Gaging health in the local church is one of the favorite chatters of our culture. Sadly, because the word of God has fallen to a guide or tool rather than the authority, anyone can search and find plenty of pundits giving measurable scales to health. The difference in my thoughts today is that I want so submit to scripture, not culture, not tradition (beware of people who use this word for anything), not history, but the immutable word that demands our time. (Sadly, I won’t exhaust the text either… for fear or perfection will tarry the completion of these thoughts and render them silent.)  This will not be exhaustive nor will it be inclusive of all areas and it should clearly be understood that a healthy church is wrought with problems, trials, complaints, pain and failure because people are the church. The gospel overcomes these things. So, any church that is so perfect is no church at all.

PEOPLE

Is your church comprised of people? Are you able to see that the very blood flow of your congregation is the people? Remember, any church that is not people is not a church. The term church means called out ones, not place people go. Your church should emphasize the family of God ALL THE TIME and when it appears that programs and property are the point, your church is not just unhealthy but dead.

Are people cared for, prayed for, lived with? Do you find that you are drawn to individuals who give up their time and passions for you? Are you doing the same?  Is the culture of your church able to continue doing all it does if everything stops but life? The point of the Cross was to purchase a people and sadly we have lost sight of that. Are you just a leader investing in some portion of something that you are told to “plug” people in?

Paul prays for the people, never what the church is doing. The point of being the church is for the church to grow up in Christ and in love with each other as the LEARN Christ so that they may be filled with all the fullness of God.  “[17] so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, [18] may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, [19] and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19 ESV)

PREACHING

Is the preaching teaching you things? Are you learning scripture? Test your doctrine for a minute. What is the meaning of justification? How has Christ propitiated your sin? Describe the eternal nature of Jesus Christ and how all the New Testament letters reveal it. What attribute of God is most dear to you in worship?

Having problems? Then you have never been taught scripture because all scripture in its context reveals these things at its core. Does your pastor preach the text or does he use the text to provide answers to his outline? Are you in AWE of the God of Heaven and His glory? Are you more moved by the special music than the word of God? Is Scripture utilized to make the preacher’s point but cannot be found in the context of the passage? Are you equipped to LOVE CHRIST, LOVE HIS CHURCH and throw this world away after the sermon is done? Now don’t shoot me because I am appealing to “feeling” or outcome? A good biblical sermon could be given and the heart of the hearer could be cold. The point? Is the preaching pointing to Christ’s WORD or the preacher’s word?

Is your church centered on understanding scripture, being trained in righteousness, learning to APPLY the Gospel among the life of the church? Is the only time you hear any Good News is at the end of service followed by some human condition to salvation or a heart-tugged missionary story? Do visual aids, skits, object lessons or stories make the points that Scripture should? What do you remember about God and His infinite glory? Do you know the God of the bible? After all, knowing God and His Son IS ETERNAL LIFE! (John 17) Run from such so-called preaching that rings anything but Scriptural power and glory. Run.

PURPOSE

What does your church exist? Do you know? Is it the primary focus of all things that happen among you? Are programs done in the name of “reaching” the lost but no lost are reached? Are you busy busy busy with everything to the point of being tired and then told to not grow weary in the Lord’s work? Are you able to really see the Gospel foundation as the walls and trusses of all that is done in the name of Christ? Will the work done in the lives of people effectively result in ETERNAL FRUIT? Look at these two texts and see what you think:

[10] According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. [11] For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. [12] Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—[13] each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. [14] If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. [15] If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:10-15 ESV)

[1] Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. [2] But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. [3] And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. [4] In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. [5] For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. [6] For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:1-6 ESV)

Is GOD’S GLORY the ultimate purpose of all things? Are you SHOWN God’s ineffable majesty and does the life of your church REVEAL Him? Some gathered people say that every engagement is for the sake of pointing people to Christ or creating a relationship with Christ. This purpose, while honorable on the exterior is usually void of any solid preaching of God’s word thus removing any possibility of salvation from any participant. People are saved ONLY by the word of God being given to their ears when the mercy of God gives them hearing. (Romans 10:17)

The church exists for the purpose of God’s glory. Period.

