Monday, July 30, 2012

Repost of "When Entitlement Comes to Church" by Thom Rainer

This is a very good article and worth reading. The following is only part of it:

If there is one place where entitlement should be anathema, it is the local church. Remember the reason Jesus came to earth? “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life – a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45, HCSB). And how are we followers of Christ to live? We are to “make (our) own attitude that of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).

Servanthood should dominate the lives of church members. Putting others first should be our first priority. Entitlement has no place in our churches.

How do we know when entitlement becomes pervasive in our churches? We can be sure it’s present when we hear comments similar to these:

“I have been a member of this church for 20 years, so I deserve things my way.” “Someone was sitting in the pew where my family sits.” “I tithe to this church, so you work for me.” “If I don’t get my way, I’ll withhold my money from the church.” “Some people will be in trouble if they mess with the worship the way I like it.” “We’ll just visit another church until he changes things back to the way they were.” “Why didn’t you visit me? That’s what we pay you to do.”

I could continue. Indeed you could add to the quotes as well. But my point, I believe, is clear. There is no place in the church for a self-serving attitude. To the contrary, we are to give cheerfully and serve others joyfully.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Healthy Church, part 10 - Biblical Church Leadership

Dever’s chapter in What is a Healthy Church? primarily focuses on the particular office within the church called elder. In some baptist circles, many people are not accustomed to hearing that term, though it is a very biblical one.

In the New Testament, there are three words used to point to this particular office: overseer, elder, and shepherd (or pastor). They are used interchangeably, according to Dever. One place to notice this is in Acts 20 when Paul is talking to the elders from Ephesus. He uses all three words in some way to refer to the same group of men. Therefore, we can conclude that there need not be a distinction made as there is in some denominations.

The term “elder” seems to be the proper biblical label for the office, while the terms “overseer” and “shepherd” (or pastor) seem to be more descriptive words concerning the function and responsibility of the elders. The qualifications for elders, as well as some of their responsibilities, are found in Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3. And, while elders are not in the same class as apostles in the New Testament, Acts 6 does give us a picture, I believe, of one of the primary responsibilities of elders when compared to that of the first deacons (Acts 6:1-7).

Another thing Dever points out is the abundance of times in the NT when “elders” is in the plural rather than the singular. This calls our attention to the fact that a “plurality of elders” is the pattern we find in the NT even one of the “elders” may have the primary responsibility of preaching and teaching. The shepherding responsibility of a congregation is impossible for one man to shoulder alone. God has given us the pattern for the spiritual leadership and care of the congregation through a plurality of elders and deacons in their distinctive roles.

Healthy churches have an understanding of biblical leadership based upon the NT rather than a business or civic club model. Recognizing qualified elders and deacons among the congregation and letting them serve according to the functions laid out in the NT is an essential ingredient for a healthy church.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Why - For the Great Commission

We have been examining the fundamental reasons for pursuing a path of revitalization and rebuilding over the last 3 weeks.

The first reason we must pursue this path is "for the glory of God"

The second reason we must pursue this path is "for the good of God's people"

The third reason we must pursue this path is "for the Great Commission"

Yesterday (without the AC) we examined this reason by answering 4 questions:

First, what in the world is God doing?

Answer: God is actively seeking, drawing, redeeming, and bringing a people out of all nations to live in fellowship with Himself conforming them to the image of His Son for the purpose of sharing in His glory for all eternity by means of His chosen instruments, the church, through the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ so that He might display His glory to them and through them so that they might worship, serve, and praise Him in all His majesty, splendor, brilliance, power, and supremacy for all eternity.

Second, Where are we headed?

Answer: Revelation 5:9-12

Third, how has God ordained for this reality to come to pass?

Answer: Matthew 28:16-20 and Acts 1:8 - we get to participate in God's plan of redemption for the nations

Fourth, what does that look like in moving forward?

Answer: When we look at our organization & structure (ministries, programs, worship service, Sunday school, committees, outreach, etc.), are we being effective in making disciples?

