The Priority Of The Local Church

I grew up in the local church and took for granted that every Christian knew that believers were to be devoted to the local church and I remember hearing many sermons on the importance of being a part of a local church. Scripture references such as Hebrews 10:24-25; Matthew 16:18; Acts 2:42-47 were spoken of from the pulpit and in Sunday School. So, please imagine my surprise when I met a person, 20 years ago, who told me that one could be a Christian and did not need to attend weekly worship. As a matter of fact, according to this individual, a believer didn’t even need to be a part of the local church. This was an earth-shattering statement for me. I could not process why anyone would believe that the local church was disposable and irrelevant to the life of someone who claimed to love Jesus. Even as the son of a pastor who has seen and personally experienced the absolute worst from people in the local church, this was a completely foreign thought. Still today, as a pastor for over 13 years, I still can not fathom that someone sees the local church as optional at best and useless at worst. I will not deny that some of these beliefs may be driven by deep hurt and the betrayal experienced by these individuals at the hands of those in the local church. However, personal experience cannot determine our beliefs, instead, Scripture alone serves as the only infallible standard by which we form all our beliefs. The importance of being firmly grounded in good doctrine is seen in a quote by Charles Spurgeon who once said,

“The feather flies in the wind, but it has no inherent power to move, and consequently when the gale is over it falls to the ground — such is the religion of excitement; but the eagle has life within itself, and its wings bear it aloft and onward whether the breeze favors it or not — such is religion, when sustained by a conviction of the truth. The well-taught man in Christ Jesus stands firm where the uninstructed infant would fall or be carried away.” (Salvation Altogether By Grace)

Again, the Westminster Confession Of Faith, along with the 1689 London Baptist Confession states,

“The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, and obeyed, dependeth not upon the testimony of any man, or church; but wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the author thereof: and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God”

Scripture itself states in Hebrews 10:24-25,

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (ESV)

So, what do we do with the local church? We love the local church. We pray for the local church and we work for her good, which means that for pastor/elder, deacon and/or church member, we may have to call her to repentance. It is true that many local churches close. In my denomination alone it is estimated that an astounding 900 churches close every year. Does that mean God has given up on the local church? Far from it; while many local churches in the U.S. and Canada may close every year, the promise given by Jesus is still true. Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock, I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it” (NASB). Does this mean we just ignore problems when they arise? No. This is why a healthy and robust doctrine of the local church must be embraced. We cannot act as if we can make up our own version of “church” as we go along. Instead, we are to work for gospel reformation and Biblical truth throughout the life of a local church. We take our cue from King Jesus who called 5 of the 7 churches in Revelation to repentance. However, through it all, we look to Jesus. So, pastor, take heart and look to Jesus. Church member, if you long for reformation in your local church, be encouraged and look to Jesus; pray, work and fast to that end but don’t take your eyes off of Jesus. Please, don’t misunderstand what I am saying. Are there times to leave a local church? Absolutely! However, let that not be our first thought; let it be our last. Until then, let us love and work for reform and repentance in the local church for the glory of God.

Soli Deo Gloria

Tim

 

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Family Worship

Before our son Samuel was born, my wife Diane and I came to be convinced of the importance of worshiping as a family.  I don’t mean by that, simply going to worship together on Sunday. I am a pastor after all and that was a given. No, we came to believe, after searching the scriptures that we should be setting time out, every day to worship as a family. Once we discovered that Diane was pregnant, this need for family worship was enforced even more urgently. Once we were convinced of this need, the question then surfaced, “but how”? I mean, I had grown up with my dad reading the Bible to us every night, but was that all there was to it? So, we began researching. What follows is what we decided on that worked well for us given our schedules. I wish I could say we were perfect at it, even after several years. However, the attention span of a 5 year old, sickness, busyness and other things make this routine very interesting at times. It works for us though and I hope to both challenge you and your family to make the necessary time to worship together, as a family, not only on Sunday’s but every night of the week.

