Format: Sound Plus Doctrine PodcastDownload Session
This episode of Sound + Doctrine is the last of five focusing on what really matters to God in our Sunday gatherings. Devon Kauflin joins us as we talk about the importance of our meetings being Church aware and prioritized.
Scriptures referenced: Heb. 12:22-24; Gal. 2:20; Phil. 3:3-8; 1 Pet. 2:4-5
Have a question about this episode? Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
David Zimmer: Welcome to the Sound Plus Doctrine podcast. I am David Zimmer.
Bob Kauflin: Yes, and I am Bob Kauflin still.
DZ: And we still have Devon Kauflin with us. [laughter]
Devon Kauflin: Still. You say that as if you’re tired of me.
BK: Alright, well we aren’t tired of you, but…
DZ: Not at all.
BK: Not at all.
DZ: We are actually on part five of a series that we are doing and this is actually the conclusion of our time together. I’m very excited about this conversation today.
BK: Good, so if you haven’t listened to the first four, stop this and go back and listen to the four.
DZ: Yes, they are so good.
BK: I think it’d be helpful.
DZ: It would be helpful.
BK: For sure. We’re talking about the core values of congressional worship, that there are different ways of doing church but some things we can’t… We don’t get a choice on. And so we’ve covered up to this point that our meetings, our gatherings on Sunday, gatherings of God people should be God-initiated and exalting, scripture-governed and fueled, Christ-centered and Gospel-driven, Spirit-enabled and empowered. And today, we wanna talk about our gatherings being church-aware and prioritized, and just to set this up the writer to Hebrews talks about what happens when we gather and he contrasts gathering… The people of Israel gathering at Mount Zion with what we do when we gather. And he says in Hebrews 12 starting verse 22, “You have come to Mount Zion into the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem and to innumerable angels and festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.”
BK: And we’re not gonna get into all that’s encompassed there but the picture is that when we gather, we are gathering with the saints that are gathered around the throne. And so that really changes the way we should think about what we do when we meet with our… Maybe our little church with 30-40 people or our big church, maybe two, three multiple thousands. It’s the same group of saints that we’re gathering with. And so when we say church-aware and prioritize, that’s one of the things we’re saying. Another passage to think about is Ephesians 2:22 in which Paul says, “In Him, in Christ you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” In other words, we are coming together as a church, and the church is not a production, it’s not a performance, it’s about participating together in what God has done for us in Christ, in Christ there in our midst, leading the singing, leading our praise to the Father.
BK: So we are a body, we are a temple that God is working in and through, and it’s something that needs to be said, and we need to be reminded of that this is not… Our gatherings are not just about a small group of people getting in front of another group of people and doing stuff for them. Now Devon, I know you’ve just finished a doctorate last… This past year on the importance of our union with Christ in our gatherings, but I’d love to hear some of your thoughts on just this being church-aware and prioritizing the congregation as we gather and just how… What does that mean? What does that look like?
DK: Yeah, that’s a great question. I think it’s, this is where identity I think is so important, how we think about identity as Christians, how do we think about who we are? And we live in a world that makes much of identity and prioritizes how we identify ourselves often how we self-identify ourselves…
BK: Yes, yes, self-identification.
DK: And as a Christian, Paul says Galatians 2, “It’s no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me, the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who love me and gave himself for me.” And the implication of that on how we conceive of our identity is profound.
DK: Cause its no longer I who live my… And you see Paul do this in other places too. I think of Philippians 3 and he’s saying this is how I thought of myself prior to this and I was a Hebrew of Hebrews, I was all these things. This was all that I claimed to be both because of how I was born and what I had done, but it’s all rubbish.
DK: For the sake of knowing Christ and…
BK: Being found in him.
DK: And being found in him. And so that’s who we are, and that flies in the face of our secular age.
DK: Flies in the face of it. And so not only is it… Alright, so it’s no longer about my desires, it’s no longer about my definition of myself…
BK: Who I say I am.
