When someone is “put out of fellowship” is that just a matter That relates to the church responsible for disciplining or does it involve other churches? I would strongly contend that it involves all other churches. To substantiate that assertion I would make the following points:-
As churches we stand together. We are all churches of one Master. When Paul wrote to the church at Colosse he said After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea (Col. 4:16). The implication here is that there is one truth for all churches. Accordingly when offence has been caused against one church there is a sense it is against all the Lord’s people; against all true churches. There is unity.
The whole purpose of a person being disfellowshipped is that they will come to repentance. When Paul says in 1 Cor 5:5a to hand this man over to Satan he is saying that the man who has engaged in gross sin should be placed in Satan’s place, the world. In such a place they feel the lack of fellowship with God and His people. Such a miserable experience should lead to repentance and restoration. If they can just go to another church then this gracious design of the Lord is enfeebled. The mechanism for bringing restoration is stopped.
Churches share together in the grace of God. Whatever our denominational label if a church is a true Bible church seeking to declare the gospel and honour Jesus as Lord then we are in fellowship with them. This means we share in the Lord’s goodness and grace grace together. Accordingly, if a sinning, unrepentant, excommunicated person is accepted by another church then that is a “slap-in-the-face” for the first church. It is indicating that we disagree with you.
If someone is just allowed to drift off to another church and become part of that church without any communication between the churches then trouble is being stored up for the future. This is because at some point it is likely that word will come to either or both churches of what has happened and there will be some messy unravelling that has to take place. It is best that right from the beginning, as much as is possible, there is communication between the churches.
…..and lost than never to have loved at all.” These words are apparently from Alfred Lord Tennyson. Yet they do express biblical truth. They do express a vital truth that you need to be aware of if you are entering into church leadership. So many times you will love and lose. People will reject you, they will misrepresent you, they will say and do all kinds of evil against you. And this even after you have loved them and given your time and energy for them.
But the call of the Christian is to love. As John puts it “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). If we do not love then we have never tasted or have ceased tasting of the love of Christ which has flooded towards us from the cross.
Yet at times we do feel like shriveling into our selfish cocoons. We want to shut down the love-flow so as to not allow ourselves to get hurt again. But to do that is to deny our calling as church elders; in a sense it is to deny our existence. After all the headline virtue in the fruit of the Spirit is love. To stop loving is to strangle the Spirits’s work.
Oh Lord I may have lost many times in love, but give me a fresh anointing to go and love some more. Thank you.
Now this is a principle for life, but is it particularly a principle for pastoral ministry. You must always be studying. I fear that a lot of pastors, including me, are failing in this area. I fear that they have got into a way of doing things and are not likely to change. So the thought of studying some more is not on their agenda.
In thinking of studying here I am thinking about observing what happens around them. In particular it involves assessing what they find works and does not work in a certain setting. So it might be a news reporter on TV who either excels or totally fails in bringing forth the story. Studying how they went about their work whether it led to success or failure can be so useful. Through this process we are learning about how to convey information for the benefit of others which is a crucial part of our pastoral calling whether taht be in preaching or personal interaction.
When in meetings with others, consider who are the most effective in helping others and seek to emulate the methods they adopt. So many in discussions just want to have their own say. So learn also from the verbose and tiresome who are active in the meeting and do not follow them.
We must always be learning. So when you go to another church observe how things are done and seek to glean that which would benefit your ministry.
God providentially is bringing us into a multitude of circumstances everyday and we should be learning continually.
For the thirsty deer the water is a necessity. For the thirsty soul God is a necessity.
Psalm 42:1-2 reads
As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
This shows us something of how desperate the sons of Korah were to know God. Their desperation is compared to that of the thirsty deer. This raises the whole issue of what God is to us. Is God a necessity or a convenience? Is God the One I have to have in my life or is He the One who is the top-up for my life.
Alas, God so easily becomes the latter in my life. Particularly living in a western culture where we still have an abundance of material supplies. So easily we follow the worldly mindset of convincing ourselves that if we have enough worldly goods we have enough for life. This is a lie. Yes we should be thankful to God for all of our daily supplies, but, as the Lord said in Luke 12:15b, life does not consist in an abundance of possessions. Life consists in knowing God. So to truly live life God is a necessity.
