30 December 2009

5 Ideas for 2010

by Frank Turk

I'm not a big fan of New Years resolutions, but many people get unusually-introspective at this time of year -- who knows why. Maybe they feel guilty for all the money the spent on stuff that they will garage sale in May.

Anyway, if you're looking for some advice for 2010, here's my short list. You can probably figure out what I'm about to say because I say it all the time, but I'll say it again here.

1. Get over your denominational biases

You know: some people will read this as a call for mass ecumenism and a throwing out of the baby of discernment with the bathwater of divisiveness, but that's not what I'm saying at all. What I am saying is that John MacArthur doesn't have the only legitimate church in America, and the Shepherd's Conference doesn't have a monopoly on orthodoxy.

No: it would not be swell if every church was a reformed baptist church. It might be good for you to live a little for the sake of your own discipleship to get involved in a local church in such a way that you believe about those people what Christ knows about them -- which is that you are just as much in need of His salvation as they are, and that you are called to be a saint together with all those in every place who call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

There are no perfect churches -- but there is a perfect savior. Follow Him, and stop pretending that there's only one way to do that, even if it means you don't have Sunday free anymore.

2. Go back to church

That's really the objective of #1: go back to being in fellowship with other actual humans for whom Christ died.

You can do it -- you just don't want to, mostly because it is hard work. It is much easier to read blogs and books and listen to podcasts and pine for an idealized church than it is to stand next to a real person someplace and shake his hand and say, "peace be with you," and then live like Christ made that true.

You know: God hates the sin of the lousy pastor and the sin of the nosey or neglectful brother or sister just as much as God hates your sin -- yet you know God forgives you of your sin, right? It turns out God forgives their sins, too, so maybe you should use that as a basis for fellowship: this is how we know what love is -- that at the right time, Christ died for us. God sent his sons that the believers might not perish but have eternal life.

You can go back, and tell everyone you're sorry for being too good for them. You don't have to tear open your shirt and produce your scarlet letter, but you could just say, "you know what: I never realized how much God loves us. I want to treat you the way I think God treats you because Christ has made all the difference, and I'm sorry for all the times in the past I didn't do that."

3. Put yourself under the spiritual authority of elders

I know: this is starting to get under the skin a little now, right? It's one thing to say, "Put secondary issues aside." It's another to say, "find a church you can stand in." But now to say, "And get under the authority of other human beings," always sounds like the deal-breaker -- because let's face it: these are flawed men. They have flaws. Some of those flaws are theological; some of them are professional; some of them are emotional or personal.

It's funny, but that sounds a lot like the problems you personally have -- and you don't have any problem being under the authority of you. But when someone says, "well, Paul does tell Titus to establish elders in every place for the sake of setting things in order, and Paul does instruct all the churches to be subject to one another, and especially to their elders and leaders," suddenly your flaws don't look that bad.

Here's what I think: until you start your own church and are qualified to lead others, you need to get under the eldership of someone who does have his own church and has been somehow appointed or chosen as qualified to lead others. Because you are not.

You can "yeah but" that until 2011 if you want. There are no perfect churches, but that doesn't give you the liberty to be in no churches with no one looking after you spiritually in any way.

4. Pray for your elders

Aha.

You see: what if all those lousy elders out there had an army of people like you praying for them daily, crying out to heaven, "God: you have him/them this church full of your people, and now you have to either give him the gifts to lead them and the love to lead them and the power in your Spirit to lead them, or you need to convict him to move on. Please God: teach this man to be a shepherd and a brother to those whom you have given under his position. They are your people, and for their sake, and the sake of Christ who bought them, make him worthy."

Or maybe like this: "Lord, give this man/these men the burden of knowing you are real! If they knew you were real the same way the building is real and their podcast is real and the Upward program is real, they might want to spend more time in your word looking at what your Real son did on a Real cross for the Real sins of His real people. Help me, God, to see this pastor/these elders as men who are your men, and whose ways will not be like the world's ways. And let them live as if this world is not their home."

You know: what if. It might shut the blogosphere down for a year or two as people would expend all that energy on prayer (God's command for action toward one's elders) rather than on whatever it is all the ruckus is about -- but the world was doing just fine without the blogopshere a few years ago. It won't be missed.

