04 June 2007

Why Join a Church?

by Frank Turk

I was doing some reading for church, and I was going through the 9Marks ministries booklet a Display of God's Glory [available for free here]. In part, it is because the matter of Eldership is going to come up in the near future at our church, but I also like what Mark Dever's church is demonstrating and trying to teach in terms of what the church ought to be.

But toward the end of this booklet, Pastor Dever takes a moment to underscore the matter of what Christians ought to be doing with their lives. Now, since I've been somewhat obsessed with that topic at my blog, I thought I'd drop those comments over here to give them some fresh air.

Enjoy.




This topic is a must for our churches, and for us as Christians today. It is a crucial topic for understanding what Christ is calling you to as a disciple of Him. Joining a church will not save you any more than your good works, your education, your culture, your friendships, your contributions, or your baptism will save you. Non-Christians shouldn’t be trying to join a church, but to learn more what it means to be a Christian. But for those who are confessing Christians, let me ask the question: What does it mean to live the Christian life? Do we live the Christian life alone?

There are many other good questions we could ask which would point up our need for a church, but let me give you five good reasons to join a church which preaches the gospel, and models Christian living.

1. Assurance for ourselves. You should not join the church in order to be saved, but you should join the church to help you in making certain that you are saved. Remember the words of Jesus in John’s gospel?

“Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him…. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in His love…. You are my friends if you do what I command…. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them,” (John 14:21; 15:10, 14; 13:17).

In joining the church, we put ourselves in a position where we ask our brothers and sisters to hold us accountable to live according to what we speak with our mouth. We ask them to encourage us sometimes by reminding us of ways that they have seen God work in our lives, and other times to challenge us when we may be moving away from obedience to Him. Your membership in a local church is that congregation’s public testimony that your life gives evidence of regeneration.

Membership in a local church is not saving, but it is a reflection of salvation. And if there is no reflection, how are we to know about the salvation claimed?

In becoming a member of the church, we are grasping hands with each other to know and be known by each other, and to help and encourage one another when we may need to be reminded of God’s work in our lives, or to be challenged about major discrepancies between our talk and our walk.

2. Evangelizing the world. You should join a local church also for the sake of evangelizing the world. Together we can better spread the gospel at home and abroad. We can do this by our words, as we share the message of the good news with others, and as we help others to do that. A local church is, by nature, a missionary organization.

We back this up with our actions as we work to show God’s love by meeting the physical needs of orphans, the sick, children, or the disadvantaged. Through our own fellowship of churches we help spread the gospel around the world, and we provide millions of dollars and thousands of volunteers to help those who have some immediate physical needs like disaster relief, education, and countless other ministries. Even as imperfect as we are, if God’s spirit is genuinely at work in us, He will use our lives and words to help demonstrate to others the truth of His gospel. This is a special role now that we won’t have in Heaven. This is the special privilege of the church now—to be part of God’s plan, to take His gospel to the world.

3. Exposing false gospels. God intends us to be together in this way to expose false gospels. It is through our coming together as Christians that we show the world what Christianity really is. In our churches, we debunk messages and images which purport to be biblical Christianity but really are not. Must it not surely be the case that some of those who are not members of evangelical churches are not so because they do not really believe the same evangel? Part of the church’s mission is to recognize and defend the true gospel and to prevent perversions of it. We must realize that part of our task in evangelizing may very well be not only to present positively the gospel of Jesus Christ, but also to dismantle the bad, confusing, distorted witnesses that have raised themselves up as Christian churches, but which in reality confuse the gospel more than they confirm it.

4.Edification of the Church. A fourth reason for joining the church is the edification or building up of the church. Joining a church will help counter our wrong individualism and will help us to realize the corporate nature of Christianity. When you study the New Testament you find that our Christian lives are supposed to involve our care and concern for each other. {Note from cent: don't tear this out of the context here: Pastor Dever is talking about care inside a context that presupposes #3} That is part of what it means to be a Christian. And though we do it imperfectly, we should be committed to do this. We intend to encourage even baby steps in righteousness, love, selflessness and Christlikeness.

In our church’s membership class I often tell the story of a friend who worked for a campus Christian ministry while attending a church in which I was a member. He would always slip in right after the hymns, sit there for the sermon, and then leave. I asked him one day, why he didn’t come for the whole service. “Well,” he said, “I don’t get anything out of the rest of it.” “Have you ever thought about joining the church?” I responded. He thought that was just an absurd question. He said, “Why would I join the church? If I join them, I think they would just slow me down spiritually.” When he said this I wondered what he understood being a Christian to mean. I replied, “Have you ever considered that maybe God wants you to link arms with those other people? Sure, they might slow you down, but you might help to speed them up. Maybe that’s part of God’s plan for us as we live together as Christians!"