DK: It’s no longer about how I feel about who I am, it’s no longer about any of those things. As a Christian, it’s about who you are in Christ. That’s what defines you. And then to work ourselves out from there then… Alright, so if it’s no longer I who live but Christ lives in me, who am I? And how am I seen, and how can I understand myself? And that’s where it really is we read scripture, it highlights the corporate nature of our identity. And so just the metaphors that, the images that the scripture uses that you just described, they’re all corporate, this temple and building, it’s made up of bricks, many of them, and that’s what makes up the temple. To be a part of a body, Paul uses the metaphor of the different members of the body have different parts to play but they all make up one body.
DK: And then when you step back and our English language does us a disservice, because I think it’s easy, one, we live in a culture that prioritizes the individual, and two, we have a language that doesn’t have a plural form of the second person pronoun. And so when we read you in the Bible, we often think about me.
DK: But how God works throughout the Scripture is, it’s always a people, it’s a people that He’s delivering, it’s a people that He’s drawn out and that’s… That people is comprised of individuals, but it’s always corporate. All of Paul’s letter save his letter to Timothy, or his letters to Titus, they’re two churches.
DK: They’re two people. And so all the commands that… The one another’s, I mean, all of this that Paul was is talking about, it’s all to all people.
DK: It’s you all do this.
DK: And even when we think about how these letters are read, I mean, these letters were read in the context of corporate gatherings.
DK: And I think we tend to take all that for granted. This past week in my church, I was preaching Matthew 5:13, through 16. And talking about Jesus’ saying, “You are the salt of the earth.” And, “You are the light of the world, a the city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” And just made the point that highlighted the fact that Jesus is not saying you are, as an individual, he’s saying, you are as a community, these things and that city picture that Jesus gives really highlights that.
DK: And that’s who we are as a church. And so when we think about corporate worship, the terms that we conceive of it in, and that which we aim at, should be church aware.
BK: Alright. So can I interrupt you?
BK: So, what are the implications of that? I think everybody is tracking, we should be thinking about more than just ourselves. But aren’t we doing that every Sunday? I mean aren’t churches doing that every Sunday? We’re gathering together as a group of people.
DK: Great question. Well, a couple… Couple of thoughts. One is, I think a helpful question to turn back on that questioner is how do you evaluate your gatherings each week? And whether or not it was a, I don’t know, successful gathering or not?
DK: And if you ask that question of people in your church…
BK: Yeah, what do you see?
DK: Afterwards, what do you see? What do you hear? One thing that I’m… And I don’t have all the answers on this, but it’s something that I’ve always wanna be aware of, and counteracting. So when I talk to my children about what they’ve heard, I think a more… A less church-aware question will be, “So what did you get out of it today?”
DK: What did you get out of sermon?
BK: Yeah, yeah.
DK: Rather than, “What was God saying to us today?” And so, that would just be one example of the kinds of questions that we should be asking if we’re church-aware.
BK: Yeah, yes.
DK: So that’d be one thought. The second would be more kind of geared towards the, I think, our therapeutic bent, where we often evaluate how things are going based on how it makes us feel.
BK: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
DK: And that’s not in the Bible.
DK: It’s just not in the Bible. But we plan things because of how they’re gonna make us feel. We evaluate things based on how they made us feel. And that’s not what we’re called to aim at. And in fact, that actually… That counteracts what we’re called to be and what we’re called to do.
DK: And so we… It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t feel anything. We should feel something.
DK: Our affections should be stirred, our emotions should be stirred. But it’s a by-product of the things that we’ve talked about throughout this series. It’s a by-product of focusing on God as He’s revealed himself in his word in Christ by the Spirit.
DK: That’s why we feel these things.
BK: Yes. Yes. And I think it affects the way we think about even what we do. Church-aware meaning not just our church, but the church in history.
BK: I think 30, 40 years ago, we were thinking more about how we’re doing something new, and we’re doing some fresh and, God’s on the move.
DK: But, I think you see that in every generation.
BK: Yeah, I… Absolutely.
DK: Where there is just this sense that we’re finally getting it, we’re gonna do…
DZ: We are the revival.
DK: We are the revival, we’re gonna do something different for God. We’re what God’s been waiting for.
BK: Yeah. And it’s funny, I just think about Martin Luther, who wasn’t thinking that… He was just trying to have conversation with the people who are leading the Catholic Church, and then that turns out to be this massive change and… But that wasn’t his aim.
