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Displaying items by tag: philosophy of ministry

Intentional Ministry

Developing a “Vision Statement” for Your Church (Ugh, the term “Vision” is so annoying)

Introduction:

Imagine this familiar scene: Your church is having a late night leadership meeting. During the meeting one member has a great idea that they can’t wait to share. This person is bubbling up with enthusiasm for their idea. They finally get their chance to tell the whole group and...whoosh, you can feel the life being sucked out of the room. This good-natured person is certain their idea would solve all the problems. But instead it falls flat. It's DOA. Not well-received. Not embraced.

What happened? Often, the root stems from a lack of unity around the mission, objectives, goals and tactics of an organization. More than likely, the person’s “great idea” was actually a “tactic” (more on that below). In their mind, their tactic satisfied the goals of the organization, its objectives, and its mission. But the rest of the committee couldn’t see the connection or didn’t believe it would be effective. Perhaps they had different goals in mind. Perhaps they had different objectives. Perhaps, even, they had a different sense of the mission of the church.

When this occurs, the results can be disastrous. Hopefully the unity of the group absorbs this challenge and handles the moment with kindness and forbearance and manages to press forward. But all too often these disheartened committee members are so discouraged by having their “great idea” rejected that they resign from the committee and perhaps leave the church.

The solution to these problems can often boil down to good, clear leadership. The church needs a clear, objective plan of action. The church needs direction. And the leadership board is tasked with establishing the mission and objectives while working with the ministry leaders to figure out the goals and tactics. Without this formula; the pursuits of the church often end up being driven by expedience, ease, or whoever has the strongest personality and most influence. The church ends up being led by arbitrary forces that can be hit or miss in terms of effectiveness, rather than proceeding according to a prayerful intentional plan of action.

The church needs leadership to develop a plan for intentional ministry. This happens when the leaders prayerfully determine the “right” things to do, and then work with the ministry leaders to fulfill these objectives. This produces unity and joy within the church body.

This essay are my thoughts on how to develop a plan for intentional ministry.

Is this about developing a “Vision”? Below are some of my thoughts about how to unify the church around a common mission statement, set of objectives, measurable goals and specific tactics. However, before I explain each term, you may notice the relative absence of the term “Vision”. This is because the result of the work that follows comprises the “Vision Statement”—I prefer to view this as intentional ministry because I find the term “vision” widely misunderstood and often confused with other elements that comprise well-thought through ministry.

Churches often misunderstand the difference between a “Mission” (and the ensuing objectives, goals, tactics) and “Vision”. Sometimes the church’s mission will even be called its “Vision”. This ends up further confusing the matter. What’s worse, sometimes churches will cast a “Vision” statement though it’s is really a list of tactics—things that the pastor hopes to do one day. It’s not uncommon for a pastor to be considered one who has lots of “Vision” just because he can dream up all kinds of things for the church to do. This is not having vision, it’s a pipe-dream and unless its tied to the church’s mission, objectives and goals, it ends up frustrating the rest of the leadership.

So again, the “Vision” is the overall picture of how to do the ministry of the church. It’s not a single element of the church’s ideas for ministry, it’s everything.

Mission Statements, Objectives, Measurable Goals, Specific Tactics

Mission: Before anything else can happen, the elders need to identify the “mission” of the church. The “mission” speaks to why the church exists. It is the fundamental purpose of the church. A good mission statement is ultra-succinct, not just to make it memorable, but because the mission is, by definition, the foundational purpose of the church.

Church mission statements will probably follow something along the lines that the church exists to obey and glorify God, build disciples, reach the community, etc. Although some churches might add additional thoughts, most mission statements will contain these elements.

Longer mission statements occur (I believe improperly) when they are cluttered with “objectives” and “goals” which we’ll talk about below. Objectives and goals are vital to the process, but they must be kept in their proper place. Likewise, sometimes mission statements are amplified with flowery verbiage. Not only does this make them unnecessarily long, but it decreases the power of the succinct mission statement.

Ideally, the mission can be boiled down to a slogan such as “Exalt, Edify, Engage” or “Connecting _______ (the target community) to the Lord.” The slogan should be stated in a manner that encapsulates the mission statement in a memorable and easily understood phrase. This this is presented in the church publications (print and online) so that each member and visitor understands the mission and can carry it forward in their own lives while telling others about why they should come to that particular church.

Once the mission is framed out, the leaders needs to prayerfully determine what objectives they need to accomplish in order to fulfill their vision.

Objectives: Objectives frame out how the church will fulfill its mission statement. It’s about what the church does. It answers the question: what must we do and be in order to fulfill this mission statement? Sometimes this is called the “purposes” of the church. Objectives (or purposes) of biblical churches consists of things like worship, instruction, fellowship, evangelism, and service. They can also contain affirmations of core principles of the church. They may even contain the kinds of ministries offered, or the manner in which they are offered.

Objectives demonstrate how the church fulfills the mission. The “mission” covers why the church exists, the objectives covers how the church does this.

Goals: Once objectives are established, they need to then be broken down into measurable goals. Goals are the detailed items that need to accomplish the church’s objectives. Goals must be specific, measurable and attainable. A goal that is unmeasurable is at best an “objective”, but more likely just a hope, dream, ambition or desire. Either way, an unmeasurable “goal” is not a goal.

One of the most common ways to establish goals is to do a S.W.O.T. analysis. S.W.O.T. stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. During this phase, the leaders need to list each objective of the church and prayerfully discuss its Strengths: what has the Lord given and blessed? Weaknesses: how can we develop the church to meet this objective? Opportunities: where has the Lord given us solutions that moves us forward in reaching the objective? Threats: are there real-live issues or problems that might threaten our ability to reach this objective?

In working through a SWOT analysis, the leadership can begin to assess the goals needed for the upcoming year. Goals should be those that can truly be attained. Unrealistic goals end up discouraging those in leadership. (In some cases, “unrealistic” goals are actually objectives and can be put in that section).

Along these ideas, when formulating goals, various items ought to be considered. For instance, the elders should have a clear sense of what God expects of a mature Christian. This can include matters of knowledge (e.g theology, Christian living, etc), aspects of personal piety kinds & frequency of prayer, certain passions (for the lost, homeless, widows), etc. The leadership should also discuss what the church wants to accomplish in local and overseas missions. Moreover, when thinking about goals, the elders can (and should) work with the ministry leaders to prayerfully identify what the specific ministry needs to accomplish.

Sometimes goals are too “high”—they might be measurable and attainable, but not likely achievable with the current dynamics of the situation. Perhaps the ministry leaders lack the skill to accomplish these goals. Perhaps the facility simply can’t support these goals. In this case, the goal needs to be pulled from the overall vision statement so as not to needlessly discourage the church and/or leaders. They can, however, be a part of the leadership discussion for forward thinking down the road.

Likewise, goals should be framed keeping spiritual realities in mind. Leaders need to avoid falling into the trap of establishing attendance numbers as goals (e.g. that the Sunday School ministry needs to have 100 people coming out). Ministry is a spiritual endeavor. We must factor in the battle between the work of God and the work of Satan. Faithful ministry infused with God’s grace might not achieve man’s number-driven goals. It might be unwise and impractical to require the youth group to grow by 50 kids next year. If the youth group is actually teaching biblical truth, there may instead be an uprising of students who reject the group. Conversely, it is possible for a youth group to grow (and thereby “succeed”) because it is actually being unfaithful to the church’s overall vision statement. Thus, generally speaking, ministries should avoid using attendance numbers as goals. They can, however, establish goals for the content taught, the number of events offered, or staff training, or the kinds of ministries & programs offered, etc. Therefore, goals need to be framed in terms of spiritual objectives while avoiding attendance goals.

