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Philosophy of Ministry - Part VI - Ministry that Pleases God

Part II – Philosophy of Ministry to Please God

Below are some questions and answers that seek to determine what kinds of philosophy of ministry would please God.

 

Question #1: What are the factors which must be present in a church that pleases God?

This profound question is of tremendous importance for the church today. The church that matches God’s intentions as given in scripture will please God. Churches that please God reflect certain traits. Of course, the terms of blessing need to be considered as well as the condition for blessing. We cannot just look at attendance figures to see if God is blessing a church. We can all think of non-Christian religions that are clearly not developing God’s purposes but still are growing numerically. Nor can we look at just tithes as an indication that God is blessing a church because again, there are plenty of non-Christian organizations that have unbelievable success raising finances yet do not please God.

Thus, the following items are given in scripture as indications of churches that are being blessed by God. In Part III, these items of God’s blessing are fleshed out and shown how they often are manifest in the life of a local church today. Part V includes a list of questions for a church so that they might be able to honestly evaluate how they stand and operate in light of scripture.

 

A church that pleases God has:

1)      Godly leadership who are wise and walk with Christ (Numbers 18:6-7; Jeremiah 3:15; 1 Peter 5:2-3).

2)      People who know God’s Word (Hosea 6:6; Jeremiah 9:23-24; Colossians 1:10).

3)      People who long for the solid teaching of the Word (Hebrews 5:14).

4)      People who have in-depth understanding of the love of Christ (Ephesians 3:14-19).

5)      People who can discern between good and evil (1 Peter 3:11).

6)      People who are faithful to God with their time, money, and influence (Ephesians 5:16; 2 Corinthians 9:7; Colossians 1:10, 3:16).

7)      People who are serving Christ (Ephesians 6:7; Colossians 3:23).

8)      People who are being converted to Christ (Matthew 16:18, 28:19-20; Acts 9:31).

9)      People who have solid convictions of the truths of God (1 Thessalonians 1:5).

10)  People who strive to imitate Christ (1 Thessalonians 1:6).

11)  People who have joy in the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 1:6).

12)  People who are renown for their faith in God (1 Thessalonians 1:8).

13)  People who dwell in peace with other members of the church (Acts 9:31).

14)  People who fear the Lord (Acts 9:31).

15)  People who receive comfort from God (Acts 9:31).

 

Question #2: What are the common denominators which must be present in a church that God blesses? (Click here to return to Contents)

God is pleased with and blesses churches that are theologically pure.

God has explained in His word what He is like and how we are to interpret our world. God has established the church to be the pillar of support of God’s Truth (1 Timothy 3:15). These truths, as God has given them, must permeate the minds of each member of the church and be the sole basis for what the church and the people believe (Romans 12:2). Adam and Eve first rejected God's thoughts and thus the tradition of rebellion against God has been carried through to every person who has ever lived (Romans 5:12). Thankfully, this tradition of rebellion has been destroyed by the Spirit of God who has set us free from the skewed enslavement of thinking that we can be the sole judge of what is true (Romans 8:15). We cannot be the standard by which truth is determined. Instead it must come from God's thoughts as expressed in His word.

The church that understands that God wants churches to be theologically pure (Titus 2:1) will cease with man-centered theology and polity (Romans 12:2; 1 John 2:15). They will no longer try to please man but will strive to please God (1 Thessalonians 2:3-12). Theology is the organization of God's word around various topics. Most issues that we encounter in life will be addressed in scripture. Thus it is up to the church to teach and practice God's truth so that its members and the world will know what it is that God has said. Only when the church holds God's thoughts about a matter and puts them into practice in a manner that conforms to His will, does the Lord step in and begin to bless a church (Matthew 24:46; Luke 11:28).

The goal of theology is not to come to a conclusion that makes sense to me, nor that fits within what I feel comfortable believing (2 Timothy 4:3-4; 2 Peter 3:3-4). Rather the goal of theology must be to find out what God says about a matter and then to conform my thinking by faith to trust in the teaching of God's word (2 Corinthians 4:2,12:6). When the church refuses to let God dictate the terms of His church and its belief, it will languish (Jeremiah 4:31, 9:5; Revelation 2:5). These churches approach God’s Word like a salad bar only to pick and choose what they want to teach and obey. Controversial issues such as role of women, church government, homosexuality, church discipline, election/free-will etcetera are clearly addressed by scripture and must reflect God’s Word. Those churches that are experiencing the power of God today believe and teach rightly about Him (1 Timothy 1:12; 2 Timothy 4:17; Titus 1:9).

 

God is pleased with and blesses churches that worship God in spirit and truth.