READ
We start by reading through our selected passage or story. We have chosen to read through, The Big Picture Interactive Bible. It helps Samuel focus through interactive questions and pictures.
QUESTIONS:
Next, we will ask several questions that pertained to the lesson to ensure that we grasped the main truths from the story that we read.
SING
This one gets moved around alot. Sometimes we sing at the end, other times we sing at the beginning to help us to focus on what we are going to be reading. You know your family best, so place this where it is best for you all.
MEMORIZE
We spend a few minutes memorizing a passage of scripture together. We are currently working through the Ten Commandments but we have also memorized the Model Prayer in Matthew 6.
CATECHISM
The Truth And Grace Books (TAG) from Founders Press are a great resource. You can find them here. However, there is also a Baptist version of the Westminister Shorter Catechism. Samuel (and us) has greatly benefited from memorzing a catechism.
PRAYER
We simply close with a time of prayer.
My prayer is that you  and your family will benefit from this short outline.
Grace and Peace,
Tim

Superman And The Search For Meaning

When I say the word, “Superman” what comes to mind? More than likely it is the cape-wearing, heat vision capable, flying, fighting for truth, justice and the American way hero of comics, cartoons, and movies. While that DC Comic character might make a great blog post (although I have always been a Batman fan), he is not the one to whom I refer. Years before that superhero was created by DC Comics, another man introduced a “Superman” of sorts. This name has been translated into English and as a result, he is known by several names; Uberman, Overman, Beyondman and lastly, Superman. The name comes from the German, ubermensch, which was popularized by the German Philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche in his 1883 book, Thus Spoke Zarathustra. While some may see this concept as innocuous, Nietzsche’s ubermensch isn’t that; it is anything but that; instead, it has long-lasting and catastrophic implications for society, many of which we are seeing and feeling today. While the idea for a “Superman” was not original with Nietzsche, the term certainly gained in recognition and popularity due to his efforts and writing. So, what did Nietzsche mean by “Superman”? More importantly, how can it be harmful? Nietzsche envisioned a world whereby mankind had outgrown the idea of God (or gods) and this is the heart of what he meant by, “ubermensch”. This “Superman”, is a person who has gone beyond the need for deities. He does not need meaning and purpose in the world of the supernatural but finds his value and worth from overcoming his own base (creaturely) nature (desires) and rises above himself, God, gods or goddesses to greater enlightenment. In so doing, he has thrown off the shackles of moral constraints that facilitate a religiously inspired herd mentality within society and calls mankind to embrace an amoral existence. The Church of Jesus Christ in the Western Hemisphere (Canada and the U.S.) now find ourselves living in Nietchze’s day of the Superman. A day in which our society, like Nietchze’s madman in his book, The Gay Science (also known as The Joyful Wisdom) is looking for God and proclaims,

“I am looking for God! I am looking for God!” As many of those who did not believe in God were standing together there, he excited considerable laughter. Have you lost him, then? said one. Did he lose his way like a child? said another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? or emigrated? Thus they shouted and laughed. The madman sprang into their midst and pierced them with his glances.

“Where has God gone?” he cried. “I shall tell you. We have killed him – you and I. We are his murderers. But how have we done this? How were we able to drink up the seas? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What did we do when we
unchained the earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now?

Whither are we moving now? Away from all suns? Are we not perpetually
falling? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there
any up or down left? Are we not straying as though through Infinite nothing?

Where is God? God is Dead. Go remains dead. And we have
killed him. How shall we, murders of all murders, console ourselves?” (Nietzsche, 1882/1974)