5. The Glory of God. Finally, a Christian should join a church for the glory of God. Peter wrote to some early Christians, Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us, (I Peter 2:12). Amazing, isn’t it? But then again, you can tell that Peter had heard the teaching of His Master. You remember what Jesus had taught in the Sermon on the Mount. Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16). Again, the surprising assumption seems to be that God will receive the glory for our good works. If that is true of our lives individually, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to find that God’s Word says that this is also the case with our lives together as Christians. God intends that the way we love each other will identify us as followers of Christ. Recall Jesus’ famous words in John 13:34-35A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. All men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another. Our lives together are to mark us out as His, and are to bring Him praise and glory.






So when I say, "Be in the Lord's house with the Lord's people on the Lord's day," think of this little exhortation about why that's necessary, and whether you think it's all that important after all.









46 comments:

DJP said...

Isn't it sad that this post is as relevant as it is?

One of the most appalling sights among the proudly doctrinally correct is those who are just too good to (do what God says to do and) submit themselves to pastoral authority and fellowship within a local church.

I pastored a church once where a fellow started attending. He was a product of a well-known tape-ministry which encourages people to stay home, listen to tapes, and lie to themselves that they're somehow participating in church.

He was okay for a while because of my expository ministry from the Heb and Gk tests.

For a while.

But he eventually left because, as he said, he was tired of "all that ooey-gooey 'love' stuff."

Yeah, there is a lot of that in there.

Ken Click said...

I appreciate your efforts to keep the church in its biblical position.

I’ve always believed that those who see a weakness in the church have an even greater responsibility to stay engaged and prayerfully work for change.

Beyond that, I think there is great value in following the example of Jesus. He sees with perfect clarity the hypocrisy and shortcomings in every religious gathering, yet He continues to attend even if only two or three gather in His name.

Tom Chantry said...

I was surprised to see that his first reason was assurance, but he's right, isn't he? That's what the text says - you gain certainty by walking the faith among the faithful.

What is fascinating is that so many who eschew church membership have no struggle at all with assurance. This raises a question: is churchless assurance false assurance? Is a person who has no drive whatsoever to associate with the local church but is fully assured of his own faith because of is doctrinal superiority clinging to a false hope?

clyde said...

This is a helpful read. Thank you.

DJP said...

Tom, I'd put it in this category: is assurance in the face of deliberate sin false assurance?

God says submit to your pastoral leadership (Hebrews 13:17, etc.). Any answer other than "Yes" is sin, isn't it?

Even So... said...

Let me answer the age-old question (excuse) right here and now...

Do you have to go to church to be a Christian?

No.

Do you have to go to church when you're a Christian?

YES!

Sorry for the plug, guys, but I have written nearly forty posts on this topic covering many different scripture passages, so much more than Hebrews 10:25…I sincerely believe them to be quite relevant for our discussion here and the relevant matters tangential to this…

here is one example

centuri0n said...

In the most manly and christianly-holy way possible, I love you, JD.

centuri0n said...

DJP:

That's what people say about you to me in private e-mails -- "That Dan Phillips is all ooey-gooey. He's soft. He's about as firm as maple syrup."

... yup ... all the time ...

DJP said...

My secret is out.

donsands said...

Mark Dever is one of best.

Simple teaching, and yet so much wisdom.

" .. defend the true gospel and to prevent perversions of it."

Amen.

BugBlaster said...

Maple syrup is good stuff.

John Haller said...

Couple of thoughts, sort of off topic:

(1) Is this where Phil Johnson used to blog?

(2) Slightly different question: let's say you are committed to the local church and are actually part of the leaders (pastor or elder), but disagree with the direction of some things that you think are rather important. Then what?

centuri0n said...

John:

(1) phil who?

(2) What kind of direction are you concerned about? For example, it's not a violation of the Gospel to do 40 days of purpose -- it's just sorta useless. It's not a violation of the Gospel to switch from an organ to a 3-piece, even if they have a tamborine player -- it's just useless.

When a church is so desperate that it will try anything except the fully-orbed Gospel to win new people to the pews, then somebody needs to take a step back and a deep breath and try out the whole Gospel first -- all the cosequences, all the nuances, all the implications.

