Archive for the ‘Ecclesiology (Church Stuff)’ Category

Question and Answer (in a page or less)

Where and When did the Church Begin?

The Church began in the eternal counsel of the triune God as the Father determined to give His beloved Son a bride who would be regenerated by the Holy Spirit.

In redemptive history, Adam was given the ordinance to beget a holy seed that would inhabit the earth. Adam failed in this charge. He failed as prophet, priest, and king. Everything that follows in the way of covenants is part of God’s reclamation project of Adam’s failures. The promises of God find their culminating “amen” in Christ, who was born in the fullness of time.

Jesus founded disciples who were given the mandate to preach the gospel to all the nations. This task took place during Jesus’ ministry, but really finds its origin on Pentecost in Jerusalem as the ascended Christ poured out the Holy Spirit upon the “called out” assembly who were then charged with bringing the Gospel to Jerusalem, Judea, and the ends of the earth:

Acts 1:8 (ESV) — 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Acts shows us how the apostles completed this task through missionary efforts, church planting, and training a future generation of leaders. The Pastoral Epistles (1 & 2 Timothy and Titus), and selected material from other epistles give us a clearer picture of the Apostolic Church as a lasting institution. God ordains that the Church be supplied with particular servants/leaders and also supplies the description and requisites for such positions.

A properly constituted Church will function within the defined ecclesiology of the Scriptures. There are many disagreements about what constitutes a valid sanctioned Church.  These matters must be resolved from further study.

Suffice it to say that God purposed an elect body of people who would belong to Him for all eternity. This is according to the mysterious eternal counsel of God from which He set His love upon a community who would be set apart by way of covenant. The Father chose a people > Jesus consented to win the bride by redeeming them at the cost of His own sacrificial love (read Hosea) > The Holy Spirit is the “matchmaker” who wins over our hearts for Christ through the work of “new birth” and therefore makes us a “bride of Christ”. This is all revealed throughout redemptive history and culminates in the fullness of time with Christ. The NT defines the Church in the current era of redemptive history, which shall continue until the second coming of Christ.

James Davison Hunter says that, “…Christianity in North America…is a weak culture; weak insofar as it is fragmented in it’s core beliefs and organization, without a coherent collective identity and mission, and often divided within itself, often with unabated hostility.”

My question: “what’s the solution?”

Church Planter: The Man, the Message, The Mission is the latest book from the Re:Lit branch of Crossway Books. Written by Darrin Patrick, VP of the Acts 29 church planting network, it is essentially a church planting primer, or a boot camp in a book, or a field manual for those already deployed, depending on your current situation.As the subtitle suggests, the book is broken down into three parts that focus on what Patrick considers to be the key elements of planting and leading a church.

Before we even get into the main material, it is worth mentioning the introduction to the book. Here, the culturally sensitive issue of gender exclusivity in church leadership is raised and handled, in my opinion, very well. Though it would be nice if everyone agreed on all matters of Christian practice, that is not going to happen any time soon short of Jesus returning. As such, we need to handle our differences with grace. Darrin holds to a complimentarian stance, whereby the office of elder is held exclusively by biblically qualified men. He has existed both literally and intellectually on both sides of the debate and offers his position with grace and conviction – no easy task! Unlike some who hold similar positions, he does not exclude women from acts of ministry themselves, only from the office of elder. Women are free to prophecy, pray, serve, even teach, but not to lead as elder:

There is absolutely no indication in Scripture that gender plays any role in God’s sovereign distribution of spiritual gifts. (p.15)

I believe women can use any gift that God has given them in the church and that only the office of elder is reserved for men. This may seem paradoxical, but I think it is biblical. (p. 15)

The argument on teaching, briefly, is that the majority of teaching will be done by elders, therefore men, and that all elders are meant to be capable of teaching, but not all teaching must be done by elders. Elders are to oversee, shepherd and guard, so non-elders can do the same ministry actions (e.g. teach), but elders are responsible and ultimately accountable.

At the end of the day, Darrin makes a good case that, even if you disagree with his position about gender and church leadership, statistics are showing we have a problem to face about men in general and men in the church specifically.