BK: He wanted to say, no, this is wrong, what’s going on is wrong. We, on the other hand, aren’t really doing much to change anything, but we’re thinking, this is incredible, earth shattering. I remember, I’d read ads for people saying, you’ll worship like you’ve never worship before. Finally, authentic genuine worship like Christians for 2000 years have never worshiped genuinely.
DK: We’ve just been waiting on the synthesizers.
DZ: If there were only synths…
DK: I know.
DZ: I was just gonna say that.
BK: So being aware, I think, of his church history, and then gleaning from things that have been done, studies that have been done as well as practices they’ve done, we’ll incorporate confessions, creeds at different times and just as a way of serving the church, not only in terms of what they say, but reminding them that we are part of a long history of faithful followers of Jesus Christ who have been redeemed through the blood of the Lamb and been purchased as God’s own. And we just… We’re just standing on their shoulders.
DZ: Oh, yeah.
BK: So it’s not indiscriminately picking stuff out. It’s thoughtfully and intentionally gathering resources from what the church has done throughout history, but it seems like we have this sense today, and like you said, I think every generation, we’re gonna do it new, we’re gonna do something new, we’ll do something fresh and… No, I think being church-aware is recognizing, we’re just one of a long line of saints who have come before us.
DK: Well I think that’s… I said every generation, I should clarify, I think it’s a very modern phenomenon because we have lost concept of the story, the story that we’re a part of as believers, where our story goes back way before our church was planted or we joined that church. And it goes back before that church existed. It just keeps going back all the way to when the church was founded at Pentecost, that’s our heritage. And this is the story that we’re part of, and God has seen fit to preserve a people for His glory, for His own glory to advance His kingdom in this world decade after decade, century after century, in town after town, and country after country. And in spite of opposition and persecution, God has still done it, and we get to be a part of that. It is one moment in time we get to join with all those other voices.
DK: And so for us in practice, both we devote ourselves to the public reading of scripture but we also… One helpful practice can be to read creeds, and confessions, and catechisms that have been a part of the church’s worship century after century, or we sing old songs, we sing hymns that the church has been singing for decades and hundreds of years, because the most important thing is not happening right now. The most important thing happened 2000 years ago, and the most important thing will be happening when Christ comes again, then that’s when we live between these times with both of those times in view. And so until that day we continue to remember him, we continue to look back to as we stand with all these saints who have come before and stand with, I think another part of this church-aware is looking ahead.
DK: And so it’s interesting. I’m consider myself a young man.
BK: You are.
DK: But I have children and I’m bald. My head might tell people otherwise, I’m balding definitely, but I’ve got children, and they’re gonna have children, and so there’s these generations that are coming after me. And so what can we do, what do we do week to week to serve them?
BK: Yes, yes. Exactly, exactly.
DK: And to lay a foundation for those who are coming behind us and it’s not so much about Grace Church, the church that I pastor, but it’s about this faithfulness to God and His Word and His glory, this commitment to His glory that we want to be committed to. And I think that’s where we get back to these core values, that’s why we wanna identify these and we wanna talk about them, because though technology will change and generations will come and go and the threats from both outside and within the church, they’ll change, God’s word remains.
DK: And the truth, the reality of who God is remains, it’s not gonna change.
BK: And I think it can be difficult because you have people leading churches and they become very big, very fast, and it’s built more on the charisma of a preacher or the sound of the music. And we may not see, even in our lifetime how that all pans out, but what we can know is that God will not be mocked and that God has a way of doing things. And his way is through the gospel of Jesus Christ, through His Word and through the power of His Spirit working in his people. Peter talks about that in 1st Peter 2, he says, “As you come to him a living stone rejected by men, but in the sight of God, chosen and precious, you yourselves, like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” It’s all God’s work. It’s all for his glory. And so if I am to take upon myself the credit for building a large church, I’ve missed it entirely. And yet we breathlessly run after pastors of big churches, growing churches. “What do you do? What did you do? What did you do?” And what we should be saying is, “Well, I realized how inadequate I am. I believe the word of God, I preach the word of God faithfully. We sang the word of God, we believed that the Holy Spirit was helping us and sought his help in all that we did, we sought to submit ourselves to God’s commands for us and He brought growth. And isn’t it amazing?”