This whole process can be facilitated with a brainstorming session(s). During this session, the mission and objectives are reviewed and potential goals are discussed. Generally they can be added to the list—regardless of their merit in a brainstorming fashion. Then they are discussed in terms of best fulfilling the church’s mission and objectives. Finally, the leadership prayerfully decides which “goals” best become the action plan for that particular ministry during that particular year.

Lastly, as mentioned already, the church board should discuss the ministry goals on an annual basis. Often a leader will want to accomplish a certain “goal” that is not feasible for a variety of reasons. This goal can be tabled, or placed on the long-range planning list, for a future year evaluation. If the leadership board evaluates this vision statement on an annual basis, then the members can have a sense that when God provides, that goal might be revisited. This allows for maturing & developing thoughts to be folded into the action plan of the church. This also preserves unity because one leader’s passion might be put on hold for a year (or more) but then as the other leaders come to see the need, or as the dynamics allow, that tabled goal may one day be put added to the Vision Statement. In some cases, a particular goal may be placed on the goal list not as a “goal” to accomplish, but rather the goal is for the board to come to a unified conclusion as to whether or not that goal should be on the church’s future list of action steps. Following this procedure, Lord willing, unity will be maintained along the way.

Tactics: Next, the board needs to work with the ministry leaders to set in place tactics that can be implemented to accomplish those goals. Tactics are the specific action items that will bring about the goals. They can range from theoretical to ultra-specific. This is where the elder board can meet with the ministry leaders, explain the church’s vision and objectives, and work with the ministry leaders to establish goals and tactics that fulfill the mission and objectives.

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for ministry leaders to skip over objectives and goals and go right to tactics. This is where disunity begins to rear its head. Good leadership is needed—not to control the ministry leader’s thinking, but to affirm the mission and objectives of the church and then help identify tactics to accomplish the goals. Without building on this common ground; tactics can quickly become “this-is-my-favorite-idea” action points that leads to frustration and discouragement for everyone involved.

When leaders lay the groundwork of the church’s mission, objective and goals, working out the tactics becomes fun and exciting; particularly because many levels of leadership can be involved. The elders can give the mission & objectives to the ministry leader. The ministry leader then calls a meeting for his or her ministry team. They go over the mission and objectives (and goals) as given by the elders, but then seek to establish tactics that fulfill the church vision. In this way, each ministry has the freedom and latitude to let their gifts, skills and desires fold into the overall direction of the church.

Evaluation: This final step is as important as all the preceding ones—without it, the above items are a waste of time and energy. Intentional ministry means establishing the direction of the church and then making modifications along the way. Thus, every year the ministry goals and tactics of the church should be evaluated to determine their effectiveness; not to criticize ministries and leaders, but to ensure that the church is actually accomplishing its mission and objectives. Without evaluation, churches get bogged down in sacred cows and the classic “this is how we’ve always done it” kind of thinking. Tactics that don’t work need to be discarded. Goals that have been met need to be celebrated and replaced with new ones. New ideas need to be folded in. New dynamics need to be identified. With each passing year, the church will move the body forward in attaining their mission and objectives.

This is intentional ministry: establishing the mission, identifying the objectives, determining the goals to fulfill the objectives, developing and initiating appropriate tactics, and then evaluating them for their effectiveness.

Communicating with the Church

Once the above areas of development are identified, the leaders can begin to map out the best avenues to teach these principles to the congregation. This instruction needs to take three primary forms.

First, the congregation needs to understand the overall objectives and purpose of the church. They need to understand that there are areas of spiritual development that God expects of them, and that they are accountable to Him to develop.

Second, the congregation needs to be taught on the particular objectives themselves. These items can be taught in venues such as Small Groups, Sunday School, conferences, etc. Each year, the elders should evaluate what was taught in light of what should be taught to confirm that indeed the overall objectives of the church are being furthered.

Third, the congregation needs to be told why the church is doing what it does (and not something else). Some goals for each ministry (probably not all) need to be given to the church and explained. The church needs to understand how that ministry operates in harmony with the overall church mission and objectives. This will help them know how they can support that ministry and keep it before the Lord in prayer. Once they see the intentional design for a particular ministry, some people may even decide to be involved furthering that vision statement. But they won’t likely get involved if they don’t know what the ministry objectives and goals are. Moreover, if they DO want to be involved in a ministry without knowing the church’s vision statement, they might be looking for a place to live out their own “vision” which leads back into the overall problem of disunity.

Communication of the overall mission statement is not just a matter of good organizational dynamics, it’s a matter of being diligent to preserve the bond of unity.

Conclusion:

Does this sound like a lot of work? It doesn’t have to be. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Several books, articles and handouts are already available to help in this process.

God bless you as you seek to closer align God’s church with God’s word.

So those are my thoughts, I’d love to hear yours.

Grace and peace, Russ


Mission, Objectives, Goals, Tactics Worksheet

 

What is the mission of the church?

 

What objectives must be in place to accomplish this mission?

1)

2)

3)

4)

5)

Take each objective and establish specific goals and tactics that need to be accomplished in order for that objective to take place.

Objective #1:

a) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

b) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

c) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

 

Objectives #2

a) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

b) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

c) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

Objectives #3

a) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

b) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

c) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

Objectives #4

a) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

b) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

c) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

Objectives #5

a) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

b) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

c) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

 

(1) Evaluation:

Published in Blog
Saturday, 31 December 2011 10:26

Complaining About Ministry?

Complaining About Ministry

One of the more interesting Old Testament Minor Prophets is Malachi—sometimes known as the “Italian Prophet” (that’s a joke!). The book of Malachi speaks the words of God and calls the people back to pure devotion to the Lord.

Malachi covers a wide variety of topics that are symptomatic of waning devotion and he begins with the heart condition of the priests. The priests were the spiritual leaders of the people. In numerous places, they were called to shepherd the people and feed the people on knowledge and understanding (Jeremiah 3:15, 23:4, etc).

Yet in the first chapter of Malachi, the Lord brings His first condemnation on the priests because as they “go”, so do the people. It’s a case of the proverbial, “Fish rot from the head.”

In chapter 1, verse 6 the Lord calls out the priests for presenting defiled sacrifices to the Lord. According to verse 8, they were offering blind sacrifices. These imperfect sacrifices pointed to a heart condition far more serious than might be otherwise seen. First of all, an imperfect sacrifice communicates the message to God and the public that the Lord does not deserve our best; we can take shortcuts with God because other priorities trump Him. Second, it also communicates God is not concerned with the best; He Himself is sloppy and therefore accepts sloppy service.

Third, it communicates the sins being atoned are not all that bad. To understand this third point, we need to remember the sacrifices in the Old Testament were an ongoing object-lesson of covering over sins with innocent blood. Because of his sins, the worshipper could not be in fellowship with God; the worshipper’s sins were odious in the sight of the Lord and created a separation between them (Isaiah 59:2). However, if these sins were covered over by the righteous, innocent blood (life) of the animal (Leviticus 17:11), then the Lord would be shielded from their offence and once again, the sinner could have a relationship with the Lord (Leviticus 16:30).

But, if the priest was offering imperfect sacrifices, this pointed to the underlying notion that the person’s sins were not that bad, and any old sacrifice would suffice. I’m sure they even reasoned within themselves saying, “Aren’t all animals innocent? This blind goat is just as good.”

So clearly, presenting imperfect sacrifices to the Lord was a terrible action and one that led the people to stray in their hearts.

Another cutting accusation against the priests is found in chapter 1, verse 13. The Lord says the priests were complaining about the burden of their ministry. They were saying, “My, how tiresome it is!” Wow, these are seriously cutting words because who hasn’t made similar statements? Who hasn’t looked at their workload and their competing priorities and felt their particular challenges were daunting and difficult to bear? Have we gone so far as to utter words like these? No doubt, we have all felt this from time to time and felt the temptation to speak what was in our heart.

