The plan of God as it unfolds in the book of Acts and into the epistles is to have churches established and built-up. This is God’s agenda for this age. In one sense the church is His mission plan for this age. Churches are established and out of those churches other churches are established.
I have been pondering on this issue particularly as regards to the sending out of missionaries to other pasts of the world. The goal should always be for those sent out either to link with churches which are already in situ in the location where they go to, or if it is a completely spiritually barren area to establish new churches.
There is something wrong for people to be just loan rangers or loan groups operating independent of churches.
This also raises issues more close to home. To engage in evangelism is absolutely vital and we give thanks to the Lord for all mission agencies who are labouring for the Lord. But these should always be operating in connection with local churches.
The commission of our Lord is to go and make disciples. Disciples are formed in the context of a local church. A convert can be any where, but a disciple should always be in a church. Evangelism should always be about recruiting disciples.
Is your church praying for the raising up and recognising of further elders? It would be my contention that a church that has decided it has enough elders is in a very dangerous position. Churches should always be aware that the death of the church is being hastened if there are no elders in place or being raised up to bear the load, under God, to carry the work of God in the church forward.
So every church should be praying for the coming forward of the next generation of leaders. And the present leaders should be taking the lead in this. If your present leaders are wanting to protect their position and not welcome new younger elders then they are not fit for the role of elder. Being an elder is a releasing ministry not a constraining ministry. Ephesians 4:12 tells us how elders are one of the groups with the responsibility to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.
It is a great concern when you observe churches where the present elders are moving into their seventies and eighties and there is no initiative or energy to look for younger elders. Such churches are effectively sealing their death-knell.
My traversing of different churches earlier in the year has led me to ponder upon the issues related to order, rigidity, familiarity and informality. When I use these terms I am thinking of the general structure of our services.
I am left wondering whether our churches at the more conservative end of the evangelical spectrum, have not adopted an overly rigid form. We have justified under the guise of being orderly and reverent.
We have seen the excesses of the charismatic movement and deemed that anything that smells of the charismatic approach to worship needs to be rejected. So as soon as someone lifts their hands or claps or moves their body in worship, we conclude, with pharisaical like undertones, that they are “going charismatic”. This, of course, alternatively, means they are “going-off-the-rails.”
We instead stick with our rigid formality and comfort ourselves on being faithful and reverent whilst all the time having no sense of God.
Now I am not arguing for chaos. But I am arguing that we need to think about how we reflect the working of God in our services. I know that some people (and some cultures) are more demonstrative in worship than others and perhaps we. anglo-saxon Brits. are less so. But surely there can be more room for the showing of emotion and expressing that in different ways in our worship services. In this context I have written previous;y here about David and Michal.
Let us also be thoughtful of those from those more demonstrative cultures who come among our churches. I feel we have lost many over the years from our church, Feltham Evangelical, because they could not accommodate themselves to our church culture. Many, I feel, we could have led into a better understanding of God’s way, but alas they moved on from us. There were things they liked about our church, but we expected them to adjust too much. In the end they went somewhere they were more comfortable with. It all makes me wonder whether we could have done more to prevent this.
Some churches are always waiting and some other churches are always working. Rather the case should be that all churches are both waiting and working churches.
The waiting church is always pushing back to God, but never moving forward into activity. Whilst the working church is always busy with its programs, but never taking time to seek after the Lord.
If you study the schedule of a church you can generally tell in which direction the church is veering. A lot is revealed by what is contained in the calendar of the church. The waiting church has lots of prayer times. The active church has lots of services and events and activities.
So where are we to be with these things? How are we to get the balance? The most important thing is to start in the right place. The believers at the beginning of the book of Acts were urged to wait for the Holy Spirit to come upon them. Whilst with his apostles we read of our Saviour: And while stayingwith them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now (Acts 1:4-5)” A principle is set here for us to be waiting upon the Lord as a first priority.
Waiting must always come before working, but waiting should never be alone. In Acts chapter 2 we see the working church bearing witness to the mighty grace of our Lord.
Moreover we see in Acts 2 how their work is effective work as we see the dramatic impact they have as they testify to the Lord and His ways and declare the gospel of our Lord Jesus. Their labour is not in vain as they see many won for the Lord Jesus.
So we learn for our churches, but also with great personal relevance that when we prioritize waiting we will always be settling ourselves up in a good way. However, if we do not move forward into working then the value of our waiting can be lost.
The assumption of the New Testament is that every Christian is a member of a church in their locality. In this church they share fellowship, serve their Lord and submit to the elders.
