Church

Why We Sing In Spanish

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For about six months now, we’ve been singing some songs in Spanish during our worship sets. We don’t typically sing a whole song in Spanish, but we’ll mix certain songs with Spanish and English.

It’s beautiful.

Just about every time a song transitions from English to Spanish, my eyes fill with tears. This isn’t because it’s difficult or uncomfortable, but because for the most part, our church doesn’t miss a beat. We sing loudly in English and Spanish. And as our voices are lifted high in a language other than our own, we’re getting a little bit more of a glimpse of what the church ought to look like.

So why do we do this?

The kingdom of God
I could list off several reasons why we sing songs in Spanish, but what it ultimately comes down to is our understanding of God’s kingdom.

In Revelation 7:9-12, the Apostle John sees this vision:

9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

What does John see? He sees people coming together from every tribe, people, and language to worship God. Now I don’t know if everyone was worshiping in the same language or if they were worshiping in their own native tongue? Are they worshiping in English? Spanish? Arabic? Hebrew? I don’t think it really matters. What matters is that people from all over the world are together worshiping God with one voice.  

This is what the gospel of Jesus does. The beauty of this picture is the people of God are finally and fully united in the finished work of Jesus Christ. There’s no more bickering. No more division. No more fear of people who are not like ourselves in color and language. No. Just the people of God together as one worshiping the God who made each of them, uniquely and diversely, in His image.

When we sing in Spanish, we’re getting just a small taste of this. It’s okay for us to be uncomfortable for a little bit while we sing in a language we’re not familiar with. In fact, it’s more than okay. It’s good because, as we do this, we're physically reminded that the kingdom isn’t about us. We’re reminded that God doesn’t favor one race or people group over another. We’re reminded that He has called people to himself from all over this globe–and He will be until Christ returns.  

As we sing songs in Spanish, I think we’re embracing a reality we’ll be experiencing for eternity. We’re happy to start preparing our hearts for it now.

A Dios sea la gloria!

A Matter Of Perspective

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A blog post by Vicki Graff

Recently a daughter was reading Romeo and Juliet.  There was a good deal of giggling. Strange, as that particular story is known as a tragedy.  Why was she laughing?  She chose to read it as a comedy.  Seeing Romeo as a pathetic teen boy and his ‘whining’ as laughable.  Her sister said, “It’s a matter of perspective.”

Perspective is a powerful lens that shapes your attitude and behavior.  I lived much of my life as a pessimist. A firmly embedded habit, it was an unconscious defense against disappointment and sorrow.  I expected and saw the negative side of plans and people. Now, maturing in the Word and faith, I am practicing putting on the lens of the scripture to view life.  

Romans 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

I’m not talking about thinking positive, name it and claim it, or putting on a Pollyanna perspective.  Rather, living within the Bible's promises.  Believing and applying the truths of Scripture to the events and experiences that we react to all day long.  Criticism that crushes. Trials that feel overwhelming. Grief that consumes. Accusing guilt. Struggles and doubts that discourage and weaken. Sin that separates.  Bitterness to bind us.  Pain and anger to prevent forgiving. A world full of lies and distractions. 

I’m not talking about thinking positive, name it and claim it, or putting on a Pollyanna perspective. Rather, living within the Bible’s promises.

Grasping firmly to the Biblical truth that, as a beloved and treasured child of God, I am forgiven and embraced for a purpose, known and held by Him. Empowered with strength to stand before enemies and temptation. Enabled to love and forgive through His mercy and grace applied.  Living in hope that overcomes all trials, failures, sickness and grief by holding onto the promise of eternal life and a heavenly dwelling that is a blink away through Him. Believing He acts from love and knows best.