We want to see:
- people growing in their love for Jesus
- people growing in their love for each other
- people growing in their love for neighbors
- people involved in opportunities of ministry
- people involved in small groups (Sunday school) growing together in Christ by engaging God's Word
- people taking personal responsibility for their spiritual growth
- people seeing themselves as missionaries wherever they are

Question we must consistently ask as we apply this to our church: How does this ("this" referring to any program, committee, decision, etc.) help us make disciples?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Healthy Church, part 9 - Biblical Discipleship and Growth

Dever writes, "Another important mark of a healthy church is a pervasive concern for the church growth as growth is prescribed in the bible. That means growing members, not just numbers." This is the important mark of watching people's lives being transformed by God's grace through the gospel by the Holy Spirit.

Here is a paragraph that is very important for many in churches today: "Some today think that a person can be a "baby Christian" for a whole lifetime. Growth is treated as an optional extra for zealous disciples. But growth is a sign of life. If a tree is alive, it grows. It an animal is alive, it grows. Being alive means growing, and growing means increasing and advancing, at least until death intercedes."

But, how do we measure growth? As we learned this past Sunday, it isn't necessarily by "bodies, budgets, and buildings".

Dever offers these possible ways:

  • Growing numbers being called to missions
  • Older members getting a fresh sense of their responsibility in evangelism and in discipling younger members
  • Younger members attending the funeral of older members out of love
  • Increased praying in the church and more prayers centered on evangelism and ministry opportunities
  • More members sharing the gospel with outsiders
  • Less reliance among members on the church's programs and more spontaneous ministry activities arising from members
  • Informal gatherings among church members characterized by spiritual conversation, including apparent willingness to confess sin while simultaneously pointing to the cross
  • Increased and sacrificial giving
  • Increased fruits of the Spirit
  • Members making career sacrifices so they can serve the church
  • Husbands leading their wives sacrificially
  • Wives submitting to their husbands
  • Parents discipling their children in the faith
  • A corporate willingness to discipline unrepentant and public sin
  • A corporate love for an unrepentant sinner shown in the pursuit of him or her before discipline is enacted

Where are we seeing "church growth"? Where are you seeing personal growth in your life today?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Why - For the Good of God's People

Another fundamental reason & purpose for rebuilding and revitalizing is for the good of God's people. We discovered that there are at least 3 elements to rebuilding for the good of God's people.

1. Rebuilding for the good of God’s people is about getting back to the basics of our identity and purpose as a congregation.

2. Rebuilding for the good of God's people is about becoming a spiritually healthy congregation in all aspects of church life.

3. Rebuilding for the good of God's people is about helping everyone in our congregation become and maintain spiritual healthiness

Why - For the Glory of God

On Sunday morning, July 1 we dealt with the subject of rebuilding for the glory of God.

Ephesians 3:20-21 declares for the glory of God to be displayed "in the church", so we asked a question prompted from this text: how is God's glory displayed in the church, specifically a congregation of his people.

Here's how we answered that question:

God's glory is put on display when Jesus is the center of attention

God's glory is put on display when the gospel is the lifeblood

God's glory is put on display when believers are growing in Christ

God's glory is put on display when the lost are served in compassion and love

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Healthy Church, part 8 - Church Discipline

The next mark of a healthy church, according to Dever, is Biblical Church Disipline. This certainly follows after the biblical understanding of church membership.

There are a couple of key passages concerning what has come to be known as "church discipline": Matthew 18:15-20 and 1 Corinthians 5. Many of the Reformers in the 1500s declared that if a church did not practice church discipline, then it was not a true church.

Over the years, church discipline is something that has been used and abused by many churches rather than being exercised in the redemptive manner for which God designed it. Just because it has been abused by some does not make it null and void as a biblical practice of the church.

While discipline itself comes in two forms, formative and corrective, it usually the corrective form that generates the most attention and controversy. Does the church, the congregation of God’s people covenanted together, have the authority to correctively discipline someone who continues in a state of unrepentant sin?

Dever offers “five positive reasons for practicing corrective church discipline”: (p. 106)

  1. It shows love for the good of the of the disciplined individual
  2. It shows love for other Christians as they see the danger of sin
  3. It shows love for the health of the church as a whole
  4. It shows love for the corporate witness of the church and, therefore, non-Christians in the community
  5. It shows love for the glory of God. Our holiness should reflect God’s holiness.

He closes this chapter with the following sentence: “It should mean something to be a member of the church, not for our pride’s sake, but for God’s name’s sake.”