 

Worship can be very powerful in the lives of church people. Worshipping God takes us beyond ourselves and sets us at the feet of the creator, extolling Him (Psalm 100:4). Worship reminds us who God is and realigns our allegiance to Him (Psalm 100:5). Worship refocuses our lives on who is most important (Psalm 96:4). Worship gives us a sense of what it means to be in the pleasure of God (Psalm 149:4).

The church that God blesses, worships Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). That means that the believers are to worship in their spirits according to His Truth. Yet the sad reality is that not all songs produce worship that is based on truth. Often, songs—and even some old-fashioned hymns—are theologically erroneous. Surely, our Lord who is magnificent and complex and beyond our grasp, has countless profoundly deep qualities of His being that we could meditate upon every week; we don't need to resort to singing or thinking things about God in ways that are simply not true or are so spiritually bland that they don't move the mind as well as the heart.

Yet, in our struggle for truth, we must constantly guard our hearts against the sin of empty ritual. The Old Testament is filled with references to the Jewish people who made the mistake of filling their "worship" with empty ritual rather than heart felt worship (e.g. Isaiah 29:13). God is never pleased with ritual. Ritual mocks God and smears Him—it says that He is not worth the "all" of a person (Malachi 1:6-8); in essence He is not worthy the time and effort it takes to rightly come before Him. Empty ritual was chastised in the Old Testament, condemned in the New Testament, and is powerless in our lives today.

Today, there are churches that are theologically pure but have members who no longer worship from their hearts. Empty worship fails as badly as inaccurate worship (Isaiah 29:13). The Jews had the correct methods of sacrificial offering, but they were chastised by God because their labors were not from the heart. In the same manner today some churches still insist upon singing complex hymns that are hard to understand for younger attendees who struggle to appreciate what is being sung about. On the other hand, other churches sing choruses that are so theologically thin that the emotions they feel are based upon very little truth—if worship is not based upon truth then God is not honored (Psalm 145:18).

Yet this is not to condemn theological depth and accuracy in worship. Some people wrongly confuse ritual with depth. To condemn ritual is not to substitute in frivolous casualness. A balance can be achieved. Each song must be theologically evaluated for its content and depth. “Shallow” songs can be combined in a worship service with “robust” songs to emphasize a theological truth. Older hymns can be sung, but explained or updated as necessary. Musical instruments can be selected that reflect the worship habits of the church community. In order to honor God, worship must captivate the soul of the worshippers—not with mere emotionalism but with spirit and truth.

 

God is pleased with and blessed churches that are boldly teaching God's truth to the world.

 

If you look at the strong believers in the Bible they all proclaimed God's Word without hesitation or apology (1st Timothy 2:7). The bold church does the same today. This is GOD we're talking about! He has created us! As our creator, He can certainly do and say whatever He wants. Like humble subjects before their king, we must listen to what God wants and accept Him on His terms. Worship and church is not about us, it's all about Him. The church is not about making us feel better; it's about declaring His word and showing how we've strayed from it. It's about declaring that God has clear ideas about how He wants us to live and that those who follow God’s ideas will be blessed because they have come into conformity with what He wants.

 

God is pleased with and blesses churches that exalt Christ.

The whole Bible exalts Christ. In the Old Testament, everything leads up to Jesus. He is throughout the pages of scripture evidenced as God worked in the lives of Abraham, Moses, David, and the prophets. Obviously the New Testament solely focuses upon Christ and living under His Lordship. He is the eternal king over the universe and all that we do should exalt Him and glorify Him. Every sermon, every song, every Bible Study should exalt Christ in the hearts, minds, and lives of the believers (John 5:23; 1Corinthians 1:23). The church should exalt Christ to the world in its presence in the community (Luke 12:8-9). If the church is not exalting Christ, then there is no reason for God to bless it.

Just as all of God's word focuses upon Christ, so should the church. Thus sermons, songs, and studies should not be focused upon "me". While it may make “church growth sense” to focus on the needs of the world, what the world needs first and foremost is to put Christ in His proper place as the Lord. When Christ is worshiped and adored as King of our lives then He can begin to bless the church and the individual. This is key. Without the exaltation of Christ, the ministry becomes focused on the person and becomes a Christian version of a self-help group or a Christian version of a motivational seminar. This is not what the church is meant to be and this kind of church won't be blessed by God either (Galatians 1:6-9).

God is pleased with and blesses churches that seek Him in all that they do through prayer, meditation upon His word, fasting, and wisdom of multitude of counselors that allow the Holy Spirit to speak.

