Archive for April 2009

How I Approach Church – Part 4

our_approachMy cup looks a little bit like Egyptian hieroglyphics, with a splash of 3 year old crayon drawings, with a touch of ancient Sanskrit from 4th century BC.

Actually it is the marker-writing on my Iced Grande Triple Espresso with 2 Pumps Sugar-Free Vanilla. But if I didn’t know better, it could just as well be launch codes for a Soviet missile.

To the average person, the scratches on my espresso drink cup is pure chaos, but to me…they are the words of life. The combination of letters, symbols and numbers forms what I call “liquid love”. To the average on-looker however it is nothing more than mumbo-jumbo.

I wonder if this is how the Bible looks to those that come to our churches. Understandably, the Bible was written a very long time ago in languages that most folks living today simple do not understand. This can be a major hurdle for many in terms of comprehension. What should we do? Do we dumb it down? No. Should we insist that everyone translate it from the original Greek and Hebrew? No. What’s the balance? How does the ancient Word of God remain “living and active” in our current culture? These are important questions. Let’s look at the final part of How I Approach Church to discover some potential answers.
Continued from Part 3

How I Approach Church

Over the last few weeks we have looked at Colossians 2:2,3:
“My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

In this passage I see that our church services must be:

1. Uplifting: “encouraged in heart”

2. Unifying: “united in love”

And now, I want to add the final element:

Each service must bring Understanding – “complete understanding”

This final service component is described in Paul’s letter to Colosse, “so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

This is no small task. Each service needs to bring about a level of understanding into this incredible mystery. To many, it is still hidden and needs to be unearthed by a “workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15).

Our heads are the key to understandable services. Our minds need to be engaged on some level so that we are challenged in our thinking and forced to wrestle with the issues presented in the Word of God. The goal of understanding is change. We want to be “transformed by the renewing of our mind.”

I have discovered that nothing brings about understanding like teaching. It is the third and final primary priority for the church service that I have come to focus on. The first two were worship and fellowship.

A healthy environment of teaching and preaching is key to helping people understand the Word of God. This should be a primary focus in the life of any local church. Of course, I’ve been in a few churches that when I leave I am more confused than when I came in. This is unfortunate and can be changed. It’s so important to clearly communicate the living and active Word of God in such a way that brings about clarity without compromising it’s mystery.

I love the Word of God. I love the Church. But, guess what, Jesus loves the Church even more. It’s His Church – we are His Body. I want to apprehend His heart and approach each and every Church service as He would!

Review // Third Day // Live Revelations


Atlanta-based Third Day is back with a live offering from their popular Revelation album. This CD, which was recorded throughout several of their tour stops, captures live tracks from their most recent album Revelations as well as favorites from years past. The album even  includes a remake of “When Love Comes to Town” by U2, which includes special performances by Robert Randolph, Jars of Clay and Switchfoot.

Southern-rock outfit Third Day is known in worship circles for Offerings and Offerings II, which have ushered in corporate worship staples “Show Me Your Glory,” “My Hope is You” and “Your Love Oh Lord.” However, other than their current worship hit, “Call My Name,” this live recording brings them back to their alt-rock roots. This 9-song CD won’t provide pastors much new material for church worship services, but listeners will still enjoy the soulful sounds of lead singer Mac Powell and company. It’s the perfect album for a Monday drive with the windows down and the volume up. In addition, pastors and leaders will resonate and be encouraged by the 75-minute accompanying documentary on DVD that shows a real-life glimpse into the balance of touring, ministry and family.

by John Fehlen, Senior Pastor, West Salem Foursquare Church in Salem, Ore.

How I Approach Church – Part 3

our_approachHow I Think About and Approach Our Church Services

Continued from Part 2

The key text for my thoughts regarding church comes from Colossians 2:2,3 –  “My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

Last time I mentioned that each service must be UPLIFTING – this is drawn from the Apostle Paul’s purpose that the church be “encouraged in heart”.  Now, we read on in the text to discover our next value:

Second Value:  Each service must become UNIFYING“united in love”

It is always a mystery to me as to how hundreds of people can gather under one roof for 90 or so minutes and experience such a deep level of community on a weekly basis.  This is not always the case and often one must get plugged into a small group to experience deep unifying fellowship with other. Regardless, one of my goals for each church service is to develop unity through the Spirit.

