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Philosophy of Ministry - Part VII - Implementing the Philosophy

An Implementation of the Philosophy of Ministry

 

Issues Related to the Church and its Worship Services:

  1. What is the church and who leads it?

The church is the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23)made of believers chosen by God. The church is to be “the pillar and support of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15).” It is Christ who guides and leads His church. This is more than just a fact to be believed and then set aside. Rather, it has important ramifications for what Christ is doing in the world today. He blesses the work which He does, thus it is imperative that the leadership understand that they are not leading the church rather Christ leads it and that they are under-shepherds who must submit to His direction (1 Peter 5:1-4).

  1. What are top purposes of the church?

a.                         Worship: Our primary purpose in life is to worship (John 4:24) and glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

b.                        Edification: We are to lead Christ’s disciples to obey the commandments of God (Matt 28:19-20; 1 Thessalonians 4:1). This is done through teaching God's word.

c.                         Fellowship: There is much joy in being around other believers (Heb 10:25). Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another, therefore the church should regularly meet for fellowship and encouragement (Proverbs 27:17).

d.                        Evangelism: God has chosen to use His people to spread the Word to the lost world (Matt 28:19-20; Romans 10:14-16).

e.                         Service: We are to spurn each other to love and good deeds in service to the body of Christ (Heb 10:24).

 

  1. Who is the worship service for?

All worship is for God Himself. Every worship service must be designed to give honor and praise to an audience of One (Romans 12:1, Psalm 50:23, Malachi 2:5, 1 Corinthians 6:13). Worship of God ascribes to Him all praises. God is honored when His Word is faithfully taught (in word, song, and deed) and His glories are lifted in the hearts of the congregation (either by word, song, or deed) (Hosea 6:6; 1 Corinthians 14:26). Having said this, all things in the worship service should be done in a manner that honors God and doesn’t distract His people from worshipping Him (1 Corinthians 14:40). Therefore, excellence must guide the music, the transitions from one part to the next, the preaching, the offering, etc. When done with excellence, God will be honored and God’s people will be edified.

 

  1. What is the primary purpose of the Sunday worship service: to edify believers or to reach unbelievers?

The Sunday worship service is a time for believers to meet together, worship God, and refocus their hearts/minds to obey Him. Believers are exhorted to be people who are “trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord (Eph 5:10).”  Since none of this can truly be done by an unbeliever, the worship service is not specifically intended to be an evangelistic outreach service.

This having been said, however, the Lord often brings unsaved people to Sunday worship services and often the faithful proclamation of the Word will be used by the Holy Spirit to convict sinners and bring them to repentance. Since every service will probably have unbelievers, the gospel should always be explained and churchy anomalies (for example, asking visitors to stand and introduce themselves) should be avoided and if possible they should be removed.

 

  1. What kind of worship music should the church have?

Worship music is rated as the number one reason why church members choose a church,[1] and since worship is one of the believer’s highest callings and is sought by God (John 4:23-24), it should be central to the worship service. However, the worship music should not be mere repetition without the head, nor should it be mere tradition without the heart (Isaiah 27:13). Music selections need to be chosen based upon the criteria of what will lead the congregation to worship the Lord in a more meaningful manner.

 

Issues Related to Church Leadership:

 

  1. Should the church have an elder-led form of church government?

The scriptures indicate that Christ is the head over the church mediating His rule through the service of elders (Titus 1:5, 1 Thessalonians 5:12). Their lifestyles should be specifically evaluated in light of Titus 1:5-9 and 1 Timothy 3:1-7 (for elders) and 1 Timothy 3:8-13 (for deacons) prior to installation as elders.

