To venable (verb): To randomly muse upon this and that.

”Evangelical”

We are Feltham Evangelical Church. But what does the word evangelical mean? Have you ever pondered upon that question? Perhaps you have contented yourself with the thought that “that bit sounds like a nice religious word and I will ask no further questions”. But really, if we call ourselves “evangelical”, we should have some idea about what it means. So if someone asked you “What does evangelical mean?” what would you say? Let us take time to consider how we should respond to that question.

In defining “evangelical” there are two interrelated tracks to take. They are “Gospel” and “Bible”. As evangelicals, we are “Bible” and “Gospel” people.

Gospel Firstly, we believe with Paul that “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile” (Rom. 1:16). We believe that this is the most important message that anyone needs to hear and anyone needs to respond to. It is a message rooted in historical events. Most particularly, it focusses on the life, death, burial, resurrection and glorification of Jesus Christ our LORD. Paul sums up the message when he says to the Corinthians that “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. “ (1 Cor. 15:3-5). The gospel message focusses on Jesus.

As gospel people, we believe that it is vital that this gospel is made known. So evangelical people are also evangelistic people. Not all of us have the gift of “the evangelist”, but all of us are interested in evangelism. We who have received the gospel realise how incredibly blessed we are and so we want to make it known. We long and pray for people to embrace the gospel and be saved. It gives us joy and delight when we hear and know of Jesus being preached as the only Saviour of sinners. On the contrary if you are not interested in seeing the gospel go forward through evangelism then you are not evangelical.

Bible Secondly, we believe that the Bible is the complete written revelation that God has given to mankind. Anything that is to be known of God and His way is only known because God has revealed such in His Word. In fact the gospel message itself is only known through it being revealed in the Word of God. We preach Jesus and we preach the Word. So what do we believe about the Bible? We believe it is:

Complete. There is no need of any further revelation. God has revealed His purposes in the Scriptures in and through Jesus Christ. In the Bible, we have God’s complete revelation for us.

Inerrant. This means that the Bible does not err. It is a book of truth. We have to be clear here that we are referring to the original manuscripts as being totally inerrant. But scholars have established that the Bible we have today is a reliable representation of those manuscripts.

Sufficient. God has given us all that we need in His Word. We do not need to look for other books or other gurus to lead us in the true way. The Word of God is truth and thus, all we need for living in the true way.

Body of truth. As we believe in Scripture, we are led to believe that there is a body of truth represented by Scripture. Jude speaks of the the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people (Jude 3b). These truths would include the belief in God as three persons in one God, the deity of Jesus, the only way to God being through Christ, the fact that Christ dies as the one offering for our sins and the physical bodily return of Jesus Christ in the future.

So we are an evangelical church. We are a “Gospel” and “Bible” Church. And if you have the Bible, it will lead you to the gospel. And we only have a gospel because it is revealed in the Bible. And as we ponder upon these things, we are led to conclude that every Christian must be an evangelical because to be a Christian, you must believe in the gospel presented in the Bible and the Christ revealed by the Bible. And so, not only is an evangelical a Christian, but a Christian is an evangelical. To say you are a Christian, but not an evangelical is a contradiction.

(Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of April 2014)

In Acts 20:28 Paul urges the Ephesian elders to Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. It is the Holy Spirit who raises up overseers to watch over His people. These men are given to the church so that the church might be cared for and so as to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up (Eph. 4:12).

Overseers have a responsibility to see people released into service. Elders are to serve the people by leading the church forward under God. Some churches become stifled by all the decision-making being undertaken by all the church. This seems to make the church inefficient. Part of the responsibility of leaders is to shoulder responsibility for decision-making so that the church is released for growth in the Lord and service of the Lord.

However, this does not mean that elders should have an autocratic spirit. In fact such a spirit is very wrong. Paul tells the Christians in Thessalonica in 1 Thessalonians 5:12b to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. This obviously refers to the elders and indicates that they are not to domineer over the church, but to be among the people.

The implication of this is that the leaders are to be aware of how the sheep are thinking and what their attitudes are to certain issues in the church. Whenever, any issue comes up (and before issues come up!) the elders should be consulting the church. They should be moving around the church and asking what people think about this and that. This is all about having interaction with the fellowship. It is in fact, all about caring for the sheep which Paul urged the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:28 to do.

