Christians should never feel that they can overstate the importance of the body of Christ. They should never stop talking about it with fondness and love. Whether we refer to it as “The Church” or “The Kingdom,” this institution which was created by God through His only begotten son Jesus Christ, is one that I love. It is my prayer that not only I but all members of the body of Christ never forget its importance.
First, I love the Church because it provides a unified and definitive way to worship God with fellow believers.
In our ever changing world, the need to update, adjust and accommodate the masses has made its way into most groups who profess Christ. However, the Bible tells us of how we should worship God. As a body, we should be unified in Christ (Ephesians 4:4-6 & I Corinthians 1:10ff). Our worship, therefore, should also be done in unity and performed in a manner that is orderly, performed with a sincere heart before God, and done to magnify God.
In the nearly 2,000 years since the Church was established on this earth, the parameters for how we are to worship God have been in place and have not been altered. The holy scriptures tell us that we are:
- to sing (Ephesians 5:19, Col 3:16),
- to pray (I Thessalonians 5:17, James 5:14-15)
- to study the scriptures: teaching and preaching (Acts 20:7, II Timothy 2:15)
- to take up a collection for the saints (I Corinthians 16:1-2)
- to remember the sacrifice of Christ through the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:26-28, I Corinthians 11:23-29)
Those components have been in place since the first century. These basic elements of worship allow for those in the body of Christ to worship and give praise to our heavenly Father in a cohesive, unified manner. Man, however, has allowed his desire and pleasure to usurp what God has permitted for approved and orderly worship; and in doing so has created divisiveness which I believe is the catalyst for the countless groups who profess Christ in our world today. Still, the scriptures tell us what acceptable worship is, and that worship is what is found within the Lord’s Church.
Secondly, I love the Church because it provides a refuge on earth for enduring worldly cares.
In Hebrews 10:24-25, the Hebrews author instructions the 1st century Christians to encourage one another, not forsaking the assembling of themselves as was the custom of some. The author was aware of the worldly struggles that the brethren would endure. Not only did they have to worry about the struggles of temptation and sin but, the 1st century Christians also struggled with the desire and peer pressure of returning to the old law.
Today’s world is no different. Though the struggles appear to be more intense, the sinfulness appears to be more outward, and the pull to return to our prior state pulls at our hearts and minds, the world, in general, has always provided its share of lures. These lures continually strive to pull us towards anything that is opposed to the Lord’s Church. Alone, all Christians are at risk of being pulled or lured back into the world and its destructive ways.
Within the Church, there is a refuge on earth. The body of believers, with their focus on its head Jesus Christ, is to be working constantly and to be aware of the weaknesses that abound within itself. Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 5:14, “And we urge you brother, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.”. This command and admonition are to be done with the love of God at its heart (I John 4:7ff). Furthermore, we are to strive to be a unified body with our many parts (or members) serving the one body of Christ (I Corinthians 12:12-31).
Another reason for why I love the Church is that it provides a glimpse into who my fellow inhabitants of heaven might be.
Continuing with the previous point of being a place of refuge and encouragement on earth, as we are working to build up one another as well as preach to the lost in this life, we are doing so as a means of preparation for the life to come.
The conversion of the Apostle Paul in the book of Acts, as well as the letters he would send throughout the world, is a testament to this very idea. Paul, as Saul, was well known and respected Jew. As a defender of his faith in the Jewish system, he not only strove to maintain order within the old law, he sought to put out the fire of the new testament faith that was emerging. Still, from Acts 9 and onward, we see where Christ made his appearance to Paul, the eventual teaching by Ananias to Paul of Christ’s commands, Paul’s conversion and ultimately the great work that was done for the sake of the Lord. Paul, through Christ Jesus, became the great evangelist who was the ultimate encourager among the Jews and the Gentiles to continue to follow the steps of Jesus.
Colossians 1:23 – If indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.
Paul’s parting words to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:1-8 speak precisely as to what our mission should be in the ministry of the Church as its ultimate destination and goal should be heaven. But, the last two verses in that passage should be how we view our relationship to the Church, its work and the desire to get to heaven. Speaking at the close of his life, Paul says to Timothy:
I Timothy 4:7-8 – I have fought a good fight. I have finished my course. I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
Finally, I love the Church because it was bought and purchased in love by the blood of Christ.