 

  1. What are the roles and functions of the elders in the local church?

Elders are to be men of prayer who are completely devoted to the scriptures and to the proclamation of Christ (Acts 18:5). They are men called (Acts 20:28) and qualified (1st Timothy 3:1-7) to encourage the church (Acts 16:40) by strengthening them in their joy (2nd Corinthians 1:24, Philippians 1:25) and their faith (Acts 14:22) through preaching/teaching (Acts 15:32, 35; 1st Timothy 4:13), reproof, rebuke, and exhortation (2nd Timothy 4:2). A strong component of the elder’s ministry is to live as an example to be modeled and followed by others (1st Peter 5:3; Philippians 3:17; 1st Timothy 4:12; 2nd Thessalonians 3:7; 1st Corinthians 4:16, 11:1; Hebrews 13:7). In a practical sense, their role is to protect the doctrine of the church (1st Timothy 4:16), refute those who contradict (2nd Timothy 2:24), able to teach in venues such as the pulpit, Sunday school, Adult Bible Studies, etc. (1st Timothy 3:3), shepherd and visit the people (1st Peter 5:2), help distribute resources to needy brethren (Acts 11:30), help decide disputed matters between brethren (1 Corinthians 7:5), and oversee (although not actually administer) the financial and physical aspects of the church (Acts 6:2-3). Likewise, they are to consider (Acts 14:23) and examine (1st Timothy 5:22) and appoint new elders (Titus 1:5) to join them in carrying the burdens of the ministry. In essence, their role and responsibility within the church covers “all that pertains to the Lord” (2 Chronicles 19:11).

 

  1. Should the lifestyles of the leadership be specifically evaluated in light of Titus 1:5-9 and 1 Timothy 3:1-7 (for those is elders positions) and 1 Timothy 3:8-13 (for those is service related positions) prior to being installed?

Church leaders (including elders and deacons) should be reviewed at least annually for the biblical qualification.

 

  1. Is there a term length for the elders of the church?

Scripture indicates that not every man can simply become an elder. Rather elders are men who are supernaturally gifted to lead God's church (Acts 20:28). Since this calling is from God, God is the one who determines when an elder’s role in the office begins and ends. Thus, churches are not to have term-limits. Additionally, although the men serving as elders are initially qualified for their service, it may take years of faithful service for some men to gain a breadth of godly insight and wisdom. Likewise, a board that serves together for an extended period of time melds into one heart and direction. Since it takes years for both man and board to mature to this position, the church must not cycle on and off elders. Term limits for elders stymies the growth spiritually, growth in awareness of their responsibility before God, and growth in the unity amongst the elders. This is not to say that the elder board should not take on additional members—additional members bring life and vitality to the board. God may specifically bring additional elders to enhance and expand the ministry of the church. But the size of the elder board must be manageable and correspond to the size of the body of believers.

Just as the scriptures do not mandate an elder to cycle-off every few years, the scriptures do not also require that elders maintain their positions for their entire lives. If they feel that the Lord has called them to step down, they may do so. However, once an elder steps down, he is no longer in a position of authority over the church and should conscientiously, deliberately, and vocally join the rest of the church in faithful submission to the current elders (Hebrews 13:17). Often churches have men who at one point served as elders, but are no longer active members of the elder board. These men are to be respected and allowed to serve the church just as any other member of the church. However these men should not specifically influence or pressure the present elders or the church congregation in regards events or church direction/vision in a manner that undermines the current elders' authority. Church governance matters must be handled by the active elders men who are biblically accountable to Christ for their obedience (Hebrews 13:17). Since the inactive members are not a part of the elder discussions and they are not specifically accountable to Christ to mediate His will, the inactive elders must comply and submit along with the rest of the congregation (2 Thessalonians 3:14).

 

  1. Is there a term length for deacons

Deacons do not have the same role as elders and may maintain their positions as long as there is the tangible need. However, a case can be made for a stable office since in Philippians, Paul addresses the deacons as part of the church leadership (Philippians 1:1). Likewise, Paul gave Timothy separate qualifications for deacons indicating a vetting process. Thus, because of their role as part of the church leadership and because they must attain specific qualifications, using the freedom God has given us, a church may establish a system that maintains continuity and ensures that qualified men continue in this servant-leadership role.

