A Word on Distinctions
These EBC distinctions are currently more of a “template” or “goal” rather than “definition” or “description.” But we are working toward making these to be defining marks of the church, not in order to take pride in ourselves but because they reflect priorities of our God.
“Distinctions” should not be construed to mean, ‘what makes our church better than others.’ Rather, they are priorities that we’re attempting to adopt, priorities that will inevitably separate us from others.
Moving ahead in corporate prayer
Prayer is variously conceived as a soother of frayed nerves, a technique to explore the inner self, and a great thing to talk about! But we are praying together in order to move ahead the mission of Christ. Because we are co-workers with God in the great redemptive task and because we in our clear moments feel our great, basic need for help in this task, our prayers tend to be petitions. But behind all these supplications and intercessions is a steady murmur of thanksgiving that must often crescendo to loud praise. Our Wednesday evening service is taken up largely with prayer. The men, partially in response to 1 Timothy 2, gather together once a month to lift up the needs in the church. We meet to pray before services on Sunday; the college and career group gathers regularly for special times of prayer and fasting; and two or three times during the year we call days of prayer. We’re not doing this just to be “religious,” but because prayer is the vehicle that drives the work forward.
Entering EBC, you will find the pulpit front and center. We want this to be an accurate symbol of the priority of the Word of God in this church. God has spoken, His words have been written down as He prescribed, and therefore, if we are to honor or follow Him, we must do so by listening to and obeying His Word. The regular attendees of EBC come with Bible in hand, to hear the Word of God, the always-relevant Message from heaven to us!
This priority of hearing and obeying the Word of God requires a lot of work. It takes discipline to listen well, to let the voice of God rise above the din of culture. One must hone the skill of identifying the themes in a particular book of the Bible. And the preachers and teachers must work to present those themes with the clarity and urgency and –yes– relevance that the text demands. Then more work: restructuring our lives in response to what we’ve heard. Hearing, obeying; concentrating, changing – the unglamorous yet godly rhythm at EBC!
“Elevated worship” is something beyond “formal” or “casual.” What are we attempting to do as we gather together?
- We want to think on the invisible world, the true world that provides shape and substance to the visible. Therefore it is not our priority to match a certain sound or atmosphere that recalls the trends and “stuff” of the visible world.
- We are concerned that our Lord be pleased with what He hears and sees as we meet. To this end, we want to acclaim the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. “Acclaim” is just the right word, because it is loud. At least some of our praise to the Trinity should be loud: mouths open, voices raised.
- We wish to build one another up. The way to do this is through what the Scriptures call prophesying: communicating the truth of God into the hearts of believers. (“Prophesying” is not usually concerned with future truth, as it is commonly conceived.) This communication runs through the spoken word of the preacher, through the Scripture readings, and through singing to one another. If we understand 1 Chronicles 25 properly, this communication of the truth of God is also through instrumental music, even without words!
- Finally, we wish something else to happen as we gather, and we even dare to expect this to happen, although we’re not programming it to happen: “If all prophesy [in the ways above], and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.”
In line with all these goals, we prepare. Services don’t just happen. Teachers study for their lessons and sermons during the week. The worship leader thoughtfully plans out the service and tends to his own spiritual vitality. The musicians rehearse…often! Last but not least, the congregation at large enters the service after a full night’s rest, eager and prepared to participate. Nothing is so disheartening as a church service that is neutralized by tepid congregational singing.
Evangelism that respects place and process
“Making followers of all nations” is a command, and so it requires our thoughtful attention to carry out. We can’t expect evangelism just to happen with no regard for process. There is urgency: against the modern current, we believe that Jesus is the only Way, Truth, and Life; hence the command to make disciples overlaps with Jesus’ great Love command and is spurred by our dread of the judgment to come.
So what do we do? We can’t just throw some dollars at foreign missions and check the Great Command off our list. So we do two things: 1) Every EBC member is trained in how to lead a one-on-one or small group Bible study on Jesus Christ. 2) we are constantly reminding one another of the importance of place. God sets us in particular neighborhoods; there is a divine strategy behind our job placements; people have occasion to encounter the Christ as they come in contact with us. This bedrock belief in place would be arrogant and even ludicrous if it were not sanctioned by much of the New Testament!
We cannot assume that the populace basically understands the Scriptures, and therefore all we have to do is convince them to believe in Christ. We can no longer assume that people generally have the wisdom to make choices, to approach home and work properly, to do good, and to live well. They don’t. If Boston were ever a Christian city (whatever that means) or its citizens familiar with the Scriptures, that is not the case now.
So we take pains to inculcate new believers with elementary doctrines of the Bible. Individually and in small groups we ensure that people understand salvation in Christ. We lead people in discovering what God says about the Christian life (it’s hard), happiness (it’s possible), finances (they should be a clever mix of thrift and generosity), and many other worthwhile topics.
Our goal is not to shore up minds with theories but through truth and practical advice to train people in a way of living that is God-attentive, righteous, and steady. It’s all very personal and warm, but EBC people are on a track. Or maybe we should just call it the Way.