Paul wrote in Colossians 1:13-14:
“Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:”
Paul also wrote in Ephesians 1:7:
“In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.”
The significance of this redemption and its relationship to the Church (the Kingdom of God) can not be overstated. Our faith as a body of believers and our salvation are tied together as one. The blood of Christ was shed as a sacrifice for our sins. This atonement for our sins sets us apart from the world. As we are set apart from the world and its sinfulness, we are added to the collective body of believers, that is the Lord’s Church. Furthermore, this sacrifice made by Jesus Christ was done so out of obedience and submission to the Father and out of love for all of mankind.
Jamie Davis and his family attend the Cawson Street Church of Christ in Hopewell, VA where Jamie works as the Youth Director. He is a graduate of Freed-Hardeman University (B.S. Bible 1999).
Seven years ago, Chris Gallagher asked me to write a post of What I love about the church. I gave three reasons then. Here are the “edited for content and to fit in the allotted space” reasons I gave then.
- I love the Church in view of the fact that God loved Her enough to purchase Her at a sacrificial price.
- I love the Church that is precious to Christ.
- I love the Church that has the promise of an eternally joyous relationship with Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the Father.
I still love the Church, in fact, I can honestly say, “I love her more now than I did then or ever have.” But before I list more reasons, allow me to tell you a little about my background.
I grew-up church. My grandparents raised my mother in the Church and my father’s mother and aunts taught him about Christ and His Church. When my parents married there was no question in their young married life about the role of Christ and the Church. As they started a family the role of the Church increased as did their roles within her. During my growing up years my parents taught Bible classes, had members, church leaders, and ministers over for dinner, and held church socials at our house. Dad served as a deacon and was the volunteer minister for the deaf ministry. He later became an elder and continues to serve in that role.
I literally grew-up in Church. I attended a private Christian elementary school, where my mother served as a secretary. When were not at school or school functions we are at Church or church functions. By my upper high school years my peers and I were leading the youth program – we did not have a youth minister. Church was my life.
As high school graduation approached and all the opportunities for adulthood came, I could not think of a better way to live than to dedicate all my time to the Church. I went to school to become a minister. For 28 years, I have served in fulltime ministry with three different congregations. Church involvement was never an option in my mind. I knew I would be a part of Her. I love the Church.
I think of the Church the way the psalmist thought of the House of God. “I was glad when they said to m, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” (Psa 122:1)
I LOVE THE CHURCH!
- I love the Church because she is the Elect Bride of Christ. (Eph 5:21-33). Paul’s description of the Church as the betrothed of Christ is a beautiful portrait. Whenever I see a long-lasting marriage relationship that is beautiful and I see the way the husband dotes on his bride of many years, I think about Christ doting on His Betrothed Bride – the Church. I think of how He is preparing Her for the day He presents His Chosen Bride to the Father. How proud He is of Her beauty and accomplishments that glorify Him. I love the Church because the Christ loves Her.
- I love the Church because she is the Kingdom of Christ. (Col 1:13-14). Jesus earthly ministry was about repentance and the Kingdom. As Christians, we are a citizen in that Kingdom now. Our citizenship is in heaven (Phil 3:20) as we are part of the earthly kingdom, His Church now. I love the Church because the King of kings is Her Sovereign.
- I love the Church because the Bride and Kingdom are a glimpse of heaven. Christ will present his Elect Bride to the Father at the Great Wedding Day (Rev 19:6-10). Christ will turn the Kingdom over to the Father when the end comes (1 Cor 15:24). I love the Church because the Bride and Kingdom will be translated to heaven.
- I love the Church because I love Her people. Here people share a common bond. There is a love that is not easily broken. We understand each other’s struggles and pray for each other. We are there to help each other with spiritual, emotional, and physical battles. We rejoice and weep with each other (Rom 12:15). I live hours away from my parents and my brother, but I have family near me, the Church is our family. I love that family and the fellowship we have.
