Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Church (page 2 of 12)

Who Says What I Should Say?

I’m thankful for the 10 reasons for expository preaching listed by HB Charles Jr. Though I am committed to expository preaching through successive biblical texts as the norm for our church, it is all too easy to forget the reasons why, and to just assume the practice without thought to the reason.

In particular, one item on Charles’ list stuck out to me:

Expository preaching addresses the needs of the people which never occur to the preacher

I simply cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen this. Almost invariably, when someone feels that something in particular in a sermon is ‘for them’, it is not something I knew was going on in their life. It was not a need I was aware of now. But it is a need that God knew of so long ago when he inspired the text and ordained for me to preach it on this particular Sunday.

Viewed from that perspective, of knowing the needs of human hearts, we actually begin to see something of the audacity of not habitually preaching expository messages. Preaching topically, or as I see fit, actually places more faith in my ability to assess the needs of our people than it does in the sufficiency of the revealed word and will of God.

Expository preaching forces us to preach on topics and texts that we would never choose. Expository preaching forces us to be controlled in what we talk about next.

If the medium does indeed convey the message, then expository preaching in and of itself serves both the preacher and the people well in that it says: ‘This man is being told what to talk about; he is not the one who knows what we need.’ It militates against the projection of the false image of the pastor as the one who is ultimately setting the vision for the church. If the vision for the church is biblical, people will see it as it is drawn out from the word, rather than created in the mind of the ‘visionary’ pastor.

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75 Sundays

January 16, 2011 was a monumental day for us at Grace Fellowship Church. It was our first Sunday together officially holding a Sunday worship service. As of this past Sunday, June 17, 2012, we have met on 75 Sundays now.  I simply cannot believe how gracious God has been to us.

Here are some of my reflections.

God clearly loves his church …

He must. He continues to build it. We have seen slow, but steady growth through the entire time. And almost every person that comes has a story that makes me think, ‘Wow, God must be in this.’ We’ve had young people, single people, married people, young families, middle-aged people, and even retired people, from all different races join us. God is building this church as only he can.

I can’t describe or quantify what God has done or what we have felt in planting this church other than saying that we have sensed the divine smile every step of the way. Even when we’ve had to do hard things. And it’s not that we’ve done everything right; it’s just because he loves his church and he wants to prove it over and over.
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It’s a Strange Thing Being a Pastor

Being a pastor is a strange thing.

We proclaim a message with the power of God to change people, but we can’t even change ourselves. We call others to perfection, as Jesus did, but our lives are full of imperfection. We must shepherd like the Shepherd though we’re just one of the sheep.

We seek to make Christ increase (though he’s invisible to human eyes) as we seek to decrease (though we stand in plain view week-by-week). We say numbers don’t matter, but long for many to be saved. We labour to grow the church, even though we realize each soul increases our accountability before God.

We try to express the Infinite and Eternal in 45 minutes or less; obviously we fail, so we try again next week.

We spend our lives studying a book that we’ll never fully grasp and we labour to explain it to a people who can’t understand apart from the work of a third party. The more we study, the more certain we become of the wisdom of God and our own foolishness; and yet we must preach on.

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Why Does Grace Amaze Christians?

One amazing thing about Christians is that we don’t sing because we like to sing, but because the grace that we have received from God makes us sing. It’s not that we’re commanded to sing, but that we’re compelled to sing.

Grace, rightly beheld, always moves the heart to thankfulness and worship that must be shared. And so we sing.

But what is it that is so amazing to us about grace? Why does it make us sing? Consider these lines from some of the songs we sing:

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!

Alas! And did my Saviour bleed, and did my Sovereign die?
Would he devote that sacred head for such a worm as I?
Was it for sins that I had done he groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity, grace unknown, and love beyond degree!

He left His Father’s throne above—So free, so infinite His grace—
Emptied Himself of all but love, and bled for Adam’s helpless race:
’Tis mercy all, immense and free, for O my God, it found out me!