The Hebrew word in Malachi 1:13 points to a more sinister disdain for the work of God. It’s the word “mtela’a” which speaks to a weariness with a sense of frustration. Its root word (tela’a) contains the implication that the source of the weariness is something objectionable to begin with. In other words, it’s as if the priests were worn out (and telling people as much) from their labors and deep down in their hearts, they didn’t feel they should have to do the work to begin with!

This frightening warning should resound in the ears of God’s servants. From time to time, I hear of God's people who declare their weariness with their work for the Lord. I can understand their heart ache.

For pastors, the preaching regime turns the week into just two days: Sunday and all the other days morphing into one. The phone calls come in constantly—the important ones are okay, it’s the incidental calls late, at home, that exasperate us. There are countless meetings to be attended. People with frustratingly myopic perspectives squander our time on crazy hobby horses. 

For ministry leaders, often they have to deal with difficult people. Often the volunteers take "vacations" without proper notice. Efforts become sloppy, quality suffers.

I agree and understand these challenges are real, but at the heart of this rebuke are these underlying principles that we must remember:

1) The Lord deals patiently with His people 24/7 without rest or break. If there was ever a person legitimately called to complain about the “mtela’a” of His job, it’s the Lord. Yet He is patient with us, ever giving of Himself to us. As His servants, we must reflect this aspect of His nature.

2) The Lord’s work is holy. It’s a serious, solemn, high work. It’s a holy work that endures into eternity. No matter how mundane the task, when done to the Lord, it is holy (Zech 14:21 speaks to this principle).

3) The weary heart betrays a fleshly heart. Philippians 2:13 explains the principle that God is at work in us “both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” The Greek word “work” here is “energios” and it has the idea of “energy”—the heart of the meaning is that God will supply the “energios” for the tasks that He has set before us. If we are surrendered to Him, we will have His grace pumping into our souls, providing the ability and the energy to do His will. Yet the person who is wearied by the work has either a) distanced himself from fellowship with the Lord, or b) taken on tasks and challenges not of God—we can do this in many ways: by demanding an outcome not inline with the Lord, by fearing people and saying “yes” when we should have said “no”, by squandering our time on non-priorities so we must add hours to our work day to finish our real responsibilities. I could go on, but these three cover a lot of territory.

So, in our pastoral ministry, we have many responsibilities. We are to “shepherd the flock of God…exercising oversight…according to the will of God…with eagerness (1 Pet 5:2).” We do this by taking “care of the church of God” (1 Tim 3:5) specifically as we “preach the word…reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction (2 Tim 4:2).” All of this being done with an eye to equip “the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ (Eph 4:12) so the final result is we “present every man complete in Christ (Col 1:28).”

This is a very high calling. This is a high privilege. This is an utterly holy endeavor. No doubt there are seeds of bitterness waiting to take root and grow in our hearts. In each of our ministries, there are challenges and frustrations that tempt us to utter “My, how tiresome it is”. But these words are sinful; they come from the flesh and are rooted in a fleshly perspective. Yet like all sins, they can be crucified by the Holy Spirit as we offer up our idols to God and confess that we would rather serve them that Him. In His mercy and grace, He will accept our confession and cleanse us from this sin (1 John 1:9).

May God’s grace strengthen you and equip you in your service to Him.

Those are some of my thoughts, I’d love to hear yours.

Published in Blog
Friday, 18 November 2011 12:35

Revitalizing a Church

Here's a great article that was emailed to me:


The church I pastor, the Summit Church, was planted in 1962. In 2001, however, the Summit Church (then Homestead Heights Baptist Church) was a plateaued, declining Baptist church. The current pastor had been asked to resign after being caught in immorality. The pastor prior to him had unsuccessfully attempted to impose a Willow Creek model, and the pastor prior to him was a theological moderate. When I arrived, the church was in its fourth straight year of attendance and offering decline, and the outlook was bleak.

FIVE LIFE-GIVING FACTORS

Only God brings life to dead things. But here are five lessons I learned that I believe contributed to our church’s revitalization.

1. Inward transformation drives external change.

Just as external moralistic changes cannot transform the human heart, so external changes to a church’s programs or structures cannot revitalize a church. You might as well try to bending a metal rod without first heating it. It will either resist change altogether, or simply snap in two.

Internal change in the believer happens only through the preaching of the gospel. People become willing to extend themselves to reach others as they learn more about God and what he has done.

There is a time to push change and a time just to preach Jesus. It takes wisdom to know what to do when. A church that has its “first love” (Rev. 2:1–10) is likely to undergo even the most uncomfortable changes to complete the mission.

As the Summit Church developed a love for the lost, changing our structures to reach more people became relatively easy.

2. Do not underestimate the power of momentum.

It is easier to change churches that are growing, just like it is easier to steer a bike that is moving. In any organization, including a church, momentum can provide the capital you need to purchase change. Sun Tzu, author of the 2500 year old military classic Art of War, said that momentum is a general’s most valuable ally. Small armies can win great victories if they know how to build it.

You might consider focusing first on changing those things that are hindering the church from growing. When growth is happening, you’ll find it easier to change the other things. As people experience the joy of new believers being born into their midst, they become more willing to shift away from what is comfortable for them and into what is effective at reaching others.

Further, in most cases I would encourage you to spend more time developing the people who are with you than engaging those who are against you. Momentum and excitement often silence opposition. So instead of spending a lot of time putting out fires, you might want to start one of your own.

When I first got to the Summit, there were a number of problems we chose to ignore, at least for the time being. These included dress code, music style, the length of the services, and an inefficient (and in some ways unbiblical) constitution. We changed a few key things that we knew would signal a new day in the church, and we set a couple of big goals for some upcoming outreaches. When we reached those goals, we made a big deal of celebrating God’s faithfulness in them. After one of these outreaches, we baptized our first African-American believer. An older gentleman who would later become the chairman of our elder board came up to me with tears in his eyes and said, “Son, I’m not crazy about a lot of these changes you are making. But if that is a taste of what we are going to get, count me in.”

During that first year I baptized an exchange student from another country. I happened to speak her native language (having lived in her country for a couple of years), and so I conducted her baptism in that language. After that, I probably could have suggested that we all stand on our heads in church and people would have gone along with it. Within two years, we had changed our dress code, sold our property, and re-written our constitution, all without a dissenting vote. Had I suggested those things during the first year, it would have been a bloodbath. But after we had gained momentum, they changed naturally.

Win a few evangelism “battles,” and then celebrate them. Isn’t that what we see the psalmists doing both to strengthen their own souls and to inspire a vision for the future? In Psalm 48, the sons of Korah tell Israel, “Walk about Zion, go around her, number her towers, consider well her ramparts, go through her citadels, that you may tell the next generation that this is God, our God forever and ever.”

3. Beware of fighting battles that lead you nowhere.

A third lesson is tied to the second. Beware of fighting battles, no matter how worthy, that gain you little strategic ground.

Some battles (often worthy battles!) won’t help you in the bigger “war” of revitalization. Often, if you postpone them, you can win them later without shedding a drop of blood—on either side. Know which battles to fight when.

I’ve noticed that leaders who are perfectionists tend to have trouble with this principle, because they can’t distinguish “the right” from “the expedient.” We sometimes forget it’s not about winning battles, it’s about leading people.

The Apostle Paul seemed to understand this. Sometimes he let people malign his character; other times he defended his apostleship. Sometimes he brought himself into conformity to the law; other times he publicly rebuked those who refused to embrace their freedom. His grid for engagement was what was strategic for the mission (1 Cor. 9:19-27; Gal. 2:11-15).

Of course this does not mean we ever tolerate open sin or substantial doctrinal corruption in the church. It just means that we fight the right battles at the right times.

4. Create a sending culture.

In my opinion, creating a sending culture is essential to revitalizing a church. Churches that are revitalized see themselves as communities on mission with God, not as country clubs for Christians.