DZ: And lived in the good of the Gospel.
BK: And lived in the good of the Gospel.
DK: Yeah, amen.
BK: Or we could… Yeah.
DK: Yeah. I think another aspect of this being church-aware, prioritizing the church, I think specifically for song leaders, for pastors, is that as we think about what we’re gonna do Sunday to Sunday, we think about it in terms of those people at that time.
BK: That’s prioritizing the congregation, the church.
DK: And oftentimes, I think especially in this day and age, where we’re just hyper… We have loads and loads of information to access and we’re hyperaware of what can be going on in the world, we lose perspective on what’s actually going on in the lives of our people.
BK: Yeah, yeah.
DK: And so what, “Oh, we got a big church, Dev, we got a big church.” And so as a pastor or as a song leader, we start speaking to or building things around issues that don’t even pertain to what’s going on in my local congregation.
DK: And there was significant events going on in the world around us recently, and I was interacting with somebody, not in my church. And they’re like, are you gonna talk about that? What are you gonna do this Sunday? And I think, consider the people that I’m leading, and we’ll certainly pray about that, but we’re not changing anything that we’re called to do. We’re gonna do the same things, because that stuff doesn’t define us, but I think we can… If we’re not church-aware in the sense that, oh, these are the people God has called us to care for, then we do kind of run after whatever our burdens are or wherever our passions lie, and we allow that to determine how we minister God’s word to God’s people.
DZ: Yeah, you’re sensitive to your people, but the priorities don’t change, and you’re sensitive to what’s happening around you in your community, but your priorities don’t change. That’s when you’re… Yeah, and then that’s why these, how would you call them, these core values are so important for us to be talking about, because there’s something to aim for.
BK: Yeah, and another aspect of being church-prioritized is inner music, recognizing… I don’t know if we’ve talked about this or not, but recognizing that the musicians, focusing it very narrowly, are there to serve the sound of the church. And so that affects volume, that affects arrangements, that affects layout, that affects how we even think about it. I know of those musicians who are listening who use in-ear monitors, you need to have, should have, a congregational mic that gives them the sound of the congregation, or pull one ear out, one earphone out.
DK: Which all audiologists think that’s a great idea.
BK: Yeah, pulling one ear out?
DZ: You’re being facetious.
DK: To that point, I don’t remember if I’ve talked about this in this context, but with my congregation, those people that help in leading the singing, I talk to them explicitly about we are here to support the singing. And so we’re the support the singing team, for lack of a better way to describe it, but that’s what we’re here to do.
BK: It’s really catchy.
DK: It is super catchy, super marketable and with brand and everything.
DK: We support the singing. But it puts into perspective all that we’re meant to do as we play and as we sing, so it’s not about me performing, me being heard, me getting my opportunity; it’s about how can I help us sing better? And so again, it also emphasizes that corporate nature, and so when… If I’m up in front of people, I’m not separate from them. This applies to preaching as well, but I am a part of what we’re doing.
BK: You’re a part of the congregation.
DK: And so when I preach, I’m there to receive God’s word as it’s being preached. I am a hearer as well as a speaker in that context, but as we sing, same thing. This is something we’re doing together. God has called us to do together as we gather, and I think just that, for me, that support the singing, it’s just like, oh yeah, that’s what we’re doing. And that’s different from everything else the world does. When you go to a concert, they’re not there to support the singing. They love people singing, it’s great if people sing, and it’s a great experience if people sing, but that’s not what God has called us to.
BK: Right. Yeah, it is very contra-cultural what we’re talking about. Unless you’re in a state conservative church where it’s just maybe a piano and the congregation, everybody sings and… Yeah, you say, Oh yeah, it’s just about the congregation, but most of our buildings aren’t built this way. New buildings there, it’s more like a theater, it’s more like a stage and a show. It’s black room, it’s a dark room, and you got all the lights focused on the front, and I just think it’s not a sin to do that, because the church is the people, not the building, but we need to ask the question regularly and intentionally. Are we really making this about the congregation? The Bible talks about every member serving, every member participating, being involved, and obviously on a Sunday morning in a larger church, everybody’s not gonna be upfront, but I would say in a smaller church, you can involve more people, whether it be through prayer, through testimony, but even before and after the meeting, the church is still gathered and what can go on there in terms of hospitality and care and prayer and counsel, and those kind of things. I love that about Sundays, is that I get cared for, I care for others. Before and after the meeting, it’s like, wow, we are the church body, we’re gathering together.