The key points are that men are staying boys longer in both their actions and attitudes, and that older men are not mentoring these “Bans” (boy/man) to raise them into godly men quickly. As such, we have a dearth of biblically minded, gospel-orientated men and something must be done. So whether you’re in agreement with Darrin, or whether you think he’s wrong, the reality is that something must be done to not only retain, but to train men to lead effectively in the church. It’s a pretty compelling argument for reading the book regardless of doctrinal position on this point. For the sake of this review, I will be sticking with the use of ‘he’ when referring to the elder/pastor/undershepherd.

The Man Ministry is more than hard. Ministry is impossible. And unless we have a fire inside our bones compelling us, we simply will not survive. (p.30)

The first section of the book deals with the church planter himself, and the kind of person he needs to be both in terms of qualification and potential success. If balance between theology and practicality is highly favored, this first section is the most likely to please you (theology gets the main drive in The Message and The Mission gives it all some legs, though none of the book is lacking in both elements). Patrick deals with the type of man, the confirmation and testing of his calling, his character and his ability to lead/shepherd well. It is a high standard that Patrick holds to and a thoroughly Biblical one at that. For anyone considering their calling to pastoral ministry, stare long and hard in this mirror and make sure that you are really called!

The MessageHe went from the God of heaven out there to being the Lord of earth right here. God took the theory of his love for his people and wrapped it in skin and blood and gristle and bone. (p.107)

In the second section, the central message of the gospel is unpacked and its implications for p (more…)

Tim Keller explains how the gospel motivates and informs ministry to the poor in this Themelios article.

Kevin DeYoung has done a 3 part series on the ministry of rebuke and I couldn’t commend it more highly to all beleivers, especially my peeps at Sovereign Grace Fellowship. He offers a checklist of 20 guidelines. Here is a link to the 3rd installment, which contains links to the first 2 within it: link.

Here are some of his guidelines that I especially appreciated. In his first installment on “Why” to rebuke:

3. It protects. Rebuke protects you from hurting others and from hurting yourself. It also protects the flock from false teachers and evil doers. One of the chief responsibilities of the elder or pastor is that he be able to rebuke (2 Tim. 4:2; Titus 1:9, 14; 2:15). A leader who never rebukes sin and never corrects false teaching is not protecting his flock. And he who refuses to protect refuses to love.

In Ezekiel, the leaders were likened to watchmen on the city walls. That’s what the elders are to be (Acts 20:26-31). If we see enemy doctrines or enemy sin in our midst, we must warn the city, lest we have blood on our hands. Correction is our calling.

In his 2nd installment on “When” to rebuke:

3. The more the person is blind to it. Christians who make mistakes and feel terrible about it don’t need a rebuke. They need the Savior. But it’s a different story when your brother or sister doesn’t see the problem. Suppose you begin to notice that one of the couples in your small group never seems to get along. You sense coldness and hostility in their marriage. But they’ve been open with the group that they are seeing a biblical counselor for help. Probably no need to rebuke what they already see. But if they were blind to their problems, someone needs the courage to confront.

4. The more habitual the problem is. An errant swear word is bad, but depending on the situation may not require your rebuke. But where there’s a habit of letting the filth fly, reproof is in order. When Christians fall into sin they need a hand up. When they fall into the same sin in the same place day after day, they need a kick in the pants first.

 On “How” to rebuke and how to receive rebuke:

3. Check your heart. Are you getting in his face so you can serve your notice of indignation, or are you going to serve their sanctification? Consider this wisdom: “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding” (Prov. 17:27). And, “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention” (Prov. 15:18). In other words, check yourself before you wreck yourself. Or as James puts it, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person by quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20).

Don’t be loud if you can be soft. Galatians 6:1 says restore your brother gently. 2 Timothy 2:25 tells us to correct our opponents with gentleness. A gentle answer, Proverbs tells us, turns away wrath (15:1). It was always Paul’s desire to come in a spirit of gentleness; the rod was only a last resort (1 Cor. 4:21; cf. 2 Cor. 13:10). You see a pattern here? Try gentleness first. Don’t be the one whose rash words are like sword thrusts (Prov. 12:18).