One very practical thing you can do to encourage this mentality is to send as many people on short-term mission trips as possible. Few things open our eyes to missional living like spending time with missionaries overseas. The more that mentality gets into the bloodstream of the church, the more church members become willing to apply missional principles to their own context.

During our first two years we sent an inordinate amount of our people and leaders overseas. It cost a lot of money and took up valuable time, but it did two things. First, it raised the level of generosity in our church. Having seen the needs on the field, the people gave. The trips may have cost us a lot of money, but they paid for themselves many times over. Second, it made our people ask themselves if we were laboring to reach our city the same way that missionaries overseas were laboring to reach theirs.

When you create a sending culture in your church, you will likely lose some of your best people to a church plant or a missions assignment. But don’t be afraid; the sending culture creates more leaders to take their place. It has worked for us like the five loaves and two fish: the more we give away, the more is multiplied and given back to us.

5. Lead your people to yearn.

The French mystic Antoine de Saint Exupéry once said, “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” As people yearn for the salvation of the world they will not only put up with the changes you propose, but will probably instigate a few of their own as well. That’s when the church is really revitalized.

Again, it is the preaching of the gospel that creates this yearning. The gospel makes us stand in awe of Jesus, who was rich, yet for our sakes became poor. It moves us to pour ourselves out for others as he has poured himself out for us. The gospel awakens people from their middle class slumber to follow Jesus as he seeks and saves the lost. It moves them to love the poor, the stranger, and the outcast.

The gospel teaches us to see the world through the lens of the compassionate God demonstrated at the cross and revealed in the resurrection. The gospel fills us with audacious faith, making us (in the words of William Carey) “expect great things of God and then attempt great things for God.”

The gospel makes us yearn to see the glory of God cover the earth like the waters cover the sea. It gives us a passion for his kingdom that outweighs our comfort with the status quo. As the gospel has become more of the center of our church, I have seen our people do the most amazing things—from moving from richer neighborhoods into poorer ones, to adopting unwanted children, to loving refugees, to sharing Christ with their neighbors.

So personally dwell on the gospel. Meditate on it until it burns in your breast and you can’t contain it. Then preach it, letting it do the work of revitalization.

J.D. Greear is lead pastor of the Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina and the author of Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary (B&H, 2011).

November/December 2011
© 9Marks

Published in Blog
Monday, 12 September 2011 08:57

Peddling the Word of God

2 Corinthians 1:12 (NASB95) — 12 For our proud confidence is this: the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you.

2 Corinthians 2:17 (NASB95) — 17 For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God. 

2 Corinthians 3:12 (NASB95) — 12 Therefore having such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech,

(Therefore=context=the conviction that they have the message of God) which then produces boldness of speech. 

2 Corinthians 4:2 (NASB95) — 2 but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. 

2 Corinthians 4:5 (NASB95) — 5 For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. 

2 Corinthians 4:7 (NASB95) — 7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;

2 Corinthians 4:13 (NASB95) — 13 But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed, therefore I spoke,” we also believe, therefore we also speak,

2 Corinthians 4:11 (NASB95) — 11 For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

2 Corinthians 4:15 (NASB95) — 15 For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God.




 

Published in Verse Lists
Monday, 06 September 2010 08:28

Side-Stepping Popularity

John chapter 6 contains the well known account of Jesus feeding the 5000. This amazing story demonstrates that Jesus as God has the ability to create something from nothing. In other, more fancy words, Jesus has the power to create ex nihilo. He has the ability to bring atoms into existence and fashion them together to form real objects. All without touching them. His command, His will, His word is enough that nature follows.

Likewise, just after the account of the Feeding of the 5000, John's Gospel then provides the account of Jesus walking on water. This is another example of His divine capabilities as His will causes nature to be rearranged so that normal properties of water are changed and He is able to walk upon it.

While these are amazing feats of awesome command, I want to highlight a side comment made my John in 6:15--"So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone."

What I find convicting about this verse is the clear principle that not all popularity is good, right or rightly motivated. In this situation, the people wanted to make Jesus their King. To my fleshly mind that sounds like a complete success for His objectives--finally, He's demonstrated His truth and power and the people have seen and believed. They have turned to Him in droves. They are ready for their King Messiah. Quite possibly, His number of supporters has now outweighed His detractors. You would think that Jesus is ready to take Airforce One and land on the aircraft carrier triumphantly declaring "Mission Accomplished!"

But that's not what Jesus did. Instead, He withdrew from them and went to the mountains to be alone. Fascinating. What did He do? Well, we can gather from other passages that at times such as this, Jesus withdrew to be alone to pray. To be alone to seek God, to commune with Him, to maintain fellowship with Him and His divine will. Had Jesus not done this, the whole atonement/redemption of humanity would have been lost. God's divine plan and purpose for the life of Christ did not include of brief hiatus of kingship on that side of the cross.

You see, there are times when popularity is not a good thing. There are times when God's will is not that we are well received or well regarded by the general populous. There are times that accolades and praises are actually put in the hearts and mouths of people as a tool of Satan to tempt and deceive us. There are times that giving into to the will of the people is turning away from the will of God. Yikes, that is shuddering, especially for pastors.

I often wonder why God grants success to some pastors and not to others. I think these principles about popularity have something to do with it. On the one hand, there are charlatans who have so manufactured success that they are far from the will and blessing of God. And on the other hand, there are pastors who have followed Christ so purely that they have kept away from people-pleasing and thus their ministries are relatively small. But in between these two groups is (what I suspect) the largest group. This middle group is full of pastors like me--pastors who are still learning these principles of popularity and success.

I think that the pastorate is rife with men who need to learn when success is valid or when it is invalid and I have a hunch that one of the most pivotal reasons why God has not given them success is because they are still developing the proper wisdom and discernment to know when to walk away from the crowds. Because their own convictions and reasoning is so easily led astray, and not yet fully and steadily trained on the absolute will of God, God has not (indeed CANNOT) grant them success, for success would lead them away from the work He has called them to do. 

Now of course, I'm not saying this as one who has mastered it, but rather one who is still learning to not interpret the applause as synonymous with success, to break away from the people and to meet with God and be sure that His will is being done, rather than the people's will.

Just some thoughts, I'd love to hear some of yours...

Blessings to you!
Published in Blog

Statement of Beliefs

The Bible

The Bible, both Old and New Testaments, is the Word of God,[1] with every word verbally inspired by God[2] and absolutely true in everything it affirms[3]—in  faith, practice, life, and the cosmos (though accommodating the moment or the understanding of the hearers). It was written over approximately 1400 years by God's inspired prophets.[4] It contains everything necessary for life, godliness and salvation[5] for all mankind.[6] God has written it so that His people might keep it [7] and observe it fully and precisely[8] and thus it is fully authoritative over every person’s life. [9] We are not to question the Word of God, as Satan did,[10] but rather we are to accept every word because to refuse the Word of God is the refuse God Himself. [11]


God

There is only one God[12]—the eternal,[13] invisible[14] creator[15], perfect in all His ways[16] consisting of three distinct persons[17]: the Father,[18] the Son,[19] and the Holy Spirit.[20] Each member of the Trinity is co-equal, co-eternal, yet functioning according to different roles. God is omniscient knowing all things that were, are, will be and could be.[21] God is omnipotent, omnipresent,[22] never changing,[23] never losing power.[24] God is merciful,[25] compassionate,[26] loving,[27] and forgiving.[28] God is also holy,[29] righteous,[30] and has wrath towards those who sin.[31] And it is in Him that we live, move, and exist. [32]

 