I think someone has to stand in the gap and say, "fellas, a band is nice, but we can't take Jesus and the Cross for granted." If the one guy who has the sense to say that doesn't have the sense to stay there are say it until they ask him to leave, I wonder who will ...

Dan is a former pastor. Maybe he could speak to whether people are more prone to stick around too long or bail out too soon.

Carla Rolfe said...

Buggy: you're trying to gain sympathetic support for that beagle, aren't you? (Not that it matters that she ate my flip flops this morning).

Cent: great message on why joining a church is so important, thank you for this.

Carla Rolfe said...

Woops - I thought that beagle in Buggy's pic was my beagle! (I think there's a similar pic of Buggy somewhere with my beagle harassing him).

For the record, Wrigley did not eat my flip flops this morning, it was Tulip the Terrorist Beagle.

Sewing said...

Do all Reformers own beagles, too, in addition to Macs? I am so far behind, I can't even keep up....

David said...

Right on!

Except for that stuff about the organ.

Libbie said...

Dan 'Maple Syrup' Phillips.

I want that T-shirt.

Carla Rolfe said...

Sewing said...
Do all Reformers own beagles, too, in addition to Macs? I am so far behind, I can't even keep up....


I have a beagle and never wanted one. I don't have a Mac and don't want one.

I think this means I'm a closet Charismatic or something.

separateunion said...

Honest question here: is it ever Biblical to not attend a church? I ask this because I know people who refuse to attend church because none of the churches near them have the same doctrinal stance and they feel like the congregations of these churches aren't interested in getting back to the nitty gritty basics of the Biblical gospel. These folks do home church as a family and listen to tapes and online sermons. They feel as if the churches around them have nothing to offer them and they have nothing to offer the churches because the congregations are not interested in hearing what these folks have to say.

I do fear for these folks because they are not sitting under any Biblical counsel or authority but their own. They aren't opposed to going to church, it just has to be a church on their terms, teaching a Reformed Baptist doctrine. However, a church like this is probably not just going to pop up considering the Reformed community in the area is pretty much non-existant. Should these people be going to a church even if the doctrine of the church is way off base and the congregation isn't interested in moving in a different direction?

David said...

My opinion: yes, they should go to a church. People who want "church on their terms" don't want a church. People who say that all the churches near them are "way off base" just may need to realize that they are way off base themselves, or their base is so narrow it excludes everyone but them.

"By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

That's my proof-text.

BugBlaster said...

Hebrews 10:24-26. That's my proof-text. Not attending a local church is wilfully sinning.

centuri0n said...

And honest question deserves an honest answer:

| Honest question here: is it ever
| Biblical to not attend a church? I ask
| this because I know people who
| refuse to attend church because none
| of the churches near them have the
| same doctrinal stance and they feel
| like the congregations of these
| churches aren't interested in getting
| back to the nitty gritty basics of the
| Biblical gospel.

One word answer: no.

What this demonstrates (to me anyway – I'd be glad to hear someone else refute this with something other than snorting and huffy breaths) is the view that the church is somehow optional – that it is somehow not really part of God's plan.

One of the nitty gritty basics of the Gospel is the church. You can't find the Gospel in the NT in people where the church is not present as a community with leaders which operates together to advance the doctrinal and material ends of the Gospel.

Period. The objection is ludicrous.

| These folks do home
| church as a family and listen to tapes
| and online sermons. They feel as if
| the churches around them have
| nothing to offer them and they have
| nothing to offer the churches because
| the congregations are not interested in
| hearing what these folks have to say.

Wow. These are exactly the people I'm talking about.

Let's imagine for a second that I was on a plane going to Australia, and the plane goes down and I'm the lone survivor – and all I have is my Bible, my clothes, and my life as I wash ashore on some uncharted island.

I build me a hut, make a net out of the clothes of the bodies which wash ashore (burying them, of course), catch some fish, start a fire, and suddenly it turns out there is an indigenous people here – about 200, and strangely, the men are all wearing ties made out of rope and the women are all wearing long skirts in spite of the heat.

I'm not sure what to do, and one of the men sort of creeps up to me and says in a very broken English, "Peace be unto you". And, in good liturgical form, I say to him, "and also with you." And they are all taken aback.

They get me to follow them back to their camp, and one hut has a cross on it. I'm almost blown away by my good luck, and I follow the head man into the hut. But when I look down on the make-shift podium, I don't see one book there: I see two. One is a King James Bible, and the other is a Book of Mormon (with Doctrines & Covenants).