 

  1. How are elders selected?

Elders are not elected by men[2], but rather appointed by God (Acts 20:28). They are selected and installed by qualified people, usually leaders or other elders (Acts 1:21-26, Titus 1:5). They are not to be begged to be elders (1 Pet 5:2), nor are they to be elected or presented by a binding nomination from the congregation. Their names may be put forward by people in the congregation, however, prior to being installed, each candidate should be examined by the elders, and after considerable prayer and fasting by the existing elders (Acts 14:23), and upon being examined and deemed qualified, their name should be presented to the congregation specifically to request if further information about that man would disqualify him from being an elder. If no disqualifying information has been made known, the current elders are to lay hands upon the elder and ordain him to ministry (1st Timothy 4:14). Note that this “laying on of hands” does not mystically transfer power to the new elder, but rather recognizes that the man has been particularly selected by the Holy Spirit. An example of this can be seen from the transference of leadership from Moses to Joshua in Numbers 27. In Numbers 27:18, God told Moses to transfer his authority to Joshua via the laying on of hands. However, in that passage, the presence of the Holy Spirit in Joshua preceded the ceremony rather than was subsequent to it. Thus, the “laying on of hands” is proper in the ceremonial sense, but care should be taken to view it as a mystical succession of power.

 

  1. Are the elder board’s decisions based upon 100% unanimity between the members of the elder board?

All elders attempt to follow and obey the leadership of Christ. Scripture often calls the church to unity (Hebrews 6:12; Acts 1:14, 1 Corinthians 1:10, II Corinthians 13:11, Philippians 2:2), and the leadership of the church must model the values of scripture (1 Corinthians 4:16, 11:6; Philippians 3:17, 4:9). It stands to reason that if every elder has the mind of Christ, there would be absolute unanimity between the elders. Nowhere in scripture is a vote performed by the leadership to make decisions.[3] The elders, then, should not “vote” but rather they should develop a sense of agreement and only proceed when there is unity amongst them. This does not mean that every elder has to be 100% enthusiastically supportive about every issue. Instead, 100% unanimity means that no one is opposed to an issue, or has significant misgivings, or has deep rooted reservations over the particular issue that would keep them from publicly supporting an elder decision.

Along these same lines, unity should also be between the church members and themselves and between the church members and the leadership. Unity cannot just spring up out of thin air—people cannot truly just force themselves to somehow changes their minds conform to the leadership. The leadership should work towards the same goal of unity with the congregation. Decisions should not be forced upon the flock. Consensus should be built. Although the church body should trust the leadership and follow their leaders’ wisdom, the leaders need to make a concerted effort to “go house to house” (Acts 20:20) in order to assure that people are of one mind. Unity can be attained, but it must be worked at and labored towards.

On a final note, unity among the leadership is mandatory however unity between the leadership and the flock is not. The elders are accountable to Christ to legislate His will in the life of the church. Thus, those whom Christ has placed in leadership must act in obedience to Him. For this reason there may be times that Christ leads the elders towards a goal/direction that the rest of the congregation may not fully support. In these times the moral integrity, spiritual strength, and biblical qualifications for leadership come to bear. The leaders must follow Christ and lead their congregation towards God’s highest purposes.

 

  1. Should the members of the elder board in the church be trained (or have studied personally) in systematic theology and biblical theology?

In a word: yes. Elders are to maintain and defend sound doctrine (Titus 1:9). Thus they need to be thoroughly trained in scripture and in theology prior to being installed as elders (2 Tim 2:15). Many men don't feel that they have the time to study scripture, and realistically, if that is the case then it would seem that God has not arranged the circumstances in their lives to be such that they can be qualified elders (1 Tim 5:22). They can still serve as deacons or use their gifts elsewhere, but biblically qualified elders must know scripture and theology well enough to shepherd the flock of God and protect against heresy.

 

  1. Do the people in the church view the members of the elder board as their own pastors?

The elders are the shepherds of the church (Acts 20:28). While there may be a “teaching pastor” who has been particularly trained in the scriptures for pulpit proclamation, the rest of the board of elders also comprise the pastorship for the church. Therefore, elders can be trained in all the pastoral duties such as baptism, communion, sermon delivery, weddings, funerals, etc. In certain instances an elder may even seek formal ordination.