Jesus

Jesus is God,[33] the Second Person of the Trinity.[34] Being the essence, God, He has all the attributes of God that make God, God. He is the exact representation of God,[35] the Logos,[36] and our omniscient[37] Creator.[38] He was conceived of the Holy Spirit,[39] became flesh,[40] was born of the Virgin Mary,[41] and was both fully man[42] and fully God.[43] Jesus was sent by the Father[44] specifically to reveal the Father[45] and to restore man's relationship to God[46] as the Messiah,[47] the Savior,[48] to be a propitiation for our sins.[49] He lived a sinless life[50] and died[51] on a cross for humanity’s sins.[52] He is the only way of salvation.[53] After He died, He was buried,[54] but three days later[55] was raised bodily,[56] seen by many,[57] dwelt with the disciples for forty days,[58] and visibly ascended to heaven[59] where He sat at the right hand of the Father[60] and currently shares all authority, glory, and power[61] with the Him.[62]


Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity.[63] He has been sent by the Father[64] and the Son[65] to instruct men in God’s Word,[66] to convict the world of sin,[67] to teach,[68] to testify about Christ,[69] to comfort,[70] and to guide. The Holy Spirit is God’s present means of working in His people.[71] Upon regeneration all believers are baptized by the Holy Spirit and placed into the body of Christ. [72] There is no second baptism of the Spirit although believers can be filled by the Spirit through their obedience.[73] The Holy Spirit gives gifts[74] to each believer to serve the body of Christ,[75] although the revelatory gifts and confirmatory gifts have ceased.[76]


Mankind

Mankind is a creature created by God in His image, [77] and given life by Him.[78] Adam and Eve were real humans first created on the sixth day of creation[79] to dwell in perfection in the Garden of Eden.[80] However, they willfully sinned against God[81] and incurred the curse.[82] All subsequent descendants have inherited condemnation[83] and a sin nature.[84] Sin is lawlessness[85] which has caused all[86] people separation from God.[87] The wages of sin is death.[88] The old nature of man includes being spiritually dead,[89] unable to discern the work of God,[90] and in slavery to sin.[91] Because all men have sinned, they all deserve punishment for their sins in hell.[92] Man, in his sinful state, is utterly unable to know God or be reconciled to Him.[93] Yet God has seen fit to foreordain[94] the election[95] of some men to praise Him throughout eternity.[96]


Salvation

God has foreordained some people for salvation[97] based only upon His goodness and will and not because of anything that we had done or would do.[98] Salvation begins with the foreordination of God, but God’s people first begin to experience salvation when they are regenerated. Regeneration is the transformation of a person’s spirit from death to life so that his intellect[99], will, and emotions[100] now obey the Lord. Salvation is a gift of God because of His grace[101] that results in regeneration[102] by Him[103] through the washing and renewal[104] of the Holy Spirit[105] manifested as faith in Christ.[106] Those who are saved are sealed,[107] are indwelt by the Holy Spirit,[108] and are promised[109] that they are heirs[110] of eternal life. [111] In his spiritually dead state[112], man does not seek after God. Hence there are no true "seekers" [113] because all men are unable to come to God unless God draws them to Himself. [114] Once a person become regenerated, the old man is fully crucified [115] and he has been given a new nature.[116] An order of salvation is presented as following these phases: 1) God predestined some for salvation[117], 2) God called those who were predestined[118], 3) God regenerated those whom He called, 4) God granted those who are regenerated to have fruit evidenced in belief and repentance[119], 5) God justified them on the basis of their faith, 6) God sanctifies them by obedience, and finally 7) God glorifies them upon entering into heaven.


Election, Atonement and Perseverance of the Saints

The basis of salvation is upon the perfect atoning blood of Christ[120] which was shed for all humanity[121] and has propitiated God.[122] Yet some people[123] have been especially[124] called by God to be redeemed,[125] justified,[126] forgiven,[127] and cleansed from sin.[128] This saved believer is progressively[129] sanctified by God[130] through the work of the Holy Spirit[131] as the believer faithfully obeys the Lord.[132] Although perfect sanctification will not occur in this life[133] and the believer awaits[134] being sanctified by Christ,[135] the true believer will persevere[136] until the end.[137]

 

Church

The church the body of Christ[138] made up of individual[139] believers[140] in the Lord Jesus Christ,[141] who have been made alive by the Holy Spirit.[142] Although separate from Israel,[143] the church is a partial participator[144] in the New Covenant[145] yet to be fully realized[146] until the time of the Gentiles is over.[147] The church exists as God's servants[148] to testify[149] of the Gospel, make disciples of Christ,[150] and be God’s pillar which supports Truth in the world.[151] It is to be built up in Christ for the purpose of walking in the good works which God has prepared beforehand.[152] Christ has instituted two ordinances to be observed by the church until His return: believer's[153] baptism[154] by immersion[155] and the Lord's Supper.[156]


Satan

Satan is a fallen angelic being[157] who will one day be shut in and sealed in the abyss,[158] and await eternal punishment in the lake of fire.[159] Although he has already been judged, [160] he is currently active in the world as the prince of the air over the world[161] often manifesting himself as an angel of light—hence he and his forces are behind many modern movements which appear "good" to the world but are contrary to the express purposes of God.[162] He blinds the minds of men,[163] takes advantage of sinful weaknesses of a person,[164] entices people to believe false doctrines,[165] accuses believers,[166] and attempts to hinder the work of God's servants.[167] Although he is not at all omnipresent, [168] his demonic servants are numerous[169] and work according to his own evil schemes,[170] although some have already been bound and await judgment in pits of darkness.[171] Yet Satan has already been rendered powerless by the death of the Lord[172] for the believer who has been given authority[173] over Satan—not to "rebuke" Satan but to rather resist him by submitting to God[174] through the justifying blood of Christ.[175] Modern day manifestations of demonic activity include psychic fortune-telling,[176] some forms of mental illnesses,[177] and witchcraft[178] and magic.[179]


Last Things

On a day[180] or hour[181] not known, Jesus Christ will seal up the church age with His bodily return from the sky together with His holy ones, gather the elect[182] and establish His literal, 1000 year reign.[183] After the millennial reign, the Lord will usher in the New Jerusalem[184] where all the elect will dwell with Christ[185] forever in eternal praise and worship of the Lord.[186] Those whose names are written in the book of life will dwell in heaven, those who do not believe in Christ will dwell eternally in hell. [187] Just as the future blessings are blissful and conscious, likewise the future punishment will be miserable and also conscious.[188]

 

 

 


[1] 1 Thessalonians 2:13 "For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heart from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what is really is, the word of God."

[2] 2 Timothy 3:16 "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate for every good work."

[3] Psalm 119:160 "The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever."

[4] 2 Peter 1:21 "For prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit."

[5] 2 Timothy 3:15 "…and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus."

[6] Romans 16:26 "but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandments of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith."

[7] Jeremiah 11:4 “…Listen to My voice, and do according to all which I command you; so you shall be My people, and I will be your God.”

[8] Deuteronomy 5:32-33 “So you shall observe to do just as the Lord your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right or to the left. You shall walk in all the way which the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live and that it may be well with you…”

[9] Psalm 119:4 “You have ordained your precepts, that we should keep them diligently.”

[10] Genesis 3:1-4 “Now the serpent…said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, “You shall not eat from any tree of the garden?” Verse 4: “The serpent said to the woman, ‘You surely will not die!’”

[11] Hebrews 12:25 “See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven.”

[12] Deut 6:4 "The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!"

[13] Ps 90:2 "from everlasting to everlasting, You are God."

[14] John 1:18 "No one has seen God at any time."

[15] Jeremiah 32:17 "Ah, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm!"

[16] Deut 32:4 "He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He."

[17] Matt 29:19, "…baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit." 2 Cor 13:14 "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all." Gal 4:6 "Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying "Abba! Father!"; Luke 3:22 "and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, "You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased."

[18] Rom 8:15 "you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!"

[19]John 20:31 "Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God."

[20] John 14:26 "the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things…"

[21] Ps 147:5 “Great is our LORD and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite.”

[22] Jeremiah 23:24 “‘Can a man hide himself in hiding places so I do not see him?’ declares the Lord, ‘Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?’ declares the Lord.”