These people are plainly not Christians – and not just barely, either. They cannot be Christians because they accept Joseph Smith's fraudulent theology as valid Christology.

Now – what do I do? Do I stick to my hut with my corpse-harvested fishing net and stay fat and happy and alone until I can signal help to come and get me – or do I join with this tribe here, the only one on the island, and help them learn the superiority of the Bible to the book of Mormon, and teach them the Gospel for the sake of their own souls?

Listen: if this seems like a stacked deck, it is. The choices are not "church or bunker": the choice is only "sending church or mission church". If you cannot find a church with a pure enough doctrine for you, you are in a mission field not a lunar crater. These are men and women who need the Gospel, not damned reprobated with no hope of redemption.

Opting for a "family church" is cultic. How does a "church" like that reach the lost? How does it glorify God? How does it demonstrate mercy and justice? It's the second-smallest small circle on Earth.

| I do fear for these folks because they
| are not sitting under any Biblical
| counsel or authority but their own.
| They aren't opposed to going to
| church, it just has to be a church on
| their terms, teaching a Reformed
| Baptist doctrine.

That is reason enough to fear for them. This kind of "church my way" is utterly unfound in the NT. If it is problematic not to hold to a Reformed confession in soteriology or sacramentology, why is it not problematic to refuse to accept any reformed confessional ecclesiology?

It is the same kind of problem. We have simply fallen so far into the well of individualism and consumerism that we think our family as a church is big enough.

| However, a church
| like this is probably not just going to
| pop up considering the Reformed
| community in the area is pretty much
| non-existant. Should these people be
| going to a church even if the doctrine
| of the church is way off base and the
| congregation isn't interested in
| moving in a different direction?

I think that if the only choice is even sloppy agape, one has to either join that church or find a way to be sent as a missionary to that place to establish a church as missionaries accountable to some valid church elders.

Church is not optional, and it's not just cobbled together. Until we see that, we will never see church as a display of God's glory.

Sewing said...

Who knows? Maybe over the years, the Lord will work through this family to transform the folks in whichever church he leads them to.

Jon from Reidville, SC said...

When one talks of "home church" I always wonder what they are doing. Since one of the church's main purposes is, you know, "go an teach all nations…," then it seems that a home church should not be such for very long. Eventually, some people should get saved and be discipled and then you will have a small church and not a home church. Any organization, however large or small that is not interested in bringing in new converts is not, by definition, a church!
Cent, thanks for the great article. I echo Dan, it is a pity to even have to take time to argue this.

SJ Camp said...

Dan:
1. You said, "He was okay for a while because of my expository ministry from the Heb and Gk tests.

For a while."


Surely you are just using repartee... aren't you?

2. Curious though, where did you serve as a pastor; for how long; why are you not serving as a pastor there any longer, and why did you leave that church?

3. You also said, "God says submit to your pastoral leadership (Hebrews 13:17, etc.). Any answer other than "Yes" is sin, isn't it?"

I agree with you brother with one qualifier: if the leadership is faithful to God's Word, qualified to serve, and not sinful in what they are asking you to be submitted to...

Otherwise, yes.

Good post Cent.
Campi

PS - Where is Phil--we all miss him.

Sewing said...

There has been a silent takeover. See Cent's disingenuous asking who Phil is up above? He thought he was being so innocuous, but we know better. Maybe MacArthur should send out a search party. Canvas people with new Macs first.

Sewing said...

Better yet, canvass them.

separateunion said...

Thanks for the response. I feel exactly the same way, however, these "folks" are in a position where I cannot give them advice or counsel. I wish I could continue this conversation on here, but these "folks" may be reading and I don't want to come off to them as trying to undermine their authority or as being rebellious.

centuri0n said...

Campi --

In reverse order:

p.s. -- phil who? Who is this "phil" you all keep speaking of?

I'm answering for Dan, btw, because he's go something he's working on and needs a few days off.

[3] I think that this qualification is not subjective but subject to the judgment of the local church. The ideal of qualifications is not at all subjective, but I suggest that Timothy (Paul's son in the faith)is a great example of how one fills out the spirit of qualifications without bearing all the letters. In that way, I think someone who has a child who was in the faith but has left the faith deserves some grace, as would someone who had an unfaithful spouse, or someone who once had financial problems or has recovered from a drinking problem. It's a question which deserves its own book-length treatment.

[2] That's a sort of personal question which Dan will probably answer eventually.