Wayne Grudem, in his Systematic Theology defines grace as God’s ‘goodness toward those who deserve only punishment.’ That’s why it’s amazing to us. Before a holy God, with our sinful hearts and deeds exposed we are wretched and helpless — as lowly as a worm. And yet, God has been infinitely good to us.

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Want Some Great Worship Music for Free?

Download ‘The Patika Sessions’ for Free

Joshua Robinson, Lead Worshiper at GFC (Rexdale)

Over Christmas time the Band of Brothers from Grace Fellowship Church (Rexdale), together with some of the members of our worship team recorded, mixed, and produced a CD of worship tunes that we sing in our churches. This a collection of songs and hymns either written or re-written by members of our churches.

We are thrilled to offer the music to you to download for free! Simply click below to download the zip file and enjoy.

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Looking for a Great Church in Toronto?

** Updated: October 30, 2014 **

Sometimes the assumption is that church planters plant churches because they believe what they will do is better than what has come before. Sometimes church plants do actually think their church is the only real church around. Sometimes church planters envision themselves as being the saviour of their city. Thankfully, that’s not the case with our church plant.

I’m so thankful to God to be able to write this post and actually have something to say about good churches in the Greater Toronto Area. There was a time not too long ago when I didn’t know that many great churches to recommend. Now, however, by God’s grace, there are many churches I would happily recommend in and around our city. Of course, there is always a need for more great churches and more godly, Christ-exalting, gospel-loving, church-planting pastors. But I think God is at work in our city, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Below is a list and a map. The list is broken down into different categories.

Our Church

Grace Fellowship Church Don Mills

I’m a little bit partial to this one, as it’s the church where I serve. Our church was planted in Don Mills in January 2011. I happen to love this place most of all. The people of this church love their Saviour. I count it pure joy to be one of them.

Churches with whom We Are Organically Connected

Grace Fellowship Church Rexdale

Founding pastor Paul Martin has served the church since it’s plant in 2000. I was a founding member and know no other church like this one. I was a member for 10 years and was pastored by Paul for 3 years before that. Since I left, Tim Challies has come on to serve in the full-time ministry there as well, and I recommend his ministry as highly as anyone I can think of. I cannot recommend this church enough. Sound doctrine, genuine fellowship, authentic worship, and biblical expository preaching. I don’t have a single bad thing to say about this church.

New City Baptist Church

Planted by my good friend John Bell with the support and commissioning of GFC Rexdale. I’ve known John for years and still feel like I have much to learn from him. I’ve been blessed to watch this church grow under his leadership. You will be blessed by the teaching and the fellowship at this wonderful church in the downtown core.

Churches whose Pastors I Know and Trust

  • Sovereign Grace Church Toronto – Pastor Tim Kerr is one of the godliest men I have ever had the privilege of meeting. This church is associated with Sovereign Grace Ministries and is a Reformed Charismatic church plant meeting in King City.
  • West Toronto Baptist Church – Pastor Justin Galotti is a close friend of mine whom I highly respect. He is labouring to renew this urban church in a part of the city that is close to my heart (the West Toronto Junction).
  • Westminster Chapel – Pastor Joe Boot is well-known both nationally and internationally. The church has recently moved to the High Park area.
  • Grace Toronto Church – Trained and sent by Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, Pastor Dan MacDonald is a gifted communicator, evangelist, and theologian. He has a heart for the city and this church has grown tremendously under his ministry.
  • Liberty Grace Church – Led by my friends Darryl Dash and Nathan Fullerton, Liberty Grace is a church plant opening its doors to reach the Liberty Village neighbourhood with the gospel of Jesus in September 2013.
  • Thistletown Baptist Church – Another church in Rexdale pastored by my friend Hassan Bell, who I know as a man who deeply loves the church and her Saviour
  • Covenant Baptist Church – Pastored by Chris Powell, Covenant just celebrated their 40th anniversary of ministry in the city of Toronto.
  • Harvest Durham Region – Pastor Ian Hales has been used of God to work mightily in the lives of some of my friends. I know him to be a humble, gracious, gospel-loving brother.
  • Harvest Brampton – A church plant of the Harvest Bible Fellowship out of Harvest Oakville. This plant is led by Chris Shippley, a personal friend and a godly man.
  • Mount Pleasant Road Baptist Church – Pastor Lucien Atchale is a friend of mine from seminary days and they are placed in a strategic location for reaching the city.
  • Harvest Oakville – Pastor Robbie Symons is a man whose love for Jesus is so evident and joy-filled that it is contagious
  • Harvest Toronto West – Another church plant of the Harvest Bible Fellowship out of Harvest Oakville. This plant is led by Jason Matta and launched in 2013.
  • Faith Reformed Baptist Church – I have known Pastor Brian Robinson for many years and have been blessed to witness his faithfulness in preaching the word and loving the people of God on the east end of Scarborough.