This only happens with deliberate devotion to God’s truth through study, prayer and fellowship.  Being saturated in His influence to overcome all others. Nothing good will come from a casual faith.  An acquaintance with Christ and His church results in an ineffectual anemic Christian defined by hypocrisy. The Biblical promises need to be a part of you, believed and applied. A conscious effort on your part, but what joy when you find that the hope and joy within has become a part of your thoughts, coping skills and reactions. A new lens to see the world in the light of Christ and His Word.

Nothing good will come from a casual faith. An acquaintance with Christ and His church results in an ineffectual anemic Christian defined by hypocrisy.

1st Peter 1: 3-7 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Study the Word. His truth cannot come out if it does not dwell within. Pray to know Him and understand His Word because this is not something you can do alone.  The depth of His riches are deeper than a passing glance but the Holy Spirit is a willing guide.  Fellowship for edification and encouragement because the Lord uses us for each other. 

Recently, a longstanding misunderstanding of myself and my motives was immediately overturned by one sentence spoken to me.  She had no idea that her words brought revelation and repentance.  I thanked the Lord in prayer for her faithfulness to nurture her faith which in turn, strengthened mine.  I hope the Lord will use me in the same way for another.

 Titus 3: 4-7 “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

How A Bacon Wrapped Cross Defiles Christianity

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This is not Christian

Two weeks ago, someone, or some people, in our city wrapped a four-foot cross with bacon and pounded it into the ground in front of the one and only Mosque in town. I hesitate to draw more attention to the hatred and foolishness of such an act, but because a cross has been brought into this, something has to be said.

It must be understood that what these people did is by no means Christian. It’s not the biblical church. It’s not the biblical Jesus. It is in fact anti-Christian. It is anti-gospel. It is anti-Jesus. It goes against everything the cross of Christ actually stands for. You will not find such an act anywhere in the Bible.

My plea to whoever may be reading this is for you to understand that Jesus in no way condones or encourages this deplorable action. If you are a Christian understand that such an act does nothing but drag the name of Jesus and his church through the mud. It is not an act that furthers the gospel but hinders it and thus it must be condemned.

This is Christian

Our church, Taproot Church, has been working together through the book of Acts–the New Testament historical record of the early church. One of the themes that come up repeatedly is the very humanness of every single person and the offer of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone to every human regardless of their race, ethnicity, or social status.

In Acts 14, Paul and Barnabas are worshiped by the people of Lystra as Greek gods. Their response is, “People! Why are you doing these things? We are people also, just like you” (Acts 14:15; emphasis mine). What Paul is saying here is that the gospel (good news) of Jesus levels the playing field. All humans, regardless of what or whom they may rightly or falsely worship are just that–humans. Humans in need of the one true and living God.

In Acts 16, the author records the conversion of three different people. Each of them are from entirely different worlds. They couldn’t be more different. They are opposites in race, ethnicity, and socio-economic status. Yet the conclusion of the story is that they all–as human beings–were in need of the same Jesus.

Our common humanness

“From one man He has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live” (Acts 17:26).

This verse is a reminder of our common humanity. That from one man every other man has come into existence. It’s also a reminder that we’re all a lot more alike than we tend to believe or realize.

Ken Wytsma talks about this in his book, The Myth Of Equality: “Beneath the skin we are all basically the same––and this is especially true at the genetic level. Genetically speaking, I (with my rather unmixed Dutch heritage) am more similar to a male Maori than I am to any female, including my own mother and daughters. Whatever genetic differences the Maori man and I might have throughout the rest of our twenty-three pairs of chromosomes, they are fewer than the number of gene differences between men (with one X – and one Y – chromosome) and women (who have two X- chromosomes), even when a man and woman are closely related…Indeed, the most remarkable thing about the genetics of humanity is how little diversity it contains in comparison to other populations of creatures, including other primates.”

In other words, scientifically speaking, I’m not that different than any other man on the face of this earth. And neither are you.

Track with me. This is important.

The Truth Of The Cross

You see, the actual good news of Christianity is that Jesus entered into this world in order to reconcile all types of people from every corner of this globe back to God. He finished the work that you and I could not. He did this by living a sinless life and dying a sinners death at the hands of people like…

You.