 

  1. What types of issues should the church congregation vote on for the purpose of final decision-making? (For example: hiring pastors/staff, new building projects etc.)?

Since Christ holds the elders accountable to Him to enact His will, spiritual matters should be determined by the elders (1 Peter 5:2). The elders can certainly look to the church body for public opinion (e.g. by way of a non-decisive vote of confirmation) but the role of the elders is not to carry out the will of the people, but rather the will of God (1 Thessalonians 5:12). In addition to the unique accountability to Christ that elders have (Hebrews 13:17), a public vote opens up the unsettling possibility that one carnal Christian’s vote can essentially cancel out the vote of a godly member. The reality must be recognized that spiritual maturity takes years of righteous obedience to Christ. Consequently, discerning His will for a church through a vote of the will of the people may actually result in a vote against the will of Christ. Thus the congregation often will not vote on spiritual matters or other matters the elder board deems too important to present for a church vote.

 

  1. Should the members of the elder board develop a specific purpose for the church?

The church is not expressly commanded in scripture to develop a vision/purpose statement. However, the church is commanded to conform its activities to the teachings of Christ (Matthew 29:19). Thus, often churches find that it is best to write out specifically what and how the church is to obey Christ. A common belief in America is that churches that have vision statements tend to grow faster than churches that do not have vision statements. While this may appear to be the case, Christ driven growth ultimately comes by total obedience of the whole church body to Christ’s leading. When people obey Christ, the church will increase with lasting growth.

The church leadership should also take into consideration the difference between leading and forcing. As leaders, they must “lead” the church along in spiritual growth. This includes shepherding the people towards personal righteousness. It also includes coalescing the church body towards issues and programs that further accomplish Christ’s purposes—e.g. establishing/strengthening ministry program (youth, men’s women’s, outreach), developing the facility to reach the community, tuning the heart of God’s people to reflect the heartbeat of scripture. Along these lines, however, the leadership must be careful to not force the church down a path it is not yet ready for. This requires careful consideration of the flock’s place in Christ, where they need to be, and what the steps are to get them there. Jumping from Step 1  to Step 15 is forcing the congregation, it is not leadership. However, moving from one step to the next is deliberate, regulated leadership.

 

Issues Related to the Ministry of the Church:

 

  1. Should each ministry have specific accountability to the elders (or one elder) to oversee, evaluate, assess, and direct that ministry?

New ministry ideas are the fresh wind of the Lord meeting the needs of His people. Yet often churches leave programs in place far beyond their usefulness. One practical way to guard against antiquated, ineffective programs is to have each ministry report to an elder who can provide leadership and counsel, as well as terminate the ministry when it becomes necessary. This could easily be performed in an annual elders’ meeting specifically designed to evaluate the present and future direction of the church.

 

  1. What is the goal of Bible teaching?

The goal of all biblical teaching is to develop Christlikeness in each individual so that they can best serve the Lord (Ephesians 4:12-16). Specifically, “The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith (1 Timothy 1:5). Christians should be exhorted to live by the fruit of the Spirit (Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-Control) and be able to discern between good and evil (Immorality, Impurity, Sensuality, Idolatry, Sorcery, Enmity, Strife, Jealousy, Outbursts of Anger, Disputes, Dissentions, Factions, Envying, Drunkenness, Carousing, Selfish Ambition, Quarreling, and Gossip).

 

  1. Should the church actively engage in one-on-one discipleship?

Discipleship trains people in spiritual matters. It can occur in both formal and informal contexts and the church should have many avenues for discipleship. These may include: small groups, one-on-one discipleship, weekly prayer meetings, counseling, etc. One practical way to introduce biblical knowledge, fellowship, accountability, and service into the life of believer is through fellowship groups. These weekly groups usually meet in the evenings to discuss scripture and then break into all men/women prayer times where the groups ask each other pointed accountability questions. The evening concludes with food and fellowship. Once a month the group exchanges a Bible study time for pure-socialization and then routinely members are encouraged to help each other out—e.g. move furniture, paint, hang Christmas lights, etc.