BK: That’s a big part of what we’re doing on Sundays and it’s not just, okay, the hour and a half, however long it is your meeting is, that’s the church gathering. No, all the time you’re there, the church is gathering. So if you’re listening and you’re one of those who shows up five minutes late, I would just encourage you, get there five minutes early, 10 minutes early, find out who’s in the church, look for someone to pray for, look for someone to talk to, because that’s… Again, that’s a part of prioritizing your congregation, recognizing there’s a lot of guests here.
DK: Or if you’re a musician, it can be easy just to be consumed with what you’re responsible to do that more than anything whenever you’re meeting. And so it’s 10 minutes before the service starts, you’re up there tuning your guitar and making sure everything is ready to go, and there’s such a much… Yeah, you should do those things, that’s fine.
BK: You want your guitar tuned.
DK: Yeah, you do want it to be tuned, but can I plan in such a way where I can actually be with God’s people, rather than doing this right now? Can I plan ahead in such a way, or people hide in the green room or whatever it is, there’s just kind of this separation, and it’s… We wanna fight against that because what that, again, does, it just prioritizes us as individuals, and we cloak it with pious intentions, we’ve talked. We think. Yeah, it is. We think it… This is, I don’t wanna distract anybody, but there’s something much bigger going on than your role as a musician. There’s something much, much bigger going on as God builds His people together into this holy temple by the Spirit.
BK: We’re just such a proud… We’re just so proud.
DK: Oh man, every moment.
BK: We just wanna make it about us, and I think God loves those meetings where his people gather. Sure there are leaders, there’s someone leading the singing, someone preaching, someone may be helping the meeting go along, whatever. It’s true, they’re leaders, but it’s not about us, it’s never been about us. It’s about how merciful and kind God has been to gather people to Himself, through the giving of His own son and then the giving of his own spirit, that we might share in the joy of the relationships between the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, that we get to be invited into that and then be transformed in the process. “We all with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to the next,” that’s happening as we gather, but we gotta be intentional.
BK: We have to… Paul says to the Corinthians at one point, “Your meetings are doing more harm than good.” And I think that’s true with a lot of churches, that our meetings are doing more harm than good. They’re building into people something other than, God-initiated God-exalting gathering, building something other than a scripture-governing, scripture-fueled time, something other than a Christ-centered and gospel-fueled time, something other than a Spirit-enabled and Spirit-empowered time, something other than a church-aware and church-prioritized time. And when we do that, we’re building them into the wrong things. But God is merciful, is kind. I suspect we’ll look back in future years and go, “Yeah, we could’ve done that better.” But let’s not be among those who’d say, “Well, you just didn’t really think about it much.” And our prayer is that we hope this series, if you’ve been able to listen to them, has encouraged you to think about it more carefully, more Biblically, more hopefully, with more faith, knowing that God… God calls us together for His purposes. And it’s for our good, and for… That more people might come to know who Jesus is and for His glory.
DK: Yeah, I just wanna add one thing. I think we can often think of corporate worship as existing to make you a better Christian, make you a better you, but we’re not saved to be a better you. We’re saved to be a new you in Christ, and that has corporate dimensions to it. And so the most extraordinary thing that we can take part in is this gathering of the redeemed people of God to exalt His name.
BK: Amen. Amen. And what a joy it is.
BK: And thank you those who are doing it week by week. If you’re leading and planning your services, thank you, God sees what you do. May He give you grace, may He give you faith and joy as you serve God’s people.
DZ: Amen. Amen.
BK: Alright, well, I guess we’ll see you next time. We won’t see you actually, but you’ll hear us. So thank you for joining us, thank you for being with us. And we never know how to close these things, but we’re just closing it right now. Thank you for joining us.
DK: Smooth. Take this show on the road.