[1] Yes, Dan can read both the Hebrew and the Greek -- it's something he learned in seminary.

centuri0n said...

Carla --

Didn't mean to ignore you. Thanks for the encouragement.

:-)

Carla Rolfe said...

Frank: I'm good at being ignored. Don't give it a second thought.

:-)

Sewing said...

So this fictitious Phil is gone and Dan is gone, too. Is Cent carrying this whole enterprise on his shoulders now?

centuri0n said...

You people ... Phil phil phil.

yeah sure -- it's his blog. Unlike me, he has a life. He travels. He edits books. He gets to meet interesting people and video-blog the experience.

Sheesh. Mom always liked him best ...

DJP said...

No one has seen Phil and us at the same place, same time, has he?

Brad Leber said...

Sheesh, I see Phil every Sunday at God's house meeting with God's people, what's the big deal...

John Haller said...

Are you suggesting that church might be more important than blogging? Where's a frozen meat chub when you need it?

Frank: my question about the slide was not directed to my church, but regarding what other leaders have conveyed to me about their churches. They see a slide in sermon topics oriented towards being a better person, Rob Bell videos used in worship, pastors reading books from some questionable sources such as the suspect emerging guys and implementing ideas gleaned from them, etc. It's a little more serious than the 40 days stuff.

When in that slide do you give up and move on? It's a tough decision for a lot of people, especially leaders who know that if they bail, others will follow.

Kaffinator said...

How about: Leave when you are asked to leave as a result of your consistent, authentic, gospel witness.

SJ Camp said...

Cent:
Thanks for the responses.

1.We must remember that the pastor/elder of a church has no authority inherent in the office itself. His authority only extends to that which the Word of God affords him - no more, no less.

Subsequently, there are no protestant popes to obey. The laity of the church are to submit to and pray for godly leaders and let them serve with joy (Heb. 13:7, 17); but at the same time to hold its leadership accountable in regards to life and doctrine. As Paul even said, "follow me as I follow Christ..." When a pastor of a church ceases to follow the Lord, does not honor sound doctrine, fails to discipline sin, preach His Word faithfully and/or accurately, or shepherd the flock of God, then the laity of the church should confront them; exhort them to resume their duty; etc. But if the pastors will not repent and the other leaders within the church will not rebuke them (1 Tim. 5:19-21) correct them and if necessary, remove them from their office, then the laity need to find a new church to attend and join.

When people ask me "why is CCM music today so biblically unsound and doctrinally deficient?" I am quick to respond by saying "like people; like priest" (Hosea 4:7). No church body ever rises spiritually beyond the depth of their leadership.

We need to remember, that the under-shepherds of any church are sheep too; sinners in need of grace; men plagued with all the wayward tendencies of those they minister to. (R. Baxter; J. MacArthur; and A. Strauch are very good on this issue).

2. I am also a churchman and agree that ones commitment in faithfully attending a faithful, gospel, biblical local church should not be negotiable. Here is something interesting that a dear friend who is a pastor and theologian shared with me this morning: the average pulpit ministry for churches that have a congregational church government is 18-24 months.

If he was anywhere in the ballpark as being accurate, then that is shocking to hear. When pastors/elders are that transitory in their own pulpit ministries, are we then so surprised that the laity will not also be looking for other churches as well?

3. I wasn't commenting about Dan knowing Hebrew and Greek - that is common for most seminary students. I was directing my comment more to the aspect of: "he was okay for a while because of my expository ministry..." (emphasis mine). I have never heard anyone claim that their expository ministry made someone "okay" - even for awhile. What do you think Dan meant by that; or better yet, Dan, what did you mean by that statement?

Thanks again for your article...

Grace and peace,
Steve
2 Cor. 4:5-7

SJ Camp said...

That's Hosea 4:9.

centuri0n said...

For Steve Camp:

| 1.We must remember that the
| pastor/elder of a church has no
| authority inherent in the office
| itself. His authority only extends
| to that which the Word of God
| affords him - no more, no less.

I would agree with this as far as it goes. But, for example, Scripture does plainly say that the elders of a church have the power to turn someone out of the (local) church and over to Satan (cf. 1Cor 5). Paul is the one who calls this power -- 'dunamis' for the Greek scholars among us, the same word used for what the Apostles received in Acts 1:8 – and says that if they act together on this thing, they are acting inside the scope of this power.

It is a reductive view to say that pastor/elders are only conduits of the word of God – they are certainly that much, and more because they are messengers, not just pieces of parchment; and they are also only as useful as they are faithful – but they are also charged with the well-being and the care of the local church.