It is also part of discerning what the Holy Spirit is doing in the church. How is the Spirit using His Word forming lives and attitudes? Consultation and discussion with the believers will reveal this. So consultation by elders with the church is absolutely vital in a healthy church. In exercising such a listening ministry the shepherd is encouraging the sheep to know that they matter in the fellowship.

As a final note consultation will vary according to issue to issue. In some specialist matters like a building issue it may be just a few who need to be consulted. It will also vary according to the size of the issue. Big issues self-evidently, to require more consultation. And some times it may require a meeting to be arranged. Surveys can also be useful when undertaking consultation. The method will vary, but it must be done.

So leaders must consult. And they must consult sensitively and attentively. The people should not expect for you to do everything they say, but they should know that they have been heard.

Leadership and Pride.

The call to Christian leadership is a call to servant leadership. Our Saviour said to his disciples who were jostling for position  ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave (Matt. 20:25-27). The disciples had been disputing about who would have prominence in the kingdom. To which the Saviour replies: don’t seek prominence rather seek to serve.

The Saviour Himself is obviously the perfect example of this. Interestingly therefore He concludes the aforementioned exhortation to His disciples by saying. Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’ (Matt. 20:28). As elders in Christian churches we need to remember that we follow a Saviour who did not seek position, but sought to serve. Christian leaders are first and foremost to be disciples of their Lord. For them to seek position and glory in position is reprehensible and a total contradiction of their faith.

Jeremiah would remind us though, that The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jer. 17:9). Pride is always lurking nearby for a Christian Leader. Paul when giving the qualifications for an elder says that He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil (1 Tim. 3:6). The pre-fall position of the devil was august, but pride came in and condemnation followed. How we need to be on our guard fellow leaders, that we do not fall into this satanic pattern.

So how do we guard against pride in the service of God. Here are two suggestions:

  • Always remember you are at best an unprofitable servant. And if you have done something valuable (as you might perceive it) you have only done what your Master required you to do and there is nothing to boast of in that. The Lord develops this issue of servants doing what they were told when teaching his disciples and then pointedly addresses them and says So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.” (Luke 17:10)
  • Always remember you are a sinner in need of a Saviour. Paul, perhaps the greatest of Christian leaders after the Lord Himself, never forgot this. And so he could say towards the end of his ministry that Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst (1 Tim. 1:15 ESV). If we are vying for first-place with Paul in our estimation of ourselves concerning sinner-hood and the need of salvation then this augurs well for our leadership.

Let us be vicious against pride in our service brother elders. And if we are we will do well.

(This post follows-on from my post of yesterday about Mrs May and Leadership – see here)

 

Mrs May And Leadership.

Yesterday I mentioned here about where I feel everything started to implode for Mrs May. Today I want to consider some of the lessons for leadership from what has happened to Mrs May and the Conservative Party since 30th April.

Pride. Notwithstanding what was said at the time there seems to have been a prideful spirit at large among the Conservatives, particularly at the beginning of the election campaign. Mixed in with disdain for Mr Corbyn and the Labour party this was all a very unhealthy mix. Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall is what Solomon says in Proverbs 18:16.

Consultation. The manifesto which was something of a damp squib (and even embarrassment) was put together with limited consultation. The candidates and volunteers who have to support that manifesto were left somewhat deflated by this lack of engagement.

Communication. People who should have known about things relevant to their responsibility in the party appear to have not been communicated with properly. See here for details.

Personality Cult. The election campaign was conceived as being focussed upon Mrs May. It was believed that people would respond to her as a principled and strong leader. Her personality was key and not policies. Other strong personalities, such as Boris Johnson, were marginalised. As people became less impressed with her personality so the popularity of the Conservative party faded.

Sloganeering. There seems to have been the perception that the “strong and stable” would carry everything before it. People would be swayed by the allure of having this in uncertain times. But people need more than a slogan; they need policies.

Alienation of Core Support. The “dementia tax” proposal was badly conceived and presented. One reason it was so harmful was that would hit older people the most. And such people are traditionally the Conservative party’s core supporters.