[23] Mal 3:6 “For I, the Lord, do not change.”

[24] Isaiah 40:28 “The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired.”

[25] 2 Corinthians 1:3 "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort."

[26] Ex 34:6 “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth.”

[27] 1 John 4:8 “God is love.”

[28] Ps 86:5 “For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive.”

[29] Lev 19:2 “I am holy.”

[30] Ps 145:17 “The Lord is righteous in all His ways.”

[31] Rom 1:18 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”

[32] Acts 17:28 "for in Him we live and move and exist."

[33] Titus 2:13 "Looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ."

[34] As exemplified in 1 Corinthians 1:21-22 "Now He who establishes us with you is Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee."

[35] Heb 1:3 "And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature."

[36] John 1:1 "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

[37] John 16:30 and 21:17: “You know all things.” Colossians 2:3 “In whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

[38] John 1:3 "All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being."

[39] Matthew 1:20 "…for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit."

[40] John 1:14 “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.”

[41] Matt 1:24-25 “…and took Mary as his wife, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth.”

[42] Acts 2:22 “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God...”

[43] Col 2:9 "For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form."

[44] John 12:45 "He who sees Me sees the One who sent Me."

[45] 1 John 5:20 "the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true."

[46] 1 Peter 3:18 "For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God."

[47] Acts 2:36 "God has made Him both Lord and Christ."

[48] Titus 2:13 "…looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus."

[49] 1 John 2:2 “and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins”

[50] 1 Peter 2:22 “who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth.”

[51] John 19:33 “…coming to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs.”

[52] Rom 4:25 “He who was delivered over because of our transgressions...”

[53] John 14:6 "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me."

[54] Matt 27:59-60 “And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb.”

[55] 1 Cor 15:4 “…and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day.”

[56] John 21:13-15 "Jesus came and took bread…This was the third time that Jesus was manifested to the disciples, after He was raised from the dead. So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said…"

[57] 1 Cor 15:5-6 “…and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve, after that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren…”

[58] Acts 1:3 “…appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.”

[59] Luke 24:51 “While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven.”

[60] Heb 10:12 “But He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God.”

[61] Ephesians 1:20-22 "…when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet."

[62] 1 Peter 3:22 “Who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.”

[63] Acts 5:3-4 "But Peter said, 'Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit…You have not lied to men but to God."

[64] John 14:16 "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever."

[65] John 16:7 "for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you."

[66] John 16:13 "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth..."

[67] John 16:8 "And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment."

[68] John 14:26 "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things,  and bring to remembrance all that I said to you."

[69] John 15:26 "When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me."

[70] Acts 9:31 "…going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit."

[71] 1 Cor 3:16 "Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you."

[72] 1 Corinthians 12:13 "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body…"

[73] Ephesians 5:18 "Do not be drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit…"

[74] 1 Corinthians 12:7 "But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good."

[75] 1 Peter 4:10 "As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another…"

[76] 1 Corinthians 13:8 "…but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge it will be done away…"

[77] Genesis 1:27 "God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created them."

[78] Genesis 2:7 "Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being."

[79] Genesis 1:26, 31 "Then God said, "Let us make man in Our image…And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day."

[80] Genesis 1:8 "The Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed."

[81] Genesis 3:6 "When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her and he ate."

[82] Ephesians 2:3 "Among them we too all formerly lived…and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest."

[83] Romans 5:12 "…death spread to all men…" vs 18 "…through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men."

[84] Romans 3:9-18 "…both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written, 'There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside…there is no fear of God before their eyes."

[85] 1 John 3:4 "Sin is lawlessness."

[86] Romans 3:23 "For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."

[87] Isaiah 59:2 "But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God."

[88] Romans 6:23 "The wages of sin is death."

[89] Ephesians 2:1 "And you were dead in your trespasses and sins."

[90] Romans 8:7 "because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so."

[91] John 8:34 "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave to sin." 2 Peter 2:19 "promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved."

[92] Isaiah 3:11 "Woe to the wicked! It will go badly with him, for what he deserves will be done to him." 1 Corinthians 6:9 "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?"

[93] Romans 5:6 "For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly." Romans 5:10 "For it while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life."

[94] Romans 8:29 "For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son…"

[95] 1 Thessalonians 1:4 "…knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God."

[96] Ephesians 1:6 "to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the beloved."

[97] 2 Thessalonians 2:13 "God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation."

[98] Ephesians 1:4-6 "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world…He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will…which He freely bestowed on us."

[99] 1 Corinthians 2:14-15 “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 15 But he who is spiritual appraises all things…”

[100] 2 Thessalonians 3:5 “May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.”

[101] Ephesians 2:8 "…it is the gift of God."

[102] 2 Corinthians 5:17 "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold new things have come."

[103] Ephesians 2:4-5 "But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ."

[104] Titus 3:5 "He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and the renewal by the Holy Spirit."

[105] John 6:63 "It is the Spirit who gives life."

[106] Ephesians 2:8 "For by grace you have been saved through faith."

[107] Ephesians 1:13 "you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise."

[108] Romans 8:11 "But is the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your morals bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you."

[109] Ephesians 1:14 The Holy Spirit "is given as a pledge of our inheritance."

[110] Titus 3:7 "so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life."

[111] John 10:28 "I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand."

[112] Ephesians 2:1 “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins…”

[113] Romans 3:11 "There is none who seeks for God."

[114] John 6:44 "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him."

[115] Romans 6:6 “our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with so that we would no longer be slaves to sin.”

[116] Ephesians 4:24 “put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.”

[117] Ephesians 1:5 “He predestined us to adoption as sons…”

[118] Romans 8:30 “…and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified, and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”

[119] 2 Timothy 2:25 “…if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth…”

[120] 1 Peter 1:18-19 "you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb, unblemished and spotless, the blood of Chirst."

[121] 1 Timothy 2:5-6 "For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all."

[122] 1 John 2:2 "and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world."

[123] Romans 8:30 "these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified."

[124] 1 Timothy 4:10 "…the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers."

[125] Ephesians 1:7 "In Him we have redemption through His blood."

[126] Romans 5:9 "having been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him."

[127] Ephesians 1:7 "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses."

[128] 1 John 1:7 "and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin."

[129] 2 Peter 1:5-7 "Now for this reason also, applying all diligence, in our faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love."

[130] Philippians 2:13 "For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure."

[131] 1 Peter 1:2 "…according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of he Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood…" Romans 8:13 "…by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body…"

[132] Heb 5:9 "And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation."

[133] 1 John 1:10 "If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us."

[134] Philippians 1:6 "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus."

[135] Philippians 3:20-21 "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory."

[136] Hebrews 3:14 "For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end."

[137] Hebrews 6:11 "And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end."

[138] Ephesians 1:22-23 "And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all."

[139] 1 Corinthians 12:27 "Now you are Christ's body, and individually members of it."

[140] John 3:36 "He who believes in the Son has eternal life."

[141] John 3:7 "You must be born again."

[142] John 3:6 "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."

[143] Romans 11:2 "God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew." Romans 11:28 "From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God's choice they are beloved."

[144] 1 Corinthians 11:25 "In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying 'This cup is the new covenant in My blood." 2 Corinthians 3:6 "…who has made us adequate as servants of a new covenant…"

[145] Jeremiah 31:31 "'Behold the days are coming,' declares the Lord, 'when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah."

[146] Hebrews 8:13 "When He said, 'A new covenant,' He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear."

[147] Romans 11:25 "a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in."

[148] 2 Cor 3:5-6 "…our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant."

[149] John 15:27 "And you will testify also, because you have been with me from the beginning."

[150] Matt 28:19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you."

[151] 1 Timothy 3:15 “…the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.”