This doesn’t mean that the Gospel is what they say it is: it means that they are tasked to be faithful, and in that fidelity they have the authority to correct, discipline and admonish in a way which is more than merely argumentative. I'd go to Titus 1 and 2 to make that point specifically.

| Subsequently, there are no
| protestant popes to obey. The
| laity of the church are to submit
| to and pray for godly leaders and
| let them serve with joy (Heb.
| 13:7, 17); but at the same time to
| hold its leadership accountable in
| regards to life and doctrine.

Wha ... ? Where's the scripture reference for that one, Steve? The one you give next doesn’t even come close to saying that.

I would agree that the pastor is accountable to someone – to even a handful or a plurality of someones -- and that the whole local body has some Godly recourse when things go off the track. But what Scripture does not say is that every single person in the church has a right to hold the one preaching accountable. And it certainly does not say that people should abandon the local church if that kind of accountability isn’t being practiced.

| As Paul even said, "follow me as I
| follow Christ..."

When Paul says this (insofar as he does say it), why does he say it? In what context does he say it? It's 1 Cor 10-11, and it goes like this:

[QUOTE]
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.
[/QUOTE]


That doesn’t have anything to do with Paul being accountable to the Corinthians – it has to do with how we demonstrate the Gospel – how we act as servants. Paul is saying that Christ is our example, and Paul acts like Christ, and in that way the Corinthians don't just have a theoretical example of Christ-likeness but a human example which they have seen in Paul. He's not saying "be like me only insofar as I am like Christ": he is saying, "Be like me because I am being like Christ."

Using that verse to draw the line and establish a common right for the average Christian to make his pastor come under scrutiny is, well, excessive.

| When a pastor
| of a church ceases to follow the
| Lord, does not honor sound
| doctrine, fails to discipline sin,
| preach His Word faithfully
| and/or accurately, or shepherd
| the flock of God, then the laity of
| the church should confront them;
| exhort them to resume their duty;
| etc. But if the pastors will not
| repent and the other leaders
| within the church will not rebuke
| them (1 Tim. 5:19-21) correct
| them and if necessary, remove
| them from their office, then the
| laity need to find a new church to
| attend and join.

I would correct your statement to read, "the church as a body should intervene."

The first failing, unfortunately, is that most churches are lead by one guy who isn't accountable to anybody. That flaw is by far the worst problem in so-called Protestant churches today.

The second failing is that, given this lack of accountability, everyone thinks they are a fellow elder in God's church. That's just bosh. Some person who was baptized once who suddenly discovers the middle of the book of Romans and is concerned because his Pastor doesn’t live, homiletically, in those passages – or suddenly realizes that his pastor is preaching an Arminian theology rather than a robust LBCF(1689) theology – is not qualified, equipped, or tasked to turn his church around single-handedly. That person is not Moses or Elijah or even Stephen. That person is one person, and needs to see his church as a church and not an accident or a democratic club.

I am sure you and I can agree that when the outlandish things happen – when someone rejects the trinity knowingly, and in detail(PCD); when someone denies the reality of hell and God's wrath(McLaren); when someone actively and purposefully denies the sufficiency of Scripture(Spong); when someone goes universalist(take your pick); etc. – then if there is no normal recourse because there is no Biblical church polity in place, people have to find an actual church and not just another lean-to with a cross on the steeple. But when we try to elevate every single person, without regard to all the qualifications listed by Scripture, to a place of disciplining authority, we are ourselves ignoring Scripture.

But here's the question which folks who stand on your side of this issue have to face, Steve: how much error is too much error? What if someone does what you did here and interprets 1Cor 11:1 to say that you only follow the leader insofar as the leader is following Christ? Is it church discipline time – and if no discipline can be made, do you go find another church with a more careful exegete? What if a pastor refuses to read Revelation as an account of "end times" but only as an account of the victory and glorification of Christ – should people flee those churches? Or if he chooses to read Revelation as an explicit setting of dates and times and places and people – run away, or stay and do something else?

Most people do not leave one church for another over the Majors, Steve: they leave over the minors – because that's all they can see. And they don't really go to a better church – if they did, our country would be full of better churches already. They go to different churches: churches with not more error or less error but errors they haven’t noticed yet.

So this exhortation to flee Jerusalem for the mountains when we see the signs is a little hollow: it doesn’t work. And my response to the fact that it doesn’t work is the theological issue that it is not prescribed by Scripture.