You put yourself under them because of faith in God and now it behooves you to let God do the work -- and it doesn't hurt you to ask him to do the work. It looks like you actually have faith when you ask him to do the work.

5. Love one another



I said it above, but this is the thing about church, y'all: Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor (a much-neglected verse of Romans amongst the avid readers of Romans). Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.

Don't wait for somebody to love you to see if they are "worth it": love somebody -- with the kind of love Christ showed us. By this all people will know that you are Jesus' disciples, if you have love for one another.

If you do that, it'll be a new kind of New Year for you. You will probably get hurt, and some people will hate you for it.

You might have other suggestions. I'm sure those will be good ideas, too.






29 comments:

Ricky St. Claire said...

Wow, that's a convicting list. I needed to read that.

DJP said...

Well-exhorted, Frank. Thanks.

Blank Slate said...

"You know: God hates the sin of the lousy pastor and the sin of the nosey or neglectful brother or sister just as much as God hates your sin -- yet you know God forgives you of your sin, right? It turns out God forgives their sins, too, so maybe you should use that as a basis for fellowship..."

Sometimes I just miss the obvious, yes God forgave me but I think the point is that He forgave US!

God's Blessings in the New Year everybody! (because God forgave Us!)

Terry

trogdor said...

Good and convicting as always. Thanks, Frank.

Manduh7486 said...

Wow. Hubby and I needed that. Like, a lot. Thanks :o)

stratagem said...

Gee, and I thought "lose ten pounds" was a challenging resolution!

northWord said...

What an Excellent article..some great quotables, well done!

Jim Pemberton said...

Absolutely!

At first it seemed you were merely addressing those people who make excuses not to go to church. but the points toward the end are important even for "faithful" churchgoers to understand. Because of our "faithfulness" of showing up every time the church doors are open, or even being able to open them ourselves, it's easy to forget where we came from spiritually. We look down on those who don't show up to church regularly enough for our sense of righteousness. We get involved in church leadership and become aware enough of the leadership that we often take undue issue with leaders. We think the only people who have problems with Ephesians 5 are those ungodly feminists when we have trouble submitting to the human leadership that God has provided for us.

And love: in part love means being willing to bring an issue directly to a person who falls short. And this doesn't mean that we stand there and condemn them such that we provide no helpful manner for them to repent or answer us without fear. But love means that we seek their best interest and are willing to help them be the person they need to be.

Love also means that we must put our social status on the line and work in fellowship with socially undesirable brothers and sisters in Christ for their spiritual benefit. Some are given the gift of great faith. But we are all called to faith. Some are given the gift to wage great spiritual warfare. But we are all called to pray. Some are called to be prophets or teachers among us. But we are all called to glorify God in word and deed. In battle, all soldiers are called to fight, not merely our greatest warriors. Likewise, some are given the gift of great mercy. But we are all called to love.

Great list of suggestions here. May these not merely be resolutions fit for a new year, but for all of our years in this world.

Trevor said...

I never realized how much God loves us. I want to treat you the way I think God treats you because Christ has made all the difference, and I'm sorry for all the times in the past I didn't do that.

Excellent. I think that this mindset must also pervade our...well...mind even in the beginning process of meeting people so that we are not presupposing in a bad judgmental manner. For me at least.

How often I forget that God forgives the sins of other members of the Church. May I quote Pinky here: "Narf!" If the Church is to live in the constant realization that we are under the umbrella of God's forgiveness, hopefully that would foster great unity and fellowship. Forgive the poor analogy of the umbrella-ella-ella-eh-eh.

philness said...

Right between the eye's. OUCH!

Great. I just left a smaller church where everybody knew my name for this much bigger church where no one knows my name. Now this has got me thinking I could go back.

But my son sits attentive with his bible open and follows Pastor Meador very well. And my wife says she's proud of me. And I was kinda thinking their might be a spot in this here orchestra I might could serve and get to know some folk.

My wife says she's proud of me. And according to Franks math, that's equivalent to the Holy Spirit.

Bobby Grow said...

Frank,

These are great ideas, I especially liked 1 and 5. In Bible College we did "catholicity builders", so called, because we were required to visit denominations outside our own and just observe. Observe that there are "actually" real life Christians outside our own "traditions;" and that what unites us is simple faith in Jesus, not adherence to certain "secondary distinctions" (as important as those can be).