PLANNING

What is your church known for? Asking anyone in the community will reveal the planning of ministry that will birth from the purpose. So, is your congregation known for having cool events? A school? A wonderful children’s ministry? A great music program? How is it that the body of the Risen Christ are to be about HIS business but very few professing churches are actually in the business of Christ at all? For many, the calendar will prove whose they are. If a church takes more time to administrate events that in preparation for learning Christ together it may be a very clear sign that the church is dead.

POWER

In reality, is your church powerful?  Are those who are your family among you enable to live with power, joy, exultation, satisfaction and grace? The power of God is ALWAYS evident among His people who are healthy.  The power of God in JOY is visible.  The POWER of God is effectual and the church that is His will have AFFECTION for Him through His Spirit given through HIS WORD ALONE! If a church is powerless and is easily identified as successful by the work of men and human invention, then not only is the church you attend very very ill, it is not a church at all. May the Lord grant you power to know and see and understand the vastness of His merciful affection toward His people in Jesus Christ! May you run to the the Lord Jesus and escape all traditions that encapsulate the essence of humanism including those so-called Evangelical and Protestant gatherings who are nothing more than liberal Romans.

Mercy,

j

We have been preaching a conference on the true picture of a biblically healthy church. Last night the topic on the table was evangelism. I pray the word of the Lord would shine into your heart. Be blessed.

Due to some churches who are newly introduced to the idea of biblical church leadership, I felt that it would be good to review the role and rule of the elder and consider John MacArthur’s thoughts on the matter to be very truthful and biblically based.

I pray that you might grow in your understanding of God’s desire for the church.

The following is adapted from the Grace Church Distinctive on Biblical Eldership and is posted fully below:

Biblically, the focal point of all church leadership is the elder. An elder is one of a plurality of biblically qualified men who jointly shepherd and oversee a local body of believers. The word translated “elder” is used nearly twenty times in Acts and the epistles in reference to this unique group of leaders who have responsibility for overseeing the people of God.

The Office of Elder

As numerous passages in the New Testament indicate, the words “elder” (presbuteros), “overseer” (episkopos), and “pastor” (poimen) all refer to the same office. In other words, overseers and pastors are not distinct from elders; the terms are simply different ways of identifying the same people. The qualifications for an overseer (episkopos) in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, and those for an elder (presbuteros) in Titus 1:6-9 are unmistakably parallel. In fact, in Titus 1, Paul uses both terms to refer to the same man (presbuteros in v. 5 and episkopos in v. 7).

All three terms are used interchangeably in Acts 20. In verse 17, Paul assembles all the elders (presbuteros) of the church of Ephesus to give them his farewell message. In verse 28 he says, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers [episkopos], to shepherd [poimaino] the church of God.” First Peter 5:1-2 brings all three terms together as well. Peter writes, “Therefore, I exhort the elders [presbuteros] among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd [poimaino] the flock of God among you, exercising oversight [episkopeo] not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God.” The different terms, then, indicate various features of ministry, not varying levels of authority or separate offices, as some churches espouse.

A Plurality of Elders

The consistent pattern throughout the New Testament is that each local body of believers is shepherded by a plurality of God-ordained elders. Simply stated, this is the only pattern for church leadership given in the New Testament. Nowhere in Scripture does one find a local assembly ruled by majority opinion or by a single pastor.

The Apostle Paul left Titus in Crete and instructed him to “appoint elders in every city” (Titus 1:5). James instructed his readers to “call for the elders of the church” to pray for those who are sick (James 5:14). When Paul and Barnabas were in Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, they “appointed elders for them in every church” (Acts 14:23). In Paul’s first epistle to Timothy, the apostle referred to “the elders who rule well” at the church at Ephesus (1 Tim. 5:17; see also Acts 20:17, where Paul addresses “the elders of the church” at Ephesus). The book of Acts indicates that there were “elders” at the church in Jerusalem (Acts 11:30; 15:2, 4; 21:18).