Two scriptures that alert us to this expectation are:
- Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you. This is the instruction of Hebrews 13:17. Clearly implicit in this text is that the elders know who they are responsible for and the church know who they re responsible to.
- So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh,so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord (1 Cor, 5:4-5). Paul here is indicating that the the man guilty of outrageous sin in having an affair with his step-mother should be removed form the church. In v13 they are told to expel him. This person is handed over to the realm of Satan; that is the world. there are only two realms the world and the church. If you are not a church member you are in Satan’s realm; the church.
I suggest that there are only two reasons why a Christian is not in church membership:
- They are in the process of regularizing their situation and becoming a church member. They must sort this out as soon as possible.
- They are “under discipline” and thereby excluded from church membership. In such a situation they need to repent and be restored to the church.
I feel we too easily excuse Christians from not becoming church members. It is after all very much the spirit of the age not to commit to things. However, this is all surely wrong. We should, I feel, name it for what it is and that is disobedience.
I feel that we should be more inclined towards treating any professing Christian who refuses to be a church member as a non-christian. They have after all chosen the realm of Satan, the world over against the realm of God, the church. So they should be treated as unbelievers.
Well what are Saturday nights alright for? How you answer that probably all depends on what your thoughts are about Sunday. If you have got no thoughts about Sunday then Saturday night is probably OK for just about anything that takes your fancy. In fact the Saturday night will flow into the Sunday, so it is all just one Saturday night until you emerge from your slumbers mid afternoon on the Sunday.
But if Sunday means something to you then your Saturday night will be affected. This is particularly so for Christians. So fellow Christian what do you think about your Saturday evenings?
The first thing to have in mind on a Saturday evening is that you have got church tomorrow, and therefore you need to remember that you are committed to being with the Lord’s people in the church of which you are a member, in order to worship the Lord with them. Everything you do and think on Saturday evening is permeated by this awareness.
The second thing to do which builds on the first is to prepare for Sunday. If you have filled your mind with junk on a Saturday evening don’t be surprised if church is an empty experience on the Sunday morning. Perhaps set aside sometime to meditate on Scripture and seek the LORD confessing your sins and getting your soul in good order. And pray over the services of the Lord’s Day ahead; pray for the preacher and all those taking part. Pray that you would be in the right place at the right time to say the right thing and act the right way. So that you will be a blessing to others.
The third thing to be aware of on a Saturday evening is the impact that you have upon others. This particularly applies if you have got children and even more so when the children are younger. And I cannot emphasize too much the importance of Christian fathers taking the lead here. Christian parents you should be expecting and anticipating that the whole family is going to be in church. So you will arrange everything around this. You will make sure that the kids are in bed in decent time. You will make sure they know what time they need to get up on Sunday. Your whole schedule operates on Saturday night around knowing that you will be in church by the time the service is arranged to start.
And when we see God’s people getting their Saturday nights sorted out, then we will see the whole experience of the Lord’s Day transformed. What do you think?
(This is an adaptation of a post Originally published at Venabling on 1st June 2015)
……………………..frustration. I want to address this matter specifically in the context of church leadership. However, the principles also play-out in other realms of life whether that be business, family or community.
For any group of people to function well there has to be good communication. Particular responsibility for providing this communication, and exemplifying it, is with the leadership. When communication is bad by a church leadership then the church starts to malfunction; bad communication leads to frustration. When people are not been told what is going on then they start to get frustrated. Some of the evidences that the communication is bad are:
- People having to approach the elders to find out about what is going on regarding a specific situation. Now there will be times when such an inquiry is just busy-bodying. Also there will be times when information is confidential and cannot be shared. Generally though, elders should be regularly be keeping all the people who need to know about a matter informed.
- People say “nobody told me”. This is when certain church members believe that they are not a party to information that others have been given.
- People start murmuring among themselves about what is going on in a situation.
When these things starts to occur you end up with a frustrated church and the consequences will be:
- People are deflated. They don’t know what is going on. They feel things are not being dealt with.
- People are distracted. The duty of church leaders is to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up (Eph. 4:12). Rather than people being released to works of service, they are being distracted by having to spend energy figuring out what is going on with other stuff in the Church. And this is all because they have not been communicated with.
So church leaders need to:
- Always veer towards over-communication rather than under-communication.
- Be sending out information at the same time to those who need to know. A bit here and there to different people can cause upset.
- Make sure all communications are sufficient so all know enough. Long-winded documents put people off.
- Communicate with warmth and encouragement. Being too business-like and curt can offend some people.