I'd be glad to take that assertion up with you or anyone at the DebateBlog – I'd even extend the format to make sure the other side had its full say.

| When people ask me "why is
| CCM music today so biblically
| unsound and doctrinally
| deficient?" I am quick to respond
| by saying "like people; like
| priest" (Hosea 4:7). No church
| body ever rises spiritually
| beyond the depth of their
| leadership.
|
| We need to remember, that the
| under-shepherds of any church
| are sheep too; sinners in need of
| grace; men plagued with all the
| wayward tendencies of those
| they minister to. (R. Baxter; J.
| MacArthur; and A. Strauch are
| very good on this issue).

Here's where I think you have an immense blind spot, Steve: on the one hand, you think people have to run away from bad pastors and bad churches. On the other, you believe that churches can't ever get better unless its leadership changes.

How, exactly, does the system which produces CCM music as you describe above (and I agree with you, btw, on that matter) produce people who have enough information to decide that their church is so bad that they have to leave it? It seems to me that they system which produces CCM also produces people so autocratic and individualist that they leave churches for any reason and call it doctrinal.

If CCM is a symptom of the problem – and it is – them we have to see if the other results of this system look like the CCM problem or not. My opinion is that the faux worship in CCM looks a lot like the faux-orthodoxy which causes people to shop churches. Singing songs on your radio which mention Jesus all by yourself in your car and calling that suitable worship looks a lot like listening to sermons on your iPod and calling that a suitable replacement for gathering together for edification and bearing one another's burdens.

| 2. I am also a churchman and
| agree that ones commitment in
| faithfully attending a faithful,
| gospel, biblical local church
| should not be negotiable. Here is
| something interesting that a dear
| friend who is a pastor and
| theologian shared with me this
| morning: the average pulpit
| ministry for churches that have a
| congregational church
| government is 18-24 months.
|
| If he was anywhere in the
| ballpark as being accurate, then
| that is shocking to hear. When
| pastors/elders are that transitory
| in their own pulpit ministries, are
| we then so surprised that the laity
| will not also be looking for other
| churches as well?

I'd stipulate without any qualification that what many men do in the pulpit ministry is job-hop rather than care for God's people. No question.

However, most of the readers out there – and most Christian by a long shot - are not Pastors and Elders: they are church members who have another vocation, or another role in the church. I'd leave the right-minded admonition of pastors to guys like James White, Phil Johnson, John Piper, John MacArthur, Mark Dever and so on who are actually pastors and are actually in a position to decry that kind of selling the word of God for gain.

But think on this: even if every single man in the pulpit today is that Scripture-indifferent to what God has called him to do, what should the people in the pew do? Should they emulate this horrible behavior? Is that an excuse? In the view that they should be informed enough to leave if one of these job-hoppers goes Demus on them, they should be informed enough to see that behavior as shameful – and they should avoid emulating it.

If they aren’t discipled well enough to avoid that kind of bad behavior, what makes us think they are equipped to sort out the difference between taking short-cuts to make the work of preaching simpler and taking the Gospel out of the message?

| 3. I wasn't commenting about
| Dan knowing Hebrew and Greek
| - that is common for most
| seminary students. I was
| directing my comment more to
| the aspect of: "he was okay for a
| while because of my expository
| ministry..." (emphasis mine). I
| have never heard anyone claim
| that their expository ministry
| made someone "okay" - even for
| awhile. What do you think Dan
| meant by that; or better yet, Dan,
| what did you mean by that
| statement?

[sigh] Dan meant the fellow was okay with Dan's preaching for a little while, not that Dan's preaching made him OK.

[sigh]

SJ Camp said...

Frank:
Thank you for your lengthy reply.

A few quick things:

1. though your "don't leave church under any condition unless they force you out" sounds admirable--it is not biblical. Be dogmatic where the Word is dogmatic; but give room for conscience and wisdom given under godly counsel where Scripture is silent and preference might apply.

2. The congregation of any church should hold their leadership accountable to the office and heavenly charge they have been given by God's mercy. As faithful Bereans they have the duty to examine what they teach with the Word of God. Per Paul's instruction in 1 Thess. 5: "test all things, cling to what is good."