Again and again, reference is made to a plurality of elders in each of the various churches. In fact, every place in the New Testament where the term presbuteros (“elder”) is used it is plural, except where the apostle John uses it of himself in 2 and 3 John and where Peter uses it of himself in 1 Peter 5:1. Nowhere in the New Testament is there a reference to a one-pastor congregation. It may be that each elder in the city had an individual group in which he had specific oversight. But the church was seen as one church, and decisions were made by a collective process and in reference to the whole, not the individual parts.

In other passages, reference is made to a plurality of elders even though the word presbuteros itself is not used. In the opening greeting of his epistle to the Philippians, Paul refers to the “overseers [plural of episkopos] and deacons” at the church of Philippi (Phil. 1:2). In Acts 20:28, Paul warned the elders of the church of Ephesus, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which God has made you overseers [plural of episkopos]” (Acts 20:28). The writer of Hebrews called his readers to obey and submit to the “leaders” who kept watch over their souls (Heb. 13:17). Paul exhorted his Thessalonian readers to “appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction” (1 Thess. 5:12)—a clear reference to the overseers in the Thessalonian assembly.
Much can be said for the benefits of leadership made up of a plurality of godly men. Their combined counsel and wisdom helps assure that decisions are not self-willed or self-serving to a single individual (cf. Prov. 11:14). If there is division among the elders in making decisions, all the elders should study, pray, and seek the will of God together until consensus is achieved. In this way, the unity and harmony that the Lord desires for the church will begin with those individuals he has appointed to shepherd His flock.

The Qualifications of Elders

The character and effectiveness of any church is directly related to the quality of its leadership. That’s why Scripture stresses the importance of qualified church leadership and delineates specific standards for evaluating those who would serve in that sacred position.

The qualifications for elders are found in 1 Timothy 3:2-7 and Titus 1:6-8. According to these passages, an elder must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, gentle, uncontentious, free from the love of money, not fond of sordid gain, a good manager of his household, one who has his children under control with dignity, not a new convert, one who has a good reputation outside the church, self-controlled, sensible, able to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict, above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, loving what is good, just, and devout.

The single, overarching qualification of which the rest are supportive is that he is to be “above reproach.” That is, he must be a leader who cannot be accused of anything sinful because he has a sustained reputation for blamelessness. An elder is to be above reproach in his marital life, his social life, his business life, and his spiritual life. In this way, he is to be a model of godliness so he can legitimately call the congregation to follow his example (Phil. 3:17). All the other qualifications, except perhaps teaching and management skills, only amplify that idea.

In addition, the office of elder is limited to men. First Timothy 2:11-12 says, “Let a woman quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.” In the church, women are to be under the authority of the elders, excluded from teaching men or holding positions of authority over them.

The Functions of Elders

As the apostolic era came to a close, the office of elder emerged as the highest level of local church leadership. Thus, it carried a great amount of responsibility. There was no higher court of appeal and no greater resource to understand the mind and heart of God (as revealed in the Scriptures) with regard to issues in the church.

The primary responsibility of an elder is to serve as a manager and caretaker of the church (1 Tim. 3:5). That involves a number of specific duties. As spiritual overseers of the flock, elders are to determine church policy (Acts 15:22); oversee the church (Acts 20:28); ordain others (1 Tim. 4:4); rule, teach, and preach (1 Tim. 5:17; cf. 1 Thess. 5:12; 1 Tim. 3:2); exhort and refute (Titus 1:9); and act as shepherds, setting an example for all (1 Pet. 5:1-3). Those responsibilities put elders at the core of the New Testament church’s work.

Because of its heritage of democratic values and its long history of congregational church government, modern American evangelicalism often views the concept of elder rule with suspicion. The clear teaching of Scripture, however, demonstrates that the biblical norm for church leadership is a plurality of God-ordained elders, and only by following this biblical pattern will the church maximize its fruitfulness to the glory of God.

Register today for the conference in Newark. If you are interested in getting the mp3’s after the conference, please let me know and I’ll shoot em to you! Pray for the healthy church conference in South GA Oct 2 through 9th.  www.biblicalevangelism.info 

Today has been one of those days that has got me thinking as I ponder the reality of Christ and His glorious revelation of God the Father to and through us.  I really don’t think the average believer spends enough time thinking about the Eternal Son of the living God and I can honestly say that for a long time, I thought too much about thinking too much rather than just meditating on the Word.