Which leaves me wondering when I pray to God do I pray like God is a necessity? When people visit our prayer times are they immediately stuck by the fact that we are desperate for God?
………..is the right way! It always has been, always will be and is now. So I must always know that. I must know that there is a way that is the Lord’s, whether I feel it or not. Such a way is always the best way to be on. I read these scriptures one morning some time ago:
1) Faith In The Lord.
Though the fig-tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the sheepfold
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Saviour.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights. (Hab. 3:17-19)
This is a remarkably encouraging Word from the Lord to spur us on in the walk of faith. It reminds me that my faith is not feelings based or circumstances based, but the Lord based. And that is where faith is happy to place its true lot; with the Lord. That being so we can be happy to know that He enables me “to tread on the heights”. It is His ability and enabling that matters.
2) Money Cannot Buy You Life.
Neither their silver nor their gold
will be able to save them
on the day of the Lord’s wrath.’ (Zeph. 1:18a)
This scripture demolishes so much of the propaganda of this world. “Life is better the more you have” is a mantra which not only fails to match-up in this life, but most spectacularly fails in the next. Money can’t buy you God and it can’t buy you heaven. And it can’t buy you out of the grotesque onslaught of judgement in the Day of the Lord. People triumph by faith in the living and true God and not by money.
3) The World Is Set On Ruin.
This is the city of revelry
that lived in safety.
She said to herself,
‘I am the one! And there is none besides me.’
What a ruin she has become,
a lair for wild beasts!
All who pass by her scoff
and shake their fists. (Zeph. 2:15)
As a nation, although we go through terrorist attacks or other turmoil such as the Grenfell Tower fire, we soon return to our carefree, self-contented, arrogant and self-sufficient ways. But don’t forget Philip that the end of that is always ruin. So you must learn to focus on the better way which is in Christ.
These were three helpful scriptures graciously given by the Lord, to an unsteady saint so as to steady me in the course of grace. Thank you LORD.
A scripture that struck me forcibly recently was: Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the ‘tent of meeting’. Anyone enquiring of the Lord would go to the tent of meeting outside the camp (Ex. 33:7). To enquire of the Lord required some effort to be put in. You had to go to “the tent of meeting” and that was some distance away.
Moses, of course, could have pitched it inside the camp or even close-by and thereby made it easy. But instead it was outside the camp and some distance away. In all this there was surely a test for the people. No-one could just halfheartedly stumble into the place where they could enquire of the Lord. Rather, they had to determine to go there. They had to put some effort in. The indolent, lackadaisical, casual and generally indifferent would not make it. Moreover, others would see you going to the tent and might even mock you for “taking religion too seriously.”
This leaves me to ponder upon how it seems that our churches are populated by a lot of people who are of the indolent, lackadaisical, causal and generally indifferent sort. I therefore raise the question are we making church too easy. Should we, as leaders and preachers, be pushing back more at people and challenging them as regards to whether they really do want to come outside the camp which is some distance away.
So what are some specific implications here:
- It just seems so many fall into the socially acceptable pattern that I go to church once on Sunday morning and that is it. But people don’t seem to register that it might be good to go at other times to church. Going a great distance to the tent of meeting seems far from people’s thoughts.
- We are so starved of people showing an interest in the faith that we “lay hold of people too quickly”. The Word corrects us here and says Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands (1 Tim. 5:22a).
- When people are showing interest push back at them to see if they are genuine. Ask them to buy a book or a Bible rather than giving them one for example. The Lord seems to have done this on occasion such as with the enquiring Syro-Phoenician woman (see Mark 7:24-30. In particular in v27 we read: ‘First let the children eat all they want,’ he told her, ‘for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.’
- Easy converts generally are no converts of all because they have never seen the heart of the Christian message. This is expressed by the Lord: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me (Lk. 9:23).
Here is our church newsletter for September 2017. It contains an article on obesity.