Immature Christians only have one decibel level. Some don’t know how to whisper and some don’t know how to scream. The goal is to administer the rebuke as softly and gently as possible. In most situations, the trumpet blast should come only after you’ve tried the flute first. Don’t launch the nukes at the first sign of trouble. Try diplomacy, then sanctions, then warnings, then strategic targets, then air, then sea, then ground, then start consulting about the big red button. Don’t punch them in the gut if an arm around the shoulder will do the trick.

How to Receive Rebuke

1. Consider the source. If you are any kind of public figure there will always be complaints. Ditto if you spend any time on the internet. So it’s imperative we know what to do with criticism. Ask yourself: is this rebuke coming from someone I trust and respect? Is it from someone I know and someone who knows me? Is this person someone to whom I am accountable–a spouse, an elder board, an employer? We can’t take every rebuke to heart. But ignoring every unflattering assessment is foolish too.

2. Consider the substance. Pray about the hard word spoken to you. Ask others what they think. Maybe this rebuke needs your blind eye and deaf ear. Jesus was rebuked by Peter, so not every correction hits the mark. If you take an honest, humble look at the rebuke and it doesn’t seem to fit. Don’t wear it. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4 “My conscience is clean.” That didn’t mean he was necessarily acquitted before God, but as far as he could tell, he had not sinned. So he moved on.

But sometimes we do screw up. Even the best of men are men at best. I doubt many of us are over-rebuked. Most of us, myself included, would probably do well to receive more specific correction. So consider the source, consider the substance, and be prepared to grow.

Well, with my new Netflix subscription in effect, I was able to take in a few documentaries (I am a big documentary fan for some odd reason). I saw “Jesus Camp“, “Hell House“, and “Lord, Save Us from Your Followers“. These 3 documentaries offered 3 very different pictures of Christian cultural engagement.

“Jesus Camp” essentially portrays Pentecostal catechesis of children; full of intercessory prayer, tongues, and Spiritual warfare…all intended to claim the world for Jesus. Kids are taught to go all out, to ramp up their opposition to “sin” in the cultural battles of our day, and to share Jesus with everyone. Hey, to be honest, there’s a lot good there, however watching the film grieved me in many ways. There is no dialectical aspect to sharing the faith and engaging culture. Everything is an all out war. Also, a little girl “felt led” to share Jesus with someone at the bowling alley in typical “hit and run” fashion and the parents affirmed it. The interviews with some of the kids, including a young girl reveals some expected immaturity, however it is more dangerous because their is a spiritualizing of their immaturity. In one scene, a girl criticizes churches that don’t yell to Jesus when they pray, going so far as to say that Jesus only likes worship from the churches that yell and get exuberant. What is sadder is that parents are reinforcing all of this. So, not only are these kids at war with culture, they are also condescending of the broader church. (more…)

C.J. Mahaney blogged a recap of Kevin De Young’s recent conference message on the Church. Here is the blog and here is the audio link. Here are some of the things that De Young suggests you do:

• Find a good local church.
• Get involved.
• Become a member.
• Stay there as long as you can.
• Put away thoughts of a revolution for a while.
• Join the plodding visionaries.
• Go to church this Sunday and worship in Spirit and truth.
• Be patient with your leaders.
• Rejoice when the gospel is faithfully proclaimed.
• Bear with those who hurt you.
• Give people the benefit of the doubt.
• Say “hi” to the teenager that no one notices.
• Welcome the old ladies with the blue hair and the young men with tattoos.
• Volunteer for the nursery.
• Attend the congregational meeting.
• Bring your fried chicken to the potluck like everybody else.
• Invite a friend.
• Take a new couple out for coffee.
• Give to the Christmas offering.
• Sing like you mean it.
• Be thankful someone vacuumed the carpet for you.
• Enjoy the Sundays that “click.”
• Pray extra hard on the Sundays that don’t.
• And in all of this, do not despise the days and weeks and years of small things (Zechariah 4:8–10).