In my rapid and refreshing thoughts today I began to write down some things that I don’t want to stop thinking about in my walk with Christ as a father, husband and pastor.  Some of them I have listed here and now feel inspired to reflect on them individually over the months to come.  For today, I have just listed a few.  If you have some that God has revealed to you, please add them to the list as we journey through these things together for the glory of God.

  1. Never forget that it is the WORD of God alone that builds the church, draws the people and saves them.
  2. Never forget that we should desire to see more people come to faith much more than we desire to see people come to church.
  3. Never forget that the foundational command of each Christian and each church is to make disciples, period.
  4. Never forget that Christians should be thinkers and wrestle with the scriptures daily and grow in their knowledge of God and His eternal grace.
  5. Never forget that multiplication of the Kingdom is not bigger congregations but more congregations in every town, city and community; church planting is the call of scripture for every church.
  6. Never forget that the community of believers are supposed to exercise discipline over counseling so that God’s word and His worth are clearly displayed.
  7. Never forget that God is HOLY and Sovereign and has established Himself as the END of all things.
  8. Never forget that the chief end of mankind is to GLORIFY God and ENJOY Him forever.
  9. Never forget that the church is a present and visible body created to display the glory of God and HIS eternal power.
  10. Never forget that Christ is the head of the church.
  11. Never forget that Love is the evidence of the church.
  12. Never forget that Jesus is LORD and the consequences thereof.
  13. Never forget that DOCTRINE means teaching and ORTHODOXY means right thinking.
  14. Never forget that we are all called to study, worship and teach the gospel.
  15. … more to come by all who share in the FAITH!

For His Glory by His Grace

Pastor James

As a man in my firm mid-thirties, I have been in the Baptist Church for at least 40 years. So, I’ve seen a lot, heard a lot and learned a lot. Over the past few years as a SBC Pastor one thing I have learned is that many Baptists are more concerned with being Baptist than being true to the call of God as the Body of Christ.

About a month ago I said, “Southern Baptists have replaced the ministry of reconciliation with people assimilation.” I got some harsh looks, phone calls and emails, but all-in-all, most people see what I mean. As SBC churches, we have historically been the folks who really know the scripture, advance the Gospel and proclaim the Glory of God. Recently, this is not the case; we’ve been more interested in numbers, budgets, growth and assimilation of people in ‘hopes’ or ‘wishes’ that they might find Christ through the wonderful programs and options available in a Christian safe-haven.

I recently read an article discussing this issue quoting Dr. Albert Mohler, President of Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY.

“It is very important that your generation redeem what has been lost, strengthen the things that remain,” he said Friday at the close of a four-day conference on “Southern Baptists, Evangelicals, and the Future of Denominationalism.”

“Make the Southern Baptist Convention what it must be in order to serve the cause of Christ … to be the kind of denomination that is known not for its name and its brand but rather for the glory of God,” he added. “Do not give yourself to the Southern Baptist Convention but give yourself to Christ.”

Dr. Mohler called young seminary students to not get behind SBC life as the ultimate or because their ‘grandmother’ was SBC, but to champion the call of God to be glorified and the Gospel to be preached unapologetically.

“The vision before us is not the perpetuation of the Southern Baptist Convention but the call of the nations to exalt in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ,” he affirmed.

I whole-heartedly agree with Dr. Mohler and others like him who stand behind scripture and the glory of God as the ultimate purpose of life as a believer and as the body.  If the church is going to be all about the ‘stuff’ that most resembles a corporate country club, then we might as well quit preaching all together and save a lot of pastors and people their precious time at the pool.

In my opinion, if something does not happen for the better to bring the SBC and other denominations to the cross and orthodoxy, then we will see a smaller and smaller number of true fellowships of faith who will actually be the true church.  What are we doing to mature people, make disciples and glorify God in all the nations?  We better start asking these questions, finding the answer and terminating everything that doesn’t result to this end.

Staying Stupid in the wisdom of the Cross!

