Why Parkwood Does Fall Festival

Typically, only those familiar with European or Church History see October 31st to be Reformation Day, a day Protestants reflect as paramount to their history. Take out this small minority, and the rest of our community has spent weeks gearing up for Halloween, a child’s candy-dream come true and a night of promiscuity for many.

Halloween is the one night Christians have collectively learned to neglect our neighbors by hunkering down in our homes, turning off our lights, and having a quiet evening to ourselves. George Robinson, in an article you ought to read, says of Halloween that it “is the only night of the year in our culture where lost people actually go door-to-door to saved people’s homes.” I suggest that lost people do not go to saved people’s homes, but they would! Trick-or-treaters know which doors are prepared for them, and as Ed Stetzer puts it, “You can meet more neighbors tonight—in one night—than any other day of the year” if we are prepared.

Although there has been a stronghold of Christianity in Gastonia and our region, we must view Halloween and other holidays evangelistically and missionally. Consider applying the framework of Matthew 5:14-16 to your Halloween witness. Don’t confine the Gospel message to a dimmed living room. Halloween makes evangelism as convenient as walking to your doorstep prepared to speak with boldness and love.
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Why Do We Place Such a High Value on Growth Groups?

Why we place such a high value on Growth Groups…

The purpose of Parkwood Baptist Church is to glorify God by laboring together for the growth of all believers while going with the gospel to all people(s). The watershed of this purpose statement is the growth of all believers. Magnifying the glory of God is, of course, the ultimate purpose for any local body called by his name, and so we labor together to that end. Yet our laboring together would be in vain if we are not going with the gospel to our neighbors and to the nations. A people seeking to glorify God while not proclaiming his gospel are likely working for their own kingdom rather than the kingdom of God. We must then help all believers to grow so they will not build their kingdom but go with the gospel to all people(s). The growth of all believers is therefore a hinge in the purpose statement that determines whether we will indeed magnify God’s glory by sharing his gospel. In an effort to labor together for the growth of all believers and to communicate our desire to fulfill this purpose, we call our small group gatherings “growth groups.” The name is intentional and clearly implies our desire for these groups to be a place for gospel growth so that our laboring together might be profitable in the economy of God.

The gospel, the good news of the saving work of God through Jesus Christ, serves as the center of our lives and ministry together. Apart from Christ we can do nothing (John 15:5).  Accordingly, a group gathered without Christ as the center ultimately accomplishes nothing. Unless we constantly orient our lives together to the gospel, we will elevate certain aspects of our groups to unhealthy places and inadvertently miss the goal of growing believers who will go with the gospel. We must remain unswervingly committed to the following growth group principles that we might keep Christ central in every way.

Gospel-Centered Growth

Colossians 1:28: “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.”

We gather in our groups to study the gospel of God revealed in the Word of God, the Bible. Each week, we dive into the Scripture personally, then together, to offer insight and application so that we may see every member of the group grow in Christ. A group gathered without the clarity, sufficiency, and authority of Scripture being brought to bear both in our individual lives and in our community will quickly drift to an emphasis far from the desire of God to see everyone mature in Christ. Our desire must not be for our growth only but for the growth of every member of our group, remembering Ephesians 4:15: “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ…” and Hebrews 10:24-25: “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.”

Gospel-Centered Community

John 13:34-35: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

The gospel of Christ reveals both His love for us and the basis of our love for one another. The gospel meets a basic emotional need. Everyone wants to be loved unconditionally and sacrificially. Ironically, no one is worthy of being loved, or interested in giving love for that matter. The gospel, though, intersects our life at this point of need as Christ loves the unloved and the unlovely. Consistent with his love for us is the command to love others just as he has loved us. Christ compels us to live life together in humility, patience, love, and forgiveness. This love for one another is not only for the benefit of the one being loved but also for those observing outside the community. When we share gospel community together, people see the gospel displayed among us and through us. In gospel community we are at once responsive to God’s loving us, obedient to God’s command to love others, and a witness to the redemption he has wrought within us.

Gospel-Centered Ministry

Matthew 25:40: “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”

Consistent with the expectation to love one another, gospel-centered community serves others in gospel-centered ministry. Jesus, speaking about the judgment, separates the sheep from the goats. The sheep are invited to come and to inherit the kingdom but the goats rejected and cursed on the basis of whether or not they served others. Jesus spoke sharply to those who did not demonstrate the gospel in ministry, explaining that whatever they did or did not do – food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, welcome to the stranger, clothes to the naked, visit and support to the sick and imprisoned – they actually did or did not do for Jesus. To the same extent that we choose to serve or to ignore others, we choose to serve or ignore Jesus. Likewise, we must serve others to the same degree that we claim to love, live, and surrender to our Savior. Sharing in gospel-centered ministry together provides opportunity and accountability to serve Jesus by serving others.

Gospel-Centered Multiplication

Matthew 28:19: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

Gospel-centered multiplication is the logical and biblical end of laboring together for the growth of all believers. Maturing believers make disciples, not only because discipleship is what they do but also because fishers of men is who they are (Matthew 4:19). Jesus calls his followers to be disciples and to make disciples. In fact, the Christian without a desire to reach the lost with the gospel is an anomaly. Disciples make disciples. They share the life-giving gospel with the spiritually dead resulting in the birth of new disciples. Gathering disciples into groups results in the birth of new groups. Gospel-centered disciples make disciples, and gospel-centered growth groups reproduce gospel-centered growth groups. And so it follows that multiplication must characterize our groups if they are indeed to be called growth groups.
Parkwood desires to glorify God by laboring together for the growth of all believers while going with the gospel to all people(s). Inasmuch as this goal identifies the purpose of the church corporately, it identifies every member’s purpose individually. Glorifying God, laboring together, growing, going, are not merely owned by the leadership or the spiritual elite, but these elements of purpose are the responsibility of every person in the body of Christ. Will you unite with us to glorify God by laboring together for the growth of all believers while going with the gospel to all people(s)? Let me encourage you to join a growth group if you’re not already part of one. And let’s resolve together to ground our growth groups in gospel-centered growth, community, ministry, and multiplication.