 

  1. How can the effectiveness of Bible teaching be assessed?

A gauge of effectiveness of the teaching can be seen by the degree of which the church longs for scripturally based Bible teaching, how many bring and open their own Bibles at church, and how many engage in daily devotions. The degree of love in the church can also indicate the effectiveness of the teaching. For instance, does the church love one another? Give preference to one another? Resist judging one another? Admonish one another? Resist provoking one another? Not covet one another's things? Encourage one another?

Conversely, failure in effective teaching is evidenced by sin in the body, members holding semi-private home meetings specifically or primarily to discuss problems with the pastor or church leadership, churches dismissing (or strongly implied the need for his resignation) a pastor for a reason other than moral failure (specifically sexual promiscuity, financial impropriety, theological heresy).

 

  1. Should the local church have in place a method to interview prospective members to determine if they are born-again believers?

Yes. The membership class should interview each person to ensure and record their salvation testimony (2 Peter 1:10). At the time of membership, each prospective member should be given an opportunity to give their testimony before the entire church. This will help facilitate the “get to know you” time, quickly foster new relationships, and help the church at large know the spiritual needs of the new members.

 

  1. Should the church have in place a method to train each prospective member of the church’s theological positions and distinctives?

As mentioned with the preceding question, a membership class should be in place to teach the essentials of doctrines, the church distinctives, the importance of praying for the body and leadership, the importance of edification rather than gossip and slander, accountability, etc (Colossians 1:28). At the end, the prospective member should be required to sign agreement with the doctrinal statement of the church.

 

  1. Should the church actively and specifically put people in places of service for their giftedness?

All people seeking membership should be taught their role in the church body to serve however Christ has enabled them (1 Pet 4:10). The person needs to prayerfully see how Christ wants them to serve in the body. However, often churches have a tendency to place people in positions of willingness, rather than giftedness. This should be avoided so not to burn out church members. Every person is to have a ministry to the body of Christ. This should be taught to each person in the New Members Class. Does each person have a specific gift their whole life? Likely many people will have a few gifts that last throughout their lives, however God will give us whatever spiritual abilities we need to be faithful to serve Him. Our own obedience to what God calls us to do is a significant factor in our usefulness to the church.


  1. Should the church have a way to assess a person’s readiness to lead Small Groups

Those who lead small groups (or are involved in ministry leadership) should be trained for their role. They are essentially the pastors of a small group of people. Therefore they need training, qualification, and review. They should be spiritually qualified lead a group (1 Timothy 3:7-12) and specifically should not be a new covert (1 Timothy 3:6).

 

  1. If a person stops attending the church, is there a periodic evaluation and purging of the membership roles?

If someone ceases to attend the church for a significant period of time without a reasonable cause they ought to be removed from the membership roles. This helps the elders maintain accurate records of the people God has called them to watch over. In terms of reasonable causes for not attending church, grace must be extended because there are many valid reasons for absence. Attendance can take other forms of church involvement besides being in the worship service. Likewise, special attention should be given to those blessed believers who have ailments which prevent them from attending church—this pertains to the elderly as well as children or parents of children who follow Christ but cannot attend due to health reasons.

Sometimes people stop attending a church because they are "shopping" other churches or they may be upset with someone in leadership at the present church. The church must still go to all lengths to restore a disenfranchised member back to fellowship just as Christ illustrated by the shepherd who leaves all ninety-nine sheep to find the one lost (Luke 15:4). But if against the persistent urgings of the elders, these people continue to refuse to attend the church, not for physical ailments, but because of unhappiness with the existing leadership, or because they are looking for another church, then the elders should gently, carefully, lovingly, and wisely complete the process by removing them from membership (Titus 3:10). The risk of maintaining them as church members is that they are living without accountability and perhaps may damage the flock with gossip, slander, factiousness, etc. or they may bring reproach upon the name of Christ because of moral decisions. The shepherds of the church, entrusted to protect and guard the flock, must ensure that there are no wolves threatening the spiritual health of the sheep.