Maybe these are some of the reasons the Hebrew writer penned these words, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Heb 10:24-25)
Why do you love the Church?
Scott McCown is a minister with the Central Church of Christ in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He and his wife, Amy, have one son, Andrew, who is a Junior at Faulkner University. Scott is a graduate of Faulkner University with a BA in Bible and an MA in Ministry. He regularly publishes The Morning Drive (scottmccown.com).
Personal Note: This month I have asked several people to write for a Guest Post on the Preacher’s Pen website. You will see articles written by people you know and people you don’t know…yet. There will be articles from men, women, preachers, non-preachers, etc. This is an opportunity to see how others love the church. So, enjoy the month of “Why I Love the Church!”
I thank Scott for writing the beginning article for the guest post series, “Why I Love the Church!” I have always enjoyed Scott’s writings and encourage you to check them out at his website – http://www.scottmccown.com
After attending Polishing the Pulpit for the past three years and a few times before 2015, I felt the need to share a few thoughts on Polishing the Pulpit and offer few suggestions for those looking to attend in the coming years.
The Polishing the Pulpit Workshop is an annual event among the churches of Christ in Sevierville, TN. This last year there were over 4,700 individuals attending this workshop. The workshop is a refresher for many preachers, elders, deacons and members across the brotherhood. The sessions are given by speakers, both well-known and not so well-known, ranging from current challenges in the church to the basics of the Bible.
This year’s Polishing the Pulpit Workshop was held on August 18 – 24, 2017
A Few Notes: (1) The pictures in the article below are taking from the Polishing the Pulpit Guidebook handed out to registered attendees. (2) From this point forward, Polishing the Pulpit will be known as PTP.
Brief Background of PTP
From the Polishing the Pulpit website:
Polishing the Pulpit began with three friends getting together to brainstorm sermon ideas. We soon invited other friends and someone said, “This is great! We should tell others.”
We did and invited a speaker to discuss sermon preparation and give sample sermons. Interest increased; more speakers were invited. We moved to a hotel conference area. We dreamed big. “Let’s invite the best speakers in the brotherhood and see who we can get.” They came. Wives wanted in, so we added women’s classes. While these great speakers were assembled in one place, we decided to offer classes for elders. They loved it. People began coming from all over the country.
Youth workers and deacons became interested. We added tracks for them. PTP moved to a larger event center in the Smoky Mountains. Attendance approached 1,000. Christians from other nations began coming.
“Why don’t you have classes for regular members?” we were asked. So, we added the Spiritual Renewal Weekend, as well as tracks for members, teens, and children. Attendance passed 4,100.
I have had the privilege of attending PTP several times; first in Chattanooga, then Birmingham and several times in Sevierville. In my short period of time, I have witnessed as the PTP workshop has grown and expanded their reach and their program.
My first experience with PTP was in Chattanooga, TN. At the time, PTP was smaller than it is now, but the material was just as well put together. Before the Chattanooga PTP, I had only heard of the workshop by word of mouth. After attending PTP in Chattanooga, I felt it was an excellent workshop for every member of the church, especially preachers.
My second experience was in Birmingham, Alabama and I could tell the workshop had grown in a variety of ways. The numbers of attendees had definitely grown and the classes had expanded to a larger schedule. In Birmingham, the workshop was well attended and I remember a variety of the lessons I heard during that year.
For the past three years, I have attended PTP in Sevierville, TN. I have never publicly reviewed PTP until this point.
My 2017 Experience
Let me begin by encouraging you to take this review for what it is worth — my review of PTP 2017.
Allow me also to set the background for my visit to PTP 2017. I had been on the road for over 1,800 miles before arriving at PTP. I was a little tired, but I was ready to be refreshed and encouraged.
Now, saying that, also understand I do quite a bit of “hiding” at PTP. I normally sit in the back of the room; many times at a table and I keep to myself. I am not trying to be elusive, but I want to take a break from the normal day and spend my time gaining as many insights as possible.
There are many people I see at PTP that I have known from years past and sometimes we talk but most of the time we walk by each other. It is not that I do not want to speak, it is my desire to use this week as a moment to gain knowledge, relax and enjoy a little quietness.