Facing Up. Not appearing at the television debates with the other leadethe “strong nad stable” slogan would rs was surely a monumental miscalculation by Mrs May. People saw it as an unwillingness to front-up and be challenged by others. If she had just turned up and grunted a few things it would probably have done her more good.

Detachment. With everything seemingly being stage managed so that there were no gaffes she appeared detached. In contrast it is interesting to consider how Mr Major in 1992 got out among the people and stood on his box. People embraced such as being an indication that he was part of them. Mr Corbyn, in contrast to Mrs May, got out among the people.

Empathy. The failure of Mrs May to meet the residents of Grenfell Tower who had survived the horrendous fire of June 14th was a gross miscalculation again. People want their leaders to have some empathy with them.

So, some real issues to think about for all leaders whether they be leaders of families, businesses, countries or churches (or whatever institution). Makes me think about my responsibility as a father and an elder.

(I intend to dwell upon these issues over coming days, and particularly how they bear upon church leadership)

I am left wondering if it was in the Andrew Marr interview on 30th April where everything started to change for Mrs May. Up until taht date her position was unassailable. She was to all intents and purposes the queen awaiting her re-coronation. The June election was anticipated as a day of unmistakable triumph. And then she said this in the Andrew Marr interview (see here). Professing Christ she completely denied the truth that is in Jesus.

It just seemed from that point on things gradually changed. The wheels came off her campaign. There were the embarrassments surrounding the manifesto and finally the unexpected election results.  This all is quite interesting to me.

If you profess to know God, but deny that sin is truly sin you put yourself against the God you profess. A cautionary tale I feel.

Yesterday I mused upon how evolutionary theory is a miserable theory which is antithetical to any aspiration for peace. Today I want to bring forward the glorious certainties of the truth of the gospel. The gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is a message of peace. When our Lord was incarnated the angels burst forth to declare that ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.’ (Luke 2:14).

Which begs the question upon whom does His favour rest? Romans 5:1 gives the answer since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, His favour is upon those who have faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. These are the ones who are to have peace. This all leads us to see how the purpose of God is through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross (Col.1:20).

As a result of these things we who have peace with God need to:

  1. Know the peace of God as a reality in our lives as we live in the presence of God bringing all our life issues before him. Paul puts it like this: Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:6-7).
  2. Go forward and out announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. (Acts 10:36).
  3. Engage in the ministry of being peacemakers as we remember that our Lord Jesus said Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God (Matt. 5:9).

And we look forward to the promised future of eternal peace in the new heavens and new earth. How will there be such peace? There will be peace because the Prince of Peace, our Lord Jesus, (see Is. 9:6) shall reign. When He reigns all sin will be expunged and peace will ooze from every microbe of the new heaven and new earth. How good is that.

Oh how great is the gospel of our Lord Jesus. What truth is this! What hope is this!

Here are two incompatible statements:

  1. I desire that there would be peace among people and nations.
  2. I believe that this world with all its diversity of land-forms, fauna and flora came into being through evolutionary forces.

So you ask why are they incompatible? You might particularly ask that question given that the vast majority of people on the planet hold to those two perspectives and see no contradiction.

The incompatibility of the statements derives from what are perceived to be the prime movers of evolution. Evolutionary theory uses two phrases to express what these are “survival of the fittest” and ” “natural selection”. Both of these inherently involve struggle and fighting. The fittest survive and the best are selected. And all this happens by means of  the defeat of the weaker and inferior through fighting and conflict. The evolutionary model involves fighting and war.

So if you believe in evolutionary theory you have two conclusions that you can reach:

  1. Evolution ceased sometime ago and now we are in a different realm. I have never heard this contended for by evolutionists. Evolutionary theory is established on the basis that it is an ongoing phenomenon.
  2. Evolution continues. This means that struggle and conflict continue. So if you are following evolutionary theory then your system stymies any longing for peace among nations. If you are an evolutionist you just have to accept that war and conflict are part of life and you have no hope of them ending.

I assert thereby in conclusion, that evolutionary dogma is a miserable dogma. It is a dogma which is antithetical to any aspiration for peace.

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