 

  1. Should churches numerically grow?

Usually, but not always. The church is the body of Christ which He is building and the gates of Hell will not overcome it (Matthew 16:18). Yet there may be times when the church numerically dips for a short while as the church realigns its plans to the will of God. Some members may disagree with the new direction of the elders, yet it is the elders who are responsible to God to mediate His will in the church life. Thus these members may leave. A smaller church has some benefits. It can use the decline in attendance as an opportunity to refocus the body, re-evaluate their obedience to God, minister to one another in new ways, increase unity, increase intimacy, etc.

 

Issues Related to Church Community Involvement:

 

  1. Should the church have regularly scheduled events specifically designed and attended by non-believing adults, teenagers, and children?

Yes. Over time, many church people no longer have significant relationships with non-believers. Because of this difficulty in evangelism, when churches are following Christ’s command to reach the lost they have frequent events specifically for non-Christian adults, teens, and children. The leadership must diligently contact the visitors several times afterwards with friendly calls and invitations to more events. If visitors are leery of being called by a stranger, perhaps a well-worded note could suffice.

 

  1. What should the church do to ministry to the poor?

Paul speaks of equality between the churches (2 Corinthians 8:13). As a church grows in its maturity (both in spiritual maturity as well as in age) it will find ways to contribute to the needs of poorer churches. This may include actual monetary gifts, but also gifts in staffing, materials, etc. Certainly Christ commands the individual members to be particularly generous with one another and those who are less fortunate.

The point should be made that although some churches may be financially less gifted, they should not necessarily be viewed as less spiritually gifted. God can be worshipped just as easily in a poor church as He can in a rich church. In fact, an over-emphasis upon the beauty and possessions of a church may indicate a lack of true spiritual relationship between the church and the Lord. All material items are just shells for the heart and life of a person. It does not matter what a person wears or drives or has—he or she may walk or not walk with the Lord in either circumstance. Nicer amenities sometimes enable more ministry, but they should not be understood to increase the spiritual effectiveness of the ministry. Thus the richer churches should help the poorer churches, not necessarily because of their spiritual poverty, but because of their financial poverty.

 

  1. Should the local church partner with churches/missionaries in other countries to plant churches in other parts of the whole world?

The key purpose of the church is to make disciples. This includes numerical growth at home, but also abroad. Thus the church must actively support global missions. Churches need to place particular emphasis upon men who are committed to planting churches (thereby establishing the body of Christ) in distant regions. The result of all mission endeavors should be the establishment or edification of churches on the mission field.

Likewise, the home church needs to seriously consider the prospect of planting another church. As church membership grows it may not necessarily indicate that the church should find larger property, instead it might indicate that it is time to consider planting other churches. Within a few years these plants should be financially self-sufficient and in turn should also be thinking about planting churches.

 


[1] George Barna, What Americans Believe (Ventura, Cal.: Regal Books, 1991), 259.

[2] Acts 6 is not an election, it is a selection of potential leadership, similar to Moses’ injunction that the people choose “wise and discerning and experienced men from your tribes, and I will appoint them as your heads (Deut 1:13). Moreover, the Acts 6 passage is not referring to elders at all and because of the prophetic/miraculous nature of their works, Acts 6 is not referring to deacons either.

[3] Acts 6:5 is not an election, nor is it a decision made by the leadership, nor are the people who were chosen actually functioning as a deacon as given in 1 Timothy. The following chapters in Acts shows that these men were an unusual group of men used by God to greatly expand His kingdom. Their functions were to serve, but not as deacons nor as apostles.

Last modified on Monday, 02 August 2010 21:56
Russ Brewer

Russ Brewer

Rescued from the domain of darkness, transferred to the kingdom of the Son. Undershepherd of Grace. Husband of Corinne. Father of three. Chew-toy to Zeke...

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