[152] Ephesians 2:20 "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them."

[153] Acts 8:36-37 "the eunuch said, 'Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?' And Philip said, 'If you believe with all your heart, you may.'

[154] Matt 28:19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit."

[155] Romans 6:3 "Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death."

[156] Luke 22:19 "Do this in remembrance of Me."

[157] Revelation 12:9 "And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him."

[158] Revelation 20:3 "And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years."

[159] Revelation 20:10 "And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever."

[160] John 16:11 "the ruler of this world has been judged."

[161] 1 John 5:19 "the whole world lies in the power of the evil one."

[162] 2 Corinthians 11:14-15 "No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds."

[163] 2 Corinthians 4:4 "the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ."

[164] 1 Corinthians 7:5 "…so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self control."

[165] 1 Timothy 4:1 "But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons."

[166] Revelation 12:10 "…for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night."

[167] 1 Thessalonians 2:18 "For we wanted to come to you—I Paul, more than once—and yet Satan hindered us."

[168] Luke 22:31 "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers."

[169] Revelation 12:4 "And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth."

[170] Ephesians 6:10 "Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil."

[171] 2 Peter 2:4 "For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to the pits of darkness, reserved for judgment."

[172] Hebrews 2:14 "…that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil."

[173] Luke 10:19 "Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you."

[174] James 4:7 "Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you."

[175] Revelation 12:11 "And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the world of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death."

[176] Acts 16:16 "It happened that as we were going to the place of prayer, a slave-girl having a spirit of divination met us, who was bringing her masters much profit by fortune-telling."

[177] Luke 8:27 "And when He came out onto the land, He was met by a man from the city who was possessed with demons; and who had not put on any clothing for a long time, and was not living in a house, but in the tombs."

[178] Deuteronomy 18:10 "There shall not be found among you anyone who …practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For whoever does these things is detestable to the Lord…"

[179] Revelation 13:11-13 "Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth…He performs great signs…and deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform."

[180] Matthew 24:42 "Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming."

[181] Matthew 24:36 “But of that day and hour, no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.”

[182] Matthew 24:30-31 "…and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other."

[183] Revelation 20:4 "…and they reigned with Christ for a thousand years."

[184] Revelation 21:1 "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth…"

[185] Revelation 21:7 "He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son."

[186] Revelation 21:3 "Behold the tabernacle of God is with men…"

[187] Revelation 20:15 "And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire."

[188] Matthew 25:46 "These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

Published in Ministry

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.

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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).

 

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Evangelism in the Church

In recent years Christians have become increasingly energized to bring the message of salvation to the world. Modern Christian leaders have distilled the message of the gospel into a succinct package that can be comprehended by anyone, though not apprehended by everyone. In many ways, it seems that there has been a Christian re-awakening over the past 10 or 15 years as droves of people are coming to Christ all across America and the world. This is an exciting time to a part of God’s work in the world.

Because of this high-level emphasis on evangelism, some churches have begun to re-orientate themselves to be better positioned in the endeavor of evangelism. Common adaptations include becoming seeker-sensitive, seeker-driven, or even ethos/emotionally driven such as the emergent church movement. These churches enthusiastically scrutinize themselves from the perspective of the non-churched/un-churched and make specific changes to the worship service so to avoid confusing, boring, or insulting these people. Often, with good motive, some churches are directing large portions of their resources to evangelistic outreach events efforts of evangelism take place in outreach events such as golf-ministries, softball leagues, concerts, etc.

These churches have the best intentions and truly believe that evangelism is the purpose of the church. To have a greater impact on the world, often their message is “Your life has pain, misery and confusion—come to Jesus and you’ll find peace, joy, and significance.” That message, however comforting, is not the gospel message of scripture. While none of these churches would ever admit to “watering down the gospel” the result is that they have exchanged the true problem (i.e. man’s rebellion against God) with another problem that seems more palatable in the ears of the hearers (e.g. life apart from Christ has less meaning). Not only has the problem changed in today’s gospel messages, but the solution has also changed. The solution to man’s problem is no longer “repent of your sin and commit your life to the Lord” instead it is “say this ‘Sinner’s Prayer’ and your problem (e.g. meaningless, sadness, loneliness) will go away.” The ultimate focus has shifted away from the truth that God’s wrath is directed towards humanity and yet He will reconcile us back to Him when we call upon Him in faith. Rather than this focus, many churches is now aspire to help men and woman have better lives morally, ethically, etc. Essentially, Christianity has become a modern means for one to “self-actualize”—that is, that their adherents will be better people, more loving, better homes, happier, more peaceful, etc. While the gospel does often improve the lives of people—and certainly my own life, mind, habits have become far “better” and more enjoyable now that I’m born-again—yet these dynamics are not the gospel’s ultimate purpose. Do we have to preach the ultimate purpose of the gospel? Yes! God’s ultimate purposes should be our ultimate purposes!

The Bible tells us that all men have sinned against God (Romans 3:23). Certainly, every Christian will agree with this and the Bible lists of many sins that man has committed (1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21). Sinners are enemies of God (Romans 5:10) who live independently from Him (Psalm 14:3). Yet the message of scripture is that while we were sinners and enemies, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8-10). Christ took our sins upon Him (Isaiah 53:6) and gave us His righteousness (1 Corinthians 5:21). God was no longer angry with us (1 John 2:2). Therefore the world must recognize their sins (1 John 1:8), confess them (1 John 1:9), repent of them (Acts 2:38), call out to God (Romans 10:13) and be reconciled to Him (Romans 5:10). This is the gospel that the world needs to hear.

How will people hear and understand this gospel? Should we make it easier for them to become a child of God? The answer lies in the doctrine of regeneration, how one becomes “born again.” Each person is born into this world spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1) and in their natural state they cannot understand the things of God (1 Corinthians 2:14). A dead person cannot be convinced they need life. Therefore God steps into their life and makes them alive (i.e. regenerates them) (1 Peter 1:3) and they become born again (John 3:6). The person responds in faith to the hearing of the Word of God (1 Thessalonians 2:13). This is seen in the scriptures in the account of how God opened Lydia’s heart to might respond to the things spoken by Paul (Acts 16:14) and also when God gave the believers in Achaia the ability to believe (Acts 18:27). Unless God gives a person the ability to believe in Him and His Word, they cannot make themselves believe or be convinced to believe.

Thus, salvation is solely up to the will of God. No amount of cajoling or persuasion will raise a dead person to life. Many passages show that God chooses whom He will save: 1st Thessalonians 4:4 “knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you”; Romans 8:29 “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined…”; Ephesians 1:4 “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world…”

Not only is the predestination up to God, but so is the drawing up to God. John 6:29 says, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him who He has sent.” A few verse later Jesus says “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.” Someone might say that God draws all people. But this is not the case because only a few verses earlier Jesus says, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” Thus all who are drawn by God come to God—none are lost. God causes the increase (1 Corinthians 3:7). Since the choice of salvation is up to God, the goal of evangelism shifts from going into the world to persuade people to be saved and instead the goal becomes going into the world calling God’s elect back to their Savior with the anticipation that those who are chosen will hear and receive the word of God.

How does one know if they are chosen or if they are truly born-again? The answer to this question is long and challenging and beyond the scope of this paper. However, we can know that we are not saved just on the merits of saying the “Sinner’s Prayer”.  There is no magic formula that Christians can utter which will obligate God to save them. Certainly the new life does begin with a prayer of faith to God (Romans 10:9) and new believers can be encouraged to prayer as a repentant sinner begging God for forgiveness and asking Him to reconcile them based upon the death and resurrection of Christ. But saying a sinner’s prayer does not buy us a ticket into heaven. Understanding this important point, I still will lead people in a prayer that could sound like the “Sinner’s Prayer” because it does cover the key elements of the Gospel and when it is truly said with faith, it will be the introduction of the believer into their new relationship with the Lord.