And me.

The sins of the conservative, the sins of the liberal. The sins of the Christian, the sins of the Muslim. Your sin and my sin put Jesus on the cross.

The cross is a symbol of suffering and shame. It’s a symbol of sacrifice and ought never to be associated with some sort of elite homogenous ideology. Americans (American Christians in particular) are not inherently better people than Muslims. This is what the true message of the cross tells us. It levels all humanity and says we’re all in need of the same thing. It declares that salvation is not for those who prove themselves most righteous before God. Rather, it declares that all are unrighteous, and the religious moralist who stands against planned parenthood is just as much a candidate for God’s saving grace (and needs it) as much as the Islamic man–even an avowed terrorist.

This is what the true message of the cross tells us. It levels all humanity and says we’re all in need of the same thing.

This cross is the way of the Christian life.

The cross declares God’s love for people like me, and also unlike me. There is no symbol that declares God’s desire for creating a diverse people like the cross. The Christian life should always reflect this desire.

It’s in light of all this that hateful actions like wrapping a cross in bacon and placing it in front of a Muslim Mosque must be condemned.

The truth of the Christian gospel is what enables us to see people the way God intended. In an increasingly diverse culture, may the cross remind us that we’re a lot more alike than we realize and at the end of the day our greatest need is the same–a crucified, but risen, Savior!

This post was originally published on Mike Littleton's personal blog. 

Am I My Brother's Keeper?

There is a famous line in Genesis 4. It says, “Am I my brothers keeper?” The line comes after Cain brutally murders his brother Abel. God asks, “Where is your brother?” The only way Cain can think of answering is by “minding his own business,” and pointing the finger at the brother he just killed.

Most of us are familiar with this section of scripture and this verse in particular. What we’re not familiar with is how to handle it. It’s easy to take the side of Cain. In a culture of hyper-individualism we shake our heads in agreement that we are not our brothers keeper. We think to ourselves, “their business is their business. I don’t need to worry about what they’re doing or not doing.” And when we do poke into someone’s business, we’re often told, “mind your own business!” Maybe there are scenarios where we ought to mind our own business, but more times than not we’re simply abdicating a responsibility that is ours to keep. We are our brother’s (and sister’s) keeper.

The church is the family of God (Mark 3:31-35). This means that if we are a Christian, our brothers and sisters are not only those who are related to us by blood, but are also those related to us by the blood of Christ spilled on the cross. To be a member of this family means that we care for one another. It means that we are in one another’s business–not for the sake of gossip, slander, shame, ridicule, or scorn– but for the sake of building up. It means that we care whether or not our brothers and sisters are representing Christ in their day to day lives. 

Jonathan Leeman, in writing about church membership, puts it like this: “Church membership is not about additional requirements. It’s about a church taking specific responsibility for a Christian, and a Christian for a church."*

“Church membership is not about additional requirements. It’s about a church taking specific responsibility for a Christian, and a Christian for a church."

The gospel of Jesus frees us to love one another in ways that we would not have previously. It frees us to celebrate with our brothers and sisters in their victories, and weep with them in their failures. It frees us to ask questions, and to have questions asked of ourselves. The church is to be a family like none other on this earth. It is God’s grace that we get to care for one another in such a way that doesn’t promote our individualism, but exemplifies his kingdom instead.

*Quoted from Leeman's book: Church Discipline.
 
 

Responding To Muslims

How does the gospel motivate us to respond to Muslims? This is an extremely important question, and we're excited to have Samy Tanagho join us to help answer it. 

Samy was born and raised in Egypt, and has ministered to Muslim people groups for over 30 years. It's his love for Jesus that has motivated him to spend his life serving Muslims, and equipping the church to do the same. Samy is the founder of Glad News Ministries, and has also written the book, Glad News! God Loves You My Muslim Friend. Through his years of ministry, he has seen Jesus change lives in remarkable ways. 

