedience in this world. By contrast, all of this is conspicuous by its absence in much of the contemporary evangelical church. Knowledge of the Bible ranks low in how the born-again judge themselves. And the preaching of the Bible’s truth has all but disappeared from many churches. We are today walking away from what we see modeled for us in the book of Acts as God’s will for the church.” (David Wells The Courage to Be Protestant, 84-85).
As we face another year, and prepare for all that comes, my prayer for us is that we will be people who seek to be people of the word. My prayer is that we will be a learning community. People who seek to grow deeper and deeper in the gospel throughout this year. This year, we will be seeking to learn the new city catechism as a church. We will be having studies, to seek to grow as followers of Christ. After the Super Bowl, on Sunday evenings, we will be having a marriage class, primarily using “The Meaning of Marriage” by Tim and Kathy Keller. Later in the spring, after that wraps up, we will have another Sunday evening study, and read through a little book called “What is a Healthy Church?”, by Mark Dever. We will continue to have Bible studies on Wednesday nights. And, we will seek to be applying the world to our lives, as we continue to grow as followers of Christ in the coming year. My hope is that we will be a learning community. A united, gospel centered, learning community that seeks the glory of God in 2013.