Alexander Strauch in his masterful book, "Biblical Eldership", gives these penetrating words of instruction:

"Following the biblical model, elders must not wield the authority given to them in a heavy-handed way. They must not use manipulative tactics, play power games, or be arrogant and aloof. They must never think that they are unanswerable to their fellow brethren or to God. Elders must not be authoritarian, which is incompatible with humble servanthood. When we consider Paul's example and that of our Lord's, we must agree that biblical elders do not dictate; they direct. True elders do not command the consciences of their brethren, but appeal to their brethren to faithfully follow God's Word.... They guard the community's liberty and freedom in Christ so that the saints are encouraged to develop their gifts, to mature, and to serve one another. " (emphasis mine).

Strauch continues his sagest instruction,

"Christ's presence is with the whole congregation, not just the elders. Christ ministers through all the members because all are Spirit-indwelt...."

"As Christ's undershepherds and God's stewards, the elders are under the strict authority of Jesus Christ and His holy Word. They are not a ruling oligarchy. They cannot do or say whatever they want. The church does not belong to the elders; it is Christ's church and God's flock. Thus the elders' leadership is to be exercised in a way that models Christlike, humble, loving leadership. In the local church, there are no rulers who sit above or subjects who stand below."
(emphasis mine)

Pastors are sheep too Cent... and should remain teachable to any within their church. I praise the Lord for my pastor who is a humble, teachable man of God. Faithful to the Word, yet he invites scrutiny and profitable criticism in his life. He never discredits the comments of the newest of believers, nor is intimidated or offended by the questions of those more mature in the Lord.

In all my 19 years of friendship with Dr. MacArthur, I can honestly say as famous as he is and as respected as he is, I found him to be that kind of gracious, teachable man as well. How refreshing and rare that is with one whom the Lord has gifted so profoundly as John.

Here are a few ways that people can hold their leadership accountable in Christ:

1. Edify through prayer (1 Timothy 2:1-3)
2. Examine their message (Acts 17:11-12)
3. Encourage godly character (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-8)
4. Entreat their shepherding (Hebrews 13:7, 17)
5. Exhort the unfaithful (1 Timothy 5:19-21)

The brethren of any church have a great duty in their commitment to that local body to honor their leadership by holding them accountable to their biblical duty.

3. As per you comment about leaving some things to men like...

I didn't know if you knew that I am a licensed minister of the gospel and do the work of an evangelist in my itinerant ministry through preaching and song (2 Tim. 4:1-5). I am humbly honored when I am asked to preach and teach the Word of God in churches the Lord allows me to minister in from week to week or even at Bible conferences as well.

My home church is establishing a school of evangelism this next year which I have been asked to teach at from time to time as well. A weighty and very humbling task as you know. (I enjoyed an MP3 of a teaching you featured at your website some time ago that you gave at your church on how to read the Bible--very well done).

I also spend a good part of my week receiving calls and emails from pastors all around the country asking questions concerning church polity, church discipline, biblical eldership, controversial biblical issues, and even political or cultural issues. Just this morning I enjoyed a rich time of fellowship by phone with a dear man of God, a pastor, on the subject of the emerging church and some of its skewed beliefs and teachings.

I am quite humbled Cent that any of these dear under-shepherds find this unworthy servant as a source of encouragement in the Word to their own local church ministry.

Keep on brother... I am praying for you daily. I do appreciate this series.

Yours for the Master's use,
Steve
2 Cor. 4:5-7

centuri0n said...

I liked Steve's response so much, I'm going to blog it at my blog on Monday. I'll post a link here for those who are interested.

cyd said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
cyd said...

Dear Frank:

I am personally looking forward to your Monday post. I really enjoyed reading Steve's comments here and thought they provided a helpful biblical balance to some of the things you were saying in this thread. I thought his five ways that people can hold their leadership accountable in Christ were very apropos as to how we can lovingly encourage our church leadership in their biblical duty to the congregation as we welcome their leadership in our lives. Here is an article by Steve on this subject I read at his blog a year ago called: Holding Pastors Accountable
that I would recommend to you.

There is a mutual duty in the church between the leadership and the laity. Both are important. How many pastors have we read about that could have been spared the fruit of their blind spots, had they only listened to the admonitions from their congregation? And how many times might the congregation have been spared much grief, if only they had listened to the biblical counsel of their pastors? This is a two way street which needs to be embraced. From what I’ve read, it seems that Mark Dever’s church has found that unique balance between its leadership and the congregation.

If in the future you plan to post more on this subject, may I encourage you to draw more from Mark’s writings; they are such a blessing to read.

Cindy

"Mrs. Sandra" said...

HALLELUJAH! I found you...now, if I can just keep up with you. LOVE this site.....Are you on facebook? Will I automatically get your writings now??? Hope so.....