But is everyone who was prompted to say a prayer, then saved? 1 Corinthians 15:2 indicates that there is some “belief” that is vain, i.e. without result. The best answer to knowing if a believer is saved is to have them diligently read 1st John and compare their life against scripture. The purpose of 1st John is found in 5:13 which says, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” Many people incorrectly use this verse as a blanket promise to people to encourage them that indeed they do have eternal life. But the verse in context is really saying that if a person reads all the factors that “these things” refers to, and satisfies the criterion given, then the person can safely know that they have eternal life. Assurance of salvation based upon 1 John 5:13 without the rest of 1 John is false assurance and because this is dealing with the eternal state of someone’s soul, false assurance is very, very dangerous.

Here are some basic proofs of regeneration included in 1st John: honesty about sins (1:8); keeping God’s commandments (2:3); loving one’s brothers (2:10); hatred of the ways of the world (2:15); practicing righteousness (2:29-3:10); caring for the needy (3:15-18); confessing Jesus (4:3-6); love towards others (4:7-16);  love towards God (5:2-3); and belief in Jesus (5:11). We must understand how the scriptures seek to provide assurance. We cannot make ourselves regenerated by these actions—a murderer cannot give money to the United Way so as to be forgiven for murder. Yet, these fruits are indications of salvation as given in the scripture. They do not make a person regenerated; rather they indicate a person’s status before God—the stem from fellowship with Him. These indicators are the “these things” from 5:13 that John wants his readers to read and meditate upon so they might know that they have eternal life.

Because salvation is in the mind and hand of God, the believer’s primary task in this world is not to evangelize the lost but rather to make disciples (Matthew 28:19) and bring glory to God (1 Corinthians 10:31; 1 Peter 4:11; Colossians 1:10, Ephesians 4:1). What!? Please hear me out—making disciples involves teaching people about God, exhorting them towards holiness, comforting them, and guiding them in the ways of godliness. The faithful Christian will often focus this message onto those who don’t know God. Evangelism is a form of discipleship whereby we declare the truths of scripture to the world. Glorifying God involves living a life worthy of Him (Philippians 1:27); speaking words which glorify Him (Colossians 3:17); doing deeds which glorify Him (Colossians 3:17); having hearts that glorify Him (Ephesians 5:19; and having minds that glorify Him (Colossians 3:2-4). As detailed in the section about the purpose of the church, the church service is to focus on worshiping God and making disciples who glorify Him. When this is done, truly the elect unbeliever will walk into the church, sense the glory and greatness of God, see the vast difference between his own condition and those of the church, and he will fall down and worship God (1 Corinthians 14:25). But note this: the vehicle for effective church evangelism is worship of God in spirit and truth, not transforming ourselves to look like the world.

So what role does evangelism hold in the church? Certainly the church is to be the salt and light to the world (Matthew 5:13-16). Certainly the church is to tell the world the message of Christ. All are given the mandate to evangelize and some will be specially gifted with a passion and consuming drive to evangelize (2 Timothy 4:5; Ephesians 4:11). Certainly, the gospel should be explained in every church service where there might be unbelievers present. Certainly evangelism is one of the primary purposes of the church (Matthew 28:20-21). Yet evangelism must be kept in balance with the rest of God’s purposes for His people (Worship, Instruction, Fellowship, Evangelism, and Service).

How do we comply with the scriptural teaching about how to evangelize? God uses His word to save people (1 Peter 1:23). Therefore, God’s people go into the world as God’s ambassador (2 Corinthians 5:20) proclaiming the word of God. The Christian’s evangelistic method is simply to spread the word of God much like a seed. Then the Holy Spirit unites the word of God to faith (Hebrews 4:2) and makes that person spiritually alive (James 1:18), much like pouring water upon a seed brings a seed to life. There will be some converts like Lydia (Acts 16:14) who hear the Word and immediately the Lord opens the eyes of their heart to believe (Ephesians 1:18). There will be others who need some shepherding as they begin their new life with God such as the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8). And there will be some who are like Nicodemus, who first need to hear the truth (as in John 3:1-21), followed by a period of time where they process what they have heard (as evidenced by Nicodemus’ half-hearted defense of Christ in John 7:50-51), followed by a final commitment to Christ (as evidenced in John 19:38-39 when Nicodemus places his own life and reputation on the line by helping bury Christ). Thus the church is to go to the God’s elect and call them to be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:20). The church must be firm, clear, patient, and following the will and ways of Christ.

Some churches, with a sincere evangelistic zeal, seek to turn their Sunday morning worship service into an evangelistic crusade. However, this runs up against two possible risks. The first is that “evangelistic crusade” churches must, by necessity, avoid certain doctrines and thus ignore the whole counsel of what God calls the church to be. As a verse-by-verse expositor progresses through passages of scripture—the vast majority of those passages are only truly meaningful, as they were intended to mean, for born-again believers. God calls the church to love (Matthew 22:37), worship Him (John 4:23-24), live holy lives (Philippians 1:27), preach the word (1 Thessalonians 4:2), serve the needs of those in distress (James 1:27), and teach sound doctrine (Titus 2:1). All of these actions, to be performed rightly, require knowledge of Him (Hosea 6:6; 1 Chronicles 28:9). When the church incorrectly focuses on evangelism to the point of minimizing these things, then that church runs the risk of becoming imbalanced according to God’s design—or worse, re-explaining God’s truths intended for His people, and changing the meaning and point so that they might somehow be “relevant” for the world.

Another serious risk for churches that overly focus upon evangelism is that they might provide false assurance to people about their salvation. This false assurance often comes from the prevailing incorrect notion that as long as a person has at some point said the “Sinner’s Prayer” then they are truly saved. The Bible, however, indicates that since there is a vain form of belief (1 Corinthians 15:2, c.f. Acts 8:9-24) people should make sure that they are to make certain of God’s calling of them (2 Peter 2:10, 2 Corinthians 13:5, Hebrews 4:1). The Bible also indicates that many will stand before the Lord and He will say that He did not know them (Matthew 7:22). The Lord Himself said that the gates to hell are wide (Matthew 7:13). Because of these serious warnings, why would any church be quick to dangerously assure a person that they are saved when indeed if they are unsure and feeling guilty? Perhaps the person’s heart may be under true conviction from God! Can a Christian know he or she is saved? Yes! But these are not the days to give people false hope based upon man-made rituals concocted to guarantee one’s salvation.

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A Word about Bible Versions

 

At this point in this paper, I would like to offer some brief thoughts about Bible translations. There are many debates among Christians about which is the best Bible version, which version we should use, etc. The choice of one’s Bible version has almost become a test of one’s orthodoxy! And while there are hundreds of versions out there, and indeed some are lousy, most of the main versions for sale in the average Christian bookstore have much merit. Every Christen should own, examine, and compare many versions—especially when that believer is hanging his theology on one particular version’s wording. Language is complex, and for the non-Greek and non-Hebrew student, often the best way of getting at the nuance of the original language is to compare how various translators rendered those words in English.

The Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Many fine translations have been produced for the English language, but in reality, all translations are interpretations. Yet the closer the translation matches the original wording of the Greek text the more likely they have captured the divinely inspired message. Since no one translation has the best handling of every text of scripture, students of the Bible should own, study and compare at minimum the New American Standard, the New King James Version, and the New International Version. The King James Version is outstanding and beautiful, but often is difficult to understand. The New Living Translation is very good (and it is a translation although its predecessor, The Living Bible, was not) but for the sake of readability often its translators make interpretative leaps that usually are accurate but are not part of the original text. Recently another excellent translation has been produced, the English Standard Version—and is remarkably clear, readable, and accurate. I personally prefer to preach from the New American Standard but often flex depending upon what translation the congregation might be using, especially when reading a passage to the congregation that we will not study—I often will opt for the clearest reading, even if that means reading from another version.

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