So what does this all have to do with our society and the search for meaning? Much, in every way. We now live in a society in North America that has embraced the chaos and removal of an absolute standard of law and order. In so doing, we have committed cultural and moral suicide. Society now imposes their own set of absolute standards, one that appears that the only absolute is not to go against their iron-fisted impositions. The God of the Bible, however, gives mankind purpose and meaning. As image bearers of God, we were originally called to walk with God and submit to His rightful rule and reign. Unfortunately, mankind chose to enter into the chaos of sin through a choice. This choice to eat of the fruit that God commanded us not to eat plunged us into moral and spiritual darkness. We are now fallen and depraved beings in need of God’s restoring grace through His redeeming purpose and work of His Son, Jesus Christ. Apart from this foundation, mankind will continually seek to define ourselves by self-imposed rules and regulations, which lead us to embrace human subsistence. To this, the church must now rise and prophetically call our culture to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. We must not shrink back from calling our government to bow their knee to King Jesus and let them know of the penalty of their refusal (Psalm 2). Now is not the time for safety, comfort, and ease. Now is the time to rise up and shake off our sleepiness and proclaim Christ and Him crucified and resurrected, a conquering King who is returning and will no longer tolerate insubordination. Let us advance the kingdom of God for the sake of the glory of God in all things.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Tim

 

4 Books Of Natural Theology

“Nations without the visible church never wanted means, either ordinary or extraordinary, to know God; though we cannot in reason say that the decree or law of an heathen king is the Arminian universal grace, yet some means all have. And God has laid open four books to all nations:

  1. That book of creation of the heavens and his work (Psa. 19:1); the heavens do book, and register the glory of God (Rom. 1:20).
  2. The book of ordinary providence is a chronicle or diurnal [i.e. journal] of the Godhead, and a testimony that there is a God (Acts 14:17; 17:27).
  3. There is a book of the extraordinary works of God, and some report of the true God, upon occasion carried to nations without the borders of the visible church. As our text says [“who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions” (Daniel 6:27)], and Rahab says (Josh. 2:10), “We have heard how the Lord dried up the Red Sea”, etc. But as children sport themselves and play with the pictures in a book, and with the gold on the covering of the book, and the ribbons, not knowing the sense and meaning of this book, so do we sport ourselves in looking on the outside of these three books, not searching in to read and understand “the invisible things of God, his eternal power and Godhead” (Rom. 1:20).
  4. The book of man’s conscience (Rom. 2:14-15), speaks of God, to all nations, though now by reason of our sinful blindness and dullness, that book is uncorrected, and dimly printed, written with white and watery ink, so that we see not God distinctly in it. Yet all these four serve to make men “without excuse, because, when they know God, they glorify him not as God, neither are thankful” (Rom. 1:20), but this condemns us to whom there is laid open a better and fairer and more learned piece (Ps. 19:7).”

 

Samuel Rutherford, Sermons Preached before the English Houses of Parliament by the Scottish Commissioners to the Westminster Assembly of Divines, 1643–1645, pp. 400-401.

Training Our Children In The Faith

Christian parents bear a great responsibility in relation to their children.  As Christian parents, God has given us covenant responsibilities to raise our children in the faith. This covenant responsibility goes as far back as Deuteronomy 6:7. In Deuteronomy, God commanded His people to, “teach them (His statutes) diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (ESV). As a result, Christian parents carry the weight of the responsibility of raising godly children. This often stands in direct conflict with much of the thinking of Christian parents and how the Church today often functions. Much of the time, the children are pawned off into various programs or functions that the local church offers with the hope that our children will just, “get it”. Obviously, Christian parents are to raise their children in the church, however, the local church is not to have the the primary role in discipling our children. After all, the text clearly tells parents, “You shall teach them to your children diligently” (Deut. 6:7 ESV).  Because of this, God uses his people as instruments in the process of the spiritual formation of their children. Biblically speaking, the home is the primary source of knowledge for all things, especially the instruction of our children in the Christian faith. It is in this context that a child gains the needed knowledge, not only for life but also for faith. This fact does not change whether we are speaking of the home in the Old or New Testament. Resultantly, Christian parents today, are responsible to teach their children the requirements of the covenant; as in the early days of God’s covenant community. Christian parents today teach the covenant that God entered into with their spiritual forefathers, the stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and how God has fulfilled His promises through the person and work of Jesus Christ. Parents are to call their children to faith in Jesus Christ and pray for God to draw these covenant children to Himself through faith alone in Christ alone. In His command, God has placed a great responsibility upon parents to catechize their children and thus, helping their children develop and grow in the faith. This does not mean our children will believe the gospel. However, godly parents have always been called upon to teach the faith to their children, as well as to exercise right actions, attitudes and relationships before their children. God’s purpose for parents is for us to honor him, as we teach our little ones how to love God completely and in the process, raise generations of godly children.  God’s plan from the Old to the New Testament is to create a people for Himself and unite them in Jesus Christ. This is the reason that the Christian home serves as the parent’s primary source of evangelism.  Christian Parents speak of and teach the good news to their children who in turn teach and raise their children in the faith and so on and so forth. May we, as Christian parents do this for the glory of God and the good of our children.