 

The churches must be connected to the Lord in prayer (Psalm 145:18). He is doing great things across the country. Yet those churches that are connected to Him actually are blessed with His energy to do what He wants (Hebrews 4:16). So many churches slug along because they have in mind things that they want to do (even though they may be good things) but these things are not particularly that which Christ wants them to do (Colossians 1:9-12). In Acts 16, the Holy Spirit would not allow Paul to minister in the Asian regions of modern Turkey, had stayed there anyway because they wanted to minister there. They went on to have a wonderful harvest throughout Europe. Imagine if Paul had force he and his team to stay in Turkey and minister. They would have been without the blessings of God. They would have been without the power of God. They would have been left in an empty ministry spinning their wheels. Thankfully, that was not the case. Instead, they obeyed and did what God called them to do and God greatly multiplied their ministry as they were faithful to Him.

The church must be all about Him and doing what He wants (1 John 5:14). The church is His body—it is His presence here on Earth (Ephesians 1:22-23). Any church that wants to have that divine energy, spirit, and passion amongst its member must be continually before Him, meeting with Him, obeying Him. When Christ has guided a church to do a particular thing He will provide the necessary resources, staff, and "political will" of the people to do whatever it takes, no matter what. Yet when the church seeks to do something that is not of Him, even the simplest, easiest tasks will sap the people of their joy, strength, and peace.

 

God is pleased with and will bless churches that are morally pure.

Christians still are in their sin flesh (Romans 7:13). Though they have the Holy Spirit and have been gifted with the ability to actually deny the lusts of the flesh, they are still susceptible to the influence of the power of the adversary (Romans 8:13). Sadly, all people—even committed Christians—will sin in this life. Only when we stand before the Lord will we truly understand how much of our life was tainted with pride, evil intentions, selfishness, and ways and means that were not of the Lord. Yet even within these aspects of sin, the church cannot allow manifest sin to exist within its membership (2 Corinthians 6:14). When Paul went to Thessalonica he not only preached evangelistically, but he also implored the hearers to walk in a manner worthy of God, His kingdom, and His glory (1 Thessalonians 2:12).

When a Christian allows sin in his own life or if a church allows sin, their relationship with God becomes stunted. Indeed, the scriptures attest that if church members are not crucifying their flesh, they will suffer the damage from sinful people. The Bible says, “One sinner destroys much good (Ecclesiastes 9:18)” and “Dead flies make a perfumer’s oil stink, so a little foolishness is weightier than wisdom and honor (Ecclesiastes 10:1).” Psalm 66:18 says, “If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear.” Isaiah 59:2 says, “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.” Sin in the church impacts the whole body of believers. Just as the sin of Achan caused the defeat of the Israelites in Joshua 7, sin in the church saps it of its spiritual power and holy influence in the community. Thus, sin must be dealt with and constantly cut off from the community of believers (1 Peter 1:15-16).

This can be done in several ways. First, those who commit manifest outright sins must not be allowed into membership of the church in the first place (1 Corinthians 5:9-13; 2 Corinthians 6:14). Therefore, for example, the church cannot allow into its membership active homosexuals, unrepentant adulterers, people living together, unrepentant alcoholics and drug users, those who are known to lie, swindle, cheat etc (1 John 3:10; 2 Peter 2:9-19; Romans 1:28-2:2). These areas of sin, and more, can be seen by the world and it would defame the name of Christ to call them members of a particular church. Though they cannot be allowed into membership, they are greatly encouraged to come to the worship services—especially if they are unsaved (1 Corinthians 5:10).

The next manner of dealing with sin is through the faithful preaching of God's word on difficult topics that relate to sin (Galatians 4:6). Churches members who do not want a pastor not preach on certain topics that are dealt with in scripture have automatically set themselves out of the way of Christ's blessings (2 Timothy 4:3-4). How could Christ bless a church that won't teach His commandments—especially since His final exhortation to the disciples was to teach the world all that He commanded (2 Timothy 4:2)?

Another level of rooting out sin is to cultivate intimate fellowship groups where there is a time when the men and women separate and meet together for openness and accountability (James 5:16). These are wonderful environments to openly discuss sins that one might be struggling with and seek to bear one another's burdens. We can, as the body of Christ, seek to encourage and edify each other along the way towards becoming like Christ (Hebrews 10:24).

Another means towards dealing with sin is to encourage, develop, and train men and women to engage in one-on-one discipleship. Scripture shows how the older believers (spiritually) should meet with the younger to teach them how to live godly lives. These occasions are precious in the body of Christ and can be a wonderful time for a mature, loving brother or sister in the Lord to pull their young believer aside and point out a sin that perhaps was otherwise unnoticed. This can be a wonderful time not only point out the error, but offer much counsel on how to overcome it—and not only counsel, but also the encouragement and accountability necessary to ultimately overcome the sin.

The Holy Spirit is active amongst the fellowship of the saints, seeking to sharpen one's thoughts, transform one's mind, renew one's heart, and inspire one's faith. So often the Holy Spirit specifically uses the fellowship of believers who are open and transparent before one another to grow one's Christlikeness. Thus these times of intimacy and transparency must be established, cultivated and trusted to bring about the holiness that God calls us to.