We're happy to have partnered with Calvary Chapel Buhl in bringing this seminar to Twin Falls. Our prayer is that Samy's teaching and experience will serve to equip the church in loving and serving Muslims as God continues to afford us the opportunity to have them as our neighbors. Samy's teaching will help to dispel the many fears that people in our city have, teach us to see Muslim people as image bearers of God, and equip us to speak the good news of Jesus with wisdom and care. 

We hope you will join us.

The seminar is Sunday November 8th, at 5:30 p.m., at The Boys and Girls Club of the Magic Valley. Coffee will be provided by Twin Beans Coffee Co. and desserts will be served as well. 

If you have any questions, please visit our Connect page. You can also check us out on Facebook

Christ is all!   

The Value Of The Church Gathered

In Taproot Church, we gather every Sunday morning to worship Jesus, sit under the preaching of God's word, and be equipped for the work of ministry in everyday life.

We also gather in Gospel Communities (GC's). GC's are small groups of people, joined by the gospel, pursuing the renewal and redemption of their community together for the purpose of being discipled and making disciples of Jesus.

The Sunday Gathering and Gospel Communities are invaluable pieces to the ministry and mission of Taproot Church. These are two of the primary ways in which we're able to press into the reason for our existence, which is to know Jesus and make him known.

Below are some reasons why we value these gatherings the way we do.

1. It's biblical. Hebrews 10:24-25 says, "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." The early church valued the gathering of the saints to the point that correction was necessary if there was a neglecting of it. It was in the context of the church gathered that people were encouraged in the midst of all that is difficult in this life. 

2. It reflects God. The God of the bible is Triune. This means that he has existed in perfect community for all eternity. Being his image bearers, we long for this kind of community, but sin has distorted it. Now, instead of enjoying the presence of God and others, we would rather hide (Genesis 1:8). In the finished work of Jesus, the type of community we see in God is restored to his church, and we reflect that to the world. "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35).

3. Discipleship. The commission of Jesus to his disciples is to make disciples. A disciple is a follower of Jesus. Discipleship is the process of learning how to follow Jesus. This does not happen alone. It also doesn't happen in the context of a one and a half hour service on Sunday mornings (though this is vital). Discipleship is the process of a lifetime and it's greatest value comes when we are gathered with others who are learning how to follow Jesus along with us. It's in the context of the gathered saints where our weaknesses and sins are revealed, and it's in these gatherings where we are most likely to be pointed to Jesus. Proverbs says, "Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgement" (Proverbs 18:1). Living life in this type of community is often not easy, but it's always worth it.

4. Equipping and maturity. Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus, saying, "And God gave the apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood" (Ephesians 4:11-13). Paul is not talking about offices in the church, but gifting. In other words, there are those in the church who still operate in this APEST model of gifting, and they've been given these gifts for the equipping of the saints. (We'll talk more about APEST another time). Furthermore, the hope in this is that the saints would reach maturity in Christ, that is, that all followers of Jesus would know Jesus more fully, and realize their value in the gathering of the church. If left to a small group of people or one "dynamic" preaching pastor, the local church is sure to never see real maturity. This isn't always the case, but often it is. We are equipped and we mature when we gather and are equipped through the gifting of many. 

5. Whole body ministry. The church is referred to as a body (1 Corinthians 12), which requires all parts in order to function well. Often, there are several parts of the body which are neglected or not used at all, but when the church places value in the gathering of the church, the whole body is included in ministry. This is why our Sunday gatherings are not referred to as services. The goal of the Sunday morning gathering is not simply to serve you, but to serve you by equipping you, helping you to see that you are a vital part of the ministry of the church. You are then equipped to go out and serve not only in the local church, but in your city, neighborhood, workplace, schools, etc. In this, you are doing the work of ministry in your everyday life.