Pastor Tim

Biblical Leadership (pt.3)

Deacons And Elders

There seems to be no small controversy over the idea of Deacons and Elders in the denomination of which I am a part. However, there also seems to be much confusion over the ministry of the Diaconate in the broader church context. In my own denomination, this confusion and quarreling rise because of those who are no longer satisfied with the status quo belief about deacon ministry (i.e. the place, authority, etc. of deacons in the local church context). As a result of calling the church to a Biblical pattern of leadership, some have responded negatively. This isn’t overly surprising given the fact that Biblical reformation never goes over well with those who are more in love with their tradition than the teaching of Scripture. Having dealt with the idea of the local church presbytery here and here I want to next deal with the ministry of those servants called, “Deacons”.

I find it of great interest that while the Bible explicitly spells out the duties of the office of the pastor which is partly relayed through the titles used to describe them; i.e. presbyters (elders), pastors (shepherds), overseers (bishops). The deacon, who is the second recognized office of the local church, only lists general duties. These general duties are seen in Acts 6 where the Apostles ask the congregation to choose men who can be appointed to the task of overseeing the daily distribution of the widows so they can devote themselves to the preaching, teaching, prayer and discipling ministry of the church. This is the model that the early church adopted for the Diaconate and continues to be the expressed need of the Diaconate today. The ministry of the Diaconate should compliment the local church Presbytery and free them up to preach, teach, disciple and pray (which isn’t to say this is necessarily all that the presbytery should be doing but it is the bulk). Instead, the Bible deals with the character of the men chosen, not their specific duties. It is my belief that this is the case because of the fluid nature of the office (e.g. they serve at the discretion and direction of the local church presbytery and congregation). The office of Deacon then, requires much flexibility in ministering to the needs of both the local congregation and the presbytery. With all of that said, I would like to offer several suggestions for Diaconate ministry that are exactly that, suggestions.

How then should the Diaconate function? The Diaconate should compliment the local church Presbytery and free them up to preach, teach, disciple and pray (which isn’t to say this is necessarily all that the presbytery should be doing but it is the bulk). Instead, the Bible deals with the character of the men chosen, not their specific duties. It is my belief that this is the case because of the fluid nature of the office (e.g. they serve at the discretion and direction of the local church presbytery and congregation). Clearly stated, a Deacon cannot be rigid in their expectations of what ministry will necessarily look like because it may change drastically during their time of service. This is why it is imperative that the Diaconate be very flexible in ministering to the needs of both the local congregation and the presbytery. What should the local church Diaconate do? I would like to offer several suggestions for Diaconate ministry that are exactly that, suggestions. I do hope you will find them helpful.

 

  • Finance Oversight
  •          Care For The Poor
  • Visitation Of Sick
  •          Visitation Of Widows
  •         Visitation And Counseling For Those Grieving
  •          Oversight Of Prayer Ministry
  • Oversight Of Building And Grounds
  • Offer Wisdom To The Local Church Presbytery In Order To Deal With Issues

In this series of very short and inexhaustive posts, I have sought to get us thinking Biblically about Church leadership. Whatever else we do as a local church, may we seek to be faithful to the teaching of Scripture; conforming and molding ourselves to the Word of God so that God will be glorified in His Church.