With all that said, I bet next year I will found.
Funny personal story – Last year (2016) during one of the last session, I was sitting in the back of the room in my normal seat and noticed someone staring at me. I kept to myself, opened my small tablet and write something on Twitter. When I did I turned around to see the individual looking at me. He smiled and said, “You’re the Preacher’s Pen guy, aren’t you?”
I laughed and said I was that guy. He said he had been trying to figure out where I was because he noticed the pictures I had posted on Twitter all week. It is great to be quiet sometimes. Anyway, if you decided to follow me on Twitter too you can follow the Preacher’s Pen here or my personal Twitter here.
Anyway, here are some quick thoughts on PTP 2017.
For the past several years, the workshop has been held at the Sevierville Convention Center in Sevierville, TN. This provides an excellent location due to the size of the facilities and its location in the Sevierville/Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area.
The Convention center is in Sevierville and provides quick access to the western side of Pigeon Forge for the restaurants and area attractions. Also, there are plenty of hotels near the convention center if you decide not to stay at the one attached to the Convention Center.
With close to 5,000 people to fit into a convention space, the facilities at Sevierville are excellent. While not picture perfect, the convention center provides the ability for a large room for a full gathering as well as smaller rooms and a large vendor display area with additional class rooms attached.
The Sevierville Church of Christ building is also used for some “off-campus” space.
A map of the facilities found in the book is included below so you can see the layout.
The area provides some nice restaurants due to the overwhelming tourist attraction the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area has become over the past decade. You will be able to find national chain restaurants as well as smaller local resturants. The area has grown tremendously and provides for a nice vacation spot as well as a great place to have PTP.
You are able to attend sessions in the beauty of the Smokey Mountains and then go see the area if you would like. There are many attractions and sights around the area for you to enjoy. I know several families who have made a vacation/PTP trip. They combined some relaxing times with class times and made it a great weekend for their family.
While the area is a great place to have a workshop like PTP, so is the time of the year. During the third week in August, many schools are already back in session or they are starting very soon. As a result, many people do not like to travel because of the time of year, which makes the area a little sparse of the tourism that so commonly occurs.
I will say there is a place to eat in the conference center, but I have never eaten there. I know several who did and they said the food was good. I have had a few cups of coffee there and was pleased.
The schedule for PTP is huge. I am sure the logistics of finding speakers, then room for speakers while trying to anticipate the audience which might be present is an overwhelming task. The schedule is very detailed as it offers classes for all ages, all categories and many different topics.
The schedule is built for someone to gain as much as they want from the workshop. There are attendees who go to every session from early morning until late in the evening. There is a section for youth that has activities taking them late into the evening as well.
The classes begin at 7:00 am and continue until 9:45 pm. You can attend any class you would like, but you still need to find a time to grab a quick bite to eat as you go from class to class. (Note: Only women can attend the Women’s Classes.)
As you can see from a few pictures below, the schedule is packed. You can pick and choose to sessions and line up the various categories you would like to follow.
This is a page from the PTP Workshop booklet. This is a sample of part of the classes from Monday. At the time this article is being posted, the 2017 PTPT Workshop Schedule is still available online at https://polishingthepulpit.com/event/
Each lesson at PTP falls into a specific category. (See photo above) Having the classes arranged by category or tract, allows you to follow the different parts of the discussion.
Here are the class tract divisions as listed in the 2017 PTP Workshop Booklet:
One thing I have consistently enjoyed with PTP, is the topics for the classes. There are many topics that I would never have thought would be in a workshop, but they make a big difference. Who would have thought of having a class on “Church Building Security” a few years ago? There were a few classes dealing with the current social climate (ex. Transgenderism) that were well attended and provide relevant material.
The registration cost for PTP was $225 for 2017. As the workshop has grown, the costs have risen to meet the workshop costs. I tend not to think of this as a cost, but as support.
I do not mind paying a fee for registration if the material and workshop provide me with motivation, ideas and a readiness to apply what I have learned. However, when it comes to PTP, I am hearing good men who have dedicated their lives to preaching and teaching the Gospel of Christ. In doing so, they are not paid, but they are supported for what they are doing.