On point 5. Absolutely! In our current season of life we have never seen the church be the church like this. There are so many loving and sacrificially giving saints out there it is surprising, a total blessing.

I see a unifying presupposition to all of your points; and that is the unity that we all share in Christ, and the trust and commitment that that is grounded in, in Christ. Now, it's a matter of living that out --- as you call for --- by the power of the Holy Spirit.

David Rudd said...

well said, Frank. I'd have a hard time coming up with a better list of five things to consider doing.

thanks.

Craig and Heather said...

1. YES!

2. Satan loves to mess with isolationists

3. How about instead of thinking of elders as being "one rung up on some celestial MLM pyramid scheme, we think of them as "elder siblings in the Father's family"?

They're the ones who are supposedly more spiritually mature and have had their faith tested and refined to the point that they are able to help those who are still little kids in Christ.

4. Good point. I see I'm not the only one who's been convicted about my lack of calloused knees.

5. Amen!

So, Frank, when did you say you were planning on opening the doors of your new church? ;)

Heather

Oscar said...

You-the-man...Centurion.

SamWise said...

I recently read that Calvin was careful to talk of the piety of the congregations not individuals. We need to be careful of Pietism that looks like monaticism!

Our gifts are for the edification of the Bride of Christ not just for ourselves or our buddies. We deprive the Church when we are not ministering with what has been given to us!

We suffer from Me-opia when not challenged by Brethren and Sisteren about our own flaws. God uses others to expose our self-righteousness!

We may actually have to get dressed in something other than our jammies if we went to fellowship. Let's not forsake the saints in 2010!

In the Lamb,

Rafe

SamWise said...

Found the Post I referenced about pietism entitled "The Humanism of Individualistic Piety" exerpted from Michael Horton.

Here's the underdogtheology.blogspot.com/2009/12/humanism-of-individualistic-piety.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+UnderdogTheology+%28Underdog+Theology%29

David said...

Great post, Frank.

And best word verification ever: fundiap.

Because there's an ap for that.

Kevin D. Johnson said...

Well said, Frank.

ostrakinos said...

This is without a doubt one of the single best things I've read on the web all year.

You have cut straight to the core of what the gospel actual does, it changes our thoughts, deeds and interactions with PEOPLE for the sake of a glorious Savior and His beloved. Amen.

facesoflions said...

Great resolutions.

Jonathan Hunt said...

I really appreciate your post as a battered Elder.

thank you

Lauren C said...

I agree with sooo muich of what youre saying, but can I still say it is important to find a Biblical church [which I know, ideally, you would want for people] bc putting yourself under elders or authority that isnt Biblical woudlnt be good, or is that too judgemental, bc after reading this, its like I might be seen as "not just joining the circle and singing cum-bay-ya" if Im wanting to find a Biblcally solid church, and will be frowned on? If that isnt being frowned on, then yes, I agree with 95% of this whole thing and its a great post!

Lauren C said...

ps- should have said Im not holding my breath or in isolation, and have been a part of a church for years...

Rob Bailey said...

This list is not easy to keep. It is not comfortable. It is contrary to our nature. But we are new creatures. One must choose to think and function in this manner. I will tell you, if you choose to do this, habitually, and then you find yourself away from the fellowship to any degree, you will find that you yearn for the true fellowship. I have felt it on extended mission trips, and I have felt it recently.

Miss you bro.

HeartofWisdom said...

All comes down to #5 doesn't it? Thanks for the insight. Twetted it.

Sam said...

Item no.1 reminds me of John's dilemma in Mark 9:38. This divergence should also be adopted in other issues of faith (like Calvinism)that give little justice to many dimensions of Christian discipleship

Sam said...

Another great post after 'Porn and Paper Pastors'by DJP

dwitzke said...

Frank,

THANK YOU!

From a pastor, who desires to be all that you pray he will be!

Herding Grasshoppers said...

Our little church just installed new elders yesterday. As I sat looking on the group of elders and the pastor praying over the new elders I gave thanks for that group of (imperfect) godly men. Truly.

You're piggybacking on the sermon from Pastor Bert, exhorting us to pray continually for this group of humble men, and they to pray for us, from Ephesians 1 -

For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

Have made a goal to pray weekly, with my boys, for the church, elders, and pastor.

Amen.