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An Old Christian Model For New Church Growth

Chat in Corinth

‘Have you heard about the latest Church Growth Model in Corinth? The latest preachers in Acro Creek think they’ve nailed success! O.K., it’s a little alternative, and it’s the opposite to what Paul said (but then again, for some strange reason, he seems to have cancelled his announced visit – some lame excuse about an unforeseen turn of events)! Yet, we cannot help but notice, it does seem very popular: it appears to be working! They’ve definitely had results! The crowds of pagans are flocking! They’re going to extend their buildings! Even better, there’s no suffering, so perhaps we should give it a go.’

Model for Ministry

If that was the chat in Corinth, it would explain Paul’s loving determination to put the record straight, and turn Corinthians back to the Cross. Having explained the nature and glory and hope of the Ministry of the New Covenant, he commends his urgent appeal, by the model minister he is. Effectively, he says, ‘this is how to do the work, this is the Christ’s model for church growth’, as we make our appeal, 2 Corinthians 5.20, ‘Be reconciled to God.’

“We give no offense in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed, […]

The Importance of Practical Religion

‘The Gospel is at stake! You must not budge an inch! Peter, brothers, Barnabas, you’ve got to change your practice!’

Is that how it happened in Antioch, with Paul’s face-to-face rebuke of Peter, where he refused the spare the blushes? The truth of the Gospel was endangered by behavior that was disconnected from principle (Galatians 2.11 & 14):

“But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned …But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of Gospel, I said to Cephas: ‘If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile, and not like a Jew, how can you force Gentiles to live like Jews.”

In my initial naivety, I thought that there was only one simple single principle being taught: that we should lovingly, prayerfully, firmly, yet bravely, highlight hypocrisy publicly, if the Gospel is in jeopardy – of course we should do that, no matter who it embarrasses, for the love of Christ, with the hope of restoring brothers – but to bow to peer pressure, and create confusion about the Gospel, puts souls at eternal risk, so we cannot pass the buck!

However, on reflection, principial disconnection from practice […]

Fishers of Men

When Jesus came upon the two brothers, Simon and Andrew, repairing their nets by the Sea of Galilee, he spoke to them those familiar words found in Matthew 4:19. “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” My experience has shown me that the words are familiar to the church, but the actual work perhaps not so much. How might we better understand the words so the work can be more accessible to us?

We can start by realizing that this call of Christ to these two men did not just come “out of the blue.” Some have read this text, seen Simon and Andrew immediately leaving their nets behind to follow Christ, and concluded that these men, without any previous interaction with Jesus, left all to work with him. However, that’s not the case. These brothers already had a growing knowledge of Christ.

Jesus was living a very public ministry at this point. He already had been baptized by John the Baptist. At that time, we find that Andrew had heard John the Baptist preaching about Jesus, seen him point Jesus out as the Lamb of God, and then gone to tell his brother Simon that he had found the Messiah (John 1:35-42). […]

Is The Lid About To Come Off?

The last week has seen a progressively deepening crisis in Hollywood on both sides of the Atlantic. Celebrities, stars and Oscar Nominations Committees have disowned Harvey Weinstein with an air of disbelief and disgust. Prosecutions may follow for this most successful producer.

Now, today, on the BBC’s ‘Victoria Derbyshire’ program, new allegations, concerning the UK music industry have emerged. Sarah Bowden, a music manager, has spoken about a scale of endemic sexual harassment, abuse and rape which is “as bad if not worse” as anything Hollywood has to offer.

Perhaps, we might wonder, if guilty complicity of promotion-seeking stars, has led to a backlash – those who are ashamed are now seeking their revenge [though not in the case of Sarah Bowden, who repelled all approaches to her cost]. That still does not excuse the advances of these males. All godly, right-thinking, Christians, if not entirely surprised, should nevertheless be sickened by these criminal events.

These revelation, of course, may only be the first – we may well be about to witness the lifting the lid on a proverbial ‘can of worms!’ Can we really have expected anything else from the industry that was born and lauded by Al Freed and Ian Dury […]

Christian Competence

Time is pressing on in sermon preparation, so on this Saturday afternoon I thought I’d share my morning thoughts.

Introduction

Perhaps your feeling tired or jaded in the work. Maybe you feel the burden of the responsibility to preach. “Who” you may wonder “is sufficient for these things?”

Context

In 2 Corinthians 1-2 Paul has been wrestling with this question. He clearly had detractors who were running down his credentials. After laying out his defense, in 1.12-2.11, he asserts that his change of plans was neither whimsical or selfish. Instead he delayed his visit to spare pain to God’s flock.

In 2.14-17 he deals with Christian conquest, for Christ has called them, as ministers, to diffuse fragrance around the globe in Christ’s Gospel victory march.

Next in 3.1-3 he shows that in exercising his powerful, successful mission, through God’s means of grace, he needs no other, human, Christian commendation, for results speak for themselves: Corinthian conversion and church planting is proof enough of divine power at work in Paul’s apostolic efforts. The fruit of New Covenant ministry is seen in the regeneration of the ‘living letters’ that Christ, through Gospel ministry, has written on living ‘fleshy’ human hearts

Then, in 3.4-6, he insists that such apostolic boasting […]

Sinners at the Sacrament?