And the map to prove it…


View Great Churches in Toronto in a larger map

What about you?

What churches have I missed? Are there other great churches in Toronto? Anything you’d add to what I’ve said?

Who Dieth Thus Dies Well

Last night as I was singing to the girls before bed, I decided to sing some older hymns we haven’t done in a while. I sang More Love to Thee and My Jesus I Love Thee and O Sacred Head Now Wounded. As always, it’s a time of worship and contemplation for me as I pray for my girls and hope that the songs will help communicate the gospel to them in meaningful ways as they grow older. It’s just one way I try to speak the gospel to my kids in all of life.

Anyway, as I sang those three hymns, something stuck out to me. All three hymns seamlessly move from the reality of Christ’s finished work to the hope that we have in the face of our own death. These songs sing freely of the unavoidable nature of death, but glory in the hope that we have in the Saviour who has already overcome death.

This is why I love singing hymns: they speak with the freedom of past generations. Our generation doesn’t like to think about death. The church has largely handed over death to doctors and funeral directors and cemeteries. There once was a time when death was an integral part of church life and worship, hence the cemeteries on church property. (Just imagine for a second what it would be like to come to church every week and walk past the grave of family members and church members who had died through the years. That’s a totally different experience than walking into a trendy café type lounge after having your car valet parked. But I digress.)

In any case, death being a part of the cycle of church life and something that people had to face and talk about brought greater freedom and natural impulse to sing about death. It also calls on the worshipper to cling to Christ, feeling the desperation of this life which will inevitably slip away. This is a far cry from singing ‘Yes Lord, yes Lord, yes, yes, Lord…’. I’m so thankful to God for preserving these hymns for our generation. These hymns and those like them provide us with guidance on how to ‘die well’ — a concept almost entirely lost in our day.

More Love to Thee, Elizabeth Prentiss, 1856

Let sorrow do its work, come grief or pain;
Sweet are Thy messengers, sweet their refrain,
When they can sing with me: More love, O Christ, to Thee;
More love to Thee, more love to Thee!

Then shall my latest breath whisper Thy praise;
This be the parting cry my heart shall raise;
This still its prayer shall be: More love, O Christ to Thee;
More love to Thee, more love to Thee!

(Two of four verses. Prentiss wrote this when she was ill and suffering as part of her private devotions. It wasn’t until 13 years later her husband encouraged her to have these words published. Thank God!)

My Jesus, I Love Thee, William Featherston, 1864

I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

(One of four verses. Amazingly, Featherston was 16 at the time he wrote this.)

O Sacred Head Now Wounded, Bernard de Clairvaux, 1153

What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.

My Savior, be Thou near me when death is at my door;
Then let Thy presence cheer me, forsake me nevermore!
When soul and body languish, oh, leave me not alone,
But take away mine anguish by virtue of Thine own!

Be Thou my consolation, my shield when I must die;
Remind me of Thy passion when my last hour draws nigh.
Mine eyes shall then behold Thee, upon Thy cross shall dwell,
My heart by faith enfolds Thee. Who dieth thus dies well.

(These are just three of the original 11 verses. Click here to hear Fernando Ortega’s rendition of the hymn.)

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