Having said all this, those who refuse to open themselves up to their fellow believers, and those who refuse to surrender their whole lives—mind, action, desires—to the submission of Christ ultimately, after a lengthy period of time, must be removed from the church. For, as indicated in Matthew 18:15-20, if a person refuses to listen to counsel then they ought to be treated as an unbeliever. If they are to be treated as an unbeliever, they can only be welcome to certain church events. If they are particularly factious, or are particularly open in their sin, they must be disassociated with the body of Christ so as not to bring ridicule to the Lord (1st Timothy 2:20; Titus 3:10-11).

Christ came to those who needed a physician, and we are all in desperate need of His transforming work in our lives and we will never be rid of this body of sin until we step into the presence of the Lord. Having said this however, Christ also never accepted those who rejected Him. Christ never endorsed those who remained in their open sins. When speaking to the paralytic who was healed, Christ said, “Do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you (John 5:14).” True, Christ rejected the pharisaical legalism of His day, yet He never embraced and condoned sin either. Jesus called the people to repent and repenting means to recognize and give up the sins that have separated us from God (Luke 5:32, 13:3, 24:47). In our desire to be Christ's body on the Earth, we need to have His balance. There are times when a particularly new believer needs to be given a measure of grace. However, over time they will need to be called upon to surrender their lifestyles to that which the Lord would have them live.

 

God is pleased with and blesses churches that use the giftedness that He gives to His people in a manner that He intends.

 

The local church is the Lord’s church. It is not the elder’s church, nor the pastor’s church, it is the Lord’s. He is working His will through the lives of the believers to bring about glory to Himself (Philippians 2:13). Certainly He is working on behalf of His people and one of the greatest ways that a believer can honor God is by using the life God has given to him or her for His glory. God is working out all things for His glory (Ephesians 1:12, 14). If He worked for anything else then He would have placed something above Himself—and this is impossible because nothing is greater that God.

Having said this, the church is working out God’s will here on Earth. Since God knows what’s going on, He also knows the tools and circumstances that need to be in place to accomplish His will. Therefore He gives to the church spiritual gifts—abilities that enable His people to serve Him (1 Peter 4:10; Ephesians 4:11-16). The church that actively recognizes how God has gifted its members and seeks to use those gifts in the manner that He desires will be blessed by God as they are used by God (1 Timothy 4:14).

 

God is pleased with and blesses churches that are set-up in a manner that He intends, are run as He desires, and operate in His strength.

 

To be blessed, one must live as God would have them to live. The same is true for the church. Each community of believers must put into faith and practice those things that God has spoken in His Word. Often in the past, churches have been afraid to let God’s Word stand and have Him lead the church. Thus they have devised various man-made regulations to help fix a problem in case the situation gets out of God’s control. Certainly these well-meaning saints in the past had good reasons for their skepticism for what good was in mankind. However, all this extra baggage has ended up limiting the influence of Christ in a church. The old adage “It’s not how much of the Holy Spirit you have, but rather how much of you the Holy Spirit has” works just as true in the church. When a church is wholly given over the Lord doing things only as He will, including church government and structure, then the Lord is truly able to bless the community as He sees fit. Churches that see a tremendous outpouring of God’s blessing are not entangled in man-centered rules and regulations that seek to legislate every detail of church government to the point that Christ is no longer necessary.

Question #3: How can a church stop being blessed by God?

 

Link(Click here to return to Contents)

Finally, in light of all that has been said this final question must be asked. The following serve as several possible reasons why God would become displeased with a church. A valuable exercise for any church is to carefully study the factors that led to God’s displeasure of the seven churches listed in the first three chapters of Revelation. Essentially, a church that displeases God reverses some or all that has been stated so far. That being the case, God will become displeased with and stop blessing any church that:

1)      Acts like a legitimate church even though their heretical doctrine and sinful ways show that they are really a synagogue of Satan (Revelation 2:9).

2)      Stops following His will and is spiritually dead and asleep (Revelation 3:1-3).

3)      Allows sinful doctrines into the church (Revelation 2:14).

4)      Allows sin to enter into the church and fall from the love of God (Revelation 2:5).

5)      Allows false teaching and false prophecy in the church (Revelation 2:20).

6)      Is lukewarm (Revelation 3:16).

7)      Is caught up in the love of the world (Revelation 3:17-18).

8)      Brings shame to His name.

9)      Stops being connected to Him through prayer.

10)  Ruins its theology by emphasizing things about Him that are not true (Ezekiel 13:1-8).

11)  Is based upon theological error, moral impurity, or deceit (1 Thessalonians 2:3).

12)  Has leadership more concerned about pleasing men than pleasing God (1 Thessalonians 2:6).

13)  Quenches the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19).

14)  Approves of sin (Romans 1:32).

 

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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