Let a man examine himself. These words of the Apostle Paul weigh heavily upon the hearts and minds of so many believers as we prepare to the come to the Lord’s Supper. These are weighty and heavy words that can nag at us at times as we consider the struggles with sin and the enemy within. Let a man examine himself.

But what if I am unworthy? What if I continue to sin against God’s mercy? What if I am weak in my convictions? Surely then I ought not to go to the Supper!

Thomas Watson, a 17th century English Puritan, pastors the questioning saint as to why he or she ought to go to the Table in each of these instances. May reflection on these questions and answers lead you to Christ–and lead to you to his Table to receive the grace and mercy that you seek.

OBJECTION 1. But I am sinful and unworthy, and why should I meddle with such holy things?

ANSWER. Who did Christ die for but such? “He came into the world to save sinners,” 1 Timothy 1:15. He took our sins upon Him as well as our nature. “He bare our grief’s,” Isaiah 53:4. In the Hebrew […]

Elders Who Represent Jesus Christ

Elders in the church are chosen to be representatives. In our republic that is the United States of America, governing officials are elected by the people to represent the people. Elders of the church serve as representatives who are elected by the people and from the people (see Acts 6 as an example of officer elections in the New Testament), but they are chosen primarily to represent Jesus to the people. The authority of Christ is administered by elders who represent him. Thus, the members recognize that the risen Jesus is himself the one leading the church even in the present age.

What does it mean that elders are to represent Jesus to the people? Jesus as the God-man is the head of the church (Colossians 1:18). He is presently reigning at the Father’s right hand (Acts 7:55-56, Ephesians 1:20, Colossians 3:1). He has not appointed one man as his vicar on earth, as Roman Catholics believe. Instead, Jesus, in his humanity, still reigns over his church. Jesus gave the office of elder to supply representative leadership until he comes again. This leadership is always subject to the only final rule for faith and life, the word of God. He has appointed that a […]

Theology on the Go

A pleasant and informative podcast I enjoy is called “Theology on the Go.” Found on the Place for Truth website of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, Theology on the Go is hosted by Dr. Jonathan Master who conducts a brief interview on a topic that should be of interest to those in the church. A natural conversationalist with an encouraging spirit, Jonathan does a wonderful job of keeping his guests on topic and asking questions that guide the conversation from belief to beneficial practice for believers.

Recently, Jonathan interviewed yours truly regarding the marks of the church. If you would like to take a listen, you can go here.

(Also, as usual when doing things like this, I snap my fingers afterward wishing I had said something else. In this case, it is two other resources regarding the marks of the church I would recommend. You can do no better than going to Francis Turretin’s Institutes of Elenctic Theology , especially the Eighteenth Topic in Volume 2 on the church where he develops teaching on the marks in contrast to the Roman Catholic Church. Another shorter volume that introduces the marks in a helpful way is Daniel Hyde’s Welcome to a Reformed Church: A Guide for Pilgrims.)

The Half-Way Covenant & Whole-Hearted Youth Ministry

Baptists and Presbyterians can agree regarding one application of child baptism in church history. What was known as the Half-way Covenant was a bad idea. Yet from it we can gain a valuable lesson regarding the church’s gospel duty to young people.

Jonathan Edwards was the pastor during colonial America to the Congregational church in Northampton, Massachusetts. His preaching in the mid-1700’s was one of the means God used to create the Great Awakening, where multitudes of people turned to the Lord. Yet in the midst of this great fruitfulness, a difficulty arose prompted by a practice in the church established by Edwards’ grandfather, Solomon Stoddard, who preceded Edwards as the minister in Northampton.

Children had been baptized in the Northampton congregation, grown up, and had not clearly professed Christ. Yet their names were left on the roll as baptized members. Then they began to have children. Stodddard, in the hope of influencing this later generation with the gospel, allowed the grandchildren of believing members to be baptized. In response, since church membership at the time was socially desirable, many parents who did not have saving faith in Christ readily agreed to have their children baptized. This Half-way Covenant, as it came […]

God is all you need

Introduction

This morning as we speak the Caribbean territories and the ‘pan-handle’ state is caught in the grip of a hurricane, which, if predictions are correct, will result in dire need. Back here, in case you are not aware, on the western seaboard of the Atlantic, many public figures have criticized the lethargic, sluggish, response of the UK government – while the French and Dutch had troops positioned in advance to deal with the looming crisis, the ministers in Whitehall were sitting on their hands (at least that is the charge), while their overseas territories of Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands, were left in the eye of the storm, for Irma to do its worst.

Context

Paul writes to the Philippians from prison, with the potential of facing death row, to issue a promise that God would supply all their need. Just like any church or group of Christians, the needs of these believers were great. In addition to the normal round of problems that all of God’s children face, Paul catalogued a long list of urgent needs for both Himself and Christ’s flock, for which He was responsible.

Philippian & Pauline Needs

The recipients of the letter of […]