6. To be sent. When saints are equipped, saints are sure to be sent. This is a difficult but beautiful part of being the church. The work we do is in hopes that more would come to know, follow Jesus, and be gathered with Jesus' Church. This happens as people are sent.

7. Worship. The final thing I want to say about the gathering of the church is that it's an act of worship to King Jesus. He paid the price for our sins on the cross, rose victoriously from the grave, and is alive and well, ruling and reigning at the right hand of God today! All this is for the church. Jesus loves his church. We are his bride, and no matter how messed up we tend to be, he sees us as perfect, beautiful, and holy! When we gather, we do so because of the love and finished work of Jesus. 

Christ is all!

Pastor Mike   

Why We're Planting A New Church In Twin Falls

One of the most frequently asked questions I've received since moving to Twin Falls to plant a new church is....Why? That question is then followed by a small series of questions: Why Twin Falls? Why another church? Doesn't Twin Falls already have enough churches?

So I thought I'd share some of our primary reasons for planting a new church in this city.

1. It's biblical

I'm not going to take the time to quote every passage in the bible that talks about church planting, but it is clear as you read the New Testament, that planting new churches is of primary importance. The entire book of Acts is devoted to showing us the result of the Holy Spirit working in the lives of Christ-followers. That result was the church spreading throughout the entire world. In particular, Acts 13 and 14 tells us about the first missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas. What did they do? They preached the gospel. What was the result? Churches were planted. Beyond the book of Acts, the rest of the New Testament is written to churches. How did those churches get there? People went into cities, preached the gospel, gathered believers, and established churches.

This is a cycle that's never to end until the return of Jesus.  

2. Calling

Our second reason for moving here was calling. First, we couldn't stop a couple of people from literally calling us on the phone, asking us to plant a church here. Second, we simply couldn't get around the fact that God was stirring our hearts to move to this city. I'll admit, it wasn't our first choice. Many people, when they ask, "why Twin Falls," usually ask with a tone of why in the heck would you do that? And I get the tone. There isn't much that's inherently exciting about Twin Falls. But this doesn't mean we ditch the call of God for something a little more sexy. We knew that if we ignored this calling, we'd be just like Jonah. I don't think we would have been eaten by a whale (though I suppose something like that could have happened) but we certainly would have been fleeing what we knew God wanted us to do.

3. We love Twin Falls

Our third reason for planting a church here is that we love the city. That's right. We love Twin Falls. We find her to be truly beautiful. This isn't the view we always had. Abby and I grew up here. I graduated from Twin Falls High School (go Bruins!). Most of our lives were lived in Twin Falls. And when we left for Seattle, we never imagined moving back (as with most who leave this city). But in the midst of God calling us back to this city, he was also breaking our hearts for her. We were able to look at Twin Falls, not as where we grew up or a city lacking in excitement, fun, and life, but as a city that God loves. I think we could say that he's been giving us his eyes for the people here. Furthermore, he has established a core group with the same heart.

Taproot Church Twin Falls loves Twin Falls! 

4. Twin Falls needs more churches

This point is a little difficult to tackle because it seems to mostly be a matter of opinion and perspective. (Or is it?) It's true that Twin Falls has a lot of churches (there's at least a lot of church buildings). But just because it seems like there's a lot of churches at first glance, doesn't mean we don't need new ones. 

Prior to moving to Twin Falls, I had a conversation with someone about the spiritual health of the city. That person told me Twin Falls is one of the most spiritually healthy places they knew. They then emphatically told me, "Twin Falls doesn't need more churches!" Now, I don't have exact numbers to tell me whether this city is spiritually healthy or not, but I wholeheartedly disagree. In fact, one of the continual story lines I've heard and seen since moving here is that the city is broken. And though there may be many here living lives filled with religion and good morals, many of these are far from Jesus. Furthermore, over half of the population of Twin Falls has no association with any religion at all. Some might conclude that's good enough, but I think we should keep preaching the gospel and planting churches until all are followers of Jesus or until he returns.