Unity is a word that has been overused and misunderstood.  It has been reduced to the ‘warm fuzzies” and at times abused in the pursuit of eradication of distinctives. It is possible, I believe, for many individuals with many different compositions to move in unity by the Spirit without losing their uniqueness.

Our hands are the key to unity.  We must be willing to loosen our grasp and open our hands to “drop” our sometimes exclusive preferences.  This is important so that we are able to “embrace” the potential of the collective resource of others.  This can be facilitated by intentionally asking folks to take the hand of the people to the right and left of them in prayerful response or to turn into groups of 3 or 4 for the purpose of prayerful ministry. These are practical displays of the inward work of unity.  Of course, true biblical unity will take time and focused commitment, but that ought not discourage us from aiding this reality in various ways throughout any given service.

I have discovered that nothing encourages unity like Fellowship.   Fellowship is one of the priorities that becomes a focus as I approach each church service.  This can be released in simple ways such as an intentional greeting time, a gathering place for visitors, the provision of refreshments and prayer circles.

Each of these tools must be communicated with purpose. Fellowship ought not be a 6-minute buffer for latecomers. Nor should it be relegated to the last moments of the service for those that are willing to stay around a bit longer.  Fellowship needs to be integrated into the fiber of the entire service, and certainly have a predominant role in small groups, bible studies, gatherings and miscellaneous events.

Part 4 continues next week

How I Approach Church – Part 2

our_approachI am continuing on with Part 2 of How I Think About and Approach Our Church Services.

Continued from Part 1

I truly believe God has a purpose for our church services. While each and every service may have a different focus or flavor, I have discovered a consistent, biblical pattern for our gatherings. It is a template of sorts. Throughout the Word I find three primary values with corresponding exercises.  The source of these understandings is from Paul’s purpose statement in Colossians 2.

“My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Colossians 2:2,3

First Value: Each service must be Uplifting“encouraged in heart”

Paul’s desire is that the church would be encouraged.   He wanted this to happen for those in Colosse; those in Laodicea and even for those that he did not yet know or had not met him personally. This is a broad prayer with even broader implications.

We’ve all seen a bride that is happy and fulfilled.  There is a certain glow about them that communicates an encouraged heart.  That same sense is evident in an encouraged church. Of course, the opposite is obvious also.  A church that is discouraged and defeated rarely has a viable witness to the community.  Encouragement is contagious and captivating.  Our church services ought to be that way – they ought to be the most positive and uplifting places in town. Of course, they don’t have to be ‘syrupy’ or ‘sappy sweet’ – they have to be based in reality, and yet, they do not have to drop into a place of ‘doom and gloom’. The goal is that people would be encouraged.

My heart is to facilitate uplifting services and deliver uplifting messages.  This does not exclude the appropriate and timely ‘strong word’. But even that must flow from a right heart and ought not be expressed in anger or wrath.  To challenge the church body is often very uplifting if done with a right heart and motives.

The heart is the key to uplifting services.  It will dictate the tone. It will determine the temperature.

I have discovered that nothing sets the tone as well as worship.  A worship lifestyle and worship expression in our services is so important in establishing Kingdom presence.  Worship engages our spirit and encourages our heart.  People will often enter into the sanctuary with heavy burdens and intense pain.  In the midst of true worship, healing and restoration often takes place.  There is the transfusion of strength and courage in the midst of distress and depression.  Despite the situation, the individual can say, “It is well with my soul!”

To be continued…



There is a God-shaped void in the heart of every person and often we try to fill it with things that leave us dissatisfied, restless and empty. Join us at West Salem Foursquare Church to discover more about the only one that can fill that space. His name is Jesus. He died and rose again and his tomb is empty so that your heart doesn’t have to be.

Easter Weekend Service Times
SUNDAY, APRIL 12 @ 9AM, 11AM & 1PM
Sign Language interpretation provided at the Sunday 11AM service // 503.391.4346