Further, I imagine a workshop of this magnitude undertakes more effort than many of realize due to its expanding size. The costs of renting the facility would be huge because the entire space is rented during this time. The transportation of materials, equipment, and other necessary items is beyond my imagination.
So, when I support Polishing the Pulpit, I am supporting a good work which enables others to spread the gospel of Christ.
Note: You do not have to go for the entire week. There is a lower cost/support option for those who want to be part of the beginning weekend called the Spiritual Renewal Weekend.
Ideas to Save for PTP:
- Stop drinking soft drinks and save the money you would have spent in a jar and use it for PTP 2018.
- Sell books – How many books do you have laying around that you never read, will not read and do not plan to read? I know you are not supposed to sell books (as a rule), but this can help to save funds.
- Plan now. Use a budget and save money now for PTP in 2018. DO not let it sneak up on you.
How to Keep Costs Down
This year, I kept the costs of attending the workshop to a minimum. I did this in two ways; first with the hotel and second with food.
I found a room at the Clarion Inn a few miles from the Sevierville Convention Center for $59 a night. This helped to keep the cost of the room down to a minimum. If you want to defray the costs even more, then you can find someone to split a room. In fact, next year, I think I am going to rent a cabin and invite a few people to split the costs.
Regarding food, I have heard of a few people who got together at someone’s cabin and had a “potluck” meal. Everyone picked up something, or cooked something (if they could) and brought it to one location. This is a great idea not just to keep costs down, but to spend time fellowshipping with one another.
The second way I was able to keep costs at a minimum was to eat in the room. The room I stayed in had a microwave and a refrigerator; that is all I really need. I bought some groceries before I left home and carried them in a cooler. When I arrived at the hotel, I put everything in the refrigerator for the week.
(WARNING: adjust the temp on the fridge and keep an eye on it. Who knew you could freeze lettuce solid?)
I went to a local grocery store, Kroger, and bought frozen pre-cooked chicken I could warm up each time I had a salad. Each day for lunch, I drove back to the hotel and warmed up the chicken and ate a grilled (microwaved grilled) chicken salad. I was able to sit and relax while I checked email or watched a little television while eating. Not only did this save money, but I lost weight on the trip! Double-Bonus!
Additional Ways to Keep Costs Down:
- Room with a group and split the costs. Several preachers could room together in a large cabin and split the costs evenly. They could also split the cost of food and lower costs further.
- Search using a travel site and also look at a site like AirBnB.
- Use this as an opportunity to drink lots of water. I took a case of water and loaded up the hotel fridge and carried one with me all the time. After walking from session to session all day, you will get your steps in.
A Few of My Secrets to PTP
Having attended PTP for a few years straight, I have learned a few secrets that I will share with you. One thing I like about attending workshops is how to derive the maximum amount of value with minimal effort. (Yes, call me lazy at times. However, it works)
Technology can be your friend at Polishing the Pulpit; if used appropriately. Here are a few ways you can gain some insights at Polishing the Pulpit…
(1) Download the PTP app. The app not only provides you with a schedule, but many of the speakers provide notes and information you can have available with a click or two. You can also review the sessions on the app. The app also has notifications to remind you of various events and changes during Polishing the Pulpit. It is a must have.
(2) Thumb Drive – “It’s what everyone really wants.” After the last lecture on Thursday, a thumb drive containing 90% of the lessons, along with some bonus material (singing, etc.) is given to each person attendee. This thumb drive is a valuable resource for several reasons: (1) You can listen to lectures all year long, (2) You can listen to the lectures you missed, (3) You have an audio library of more than 500 audios.
(3) Planning – If you want to get the best value, plan your week. I typically look through the app, not the book schedule, and add the lectures I want to here to my schedule. I will load up my schedule with every lesson I want to hear; even if some of them are at the same time. When I do this, I will then go back and find the ones I REALLY want to hear. Since I know I will get a thumb drive, it makes this process a little easier.
(4) Hotel Location – There are many hotels in the Sevierville/Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area but not all of them are the best. When booking your room, you can find low rates, but be sure they are not too far away from the Convention Center. It is a burden to have a room all the way across Pigeon Forge because you will be fighting traffic throughout the day. The traffic around dinner time can be a small nightmare if you are not ready. I have found that staying close to the convention center is worth the cost.
