Here is an interesting article by Chris Green. He writes about those who have made shipwreck of their ministry. One common feature of those who have fallen in this way is that they have all previously withdrawn form active involvement in church life. Essentially they have been carrying on with church ministry, but have withdrawn from the church.
One way of preventing us moving in that direction is to be reminding ourselves that we are church members before we are anything else in the church. I have written about that here and here
Although specifically directed to those “in ministry”, by Mr Green, this principle of the need to be bolted into the life of a church for fellowship and accountability is essential for us all. How it is that Christians can remain outside a church is baffling. And it is baffling in this context because it is so dangerous. So fellow believer if you:
- are not a church member, why not? You just must be.
- are a church member, make sure you stay central to church life. To fail to do this is to put your life in peril.
What kind of people are being bred and produced in our churches and families. This is a big issue to challenge parents and church leaders.
The big danger we face is of producing those who have an outward conformity to accepted standards, but their heart is not in it. They conform to the standards that are presented to them out of obligation or respect, but if they had their own way they would be doing differently.
The issue is an issue of leadership and teaching. Are we law teachers and demonstrators or grace teachers and demonstrators?
Law teachers basically present the rules and say that if you keep them all will be fine. But if you don’t keep them then things are going to go bad.
Those who teach grace are continually drawing their students into the wonderful news that there is acceptance. Naturally we are wrecked and written-off because of our sin. However, there is acceptance with God though our Lord Jesus Christ who once died to take away our sins. In leading this way we present the true way as a way of delight where we can know that we are with God. In teaching this way we want to draw hearts into an appreciation of how much good God has demonstrated in Christ. We, of course, need to be demonstrators of this. Children need to see that their parents are livers of grace.
As grace is presented in all its richness to our congregations and children then we long and pray for a heart response. Such a heart response will lead to lives that are wanting to go on and know the Lord and live to please God.
They live to please God not just to keep the standards, but because they love the One who gave the standards.
Parents, church leaders and all involved in discipleship must remember this.
It must be noted though that law teaching is not excluded by the need to teach grace. In fact the law if properly handled shows the need of grace. So in that sense the law when used properly is a means of grace.
This post from last week leads me to think about how leaders should demonstrate their leadership in repentance. This is essentially counter-intuitive because the thinking of the world is that you have to prove yourself to be strong and in control if you are a leader. However the godly leader is not of that ilk.
The model of our leadership is a Saviour who was humble and lowly of heart. Now our Saviour never had to repent of any sin. However for us who are weak in our beings and prone to wander from the ways of God there should be the readiness to repent.
This so important because it is how we display the gospel into our family and into our church. Parents and church leaders who are not repenters set a bad example to those under their care. The gospel we affirm, after all, is a message which has its fulcrum in repentance. Gospel grace swings into our lives when there is repentance. Forgiveness is experienced when there is repentance.
So parents and church leaders make sure that you are a leader in repentance. Children and church members who see their leaders ever proving their strength and refusing to face up to their sins are hindered from seeing the gospel clearly displayed before them.
When issues arise in any community of people whether that be in a family, office or church (or wherever) then there is a pressing need to resolve those issues. Very often if the issues are not resolved then they will fester in the community and suck much needed life-blood away from the group.
I am suggesting that there is a five stage approach that needs to be adopted:
Consider: Gather together all the information. Speak with relevant peoples. Consult those who may have specialist expertise regarding the issue. Talk things through with the other people who are responsible (e.e. elders in church). And as you do so be praying to the Lord for His undertaking in all this.
Decide: There comes a point when a decision needs to be taken so that there can be a resolution of the matter and a moving forward. Sometimes that will take a length of time, at other times it will be quite swift. Generally that depends on the magnitude of the issues involved.
Communicate: Inform all those who need to know what is happening. This is a key element in the process. Lack of communication can lead to all kinds of confusion and frustration about what is happening. Discretion as to the detail of the message and extent of who is told is needed, But full clear and open communication will save an organisation from lots of energy needlessly wasted.
Implement: Put into operation what you have decided upon. Inform all those who are involved in putting the strategy in place about what is required.
Monitor: There is a sense that the matter having been dealt with it can now be left and the organisation can move on effectively and productively. However, the arrangements implemented as a result of the decision should be monitored so that any improvements, that are necessary, are introduced and set in place.
In Hebrews 13:17 we read: 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.
It is easy for elders to concentrate on how the church should be submitting to their authority. However, the key injunction to the elders of the church in this verse is for them to be watching over the flock. This is a relentless work for a shepherd to be involved in. Sheep are prone to wander and stray. Sheep easily head off in harmful directions. Elders should be always lovingly watching for those in the congregation; the sheep in their care.
There should be no favoritism; all should be equally cared for. There are some sheep we warm to more than others, but all should have our loving attention. Some cause us more trouble than others, but still all should be loved. The quieter ones, who can so easily be ignored, should know they are cared for too.
Also we should be remembering what our goal is. It is not to produce a bunch of compliant individuals whom we control. Rather it is to see their spiritual progress. We long to present everyone perfect in Christ. In Colossians 1: 28-29 we see Paul’s heart which should be our heart He (Christ Jesus) is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me. We, like Paul, should long and labour so that no spiritual harm comes to the sheep in our care.
The godly sheep will warm to this care because they know we are demonstrating their Lord to them. Others who do not have a heart for God will resist it. But whatever the response we must continue to labour for our Master among those sheep He has given us as a stewardship.