Soli Deo Gloria

Biblical Leadership (Pt.2)

Deacons And Elders

In the first post (here) I said that it has long been a wonderment of mine about church government. I grew up in the average Deacon led (read Deacon Board here which acted more like a group of elders who made most of the decisions in the church) local church. In some ways, there are things to celebrate within the single pastor system (however, there are many things that should cause us to weep and repent). So, let’s ask the question, shall we? What does Biblical Church structure look like from the pages of Scripture? The answer? A local church under a plurality of pastors, served by a Deacon body. Lets take a look first at the Presbytery of the local church.

The Leaders of the New Testament Church

Three Words Used for the Office of Pastor

In the New Testament, there are three Greek words, which are employed interchangeably for the office of Pastor (cf. Acts 20:17, 28; Titus 1:5, 7; 1 Peter 5:1-2). The Greek word presbuteros, which means presbyter. It is the word from which we get presbytery or Presbyterian and is most commonly rendered ‘elder’. The second term for a pastor is, episcopos and is rendered ‘bishop’ or overseer. The last word for this office is the Greek word, poimen, and it is rendered pastor (Ephesians 4:11). What do these three words emphasize? The word ‘presbyter’ or ‘elder’ emphasizes the maturity of the man (not specifically in reference to his age) and the dignity of his office. The term ‘bishop’ or ‘overseer’ refers to the administrative functions of the office. The word ‘pastor’ refers to the spiritual care and concern of the office.

The Plurality of Pastors

Contrary to those churches who have only one pastor, the pattern that we see in Scripture is always that of a plurality (more than one) of pastors within the context of each local church. This was the uniform practice of the churches in the New Testament (see Acts 14:23; 15:2-6, 22; 20:17-18; Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 5:17; Titus 1:5; James 5:14; 1 Pet. 5:1, 5). For those of you who would object saying, “in 1 Timothy 3:2 there is a singular usage of the word, “pastor”. Allow me to simply satisfy that objection by saying this; it is widely recognized that this term, in this context is simply a generic use of the word pastor. In other words, this is simply speaking of pastors as a class. It is clear from the Bible that the norm for the local church was a plurality of presbyters leading each congregation. These Presbyters served alongside a Deacon ministry to serve the local Church body (1 Tim. 3:8-13; Phil. 1:1) and they served as servant leaders (see Matt. 20:24-28; 23:8-12; and Titus 1:1 where Paul calls himself a slave of Christ. 1 Pet. 5:2)

The Work Of The Presbyters/Pastors

With all of this said, what about the work of the presbyters? There are at least 14, if not more, priorities for each and every pastor. These would include the following:

  • Teaching/Preaching (1 Timothy 3:2; 5:17; 1 Peter 5:2; Acts 20:28);
  • Guarding the Church Against False Teaching (Acts 20:28-29; Titus 1:9-14);
  • Care For Widows (1 Timothy 5:3)
  • Oversight (1 Peter 5:3; Hebrews 13:7, 17)
  • Counseling (Acts 21:23)
  • Handling Disputes (Acts 15:2ff)
  • Confronting Sin (Matthew 18:15-20; 1 Corinthians 5:1-13; Titus 1:11)
  • Visiting and Praying for the Sick (James 5:14)
  • Identify And Train Leaders (2 Timothy 2:1-2)
  • Lead God’s People In Prayer (1 Timothy 2:1-2)
  • Be An Example (1 Timothy 3:1-7)
  • Supervise Deacon Ministry (Acts 11:30)
  • Comfort The Mourning (Romans 12:15; 1 Corinthians 12:26)
  • Encourage The Weak (Romans 14:1-3)

The calling of a pastor is not for the faint of heart, nor is it for the lazy. While some have no clear understanding of the sacrifice of the pastoral call, the presbyters/pastors must teach their people what is required of us so that they can know how to hold us accountable Biblically. We are, after all, servant leaders who serve for the glory of Christ and for the encouragement and blessing of God’s people.

Soli Deo Gloria