James H. Tippins

It seems that no matter how long you live, life just seems to stay busy.  Think about it.  We want to get done with all of our obligations so that we can actually sit and do nothing.  But then when we have nothing planned, we find ourselves right back in the “I need something to do” line to satisfy our need to be busy.

Although no one would actually say, “I really need more to do.”  We do say this by the way we commit ourselves in so many ways.  I know what you might be thinking, “Aren’t we supposed to be committed and busy?”  After all, the bible teaches that if a man doesn’t work, he doesn’t eat.  Yes, it’s good to work, be productive and helpful and to make good use of our time and not to be idle.  But there is a fine line between being busy and being productive.

I’ll take just a minute to define the two and what the scriptures teach about the life of a believer in this regard.  Always having our lives filled with events, scheduled times and commitments is not necessarily a good thing.  Even if this filling is spiritual in nature.  For example, if you are at a ‘church’ related event four nights per week and then on the weekend you spend all day Saturday planning your bible lesson for Sunday school, how do you find time to listen to God?  How do you know His will for your life?  Have you  enjoyed the smile of your spouse or children?  How many people have you taken time to pray for and get to know outside of your commitments?

If you really think about it, the more we have to do, the less God can do with us.  Consider for just a moment how you should be living your life.  Think about all the things you ‘do’ on a weekly basis.  Now ask yourself, “Which of these things are making a direct difference in the life of someone for Christ?”  and  “Which of these things are teaching me to be closer to Christ and know Him more?”

The funny thing is that several years ago, I found myself in this same corner, looking around trying to discern where my life was actually going and if it was fruitful at all.  I found that I had so much to do , that I had no time for God’s calling to minister to people and effectively disciple them in Christ.  My ‘ministry’ even became a ‘job’ to get finished with so that I might have time to just rest.

When our lives are so busy that adding relationships are a strain, we need to think about Jesus’ teaching on this matter.  So many times you’ll hear people tell you that you ‘must’ do something because it’s URGENT.  How long are we going to live under the URGENT while we ignore God’s direction in our lives?

Productivity is only productive when you are accomplishing your goals.  So, what are your goals for life?  Are they to be busy, grow old and die with things still left to finalize?  Or is your life centered around what God desires of you and how He can use you to share Christ with the world around you?

Jesus gives us a great example that we cannot place the URGENT before the immediate.  In other words, we place so much emphasis on getting the goals and commitments finalized that we overlook or don’t have time for those things or people that are right in front of us.  The argument that we have to ‘overlook’ God’s call for the greater good is a weak one in this example.  When Jesus stopped, people died.  Read this section of Mark chapter 5.

Mark 5:22-43 (ESV)

22 Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet
23 and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.”
24 And he went with him. And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him.
25 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years,
26 and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse.
27 She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment.
28 For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.
29 And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.
30 And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?”
31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’ ”
32 And he looked around to see who had done it.
33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth.
34 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
35 While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?”
36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.”

Jarius was a very important man in society and the sickness of his daughter was a very important issue to Jesus.  However, along the way when this poor woman touched Jesus’ garment, he had no reason to stop.  She didn’t need him to take time for her but he did.  Jesus stopped to minister to the needs of this poor ‘nobody’ in society and as a result the daughter of a very important man died.

In our society, anyone who got in our way with any need on the way to Jarius’ home would have been told to hold on and we’ll talk later.  Sadly, when we are too busy with life, this is exactly the message we send.  As the father of four children, I have to be careful not to push their little needs off for even a minute or the more important needs of their future will come and go without my concern.  Even worse, they might even stop depending on ‘daddy’ to be there.  As a reflection of Christ our my home, life, job, school and community are we showing the lost world and our family that we have peace and time for those around us or are we showing them that we are so busy, that God’s ministry doesn’t even matter?

Take time today to make a mental list of your commitments.  Scripture teaches us that we can only have one master.  Is it Christ or our life goals that are placed on the front lines each day?  Ask yourself, “What in my life does Christ need me to stop doing?”  Be fruitful in Christ and do all things for His glory.  Let’s be available for God’s calling and ministry in us and through us to a lost and hurting world.

Being Wise and More Stupid,

James