Timothy Keller is one of the greatest thinkers I know on why we need to continue planting churches in cities. Listen to the excerpt from his book Center Church.

The way to grow the number of Christians in a city is not mainly through church renewal but through church planting. When stagnant churches go through a renewal phase and begin to grow, it is typically through transfer growth from other churches. Strong programs attract believers who are suffering under poor preaching, poor discipleship offerings, or other signs of unhealthy discipleship elsewhere. But even older renewed churches cannot integrate unchurched persons like a new congregation can. Studies confirm that the average new church gains one-third to two-thirds of its new members form the ranks of people who are not attending any worshiping body, while churches over ten to fifteen years of age gain 80 to 90 percent of new members by transfer growth from other congregations. The average new congregation, then, will bring new people into the life of the body of Christ at six to eight times the rate of an older congregation of the same size. 

Keller goes on to say...

So how many churches does your city need? The reality is that churches are institutions. Some of them endure because they are continually revitalized, but all of them lose some flexibility; many of them stagnate for long periods between revitalizations, and a certain percentage die every year. We have seen, then, that it requires at least modest church planting in a city just to keep the body of Christ from steadily declining, and aggressive church planting is needed to grow the whole body–meaning ten to twenty relatively new churches in relation to every hundred existing churches...Studies and anecdotal evidence indicate that if there is one church per ten thousand residents, approximately 1 percent of the population will be churchgoers. If this ratio goes to one church per one thousand residents, some 15 to 20 percent of the city's population goes to church. If the number goes to one per five hundred residents, the number may approach 40 percent or more. The relationship of the number of churches to churchgoing people is exponential, not linear. We should not, then, simply aim to maintain the church's traditional place in a city or society. We long to see Christianity grow exponentially in conversions, churches, and influence in our city. While it requires many kinds of ministries to achieve this outcome, aggressive church planting is the trigger for them all.*

In his book Planting Missional Churches, Ed Stetzer writes, "C. Peter Wagner asserts, 'The single most effective evangelistic methodology under heaven is planting new churches.' That's because church plants can often engage persons within the lost culture in a way that established churches cannot or will not.** 

All that being said, I, in agreement with the above quotes, believe the single most effective way for more to be reached with the gospel of Jesus Christ is through planting more churches. Taproot Church Twin Falls does not believe she is the end all be all of churches in Twin Falls. We're praying earnestly to plant more churches in Twin Falls, the Magic Valley, and beyond. As long as people aren't following Jesus (being discipled) we're going to labor to plant more churches.

5. Why Not?

Our fifth reason may seem simplistic, but think about it. Why not? Does it really hurt the city of Twin Falls and the Magic Valley to have one more church added to the list? I certainly hope and pray not. In fact, our prayer is to be a church to this city and valley, that if we were gone, we'd be missed. As much as possible, we will pour our resources into the flourishing of this city because we are here in the city for the city.

6. To know Jesus and make him known

Our final reason is the most important. It's why Taproot Church Twin Falls exists. In all we do, we want to know Jesus more and make him more known to the city around us. If at any point we've missed Jesus, then I agree it's unhelpful for us to be here. But all we do is because Jesus lived the perfect life we couldn't, died the death we should have, and rose victoriously from the grave reversing the curse of sin, death, and hell. In this, Jesus makes a way for all humanity to be reconciled (made right), into a right relationship with the God of the universe. We want as many as possible to hear this amazing good news.

There are many more reasons I could add to the list, but I think the above six sum it up well. I'd invite you to pray for us, join us, or even challenge our existence if you'd like, but in the end, Jesus the King is ruling and reigning, and because of this reality, we're here to preach the gospel and plant churches that will lift his name high.  

* Quoted from Center Church by Timothy Keller. Page 359 and 362.

** Quoted from Planting Missional Churches by Ed Stetzer. Page 33.