(4b) Saying the above, I have never stayed at the hotel by the convention center. I usually find a cheaper rate elsewhere and drive to the convention center. There are several hotels nearby with great rates. A short drive is not much if you are saving some money.
(5) Restaurants – Finding a place to eat in the area is always a dilemma due to a lot of places and the busyness of each one. I have found a few off the beaten path places from using the TripAdvisor app that are excellent. Most of the places I have found around the area had great food at excellent prices.
(6) Technology – The Convention Center has Wi-Fi that you are able to log into, but do not expect it to be blazing fast. The reason: every one of my brethren seems to be on it at any given time. Instead, I use the hotspot on my cell phone. It seems that most companies allow you to use your phone as a hotspot. Check with your phone carrier before taking my advice. I have found using my hotspot is much faster than the Wi-Fi.
What to do after PTP?
After attending a workshop like PTP, you come home with many ideas, thoughts, concerns, a few pages of notes, a thumb drive full of hundreds of audios and a need for a nap.
This is going to be where the rubber meets the road. How will you take all of the information you learned and use it for the glory of God?
This can be a challenging task.
Here are a few suggestions that I have begun to utilize:
(1) The first thing I do after arriving home is to take a break from PTP. Granted, I learned much, but I need to take time and look at the other areas of my life to reorient myself back into the normal swing of things. I am typically away from my family so I end up coming home, taking a short nap and relaxing with them for the evening. Over the next few days, I find myself taking it easy as I prepare for the lesson I will present on Sunday.
(2) Review your notes. Personally, I take notes in almost every session and I like to go back and review those to see what I can rework into the ministry I am providing. This will take a few days, but I develop a list of what items to work on first. During this, I also see notes about re-listening to the sessions I found most impressive.
(3) Review the lectures you missed. In my case, there were a few lectures I wanted to hear, but they occurred at the same time of another one I wanted to hear. For those that I did not attend, but they were high on my list, I go back and listen to those first.
(4) Keep your booklet and create a “listen to list.” I feel that Jeff Archey mentioned this one night of PTP, but you can create a list of lectures to listen to as you drive to work, travel or just around the house. Use your booklet as your guide.
(5) Set a reminder list. Make a list, or set alarms on your phone to go back and review your notes and a few of your favorite lessons from time to time.
(6) Develop your own lessons. You can use the topics of the PTP lessons and the audio to begin to develop your own lessons for a Bible class, a sermon or personal study. Remember, do not plagiarize and if you use a lesson information to cite the source.
Additional things to consider:
- Load the audio files on your computer. Thumb drives are easy to lose.
- Write a review of PTP in your journal to reflect on later.
- Write those you meet and begin to develop the relationship you have through Christ.
- Write and thank the staff of PTP and let them know the experience you had throughout the week.
- Encourage others to attend with you the next year.
Some Overall Pros and Cons of PTP
- Large Workshop offering many different options (many classes, many speakers)
- A workshop with proven, lasting value (many attendees returning year after year)
- A Thumb drive (you know that is what everyone wants)
- Location (lots to do in the area)
- Cost/Support (a $225 registration might be too high for some)
- Time of year is hard on some with school starting.
- Location may be a far drive for some
PTP 2017 was not only a week of instruction, lectures, and fellowship, but it was a week to spend with some of God’s family with a bunch of ideas intertwined. Throughout the sessions, I was able to write down a variety of information to look up later and to start seeing how those ideas will be able to work in my ministry.
The sessions, as every year I have been, were always exceeded expectations. I look forward to the sessions and hearing how others deliver a message from the Word of God.
I was able to meet several people for the first time outside of social media, as well as renew some friendships with others I have not seen in several years. It is amazing how interlaced we are because of the blessings of God.
I am planning, Lord willing, to attend PTP 2018 on August 17- 23, 2018. I look forward to being with great speakers, great teachers and most of all, my brethren throughout the world for a few days in August.
Until then, see you later.
Just my thoughts,